millionreasons: (pankhurst)

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
I have done it before, but not since 1989 - sat and passed a written exam (Book-keeping Level 1).

2. Did you keep your New Year resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I think I had a vague idea of exercising every day, even if only for five minutes, but those types of resolutions always fall by the wayside.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
There were babies aplenty on Facebook.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.

5. What countries did you visit?
Scotland, Gran Canaria, Spain.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
A summer holiday (c.f. 2013).

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
None.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
See 1.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Would have been good to get more stories etc published.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I have a cold, does that count?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
New TV, which has a voice operated remote control, so I can boss it around.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
The Focus E15 women. The landlord of The Bell pub, Bath, who chucked out N Farage.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
UKIP. UKIP voters. UKIP supporters.

14. Where did most of your money go?
To Hackney council (council tax and service charge = almost £3K a year). Hackney Homes spent £6000 putting new doors on five sheds on our estate.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Cat cafe.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
Probably "Happy".

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? thinner or fatter? richer or poorer?

Same. Maybe a few pounds lardier.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Days out, weekends away.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Work. Sitting  on the 253 bus.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At home.

21. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?
At the Buffalo Bar.

22. Did you fall in love in 2014?
No.

23. How many one-night stands?
None.

24. What was your favourite TV program(me)?
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I guess Farage has moved from contempt to hate.

26. What was the best book you read?
Lorrie Moore's Collected Stories.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
St Vincent.

28. What did you want and get?
To go to the cat cafe (my needs are simple).

29. What did you want and not get?
See 6.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Interstellar.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Cat Cafe! 41.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More time off.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Middle aged.

34. What kept you sane?
The interwebz. Solipsism.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I still love Cillian Murphy, despite the awful Poiky Bloinders.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
See 13. Also, the absolute nonsense over the white van man in Rochester.

37. Who did you miss?
Tom. [livejournal.com profile] picosgemeos

38. Who was the best new person you met?
It was nice to re-meet Jeremy, whom I knew in a previous life in the north.

39. Did you meet anyone you only knew online?
Kevin & Lisa.

40. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014
Illegitimi non carborundum.

41. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year
"There's a lot to be said for life long love and sex and security." - Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue - Ballboy.

millionreasons: (pankhurst)

And so it's December, and what have we done? A trip to Winterville and then to Brighton (again).

Song: Lion Babe - Jump Hi Lazy, Nina Simone-sampling hip-hop.

TV:

Justfied. The story is of a US marshall who feels that it's justfiied to kill Bad People (white supremacists, wife beaters), but that's all by the by. I liked the self contained stories with guest star of the week (Pam from True Blood, Steve, Miranda's boyf from SatC, Cameron from Ferris Bueller) in which you have to work out who the baddy might be. Timothy Olyphant, a Hollywood also-ran, stars as the laconic, world-weary, hat-wearing sexy Raylan with ex-wives, a deadbeat dad and a Kentucky hang up (”I wish I was back in Miami”). Occasionally, he takes his shirt off. Therer's nothing not to love.

Weeds: We got a free month of Amazon prime and I binge watched this, because I miss OITNB. There is a similarity in the basic plot - an upper middle class woman is drawn into drugs, but it's more Breaking Bad in the Gilmore Girls world than the Litch. Actually, it reminded me of The Railway Children – husbandless woman (he had a heart attack whilst jogging) is forced into making money by unconventional means. The kids have adventures, although more sex, drugs and judo-based than railways and scavenger hunts, and Mrs Waterbury never had sex with a Mexican drug dealer on the hood of a rangerover (that I recall). They still have a maid despite being 'poor'. The clichéd black family (”I'll whoop dat black ass" etc) stands in for the poor but proud working class family (Perks, Mrs Perks etc).

I also can see where Ryan Murphy got his characters from, especially the middle-aged, taut-faced, racist-but-amusing ladies and it even features Jane Lynch in a tracksuit as an aggressive sportsfan, which Murphy basically nicked for the character of Sue Sylvester.

millionreasons: (pankhurst)

In November, I did seasonal things, out of date, and drank some stupid-flavour coffee.

Song: The Night - Frankie Valli. This was featured heavily on the Northern Soul film – it starts with a threatening bass and an eerie Hammond, and then turns into the usual sweet sound of heartbreak.
Simple Minds - I Travel. Why did no-one tell me that SM were once great? Gay disco-a-go-go.


Book: The Secret Life of Words by Henry Hitchings.

TV: Serial. Not strictly TV, this was a podcast with episodes released weekly that told the story of Adnan and Hae, star crossed high school lovers, one dead, one imprisoned for her murder. It was addictive even though I have a low tolerance for talking (I fall asleep listening to audiobooks). Various websites accused the investigator-presenter Sarah Koenig of white privilege (dealing with a mixed raced couple in a black majority city), which I think is unfair, she was using her privilege (white or no) to bring this case to light. If anyone's in the wrong it's us, the listeners, treating it like another who killed Nanna Birk Larsen.

millionreasons: (pankhurst)
In October, I visited Wigan (and Liverpool) and went up the Orbit.

Book: Fludd by Hilary Mantel.

Song: Jingle Jangle Morning by Mary Lou Lord. This song got into my head and would not leave. There must have been a theme of early 90s indie frustration: in this song she longs to move to Seattle or LA. In the Magnetic Fields' 100,000 Fireflies, Claudia wonders why they still live in this repulsive town when all their friends are in NYC.

millionreasons: (pankhurst)
September's highlights were Brighton (again) and a sewage pumping station.

Book: The City and The City - China Mieville

TV: Crimes of Passion a.k.a Midsomma Mördar. The cimes of Midsummer are very popular in Scandinavia, so it seems obvious that they'd make their own version, set in the '50s so that the passion could be illicit and need murder to cover it up, and then our heroine slash detective Puck, the handsome police officer Christer Wijk, and Puck's dopey but handsome husband Eje, to uncover it It reminded me of Lord Peter Whimsey and Harriet Vane teaming up to beat baddies and it looked beautilful, of course, summer colours and then icy Christmas blankness. Each stand-alone episode featured a group of friends or family with underlying tensions, a '50s femme fatale who was either the murdered or ended up snogging Christer, and a lot of secrets. It was about as similar to The Killing as Bergerac is to The Wire.

Song: Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush. Her live dates meant that I couldn't escape this song.

millionreasons: (pankhurst)
In August, we went to Manchester.

Book: Collected Stories by Lorrie Moore

Song: I'm so cool by The Bedflowers. I was quite excited to find this on youtube as I lost the cassette ages ago. It sound like being 17.

TV: In August, Jenny Diski wrote a piece, which unfortunately has since disappeared, on the LRB website criticising Orange Is The New Black for racism, inconsistent storytelling and white-knighting, her charges being that a black character was the only one who ordered a hit on one of her own girls, that the two S1 antagonists, Pennastucky and Red, too easily forgot their feud with Piper, and that Piper was the white girl that the series revolved around, infecting everyone with her lovely white girl enabling charm and fairydust (I’m paraphrasing), creating a too warm heart at the centre of the show.


Here’s my refutation:
It's not that quality TV can't be racist. Half way through its ten series run, ER introduced two new characters, both black. One was upstanding, ex-army, polite, hard-working; the other was a rascal. In nominative determinism gone mad, the former character was called Galant, the latter, Pratt. It seemed that they wanted to cast a black actor as the wide boy, but then wondered if they would be accused of racism, so they created a "balancing" character, which I found rather crass. Meanwhile, over on HBO, True Blood conceived two fantastic characters in Tara and Lafayette, then sidelined them so it could concentrate on the eternal love triangle of Sookie, Eric and Bill, which no-one was invested in, not even the actors. Ditto Lost: there was a multicultural cast, but every week, the story was Jack's white man's burden ofbeing the patriarch of the group or Kate deciding whether she preferred him or Sawyer (let's not even get into sexism in TV storytelling). In the series one finale of The Walking Dead, two characters, one black, one white, decided to stay behind and die rather than face the zombie-infested world once more. Guess which one changed her mind and escaped?

OITNB is hardly like this. The creator said that she wanted Piper to be a Trojan horse: "You're not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women and Latino women and old women and criminals". Controversially, I didn't like S2 as much as S1 because it hasn't concentrated on Piper. Not because I'm a white supremacist, but because there needs to be a central character to follow. In S2, Piper has been sidelined in favour of telling the stories of the black, Latina and OAP characters. Diski's accusation that "only the African Americans are shown to be arrogant bullies relying on and rejoicing in brute force and fear to maintain their hegemony" could equally apply to the bad guys in S1: Pornstache, Healey, Pennastucky, all white. It's not about race so much as power. The power struggles amongst the inmates is reflective of their powerlessness within the prison system where the guards have the ultimate control. They can't turn on the guards so they turn on each other. In the same way that people hovering just above the poverty line in Clacton blame the immigrants for their problems, they tribally form small groups and blame other groups, it's the safest thing to do in a dictatorial environment.

Vee isn't the baddie of season 2 because she's black, she's the baddie because of the storytelling motif of introducing a new character to create conflict. She is able to manipulate "her girls", not because they are black but because they are powerless, (in most cases) motherless, and they want to belong. It's a Faustian pact that Janae, Black Cindy and Taystee enter into. Girls who've never had an powers in their lives are now able to control others, even Crazy-Eyes Suzanne can lord it over her ex-crush Piper. This was the main drama of S2, and presumably there will be a different focus in S3. Diski references The Wire, as "banging on about wretched life chances and educational sink holes without losing most of your audience", but The Wire also had a white character as the protagonist (the mixed race lesbian was pretty much an extra by S5), and also used humour (e.g. Bunk and McNulty's “Fuck” scene) to cut through the tragedy. I've never been to an American (or any) prison, but I believe that they are self-segregated on racial lines. As Nicky satirically says in episode one: "It's like the '50s in here," and we do see moments when the racial lines are crossed, when (white) Nicky sympathises with (black) Poussey about her unrequited love for Taystee. Complaining that the worse characters are black is like complaining that the lesbian characters are predatory (for example, Big Boo and Nicky's bang-off). In the scene Diski refers to when Vee orders a hit, it's obvious that this isn't about race, it's about bullying and power. In the same ep, the white red-neck, Pennastucky, smashes her friend's head
against a washing machine door.

Red and Piper have no more animosity in S2 and Piper has come to “read” the prison and its inmates, to understand the unwritten rules, whereas Red has lost her former allies and her Top Dog position. It seems disingenuous to say that Piper beings out the good in everyone; Red has no need to harsh on Piper; she proved her point half way through S1. And in storytelling terms, antagonism can't last for 13 episodes. The fall out from the fight with Pennsatucky was dealt with too quickly, but now Penn has her new teeth, she's lost interest in Piper. She's like the girl from school who'd pick on you for a term, but then had forgotten all about it after the Xmas holidays.

Additionally, it seems unfair on black actors that they can't ever play bad people. Most actors seem to prefer being a bad guy than a girl next door, it's far more of a juicy part. To only have nice, noble, black characters seems as racist as having unpleasant ones. All of the black characters, apart from Vee, are nuanced, not clichéd. In S2, the drama is based around the black characters, whereas the white characters become the comic relief. I'd say that this was a step forward, not backwards. If the second series had kept the black characters in the background and had the main dramatic story arc as Piper's acceptance of prison life, it'd be as bad as the examples of the other TV shows that I gave above. If black characters aren't allowed to be bad, then what next? There can only be noble working class characters, polite lesbians, giving and suffering women?

Ditto, I don't agree with the warm heartedness at the centre of the show. Obviously there have to be some comedic moments, otherwise the series becomes too depressing and unwatchable, but the incident when Piper has to chew through some chilis to make a warming embrocation for Red to apologise for dissing her cooking was an important piece to show the lengths that Piper had to go to to survive. Plus Piper had no other skills - she makes organic soaps and lotions for a living. She has nothing else to offer. At the same time, Piper's good for nothing (ex)finance, Larry was watching Mad Men because he was bored, even though he promised to wait until Piper was released so they could watch it together - the story of S1 was Piper coming to terms with the fact that prison, not the Upper East side, is her life now.

I don't agree that her good education makes her an enabler. Her editing of the prisoners' appeal letters did not endear her to her fellow inmates and her attempts to get them interested in Robert Frost fell flat. When she makes an impassioned speech, acknowledging her white privilege, but pointing out that white people are people too, Suzanne throws a cake at her head. She discovers she's only a "two pointer" on Boo and Nicky's bang chart. Her attempts to make things better for the prisoners rarely succeed, and she ends up co-editing the newsletter as cover for trying to investigate missing funds form the prison's accounts, not as means of raising everyone's consciousness. She's hardly a white knight.

The point is that Piper, with all her privileges, made the same Bad Choices as those who had far less choice. The point is that is she is the same as them, that prison, or homelessness or any of the things that we think couldn't happen to us, could.

And finally when the girls turn on Vee, they don't beat her - even though it's four against one and more than one of them has suffered violence at her hands - they just oust her. They dismiss her, there's no physical contact. There's solidarity against the Big Bad without stooping to her level.

2014: July

Dec. 17th, 2014 09:42 am
millionreasons: (pankhurst)
In July, against my better judgement, we went camping in Yorkshire because cycling. We also visited the sound mirrors on Romney Marsh.

Song: Tour de France - Kraftwerk
Black Light Smoke - Lovework

TV: It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I didn't like this at first, it seemed a more wacky version of Friends – four chums (a narcissist, a sociopath, a fantasist and an idiot) run a divebar in Philadelphia and get into scrapes. Then it reminded me of a slightly more edgy New Girl, if New Girl featured slackers rather than Deschanel making cow eyes for half an hour. It was trying too hard to be edgy - jokes about racism, child abuse, underage drinking, then suddenly I was watching episodes back to back as the gang variously: was persuaded to climb the dividing fence at an anti-abortion rally, become crack addicts in order to qualify for welfare, pretend to have been molested to get back at a gym teacher, become annoyed because they wasn't molested and try to seduce said gym teacher, pretend to have polio to get sympathy, pretend to have cancer to get his friends to pay a girl he likes to date him, make a jihad video (basically yelling) to intimidate the man next door who wants to buy the bar (and has fenced them in), all the time arguing about whether it's ok to say Jew rather than Jewish. 



Book: Acquired For Development By

2014: June

Dec. 16th, 2014 09:36 am
millionreasons: (pankhurst)
In June, I went to Barcelona, and I liked it.

Song: Helen Love - Does Your Heart Go Boom

Book: The Road Home by Rose Tremain

2014: May

Dec. 15th, 2014 04:06 pm
millionreasons: (pankhurst)
In May, it was my birthday and we visited the long anticipated cat cafe.

Song: La Sera - Love That's Gone - we saw these in the evening (appropriately) at the Primavera festival

Love positions – Into Your Arms. The Positions are best known for their covers of a Lou Reed number, but their best song is an original that was then most famously covered by the Lemonheads. This version is better though. Those '90s melodies.

millionreasons: (pankhurst)
In April, we went away to Bath, to Brighton on a loooong bike ride, and, um Watford.

Song: Tuneyards - Water Fountain - a Bow Wow Wow for the 21st century, except this time not svangalid by Malcolm McLaren.

Book - Underground London by Stephen Smith.

millionreasons: (pankhurst)
In March, we started walking the lost rivers of London and had a day out at the Velodrome.

Book: Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

Song:

Pharell Williams - Happy - summer floats through this song; it's catchier than 2005 Andrew Strauss.

St Vincent - Digital Witness - the brass sounds like it's from an entirely different song, making it spooky and strange.

TV: True Detective: A washed out southern landscape, two fucked up men, a lot of naked dead women. Mumbling. Wigs. I liked this a lot because I love a bit of southern gothic, and the two main actors were amazing. Mystery piled upon mystery – what happened between Cohle and Hart? Who was killing the women? Why all the antlers?

On the minus side, I am starting to get a bit bored of studies of masculinity. Even in 1995, women weren't as passive as they were in this show. It seems that in Louisiana, you have a limited choice: you can be a put upon wife, put upon mistress, prostitute or dead prostitute.

millionreasons: (pankhurst)
In February, I went to Gran Canaria. It were gran(d).

Song:

Freschard - Boom Biddy Boom - French trip hop
Zero Dezire - It's My Birthday - Chicks on Speed-esque Girls number
Ebony Bones - I'm Ur Future Ex Wife - I found this lurking on my hard drive from 2008. I don't remember downloading or indeed, anything about it, but it sounds weird and marvellous. Did she become a big star and I failed to notice?


Book:

Ulysses. Review

millionreasons: (pankhurst)

In January, I went to Glasgow to celebrate Burn's Night. Nothing else happened, it's January innit.

Song:


DJ Fresh feat. Ms Dynamite - Dibby Dibby Sound - I don't know when I started preferring repetitive beats to strummy guitars but I can't go back.
Ballboy - Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue – there's a lot to be said for life long love and sex and security
James Brown - Think - Jimmy B invents dance music, in 1960.


TV:

The Bridge 2. I liked S1 but this series was better, it didn't need as much time to establish the characters, and the writers didn't wait until ¾ of the way through the series before they introduced the character who was the murderer. Here, it seemed that we'd seen the killers (the eco-terrorists), in Ep 2 but there was a larger conundrum at hand. Mysterious sub-plots wormed their way into the main plot.

I preferred The Bridge to the Killing because there was much less boring political stuff and whilst Sarah Lund was a great character, The Bridge had not one but two complex main characters, the emotional, troubled, rough diamond Martin, in therapy after S1's villain murdered his son, and the Aspergsy Saga, whose plain talking got results but didn't win her friends, or a mother-in-law, (TBH, her interrogation techniques seemed softer than the British police force's) and whose attempts at a romantic relationship brought most of the comedic moments. There was an amusing sub-plot in which Saga solved the mysterious illness Martin's son had developed (the nanny was poisoning him), not because she cared about Martin's son or, indeed, Martin, but because she needed Martin back on the case rather than hanging around a hospital room. There was also Rasmus, the hapless policeman, always doing the wrong thing, for whom I invented the hahstag #ohrasmus

Martin invented a look, part indignant, part amused, part angry, whenever Saga mentioned he'd cheated on his three wives, which she did in every episode. I have accepted Saga Noren as my personal saviour, role model and mentor. I worked out when people were speaking Danish (a series of yelps) or Swedish (they sounded sexy), but I didn't forsee that Saga would betray Martin so brutally – the sting so much worse because she'd admitted that he was her only friend a couple of scenes previously.

January 2017

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