Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The last video of the Bollywood trinity

Ok, I've given you the Bad Brett Lee video, Bole chudiyan and the link for the video to the title song of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi gham. Here, I post the video to the song that rocked my world when I first saw it 3 1/2 years ago. And not just because I wanted those saris...

Bollywood does sexy...and yes, there is a momentary male equivalent to the 'wet sari' scene.

Equal opportunity eye candy. Hold onto your hats, boys and girls...

(And yes, I've just posted this so I can watch it a million times without too much effort.)

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Bollywood redeemed

Hi, this is Smeeta Smitten, Shobiz kitten...sorry. I just couldn't leave everyone with the impression that yesterday's grim video is what Bollywood is all about.

I grew up watching Bollywood films; my father owned at least 250 and could have started a video shop of his own on the side. My weekend memories are of sitting in front of the India of the 40s and 50s, with Dilip Kumar and Madhubala onscreen, and songs sung by Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhosle (see Brett video below).

Tragic, funny, happy, angry, religious - but always big: in scope, in feeling, in dance numbers. That's what Bollywood is for me. Camp? Of course. It grew up during the time of big musicals, and it was trying to imitate the West. But it always had passion.

Since my parents gave modern Bollywood movies short shrift and scorned most current actors and playback singers, my post-1965 Bollywood awareness is sparse: "Khubsoorat" (Beautiful), "Silsila" (Conflict) and "Muqadar ka Sakandar" (Sakandar's fortune/fate). I spent a lot of my young adulthood turning my back on my subcontinental heritage, hating the arranged marriages, oppression of women, petty arguments between Muslim and Hindu. I wanted nothing to do with it - ever.

About 5 years ago, this film "Khabhi Khushi Khabhi Gham" (Sometimes joy, sometimes sadness) hit the bigtime, not just in India, but around the world. I walked past posters for it, rolling my eyes, thinking, "Oh for God's sake," in the tone I reserve for people who take 15 items in the checkout lane expressly marked for 5.

"White boy" (see "Racism on the cricket ground") was the first to talk it up to me. I knew and trusted him, but wasn't sure yet. He was praising it to the high heavens (still does), but... Finally, CJ and Ali invited me round to their college, sat me down and made me watch. All the elements were there: the unsuitable love match, the parents not giving in, the younger sibling searching, big dance numbers. I laughed, I cried, I complained about pastel coloured saris and the lack of a male equivalent to the trademark "wet sari" scene... and I loved it. This was *my* Bollywood, not my parents'. *MY* actors, actresses, playback singers, not theirs. On that night, I began to claim Bollywood - and my heritage - for my own.

And so, I give you a taste of the real Bollywood. Camp, with a big heart. I love the cheeky actress in red - Kajol - who dismisses the boys when they compare her beauty to the moon. The three main men are all hot, and, by Rama, can they dance (especially Hrithik, the *really* hot one)...and they're straight. Indian dress, Indian dancing, and not a bad Aussie hairdo in sight.


Saturday, 27 January 2007

*Exclusive* Bollywood shame

Yes, they beat us fair and square. But when a chance to publicly humiliate an Aussie cricket player is handed to me on a silver platter, I'm not a good enough person to pass it up.

And let me tell you, Brett Lee's Hindi is worse than certain priests' Latin (I've heard 'brand' in 'celebranda' pronounced like 'brand' in English. It's enough to make you give up on mass). Combine that with the usual Bollywood camp, the Hindi lyrics (no, I won't - they lose too much in translation) and subcontinental women pretending they can wear yellow - I have to tell you, I haven't laughed and cringed so much in months.

Brett, yeah, you're Bondi Beach blond and you caught her attention. You're not Indie, but you're willing to learn some Hindi. Bonus point, mate. Maybe you should get a bindi too. Just some friendly female advice - sort out the scarecrow hair, stay with English and stick to good bowling - it's a lot sexier than a bad Bollywood song.

Aussie readers, please note that I avoided posting this on Australia Day. I do have some mercy.

And Ashaji, Ashaji...after giving us so many years of such joy...but you looked like you were laughing too. After such sterling service to the Indian music industry over more than half a century, you deserve to.

Uh oh. I can feel it growing on me...maybe all they needed was a group of men and women to come out in full Indian dress and dance for us...maybe it really isn't that, I will resist!!


Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated...

Friday, 26 January 2007

And yet more self-tests...

Your Dominant Thinking Style: Visioning

You are very insightful and tend to make decisions based on your insights.
You focus on how things should be - even if you haven't worked out the details.

An idealist, thinking of the future helps you guide your path.
You tend to give others long-term direction and momentum.
What's Your Thinking Style?

and one that CJ HASN'T done yet...

You Belong in Fall

Intelligent, introspective, and quite expressive at times...
You appreciate the changes in color, climate, and mood that fall brings
Whether you're carving wacky pumpkins or taking long drives, autumn is a favorite time of year for you

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Racism on the cricket ground and beyond...

Last week, Herschelle Gibbs, a South African cricket player, was suspended for making racist comments to the Pakistani crowd. Likely, little would have come of it if the stump microphone hadn't picked up his words and broadcast them around the world. His hearing is today, with the well-respected and much-loved Richie Benaud, commentator and ex-captain of Australia, at the helm.

Now, to be fair,
there's NO question in my mind that Gibbs was sorely provoked: some Pakistani fans had been shouting abuse at one of his teammates throughout the day. I went to three of the Pakistan v England Tests last summer, and I know how difficult Pakistani fans can be even to their own, such as calling Sajid Mahmood a 'traitor' because he plays for England. Heck, *I* was tempted to throttle a few. Ask Rach how nervous she was when we were surrounded by Pakistani supporters and I'd get irimtated enough to say something less than charitable about Pakistani men in a stage 'whisper'. Ok, shout, more like. Travelling fans of any nationality can be a nightmare. Gibbs had EVERY right to go over to security and ask for them to be removed.

But that's the key. He had every right to *have them removed from the ground*. Not hurl abuse back at them.
Telford Vice writes an excellent letter to Gibbs, beginning with the quintessentially South African greeting, 'Howzit, Hersch...'

In his letter, he nails a point I've never been able to articulate when trying to explain to my friends why I've suspected certain verbal attacks were racist, even when nothing overt had been said:

"I have to tell you that when I heard for myself what you said, I was disgusted. It's not the swearing. Bloody hell, I'm a reporter - we were born effing and blinding, and I'll continue to do so until I b****r off this mortal coil at the age of 112. So swearing doesn't scare me. Instead, it was your harsh tone that struck me most.

There was something close to hate in your voice, Hersch, and that's not a pretty sound."

He's spot on. It's not the words; it's the tone, the look in the eyes, the near foaming at the mouth - the difference between my father calling a driver who has cut him off "a b****rd" and his talking about Partition and referring to Indians as "b****rds". The words are the same, but when he says the latter, his voice has that kind of hatred in it. The hatred that generalises, that depersonalises, that makes it easy to kill.

If we're honest with ourselves, we're all racist in some way, shape or form. Every last one of us is prejudiced against certain classes of people, and the real struggle is to meet each person where they are, no matter what they look like, what group they belong to, or where they're coming from.

I am a racist. Every time I generalise about Muslim/Middle Eastern/subcontinental men - and I do it a lot - I am being racist. It doesn't matter that I was born Muslim, that my parents are Pakistani, that I have experience, so 'I can say it'. I often go on about 'white wannabes' who want to wear Indian clothing, get henna tattoos, and immerse themselves in Indian culture because it makes them 'ethnically aware', 'spiritually in tune' and it's so 'exotic'. I'm right to be annoyed by the falsity of some of them: I know one woman who likes to greet people who are linked to the subcontinent by bowing and saying 'namaste'. When I wore a shalwar qamiz to an ordination, she squealed, "I didn't recognise you, you're in fancy dress!" (Americans: fancy dress = costume. Yes, she's blonde. Yes, she lived - just.) But when I project that insincerity onto *everyone* interested in Indian culture or sneer, "White women can't wear saris", I'm being racist.
I am only right, probably only partially, about those *within the realm of my experience*. Everyone deserves to be judged as an individual, with a unique story and personality. When you first meet them, everyone deserves a clean slate.

When one of my closest friends initially introduced himself to me, he spoke to me in Urdu. My first thought? "Who do you think you are, white boy?" Racist. But this time, I chose to *listen*. Turns out he'd spent several years in Pakistan and his Urdu is better than mine. He knows Pakistani culture, good and bad, and truly *loves* it, warts and all, which reminds me why *I* love it. Because of him, I no longer turn my back on my heritage and am free to open the gifts it has given me, rather than stashing them in a dark closet somewhere.

All because I chose to give 'white boy' a chance.

That's the point, Hersch. We all have these prejudices within us, but we are in control of how we choose to act, even under the stress of an international level sporting event. Even when we're provoked. Someone has to take the responsibility to defuse a tough situation, and in this case, that lay with you. You could have chosen words to calm the situation rather than inflame it. When that didn't work, you could have asked security to remove them from the cricket ground. There were other options. You chose a different course.

Choosing that course means you need to accept the consequences: being broadcast around the world, branded a racist and banned for two matches. One does not admit guilt and then appeal. Take your punishment like an adult and show your fans, especially your young ones, that actions entail consequences, and we must accept and learn from them. Chris Broad made the right decision when he banned you. Make sure you learn from it and come out the other side a better man. Then something good will have come of all this.

And next time you're thinking in the prejudice box, poke your head out and look over the top. Maybe even stop and listen, or if the fans are being a bit intense, try to tone it down with some *friendly* sledging.

Who knows, you could even come out with a new best friend - eh, white boy?

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Priestly panache, episode 2

Having mentioned Donatella's clerically inspired menswear for the Winter 2007-2008 season, I assiduously scoured the web for pictures and met success at this excellent fashion site for men. I found two clerically inspired (if it were 1965, we'd be calling them "Nehru jackets") suits. From behind curtain #1:

Nice clean lines, a bit different, simple and elegant...not bad at all. Tough to wear, however, and not just because you'd need a neck slightly shorter than a giraffe's (or Petunia Dursley's, for HP fans). "But wait," I hear you wail, as you frantically scroll down to the Priestly panache pilot episode..."You said it was dead easy to look sexy in clericals!"

Indeed I did. In the first instance, I'm saying that it's tough to wear because I've seen so many of my clerical friends tug at their collar, and in some cases, shift it off to the side or take it out so they can unbutton that top button - which you can't do with a jacket collar. That makes me think that, after a while, it can feel claustrophobic (in the case of the priesthood, in more ways than one, I suspect.) Second, with clericals, the jacket is the traditional
single-breasted, V-neck cut, which lengthens and slims the upper body and offsets the buttoned-up, neck-shortening collar. In this case, the suit *jacket* is high-necked, making the entire torso one large area . If you're well-toned, great. A bit of a beer belly/man boobs starting to develop? Steer clear.

The version behind curtain #2 makes the single-breasted, single-vent version look as forgiving as a saintly priest:

Double-breasted and double-vented make this doubly unforgiving for the same reasons listed above. Carrying off a double-vented, slightly shorter back requires 'buns of steel', which means that there is NO scope for a spare ounce of fat, even on the usually well-hidden male bum. Seeing that fashion can be as hard on men as on us gives me a shneaky shenshe of schadenfreude. (No, I'm not drunk, I just couldn't resist the alliteration. So sue me.)

But let me tell you, put a well-toned man in jacket #2 near a group of women, and he won't be wearing it long. Whilst it exposes bodily flaws, it accentuates the toned male body like nothing else. Jack, my ex-housemate, well-known for his daily trips to the gym, 'naughty boy'
cheekiness, and coming down from the shower through the lounge in nothing but a towel (result!), once walked INTO the lounge in a double-breasted suit jacket. There was momentary ice-skating in hell as I was rendered absolutely speechless due to a fleeting Lynx effect (which, by the way, has nothing to do with Lynx, as the stuff reeks like cat pee).

Having said all that, I still want to make the sartorially unwise move of wearing a mid-thigh length, feminine version of jacket #1 (and probably earning the nickname "Twin Peaks" in the process) to work - with a pencil skirt, fishnets and heels. Just once.

Not to raise eyebrows or scandalise the Catholic establishment. At all.


Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Priestly panache...

Ah, afternoon coffee break...and I shamelessly confess to stealing a story from Rocco Palmo's blog and putting a female slant on it.

It is *very* hard to look sexy in a cassock - in clericals, it's dead easy (as a friend of mine discovered when a model told him as much) because it's very similar to wearing a suit; but in a cassock, or even worse, a habit, it's bloody near impossible. You need broad shoulders, narrow hips and a well-fitted cassock - there's a seminarian up the road who has all three and looks like a fashion plate. The Dominicans, bless them, are handicapped by colour (white, bleargh!) and cut of habit. They do, however, look fab between All Souls' and Easter, when they wear their black cappas over said habit.

Ok, fair enough...these are men vowed to celibacy and chastity, and they're not - and shouldn't be - trying to turn heads. However, when one does manage it, he's overcome such odds that I feel it is worthy of mention. Fr Gaenswein, private secretary to the Pope, is one such man. So much so, in fact, (as per Rocco) he has inspired Donatella Versace to include a clerically themed suit in the Milan menswear show for winter 2007-2008. Here's a picture of the man himself in cassock:

Trinny and Susannah would be proud: posture, attitude, a lack of self-consciousness all come together to make this one priest who will send every woman to Gammarelli's for her boyfriend's/husband's next outfit. Also present here are the self-awareness and confidence that make men so much sexier in their 40s and 50s than in their 20s. For example, Mark Harmon, voted People Magazine's "Sexiest man alive" at 35, blows his younger self *out of the water* at 56. It's a standing joke in my house that if I'm watching NCIS, you have to say my name about 3 times before I'll look away from Mark and look at you. Either that, or wait for an advert break.

However, Gorgeous Georg Gaenswein does not win THE top prize for looking good in robes. That, I'm afraid, goes to Judge John Deed...

...who manages to look dead sexy in red robes and a wig - at 62. I have to say, I wouldn't kick him out of my bed for eating crackers - and I wouldn't say that about Fr Gaenswein, cleric or no.

It has occurred to me that this post is the sort of thing that makes people refer to me as a "dark horse" - something my housemate Mark did just this weekend.
I responded, patting his knee as I walked by, "Is that because I'm so 'sensible' and 'mumsy'?"
He tactfully replied, "That might have something to do with it..."

Sounds like it's time to head into town to buy that cardigan...and those knee-high, black leather boots.

[Out of the gutter, darling, you're standing on my snorkel. You *know* who you are...]

Date a Swede

To the male (clerical) friends who think of me as being a bit bolshy - that would be the man, not the vegetable...

In the spirit of avoiding personal responsibility, I'll blame CJ for sucking me back into my self-test addiction...those who know me can decide if they think this is accurate, even though my taste runs to dark-haired, pale men, rather than blonds:

You Should Date A Swede!

You're a romantic, albeit an understated and practical one.
It's more about a steady partnership for you, not unrestrained falling.
Your Swede will give you the unwavering love you crave,
while making up some mean pancakes and meatballs on the side!

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Gender neutral language

Gender neutral language is a big deal in Catholicism. There are some who feel that the Church needs to make amends for millenia of patriarchy and that gender neutral language is a first step. Others feel that this would undermine tradition and male authority in the Church and is the thin end of the wedge. Still others feel that it would ruin the translation of the mass, the Bible, etc. There are many factions, and since language is the tool we use to communicate our beliefs, ideas and who we are, it tends to get very heated.

Me? Hmm. Well, I love a beautiful translation - the King James Version (KJV) is top of my list for its Shakespearian language and poetic feel. I love the language of the Book of Common Prayer, and should I ever get married, I'd push as hard as I could for the inclusion of these words, "With this ring, I thee wed; with my body, I thee worship; with all my worldly goods, I thee endow." The language is powerful, and it expresses a deeper bond than the insipid, "Take this ring as a token..." of what? A token marriage? A token love? The language we choose, the language we hear, is paramount in shaping our perceptions, our beliefs, our culture. So I am keenly aware that hearing "he", "sons", "brothers", "fathers", "men" week after week, year after year, can be alienating for women.

But I'm also aware that, in English, gender neutral language is as awkward as a seal on land. We don't have neuter pronouns, and I'm guessing
(I expect Ari may have more to say on this) that because society developed as a patriarchy, male pronouns rushed to fill the gap. As a native English speaker, I think of "man", "mankind", "brethren" in a neutral way, at least consciously. I'm more worried about women not having a voice than I am about the words, "Pray, brethren..." Let's make ourselves heard, and in using our language to express our experience, the pronouns will follow.

Another part of me feels - and this is going to get me in trouble from several directions - that religions are really male institutions, with their cabals, hierarchies, inter- and intra-group politics, jockeying for power and rulebooks. That part of me wants to pat the boys on the head and say, "Run along to Rome, dears, and fiddle with the fine print. Meanwhile, women will give birth to Jesus; speak to Him honestly and directly at the well and when our brother is dying or our sister sitting on her arse whilst we cook; anoint Him with oil; go out to meet Him publicly on the road to Calvary after you deny Him three times and go into hiding; stand at the foot of the cross; see Him first after He has risen. We will pass it on; we will teach people what it is to *live* it. He entered into relationship with us. Your language can hide that, but it can never take it away."

So I guess I fall in the "not thrilled, but if we treat the disease, the symptoms will disappear" camp.

However, there are times when I feel that using gender neutral language might be the only way forward, such as in the following exchange my friend had at school [you'd think he'd have learned from the "Daily Telegraph" story (see earlier post)
that any of his good anecdotes would make it into my blog...]:

Teacher: I made a massive faux pas today
Irim: go on
Teacher: we were talking about miracles
Teacher: I mentioned the case of the man given the severed hand of a Catholic martyr
Teacher: they were horrified
Teacher: so i said something about execution
Irim: ...
Teacher: what is the difference between being hanged and hung?
Teacher: they thought both meant execution
Teacher: so then I said
Teacher: ............erm.........
Teacher: "What does it mean for a man to be hung?"

Gender neutral language. When nothing else will do.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Oddly moved

My sausages were in the oven; Suzanne, Mark and I were having a cosy housemate conversation in the kitchen; I was about to start making mash. I grabbed my bag of potatoes and went to open them. I was having a bit of trouble and was just about to put them down to grab the scissors when Mark silently came over, took the bag, opened them, and handed them back.

There are so many possible reactions to that moment - from offended to grateful to amused. The one I had was one I didn't expect - I was so overcome by that small act of unsolicited kindness, I had to blink back tears.

As a friend of mine wisely said when I told him about it, "
A lot goes on, even in the smallest exchanges and seemingly trivial interactions." Without question, the naturalness and the simplicity of the act was what made it so moving - it's something that Mark just *does*, and it was a reminder that simple acts often mean more than grand gestures for that very reason - they're indicative of a person's real character. But it's also about receiving, which is often much harder to do. I suspect most of us don't really *receive* very well, as being taken care of isn't often something we allow ourselves - we're taught that it's a guilty pleasure, a luxury: hence the fortune being made off of 'pampering yourself'. And being given something unasked, well, sometimes it can be overwhelming.

And a lot more soul-reviving than a day at the spa. Well, I can only guess, since my closest brush with a spa has been the Sanctuary product line from Boots. I think I might need to go on a research trip to test my hypothesis...

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Aurora australis...

Congratulations to Australia on their well-deserved Ashes whitewash - we played poorly for the most part with the odd purple patch - but Australia played consistently superb cricket, with the self-confidence and sheer joy in the game that meant you had to smile, even as they were qiqqing your qarse. They played like a *team* who took real pride and pleasure in their own and eachother's achievements and who knew how to work as a well-oiled unit, not like eleven individuals each playing to his own drummer, no matter what the team needed. However well we played, the Aussies were playing for the team and their country as well as themselves, so they were always going to raise the game that extra notch. Hats off to you, boys, even if they aren't baggy greens!

Their 20/20 performance today was testament to that love of the game - not only did they play this 'kickaround', as Mark called it, as if it were the world championship, they played it with the intensity and cheek of kids on a playground - their shirts all had their nicknames on the back - Punter, Church, Huss (I agree with the folks who think Hussey's nickname ought to be 'Brazen') but they still went out there and knocked a record 15 sixes and 221 runs off of 120 balls...all for a 'kickaround'.

In doing that, they gave us a few lessons about how to live our lives - like we're playing the world championship, but with all the love and joy of kids on the playground. Match practice makes you match fit. Play every match to the best of your ability - even the kickarounds - and the series will take care of themselves. Never give up hope, no matter how unwinnable the match appears to be. Know when to take risks and when to bide your time. To have a swing, you have to stay at the crease. Take every opportunity, no matter how small, and the big ones will follow. Remember that it's a team effort: stop to nurture and applaud others along the way, and when something needs doing, work as a unit.

And don't forget to enjoy eachother and have a few beers when you get a chance - because friendship, joy and love is what it's really all about.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Male logic

I know, I's my week for conversations ranging from the bizarre to the hilarious - and the two aren't mutually exclusive.

I got a unique insight into the male mind (eat your heart out, John Gray and Deborah Tannen) when my friend SL regaled us with a classic story about her brother
. Years ago, when he was 20, he was dating a 15 year old. As law-abiding citizens, they were waiting for her 16th birthday before going all the way. As the time approached, the girlfriend got nervous and approached SL with her concerns about the upcoming event. She said, "We're both really nervous..."

SL, puzzled because she knew her brother wasn't inexperienced in that area, said, "Nervous?"

Brother's girlfriend: "Yes, since we're both virgins."

SL nearly sprayed her drink across her dad's restaurant. She grabbed her brother, who was working that night, and said, "J. Kitchen. NOW."

J: Wot?
SL: You told her you were a VIRGIN?
J: Well, ya, it's technically, innit?
SL: Ok, tell me how it's 'technically' when you've slept with several other girls.
J: Well, they was all slags, wasn't they? So, technically.

When it comes to male rationalisation, I no longer see through a glass darkly...

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Foot in mouth disease...

Earlier today, the subject of gay men dating women came up whilst I was speaking to a (straight) male friend. I went on about how annoyed it made me and how they should just be themselves and be honest, because they were *really* going to destroy someone's world one day. Whilst we were watching telly, I pointed out two men on an advert for a programme on internet dating and said, "Well, of course you're not getting on with the women, lads. They're not your type."

I noticed what I thought was an unusual reluctance to engage in the conversation, so I paused. At which point he piped up, "My dad is gay."

Cue embarrassed silence and what my IM male friend calls 'the truncheon up the a*se smiley'. (That's the one on MSN with the raised eyebrows, wide eyes and straight smile. When IM friend first christened it, I said in mild shock, "I just think of it as the surprised/stunned smiley." IM friend's response: "Well, wouldn't YOU be stunned if someone shoved a truncheon...?" I had to concede the point.) I immediately tried to make things better, erm, inasmuch as you can after a moment like this:

"Look, this is going to sound like what I call the 'black friend' excuse, but I do have gay friends, including the organist at church, and that's not my issue."

"Oh, it's not a problem," he replied. "It's just that I have more insight and I think it's possible not to know or to be confused."

Now I have to admit I've never quite gotten that, but that's because I had a crush on Bob McGrath on "Sesame Street" when I was 2, followed by various male muppets, and Brendan Pelarski in the first grade, Nicky in the second, and Bryan Price for two years after that. I liked Katy McNally, but only b/c I wanted to be as pretty (blonde curls and blue eyes) and self-assured as she was by the time we were in third grade. I *knew* I was heterosexual very young, and I just assumed homosexual (once I discovered it existed) kids were the same. Certainly interviews with KD Lang and others seemed to confirm that. I think I just need to remember that sexuality is most likely a continuum, and that there are as many experiences in discovering it as there are people.

I replied, "I have no problem with that, and I understand being confused about wanting to have a family, or what you really feel. And 30 years ago, it was completely different. I have issues with gay men *now*, when it is so much easier to be honest about who you are, watching a woman walk down the aisle, knowing he's gay and he doesn't - and will never - fancy her, and thinking about his trysts with men in taxis. (And though I didn't add this, gay priests who slag
off homosexuality from the pulpits make me even angrier. I'm sitting there thinking, 'Your hip swing is better than mine and you'd look more at home with a Prada handbag than Kate Moss. You know, I know, you know that I know. Just stop. NOW.')"

He recoiled in disgust. "That's just...adulterous. That's beyond horrible."

Having agreed, there was a companionable silence this time. After a few moments, he said wickedly, "That would explain my gay flings then."

Without missing a beat, I said, "Do your men follow type and have long blond hair and use good conditioner?"

He laughed and responded, "And what would you do if I brought one round to yours for tea?"

I pondered. "Bon Jovi? I'd shag him."

He grinned, "You mean you'd talk and laugh with him. That's not what you said, but it is what you meant."

"Erm, yeah. Absolutely."

And for further, though unrelated, breaking news on gender identity, check this out.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

"Why did they build Windsor Castle on the flight path of Heathrow?"

...and other stupid tourist questions: see here. I have to admit, I have a sinking feeling that most of those questions come from my fellow Americans - not only because I have heard them during tourist season here, but also because I once watched a programme where a family brought a fortnight's worth of food with them after someone at home told them that the British eat *chipmunk*, and they were really upset at the thought of accidentally eating an animal not native to the British Isles. I was excruciatingly embarrassed and turned to Catherine, who was laughing hysterically, and apologised for Americans everywhere. I'm still not sure she heard me, though; I suspect she was too busy trying to breathe.

On a more serious note, I want to know who thought this study was necessary:

"Physically abused and neglected children are much more likely to grow into severely depressed adults, a finding that researchers said on Monday points to an urgent need to test abused children for depression early on."

As a scientist, I can understand the need to determine causality as opposed to correlation. But I can accept that the horrors of abuse lead to depression without paying for a study. But wait, they'll cry. That isn't all - we'll throw in a second Time-Life conclusion for the same price:

"In addition, these findings reveal that onset of depression began in childhood for many of the children," the report said.

No sh*t, Sherlock.

They needed to waste precious money on a study to prove that being beaten, sexually abused, viciously verbally abused or emotionally/physically neglected was *CAUSALLY* related to depression? Hello? OF COURSE THEY'RE DEPRESSED - THEIR LIVES ARE IN DANGER EVERY DAY, YOU ACADEMIC ADDLE-PATES. THEY'RE GETTING BEATEN, THEY'RE SHUT IN CLOSETS, THEY'RE EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY VIOLATED - OR ELSE NO ONE TAKES CARE OF THEM. THEY'RE NEVER SAFE, SECURE AND LOVED. WHAT'S NOT TO BE DEPRESSED ABOUT? And considering that we've known since the dawn of time that our childhood forms the template for our lives, of course they're more at risk when they get older. For the love of God.

Instead of wasting our money on studies like this, why don't we give our money to associations like the NSPCC who are actually DOING something for these children: finding them places where they are safe, secure and loved and giving them the resources they need to start healing from a start in life none of us would wish on our worst enemies. They may still be at a higher risk for depression, but they're now safe and in a place where they can start to learn to love and be loved, to trust, to hope. What better way to cut that risk of later depression and to give them the tools to cope, should it arise?
Wasting funding on coming to the obvious conclusion that they are 59% more likely to suffer from depression and 'testing them' when places that save their lives are struggling for resources is beyond criminal. If I were one of those academics, I'd have to go to confession without passing 'Go' and without collecting £200. Please, support the places near you that help these children - everyone deserves to be safe and loved. We don't need expensive studies to tell us that.

Why blog about these two stories in the same post? Well, although one is amusing and the other infuriating, they both demonstrate a common principle - to quote Albert Einstein:

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."