Monthly Archives: August 2014

American Horror Story S01: Pro Life?

I was loving watching the series American Horror Story, but there was something niggling at me.

Was it not scary enough? I spent most of the first episode with a blanket over my face, while my boyfriend described what was happening to me while I bleated: “Why are they so curious? The basement, AGAIN?”. This show is full of tension. If you like a scary movie, this series is 100% for you.

Was it the cinematography? No, that’s good!

Was it the script? No, that’s not bad.

>>>SPOILER ALERT!<<<<

Abortion

So, the house is haunted because the first owners (in the 1920s) ran an abortion clinic there. Someone kidnapped their baby as punishment, and chopped it up. The husband tried to sew it back together a la Frankenstein, the wife shot him, then herself. The house is now cursed due to the “crimes” (e.g. abortions, equated to murders)

More recently, the male co-owner of the house is visited by his mistress, who is pregnant, but refuses to have an abortion, deciding to keep the baby and live in the area.

Rape

Moira, the maid, was murdered by Constance because she caught her husband trying to rape her. She now appears as old to female characters and young and “tempting” to male characters.

 

Despite the disturbing undertones, I am enjoying watching the show with my partner. I’ve also just read online that there are some pro-choice themes in future series, so maybe I can justify my vegging out to trash TV that way…

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Why don’t we have the MOWOs?

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In the UK, there’s an awards ceremony called Music of Black Origin, or MOBOs for short. People often ask the question “Why are there no MOWOs?”, e.g. awards for just for white people. Isn’t that racist?

The MOBOs promote music from a diverse genre that might become even more stereotyped if it didn’t have it’s own PR event (which is what awards ceremonies basically are). Justin Timberlake and Amy Winehouse have both performed there, and they are both white, so it’s not just an event for black artists either. (What music would there be in the MOWO awards? Classical and country? Doesn’t sound like it would draw much of a crowd.)

But all jokes aside, the reason we don’t need to have the Music of White Origin awards is because, we already have them. Mainstream art awards, whether they be for visual or audio (or both) mediums, tend to be won by white people, from affluent backgrounds. But that’s straying into the topic of an entirely different (but related) post.

If you are questioning why there aren’t “Music of White Origin Awards”, you may be in a stage of waking up from “white privilege”. It is our privilege, as white people in a white world, not to notice how there are very few black people who win music awards, who act in films, and who appear in books. Black culture/people is/are stereotyped in a very narrow way, and so to combat this within music, they need their own platform to express lots of different types of music within the incredibly broad genre of “black music”.

While it could be argued that music of black origin makes up the majority of popular music (R and B, Hip Hop, Soul), those genres went from being counter-cultural to being mainstream via white artists, like Elvis and Eminem.

Think of the alternative of it the MOBOs not being allowed, where non-majorities wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate their culture freely. I look forward to a day when we don’t need the MOBOs, or any other form of positive discrimination, and after having lived outside of the UK for some time, I am proud to live in a country where the MOBOs can happen, and we can have this conversation about why there are no MOWOs, which is actually a discussion of “reverse racism”.

Impressions of New York

While I was in San Francisco for a week in January, I was offered a 4 week job in New York, travel and accommodation included, to facilitate some fundraising events. It was an opportunity too good to miss, so I spent between February and April teaching English “intensives” in my house to make ends meet, then off I went to New York, jokingly warning my boyfriend: “Maybe it will be so great I won’t come back!”

As I sat on the train from the airport into Manhattan, I listened to people around me talking, and it suddenly hit me: I was in New York, surrounded by New Yorkers. It was a surreal moment!

I arrived in the East Village, where I was staying. I loved the winding streets, the dark red bricks of the buildings, the crisp air, the people and their dogs, the hipsters and their cool clothes. I loved the quiet diner where the waitress called everyone “baby” in a loud, sing song, nasal voice.

During my month of work I had plenty of time to see various parts of the city. My first general impressions was of the crowds, and of a strong sense of order and things running like clockwork. For example, any medium sized supermarket you went into would be FULL of people, but the line ended with a screen that had a number on it, telling you which cashier to go to (“39, blue”), and this process moved really quickly. Coffee shops were full of people in their own little bubble worlds, staring at their phone/tablet/laptop. Manhattan had a real, urban feel to it, and any green space, big or small, was densely populated with people trying to take a restful moment.

I suppose people love New York for two reasons. Firstly, the city itself feels generally familiar, as so many series and films are set there. Secondly, if you like the “new, hottest” trends in fashion, theatre, film, and art in general, it’s a place you might love to visit or call home. Casually walking down the street, you might see properly famous people. But for me, there was one major problem.

In some ways I love the states. America has always seemed to me to have this “get up and go” quality about it. People seem to be more positive, to reach for the sky, to start their own businesses… An American doesn’t have a sporting hobby. They regard themselves as proper athletes. Look into their eyes, and you’ll see that the sky is the limit.

However, what happens to the people who don’t get a good start in life? The children whose families don’t have the means to send them to private school?

A friend of mine mentioned how they almost never took the subway. I started to see why. Putting aside the alien feel of the maps and signs, the clammy humidity of the dank tunnels was pretty off putting. Then you have the dirty trains themselves. But worst of all is the homelessness. I realised that I had never been in a city before where the contrast between rich and poor was so incredibly stark to me. One night I went to a party at a 5 story town house near 5th Avenue that had an original Toulouse-Latrec on the wall, rooms that had appeared in interior design magazines, and a Philipino family that lived and worked there as permanent domestic assistants. Then I walked home, streets full of piled rubbish, trash encased in black bags, vulnerable members of society under blankets to keep warm.

Just as people were everywhere, so the homeless were to me, seemingly everywhere. Some were clearly suffering from mental illness, others were just suffering. It was a constant reminder to me of a by product of capitalism; this idea that we have what we have because we “worked” for it, implying that *they* somehow didn’t, are in some way undeserving. I think back to my own childhood, where we couldn’t afford to heat our house in winter, where money was an ever present stress and worry, where I started to clean hotel rooms at the age of 13 years old, and I think: “What would have happened to a child like me, growing up in the states, where education and healthcare are businesses to be bought? Would I have slipped through the cracks and become homeless?”.

I was reminded of the Mommas and the Poppas song “I used to live in New York City. Everything there was dark and dirty”. Those lyrics suddenly slid into focus for me. Here was a city that was the capital of capitalism, where the rich lived in the city during the week and then drove to their second house in the country at the weekend to relax. I realised that I would never earn the kind of money to be happy in New York, and I didn’t want to.

One thing that surprised me was how polite and friendly people were. They see you doubting which way to go coming out of the subway, and they ask if you need directions. My friend who grew up there told me that that was a “post 9/11” thing, as if that event had rocked the collective consciousness of that city.

I missed Bilbao. I missed the trees. I missed the hills. I missed the slower pace of life. I missed walking to where I needed to go in the city. I missed the cultural centres. I missed the free bike system. I missed the kind Basque people, gracious and welcoming and quietly proud that a foreigner might come to their city. I missed wearing my hiking boots to go out for a drink and no one batting an eyelid.

Spice Rack (1/5 Difficulty)

This is a perfect first project, and so so easy. All you need is a pair of scissors, some tape, and a box that would be roughly 30cm by 20 cm by 20cm (12″ x 8″ x 8″). I used a wine box.

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>tape up flaps (these will form the backs of your mini shelving unit)

>place box so the taped up flaps are now on the right and left, in each of your hands.

>cut the box in half.

>place one half on top of the other.

>tape together.

Enjoy!