"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by Dogma which is living with the results of other people's thinking.
Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become."
- Steve Jobs

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ballet and kids DO NOT MIX

I should have learned my lesson when I went to a teatime showing of WALL-E last year. The cinema was like a fucking nursery. Kids wriggling around, kids running up and down the stairs, kids babbling, kids crying. And their parents doing nothing to stop them. And the cinema staff doing nothing to stop them (they were all teenagers and I'm betting, utterly untrained in how to deal with such situations).

So today I went to see Swan Lake. And I mistakenly bought a 2.30pm matinee ticket (all the best seats were gone for the PM performance). There were kids aplenty in the autitorium as it filled up. Uhoh, I thought.....a 3 hour ballet.....kids sitting still and being quiet for 3 hours inc intervals? Hmmmmm

Amazingly, every single child was quiet and well behaved. Except one. The minute the music started, kiddie-babble started. LOUD kiddie-babble. It was right across the theatre from my seat and I could hear it every time the music died or went to a quiet part, so Lord knows what the people sitting near said Kiddie thought. Luckily the music did drown it out a lot, but each time there was a dramatic pause, or the end of the music, there is was. Fucking inane kiddie babble. I thought to myself "OK, the parent will take it outside soon", but nothing happened. Nobody "shusshed", nobody did anything. End of Act 1 and it's interval time. Right, hopefully kiddie will be told to behave in Act 2.

Bullshit! Same thing all thru Act 2. Sadly I was stuck in the middle of a row so I couldn't get up and complain to the ushers. The ushers who were present during the performance but were doing NOTHING to silence this disruption. Isn't that meant to be their job?

Anyways, I was thoroughly enjoying the ballet. The lead dancer with his fabulous head of hair, even more fabulous thighs, and a rather dubious outline on his codpiece ;o) The lead ballerina was stunning in her grace and poise, my God these people have some muscles! And a chorus dancer guy who had legs longer and more slender almost than the lead ballerina :O

The "bad guy", Von Rothbart, was awesome in his head to toe skintight black ensemble, and feathery headdress - bloody hell that guy could leap across the stage! And I couldn't help but snigger to myself during the famous and much-ripped off Cygnet dance :D The costumes and sets were a marvel - sparkling headdresses and sequined bodices, and stunning scenery that was masterfully lit and accentuated with smoke machines.

All this was tinged with the background constant of Kiddie Babble. When the interval came for Act 2 I actually went and spoke to the Usher, pointing out that there IS, in fact, a child in the autitorium who is totally disrupting the show. Apparently I was the only person who complained, and I think the Usher just thought I was being a whinger (yea yeah Ok you lot, shut up :D ) She said they would try to find the child when the performance started again. Did she fuck. Act 3 and the kid must have been either bored or tired, so yep - the crying started. AND STILL THE FUCKING PARENT DIDN'T TAKE THE CHILD OUTSIDE. I watched as the usher just stood there, doing nothing. Then I just tried to block the noise out as the crying turned back into kiddie babble. Thankfully Act 3 had lots of loud music, and was a fab finale to the show.

I was aghast at the ignorance of the parent in not taking this babbling monster out of the show. I was even more amazed at the typical Polite Response of the British Audience - ie, not saying or doing fuck all, just sitting there probably muttering under their breaths. A few people were turning their heads and tutting, but it was only me who vocally complained. Maybe if more of them had said something to the Usher, then something would have been done. ie, a bitch-slap to the selfish parent who clearly loved her child being the centre of attention and didn't give a shit that it was ruining the performance.

Matinees - never again!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The joys of being single by Charlie Brooker

Sigh. Yeah, that's right. Sigh. Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a piece about the world's bizarre insistence on marrying me off, prompted by three separate incidents in which strangers chuckled at my shambling incompetence and suggested that what I needed was a proper sorting out, which could only arrive in the form of a wife. Cue much indignant spluttering on my part. For one thing, how did these strangers instinctively know I wasn't already married? Even gargoyles get hitched, sometimes. And for another, I didn't actually want a wife, thanks for asking.

Nothing beats living alone. Why shackle yourself to a fellow human being for the rest of your days? Because you're in love? Don't be a wuss. That'll fade after a few years and all you'll be left with is a walking catalogue of tiny, grating quirks gleefully pointing out your shortcomings. To avoid murdering each other, you'll have to keep yourselves anaesthetised with DVD boxsets and the occasional holiday. Life partner? Joy thief, more like.

But maybe that's a lie, the kind of lie you live by in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. There are a billion valid reasons to avoid settling down, but the root cause of most commitment-phobia is something else entirely. Namely terror. Raw terror. The terrifying prospect of falling in love in the first place.

Love can be genuinely awful. Worse than the norovirus on a coach trip. When it goes wrong - and it usually does - it kicks a hole in your ribcage and voids its bowels in your soul. Get burned badly and from that point on, falling in love is like inviting a werewolf into your home: you sit there fascinated, watching it eat at the table and admiring your curtains. You make conversation and share private jokes. But try as you might, you're not quite relaxed and you're not quite yourself; you're on tenterhooks, aware that any moment now it's going to turn round and bite your throat out.

In the face of love's potential destructive fury, you're left with three options. 1) Pull down the emotional shutters and try to avoid it. 2) Find someone you admire or like, rather than love, and try to make do, rendering both of you miserable in the process. Or 3) Throw caution to the wind and gingerly place your fragile, beating heart in the hands of another human being and hope they don't crush it in their fist for giggles. On paper, the first option seems like the only sensible choice.

But gah and damn and blast and argh: it isn't. Not really. To carry it off with any degree of success involves suppressing all vestige of romance, which ultimately atrophies your insides and turns you into either a loner or a bastard, or some maddening, alternating combination of the two. And you can't entirely kill off the romantic impulse. When you're queuing in the supermarket on your lonesome, clutching a basket full of meat and veg, all of which has been carefully weighed and packaged into portions big enough for two apparently just to underline the folly of your isolationist policy, it's hard not to gaze enviously at the couples in front of you, even if they're bickering over a cheap jar of pasta sauce. They might be unhappy, but at least they're united by misery. The rest of us have to pick holes in ourselves. They get to share.

So maybe a wife isn't such a bad idea, I figured, as 2009 started to dawn. The problem is finding one. I've fantasised before about a society in which single people are assigned partners arbitrarily by the government.

But that's not going to work, because my checklist of desired attributes is impossibly lofty: I refuse to be satisfied with anything less than a clever, funny, misanthropic supermodel who spends 98% of her time ignoring my existence (because basic psychology dictates that nothing's going to maintain your interest quite like being dangled on a string for eternity), and the remaining 2% offering sickening reassurance. Thus far the universe has stubbornly refused to offer this up, and since no one on earth can possibly match up to this deluded ideal, which I don't deserve anyway, perhaps it's time to widen the net by aiming low. By which I mean below the realms of the human. Animals are out: they don't live long enough to make the social revulsion your union would provoke worth bearing. Unless you count tortoises, but they're too hard and aloof and ultimately unknowable to seriously consider settling down with.

No. A robot wife will do just fine. It wouldn't have to be terribly advanced: a crudely animated face on a stick offering relentless criticism and the occasional rude limerick would probably keep me sufficiently entertained to the grave. I'm aware even that might be aiming a bit too high. I'm not getting any younger, so give it a few years and I'll be content with a bag of gravel in a hat. Although just to keep things spicy, it'd be an open relationship: I'd let other men have sex with my gravel-bag wife, provided I could point and laugh as they did so.

Pour all your romance into a bagful of gravel? Yeah, I can see that. And it is, I suspect, the only conceivable future in which true and lasting happiness lies.

• This week Charlie bled all the radiators in his flat: "Which is as close as I'm ever going to get to a starring role in a Victorian steampunk thriller." He saw Che: Part One at the cinema "as part of an ongoing attempt to have some semblance of an outdoor life this year, even if doing that ultimately involves sitting indoors, albeit in a different location to the norm".

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Burning Man Blog Part 4

Where was I? Ah yes.....awesome evenings and dubious men. Need to get this blog finished before all memories fade!

Dubious men.. Met another one the following day as I was wandering back to camp from Centre Camp. He caught up with me on his bike and asked the usual "where are you from" etc questions. His name was Chris and he seemed a LOT younger than me. We chatted and he came back to the camp to meet the guys and he sat himself down then noticed my mirror I'd left outside my tent. Well that was it. He surreptitiously angled it towards himand checked his reflection......like, about 10 times during the next 10 minutes of conversation. I didn't think I was that boring! Anyways I resisted the urge to call him "Narcissus" and fling him out of the camp,but he eventually left. Yawn.

Then a guy camping nearby came to ask if he could nick a bit of our water, he was a Brit and worked for Google in San Francisco...he'd left his girlfriend in the UK to do his overseas 6 month stint and was loving it. He said his bird was fine with being apart for 6 months, which made a refreshing change from the usual "paranoid clingy girlfriends" that seem to exist today. Either that or she was happily off shagging other men while the cat was away.....

He said that the two Google founders were Burners, and that they allowed all their employees to allocate a percentage of their time to "their own projects that would benefit the world". This is a great ethos and I'm sure it keeps staff morale high. Not only to Google have the coolest offices on the planet, they also allow their employees a bit of freedom. If I ever am lucky enough to turn Fuzzbutt into a business then this is the sort of thing I would encourage for sure, as well as having a dead funky working area. It's good to see the next generation of CEOs bringing stuff like this to the workplace, and having a fresh new attitude.

During the remainder of the week I cycled round the Playa, took more photos, and sat and people watched. On Thursday I went out to pay my first visit to the Temple of Basura Sagrada.

The website for this Temple sums it up:

"We build art out of trash for many reasons. Our goal is to make something amazing and exotic out of materials deemed unworthy, the stuff we throw away everyday. And while it is obvious that making something beautiful out of refuse is a political act, the question we hope to answer with this project is whether it can also be a spiritual act. We believe that it can.

Basura Sagrada is a temple constructed entirely from burnable trash, recycled materials, and the tossed-off detritus of American society. Meticulously detailed, the temple will be a precious space created from non-precious materials. By replacing the gold and marble surfaces of traditional temples with aluminum can adornments and cardboard spires, we hope to inspire others to see everyday trash as beautiful, to save everyday trash and use it—not because it is responsible or right or necessary to recycle (although that is certainly important), but because people are excited about the materials and medium.

We believe that the material itself has an inherent value that can be unlocked in the right hands. We will attempt to unlock unprecedented levels of beauty, and do it on a scale that will blow people’s minds and function as a sufficient vessel for the hopes, dreams, memories, and losses of our community. We welcome intrepid visitors to this space to be a part of this grand experiment in trash alchemy."

And they totally achieved it. Basura Sagrada blew my mind. It was definitely the "Heart" of Burning Man. I visited it on Tuesday and on Sunday, the day of it's Burn. I walked around it, climbed its stairs, read every surface and saw what people wrote on it. Memories, tributes, goodbyes, pleas, angry rants, loving notes......even a hard-assed bitch like me had tears in my eyes as I read some of the things written there. People who had died tragically, people who were cancer victims, people who had gone missing without a trace, people who had been murdered or abducted. But alongside these upsetting stories were also tributes to parents, grandparents, friends who had lived long and happy lives and then had passed away naturally.

A display of hundreds of matchbooks stodd next to some photos and a story about somebody's parents, who had come to America long ago as immigrants, made their fortune, stuck together thru thick and thin, and had collected matchbooks. HUNDREDS of them. The story invited people to help themselves to a matchbook and remember the story of the two immigrants who came for a slice of the "American Dream" and achieved it, leaving a legacy of children and grandchildren behind. Mementoes were everywhere. Watches, toys, photos, clothing, things that had been placed there to be burned with the Temple, to be set free into the sky along with the memory of the person it belonged to. People achieving closure, people trying to get closure, people saying a final goodbye.

To see the full spectrum of what humans are capable of all in one place was very moving. I went from horrific stories of abduction and abuse, to beautiful writings of love and longing, gentle tributes to angry political rants. And all the while the sun shone, the various decorations of the Temple made out of tin cans and bottle tops swayed in the warm breeze, clinking together gently, as people wandered around and talked in low and respectful tones. A huge white kite with a long tail was being flown overhead, to me it represented all the spirits currently residing in the Temple that would be set free that evening when it was burned.

I sat on a lovely driftwood bench back on the Playa and watched people. A lovely lady with a glorious set of feathered wings and a feathered headdress, was dancing to the chilled-out music that was being played from a nearby art car. I took video of her which will be uploaded soon, she was amazing to watch. She moved her arms like wings and her smile was so radiant and full of joy, and people stopped to dance with her or just to give her a hug and be enveloped in those soft gentle wings. She was like a free Spirit of the Temple. A slim Chinese girl put her bag down and joined in dancing with her, mirroring her arm movements and smiling with her - that's what I captured on video. I cursed my shitty camera for only taking 20 second clips at a time. I'm sure "The Bird Lady" knew I was watching her from behind my sunglasses and I was partly terrified that she would come over, urge me to dance, or interact in any way with me. I was terrified because I thinkthat had she done this I would have just burst into tears, I was so totally taken with the whole atmosphere of the Temple. Even now, writing about it makes the tears prick my eyes, and I really don't know why. Guess I'm not such a hard arse after all ;o)

I wished that everyone could experience this and see the full spectrum of what humans are capable of. And learn from it. And fucking change their ways and stop destroying this world and eachother.

Burning Man Blog Part 3

Where was I? Ah yes, we'd just got into Black Rock City and the sun was coming up, it was 5.30am, and we'd gone all night without sleep. We decided to stay awake and just get the tents and camp pitched.

Drix was knackered so he had forty winks in the car and me and Jim set about building the camp (time-lapse movie of this is forthcoming!). Jim had devised a great scaffold shade structure so we bolted it together then fought with the canvas covers and fastened them into place. This took a good few hours, and meanwhile the City was filling up as more and more people arrived. They came over to say hi and have a quick chat, everyone was still so friendly :o)

Unpacking all the other camp gear took hours too - the table, the stove, the food boxes, hammering in the rebar to double-secure the shade structure....it was now about 11am and the heat was starting to filter thru as the sun got higher. But then suddenly the sun was blocked out by an oncoming dust storm....."oh it'll pass" I thought to myself - YEAH RIGHT :D

The storm settled in and stayed - like, for the rest of the day and through the night. Visibility plummeted, we donned goggles and dust masks, secured the shade structure even more, then attempted to pitch our tents. We took a quick break and went for a wander round the city.....it was very surreal, like a Nuclear Winter. Total whiteout, shadowy figures of other Burners wandering around, people on bikes, art cars coming and going into the dust, glimpses of neon or EL wire, and just the howling buffeting wind. It was exhilarating but by now I was so tired that I couldn't see straight. It was well over 24 hours since I'd slept!!

Drix walked right out to the Man and climbed up it - in the whiteout! Go Drix :D He said it was awesome and I wish I'd had the energy to go out there too and experience it. he saw a stretch Limo pull up at the Man and someone got out, climbed up and had a look around at the view, then got back into the Limo and it disappeared into the dust clouds.....I wonder who it was.....someone wealthy no doubt, trying to experience Burning Man without TRULY experiencing it by camping here, getting covered in dust, and leaving the Comfort Zone of their aircon Limo. IMO if you're not gonna embrace the dust then you're wasting your time coming along!!

Now it was getting dark, I was so tired and ready to drop where I stood. I started to get scratchy and irritable, and when the tent pitching proved to be a total windy nightmare, I snapped and barked at Drix as he tried to help....oops! He went off and left me to it. All three of us were very tired and Jim had started to hallucinate out of pure fatigue. We finally got the tents up and I just piled all my stuff inside (suitcases covered in dust but I was past caring), crawled in my sleeping bag, and tried to sleep. I was so tired I thought I'd drop off in no time but in true "first day" style, everyone was up and about with loud sound systems.

Earplugs were useless....and the wind was blowing so bad that the tent bashed and battered and flapped around me, it was so noisy. I just lay in a stupor and waited for sleep to take over, which it only did when the music abated at about 4am. So I had 3 hours sleep in total I reckon.....

I still had jetlag too and it wasn't until Wednesday that I had straightened out and started to feel a bit healthier. My body adapted to having bugger all sleep most nights, but crikey it took some adapting to the full force of the Nevada sun!!! Without my cowboy had and Factor 50 I'd have not made it thru the days for sure.

Now the constant desert dust started to work it's "magic" on my feet. By "magic" I mean it gets into every nook and crevice of your feet, and starts sucking the moisture out from them. All the sandals and shoes I'd brought that were comfy in the UK, started chafing and blistering my feet due to the heat and the dust. I'd already bought a new pair of slip ons because my normal sandals had started chafing in Vegas. Now these new ones, cos they were rubber (doh!), just made my feeet sweat and then chafe even more. Thank GOD I'd brought with me a big bottle of moisturiser - it really did save my feet from some serious crackage!

If you went barefoot then your feet would eventually crack and get very painful due to the moisture-sucking alkaline dust. I tried the hideous combo of socks and sandals which worked OK but after a few hours, still chafed and blistered. My hiking boots with thick socks were great but my feet literally boiled while wearing them, making my feet swell then they'd start blistering cos they were crushed into the boots. To sum it up, I couldn't win!! many an evening was cut short by my feet literally screaming in agony, which really pissed me off cos the night times were so awesome I wanted to just wander round Black Rock until dawn, but I had to limp back to camp and rest my feet, then rest them the next day so I could try to walk around more later on.

Thankfully I could cycle around the Playa during the day, but I had to strap some fleece onto the saddle cos that started to give me a right sore bum!! By the end of the week the streets were so pitted and bumpy I was riding standing up in the saddle anyhow, so the bum-pain became irrelevant :D

One thing a lot of people told me about Burning Man is "don't try to plan anything". And they were totally right! I had a list in my head of things I was going to do:

* I was gonna get up early to see the sun rise (I never did, it was too darn cold and I was always knackered in the mornings due to crap nights sleep)
* I was gonna record a video diary of as much as I could (nope, my camera battery wouldn't charge up so the only thing I could have used was my mobile which takes crap video)
* I carried a small book with me that I wanted people who I met to sign (chickened out due to being shy, and also CBA!!!!)
* I was going to drop into random theme camps and say hi (fannied out again!)

When you're at Burning Man you just go with the flow....depending on the amount of alcohol/sleep/painkillers you've had, the things you PLAN to do don't always happen!!! It wasn't until about Thursday that I started dragging myself out of bed early (but still not early enough to see the sun rise), cos I realised that the magic time of 7am till about 10am was great for a level of warmth that wasn't skin-blistering, plus you had the golden morning light, and the Playa and City were relatively tranquil and quiet.

Oh it was such bliss....cycling out into the desert, stopping off to look at the giant Playa art, taking photos, just sitting and enjoying the silence and the gorgeous cloudless blue sky....the only sounds were the crunching of my bike tyres on the surface, the rattling of the bike, the occasional swear word from me as I got beached in yet another dune..... :D One morning there was a hot air balloon just landed, I got some lovely pics of it - will get them on here soon I promise! Groups of Burners lounged around near the various artwork, chatting and smiling and saying hello as you cycled by. They'd probably not even slept yet but had partied thru the night (OK for them with no painful feet!) Black Rock has it's own airstrip and throughout the week, people parachuted into the Playa - what a way to arrive! Apparently the pilots would give free flights over the City to people if you went in the morning and asked them, but I fannied out again (BUGGER - next time!!!!!)

I spent my days cycling systematically down each street in Black Rock, checking out the theme camps, the art cars, the sights, the people. Lots of people - lots of semi naked people and some totally buck naked. OMG! At first I was a model of British prudeness, getting a shock each time a naked guy wandered by, but a couple of days into it I was like "yep, another naked man, another willy.....move along nothing to see here!" I was so desensitized to body parts that even a naked and rather buff guy with a pink mohican offering me toilet roll at the portaloos didn't faze me ;o)

I had to laugh when I reached the kid-friendly part of the City "Kidsville". Families were encouraged to camp near this area and there was lots going on to keep the kiddies amused. But about 3 camps down from Kidsville there were about 5 naked guys crowded round a BBQ having a jolly good fry-up. Hilarious. Wonder what mummy and daddy would tell little Timmy when he asked about the "naked men and their sausages"?? :D

One afternoon when the sun was at its worst and I was almost melting, I came across The Deep End....a dawn to dusk club with a bar, and a wooden scaffold platform for dancers, and THE most awesome dance music and vibe I've ever witnessed. How I cursed my bloody camera and its flat battery! The dancefloor was heaving with people, the sun beat down like a furnace and I was dying to get in there and dance but I knew I'd probably pass out. I found a spot in the shade and stood with my bike watching, utterly entranced....people walked by and encouraged me to have a dance - oh I wish I could have done!! But I could feel my ginger fair skin starting to really screech for some shade and cooling down - despite the factor 50. After 30 minutes of watching I had to go back to camp and refill my camelback, and jusst seek some shade to let my body temperature drop a bit.....I didn't want to risk any form of heatstroke and dehydration.

I tried to go back there later in the day when the sun was cooler but my typically shit sense of direction meant I kept bloody missing it....and cos it finishes at sundown, by the time I did find it, it was deserted.

Night time. OMG night times were utter mind-overload. I wanted them to last forever, I wanted to cut my complaining blistered whingeing feet off and replace them with prosthetics, so the pain would stop and I could walk around all night. I wanted to mug someone and take their Segway, I wanted to cycle but at night time it'd be lethal with all the dunes and bad visibility and the hassle of trying to find your bike in the dark or lock it up if you went for a wander.

Night times were a vision of EL wire - on clothing, on art cars, on theme camps. Propane flames blasted from some of the art cars, there was a fire stage devoted to fire dancers, with 6 huge propane burners that threw out huge blasts of flames at random intervals. Music pumped while the fire dancers took turns to take the stage with fiery hoops or poi or huge batons or 5-spoked flaming torches......fucking awesome to behold. Glowsticks, coloured neon, music of every genre could be heard....Playa art was lit up to spectacular affect, the Man in the distance blazed neon, the lack of light pollution meant that the stars in the sky were an umbrella of light. Roars and cheers were heard from the very popular Thunderdome (more of that later!)

I walked out into the middle of the Playa so the City was far off from me. I stood enveloped in the darkness just looking and listening. The night air was warm, at least 20oC. I watched the colours of the City flickering and blinking in the distance, listening to the cheers from the open air club with it's huge screens, as the DJ let rip with another awesome track.....a burst of propane flames lit up the surrounding area with a bright orange, then died away.....across the distance, another propane art car answered it with a replying burst. The gentle evening breeze blew the strains of Frank Sinatra past my ears, then it was gone.....then more heavy pumping bass......then a snippet of Martin Luther King's famous speech......"I have a dream". If you've not yet listened to his full 20 minute speech then do it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk) - it's mesmerizing....the way he speaks, the powerful words he speaks so beautifully.....his words drifted towards me across the dark Playa:

"Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring."

Such relevant words to all at Burning Man, we all just want to be free, to live in a free world that is uncluttered by all the crap and corruption that is crippling it and us today. I sat in the desert under the stars with the biggest grin on this earth on my face, totally overwhelmed by the visual and mental overload going on in my brain. Photos and film just cannot capture what was before me.

Whilst wandering one night, an impromptu fireworks display kicked off near the Man. I stood and watched, and got chatting to a random young guy who was standing near me and watching too. We started to chat and walk together, and after a whie I grew a bit suspicious. he seemed to have lots of stories .....first he said he was here cos his brother had died earlier in the year, and he had been a Burner, so he wanted to experience what his brother had. Then he said he was a woodworker by trade....then later he said he'd just completed Police Academy.....then he said he worked as a plain clothes shop detective.

WTF? Make your mind up? When I challenged him about exactly what job he DID do, he said that the store detective was a kind of fill-in between Police Academy, and the woodworking thing had been "earlier on". His next tale was about how he'd inherited a load of land. As yet I'd not even bothered to ask his name and I was rapidly discovering he had the personality of a garden gnome. He didn't ask me much about myself - I considered telling him I was a genetic engineer/dolphin trainer/polar ice cap researcher, just to see if it made a dent......

One of the biggest art cars came near us so we sprinted to get onto it. It was a huge bus that was hinged in the middle and had a platform on top that pretty much was a nightclub! It heaved with people, the bus below was full of people, UV lights, and oh joys - TV screens showing hardocre triple dildo porn action :O We headedupstairs and enjoyed a ride out to the Playa, people watching and chatting. A drunken girl clapped her eyes on him and they started talking, and I realised that we were being taken WAY out into the depths of the desert - argh! I was stuck on a nightclub bus screening porn, with a personality-less guy who was more interested in chatting to a drunk girl (I think he'd realised he'd not got a chance in hell with me, cos I was sober!)

I started chatting to another guy then thought "screw this I'm outta here". I told my nameless Garden Gnome I was going downstairs to warm up a bit, waited till the next stop then did a runner :D

Of course this meant that I had to walk my cripped feet for about 40 minutes, to get back to the city. I stopped off at the fire stage again to warm up and have a sit down, then limped back to camp and fell into bed.

Burning Man Blog Part 2

I stumbled out of bed bleary-eyed at 6am to grab some more brekkie at the Coffee Shop (got lost again, fecking mirrors!), then caught the hotel shuttle to the airport for my Vegas flight. I was meeting two guys from the Neon City Garrison who were going to give me "the tour"...I didn't want to wander around alone, not knowing where I was going, looking like a saddo lost tourist, and potentially missing out on lots of the cool stuff to see. So it was great of the guys to offer their services.

As we approached Vegas on the flight, I was glued to the window for my first glance - and there it was - Luxor - imposing black pyramid blinking at me in the sunlight....I couldn't stop grinning! I was in VEGAS BABY!!!!

Arriving at the airport and Phil and Scott were there waiting for me. We headed to the car park where - surprise surprise - Phil had a HUGE SUV awaiting. As it was only 7.30am we headed to a diner for some brekkie.....typical HUGE pile of pancakes for Scott, a fry-up for Phil and a massive blueberry waffle for me *burp*. Then out into Vegas and a trip to the famous Vegas sign, for some pics. Touristy yeah but I didn't care - it's an iconic classic retro design that I *LOVE* :D

The heat was searing, it must have been 40oC MINIMUM....the concrete everywhere probably didn't help, I swear it reflected it all back at us tenfold. It was like walking around in a furnace......coming from "sunny" England it was a big shock.

The whole "concrete jungle and fake Eiffel Tower" etc etc of Vegas was a great contrast to start my week with, considering I was heading out to the desert to live in a dusty tent with no home comforts for a week :D

We walked the main strip and used the underground tunnels or monorail that connected the main casinos as much as possible, to try and avoid the heat. Heading over to Mandalay Bay we met up with Mike, another trooper, who worked at the Shark Reef aquarium so got us in at a dirt cheap rate. It was an OK aquarium but IMO some of the tanks were too small and uninteresting. However, the large tanks that you could walk under in the tunnels and all around the sides of a massive room, were impressive - but still bereft of any sort of decent "underwater" decor or plant life for the fish. Sharks and sea turtles drifted around and I wondered if they realised they were sort of trapped in the same space.....and whether or not it frustrated the hell out of them? Having watched on BBCi 2 weeks earlier a documentary about how sea turtles migrate THOUSANDS of miles on instinct to lay their eggs, I wondered if the call of instinct was being blocked by this enclosed tank, and causing distress?

Being a scuba diver I still knew that NOTHING could compare with seeing marine life in the wild, and also free, with the beauty of the blue sea and the corals beneath them.

After Mandalay Bay we pretty much walked the rest of the strip and stopped off at the Bellagio fountains, Luxor, New York New York, little Paris, then up to the Stratosphere Tower for a view of the whole city. How I wished I could stay a night there and I kicked myself again for messing up the time differences and denying myself this. THe view was awesome but for eyes used to "green and pleasant" England, the lack of GREEN in Vegas was very apparent. The heat was just as intense right up there in the sky, and they also had a couple of rides on the top of the tower - one that shot you skywards at God knows what G-Force, and another that literally dangled you over the edge of the tower - OMG no *WAY* was I going on those rides! Phil and Scott went on one though, and I chickened out :D

Next stop was the best Barbeque House in Vegas where I had a huge plate of Baby back ribs with BBQ sauce - DIVINE.....and they served drinks in MASSIVE jam jars!!!??? Good Lord!

Sadly then I had to rush off to catch my plane back to Reno, so it was goodbye to the guys and off I went - just as the sun went down and all the fab Vegas lights came on. Arse!

Back in Reno I headed to the hotel again, collected my luggage, and awaited Drix and Jim to come and collect me. It was near 2 hours until they arrived so I sat in the lobby and watched the Olympics closing ceremony, thinking "bugger I could have had some more time in Vegas!"

We decided to head for Burning Man/Black Rock City that night, so we'd get in early and get a good camping spot near to the centre of the City. It was only about a 1.5/2 hour journey from Reno so not too bad.

The guys turned up and Jim was towing a trailer jammed with water, supplies, scaffold and tent-type stuff. Drix's car was weighed down with all his stuff plus a bike rack on the back. This was it, woooo!

We stopped off at WalMart to pick up some supplies, then an all night supermarket for final grub-buying. There were other Burners in the car park who were also stocking up - you could tell them a mile off: RVs, lots of bike racks, and shopping trolleys full of water :D

By the time we were sorted and headed off it was now 1am. As we left Reno and the light pollution faded away, the inky black sky and stars were upon us. My cellphone lost it's signal and then I knew that I was isolated from the modern world...no TV, no texts, no internet, nothing - FANTASTIC!

We stopped briefly at the turnoff for Pyramid Lake, which was reflected in a lovely moon....it's a tradition that Drix and Jim do each year they drive to BM....stop at the lake, jump about and get excited, then carry on driving!

We drove and drove and then in the distance we saw the lights....the lights of a queue of traffic. It was just like that scene in Field of Dreams at the end where you see the lights snaking off into the distance. Burners!! If you BUILD IT THEY WILL COME!!!!

We kept driving and thankfully the queue of lights ahead seemed to keep moving too Now they were coming from both directions! I started wondering how long we'd be be waiting to get in. Pretty soon we joined a slow-moving queue and we kept going, which was good....we trundled on until we could see the junction where you turn into Black Rock City - not bad at all!

Jim had a spare ticket so I decided to stretch my legs and jog up and down the queues of cars trying to flog it. Everyone said no, then this divine looking guy in his big van offered me a lift on his door siding, as I was jogging along and being left behind. I hopped on and he introduced himself (unpronounceable Playa name that I've forgotten already), I said it was my first burn then hopped off again and continued up the queue a bit more. After getting no interest I headed back to the car, grinning at Mr Sexy en route and wondering absently if I should give him one of my business cards.

We trundled on a bit longer then out of the blue there was a girl standing at the roadside with $200 in her hand and a sign saying "spare ticket needed". Bingo, one ticket sold!

We turned into Black Rock City and joined three parrallel queues of traffic waiting to go in. RVs and cars loaded dwon with stuff, some painted up with BM slogans or typical "hippie style flower power" painted vehicles. Mutant vehicles on trailers went past, one of which was the head off "Alien" which was FAB. I got my camera out and started filming snippets.

Eventually I got out the car again and went to find Will Call to collect my ticket. I saw a little further up Mr Sexy's van, but carried on to the ticket office. Upon collecting it I walked past Mr Sexy who smiled at me again, but still I didn't go and fetch a business card to give him. Argh! Then he was thru the gates and gone....who he was I'll never know, but I learned soon enough that at Bm you meet people and have convos and it's all fab then the next minute they're gone for ever.....

Next stop for me was the Greeter's Station, where volunteers welcome all Burners and also "induct" the Burning Virgins - like me.

Out of the car I had to get and kneel in the Playa dust, play with it, make a pile of it, while the volunteer stood over me (and probably resisted the urge to say "while you're down there love...." :D Then I had to ring a HUGE bell twice and shout out "I'm not a Burning Man Virgin anymore!!" All this is on film and you'll see it at some point, honest :D

So that was my first taste of "the Dust" - something that I'd be living with for the next 7 days and something that would permeate ever crevice of my tent, my clothes and my body during those 7 days too!

Part 3 coming soon..............

Burning Man Blog Part I

The day had finally come, after 7 months of build up and anticipation, Burning Man (BM) was about to happen. My alarm went off at 0245am on 22nd and I was out the door bleary eyed in the taxi for 0345am. My bathroom was being refitted while I was away so I was happy that I'd have a presence in the house during my holiday - plus to come back to a spiffy new bathroom!

The short taxi ride to the UEA cost me £8, FFS.....creepy taxi driver too. There was one other student waiting for the airport bus to Heathrow so we exchanged the usual polite conversation. When I tried to explain about Burning Man he looked at me as if I was a weird cult member or something. It's become the usual reaction when I try to explain this amazing event to people!

Heathrow was the usual jam-packed mess, with people blocking the walkways as per usual and not giving two shits that I was trying to get past with two bulky suitcases. One women saw me trying to get past, ignored my "excuse me" and didn't move an inch...so I wheeled my suitcase over her heel and kept walking as I heard her loud "OUCH" thrown in my way. Should have moved then, daft bint. God I was glad to leave Britain behind!

I didn't realise now but airlines have a "self check-in" service, where you pretty much check yourself in using a touch screen. Great, another avoidance of human contact. Typically the machine took about 3 attempts to check me in, the instructions for scanning the passport were unclear so I had to ask for help, but I was glad to switch to another seat that was not only a window seat but was on the emergency exit so had tons of legroom. Result!

My smaller suitcase was too big for hand luggage and had to be checked in along with my massive case that came in just under the weight limit. I was carrying my Predator bio on my back all bubble wrapped up (got some funny looks about that). Originally it was going in the small suitcase but I decided there was no way I was leaving it to the mercy of the "not paid enough to give a shit" baggage handlers.

I'd been sad enough to make myself a top that said "UK Burners" on it, with the BM logo on. A couple of people spotted it and asked if that's where I was going (well duh) but I didn't see any other Burners in the airport.

I flew with Continental Airlines and the flight out was top class. We had pop-up TV screens as we were front row, and there was over 300 movies to choose from, all genres and all years. I watched Iron Man twice, a bit of Prince Caspian, and Ghost. I was sitting next to a nice South African couple who were going to a conference in Alaska all about sustainability and green energy. They seemed quite intrigued by my tales of BM and also when I tried to explain to them about Fuzzbutt and my Fuzzy Business.

The flight was over an hour late taking off, which reduced my long wait in Houston airport to only about 3 hours. I parked myself in front of a huge window and set my camera up to take a time-lapse movie of the airport activity. This was ruined by the arrival of a woman with two toddlers, who immediately started running around in front of me. The typical heavy-footed toddler "bang bang bang of the feet" run started to grate immediately, and mummy did nothing to keep her kids quiet despite a visible presence of other sleeping or resting travellers. Then the kiddies spotted my camera and tripod and started deliberately running in front of the camera and staring at it. I moved seats before I drop kicked them down the hallway, but thankfully they went off for their flight 20 minutes later so I resumed my window seat but didn't bother taking another movie.

A couple of Burners got on the Houston to Reno flight, one dreadlocked young guy saw my tshirt and said the traditional "Welcome Home" (all Burners call BM "Home"), and another older guy from Amsterdam sat in front of me and we chatted. There were some others too, you could spot them a mile off because they all dress differently and alternatively, not cloned sheep like the rest of society. I started to totally get even more excited :D

I was sitting next to a female MD who tapped away on her laptop for half of the flight, then covered herself with a blanket, put her knees on the seat in front, and proceeded to wriggle continuously, try to sleep, and bump the front seat with her knees, seemingly not caring that she may be seriously pissing off the lady sitting in front of her.

In Reno I stood and waited for my baggage to appear on the carousels, and then suddenly Jim was beside me saying hello. This was the first time I'd met him and we'd only exchanged a couple of emails, but he was dead nice. We grabbed my luggage and went outside, the warm night Reno air hit me like a glorious wave of summertime. In the car park I was amazed that nearly every car was in fact a bloody tank - well, an American 4x4 - which make our 4x4s look like Minis.

Jim had a HUGE Toyota that for a moment I thought was a Hummer. It had a compass and a pitch/roll gauge on the dash and everything. We sat in it and it totally dwarfed us both.

We'd had a bit of a mixup with my flight schedule and the guys weren't expecting me until Sunday night, not the Friday. Jim had booked me into the Peppermill Hotel in Reno (http://www.peppermillreno.com/) as a surprise so he dropped me off there and I went up to my room, which was gorgeous and modern with a bed that could have slept 10 people :O

I was starving so went downstairs to the 24 hour Coffee Shop to get some grub. The Coffee Shop was situated right at the back of the Casino and OMG I got so bloody lost trying to find it - every wall was mirrored, and the ceilings too. Coloured neon lights were everywhere and just added to the confusion. It looked stunning but I was too hungry to care!!

I had read about how Casinos are designed like mazes to trap you and make sure you can't get out - and it was so true! My sense of direction is shit at the best of times but here I was totally baffled. I tried to follow the signs, I wandered around and tried to NOT look like a lost tourist. Guys sitting at the slot machines pumping them full of coins stared as I walked past (have they never seen a girl in a hippy boho long skirt and vest top???) and one remarked loudly "Girls just love The Man", referring to my Burner logo on the top.

I resisted the urge to yell "Can someone point me to the fucking Diner before I start eating the carpet!!" when suddenly there it was. I could either wait for a table, or go sit at the counter in true American Styleeee. I found a chair at the counter and was immediately brought a glass of iced water. This is customary in all American eateries and was bril compared to the miserly UK where they won't even serve you tap water now, forcing you to pay £3 for some mineral water. I watched the staff work away so efficiently - the short order cooks and the waitresses, the fridge door that never closed properly, I felt like I was in the middle of a movie as I'd seen scenes like this so often on my TV screen.

I ordered an Omlette with a meaty sort of mix/sauce on it and OMG it was DIVINE - I've never seen such a huge puffy omelette in my life, I swear it had helium in it. I stuffed my face to bursting with it, paid the princely sum of $7 for it (bargain) and crept away without leaving a tip cos I didn't know the customary amount to leave!

After a quick shower I went to bed for 5 hours of fitful jet-lagged sleep. I had the whole of Saturday to amuse myself as I wasn't due in Vegas until the Sunday morning. I kicked myself for not realising the time differences, as I could have had 2 days and one night in Vegas, instead of just the one day and flying back to Reno at night. Arse bugger arse!

In the morning after a GORGEOUS huge bowl of strawberry yoghurt topped with granola and bananas/strawbs in the Diner, I thought "sod it" and I hired a car and planned to drive to Lake Tahoe and Virginia City. I wasn't going to sit in my room for a whole day doing nothing but torturing myself about not getting to Vegas early. I knew that if I got a car with Sat Nav I'd be fine. I'd just have to get over the terror of driving on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the CAR, but I told myself that if I was going to start travelling alone more, I had to grow a bigger set of balls :D

I got the free shuttle from the hotel to the airport where my car had been booked for pickup. The car hire with SatNav was about $100 and bloody hell I got a HOOJ Toyota car - and that was the smallest in their range! I could have had a new Mustang which would have been ACE but they didn't come with SatNav. I knew I'd not be able to drive and look down at maps, it was just asking for a crash, so I had to kiss goodbye my Mustang dreams :o(

As I left the airport I was grinning like an idiot, thinking "Holy Shit I'm about to go driving in a strange country in a strange car all by myself - WOOOOOO!" Thankfully it was an automatic so I didn't have to worry about right-hand gear shifting. The SatNav was easy to use and off I went to Virginia City.


Virginia City is one of the oldest established cities in Nevada. Like many cities and towns in the state, Virginia City was a mining boomtown; in fact it is one of the most famous boomtowns in the Old West as it virtually appeared overnight as a result of the Comstock Lode silver strike of 1859. During its peak, Virginia City had a population of nearly 30,000 residents. When the Comstock Lode ended in 1898, the city's population declined sharply.

A lot of the original buildings still stand, with a wooden uneven walkway typical of the American Westerns I'd grown up with. It looked lovely from a distance but as I strolled the walkway I saw that every shop was peddling tacky tourist tat, and some of the original bars had got slot machines in them, instead of being left in their traditional state. The huge oak bars at the end of the rooms were still there and I was dying to go up to one of them and say "Make miiiine sarsparilla" in true Calamity Jane stylee :D

The town was also a haven for bikers and their Huge American Harleys. Everywher I walked there were bandana-bedecked bikers in shades, lounging on the seats and checking me out as I passed them. The heat was intense and I was glad of the shade of the old walkway. I walked the full length of the street then walked back down the other side. By the time I got to the end of the street the traffic had been halted and some sort of weird dog show/parade was going on, and a crowd had gathered. People walked their dogs by one of the buildings to a commentary on who they were and who their dog was, and the funniest sight was of a big hairy ape of a biker walking a Paris Hilton style dog AND carrying a fluffy cat. By the time I'd whipped my camera out he was too far past me.

I went to see Pipers Opera House (http://www.pipersoperahouse.com/) which was built in 1880 and still had that gorgeous unrestored original look and smell to it. It was undergoing restoration but I feared for the end result as I saw how "restoration" involved stapling the wall covering to the walls - WTF! Not authentic! It was a working theatre and still held productions, and I read about how all the miners crammed in here to see the famous faces of the day (including Al Jolson) perform.

After that I went round the city museum which had some interesting old photos, maps, currency and stories of the people who lived there - and a lot of unrecognisable mining machinery and tools that no doubt my dad woul have enjoyed.

By now it was getting on 1pm and I realised I was dawdling too much, so I got back to the car and headed for Lake Tahoe.

It was GORGEOUS - made our Lake District look like a muddy puddle! I drove all the way around it, stopping to take pics whenever I could. Miles and miles of stunning blue water, flanked by tree-encrusted hills and rock formations. I stopped off to buy a universal plug socket adaptor as I'd brought the wrong one with me and my phone and cameras needed charging. Had a nice salad at a diner and again was stunned by the friendliness and excellent customer service. later in the day when I stopped at Tahoe City to buy some cookies, the guy behind the counter was friendly and flirty and laughed when I asked if he sold "anything as sweet as me". In my day and a half in Nevada I'd seen more cute guys than in the last year or so of living in Britain. Was a nice change!!!!!! And they chatted and teased and were friendly, unlike Brit men who grunt at you, avoid eye contact, and go back to developing their beer bellies and Candidia overloads.

I also went to buy "2 scoops" of ice cream and a small shop and was amazed that for $4 I got like a pint-beaker full of gorgeous ice cream - two VERY big scoops!! Again, compared to the UK where you can get 2 miserly dessert spoon scoops of Ben & Jerrys at the cinema for about £4, it was real value for money. I scoffed so much that I didn't need tea that night!

By the time I'd dropped the car off and got the shuttle back to the hotel (met some more Burners in the shuttle) it was 9pm so I took my camera and SD card reader to the internet cafe to bung my Tahoe pics on Facebook. The computer was locked down tightly to avoid meddling but I managed to rig it so I could view my files on the card, and get them uploaded. After a few quick emails and messages to people I went for another bath then bed. Next day was VEGAS BABY!!!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Save the Males! This book is a must-read!

Save the males! A new book says society is biased AGAINST men. Ridiculous? Hardly, says Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail.

Every once in a while, a book not so much lands on your desk as lobs itself like a hand grenade, exploding preconceived wisdoms and shattering the bones of the status quo. Save The Males is such a book.

It is the fiercest and most fearless defence of men, fatherhood and ultimately the family I have read in many years.

American author Kathleen Parker's courageous thesis is that initially, through extreme feminism, then via its craven implementation into society, women have demonised men and trivialised their contribution, especially to family life.

I say courageous because, in the eyes of many women and of the liberal establishment, suggesting men have had a rough deal is nothing short of heresy.

Parker should be burnt at the stake, they cry. But isn't it ironic that only a woman could make such a plea for men?

She argues: 'As long as men feel marginalised by the women whose favour and approval they seek, as long as they are alienated from their children and treated as criminals by family courts, as long as they are disrespected by a culture that no longer values masculinity tied to honour, as long as boys are bereft of strong fathers and our young men and women wage sexual war, then we risk cultural suicide.'

It's enough to set a feminist's hair on end. Parker argues that in trying to make the world fairer for women, an adjustment most agree was vital, we have made it unfair for men. In our attempt to honour women, we have dishonoured men.

By bending over backwards to make single mothers feel good about themselves, by diminishing the role of fathers, by elevating women as the superior parents, we have gone a considerable way to destroying one of the basic tenets of a successful society - family life.

Apart from the effects of this seismic social shift on society, it is also grossly unfair. Can you imagine a world where men demanded women be more like them - dress like them, act like them, even look like them. Because that is effectively what our post-feminist society has done, but with the genders switched.

The traditional male values, what Parker almost poetically calls 'masculinity tied to honour', are now seen as nothing more than a direct assault on women.

Unless men are like us, the thinking goes, they insult us and threaten our existence: hence the feminisation of men, or as we so disingenuously describe it, getting in touch with your feminine side.

Thus Hybrid Man was born. An acceptable male model now is more likely to be of the David Beckham variety, wearing more make-up than the missus, hairless, perfumed, varnished, emasculated by his bossy wife and perhaps fond of wearing her undies.

Good dads, loving husbands, supportive male role models, they're few and far between even in the fictional world of TV.

But in the real world it wasn't enough that we demanded they be more like us, we superior human beings. We had to traduce men as well, treating them in almost all forms of popular culture as useless, ineffectual, even comic characters, or as violent, cheating and untrustworthy.

And so Sitcom Man was born. Parker challenges us to try to think of a wholesome, reliable role model in myriad 'dads' created on TV or in movies. Fathers are always portrayed as incompetent or inconsequential, mindless or mean, comic or cruel. If you relentlessly portrayed any ethnic or minority group in such a biased way, you'd be pilloried on air.

Parker cites many reasons for the dereliction of men. First, there has been the institutionalisation of motherhood at the expense of fatherhood.

'We seem to accept that children shouldn't be raised without mothers, but we regard the contributions of fathers as optional,' Parker says.

Just last week, Nicola Brewer, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: 'Fathers are being marginalised to the extent of simply "seasoning" in their children's upbringing.'

And the state reinforces the 'Mum best, Dad dodgy' myth. 'The family courts effectively make fathers a slave to the state, his wages become state property, his time with his children is determined by a family court judge, and he faces jail if for whatever reason he fails to pay his child support on time.'

Family courts in America increasingly approve of 'virtual parenting', which means Mum can take the kids and live wherever she likes and Dad can do it long distance, via the phone or internet.

'Thanks to divorce, unwed motherhood, and policies that unfairly penalise and marginalise fathers, 30-40 per cent of all American children sleep in a home where their father doesn't,' she writes.

Parker believes that perhaps the biggest blow to men's roles in families has come with the explosion and normalisation of single motherhood.

'By elevating single motherhood from an unfortunate consequence of poor planning to a sophisticated act of self-fulfilment, we've helped to fashion a world not just in which fathers are scarce, but in which men are superfluous,' she says.
It's enough to set a feminist's hair on end

Single professional women shopping for donor sperm on the internet has become the equivalent of buying designer shoes online. The number of babies born to unmarried mothers aged between 30 and 44 increased by a staggering 17 per cent from 1999 to

In short, slowly but surely, men are being made obsolete as society embraces single motherhood as the equivalent of the nuclear family for fear of not offending the sisterhood.

And so, hey presto, the marginalisation of men marches on.

And if the child is born of a normal sexual encounter, the consequences for men can be equally dire, as they have no rights, only duties.

'If a woman gets pregnant she can abort - even without her husband's consent. If she chooses to have the child, she gets a baby and the man gets an invoice.

'Inarguably, a man should support his offspring, but by the same logic, shouldn't he have a say in whether his child is born or aborted?'

The number of children living in fatherless homes has tripled since 1960, from eight million to 24 million in the U.S.. So it comes as no surprise that 21st-century man feels isolated and increasingly obsolete.

'At the same time that men have been ridiculed in the public sphere, the importance of fatherhood has been diminished, along with other traditionally male roles of father, protector and provider, which are incredibly viewed as regressive manifestations of an outmoded patriarchy,' Parker writes.

She also examines the feminisation of education. There is overwhelming evidence now that boys' and girls' brains are wired differently, but over 20 years both in America and in the UK we have made learning harder for boys and more suitable for girls. The result, Parker says, is that the gap between young men's and women's academic achievements is widening.

In 2005, 133 women graduated from college in the U.S. for every 100 men. By the end of this decade that gap is expected to be 142 females for every 100 males.

And as ever the poorest and most deprived are the hardest hit. Among African Americans, the figures are far worse. Twice as many women as men graduate. Parker blames the achievement gap on the absence of fathers.

What is especially refreshing is that Parker's quest to Save The Males is not just about fairness to men. We need to do it, she says, not only 'because we love our sons but because we love our daughters'.

And because she believes, as many of us do, that the best building block for a stable and peaceful society is the traditional nuclear family.

'Part of our nation's strength has always been a function of its families. Restoring the family is critical to our survival in these untidy and dangerous times.' So, too, is 'respecting men and the important contribution they make to children's lives and society'.
Fathers are always portrayed as incompetent

Parker writes almost poetically about the ultimate beauty of men's innate character. When she looks at her own father and fathers around her, she concludes that being a dad is, in fact, the manliest thing a man can do.

It encourages responsibility, sacrifice and the ability to put others before yourself - all essential qualities to a functioning society, let alone a home.

'When we take away a man's central purpose in life and marginalise him from society's most important institution (the family), we strip him of his manhood.'

And it's not all we strip away, as studies have discovered here. We reduce a child's chance of a successful and happy life.

'Growing up without a father is the most reliable indicator of poverty and all the familiar social pathologies affecting children, including drug abuse, truancy, delinquency and sexual promiscuity. Yet some feminists and other progressives still insist that men are non-essential.'

The powerful argument Parker constructs is that unless we wake up, and wake up quickly, to the importance of men in family life, society as we know it is doomed. In the creation of a more femalefriendly world, we have unwittingly created a culture hostile to men, not in the workplace, but the most important place, the home.

How refreshingly honest, how devoid of political correctness or feminist dogma for a woman to argue for and ultimately celebrate the necessity and the goodness of men.

She rightly warns of the dangers to our society of a world without manliness. It's all very well for the armed forces to affect an equality between men and women, she says, but when the chips are down and a child or a society needs rescuing, it will not fall on the shoulders of our womenfolk.

And in an increasingly hostile world, we will need our men and we'll need them to be men, to display unashamedly the sheer physical strength and courage that even after a century of feminist intervention still dwarfs women's.

'In the coming years, we will need men who are not confused about their responsibilities to family and country.

'We need boys who have acquired the virtues of honour, courage, valour and loyalty. We need women willing to let men be men - and boys be boys.'

And we will need women like Kathleen Parker with the courage to fight for men. Saving the males, she argues, will also save women and children as we all 'stand to benefit from a society in which men feel respected and thus responsible'.

By engaging men's nobility and recognising their unique talents, we all benefit. And the process could start with us just being a bit nicer to them.

'It wouldn't hurt to fix a guy a burger now and then without the woman acting as though she's just established democracy in the Sunni Triangle.'

Chastened, I'm off to buy some burgers and a few buns.

• Save The Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care by Kathleen Parker, published by Random House

Settle for your lot - OMG a shocking read


I read this with my mouth open as the author, a single mother, pretty much writes with an air of annoying presumption that if you are over 30 and still single, you are panicking - and if you are over 35 and still single, that you may as well rip out your ovaries and kill yourself, for Your Life Is Over. What a crock of shit.

Here are some extracts:

"My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics."

"When we’re holding out for deep romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier. But marrying Mr. Good Enough might be an equally viable option, especially if you’re looking for a stable, reliable life companion."

"Once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business."

"They, like me, would rather feel alone in a marriage than actually be alone, because they, like me, realize that marriage ultimately isn’t about cosmic connection—it’s about how having a teammate, even if he’s not the love of your life, is better than not having one at all."

"Now, though, I realize that if I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, I’m at the age where I’ll likely need to settle for someone who is settling for me. What I and many women who hold out for true love forget is that we won’t always have the same appeal that we may have had in our 20s and early 30s. Having turned 40, I now have wrinkles, bags under my eyes, and hair in places I didn’t know hair could grow on women. With my nonworking life consumed by thoughts of potty training and playdates, I’ve become a far less interesting person than the one who went on hiking adventures and performed at comedy clubs."


"Don’t worry about passion or intense connection" - silly woman - you have to have some sort of intense connection in order for anything to last....or it's just pointless. I speak from experience with two of my exes!! You have to connect deeply on one or more levels, or nothing binds you together.

"They, like me, would rather feel alone in a marriage than actually be alone" - well she and all her friends are silly needy insecure idiots. What's worse - coming home to a house with a disinterested husband who you feel a polar opposite to, or coming home to your own house that yes - is empty - but allows you the freedom do get out and do and meet what and who you please, and have hope that one day Destiny will chuck someone in you path who will be "The One". If Destiny never chucks anyone into my path then I will remain alone, as I will never "settle for my lot" or "settle for second best" because I know myself well enough now that settling for a man who doesn't 100% meet my needs and expectations....will just all end in tears within a couple of years. Again, I speak from experience of trying to "settle for my lot"!!

"I’m at the age where I’ll likely need to settle for someone who is settling for me". Again, a sure fire way to disaster. If you're with a man who can sense that you've picked him out of desperation or cos you're not getting any younger, or you were flattered by his attentions but had little feeling for him yourself, then how will that make him feel!!! He won't feel wanted or loved, and as such he will withdraw - and probably go elsewhere for affection (experience speaking again).

"We won’t always have the same appeal that we may have had in our 20s and early 30s" - well that's up to you love. You can either let yourself go or you can eat a healthy diet and look after your body. Dress well and wear clothes that suit you, your age and your shape. Don't eat pies and junk food while squeezing yourself into size 10 jeans, trying to look 21 again, and then trying not to notice your muffin-top. Then whinge that you can't get a man!!!

When I ended it with one of my boyfriends who was very good to me and could have given me a very comfortable worry-free life, my father (who adored this guy) actually rang me and pretty much said I should have stayed with him and "settled for my lot", because "men like that don't come along often" and "he'd really look after you". Not once did he ask me about how I felt for this man, and whether it was enough to make a lifelong decision to stay with him. In my father's dated 1950s eyes he saw nothing wrong with staying with someone for purely practical reasons, or because "you'd get looked after". Feelings and happiness didn't even come into it.

I wonder if he was drawing on his own marriage to my mother.....apparently he admitted to her many decades ago that he wasn't in love with her when he married her. They'd been together for 7 years and were engaged, but he was still gadding off to sea with the Merchant Navy, and was showing no signs of wanting to settle down. Mum apparently wrote to him and said that the church was booked and if he didn't show up she was leaving him. So he duly turned up and got married.

They are still together after 40 years which is an achievement, but I wonder what *sort* of marriage they've had. Did he just "settle for his lot", did he ever have deep feelings for my mum, did they ever both find a connection? Or did they quickly fall into "companionship" and this "practical/convenience partnership" that the writer of the article above speaks of? If he thinks there's nothing wrong with "settleing for your lot" in a passionless unconnected relationship, then is that what he's lived with for 40 years??

I'd put money on the writer of the above article filing for divorce within 5 years of whoever she "settles for".

Grammar and politeness - where has it gone??

My friend Jamie forwarded me a copy of an email correspondence he had had on Fri. First he sent this:


Sent: Fri 02/01/2009 19:41
Subject: Barometer Enquiry

Dear Julie

I have a barometer that used to belong to my grandfather, and which - so I am told - has not been seen to work for years. I'm interested in exploring how it might be fixed, and how much that might cost.

Would you be interested in me sending you some images of the barometer?

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Best wishes

Jamie Parr


And he received this reply from Julie:

"Let us have the photos and we can assess it.
[Company name removed just in case!]"


To which he responded:

Dear Julie

"Let us have the photos and we can assess it"?

Frankly, no. Learn to write friendly and professional emails to your prospective customers, and they might give you their business. As it stands, this prospective customer is prospective no more.



Well said Jamie. What the fuck is happening to our manners and grammar? I also get such gems thru to my email too, and mostly on eBay wher I message a seller asking a question about an item for sale. My questions are always polite and open with a "Hi there" or something similar, and end with my name. The responses are usually along the lines of:

"hi they are very soft cheers john" (in response to my asking about some slippers)

"i dont no the size i can't find my tape measure do you want a photo" - (when asking about jacket measurements)

I also get some priceless emails from people via my Sandtrooper website, asking about where to buy armour from. Wish I'd kept some of them, one of them went something like:

"hi there i luv your armor were can i get some from I've always wanted to be a stormtrooper lol"

And again at work, course enquiries:

"hi there I'd like to study pharmacy who should i talk to thankyou Jessica"

How I'd love to reply and say "Dear Jessica, until you learn to FUCKING TYPE AN EMAIL PROPERLY I heartily think University is the wrong choice for you. Try Kindergarten. Love Rache xxxx"

This is becoming increasingly common with the new generation of people who have grown up with texting and the internet. More and more people sign up as customers on my Fuzzbutt.co.uk website and they fill in their names and addresses and NEVER use initial capital letters, it drives me insane as I need to copy and paste their details into my accounting software and I can't abide seeing shit like

joe bloggs
23 coronation street
london sw11sw

(what the fuck is it with not leaving a space inbetween the postcode????)

The revolution of texting, Instant Messaging, and email have meant the peope are more and more used to firing off quick one-liner messages to their friends, and this starts to show in proper correspondence. Nobody bothers with grammar in these quick one-liners, nor capitalization. Predictive text on mobiles forces you to spell properly so many people turn it off and use "txt spk".

I guess it's fine to type quick emails with no salutation or goodbyes when you are contacting close friends (I'm guilty of this!) but NEVER let it spill over into more professional correspondence!!!! As demonstrated above, the oh so polite Clock Lady lost a customer and therefore, lost £££ simply due to the fact she couldn't be arsed to spend another couple of minutes typing a more polite email.

The problem is, unless people learn at school or do a relevant business course at college, WHERE will they learn about writing proper letters? It's not rocket science, but the new generation are simply not being taught. You'd think common sense would dictate you start a letter with "Dear John" and end it with your name, but ultimately, if the parents were never taught, then the kids will never learn either.

Is letter writing taught in junior schools anymore? Do kids write "Thank you" letters for their Christmas presents, or do they just send a text to Auntie Freda and Uncle Bob "hi its jessica thx for my present happy new yr". I assume letters to Santa start with "Dear Santa" still? But of course, now you can email Santa and leave your grammar and politeness at the door.

There are more and more articles in the media about graduates and how they are not landing the jobs they want and how employers are despairing at their lack of basic communication skills". Extracts:


"University-leavers lack the ability to perform basic tasks such as holding a proper conversation, dealing politely with customers and showing initiative."

"Graduates lacked 'soft' skills such as being able to listen, communicate properly, develop ideas, work in a team and demonstrate initiative and innovation. 64% said graduates lacked customer handling skills."

"About a third said they felt awkward making presentations or speaking in meetings. One in four did not like negotiating and one in eight felt awkward answering the telephone."


I agree with the telephone issue. So many calls I receive from students....instead of the "hello could you help me please I'd like to attend a Chemistry Open Day", I get "er yeah I want to study Chemistry?" Or best of all, they get their MUMS to ring. "Oh good morning I'm ringing on behalf of my son who wants to study Chemistry", to which I *always* want to respond "Can little Timmy come to the phone or is he a mute? Does HE want to study Chemistry or do YOU want HIM to study Chemistry and he pretty much has no choice?"

Of course our Government, who are terrified to put their foot down on anything now, for fear of "abusing our human rights", have even entertained the idea of allowing students to write their exams "in txt spk". Indeed some students already submit coursework and exams in text speak, to the horror of their lecturers - it beggars belief. Rather than force people to learn proper grammar and spelling we are once again just giving in to the "easy option". Exactly what will an employer think if a graduate comes to them for an interview, gets the job, and starts writing important coporate policies in txt spk? Mind you I'd hope that if he submitted a txt spk letter of application and CV, he'd not even get an interview.

But if poor grammar becomes the norm and majority, employers won't have a choice - and then what - time out from the office to go to writing classes?????

I get a lot of customer feedback from my Fuzzbutt customers and it is mentioned numerous times about the "polite correspondance", "excellent correspondance", "friendly and fast emails". It makes ALL the difference and certainly helps me bring in business! I get many enquiries asking what products are suitable sizes for Chins or Ferrets....can you imagine if I replied with something like "hi there look on the website all the sizes are there thx rache"?? Of course, all the product sizes ARE on the website, but I still answer and give all the details they require, chuck in some friendly banter and sign off properly.

I'm of the generation that grew up without a mobile phone or a computer, and I DID used to write thank you letters and letters to Santa and even Jim'll Fix It, and I used to have penpals - OMG remember them? PENPALS, where you'd actually sit for at least an hour and write a letter to someone???

I miss those days before mobiles and the internet, if I'm honest. I used to read books for hours and enjoy looking thru past letters from penfriends. The internet has changed my life for the better in many ways but it's also stolen so much from me, mainly in the time I used to have curled up with books and my own imagination. I've begun to switch my mobile off on night times quite a lot as I just don't want to be disturbed. I'm even trying to stop with the Facebook addiction, but having the darn PC next to my sewing machine makes it hard as I need to be online for customer emails coming thru.

So what is next for the grammar-deficient Generation????