Saturday, September 30, 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

today : I watch TV about TV

I'm a little woried about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Two episodes in and I am not loving it.

Expectations were high. This was Aaron Sorkin given his head after a few years in the wilderness. The best writer of dialogue working in TV produces a new 50 minute show. Hurrah!

Yet when episode 1 dropped I wasn't smitten as I was with The West Wing. I am always suspicious of TV about TV. They say write what you know, but it is a world that I can't identify with.

I guess the first episode needed to set the scene and introduce us to new characters, the best of which seems to be Jordan Mcdeere, as played by the likeable and often under-rated Amanda Peet. But the second was a little flat, I thought.

I can't help thinking that I don't really care about ratings, I don't really care about the effect cocaine has on entertainment people. I don't care about actors dating writers. And didn't Sorkin already write Sports Night? I just get the feeling that with SN cancelled before its time, he wanted another crack at it. And given his standing after the WW, he was given it.

Episode 2 didn't show enough signs of life. I can't fault most of the main cast. Josh...I mean Bradely Whitford is highly watchable in anything (even as the horrid boyfriend in 'A Night On The Town'), and I feel that Matthew Perry is also an under-rated actor (is the casting director a secret fan of The Whole Nine Yards, I wonder?). He has gone two whole episodes of S60 without once pullling a comedy face, giving all in all a quiet, actorly performance, rather than his usual likeably zany pratfalling efforts. After the tension between Josh and Donna, the tension between Matt and Harriet is a bit of a squib. If two characters are in love with each other but not together, you ned to get the feeling that they could jump each others' bones at any moment. Sarah Paulson's Harriet is just too floaty and vacant to make this work so far.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

today : i've been busy

...too busy to actually post anything up here for more than a week. how time flies. by the way I haven't been the Busy in the picture - that would be impossible cos she's, like a totally different person to me.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

today : I get kind of stuck

So here I am, sitting halfway up the stairs. But unlike Kermit the Frog or the little mouse with clogs on, just now, I don't have a choice. I feel a little faint and sweat is rolling from my forehead and down my face. My impetus is to throw a fist at the wall but that would be stupid. I'm going to need my hand and arm any minute now.

After about ten minutes I give it another go. I wipe my perspiring palm on the leg of my shorts, and reaching up to the handrail I get a grip. The handrail creaks as I strain to drag myself up another step.

I'm suffering what could be called a shopping injury. Because I need new shoes at an alarming rate (this is not some kind of Candace Bushnell need of new shoes, this is the fact that my twisted and deformed feet need new shoes every six weeks or so. The strange way my weight and balance works means two things : I more or less require shoes in order to remain upright and even the strongest shoes cannot put up with the unusual loads they are asked to bear. They quickly become misshapen and as twisted as my feet. Once they start to go they are useless. They begin to look like they have been chewed by some monstrous jaw and even to put them on causes me excruciating pain) I had been shoe shopping.

Shoe shopping It's a drag. The taking on and off of different pairs of shoes over a short period of time is not my main idea of fun. One the whole I would rather be relaxing in a jacuzzi with the charming failed-Maria Siobhan, or something. To put my feet into even one pair of shoes that doesn't fit is a guarantee of what I call payback pain. Several pairs and I know the payback will become exponential. Yet it has to be done. A boy needs shoes.

What I did next was, admittedly, pretty stupid. I went to visit a friend to collect a heavy box she was saving for me. I insisted on carrying it down the stairs. With my year-long right ankle cartilage injury and my propensity for easy foot injuries this was not a good idea. Trying to carry the box and go downstairs whilst trying to remain standing proved a little too much for me. The payback pain was starting to kick in and my feet were not responding to messages from my brain. I slipped. Here it gets confusing. My right foot and ankle is traditionally my 'good side'. However, since the injury my left side is my good side. Neither is good really. I just have to walk on whichever foot is least painful that day. My left foot slid over the edge of the step and bumped down two more steps. This twisted my right foot and ankle and both my knees. All of which are pretty fragile even when I am doing something less strenuous than slipping on stairs (like laying down, or relaxing in a jacuzzi with Dr Cameron , or something).

After extricating myself from the precarious contortion I loaded the box into the car and went home. I took off my shoes and relaxed, watching TV. But then I need the toilet. Getting off the sofa....well, I couldn't really. Both my feet were dead. My ankles were screaming like someone was attacking them with a drill and my knees were howling their swollen, strained distress. Nothing worked. I ended up on the carpet from where I began my worm-like journey upstairs.

At the bottom of the stairs I endeavoured to sit on the third step and use the wall and handrail to hoist myself upright. This, I managed, but only for long enough to get me to the fourth step. Then I made for the fifth by trying to boost myself with my feet whilst hoisting myself with my arms. It's hard to describe the confluence of pain this caused. I broke out in a sweat and began to feel a little queasy. Again. I managed three more steps.

Which is where we came in.

These are the moments that people don't see. These are the moments that I don't allow people to see

today : I too am shocked and appalled

The news comes to us that Autistic children have a raw deal at school. Apparently the way they are treated is shocking and appalling. Which is true, and all very well.

In my teaching career I have had to teach pupils who have autism across the whole spectrum. I have also taught kids with Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Deafness, Blindness, Nanosomia, Tourettes syndrome, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Progeria, cancer, sufferers of sexual abuse, sufferers of violent physical abuse, stammering and many and various other conditions and diseases and causes of emotional and social difficulties.

The fact is that the system lets almost all of these people down, often to a hideous degree.

For me the jury is out on whether 'inclusion' is the way to go for children with special needs. All I know is that in its current state it is not working. Years ago, on arrival in the classroom on my first day at work, I encountered a young girl who had a pretty severe visual impairment problem. She was also extremely shy and unconfident. She was the sweetest little thing, underweight, undersized and dressed in obvious cast-offs. She was almost Dickensian. I did nothing to help her; apart from the usual stuff you might try with a shy kid in trying to boost their confidence. However, during my teacher training I had become really interested in literacy and language development and had read up quite a bit on the causes of illiteracy. At age 11, Grace was more or less unable to read or write. As well as teaching her in my English class I was also her form teacher, so it was my responsibility to look after her in school. She struggled.

Over the course of that year I read up more and more on my subject and when I encountered something I didn't previously know about I made sure I read up on it. (more difficult in those days in which I only had a 13,300 modem and the internets were not so well developed). I knew there was something behind Grace's problems and checked her files. She was nominated as Special Needs but the information was vague. Basically she had been flagged as shy, illiterate and a bit slow.

I still did nothing. After all I was busy first year teacher and there was someone paid well in my school to be in charge of Special Needs provision. But one day it struck me what the problem might be. Grace had national health spectacles of the sort that have been around for long enough that Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker could wear them ironically and iconically, and when broken are often fixed with an elastoplast. I myself had some as a child. They came in four colours. Black or tortoiseshell for boys and powder blue or pink for girls. Grace's were the powder blue model. They suited her, in the fact that they added to her waif-like quality. But they were extremely old fashioned and, in fact, far too small for her face.

In morning registration Grace sat right at the front, almost on my desk. One day we were chatting as usual about TV and what-not until I noticed she wasn't wearing her glasses. The conversation moved on. They'd been lost or mislaid. I asked how she managed without them. I know one or two people who simply cannot cope without theirs - walking into walls and such. I also know people who hardly need them at all and can cope perfectly without them.

"I think I can see better," Grace said.

Turns out that Grace actually was the Cinderella. Her mother remarried and the stepsister got all the attention. Grace was more or less treated as an inconvenience. Her older stepsister was also at the school and was well dressed and self-possessed to the point of being a bully. The disparity between the way the two girls were treated was unbelievable.

Grace couldn't read because she couldn't see. She'd had her cute blue glasses since she visited the optician aged six, two years pre-stepsister. She had never been back. Her Mum insisted she wore her glasses and, desperate for attention and praise, Grace complied, even though she knew they actually hindered her sight.

I went to the Special Needs co-ordinator with this information. Grace needed an eye-test and also some remedial reading help. She could also benefit from encouragement into social activities away from her family. My concerns were noted but nothing happened apart from me allowing Grace to take off her glasses in my lessons and sit near the front so she could make out the blackboard.

I wish I could claim some special credit. However my discovery of Grace's problems was purely an accident of chance. She developed a bond with me - probably because she lacked a sympathetic adult in her life. I found her cute hopelessness appealing and was an enthusiastic new teacher, keen to 'make a difference'.

But Grace's inability to see, never mind her awful home life, was not picked up for at least three years. She was relegated to the ranks of the nice but stupid. Written off at aged 9 or 10. The system simply failed to help her.

What happened to her I don't know. I wish that, ten years later, I could say that she turned out to be a gifted student and managed to break away from her family to make a success of her life. But I left the school before I could make sure any real action was taken to help the girl and someone else took over.

As I said, it was just chance really. I try to be conscientious and make myself aware of special needs. But in amongst the other time pressures of a high school teacher it is hard. Each of the illnesses and disabilities I listed at the start of this post are ones I have learned about by looking them up for myself. No formal training was ever offered to me in recognising or dealing with special need children. And I'm someone who tries to care.

One of my most successful students was Bobby, a boy with Cerebral Palsy. His physical co-ordination was awful and again it meant he was relegated to the ranks of the nice but stupid. I found him some pens that he could hold and control. The school baulked at paying for them and another teacher took them off him because their ink was black and she insisted on blue. Bobby took technology, and had a dedicated and caring assistant with him to help him with physical tasks. The technology teacher had some notion that 'tough love' would somehow improve him. This teacher barred the assistant from helping him with physical tasks such as using scissors or drawing plans. I have an idea that this guy had good intentions and his methods probably worked with the terminally feckless. But they were totally one-dimensional. He seemed to think that barking and harrying would somehow cure Bobby's co-ordinational ineptitude. What it did do was make him cry, for which (in a boys' school) he was then branded a wimp and a quitter. Knowing the teacher involved I have my doubts as to whether he would have listened to specific training and advice about how to best help a cerebral palsy student. But we will never find out because such training did not exist.

Each time I encounter someone with a problem, illness or disability I am acutely aware of the fact that the entire system has simply not geared itself to providing for them. The system, full of individuals with good intentions, muddles through; and inclusion looks increasingly like another trendy, well intentioned but ill-though out and under-resourced policy wonk's wet dream.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

this weeks old footballer is...

...Imre Varadi

today : I discover that sorry is the hardest word to hear.

I went shopping yesterday. On the way out of my house I watched someone park a car across the street. Now, my street is extremely narrow with terraced houses on each side. We have to park half way onto the pavement for the roadway to be accessible and there are never enough spaces for everyone who lives here to park on their own street. By dint of politics we are also the only street in our area not to have residents only permit parking. We are close to some shops and the shop owners want it. I imagine they lobby the council.

It can be annoying that people park outside my door and that sometimes I cannot even park on my own street. Given my disability means that walking hurts, it is especially difficult for me to accept (I have an neighbour who is a wheelchair user - she has a great big parking bay painted on the road outside her house with the word DISABLED written across it, but people just ignore it and park there anyway) What is really annoying is the fact that people often don't really park. They abandon their cars somewhere near the edge of the road. There is one car in particular - A Saab. Whomever drives it parks it outside my house almost daily. It seems that if I go out at all, when I arrive back this ugly black SAAB is parked outside my door. And this person is one of those drivers who neatly parks their car, but they make sure it is exactly in the middle of a gap large enough for two, or even three cars. I watched her do just this - carefully moving her Saab forward and reverse a few times in order to place it exactly in the middle of a space large enough for a couple of Cadillacs, and intervened.

"Excuse me," I said politely. "I know the person who lives there is due back in a few minutes. Would you mind just moving your car a up a little closer, then they can park when they arrive?"

The woman stared at me as if I was speaking Venusian. Her look was strange. It wasn't as if she was giving me a 'fuck off I don't care, who the hell are you? look" - the type you might get if you point out to a teenager that vomiting sickly smelling alcopops at the bus stop isn't necessarily an act laden with decorum. No, her look was one of total incomprehension, as if I was actually speaking Venusian. Yet it was also deliberate. My friend Badgeman tells me that people, when they feel challenged and know they are in the wrong, will often just pretend you aren't there. This woman did not ignore me. But neither did she speak.

"Am I speaking Venusian?" I said to her as she walked away to her office.

On my way out, I stopped at the local supermarket to get some cash. Unusually in Englandshire, I drive an automatic car. In supermarket car-parks and other places where it is wise to go slow this is an advantage. I can travel around at 3 MPH without even touching the throttle.

Turning carefully round a 90-degree curve in the road, suddenly I heard a shout. 'Use your fucking indicator for fuck's sake!'. I turned to look out of the open window and there was a housewife type lady with a tartan shopping trolley. As I caught her eye she said. "Why don't you learn to drive you dickhead!"

"What happened?" I asked, genuinely bemused at her anger and insistence that I should have used my indicator whilst turning around a junctionless L-shaped corner on a one-way road.

"You didn't bother to indicate. You nearly fucking killed me."

Ignoring the fact that she had come from behind me, and was about 8 yards away from the car, as well as apparently thinking that walking out into a road was a safe and sensible thing to do, I apologised. She seemed so upset and I didn't like to think that I'd caused it, however tangentially.

"If I did anything wrong I'm sorry," I said, literally holding my hands up (on reflection I had done nothing wrong, but as elderly relatives told me endlessly when I was but a young scamp, an apology costs nothing).

The woman approached the window of the car.
"Sorry isn't fucking good enough," she snarled. I was momentarily stunned. Whatever I did or did not do was hardly worth describing as a mistake, yet her response was akin to me being a mass murderer.

Which leads to my point. What can you do if an apology isn't good enough - even for the most minor infraction? What can you do when people are so viciously angry that there is no way you can settle a misunderstanding, or convince them of either your innocence or your remorse?

I'm thinking I might write to the Pope to ask his advice.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

today : With some help from an old friend I punish a completely selfish bastard

The other day I ran into Badgeman. He was furtively hiding behind the queue for the cash machine at my local supermarket as I cam eout with my bag of shopping. It had been a while since I'd seen the mysterious crusader and Disabled Parking Space vigilante. He was talking on his Badgephone and we didn't speak, but we acknowledged each other by eye contact and Badgeman made a slight gesture - towards a green Toyota parked nearby. I went over to look at it.

It was a badgeless green Toyota, parked on a disabled spot. I glanced over my shoulder at Badgeman, whereupon he raised an impercetible eyebrow and flicked his eyes left. I followed his signal and saw where he was guiding me. A traffic warden was stood talking to a middle aged couple, his back to the car park.

"Excuse me," I said. The warden turned around. "There's a green Toyota over there parked on a disable spot without a badge," I said. The wardens eyes lit up and he already had his ticket book brandished as he followed me towards the Toyota.
"For some reason I've caught seven this week," he said "You are the second person in an hour to point out a car on this spot. There must be someone watching the spot and tipping people off." he laughed.
"What will you do?" I asked.
The warden looked up from his pad where he was writing something. In a swift move worthy of a martial artist he produced one of those sticky pouches from his pocket, then placed the now-written ticket into it, before slapping it on the windscreen of the Toyota with a flourish.
"That ticket is a forty quid fine," he said, "Let's hope it does the trick."
"Yes," I said, hardly able to disguise my glee at being instrumental in punishing the owner of the green Toyota for being a totally selfish bastard and, probably, a complete arsehole too.
"Thanks for the tip," the warden said as I turned to head off. I glanced back towards the cashpoint queue. Badgeman had finished his phone call and discreetly saluted me before disappearing into the shadows by the trolley park.

Monday, September 11, 2006

today : Rather surprisingly, I discuss golf .

The unfettered glee with which the golfing establishment greeted Michelle Wie's 'defeat' at The European Open in Switzerland was pretty pathetic, I think.

Wie appeared alongside men on the European tour for the first time. And do you know what? She didn't win. In fact she came dead last. I am not a particular golf fan, but know that she was a whole three shots behind any of the men and had to pack her bags and slunk home to Hawaii. Obviously she is a crap golfer, and by extension all women golfers are rubbish. In fact they are so rubbish that we don't even let them play on the proper courses. They have to have their own little joke courses - complete with helter-skelters, windmills and little bridges with gnomes on them.

Yet the gleeful journalists and the pompous administrators who've declared that she shouldn't be allowed to play again are conveniently forgetting two things. Since when does anyone in their debut really win, or even do well? Of course, occasionally sports people do. But I can't think of a job where your first day or two at work is a breeze. Also, by the way, just as an aside, she is SIXTEEN YEARS OLD.

She had a bad day, and admitted as much. She is a little out of form. She had an essay to do for her sophomore History class as well as practising her putting. What's a girl to do?

In every golf tournament there are those - even the top golfers - who have a mare and it is glossed over. 'It wasn't Woosie's day today'. People miss the cut all the time. English golfer Justin Rose joined the tour after a pretty good British Open showing as an 18 year old amateur and took 40 attempts to make a cut, coming last several times. There was a touch of criticism, but only after his 20th missed cut. Eventually when he did well, all the correspondants and commentators said : "I knew he had it in him". John Daley (who is the sort of Steve Earle of golf) has been allowed to be a blubbery alcoholic for years now with complete impunity.

Michelle even got criticised for being too sexy. It's pretty complex. In order to criticise her then you kind of have to admit that she is sixteen years old AND sexy. A dodgy admission to make from a group of older men in Pringle sweaters who are not averse to the odd trophy wife. It must be pretty threatening for them. Maybe that adds to their deperation to pull her down.

The fact remains that she is a remarkable sportsperson. To be only three shots away from a professional field at sixteen years old would be a pretty stunning achievement if she were playing in a womens' tournament. To do this against a mens' field is almost unbelievable.

Friday, September 08, 2006

today : I clear up speculation by announcing my retirement

I' d like to take this opportunity to announce my retirement. This will happen at some point in the future, as and when I decide that I am no longer continuing. Anyone who follows me in doing what I am doing whenever I decide to stop doing it, then they'll get my my full support. I hope this clears up a few things amongst anyone who was worrying just when I was going to quit. Because I am y'know. Honest.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

today's unsung cultural icon is...

Colin Sell at the piano.

Today: The ground beneath his feet

If ever we needed to be reminded, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. And so we see Tony Blair walking on quick-drying sand. The first few edges have crumbled away and whether he can stop it turning into a landslip we have yet to see.

But the fact that some MPs have broken cover is ominous for Blair. The blood is again in the water and there are only so many times you can throw thew Press Sharks a distracting steak.

The left wing Kraken is stirring and may yet awake. The concern the Labour party may have is not whether Gordon Brown will take over sooner or later, but what damage will occur in the meantime. It has been years since the word 'Split' has been used with any regularity when describing the New Labour, but that doesn't mean that they don't exist.

I will await what might happen from hereon in. However don't be shocked if there is bloodletting, turmoil and angst, even as Blair organises his US lecture tour.

Read what Nick Robinson has to say on this.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

today : I address a message to the medical profession

Doctors and nurses. When you are sticking a needle in me it does NOT feel like a little scratch. So please don't say 'just a little scratch' because what it actually feels like is having a needle stuck in you. And most people don't even really mind it if it is helping us not die. What we do mind is you lying to us. So stop it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

today : turns out I have an unusual hero

I have recently put all my books up for sale. It is liberating. They are just objects - blocks of paper really - and I found that, mainly, they don't have the meaning that I ascribed to them. They are just things after all, even though as someone who reads a tremendous amount and always have, they have loomed quite large in my mind.

The thing is I am old enough to realise that, mostly, I will never re-read them. I am not the kind of person who hangs onto the past and I figure two things: firstly if I continue to read at the rate I have been going then I won’t have time to re-read. Secondly if I do have cause to return to any of them they will be available for me somehow. In the future I imagine I could download a digital facsimile of a soothing voice of my choosing to read the text to me, or I could order them cheaply from the very place I am selling mine.

But, of course, there are one or two exceptions. I have been ruthless in the extreme - stripped my bookshelves of nearly two hundred items already and nominated another thousand to be sold if someone wants them. Yet I've saved books that I do re-read. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller and Room Temperature by Nicholson Baker are two examples. In fact I have kind of kept authors. I saved James Lee Burke, for example because I can envisage reading him again from the start. I have also saved all the other Hellers - I think that Something Happened may be a better book than Catch 22 and at some point I'll check, event though I tend to read the latter once a year.

And Clive James, who is the point of this missive. Today I read Martin Amis's piece in The Observer in the last days of Mohammed Atta. It is a shining diamond of prose. Amis can make clever and elegant sentences for fun. Yet I always found his extended writing a little clever clever and ultimately rather dry. Amis is feted as probably the best writer of modern times, but my vote goes to James.

Humorists, of course, never make the lists just as Comedies never win Oscars. Somehow you have to be serious and laden with heavy thoughts and comment to be admired. Yet James constructs his sentences (as well his paragraphs) so beautifully that they are a genuine pleasure to behold, even before you get to their actual content. 'Humorists' are also always are also oversold. James is invariably described as 'hilarious', just as Joe Queenan (who occupies a similar place on my shelf i.e. not for sale) is described as vicious, acerbic and sarcastic. James is almost never just hilarious, just as Queenan is never truly vicious without a more apposite point .

Clive James is about to publish his fourth volume of memoirs, which has led me to re-read the first three. And even in the first few pages of Unreliable Memoirs you can find lovely writing that holds an instinctive comic rhythm as well as a visionary talent for description. James's use of simile and metaphor is always astute and surprising. And it is this talent that he harnesses to make points both hilariously trivial, but more often than not hilariously deadly serious.

An example from memory: hundreds and thousands eaten from a slab of buttered bread are described as 'powdered rainbow' an image that in two words perfectly evokes the time, place, situation and wonderstruck mindset of a wartime child offered a cheap but impossibly glamorous treat.

And another: struck totally by the lightning of adolescent desire, glimpsing the hem of his pocket Venus's underpants, James describes his eleven year old self appearing as if 'injected by cement'

But, like the great comic actors who have to do tragedy to get attention for their acting, Clive James's problem is that he is not really seen as a writer. Most people know him from the telly, where he would poke fun at the Japanese and pretty much everyone else. Presenting foreign advertising as if it came from another world - which it did. And even as a pen and ink man he is most famous for being not only a journalist but a critic, and at that a critic of that most trivial and unserious medium, television.

It is this unselfconscious and unselfish yoyoing between perceived high and low culture that makes James into one of my heroes. He is as comfortable writing about Torville and Dean as TS Eliot, watching TV and reading Thomas Paine. Sometimes his classical and literary allusions are jarring to a non-classicist like myself and I wonder if he is not just showing off his Cambridge education a little. Yet to a classicist his references to popular culture when reviewing poetry may seem just as jarring. I think he just draws on whatever is necessary to get his point over. He can mix pop culture with classicism and clowning with politics, often in the same sentence. Unpretentious, even whilst appearing pretentious.

Perhaps the best of Clive James's work is his travel writing. Again, even Dickens travel writing is kind of forgotten about because it is treated as second division. Even journalists seem to be sniffy about people who go abroad simply to write about it (unless, of course, they go abroad to get shot at and then write about it). I include in this the series of postcard films he made for ITV, which combined fascination, wit and silliness in equal measure, and should get a DVD release so we can watch them again and hear the rhythms of Clive's jokes intoned in his own voiceover.

This reached its peak in the series of articles and reports he filed from the 2000 Sydney Olympics (published in Even as We Speak). You come away from reading them feeling the pride, joy and heart of a city in celebration. They sum up my feelings about his work. What makes him so pleasurable to read is his generosity of spirit, enthusiasm and delight in observation. Now, this is personal taste on my part. I am rather tired of cleverness and cynicism. I prefer stand-up comedians who don't fall back on the 'you know what I hate' routines. My favourite novel of recent years is Rohinton Mistry's 'A Fine Balance'. Mistry, somehow, creates characters that are so real that you genuinely love them, enough that when the novel ends you miss them, like lost friends.

People slated Clive James for writing (in Even as We Speak) a piece on Princess Diana that was a eulogy to her. They chastised him for admitting to falling a little in love with her. Yet he didn't seem to care. He was unembarrassed about his affection for her, and throughout his extensive and varied work this affection for his subjects and generosity towards the world is his overarching theme.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

today : Milly Molly Misbah and Other Stories

The case of Molly Campbell/Misbah Rana has thrown up several issues that are quite revealing:

1. Any girl who wants to live with her Father must be making that choice under duress. The fact is that pretty much everyone (and especially institutions) believe that Mothers are the best nurterers, even to the point of ignoring blatant evidence to the contrary. Although I don't necesasarily think that the recently disbanded Fathers for Justice Protest group chose some of their tactics wisely, I can surely sympathise with their plight. The courts, social services and the media are all geared towards somehow elevating all mothers to the point of sainthood and stereotyping all fathers as monstrous, uncaring, exploitative, feckless and useless parents - especially where girls are concerned. Nobody questioned the fact that Misbah might want to live with her Father rather than her Mother and the press ( and include the Guardian dn the Indie as well as the Daily Mail in this) jumped to defend her mother without apparently checking anything the Mother said against any facts. I don't pretend to know the detail but it looks like the Mother might be the problem in this case. Anyone whom, after a divorce, rebrands their children by changin their names has probably got some problems in dealing with the aftermath of the divorce. Molly/Misbah's mother also appeared to me to be overdramatising the issue, behaving as if her daughter had been murdered in a pretty over the top way. It seemed false to me from the start. The press had their pictures of a weeping Mother and they stuck with that, pouring sympathy on her plight without question.

2. Almost immediately, and in spite of zero evidence, the suggestion was made that Molly/Misbah had been kidnapped and forced into marriage at age 12. It was almost a fantasy of prejudice. Of course, that's all Muslim Fathers do - wait until their daughters are 12 or so and then force them to marry someone by kidnapping them and tying them up if necessary. It is a hideous distortion of the truth of British Muslim family life. It may operate by some cultural rules that are hard to understand, but not one person interrupted the press hysteria to point out that the 'forced' marriage issue was merely a lazy and convenient assumption.

Of course, forced marriage does exist, as do the rather unfortunately named honour killings. Both are abhorrent. But they are few and far between. Without acces to reliable stats I am willing to bet that as many children of non-Muslim families are controlled and abused in their own way. In my teaching life I have encountered 3 young teenage girls whose prostitute Mothers were acting as their pimps - selling their own young daughters on the streets at 12 and 13. I don't see too many assumptions that all single mothers with daughters are doing this.

Yet, we are in a climate where Muslims are evil. They are not allowed to have the same emotions or problems as the rest of us.

The medias' racism in this case also meant that they immediately sided with the 'normal white Mother. God forbid that the Father might actually be a decent guy. After all, he's a P*ki. Does not compute.

3. If someone wants to choose a life in 'third world' Muslim Pakisan over the wonderful time everyone has in the UK (especially those mixed race kids who have such a lovely time in the cosmopolitan and toally non-parochial Western Isles, then they must either be crazy or under duress. It's aspirational to want to move to Provence, but not Pakistan.And who would want to give up our wonderful Christian secularism for a religious upbringing. I mean, if you want ot become a nun then that's a bit weird but ultimately okay, but a Muslim.....?

4. Nobody of 12 years old is capable of making decision for themselves. The fact is, a mixed race kid who has clearly had to go through a difficult divorce and custody battle and maybe a forced religious conversion is just the kind of 12 year old who might at least know what they don't want.

Friday, September 01, 2006

today : i commmentate on current affairs using the medium of 1980s pop lyrics

I've seen the future, I can't afford it. Tell you the truth, sir someone just bought it.
Hardly surprising if you might consider
Loyalties go to the highest of bidders
When two tribes go to war...working for the black gas, yeah!
Searching for certainty
When it's such an unstable world
Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Bush's president elect
Fascist god in motion
Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing
The king called up his jet fighters
He said you better earn your pay
Drop your bombs between the minarets
Down the Casbah way
And who will have won when the soldiers have gone from the Lebanon
It seems to be that the powers that be
Keep themselves in splendour and security
Armoured cars for megastars
No streets, no bars, yours wealth is ours
They make the masses, kiss their asse(t)s
Lower class jackass, pay me tax take out the trash
Working for the world go round
Your job is gold, do as you're told
they pay you less then run for congress
Evil men with racist views
Spreading all across the land
Papers feeding -lies each day
Are you believing -what they say?
Pulpit preachers -selling God
Making big bucks -is that enough?
War war is stupid & people are stupid