Wednesday, April 25, 2007

tomboys and misfits

I was thinking about characters in children's books on the way home last night. Which characters did you identify with?

In the Famous Five books (gosh, does anyone still read those antiquated imperialist books? does anyone else remember the Comic Strip send-up of them? "Lashings of ginger beer!") I identified with George, the tomboy. I once wrote a short story where she came out as a lesbian to the feeble and girly Anne.

In the Swallows and Amazons books, I identified with Titty (the slightly fey one) and Nancy (heroic pirate captain). In the Narnia books, it was Lucy (though I warmed to Susan when she took up archery). Why is it the sensible, practical ones who make the meals and ensure everyone has clean socks are always called Susan? In Little Women, I preferred Jo - the feisty, independent one who wanted to be a writer. I didn't like the books that much (too soppy), but Jo was a good character.

I can't think of any other characters I specifically identified with.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

coming out

I'm bisexual, and I know how difficult it can be to come out. We have to do it every time we strike up a new friendship - unless it's obvious by the fact that you wear a badge or something. It's complicated for me by the fact that I am married to a man, and so any coming-out that I do seems a bit theoretical, and to put a spotlight on the sexual aspect of my nature. Mostly I think it is partly cowardice on my part, and partly that the subject doesn't come up. If you are gay and in a relationship, you want to come out so you can talk about your partner. If you don't have a same-sex relationship, there's no occasion to mention it. I always challenge homophobia - maybe I should just do so more often by saying that I am bisexual. And then there's the inevitable assumption that bisexuals are "just greedy". That's not it - we just don't rule out the possibility of falling in love with someone of the same sex. I have increasingly come out to both straight and gay friends over the years (and they were accepting, whilst not necessarily knowing how to respond). I have had a few gay people assuming that bisexuals are really gay, just not prepared to let go of the hetero handrail; and of course there's always the jilted lover who has had a fling with a bisexual only to discover that they were also having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex as well. A few years ago I fell in love with a bisexual woman (and I think she felt the same way) but we never went any further than kissing because I was in a monogamous relationship. I've never had a long-term relationship with a woman, but I think that one could have been. I've had, erm, flings with other bisexual women.

Basically, I love people.

a deadly silence

Just found this leaflet, "If I told you" via QuakerPagan. It's a collection of essays by LGBT college students. It really highlights the damage caused by homophobia. Make sure you have a box of tissues handy.

to all you gays and lesbians here at Gordon, who I’m sure will pick up this collection of essays as eagerly as I will, and will probably try to read it as nonchalantly, hi. I wish we knew each other, because we would probably all be a lot happier and healthier if we had a support system. Hopefully someday, even here at Gordon, we will.
The contributor goes on to suggest an experiment for straight people to help them understand what it's like being in the closet:
So here’s my experiment for you: Spend a day, in your head, imagining that people look on straight people the way they look on gay people, and adjust your behavior accordingly, to keep anyone from finding out where your desires lie.

Stop yourself every time you are going to comment aloud on the merits of the opposite sex. And when you are only thinking it to yourself, imagine that your whole life people have told you that the thoughts you are thinking are evil and hellbound. If you have a significant other, spend a day without them. Don’t contact them in public, or let anyone know how much you love them. Don’t let anyone know if you are thinking of entering into a committed, monogamous relationship with them (being gay means having to specify up front that your relationship will be committed and monogamous), and don’t let anyone know how safe and accepted and loved—how whole—their presence makes you feel. Because if people knew, who knows what they would say or how they would treat you from then on.

But don’t try this experiment for more than a day, because you will probably start to feel lonely, depressed and isolated, and there’s no need for that. You’re straight.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

just ban guns

I was horrified and saddened, like everyone else, by the Virginia Tech Massacre. But then I was sickened by the way people immediately started defending the "right to bear arms".

One of the victims was the child of a friend of a friend. Even before I heard that, I was thinking, what can it be like to be killed like that, spending your last moments in fear. What can it be like to be one of the grieving relatives.

People are asking "how can we keep our children safe?" Simple. Ban guns. It won't keep them completely safe, but it will make them a lot safer than they are now if your family lives in the USA.

Take a look at this list of school massacres on Wikipedia: most of them are in the USA. They do happen in countries with stricter gun laws, but not as often. Watch the film Bowling for Columbine by Michael Moore. Read this article by John Nichols.

And spare a thought for the people being murdered in Iraq, all the time.

Update: profiles of the Virginia Tech victims: page 1, page 2, page 3

Monday, April 16, 2007

browncoats forever

You scored as Captain Mal Reynolds. It's your way or the highway, but for some reason your friends stick around anyway. Probably because they know no matter how harsh you might be sometimes, you'll always have their back (or come to their rescue) in a sticky situation.

Captain Mal Reynolds


Shepard Book


Simon Tam


River Tam


Inara Serra






Kaylee Frye


Jayne Cobb


Which "Firefly" character are you?
created with

another book list

A list from the BBC's Big Read (the nation's 100 favourite books)

(x) = read it
( ) = not read it

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien (x)
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen ( )
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (x)
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (x)
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling (x)
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee ( )
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne (x)
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (x )
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis (x)
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë (x)
Total so far: 8

11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller (started but not finished)
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë ( x)
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks ( )
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier ( )
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger (x)
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (x)
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens (started but not finished)
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (x)
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres (x)
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (read the first chapter, got bored)
Total so far: 13

21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell ( )
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling (x)
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling (x)
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling (x)
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien (x)
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy (x)
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot (x)
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving ( )
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck (x)
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (started but not finished)
Total so far: 20

31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson ( )
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez (started but not finished)
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett ( )
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens (x)
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl (x)
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson (x)
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute (x)
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen ( )
39. Dune, Frank Herbert (x)
40. Emma, Jane Austen ( )
Total so far: 25

41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery (x)
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams (x )
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald (x)
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas ( )
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh ( x)
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell ( x)
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (x )
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy (x )
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian (x)
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher ( )
Total so far: 33

51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett (x)
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck (x )
53. The Stand, Stephen King ( )
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy ( )
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth ( )
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl ( )
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome (x)
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell (x )
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer ( )
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky ( )
Total so far: 37

61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman ( )
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden ( )
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (x)
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough ( )
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett (x)
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton (read, but embarrassed to admit it)
67. The Magus, John Fowles (x)
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (x)
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett (x)
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding (started but not finished )
Total so far: 43

71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind (read it but hated it)
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell ( )
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett ()
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl ()
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (x )
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt ( )
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins ( )
78. Ulysses, James Joyce ( )
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens ( )
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson ( )
Total so far: 45

81. The Twits, Roald Dahl ()
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith ( )
83. Holes, Louis Sachar ( )
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake (x)
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy ( )
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson ( )
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (x)
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons (x)
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist ( )
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac (x)
Total so far: 49

91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo ( )
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel (x)
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett (x)
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho ( )
95. Katherine, Anya Seton ( )
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer (read it, but embarrassed to admit it)
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez ( )
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson ( )
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot ( )
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie (x)
Total: 53

I'm surprised at some of the things that made it onto the list, and some that didn't. Personally I can't stand Jane Austen's stuff. And Brits should just be utterly embarrassed that a book by Jeffrey Archer beat a book by Salman Rushdie. Midnight's Children was a brilliant book; Kane and Abel was shite. And as for Perfume (no 71) - what a deeply horrible book. Read Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins instead. I also think that either a lot of children must have voted in the poll, or people don't read adult novels. But I'm pleased that His Dark Materials and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are in the top 10. There's a lot of SF and fantasy on the list, too, but not enough SF. And it's great to see some of my favourites such as Cold Comfort Farm and The Grapes of Wrath, on the list.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

close Gitmo

According to (the new peace activism group which is the successor to, Bush's government is thinking about closing Guantanamo Bay prison. There is a petition you can sign if you want to add your voice to their campaign.

I just hope that the plight of those who are wrongly imprisoned at Guantanamo is ended, so they can return to their families (preferably with a sizable lump of compensation).