In which I probably piss off the feminists…

Aug 30th, 2011 | Filed under Uncategorized

At regular intervals, it seems, discussion erupts over the role of men within feminism. Arguments go on ad infinitum about whether women-only spaces are an example of the sexism that gender equality is meant to address, or whether they’re a necessary part of the empowerment of women, and all kinds of other arguments. I’ll be honest, I don’t follow them too closely, mainly because I have no interest in getting caught up in in-fighting in a group to which I don’t strictly belong. That’s a lot of words beginning with “in..” right there.

I think people confuse “feminism” and “equality” too often, which I guess can be confusing. The right for women to have choice over their own bodies, for example, is a feminist issue but not strictly an equality issue. If anything, it actually creates a slight degree of inequality – the mother has a greater say over the outcome of a foetus than the father. In absolute terms, that’s unequal. However, a woman’s right to control of her own body is considerably more important than a little gender inequality, so I don’t think it’s valid for men to complain about that inequality. Just saying, it’s a feminist issue, which is not in itself about the creation of a society with equality for women.

However, there’s a fairly decent chunk of feminism that’s about dismantling a societal structure that favours men over women, and puts in place expectations and assumptions that reinforce the status quo. And specifically relating to this, I’ve seen women tell men that their participation is unnecessary – that the struggle for equality for women does not need men, and that rights have to be won, not simply given to an oppressed group by their oppressors.

I have a couple of issues with that approach. The first concerns whether or not feminism “needs” men, and whether the cooperation of men is in some way required as part of achieving equality. History has a few quite obvious examples of oppressors being absolutely key to rights being won by the oppressed.

The 1989 general election in South Africa, the last to separate voters by colour, saw a majority of white voters elect a white man who was undertaking a reform programme that would, by the next general election, see majority rule returned to South Africa. Nobody would argue that black South Africans didn’t fight for and win equality, but one could equally argue that due to the political mechanics of the thing, they were also given their freedom by the oppressing class.

It was men who granted women the right to vote, and while you wouldn’t argue that women didn’t fight for it, and didn’t win it, nevertheless the right was granted by men. Same goes for the slave trade, and the civil rights movement – blacks won concessions from white, but the dynamic there is still one of white people granting rights to black people.

In many case, oppressors recognise their role in oppression, and actively work to end it. South Africans in 1989 were faced with a choice between the National Party and the Conservative Party. The former had a progressive agenda, the latter was a strong supporter of Apartheid. The white voters chose to act to end the oppression in which they were complicit, by choosing the progressive party.

To reject that support, as appears to happen sometimes within feminist circles, seems to me to be unhelpful. It is my view that it is the duty of all people to recognise inequality and to fight it wherever they find it. The idea that the oppressors in any given power dynamic have no part to play in ending that oppression is to reject many historical examples of moves toward greater equality. If oppressors are to play no part in the struggle, then full revolution is surely the only mechanism that actually allows you to cut them out. Have we come to a point where that’s the only option being considered..?

My other issue with the assertion that “rights have to be won, not simply given to an oppressed group by their oppressors” is that it marginalises groups that are unable to fight for their rights. My uncle is mentally handicapped (if you take issue with this phrase, it’s not really your place to tell me how I can or can’t refer to a much loved family member, so save it) and lives in a care home. He’s far from stupid, but he would be completely unable to fight if his rights were threatened.

Responsibility for the defence of his rights rests on his family, and on wider society and their sense of fairness and compassion. His rights are no less important than anybody else’s as a result, and he is no less entitled to them than people who would be willing to fight to the death for theirs. To be honest, it’s actually kind of upsetting to see people trying to make out like the validity of a group’s rights are in some way correlated to how hard they fought to get them. The logical implications for my uncle don’t feel particularly good.

I guess what I take away from it is that there are some people who identify as feminists who do not believe that the cause of female equality requires men. I respectfully disagree, and would instead argue that equality for all is the responsibility of all. If I were running a business in which pay was unequal between men and women, and unilaterally decided that I would fix that in the pursuit of a fairer workplace, I wouldn’t take issue with women arguing that this was something that they had won. Pay equality is something that women have worked hard for, and when a man takes the decision to make that happen, I think it’s fair for them to call that a victory. What I would take issue with would be being told that equality isn’t my fight. That as a white, straight, able-bodied middle-class male, my role is a supporting role. I feel strongly about equality, and I won’t have anybody telling me that it’s not my fight. It’s everyone’s fight.


Torchwood: The Critic’s Tale

Aug 19th, 2011 | Filed under Uncategorized

What now follows is a collection of e-mails from my brother, received after each episode of Torchwood aired… If only I also taped our phone conversations…..

Episode 2

There’s a reason why the BBC doesn’t tend to import American shows for primetime BBC1 and Torchwood is about to explain it to us.

Having said that, I maintain that the audience wouldn’t care about how American it is if the show made any effort at all to feel real. That’s supposed to be what RTD’s good at; grounding outlandish concepts through relatable characters, like Ianto’s family in Children of Earth. All we’ve got now is Rhys, who’s being made to look like a stick-in-the-mud by Gwen’s constant “PHWOAR TORCHWOOD IS WICKED INNIT” bullshit. And he’s only in the opening scene of the second episode anyway.

The concept of nobody being able to die is being relayed to us by a bunch of cardboard CIA agents who would make Garth Marenghi blush. It’s all so impossible to like that I actually miss Ianto and Owen.

It’s taken Torchwood’s latest plunge to remind me how many people think the first two series were of an acceptable standard. I’m seeing a lot of excuses along the lines of, “Hey, Children of Earth isn’t the only Torchwood out there. It’s in Torchwood’s DNA to be unwatchable and embarrassing.” With Rex and Esther coming across as shitter versions of Owen and Tosh, I’m reevaluating how many of the first two series’ failings were down to Chibnall.

Torchwood thought: The ease with which the audience warms to Oswald Danes just means that the writers haven’t done a good enough job of convincing us that he’s a murderous paedophile.

I take that back. It’s actually just a testament to the fact that all the other characters are worse than paedophiles.

Also, the show is written from the point of view that there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty. Awesome ethics!

Oh, gawd! It’s the fifteen minute sequence of Tosh eluding men in suits in the CIA building.

The audience is clearly supposed to cheer when he zings the PR woman with his snappy one-liner. Who cares if he’s a paedophile? At least he’s not in PR!!!

Even Radio Times is panning Torchwood now. It seems that, in the third episode, the evil pharmaceutical company behind it all hires convicted murderer and paedophile Oswald Danes as the face of its products. The show expects us to believe that him crying on TV in episode 2 has made him a popular figure.

Episode 3

The sex scene is a laughable stain on an episode that had be alright up to that point.

Massive lol and a thumbs up for Gwen pointing out that, if the miracle had happened sooner, Ianto would still be alive.

Here’s my Miracle Day drinking game:
– One shot every time someone says “Torchwood”
– Two if they’re asking what Torchwood is
– Three if they’re saying something to the effect of “This is Torchwood” or “We’re Torchwood”
– Four shots every time news footage is used to tell the audience what’s going on
– Five shots every time anyone says “miracle” as if there’s no other possible way of describing it

The incidental music in Torchwood is so bad that I want Murray Gold removed from Doctor Who immediately.

I would rather be watching Trial of a Time Lord while listening to Doctor in Distress on a loop.

Episode 4

“You are trending like never before, you clever bastard.” Actual quote. Kill me now.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. The baddie is about to tell the goodies what’s going on FOR NO APPARENT REASON then Rex comes in and kills him. Yes, it’s that kind of show. The kind that John Simm’s Master took the piss out of in his very first scene. Wonderful.

When you watch last night’s Torchwood, be sure to stare at the bad guy’s face every time he’s on screen. His expressions sum up the series.

I’ve seen a lot of people who are unhappy with Rex for shooting the assassin just as he was about to spill the beans. That didn’t happen. The assassin knew nothing and the writers shot him.

Episode 5

So the twist in Miracle Day which, according to Jane Espenson, puts the series in the same league as Children of Earth is that governments are sending seriously injured people to concentration camps and having them incinerated. That would all be very well and good if the world that the show has painted and its characters were remotely believable. When the British government decided to use school league tables to determine which children they should turn into drugs, it was chilling because everything about the characters and their predicament had a ring of truth about it; conversely, Miracle Day has just been a bunch of cartoon characters conducting zany antics while waiting to say “omg this is sooOOoooooooOoooo DARK~”

Episode 6

My response to Torchwood isn’t a bad finger. It’s not a good finger. It’s a middle finger.

Episode 1: Rex travels from Washington DC to Wales.
Episode 2: Rex, Jack and Gwen travel from Wales to Washington DC.
Episode 4: The gang travels from Washington DC to California.
Episode 5: Gwen travels from California to Wales.
Episode 6: Gwen travels from Wales to California in a matter of minutes.
Episode 8: Gwen travels from California to Wales
What scope! Think of the air miles! Can’t wait to see what the last couple of episodes have in store.

AAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA! At the end of this episode of Torchwood, Jack runs a search for “THE TRUTH”. Hope they find it!

The most profound thing anyone has said about Miracle Day: “Real life moves faster than this.”

Honestly, Jack searching for “the truth” is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen on television.


I love my family..

Aug 9th, 2011 | Filed under Uncategorized

Conversation on Facebook between my father and brother…


Couldn’t have put it better

Zeinobia [Egyptian blogger and activist who took part in the protests that forced ex-Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak from power] : “I am sorry but you do not loot to object the murder of a young man, you are using his murder.”


Bit of a straw man argument, that. The riots are an irrational outburst by people who have been pushed to breaking point. The shooting was the catalyst but this isn’t a calculated protest with clear aims.


“but this isn’t a calculated protest with clear aims” …

… except it looks as if there were clear aims. Set a few random fires and do a bit of early Christmas looting. I would also suggest that these disturbances were well planned and co-ordinated, therefore not just an “irrational outburst”. I reserve judgement on the Tottenham riot as that could have been genuine local anger against the police/establishment/etc. Altho’why they burnt their own shops, etc is a mystery


I should have said “clear political aims”. People are using the looting to discredit a political agenda to which the rioters aren’t staking a claim. The idea is that the absence of a definable political motive divorces the riots from politics, which is bullshit. The rioters are the product of their political landscape and, while that doesn’t excuse their actions, it points to deep societal problems that need to be addressed.

The indiscriminate destruction of property and endangerment of lives is irrational. These crimes do not benefit those committing them. Their ability to co-ordinate and plan – which, in the real world, just means talking to each other – says nothing of rationality.

The idea of “genuine anger” is an odd one. Does that mean that rioters in other areas have nothing to be angry about? Are they just angry for the sake of it? What makes these people suddenly decide to act in this way?

Anyway, don’t pay attention to me. Let’s see what our glorious leaders [used to] think:

Cameron: “I think people want their politicians to ask the question: ‘What is it that brought that young person to commit that crime at that time? What’s the background to it, what are the long-term causes of crime?’ If you’re ill, it’s no good putting a sticking plaster on it. You’ve got to get to the bottom of the illness.”

Clegg: “There’s a danger in having a government of whatever composition led by a party which doesn’t have a proper mandate across the country trying to push through really difficult decision. I think a lot of people will react badly to that. I think there’s a very serious risk [of rioting in the streets].”


Ed, as always you make powerful arguments. I just think they are wrong :-)
Not being a psychologist I don’t know why peole in Stl LOndon, or B’ham rioted. However, I do belive that for many it was a good excuse to both vent some frustration (so close to my “genuine anger”) but also to do a bit of looting. I cannot believe that the looting wasn’t premeditated.

And, what’s more, I suspect that not all the rioters/looters were the oppresed poor. And if they do have grievances with the police/gov’t why torch a furniture shop?

I guess I’m just getting old and reactionary (I’ll be buying the Daily Fail or Excess next!) . The “genuine anger” bit is that you are reacting to something, not just thinking “Ooh, let’s be like Tottenham and have a riot!” While also thinking, “We’ll have the riot down XYZ St, as I need anew PS3/watch/3D TV”

Bah humbug – time to go back to the hotel


Your lack of qualifications as a psychologist shouldn’t stop you from trying to understand people. When this many people go to such severe lengths, it’s an attack on the fabric of society and understanding why it has happened is vital. Extreme behaviour is fueled by our willingness to write off those susceptible to it.

With regards to premeditated looting, when do you suppose the evil geniuses hatched their plan? I reckon they must have been plotting for years. I’m not disputing that many of the looters will have gone, “Yeah, fuck it, let’s go down and see what we can grab,” but, again, a functional society doesn’t breed that level of contempt for its rules.

Condemning the looters feels like a waste of time to me when we have an elaborate legal infrastructure specifically designed to punish them, and the constant need to condemn criminal acts suggests a widespread insecurity about the law. The energy spent on saying, “Stealing’s bad, mmkay,” would be better directed towards identifying and rectifying the circumstances that nurture criminal attitudes.

I refuse to accept that it’s as simple as people thinking, “Ooh, let’s be like Tottenham and have a riot!” Even if that’s what they’re saying, people don’t take part in something as risky and violent as a riot just for the sake of it. Their inability to recognise and articulate what they’re reacting to doesn’t mean that this isn’t a reaction.

I’m not disagreeing that the perpetrators are reprehensible twats but, when you consider that the common factor among them is geographical, serious questions have to be asked about why they’re such pricks.


End to End Ownership

Aug 8th, 2011 | Filed under Uncategorized

[Apple Subscription Stuff]

And this is why I’m never even tempted to think about developing anything for any Apple platform, and why I would never purchase an i-Anything, be it pod, pad or phone.

You can tell that somewhere within Apple, somebody has decided that they “need more money”. How then should money be obtain – through innovation? Nah, been there, done that, innovation bought Apple an 80% market share (based on my stats, not necessarily industry ones). Having used innovation to buy market share, can that be exploited in search of money? You bet!

And what’s the easiest way to make money? Find somebody else who is making money, and make them give you some of theirs, for nothing. Which is effectively what Apple are doing, by demanding a 30% share of any subscription charges collected through apps. I don’t know what you call that, but I call it a racket.

Now I don’t want to downplay the role of Apple in bringing the smartphone market to maturity, it genuinely is a very great thing that they’ve done for technology. Most brands are simply incapable of packaging their fairly geeky crap into something that’s aesthetically appealing enough to reach the mass market. But they’re milking it too far now, and it’s getting to be a joke.

So Apple will turn to an app provider and say “We like the $1 you collect from each customer every month, we want 30% of that”. Naturally the app provider would like to say no, but they can’t. The stranglehold Apple have over the end to end system is impressive – they own the market, and by extension the devices within the market. They lock those devices so they’ll only work with their own application delivery system. Then they put rules on the delivery system such that you cannot independently monetise your application or any aspect within.

It’s the equivalent of Microsoft not only owning your operating system, but also the company that builds the machine, all the shops that stock software, and has the whole thing locked down so that you can only install what they approve of, and they only approve of things that make them money.

Which, actually, is sort of how Apple used to operate, back in the ’80s and ’90s. That time, they lost out to more open, interchangeable standards – not entirely dissimilar to the way in which AOL managed to piss away their Internet market share by positioning their service as something of a walled garden.. Does Apple’s current market share protect them from that? Remains to be seen…


It’s because the weather is hot, innit?

Jul 20th, 2011 | Filed under Uncategorized

Ugh, I’ve just seen an absurd comment thread on CiF (why I ever read that cesspit of trolls I have no idea) talking about the famine in Somalia, basically involving a whole bunch of victim blaming, and “hey, not our problem” crap.

A key point that was made was around how the conditions in Somalia that allow droughts to threaten such a huge number of people are geographic, not economic. The country is situated in such a way as to make the cultivation of crops difficult, and this sort of thing is to be expected. How are we, in the west, responsible for the climate conditions in Africa?

Of course, anybody who suggests “well why don’t they all move here then, if it’s so much more conducive to life?” will naturally be told that there are many Somalis here, breeding, breaking the law, and that we should repatriate them. No, seriously, there is a comment that says that. Which once more illustrates why I shouldn’t read CiF.

But of course the issue is one of economics. Britain doesn’t produce all its own food – it has the economic luxury of being able to import what it likes, and thus our population does not depend on our local conditions for its survival. The level of economic and social advancement required to decouple your agricultural industry from your survival as a nation is not something that we have particularly encouraged among “third world” countries. In fact, our stripping them of their natural resources without paying a fair price to the peoples of those nations is a huge contributing factor to them remaining third world countries, but that’s another issue that I won’t get into now.

The problem is one of local solidarity. When a member of the Eurozone is in economic trouble, we feel that as their neighbours, we must help them. Greece, Ireland, basically any EU country at this point that asks for money is probably going to get it, and it will come from their neighbours, with their sense of common purpose in Europe and close bonds. Thus the risk of failure is distributed across the wider group, and is mitigated by the guarantees of a country’s neighbours to prevent such failure where possible.

This is not a situation which has been allowed to flourish (unless you really want to argue that the African Union has anything like the sort of power of the EU or UN). In much of Africa, you’re on your own, for various reasons. Cultural reasons are in there – that sense of common purpose among European nations is lacking in areas of Africa where tribal and ethnic loyalties start to intersect with national identity. Your neighbour is different from you, and you don’t feel part of a common struggle. Then there are economic factors – many countries in Africa wouldn’t be in a position to help out even if they wanted to. It’s all very well British banks lending vast sums of money to Ireland to keep them afloat, but there aren’t African nations sitting around with vast warehouses of spare food to send to Somalia. Well, there are, but they don’t own the food, so they don’t get to share it like that.

Ultimately the fragmented nature of Africa comes down to a lack of technological, economic and cultural advancement. All three of those things were inflicted on Africa by the west, over the last thousand years. Do you think that the people of Wales independently came up with Newton’s laws of physics, with the technological innovations that revolutionised large-scale agriculture, or with the fundamental building blocks of modern society? No, they didn’t – those “gifts” if you like came from elsewhere, shared (like most advancement) through the free movement of people and the free exchange of ideas. And probably some money.

No one western state came up with all the advancements that put them in the “first world” category. Progress permeated across borders, transcending nation states, and moved the west forward collectively, even if half the countries were at war for a decent chunk of those thousand years. Eventually somebody’s daughter married somebody’s brother, nations became friends, shared ideas, and then got back to fighting. In spite of the apparent barriers to cooperation, ultimately “progress” found a way.

Not so with Africa. I dare say the existence of a great big lake between Europe and Africa was itself something of a barrier to free cultural exchange, but ultimately they weren’t included. They weren’t part of this advancement. They didn’t acquire religion through the (sometimes bloody) permeation of ideas throughout “civilised” society. They were given religion as it suited western nations, through patronising missionaries. And when it came time to find cheap labour for the colonisation of the New World, Africa supplied that through the slave trade.

The gifts of progress were not shared with Africa by Europe. Having shared such ideas internally, Europe left Africa behind and then came back to take advantage of what was left. Arguments about how “well, they should have gotten together and done the same” miss how these dynamics are created. In school, if the unpopular majority were to declare to the popular minority that they were in fact the unpopular ones, and the majority was now “cool”, would that have actually worked? It’s about momentum. Yes, geographically speaking Europe had advantages that promoted advancement, but it held onto those through a deliberate effort to keep such advancements from “those that are different to us”.

I’m rambling now, I can see that…

My point is that we haven’t allowed Africa to be a continent that’s able to look after its own. We kept our advancements to ourselves until we were able to use them to exploit Africa, learning our own lessons over centuries about the dangers of tribal thinking while sharing nothing of what we’d learned, because we had no structures in place to support cultural exchange. Capitalism requires that in order for the rich to exist, so too must the poor. Africa is the continent that gives us our “first world” status by providing an alternative, and the system is happy for that to continue because it makes our lives better.

The idea that the plight of Somalia can be reduced to their location relative to the Equator is to ignore a thousand years of history, and all the ways in which we’ve engineered an Africa that suits us, to the detriment of its own people.


Everybody needs good relatives..

Jun 24th, 2011 | Filed under Uncategorized

So Summer and Andrew have gotten together in Neighbours. This is, obviously, illegal, since they’re totally related.

For starters, her step-mother’s mother is Andrew’s father’s ex-wife, making him her step-step-uncle.

Also, her father’s sister’s baby’s father’s son’s girlfriend’s mother’s husband’s late wife’s brother is Andrew’s father. Or, another way, Summer’s cousin’s half-brother is married to Andrew’s step-cousin.

Okay, so probably not illegal. I just like playing “join the dots” with absurdly interconnected relationships in Soaps…


Better pictures

Jun 19th, 2011 | Filed under Uncategorized




Just for fun…



Jun 18th, 2011 | Filed under Uncategorized

So today, I bought myself some Lego.

It was meant to be a form of brain training.. When it comes to designing abstract systems, I’m rather good at that, but physical systems with physical constraints? That’s more tricky, and isn’t something I get much practice at.

And sure, it took about three hours of tinkering, but I figure it’s important for my personal development as a human that I spend time concentrating on things that I may not be good at. Turns out, I’m okay at it..

So I built five space ships. The first four of them connect together by way of couplings in a sort of chain. At the front, there’s the red pilot ship, with the single Lego man I actually got in the box.. Behind that connects a double-decker white weapons ship, with some guns and stuff. Behind that, there’s a little unmanned yellow ship, which carries a swiveling turret on the top of it. I don’t know how to make pacifist Lego…

Then at the back, there’s a blue ship, which has a great big engine on the back, which obviously powers the whole thing. And alongside, there’s a yellow support ship, which doesn’t connect to the others, because I had insufficient blocks to build a connecting mechanism. However, it does have plenty of fun moving parts all the same..

The “train” of four ships can then disconnect, and reassemble. The pilot ship has connectors on its sides, into which the weapons and engine ships can attach. Meanwhile, the unmanned yellow ship can be stowed away in the rear of the yellow support ship, whilst its gun slides off, and fits neatly onto the top of the engine ship.

Anyway… So that was a fun evening. I think that as a kid, I would have loved a set of space ships that can connect in different ways, share parts, etc… Good fun indeed :o)


Another disgusting Tory wants to exploit the vulnerable..

Jun 18th, 2011 | Filed under Politics

I’m not going to get into the finer detail of why, but suffice it to say that Philip Davies MP’s proposals to “bend” the minimum wage in the case of the most vulnerable in society get me more angry than any other political issue. For entirely selfish reasons, I’m sure, I believe that protection of the mentally handicapped (a phrase I use with many years of practice and nothing but affection) against the disgusting ambitions of the Tories is the most important thing we should be doing.

Anyway.. Makes me pretty angry.. But more than that, I’m shocked at how he’s been allowed to get away with saying some of what he has. The BBC’s article on his suggestion starts as follows:

A Conservative MP has suggested “vulnerable” jobseekers – including disabled people – should be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage.

But it’s not the jobseekers who are prohibited from working for less than the minimum wage. The law isn’t in place to stop them doing it. It’s in place to stop employers from paying less, so really the article should read as follows:

A Conservative MP has suggested that employers should be allowed to pay “vulnerable” jobseekers – including disabled people – less than the minimum wage.

So what we’re really saying here is that if you’re “vulnerable”, then companies should be allowed to “exploit” you for “increased profit”. What an admirable approach!

He seems to be saying that businesses discriminate against the disabled. This is true. His proposed solution? To sell the disabled into exploitation in order to bribe businesses to employ them. He justifies this by saying that we should pay no attention to whether something is right or wrong, and need to instead work pragmatically with the world in which we live.

Bullshit. If the world is wrong, then far from adapting to it, we must change it. If people seeking employment are being discriminated against, then we shouldn’t be trying to bribe businesses not to do that with the offer of cheap labour, we should be attacking those businesses and forcing them to behave in a way befitting a civilised enterprise.

Trying to bribe businesses into employing people by removing employee protections is a very typically Tory thing to do. I’m unhappy enough with it when it comes to exploiting the poor, but when it comes to exploiting the disabled, trying to fashion them into the Tory definition of “productive members of society” by underselling their labour to businesses, I dare them to try it. See what happens when you pay for employment figures with the sweat of the vulnerable.


Stuff I saw today…

Jun 11th, 2011 | Filed under Uncategorized

It turns out, you can see quite a bit from Guildford, so long as you get up high enough..

Naomi and I went for a walk up on the Hog’s Back, and from the top of it, you can see the arch at Wembley (which looks quite large actually given that it’s about 40 miles away), and then what look like three clusters of tall buildings. Left to right, I’m thinking that it’s the BT Tower, then the City / Shard, and then the Docklands area. Possibly one of the “buildings” I could see was a side-on view of the London Eye, but I’d need to take another look…

Anyway, so yes, turns out you can see for about 40 miles from here. Which is nice :o)

View Lines of Sight in a larger map