Category Archives: Rant

Vanilla Days

It’s moving into summer, days are long and everything is getting really vanilla. Not vanilla in the sense of exotic and full of tiny black specks, but in the sense of plain and safe and totally fine but not really thrilling.

Now, after the amount of things which have happened and are happening to people around the world, I’m keen to point out that I don’t need my life to be more thrilling. We feel stuck solidly in an era where the more plain and simple your life is, the better. But there’s no getting away from the internal buzzing that your mind makes when you’re a person who is driven by things-going-on in the absence of those things.

I am driven by things. What is the next step, where is the next aim, is this the next milestone and how do I reach it? Small things or big, I need them going on to function, or I descend into a world of shoulda-coulda-woulda whispers.

Those whispers found their way into my head recently, and made a little nest of possibility which began (accidentally) to feel like a real, tangible goal. I found myself making plans without waiting for step 1 to happen, and imagining all the magical world of things I felt like I was about to get involved in. I kidded myself outwardly into thinking I wasn’t getting dragged under by the whispers, but really I was.

And then the vanilla tide swept in this week, and I realised that the castle in the air was just a slightly funny-shaped cloud (as they often are) and back down to Earth I came with a mild thud, cushioned by all of the vanilla.

It’s not that I’m bored. People who get bored haven’t tried hard enough to be interested. It’s more that life is just happening near me right now, and I’m happening near it, and it feels like I can’t do much to alter it, mostly because would I want to? Why would I shake it up, force a change to something so perfectly inviting as nice, plain, satisfactory vanilla? People who do that are crazy. That’s the kind of thing Donald Trump would do.

So for the moment it’s living on for me, waiting for the thing to happen which turns my vanilla into raspberry ripple again for a little while.

Zingy.

Powerful Weapons

Words are powerful weapons.

One of the most powerful words in the world right now is ‘terrorism’, and we need to stop giving it so much power. Terrorism is the act of inciting the sentiment of terror within a person, or a group of people. That happened yesterday, sadly, in the city of Manchester, and it was perpetuated against a group of innocent bystanders. It was perpetuated against children.

Today, the media stormed in with questions about a ‘terrorist attack’ or an ‘act of terrorism’. But that’s not what it is. It’s a crime, committed by one or more violent criminals. And those criminals are getting what they want the second we call it terrorism. Because when you give it a name, you give it power and agency, and you allow the world to believe that the effect of the attack is that it terrifies you.

We are not terrified. Appalled, yes. Distraught, yes. But not terrified.

This is something which the western media has been perpetuating for years now, and it’s a mirage. It’s a narrative which continues to exist in order to protect the people who are spending money waging the “war on terror” as if war against a sentiment is a meaningful act. It’s a war we’ve already lost, every time we allow acts of barbaric violence to be termed “terror attacks”.

Don’t become part of the narrative. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into the rhetoric of “extremists” (because many people are extreme, but they don’t always kill others), or “religious motivation” (because many people are religious, and see above). Don’t be fed a lie of the stereotypical terrorist, because that person doesn’t exist. Terrorists do not exist. Dangerous, damaged, often exploited people with an agenda to attempt to incite the feeling of terror do. Let them terrify you and they have achieved their aim.

And as an addendum, don’t let acts like this cloud your mind on national and international policy. The media are a tool of the powerful, and the powerful want to continue subsidising their empty war. Don’t be forced into the belief that the “war on terror” is necessary, or effective. There are many great threats in the world. The word ‘terror’ is not one of them.

This word is a powerful weapon. Do not be threatened by it.

Don’t get mad, get petulant and fix it

I like to think that I’m not quick to anger, except for certain situations. I get very angry very quickly if someone is rude or inconsiderate, because I fundamentally believe there is no excuse or cause to make the people around you feel bad. But that aside, I’d say I have a long fuse.

So for me to say that I was furious ALL DAY today, is a fairly big deal in my books.

My fury stems from having spent a long time now watching something done badly. For weeks I’ve been plagued by that gnawing feeling you get when you see someone do something and think “why would that be the best way to go about that?” – not, to clarify, because anyone is doing anything wrong per se. I get this a lot with boyfriend though, when he cooks. You’re not wrong to put dry pasta into cold water and then let it heat up as the water boils. But WHY would you do that. W.H.Y.

This feeling provokes me into my worst bad habit, which is doing things which aren’t mine to do. Things in which I have no expertise other than the gnawing feeling that I could do them better. That feeling is a lie.

I took several things into my own hands today, and don’t for a second think it was the best use of my time, because it only  served to irritate me more, to the point where I ended my day petulantly insisting that I would move some barriers myself because I didn’t believe the builders would do it (under my watchful eye, the builders did it).

And this is really the sticking point, because like all habits, it’s difficult to give up when it actually scratches an itch. My itch is things not being done, and knowing that if I get petulant enough things will get done is a very dangerous motivator.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m grumpy and I can’t be trusted to not tell builders what to do.

A Further Treatise on Words ‘n Stuff

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about linguistics and politics and how people are really bad at them right now.

Turns out it’s happening again. Or this was always happening. I’m inclined towards the latter, but anyway.

Today I’d like to have a rant about the principle arbitrators of sins against the English language, that vast community of people who insist on using it incorrectly day after day, the Americans. And let’s start by clarifying that though I am grouping the subject of my rant under the banner of “Americans” I do not mean all Americans, nor do I mean this is only an issue of Americans. It’s just that guys, right now, you’re kinda the worst.

At this point let me also acknowledge that this is absolute armchair activism. But then I know there’s nothing I can do about the situation in the States anyway, because despite their perpetual need to stick their nose into the affairs of others, the American public in general is absolutely not responsive to any commentary made by a non-American. Unless they are funny. Or Nigel Farage. Go figure.

The misuse of words which I take issue with today are some of the best-known words from the “Star-Spangled Banner”, possibly my least favourite national anthem ever. The words I take issue with are

“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave”

I think the reasons why I take issue with these words are immediately apparent. It’s two words in particular. I’ll take them one by one.

Free
We all know that the American populace are some of the least free people in the world, so lets just set that to one side for now.

One of the oft-cited rights of all American citizens is freedom of speech. It is what gives Donald Trump the right to spew his relentless idiocy across as many channels as he can pay for, and it’s what gives insane gun lobbyists the right to be heard.

But Colin Kaepernick, he can’t even make his point through silence without an immediate backlash.

In case you’re not up to date, Kaepernick is the Quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, and he has been all over the news lately for choosing to sit through the national anthem before his football games. He is doing so to protest the oppression of black people in the US.

And he’s free to do so, right? That’s a thing he’s allowed to do, because he’s a US citizen, so he can say and do what he likes so long as it’s not causing direct harm to others. I’m pretty sure those are the rules.

Brave
So looking at the above, you’d maybe say, “dunno what your problem is, there’s a brave American making use of his freedom. Just because he’s doing so by explicitly choosing to not sing those actual words doesn’t mean he isn’t free and brave”

And you, friend, would be right. Except that no-one seems to think he’s being brave. They just think he’s offending all of the brave souls that have gone out and died in the name of US freedom and bravery (and I have some views on the armed forces but we’ll get to that another time).

Some of the brave souls who have taken it upon themselves to serve the American people in maintaining their freedom (ostensibly) are the police force. Kaepernick’s protest is directed quite squarely at them, and so naturally they aren’t dead happy, but of course they are brave Americans and they recognise that the views of a single person shown through silent protest aren’t a threat, they are just airing their freedom.

Ah no. Wrong again. Because earlier today the good folks of the Santa Clara police stated that they will not send around 70 officers to work at 49ers games, because Kaepernick wore some socks with pigs in police hats, and now their pride is really bruised.

 

I’m sure it’s evident from my tone at this point that I take a very dim view of the reaction by the police force. It’s not exclusively because of their almost wilful ignorance of the true meanings of the words free and brave. I have issues aplenty to be frank. But for now, lets focus on the following ideas;

– A brave individual speaks out against an institution he believes is oppressive
– He is free to do so
– The institution in question are mandated to uphold freedom and safety of citizens
– They have chosen to do so, and are paid to do so
– Members of this institution choose to threaten the safety of the citizens, in order to protect their own pride
– The citizens choose to believe it is the brave, free individual who is threatening their safety

What are his threatening actions? Choosing not to sing the words “free” and “brave”.

 

Oh, and wearing a pair of socks.
If you need to attack someone for wearing a pair of socks, it really suggests you’ve got issues.

Politics, Linguistics, and the Logical Fallacy

Isn’t it interesting how prevalent it has become to read a word or phrase which has the connotation of “all”, and instead misinterpret it as meaning “only”?

On an almost daily basis now, there is a story popping up in the news which features people doing this, which aside from anything makes you question the global education system (which is another rant for another time). The two most common occurrences are the following;-

Black Lives Matter (which apparently reads only black lives matter)

Feminism (which apparently reads only women deserve fair treatment)

It’s easy to say that this is symptomatic of the commentators. If you’re a white cis male then you’re obviously going to feel threatened by statements which aren’t inclusive of you. In a world of refusal to recognise privilege, all claims referring to a specific group will be immediately thrown out as ‘not truly inclusive’. But it’s not only those who don’t conform to the noted criteria who are getting in on the act.

There are a new wave of women who refuse to associate themselves with the word feminist, or feminism, because they feel that it doesn’t represent their values. In turn, they are berated by women who do see themselves as feminists, for not recognising the struggle of women through history or for not recognising the struggle of women today in different circumstances than those of the privileged (blog-writing) west.

It’s no wonder really that there are a third group of women, and non-gender conforming individuals, and men, looking on in horror at the whole mess. I can state unequivocally that from my position here in group 3, I’m struggling to know how to identify. Yes, I want equality between genders. Yes, I feel that historically women have lacked rights which men have been privy to. But that also doesn’t mean that I’m only fighting for that equality for women, and the word feminist is incredibly toxic, in a linguistic sense, because it evokes that.

There’s a similar issue with black lives matter. This time typed without capitals, because to begin with, it’s key to distinguish between the activist organisation, who do engage in activities which many don’t condone, and the plain English phrase.

Firstly, the phrase, and it’s constant rebuttal that “all lives matter”. Well yes, and who said they didn’t? You’re reading it wrong, and inserting an “only” on the front where it doesn’t exist or belong. The internet has plenty of great cartoons explaining the difference between “only black lives matter” and “black lives matter as well” so I won’t labour the point here.

Secondly, it’s all too common that people read “black lives matter” and hear “white lives don’t”. Which is an interesting one, because we live in a stunningly multicultural and multicoloured world, and yet western mass media still manages to whitewash all race issues.

The list goes on. Some gay men carrying HIV is read as both all gay men and only gay men. Of course there’s always the favourite of all Muslims are terrorists, and all terrorists are Muslim – two very different opinions, neither of which are correct. And onwards to the milder, but still harmful, views such as bisexuality equalling indecisiveness or greed, and mental illness meaning lack of competence.

In the end it’s all words and interpretations, mixed up with misjudged perspectives and delusional world-views. The big problem is, it is alienating the masses (my group 3 from above) who genuinely do want a better world all round but who can’t find the words to express that solidarity without fear of antagonising others. Language has power, and right now that power is being abused.

Thoughts on the EU

Growing up as an international kid, it’s easy to see why I think we should remain part of the EU. But for me it really goes far beyond  the economic and socio-political reasons why staying is the sensible choice. I, like many of my generation, see myself as a global citizen, not in the sense of being able to go on a gap year to Thailand, but in the sense of feeling a quite minor connection to any nationalist ideals.

I don’t really “do” sport, but if I did, I wouldn’t support England or the UK. Unless they were good. Or inspirational. Or the underdog. In fact, I’d be quite likely to support a British athlete, but I absolutely wouldn’t support them because they were British. What does that even mean after all? Since time began we’ve all been wandering into each others’ fields and onto each others’ islands. I know for a fact that I’m a good quarter French, if not a touch more. The only thing which unites me to a British athlete is the fact that the same government agreed to give us both a specific national identity, and when you think about it, that’s really not much.

Of course it is much for a lot of people, because having certain identities makes life much easier. I am incredibly lucky that I am not one of the “immigrants” trying to find a home in the UK right now, because just not being “British” is making their lives pretty intolerable. They may have key skills, share cultural and societal values with their neighbours, and may have an extensive amount to contribute to the country, but none of that matters in the limiting eyes of state-centric law.

At this point let me state that I’m not an idiot. I know we can’t truly have a free global society. We wouldn’t be able to break the perception that “west is best” and herds of people would move to far sadder and more complex lives as they tried to climb up the ladder towards the “developed world”. It would be chaos.

But, dream with me for a second. Imagine a world unified, recognising that we are bound by more as humans than geography and family ties. A culture rich with experiences and unlimited by what colour a certain someone’s passport is. There’s more, once you get into the concept of a world where no corporation can dodge tax, and no criminal can claim diplomatic immunity. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The point is, what exactly is so special about being born on this rock anyway? Or marrying someone born on this rock, or having a parent born on this rock, or having the money to buy a bit of  space on this rock? We spent centuries taking over everyone else’s land because we were so fed up of being stuck on this silly little rock.

And now some self-obsessed red-faced buffoons want to cut us off from it all – and what? We’re going to let them?

Earache

Who’d have wisdom teeth? I don’t really think they even make me any smarter, honestly.

For about 10 years now I’ve had wonderful on and off pains courtesy of my 4 wisdom teeth. I’ve got plenty of space for them, so they might as well come on through, but my word do they take their time.

This weekend has been particularly bad, because not only does my jaw hurt but the pain is sneaking up to my ear, and giving me earache.

I wish there was more to this post, but there isn’t, because I’m too distracted by my earache.

Some other time perhaps.

Third of Three

This is really just a collage of ALL THE BAKING, because I spent hours on Sunday baking. We have a work baking contest, which is monthly, and this month’s theme was “Birthday Petit Fours” – I went for mini trifles and choux bun gifts…and this is how…

baking

Which resulted in this….

petit fours

And now, generally my baking is a bit shoddy, and I don’t mind coming last, because it’s all about the enjoyment of the exercise. But really, I did think these were pretty damn good, and very bite-size and birthday (and therefore on brief).

I came third of three.

Ah well – always next month!

Because I am British

This week it has yoyo’d between glorious Bahamian sun and all-out bruise-your-skin hail. Also there has been snow. And sleet. And a mix of the two which manifests itself as little cold polystyrene balls which bounce around looking confused and then melt away to nothing.

So it’s obviously the perfect time for all of the global warming/climate change deniers to come scurrying out of the woodwork. Because how on Earth can global warming be a thing if it’s snowing in April?!

Which is probably the most irritating argument in the world. It’s like that dress all over again (you know the one I mean). Just because you’re seeing one thing, doesn’t mean another thing isn’t the truth. Your opinion doesn’t make the truth less true. That’s fundamentally not how truth works.

UGH.

Also, the weather is just terrible.

Ruining food

I am a foodie. I like food.

Hipster press is ruining food for me.

I’m an avid reader of any article which professes to tell me more about the Leeds food scene. I very rarely actually make it to any of the restaurants, but the knowing they are there is what counts. Recently, however, I’ve noticed that a lot of the articles are trying to make something from nothing, and in a city with such a vibrant food offering, that’s frustrating.

For example, in this article Leeds List gleefully announces “It’s tapas, but not as you know it” – but it’s not. I know I’m a bit of a tapas snob, because you can’t live in Andalusia and not be, but seriously. None of these are tapas. They are probably very nice taster dishes, or small plates. Tapas are bar snacks. They aren’t the same. Stop doing this. It’s a ridiculous fiction of modernity that everything nice must conform to a current trend, and apparently that now applies to pigeonholing food into new categories where it never belonged, rather than just celebrating good food.

God guys. Just stop.