Sunday, 31 July 2011

Book give away - Kevin Hearne's "Hammered"

Fangs for the Fantasy is having its first give away for Kevine Hearne's book Hammered, a book in the Iron Druid Chronicle series that is among my favourite books of all times (our review of Hammered can be found here. Our reviews of Hounded and Hexed are also up).

People who read us at Fangs will be aware of how much we fanpoodle Kevin Hearne and generally put him at the peak of the best books we've read – honestly it's an effort of will for me not badger for the 4th book in the series, it really is.

We actually had an interview with Kevin Hearne (which you can find Here) which just further added to our fanpoodling. We managed not to embarrass ourselves by fawning slavishly but it was a near thing. Of course him sending us a signed book for this give away (assuming I can pry it from Renee's desperately clutching hands) just confirned his awesomeness and probably sealed our Fanpoodling for all time (unless Book 4 is late, in which case I'm going to be totally unreasonable and needy).

Read more for full details of the offer This book is most certainly worth it.

Now I'm going to have to find a crowbar or a acetylene torch to get the book free of Renee's grasp

Friday, 29 July 2011

In genocide news

The Uganda genocide bill is again raising its ugly head. I really do think this vile attempted genocide (and, let me be frank, this is more an escalation of genocide than imposing of a fresh genocide as Uganda's laws and policies are already genocidal) is going to keep raising up until enough people are looking the other way for it to get passed. It also has a chance of being passed soon – by the end of August.

And why wouldn't people look the other way? How many nations have these laws already and face not the slightest consequence? Who face praise even for their “moral stance”? The imprisonment for existing of gay people is law in over 70 nations, an act of genocide – and 7 nationals already try to legally murder us. I always wonder why people are so surprised and shocked by Uganda's law when

Meanwhile a minister in west Ghana has ordered all gays and lesbians in his province to be rounded up He wants gays and lesbians to be found – hunted down through investigative bodies and informed on by landlords and tenants – and brought into custody. Yes, I say again, another act of genocide – and another one likely to be ignored.

More fluffy escapism

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

There are innumerable ways I while away the few... well, minutes that aren't already claimed in my extra hectic circle. And one among my guilty pleasures is the computer game, the Sims 3. Especially when I'm reading a book for Fangs for the Fantasy that is so ultra painful that I have to do something else at the same time to distract me

Anyway, a friend of mine looked over my shoulder and was surprised at my gay commune. Yes, all my Sims, their children and grandchildren were gay – my little gaytopia. And this confused and bemused her. Isn't it silly? Isn't it unrealistic?

And I have to say this is a game where my eldest Sim is a vampire, where I can make the kids age by buying a cake, I can on holiday to France, find some artefacts and bring them home (also the only place you can buy a camera) and put them on your shelves. I can buy teleport pad for crying out loud. But an all gay household? That's just ridiculous!

And I recall, the many times when I complained about lack of decent GBLT representation out there, commenters have objected because “realistically” there just simply aren't that many GBLT people, right? So surely a lack of us is just “realistic.” Never mind the other effects of representation on a marginalised population, never mind that even if the quota in the media exactly matched the proportions in real life, we'd still need a damn site more characters. Never mind how we commonly accept elves and goblins and star ships and that absolutely anyone laughs along with those laugh tracks. No, too many GBLTs? That's totally unrealistic.

The Sims and my little gaytopia is one of my escapisms – and that in itself is somewhat sad. Because it is escapism into a different world to me, a world that so bemuses my straight friend and outrages those straight commenters, a world where I'm not surrounded by people who are like me, where I can have a gay space, a gay dominated place and it be normal and normalised. It's world that I not only do not have, but the very idea of which is actively resisted by straightness. And yes, it is a lovely thought – and not entirely from bad experience, not entirely from the tension, nerves and caution I feel whenever I'm in a predominantly straight space.

But, apart from anything else, simple demographics makes this damn hard. No matter how many victories we win, no matter how much progress we make, straight cis folks are always going to massively outnumber us GBLT folk. And that's even if we reach a time when the very idea of a large number of GBLT people is not considered so reality breaking, utterly unbelievably weird or outrageously ridiculous to be mocked, shunned and condemned. Even if it's considered interesting or fun or even good – demographics will make it unobtainable.

And this is one of the reasons I like Pride (one of many as well as many dislikes of what is happening to Pride, but both are different issues). Because for a moment, for the length of that celebration, we have a GBLT space. For that short moment, we have that little gaytopia, that little island of us in a sea of straight, cis people and just being in there. I find it almost intoxicating, all the little kinks in my muscles work themselves out, all that tension fades, it's freedom, it's peace and its home. And it's why, among many reasons why, the cancelling of Pride, the attacks on Pride, the suppression of Pride, outrages me so. But also why the commercialisation of Pride and the sanitisation of Pride – sanitisation to make it more palatable to the straight, cis eye – is wounding. Straightness presses in on our spaces again – and changing to suit the straight, cis folks is just another loss of that space, that gaytopia.

And it's why I like GBLT spaces. Our clubs, pubs, community centres, bookstores, saunas and bathouses, the little centres, and even those little community spots you know about if you're in the know, those carefully guarded times and places where the rainbow lurks. Which is why I dislike them being invaded by straight, cis people, why I dislike the tourists, the fetishisers and especially the hating trolls (who come to our spaces expressly to start fights and attack us). But even the well behaved visitor. It's so easy for a GBLT space to be overwhelmed by even the most well meaning of straight, cis people. From GBLT bars to the Lambda Awards, there are just so many more straight, cis people that it's very easy for us to lose our spaces before the sea of non-GBLTs.

Sometimes it' just nice to think that in this place, at this time it's about us. Just for once, just here, just for a while, it's about us in a world that isn't about us – and never really will be. And it's why the places we have – the times, the places, the neighbourhoods, the celebrations, the clubs, the stores, the bars – all the places and the times wherever and whenever they are, need to be protected. Because they're damn rare in this straight, cis world – and they're very easily destroyed. And I don't think there'll ever be a time when we don't want them – and don't need them.

Review: The Hunted by L.A. Banks, book 3 of the Vampire Huntress Legend

So we open up knowing that Damali & her gang are depressed. I'm not entirely sure why they're all depressed – they just kind of are. I think it's because they escaped from the tunnels of hell but Carlos – a vampire who none of them knew – didn't. This also really depresses Damali who expresses this by having a random vampire kill, just because and decides to have a reunion with an old friend, drink booze and spend some time reminiscing and being depressed

We know they're depressed because they spend an awwwfully long time telling us that they're depressed. No, really, this is like 15% of the book here, spent telling us how depressed they are. They might rename the “exposition room” to the “moping room.” I honestly didn't think I'd finish this book because that first 15% was almost impossible to read. Somehow, I managed. I wish I hadn't. This book makes me feel I have to go back and re-read Sunshine, our only DNF review because if I got through this I owe McKinley a second chance!

Anyway, Carlos, has survived! Yay, I guess? He is found by the surviving priesty-dudes and taken to a secret location to recover and be offered a deal – he fights the good fight for 7 years and his soul will be redeemed (because, y'know, nearly dying to save the Neteru and the world? Totes not enough). There then follows page after page of Carlos saying how horny the Neteru makes him and how there's some vampire women out there and they make him horny and zomg so horny and hungry and horny and – for gods' sake Carlos, go get some alone time with your right hand already.

Anyway, after convincing the priesty-dudes that he's scary (and he is, we know this because interminable pages are spent discussing this) Carlos is released into the world to preserve his soul, contact Damali, dodge the vampire council which want him to join them as one of them since he's a big bad Master, avoid his vampire brides (each Vampire Master has several extremely powerful female vamps as PAs). He also has to re-establish himself as the biggest baddest vamp in town which involves lots of posturing and show downs. Oh and find some thing that is killing people in Brazil. For some reason. I kind of lost the why in between the angst and the sex and the angst and the drama and the angst. There's quite a large, important story reason which is interesting – but it's lost in all the endless pages of crap you have to wade through. Oh and the big bad in Brazil is a woman who is horny for Carlos and she wants to have evil sex with him. And she makes Carlos horny. Really horny. Which makes Damali jealous and sad because she can't do evil sex. And she's also horny. And Carlos is horny and angry and hungr........ ooops, fell asleep on the keyboard for a second there.

What? It's hard to follow the plot when your brain is screaming for you to put the book down

Read more

Thursday, 28 July 2011

MPs supporting the EHRC's bigotry

So, the EHRC continues to fail in its remit to promote equality and now we have MPs jumping up and down eager to support them in promoting homophobia

2 MPs have apparently withdrawn after they... read what they were supporting. Good job guys. Nice to see you research things before putting your name on it. Gods forbid that homophobic discrimination be important enough for you actually to pay attention! – or shall we be more cynical and assume that you supported it before you were named and shamed for supporting bigotry.

Unsurprisingly, Angela Mason, our token GBLT representation on this straight “equality” body is not cracking her teeth. Despite frequent calls for her to explain why she is endorsing homophobia, she's apparently decided that explaining anything to GBLT people – and, given this rule – GBLT people themselves do not matter. Keep dancing for the straighties, Angela, maybe they'll give you some more cookies while we get tire treads on our backs. Frankly, I'd support her being sacked – what's the point of having her there if she will continue to support such bigotry? Remove her pink washing of this organisation and stop pretending it cares about the rights of GBLT people.

Meanwhile, a Christian street preacher in Somerset is launching virulent hate speech at passing gay men. Such hate speech is an attempt to drive us underground, to make us hide. It is hatred – and not anti-religious hatred, it's homophobic hatred.

Don't worry hate preacher, the EHRC will be there to protect your right to drive us into the shadows! Angela may carry your bag for you.

Review: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher, Book 4 of the Harry Dresden Files

Harry Dresden returns in a much more epic tale of battle and mystery in which the fate of Chicago – in fact the whole world, rests.

Epic. I do like me some epic, I does. And we have meta-plot! In the last book, Harry Dresden started a war to protect the woman he loved and to stand up to the cruelty of the Red Court of vampires. Due to his actions the Red Court declared war on the White Council, the ruling body of wizards, a war that now covers every part of the world and concerns the White Council greatly as important wizards fall in battle. The Council has come to town and Harry's detractors are eager to end the war by sacrificing Harry to the vampires

But there is a way out – the White Council has approached the Summer and Winter courts of the fae to gain allies and free transport through the Nevernever. Harry, as the newly appointed emissary of the Winter Court can secure his life – and the White Council's alliance – by solving a mysterious death. It's only as he investigates, he realises far more is at stake than one death, perhaps more than the war between the wizards and the vampires, for the Summer and Winter courts stand poised for war - and this war could devastate the world. And if that weren't complicated enough, an old flame comes back to haunt him.

Read more

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

I think i have too many eccentric people around me

Ok, so you know someone. They're not actually a friend, they're a friend of a friend. An acquaintance. And you don't really like them all that much – not that you hate them! Oh no, but you just find them well, dull. You don't have much in common or they have a disturbing fascination with hummus or Latvian clog dancing or that new thing you really must try that you have no intention of doing so. But you often end up attending the same social things and have spent so much time together that it kinda sorta looks like friendship from a distance.

So, you're out and about and you look further along the road and see THEM. And you simply have to talk to them, at least to say hello, right? I mean you're almost-kinda-sorta-friends and AKSFs must acknowledge each other, right? Buuuut you really don't waaant to... so you get this

Sparky and F walking along to buy lunch because F needs Sparky to validate her latest whacky scheme – I mean, she wishes to ask my opinion on something.

Sparky: Oh... isn't that R down there?
F: Ooooh no, it is!
Sparky: quick, maybe we can duck in there
F: no no no, she might come in then we'll be cornered and have to talk about macrobiotic bloody yoghurt
Sparky: I don't think macrobiotic is even a word, y'know.
F: whatever, I am not talking about my “holistic” lifestyle. I'll swear she made it up. Let's cross over and pretend we don't see her

*does do*

Sparky: NO! She's crossing over too!
F: Damn it, she's looking right at us!
Sparky: Wait, no she's turned back, she can't have seen us.
F: She must have!
Sparky: She's walking away, not even turning her head.
F: Oh my god, she's ignoring us! She's pretending she doesn't see us! I don't believe it!
Sparky: great!
F: I was at J's with her just last week! And T's! And she's just going to ignore me?!
Sparky: Wait wait... this is a bad thing?
F: That snotty *word I am not repeating* doesn't even say 'hello'!
Sparky: But we were avoiding her! We did it first! We didn't want her to say 'hello'!
F: That's not the point. I'm going to say hi *starts to hurry after her*


Sparky: I had to spend my lunch, one of the few times I have lunch out of the office, talking about vitamins, bacteria and whole body synergy – gods alone know what that is.
F: I know, she's sooo boring. I was completely cornered by her at J's last week.
Sparky: You know Beloved is digging over the garden a lot. I could totally hide your body in the compost.

Monday, 25 July 2011

True Blood - and why I can't get behind all this pro-GBL praise

Ok, I love True Blood. No, really. I watch it every week as soon as I can and never regret doing so (well hardly ever).

But I see so much jumping and squeeing about it being the bestest thing ever for all its GBL portrayals and I have to hmmm... because I'm not going there.

Oh, don't get me wrong, it's better than most. Where most programmes rarely have any of us portrayed at all – and if we do we have maybe 1 token, stereotyped insert. True Blood with Lafayette, Jesus, Pam, Tara, Naomi, Nan Flannigan, Russel Edgington, Talbot, Sophie-Ann and even Eddie had a whole stable full of GBL people. It's immense and really really rare outside of niche shows that are meant to distinctly target us.

So, why aren't I leaping for joy and backflipping over True Blood's GBL representations? Because quantity does not equal quality. Just having a GBL character – or having a gazillion GBL characters – doesn't make a show a wonderful font of equality. The quality of those portrayals matter – the stereotypes, the tropes upheld also matter. And there's such a lot problems with the portrayals that many of them annoy me, frustrate me and generally do not get shiny gold stars.

Lafayette redefines awesome in many ways. Only Pam has better lines than Lafayette. He is many kinds of awesome. He's also a drug dealing prostitute, uh-huh. He has been the victim, frequently, traumatised considerably and the GBF more than a little. He had no love interest until season 3 and that's with Jesus. Jesus & Lafayette have mastered the art of kissing in low light and going to bed wearing so many clothes that there are people living in unheated homes in Alaska who would say “hey, don't you guys want to take something off?” I'm not one who demands gratuitous sex scenes – but in a series where we have seen Sookie, Bill, Eric and Sam all nekked and humping – as well as several woman on woman scenes with a lot of nudity – it's glaring that when 2 men get it on it's in very low light, wearing hazmat suits and quickly fading to black. But when a man and woman get it on? Chains, humping, all but full-frontal nudity, moans, gasps, jiggling breasts and pumping buttocks.

We have had 3 dream-squences where straight men have woken in horror and fear after being in something close to man/man action (Jason/Eddie, Jason/Hoyt, Sam/Bill). These 3 short dream-sequences mean that these 3 have actually had more action than Lafayette has in 4 seasons.

Jesus: When Jesus appeared I was extremely happy to see Lafayette after so long being chaste or a prostitute, was finally getting a love interest. And we had sweet courting and it looked like it was going to grow into a real relationship... and it never did. In season 4 they've supposed to have been together a day and not only is everything sanitised as said above, but there's clear daylight between them at all times. And now they don't even seem to have a relationship – all it is is Jesus continually talking the reluctant Lafayette into things he doesn't want to do and Lafayette being dragged along into more and more trouble by it. Lafayette's relationship is becoming a source of hardship and difficulty for him and Jesus is acting more interested in Lafayette's power rather than him as a person. I don't think we've seen any real affection between them this season.

Russel Edgington is awesome, yes. And he's a gay villain. Not only is he a villainous vampire but he is more villainous than the average vampire. He is like uber-evil vampire. More evil than the average vampire, quintessentially evil vampire – yes, the gay vamp is so evil even the vampires . He's also unhinged and becomes irrationally violent.

Talbot. Oh Talbot. This 700 year old vampire SQUEALS around violence. Actually squeals. He whines epicly about the interior decorating and despite his vast age is treated as a petulent child who constantly needs petting and soothing. And as a bonus? He dies – he dies during gay sex, the closest thing we've had to an explicit gay male sex scene in the series – and Talbot dies. And the motive for his death is that Russel loves him – he is dead entirely because he loved another man.

Tara only recently found love with another woman. Not only is their relationship based on a whole shedload of deceit but we see very much her turning to another woman after being raped and abused by Franklin. The trope of GBL people – especially women – turning to same-sex relationships after a bad/abusive relationship with a member of the opposite sex is a tiresome and painful one and one that feeds into the whole “you just haven't met the right {opposite sex person}” idea. As an added bonus she takes up cage fighting when she turns to other women. Does she get a free set of power tools and dungarees as well?

Naomi: We've seen her about 3 times and most of that has been naked sex with Tara – which means we've seen more explicit sex from Tara & Naomi's 4 episode old relationship than we have in all of Lafayette's from Season 1.

Nan Flannigan: pretty much a non-character. She's in a position of strength and power, but I wonder if her being a lesbian is supposed to be part of how “aggressive” she is – especially given Tara's “I love women now I take up cage fighting” shift. She's a very peripheral character

Pam: I love Pam, I really do. But she's a peripheral character who is there to serve someone else, be snarky and provide comic relief. Not much of a character to fail but nor to be a source of anything other than brilliant one liners.

Sophie-Ann: Again, peripheral character – but we did get get to see her failing mightily. Harris gets a whole lot wrong – oh yes yes she does, ask me about Teagarden sometime – but Sophie-Ann of the books genuinely and deeply loved Hadley and she was a capable, competent and powerful character. In the series she was incompetent, laughable, ridiculous, farcical – and dead. The only one who could possibly make Musty – I mean Bill – seem like a better king.

Eddie: gay vampire. While I was pleased to see a gay man portrayed who wasn't sexy and hot – it became a source of desperation and tragedy for him. He used Lafayette as a prostitute who in turn used him (and his desperate need for affection). This in turn left him vulnerable to being kidnapped, tortured and killed by Jason and Amy. Again we have a gay man's affections making him vulnerable and dragging him into badness.

This is not all good here. I love that there are so many characters – it's almost unheard of in mainstream television. But these portrayals have severe problems and no matter how much I love the show, no matter how much I love the number of GBL characters in it and no matter how awesome they can be (yes, Russel was the best villain ever, and Lafayette's “AIDS burger” scene will forever go down as crowning moments of pure awesome and Pam never opens her mouth without awesome coming out of it) no matter how wonderful these things are, we cannot – should not – blinker ourselves from the very real and very major fails going on here. I love the show, I love the diversity but I am not going to sign off all these problematic elements as ok – I refuse to endorse that. They're not ok and the fact there's a lot of shit out there doesn't make these ok. And it's not ok to say they are ok, to ignore them or gloss past them – because we do deserve better, yes yes we do.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


So yesterday the lurgy retreated and Beloved was able to come within the same room as me (minds OUT of the gutter). It was good it fell back when it did since we had a table at a truly fabulous restaurant yesterday and there was no way I was missing that if I had to have my sick bed wheeled to the table!

And today? Vegetables. It seems while I've been dying of lurgy, the garden went into overdrive and Beloved is stood in a kitchen with every shelf covered in harvested greenery with a total “am I going to get into trouble for this?” look on his face. Which, yes, last year he did. Because there's a limit to how much cabbage we can eat. And beans. We don't even like broad beans that much, so why he felt the need to grow so many is beyond me. And I informed him of this. At length.

This year, however, he seems to have *gasp* listened to me. Sacks of potatoes and onions by the dozen (all tied and drying). Hey you can never have too many potatoes and onions! We have vats of peas and several head of broccoli, major bonuses. Ok, there's a bit more cabbage and kale than I expect to want, but still the balance is good. Cauliflower and garlic and peppers and carrots and, prize of prize, a huuuuge amount of tomatoes. I have jars and jars and jars of tomato sauce being made. Whensa your Dolmio day? Never, but Sparky Italian day can be every day now! (I have a feeling I need a maniacal laugh in there. Also I wonder if Italians find those dreadful Dolmio adverts annoying). We've also got some chillies from the now 4 different chilli plants he's managed to acquire. Oh and there's salad stuff. Boring salad stuff.

So now there is epic sauce making, blanching, proper storage and other preserving of the goodies. And the garden is still full. Where does he put all the plants?! Half the spuds (olds) and onions haven't been picked. We have courgette, leeks and sprouts merrily growing mooore cabbage and kale (why? WHY with the cabbage?) and, by the look of it, 7 good sized cobs of corn to look forward to (picked, cooked, eaten within the hour? Oh so yummy). And there's the apples, raspberries, brambles, gooseberries and blackcurrants to come.

We've already had the strawberries and the rhubarb (which I still say he picked early).

I don't know how he crams so many plants into the garden but it's impressive. For once, one of his hobbies have paid dividends

Now if he'd only look after his damned fishies.

(And being lurgified has delayed my comment response. I will get to things, yes yes I will)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Tropes and the Marginalised

Tropes. Those lovely repeated little clich├ęs we see in books, television and media in general over and over again. I won't say all tropes are bad – but when it comes to marginalised people, tropes have a specially unpleasant taste.

It comes down to the single story.

Marginalised people are not portrayed as broadly as dominant people. We don't have the same breadth and depth of stories told about us. Rather than a million paths and possibilities being laid out, the few portrayals that include us (and sheer lack of portrayals is one of the main problems with marginalised tropes. You can't show a plethora of stories if you're not going to show our stories at all) tend to walk down the same paths, follow the same roads, and repeat the same tropes, the same stereotypes and the same tired portrayals. It only hurts more when these tropes are insulting, offensive or are built on real world isms.

The thing is, you can't separate these tropes in any media from the media as a whole. You can't have a portrayal of a marginalised person and pretends it exists in isolation to the tropes and stereotypes that dog all media – in fact all of society.

So you can't have, say, a a gay sex predator who preys on straight men and pretend this is separate from the very damaging societal impressions. For that matter you can't have a gay or bisexual villain and pretend this is separate from the pervasive trope that anything other than straight sexuality = shortcut reference for evil. You can't have the angry violent black criminal and pretend that is somehow separate from both the depictions in the media and societal prejudice and assumptions about real life black people. You can't have the marginalised side-kick who centres their whole life around a dominant protagonist and/or is an expendable character that will die horribly for the greater angst of the protagonist without tapping into the gazillion or more portrayals of exactly that scenario. You cannot cannot CANNOT write in a vacuum. You cannot write outside of these tropes. You can't say “yes I'm doing this, but it's totally not an example of this trope.” Yes. It is. Whether you'd do it with dominant people, whether it is essential to the plot, whether you love those marginalised people so much – it's still a part of that trope.

And yes, sometimes it will happen. You can't avoid these plotlines and characterisations forever and in all media, we know – but know that you ARE furthering these tropes and participating to these tropes. Don't pretend or deny otherwise that this particular example of the trope is somehow special or not really part of it and doesn't further the trope/stereotype/problematic elements. It is. It does.

And on the whole “I'd have done it to a non-marginalised character.” Sorry, doesn't work that way.. Maybe they would have done exactly the same with a straight, white, cis, able-bodied man (though I also think you're giving vast benefit of the doubt there) – but it doesn't have the same impact on a dominant body that it has on a marginalised body.

A straight couple that falls apart because one partner is tragically killed just after they have consummated their love doesn't have nearly the same impact as a gay couple which falls victim to the dreaded gaydeath because ZOMG they dared to be happy! Societal context and this being a trope that happens repeatedly over and over and over again will never make the two the same. That straight couple will be able to fall back on a gazillion portrayals of straight relationships ending happily ever after, fulfilled, healthy, good and safe and will happen in a society that doesn't carry themes of punishment and shame for straight monogamous relationships. That gay couple won't – they'll be one death in a sea of death against a backdrop of shame, punishment and “they've got it coming.”

A man who freezes around violence and sits in a corner whimpering and screaming while the fight goes on will never have the same impact as a woman who, the minute the punches start flying, sits in the corner, screams and doesn't even bother to throw things. Because we have all seen millions upon millions of scenes where the “heroine” cowers in the corner while the Big Strong Mens duke it out. It will be cast against a backdrop of a society that eternally portrays women as weak, fragile victims.

A white person playing the scientist or computer expert will never have the impact of an east Asian person doing the same because of the sheer number of stereotyped roles we have seen casting the cerebral Asian scientist (I'd say academic, but rarely are they cast as, say, history professors or archaeologists or literature students, it's always computers, maths and science) and the sheer LACK of casting in other roles in comparison. The role will be cast, again, against a society with stereotyped assumptions, narrow portrayals and narrower expectations.

A trope for a marginalised person will always have more impact because we don't have the plurality of different stories to make it just one story among many – instead it becomes The Story. The Role we're allowed to play, The Path we always walk down, The End we always have.

So, please, stop and think. Stop with the knee-jerk defence. We're not saying that X media is the worst thing ever and should die in fire. But we're saying it's advancing some extreme tropes – and it IS advancing those tropes with those portrayals. Regardless of the intent of the writer, regardless of what they have done elsewhere, regardless of what the writer felt they were forced into, regardless of what they would have done with non-marginalised people – these tropes are being portrayed, supported and advanced. Accept it and love the media DESPITE that, by all means, but don't dismiss it.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Review: Black Heart Loa by Adrian Phoenix. Book 2 of the Hoodoo Series

Keille Riviere, hoodoo and persistent user of a right hook to solve all problems is still facing the fall out of the events of Black Dust Mambo. Doctor Heron's misplaced crusade of revenge still casts long shadows – and her cousin, Jackson, has gone missing, perhaps Dr. Heron's latest victim. But, more pressingly, magic is failing. Every hoodooist, voodoo priest, magician and conjurer through Louisiana is finding their spells go awry. Some reflect back against their casters, some warp – some just become completely random. Worst of all, after Katrina, wards were set across the Louisiana coast to prevent another disaster. The wards have reversed – they're now attracting and increasing hurricanes – and another Katrina is on the way.

And if that wasn't enough to be getting on with, the loa Baron Samedi thinks Keille is responsible and is quite willing to kill her to solve the problem. Then throw in some werewolves and ongoing issues with her aunt's identity theft and you have a full set.

As I said, I liked the story. It has a wide world and it manages to maintain tension surprisingly well. It also managed to cover a lot of different things happening, often at once, without it ever getting lost, confused or any element feeling completely superfluous. It's a wide world,a deep, nuanced and fascinating story with plenty of twists to keep you amused and lots of curiosity to pull you further forwards – I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened, I wanted to see how various things worked, I wanted to see what the solution was, what the consequences where, how the world fit together.

Read More

So Lurginess

Lurginess is still lurginess. I had one brief spurt of energy to throw something at Beloved when he suggested it was food poisoning. Beloved was not repentent enough. I will remember.

I have review backlogs so I can post something at least (organised!)

My concentration span is shot and savage rabid hedghogs are duelling with razor blades in my stomach. My head just doesn't want to play at all. However, all of this is better than yesterday and the fever isn't so bad.

I am walking the road to recovery and Beloved better run

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Review: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher. Book 3 of the Harry Dresden Files

Harry Dresden returns in another Urban Fantasy Mystery. This time, ghosts are running amok, causing chaos and killing people and similar shenanigans. Harry must go out with his new side-kick, Michael a Knight of the Cross, and stop this sudden tidal wave of deadly ghost activity.

Following the exhausting and dangerous trail finds that someone is tormenting and manipulating these ghosts raising them and encouraging them to spread their havoc – and further, in doing so they are thinning the barrier between the real world and the Nevernever, allowing more and darker spirits to emerge. As if that weren't enough, there is something else out there, a Nightmare that is darker than any ghost they've faced that is hunting Harry and his friends specifically.

Harry must find how they are all connected and what lies behind the ghosts, the Nightmare, the thinning of the Nevernever all the while dodging his faerie godmother who hunts him and seeks to drag him away to be her slave – and even that must be done while negotiating the twisted and convoluted plots of the vampires as Bianca, an old enemy, rises within their ranks.

It's a desperate fight to keep body and soul together – and to protect those he cares about who are being targeted by forces even Harry can't comprehend.

Read More


I have the lurgy

I may be the only person in the country who is too cold right now


Make the world go away.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Review: Blood Bank by Tanya Huff, Book 6 of the Vicki Nelson Series

This review is difficult for me. Blood Bank is a collection of short stories by Tanya Huff that involve the characters and world of the Victory Nelson series. The problem I have in reviewing it is I, frankly, don't like short stories. As soon as I realised what it was, I admit I was disappointed. I like epic series with huge meta-plot and endlessly developing themes and stories and plotting. Little vignettes of people's lives just generally don't do it for me. So, I'm going to try and work past my natural disinclination to do this book justice

I would say these are a series of delightful little stories that just add a lot of little bits of flavour into the world. They each add depth, they each add a new angle and they all hint at the breadth of the world as well as giving little bits of insight into things like Henry's past and Vicki's relationship with Mike.

But, and I admit this could all be personal taste, it all felt a little empty. It added a little flesh to the bones but not much grew – there was no development, no advancing of the plot or story, no growth. It was interesting, it was a series of amusing insights and curious stories. But after 5 books of the plot advancing and going forwards it felt a little like someone had pushed the pause button and we were having an intermission. Even if the intermission is interesting – seeing how Vicki is settling in with her new circumstances, seeing more flashes from Henry's past – it's still an intermission.

Read More

Last Meal Cookies!

7.5oz plain flour
4oz cocoa
5oz ground almonds
5.5oz icing sugar
8.25oz margarine
3 egg yolks
4.5oz toasted hazelnuts
5oz dark chocolate chips
milk to bind

Oven to 190 (that's Celsius). Rub your powders into the margarine until you get breadcrumbs, add the rest of the ingredients, add enough milk to bind into dough. Wrap in cling and fridge it for easy rolling.. Roll out to a quarter of an inch and cut into cookies, in the oven until nice and crisp (20mins more and less)

Take out of oven, allow to cool on a wire rack.

Big load of milk chocolate + a BIIIIG LUMP o' Butter. Melt together in a bowl over a pan of boiling water (do not microwave you bad people! It makes the chocolate separate and go nasty) until all melted and silky. Dip your cookies in and chil on wire rack in the fridge. Drizzle with more chocolate so make sure it doesn't run off and to make it thicker and/or roll in more nuts.

Monday, 18 July 2011

GBLT history and teaching

So, California has passed a most excellent law requiring schools to include the contributions of GBLT people in history. And this makes me happy dance so much - and not just because all the hate groups are having the screaming meemies (but I do so like those meemies)

See, when I went to school I didn't know of a single GBLT person from history. Not one. Oh we looked at some people who I later learned were GBLT – but it's telling that even when we discussed Oscar Wilde there was nary a mention of his being gay. All so very carefully erased. And it was beyond annoying, it was painful, because I was already half convinced that I was one of the few gays in the world, a freaky aberration that struck some poor fools (y'know, normally stories like that come with super powers. I was totally cheated). Even as I learned that I wasn't the only one, I assumed there were maybe, oh, 500? Maybe? And they were all migrating between Soho and Brighton. Yeah it was ignorant and foolish – but it's an ignorant and foolish world and an ignorant foolish and prejudiced education system. And how can anyone believe they're normal and natural when they think they're the only one?

And I never even heard Alan Turing's name. I left school before I learned about him and what happened to him. He was completely removed from history. A lot of people have still never heard of him and I think if it weren't for a well publicised petition and a ferocious campaign from the GBLT community he would still be a complete unknown. I have family – educated, informed family who spend an inordinate amount of time telling me about their massive reading around World War 2 who don't know who he was.

To this day I find people who do not know – will completely deny – that GBLT people were victims in the holocaust. I kid you not, and I'm not talking the out there make-me-want-to-hit-them-with-a-fish holocaust deniers. I'm talking apparently sensible people who didn't know – who were offended at the very suggestion and were quick to chide people for saying such naughty, appropriative things. This is how a hate group like NOM can claim there has been no historical oppression of GBLT people.

This ignorance not only brushes potential role models under the rug, but it also ignores and denies the past and present reality of bigotry – its victims and the cost of it. And aside from the vileness of pretending such crimes and atrocities never happened, the hate groups are using this ignorance against us. Gods, if you ask half of them, they'll tell you that GBLT people all rainbowed down (like being beamed down, but with extra colourful sparkles) from the great Sparkly Mothership in the 60s. And the sad thing is, there are no small number of people who would agree with them. I can't be the only person who has heard talk about how many more of us there are now than there used to be (I swear, I am going to get an Ikea flatpacked closet just so I can leave it in the box and have a closet I can can actually slap clueless people upside the head with).

And, on a sentimental level, erasure annoys me because these people deserved to be remembered. Alan Turing deserved to have his acts remembered, he deserved to have his vast contribution to the world honoured – and he even deserved to have the evil shit that was done to him remembered and mourned. He did not deserve to be swept under the rug until a concerted effort of our activists said that this shit was not ok – and he's still an unknown to most. And he is just one of many – definitely many more than I can name because they have been so thoroughly erased. And some of them have been so erased that we will never know their names, we don't have enough information left about them to remember them. Or there names have been hidden under a closeted blanket of straightness that the fact they were one of us will forever be hidden. And they deserved better than that. No, it's not rational or logical but they do deserve better.

So yeah, bring on the education inclusion, lets have more laws like this and lets have more schools realise this is freaking necessary.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Last Meal Biscuits!

So I kinda did some experimenting on baking biscuits because I had a lot of stuff to use up.

I started by making my very awesome choc-chip and hazlenut biscuits which are crunchy and sweet and so yummy. But then I have this cocoa to use up that is definitely on its way to being aged – and I'm a big fan of replacing flour in sweet things with cocoa. Yes yes I am. And then I realised that while the ground almonds weren't old, there were sacks and sacks and sacks of the things (ever go to the shops and be so sure you're nearly out of something when you're not?) so out goes more flour, in goes some ground almonds (Flour never ever gets old in this house).

Ok already this was slightly over the top. But then there was the milk chocolate. I don't rate milk chocolate for baking – though I prefer it to eat, you need something more intense not to get lost while baking. Buuuut, you could melt it, take your crisp, baked cookies, dip them in said chocolate and then chill them so it sets, right? Yeah that works.

It's at this point that I had a Frankenstein moment and gasped what I had created. Though Richard was impressed. He declared them Last Meal Biscuits – because they will kill you. But it'll be worth it.

Of course he did have to txt the recipe to F mocking her lack of biscuits with glee... until 2 hours later we hear a knocking at the door...

Beloved: Weren't you in Leeds?
F: Give!

We now have no biscuits. This is Beloved's fault.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Equality and Human Rights Commission fights against equality

So the overwhelmingly straight, cis dominated Equality and Human Rights Commission has decided that, following such cases of Christian government employees refusing to provide government services to GBLT people, we need to strike a “balance” between the rights of GBLT people and the rights of Christians.

Particularly, this so-called Equalities Commission thinks that Christians are being badly done to by not being allowed to be gatekeepers of government services and being denied the right to subject GBLT people to homophobic prejudice.

In particular, they are eager to intervene in the case of Lillian Ladele, a Christian registrar who decides that her religion should dictate which state marriages are formalised or not. They want to intervene in favour of more homophobia.

They also wish to intervene in the case of Gary MacFarlane, a “therapist” who is so homophobic he cannot work with GBLT people. On his behalf – of course. They want to encourage the continued prejudice that has caused so many of us to be so wary of the mental health profession

And I side-eye, I do. Because the very nature of the “rights” being fought for here are so different:

GBLT people “We want the rights to be treated as any other member of society”

Christians: “We want the right to treat you as subhuman non-members of society.”

ECHR: “Well, both are equally valid and we need to find a balance!”

We're not talking Christians being oppressed here. We're talking Christians being denied the right to oppress others. Being prevented from being arseholes does not make you persecuted.

I don't want to have to jump hoops to access government services or go shopping because some Christian has decided to exercise his religious right to try to drive me out of society. I don't want to have to be careful in public because a Christian has decided he needs to exercise his right to scream hatred and death threats at me. Why does a Christian's “right” to arrogantly and bigotedly make my life harder, more painful and generally less happy overwhelm my right to exist as a f

Why do these rights need “balancing”?

For this to come from any government agency would be appalling. To come from the Equalities Commission just shows how devalued our rights are – and how valued homophobia is. Let's be clear here, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is fighting to INCREASE homophobia and reverse decisions that protect us from bigotry.

That's the very definition of being unfit for purpose.

One thing that may be useful is that, as you may know (actually, you probably don't because they don't exactly broadcast) this org is seeking consultation for how well it's doing and how it should proceed in the future. There's even a nice questionnaire to fill in and send off and more to follow.

I definitely have some consultation for them. I think maybe not championing the causes of bigots and not seeking to destroy anti-homophobia rulings would be a great way to start

Ah well, I can be confident that Lyn Featherstone and Theresa May will rush forward to speak on this, being Equalities Ministers and all.. Right? Oh, wait, I forgot that neither of them give a damn. They're probably cheering.

Random techy things

Cleared out a few more things form my space. Communities and spaces that are long since inactive, some which should have gone with the whole “clear out the crap” fest, some places I hung around assuming they would interest me but I found myself constantly skipping past and removing from any spaces which may bring me tangentially into contact with slash or m/m spaces and threw out a few more that I realise I found not particularly helpful, fun, useful or educational in any way.

I also seem to following several spaces multiple times. Yes I am good at spamming myself.

My twitter is still being a nuisance, occasionally so is Youtube but that seems to have fixed itself (magic!) and flash seems to be giving me the run around as well. My primary concern is twitter. I'm sorry if you've tweeted me or responded to one of the few tweets I've managed to throw off (for some reason 3rd party linkage tweets have a higher success rate – but even then I generally have to try and tweet 4 or 5 times) and I haven't answered – technology is laughing at me

Still, it feels fresh to have things cleaned out and now I have the space and time to examine places that I may find more useful, fun and productive :) *rubs hands* newww toys.

Twitter being down is still annoying though

Review: Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher. 2nd Book in the Harry Dresden files

Harry Dresden is back investigating a series of brutal and vicious murders, people torn apart by what looks like wild animals – wolves in fact. There being a somewhat lack of wolves in Chicago, this points us in one direction. Actually it points us in several directions as it turns out there are several variations on the theme of werewolf – and several denizens of the city who may count.

Harry has to sort through the threads, work with the local police hindered by their distrust and the looming presence of both the FBI and an Internal Affairs inquiry and try to avoid working for a notorious mob boss with whom he has been closely linked because of his past activities. Worse for him, his investigations have aroused the anger of those he has investigated – both guilty and innocent – and he faces several more attempts on his life to dance around while still trying to find the truth.

Like Storm Front, I think this book struck a great balance. It has several possible suspects, several different supernatural creatures, any of which could have been the murderers creates a genuine mystery - without being convoluted or confusing. In even a conventional murder mystery that's a difficult balance to strike

I also liked the world building – the bringing together of a variety of werewolf myths from around the world as varying and difficult antagonists and possible suspects in the book - each of which could be the murderer and many of them actively hunting or needing Harry for various reasons. We also see Harry's power continue to be develop and displayed for us – an excellent bit of world building that requires gentle showing rather than bludgeoning telling. And we're reminded that, yes, harry is a severely powerful and extremely dangerous being – while at the same time being very flawed and very human.

In many ways I'm in 2 minds about this review. Not because I didn't like the book – but because I feel I have so little to say that contrasts with what I said about Storm Front. It's another nuanced and well balanced mystery. It has a strong and informed world. The characterisation of Harry seems very real, while at the same time the books are so centred on him that the side-characters feel rather under-done. This is particularly problematic when we consider that these characters are women.

Read More

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Casual hate speech all over the place

And we have another round of hate speech

Baseball players Ian Kroll, Gordon Beckahm and American Football player Desean Jackson have all put their homophobia hats on and let the bigotry spill forth. What, was it Homophobia Week in sport or something? Oh wait, it's kind of pretty common in sports

In entertainment, of course, we've already mentioned Tracy Morgan and his many many defenders, as well as many musicians and comedians who think homophobia is so funny also newly joined by comedian Jo Koy/. Such entertainment staples are joined by Chris Brown (not that we expect much from him) throwing out more homophobia. And Katy Perry, who never fails to put my teeth on edge. The singer of that stinking Ur so Gay song has now decided to add some transphobia to the mix

In many ways I find speech like this one of the two worst kinds (the worst kind I think is hate speech coming from authorities – whether legal, religious or political – because of the influence and devastating influence they have as well as the huge statement it makes about GBLT people not being part of society). Of course there is worse out there – but we expect worse from the hate groups, the Family Research Council and Christian Voice and NOM and the Traditional values Coalition and the rest of them. Hate groups gonna hate.

But hate speech like this? Just casual dehumanising from famous people – casual dehumanising not from agenda driven hate groups but just from people just from popular culture – has a special kind of pain. It speaks of the casual disgust and contempt embedded in society's culture. It's not “active hate” or a concerted campaign to hurt us – it's just a constant, embedded rejection. It's a pervasive cultural loathing and I think it's beyond damaging.

I approach any and all media – from the news to books about dragons and elves – with a wariness of the bomb disposal squad approaching a left-over cardboard box. And there's a reason for it – because this, this constant casual hate, is everywhere – and the barrage of it, all these slurs and contempt and dehumanisation all the damn time is erosive. It wears you down, wears down your energy, your strength, your worth, your value and your safety.

So, I say again. Enough. Never mind your PR or your edginess or your self-serving apologies or your It Gets Better vids – just stop. You're old enough and daft enough to know better

Review: Tanya Huff's Victory Nelson Series

I only really started writing reviews relatively recently, certainly on books rather than on various issues that arise throughout a series. This has lead to a few regrets because there are a few books I would have liked to review in more depth when I read them and they were fresh in my mind – probably greatest of which are Tanya Huff's Victory Nelson series.

I have so far read 5 of the 6 books (the 6th is on my ever-growing reading list) and I wish I had written a review on each of them, because they are some of my favourite books. Not on par with Kevin Hearne or Kim Harrison (both of whom stand pretty far up the pinnacle) but certainly just beneath them. Since it's been a little while since I've read them and because I don't really have time for a re-read, I'm going to have to do a review of the series up to book 6.

Victoria “Victory” Nelson was a police detective – and an extremely good one. Her nickname wasn't just a play on her name, it was an acknowledgement of her extreme skill. She and her partner, Mike Celucci, had a competitive, almost antagonistic but deeply connected relationship as they solved case after case. Then Vicky developed a degenerative eye condition. Her peripheral vision is shrinking and her night vision has reduced to almost nothing – and it will get worse and worse until she is blind. Facing this, Vicky quits her job because she will not accept a lowering of her performance or record and becomes a private investigator. Mike stays on as her contact, her friend, her sex partner – and someone she has marvellous blazing rows with.

As a private detective she stumbles upon the supernatural world – in particular she runs across Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII, romance novel writer – and vampire. The two start investigating increasing supernatural occurrences that threaten Toronto, her with her vast experience and skills as a detective with his age, experience and knowledge of the supernatural world. Over the books they investigate demons, sorcerers, mummies, werewolves, werewolf hunters and even mad wannabe Doctor Frankensteins

Through this, Vicki develops her in depth relationship with both Mike and Henry – with Mike himself becoming more and more involved in the supernatural world – as well as their interactions with the ex-street kid Tony.

Read More

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Random stuffness

Somewhat net free weekend. Though I admit to sneaking back to the net a couple of times. Sadly, too many things pulling me away prevented me from getting comfy in my seat.

Had to deal with faaaaamily. Family visits are never fun and this was no exception. I'm going to go with shoving this onto the back burner and dealing with it when I have the energy to. Family visit, family fucked up, again, take a pill and move on because it has lost the capacity to shock it has. I'll return to it and pull it apart as is my wont, but for now I'm going to do some severe compartmentalising and not go there. It's actually something I'm good at.

Randomly twitter seems to be not co-operating with me. Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it just times out. Not sure why, I should probably poke at it when I can gather the energy and the inclination. Which likely means I'm not going to get it fixed by am going to be endlessly frustrated by it and irritated by it. Also youtube is doing the same thing. And other stuff I hardly ever use. Hmmm. The sensible thing to do would be to examine this and make sure it's not a symptom of something larger. Don't particularly have the energy to be sensible.

My to do list is enormous but, sadly, is also not urgent. This is a terribad trap for me – vital stuff due tomorrow ill get done. Vital stuff due next week will be ignored. I have a horrible feeling I'm going to keep ignoring it until it becomes a tidal wave I'll sorely regret. Yet knowing that I still don't seem to be fixing it. Filed under problem for tomorrow.

Work is complicated. It's also going onto the back-burner. That back-burner is getting awfully awfully full. Tomorrow's problems for another day. Even if they're really today's shoved aside.

Therapy continues to be, well therapy. And I suppose it's a bonus that I'm calling it that rather than many usual love of avoiding the whole thing. Is it doing good? I don't even know. I can't parse between what's pills, what's progress, what's suppression, what's burn out (which I think I have a lot of) and what's good ol' “I'm not dealing with this.” Things are certainly more stable now, if not necessary good. But stability is a bonus. Guy-who-is-paid-to-listen-to-me-whine is patient, tenacious and generally unmoved by emotional cracks and is always willing to stop and go back to the beginning. Which is of the good. Of course, cynical brain also tells me that when paid to listen to twaddle it's very easy to be patient with said twaddle. I should know, I've put on the same “yes I'm interested, please babble at me some more” face with my own clients.

The pills are much of a muchness, but that's not really a bad thing. I'm still not happy happy joy joy about them – both from my jeebies being heebied and from the side-effects and certainly from my grasping for emotional authenticity, but I do have stability where I didn't before. Maybe a few months of stability will just make things easier to move on to the next level, if any.

And if not? Well, I kind of not want to consider any possibility of “if not”. But, realistically, “not being great but stable” is a damn site better than “sometimes great, usually crap with frequent melt downs”. Probably anyway. On the whole life has been worse and could certainly be a lot worse and, looking back from a position of stability, I see that I wasn't exactly being unstable – I was crashing. I'd say crashing and burning but that sounds rather dramatic and like a cheesy song lyric anyway. So, the choice isn't really “not great but stable” vs “sometimes great, usually crap with frequent melt downs” but more “frequent melt downs, and cracks and splinters and it's alllll going to be REAAAALL messy sometime soon”. Is this better than reaaaal messy? Yeah I'd say. Certainly since pulling out of REEEEALLL messy would have been a pain, and while trying to come up from where I am isn't easy, it is easier.

Of course, intellectually knowing all this isn't quite the same as emotionally accepting this. I can say all this aloud, know it is true and still have it feel like a lie. Still, repeating it until it's true may help – it works for journalists after all.

Beloved is still cute and patient. I think he's starting to relax at last in the knowledge that I'm not going to explode into messy chunks any time soon. I think he's been on a full scale “distract Sparky” campaign for... well, for a whooole long time and he can finally come down and not prepare for the worst. If nothing else, that is a wonderful thing.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The GBLT folk be ruining our Corrie!

So after Brian Sewell was... well, Brian Sewell in the Daily Mail (being very typically the Daily Mail), several cast members of Corrie, past and present, have leaped forward to add their own prejudiced rantings about the terribad scourge of GBLT people ruining their precious soap!

Don't we see how horrible this is? I mean, with these 3 couples and 1 transgendered person then straight, cis people only outnumber GBLT people about, oh, 20:1. How can they DEAL with being so menaced by being anything less than 99% of the cast? Don't we see how hard this can be for them?

We're breaking the rules of television! By these rules, the trans character isn't even supposed to existy. There's supposed to be 1 gasy man who lives a sexless existence doling out fashion advice to passing women (occasionally exclaiming “gurrrrrrrl”) and maybe 2 lesbians because after all they do have to kiss so that the straight male audience can start panting (same audience, of course, that would be ranting in the Daily Mail, outraged if it were 2 men doing it). Tokens! That's how you do decent representation! Single stereotyped tokens! Why, if you keep up this ACTUAL characterisation, GBLT people may think they're real people with actual value – how ridiculous is that?!

Don't we know it's UNREALISTIC to have this many GBLT people? Though I do wonder why Jean Alexander somehow has the accurate demographics on exactly how many GBLT people there are in Manchester and no-one else does (let alone the fact that these folk's whining numbers completely miss actual estimates that have a slight clue and are underestimates anyway). And don't we know that Corrie is a soap, and how can it possibly be *gasp* UNREALISTIC! Unrealistic, Corrie? No! Say it ain't so?! Let us all start demanding REALISM in soaps, shall we? And believe me, if we do the number of GBLT people is going to be SOOOO far down the list of things to change, it boggles

I wonder if they realise how awful this sounds? Especially to GBLT people. I mean, even with the cast they have it's not like we're not MASSIVELY overwhelmed by straight, cis people – both on Corrie and beyond. Out of the literally scores of characters, whining about half a dozen not being straight and cis seems so unbelievably petty and privileged. Honestly, it's like watching a spoiled rich child with a house full of toys throwing a tantrum because he's been asked to share one with his little brother – only, y'know, without the excuse of being bloody children to make up for it and with an added side of severely hurting people to make it so much more bitter.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

So, I've been ordered to have a lazy day

One of the things people tend to assume about me is that I'm tidy. It's a reasonably assumption – I hate to have my clothes or hair mess with. I'm obsessively clean – I've been known to run through the house yelling “I MUST WASH MY HANDS!” (and not for any reason you're thinking of you dirty dirty people). One of the main impediments to my baking flurries is the constant need to wash my hands and wipe down the unit tops before I'm finished.

So, yeah, clean on a slightly over the top level.

But tidy? No. Not really. If the thing is clean, I don't care where thing is. So those unit tops may be meticulously clean – but also scattered with knives, bowls, cannisters of flour, sugar any anything else left lying around. I can make tea or coffee, meticulously clean up every spill, then leave the coffee and the sugar out.

Beloved isn't clean. In fact I end up doing most of the cleaning simply because I re-do anything he does anyway (something that annoys him considerably). But he does hate things lying around and I often hear him grumbling in my wake hiding things from me (he says he's putting them away – but if he were wouldn't I be able to find them afterwards? His logic is flawed!)

Anyway, today my concentration span is AWOL. Going over the house and looking at the detritus and piecing together my distracted memory what I THINK happened is:

I got up to make a coffee and saw that that kitchen windows were dirty, I got out all the glass cleaning stuff, started then was distracted by the floor, so left the glass cleaners and got a mop. This lead to me dropping the mop and taking out the vacuum cleaner then deciding the living room carpet was dirty, so leaving that and getting the carpet cleaner. I think then I decided it was silly to clean carpets if you hadn't dusted first, so I abandoned the carpet cleaner, took everything off the shelves and mantle and went in search of duster and polish, which I got out. But then I think I decided to clean the kitchen hob – I've moved the metal grills so I must have. But that lead to cleaning the bathroom (both are cleaned with bleach, see? Tangential association!) and taking out those cleaning products which in turn lead to taking down the bathroom curtains to checking the other room's curtains – and then deciding I'd done enough and deserved a break...

At some point in the proceedings I made and lost a sandwich which is now in the study. I'm not sure why there are 3 piles of books off the shelves. Either it was part of the dusting or a need to alphabetise, I'm not even sure any more.

So Beloved walks in and sees a lot of things kinda semi cleaned and lots of, well, stuff, lying around where I abandonned them.

I swear it all made perfect sense at the time. Beloved suggests most strongly I have a lazy, relaxed Sunday. This sounds like a good idea

Oh the weird things I get up to

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

So, I recently had a wedding anniversary. And, by recently, I mean several months ago. Which should probably tell you a lot about how organised I am about writing stuff.

Anyway I had a wedding anniversary and you'd be surprised at how many people asked me “what, you celebrate anniversaries?” (Including family, friends and, most especially, my employers who are most put out that I can't work extra for such piffling little reasons – though not so piffling for my colleagues. Whyyy is that I wonder?)

And, of course, they're right. In Gaytopia we don't celebrate anniversaries, rather we gather round and have an orgy to celebrate the day we pledged to destroy loving families.

(Actually lines like this always worry me. As a gay British lawyer, not only do I enjoy sarcasm but I'm almost legally required to use it every opportunity, but you KNOW there is some fool out there, probably belonging to some organisation with “values” “family” and “tradition” in its name, looking at such posts and yelling “I KNEW IT!” before running to tell his friends/congregation/political party all about those dirty dirty gays. Ah well, those guys were never going to be fans of mine anyway).)

I'm just eternally surprised by people's surprise. And surprise about some of the most ridiculous things – anniversaries, celebrating each other's birthdays (though, it has to be said, I do not celebrate birthdays well and instead look in the mirror and wail “a grey hair! A GREY HAIR!” then have a week or so of panic and angst. As you do) even going on holiday together. Even simple things like spending time together – a simple “I'm going to spend Saturday with Beloved” can get me the most amazing wide-eyed stares. Yes yes, I am actually spending quality time with my husband. I can see how this would shock you.

I sometimes wonder what they think we actually do? What weird and arcane things they think we get up to in Gaytopia? Actually it's probably better not to ask, I have enough grey hairs.

Is it really that shocking that I spend time with my husband, really? Ok, granted if you've met him and seen the many many many many MANY irritating things he does, you may wonder why I haven't strangled him, but otherwise is it really that odd for a married couple to have an actual life together?

And equally annoying is the idea that such activities are faked. We couldn't be celebrating our anniversary because we love each other and this day is important to us – no, we're “faking” what a “real” marriage looks like. We're not going on holiday together because we want to be together, no we're “copying” a “proper” relationship. I'm not spending time with my husband because I love him and value his company, no, I'm performing a “pantomime” of “mundanity.” Can't be real, can it? Can't be who we are? No. It's a performance, an act, a lie.

And while we're on the subject, I have to ask...

Do you ever spend all day... excited? Really hot and flustered. Constantly distracted – your mind always wandering to... well, y'know.

And then you get home, you see your partner there, and that's it... you just have to grab them and run to the bedroom right there! For a fascinating game of tiddly-winks. Or *guilty gaze* Monopoly. Or even *hushed voice* Cluedo.

What, never been there? Well I can't say I have either, boardgames have never really fascinated me to that degree. But, it's amazing how many (straight) people think that a bit of tiddly winks is the most exciting thing that goes on in my bedroom.

Yes it's another one of those things some straight people believe about us that leave me bemused and confused.

See, I'm used to straight people assuming that every time their back is turned I'm merrily humping away. After all gay man = perpetually shagging is an old old, tired trope (insert obligatory “you're all just jealous” here if you like). I even had a nurse the other day lecture me about my terrible unsafe sex despite my repeatedly telling her that a) I was monogamous and b) it was none of her damn business.

I'm even used to straight people assuming that my eternal goal in life is to one day be able to seduce their (apparently) irresistible sexy selves into my bed as soon as possible. And by “seduce” they usually mean “he's going to ram me up against a wall and have my wicked way! SAAAVE ME”.

That's an old one.

But the idea that we're totally chaste still pops up to my eternal bemusement. People are literally shocked at the idea that I have a sex life. And I don't mean nitty-gritty, I'm going to give you all the gory details shock. No, the mere idea that Beloved and I don't live celibate lives shocks them. It even popped up in a particular incident when family didn't realise “you have a key to my house in case of emergencies” doesn't mean “barge in whenever you want even if the door's locked” which lead to outrage and shock because we're not content to engage in a rousing board-game. Despite my having every right to be incensed, they were angry because they never realised I *gasp* had a sex life

It comes down to doing mentally gymnastics – trying to accept someone as gay but at the same time preserving that good ol' straight horror of 2 people of the same sex getting it on.

People bemuse me. I sometimes feel when I came out of the closet I was confessing to being a sleeper agent from the planet Zog. I am bemused that, well, rather commonplace behaviour and activities on our parts are regarded as unimaginable.

Of course, the plus side is they will believe absolutely anything you tell them. Which can be funny. Yes yes it can.

Friday, 8 July 2011

On diversity and the judiciary

I read this article about how grossly unrepresentative the judiciary is and I'm having a think

I am torn. Which seems odd. After all, the judiciary is grossly unrepresentative. It is extremely white, extremely male and, (though not mentioned by the article since we often fall through the cracks when discussing discrimination and representation) extremely straight as well as being overwhelmingly cis and able bodied..

Until relatively recently, to be a judge you had to be married. Sound bemusing? It was a rule brought in in the 1970s to expressly prevent gay people becoming judges. It was openly admitted that that was the reason for the rule.

When I left law school, the judiciary wasn't on my mind. In fact when I went to law school I knew it would be impossible. I also chose my law school on the understanding that I wouldn't be a judge and I would have little chance becoming a barrister if I wanted to be an openly gay man. I cynically – and realistically – assumed these doors would be closed and didn't try waste my time dragging at a locked door that would be so unlikely to open for me.

There have only ever been 2 openly gay judges in the High Court. One of whom has now moved off to the various echelons of EU law.

And we know that because of the various blinkers of privilege, this nearly all super-privileged judiciary is going to have big freaking holes in their understanding. We've seen in decisions and in processes that marginalised people of all stripes tend to get a rawer deal in the courts than the privileged, ye gods we know that.

So, why am I torn?

I'm torn because while I think we need, desperately need, a more diverse judiciary, I am also extremely leery about greater political interference. Because politics and the judiciary make me very very leery. I'd rather not judges have to consider elections, have to consider pleasing the party in power or even having to please the majority of the public when making their decisions. I admit, and it may be cynical and snobbish of me, or it may be from years of staring at juries who collectively I wouldn't trust to look after a goldfish let alone decide someone's future, that I have very little faith in the “will of the people.” They people are silly, they're easily manipulated, they're easily frightened, most of the news they receive is filtered through Murdoch and pictures of women with no tops on or stories about what/when/who Katie Price is doing.

And the people are prejudiced and privileged. Oh so very much. This is why we jump up and down and celebrate whenever we see a poll number creeping over 50% when it comes to anti-discrimination laws or gay marriage, etc. Because it's a milestone and it's usually a RECENT milestone. Frankly, the judiciary is sometimes ahead of the “will of the people” (or, at least, the will of the people as interpreted by the governments they elect) and we've had no small number of victories around the world from the judge's bench before we got them from the ballot box.

And I don't want to see judges penalised for making unpopular but necessary decisions or right decisions. How many people wanted the Jamie Bulger killers locked up for life even though they were kids themselves? In fact, based on the will of the people, how much fuller would our prisons be, since the prevailing Sun-based opinion of the nation tends to be very much “lock 'em up and throw away the key” for just about any crime. And we can look across to the US and see that NOM is trying to unseat judges in Iowa for daring to vote in favour of gay rights – that is... nervous making. Yes yes it is.

And, for that matter, I have no real confidence that this government – or, indeed, any government, is going to be especially good at encouraging greater marginalised representation. Oh, they'll include some nice public tokens – who will then toe the party line and be good little loyalists and won't give a damn if the rest of their marginalised groups are so frequently thrown under the bus they end up with tire marks indelibly marked on their back. And we know that such political interference is not going to be limited to ensuring a more diverse judiciary – you open that box and you better get Pandora to slap it closed again awffffullly quickly because who knows what we're going to let out.

So, more diversity? Yes. Please gods yes. But political involvement? Hmmm... not so much.

The Phone Hacking Scandal

Well isn't this as hot mess? For those who haven't been watching – the News of the World (a major Sunday newspaper in the UK) has been very very naughty. In fact, no I won't even be light about this. They have been seriously sick and twisted individuals with all the moral compassion of a lizard.

They have been hacking phones for stories. Phones of the police, phones of celebrities – and phones of crime victims. In one case the parents of murdered teenager Milly Dowler thought their daughter was alive because some of the texts on her phone had been deleted. She was dead – but the News of the World had hacked her phone for the story. They had deleted messages – potential evidence - because the memory was full and they wanted to make room for more.

The News of the World tried first to claim it was the overzelous actions of a private detective, then that it was the rogue actions of a maverick reporter (and if it was, didn't anyone question where she got this information?) – but increasingly it became clear that it was wall to wall stink.

Andy Coulson (who was the paper's editor during the Royal phone hacking affair) and Clive Goodman (a royal editor who hsd previously been arrested for hacking) have now been arrested for being involved in the hacking and bribing and lying to cover it up. Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and former editor of the News of the World, remains under fire for the whole mess – and it seems that Murdoch is willing to throw away the entire paper to protect her. There seems to have been a culture of hacking phones at the News of the World and it's somewhat bemusing to believe that the editors and executives in the paper were unaware. It is further ridiculous to assume they knew nothing and didn't make any inquiries after Clive Goodman was gaoled for royal phone hacking scandal.

The Mudochs are desperately leaping away from the paper as much as possible and disassociating themselves - and the News of the World is being closed down. I can see this – Murdoch needs to close the door on this especially with the BSkyB thing looming in everyone's minds (oh gods that would be beyond awful) so he “sacrificed” the paper to try and shut everyone up and move on as quickly as possible and, perhaps, to protect some people who know where the bodies are buried.

And those little quotation marks are there because he hasn't. There will be a new newspaper called the “Sunday Sun” or “Sun on Sunday”. The News of the World's sister paper will just run on Sunday instead of just being a weekday paper. Paper exercise, I wonder how many people will fall for it? Or how much plausible deniability it will bring.

Of course this whole thing has been a stinking disaster for Cameron. He got in bed with the wrong people – and frankly he should have known better. I know Murdoch is powerful but no matter how much you court column inches, the man needs to be kept as much at arm's reach as possible – and that applies to all the parties. Andy Coulson was Cameron's director of communications and is up to his neck in this whole sordid affair. I have to wonder what fall out there will be here for Cameron – at very least it shows an extremely poor lack of judgement. To have taken on Coulson as communications director AFTER he resigned over the royal phone hacking scandal – and with questions unanswered – was, frankly, monumentally foolish.

Cameron tried briefly to avoid an inquiry, but really with this level of corruption and fuckery there's no other real option and an inquiry is going forth.

This is a hot mess from start to finish, I wonder where it will end up.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Brian Sewell, take the Daily Mail and go crawl under a rock.

So Brian Sewell has penned one of the vilest pieces of homophobia I've seen for a while. The only reason it isn't eye gouging is because it's in the Daily Mail (this link is not to the Mail because I don't want to give them hits but contains the text of his screed) and after the amount of homophobic bigotry that vile rag produces

Let us have a look at this vileness. The most basic complaint is there are just too many GBLT characters on Coronation street and Eastenders. Don't you know that GBLT people only make up the teeeniest fraction of the population?

Pfft, I think if demographically we were ACCURATELY represented in soaps then there'd need to be a damn site more of us. And large urban centres – especially London and Manchester – tend to have even more of us (because so much of rural England is full of, well, Daily Mail readers). In fact, to make up of historical erasure as well, you might want to move straight, cis people off the soaps entirely. There are an immense number of characters on these soaps – of course there need to be GBLT people and not just one token sitting in a corner whimpering “mea culpa” to the echoes of Sewell's own self-hatred. Having GBLT characters isn't because these cities are “Sodoms” (and we can have another slap around the head for that one) but because we actually EXIST. Much as Brian and the Daily Mail may hate that

And why is there so much of this gayness in these soaps according to Brian? Why, gay writers advancing the “gay agenda.” My gods, the GAY AGENDA! It raises it's head again! The evil maniacal scheme to, to... to? Oh yes, be treated like people. Curse that wretched agenda – you mean we're not shameful little dirty secrets to be shoved in closets and hidden in dark corners? How dare we?

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Ok the Gaydate

I realise that this could sound like a fun good time – alas, it rarely is. Yes, a gaydate, to me, is one of those times when your straight friends decide that you need to spend social time with another of their gay friends – regardless of how little you have in common, because you are both gay. I actually thought I was one of the few people who used the term, but it seems to be quite common since most gay people knew exactly what I meant when I said it – and of course my fellow gaydater also knew (and used the word before I did).

So, I'm at the pub with as largish circle of friends. Beloved has avoided this social thing because a) work, b) because he has this idea that my only leaving the house with him to cling to is not much healthier than being hermit guy and c) they're my friends not his – and is there anything more awkward than being dragged to a social occasion with a whole load of strangers? He got me with the last one because I duck out of his social commitments with the same excuse. Damn hoisted on own petards!

So, here I am at the pub, nursing my drink and snarking away when I am introduced to D, she is a friend of some of my friends. Hey D, small talk small talk, small talk, moving back to snarking with friends. And then I am introduced to D again, yeah we met, hi D. Small talk. Back to friends. And then I am introduced to D again, brief nod, reflection that we've officially used all small talk, back to friend snarking and more booze... aaaand then... I am introduced to D.

Sparky: Ok, if I weren't gay, I'd think they're trying to set us up.
D: And if I weren't a lesbian. This, sir, is a gaydate.
Sparky: *groan*
D: Yeah
Sparky: Fine, let's sit and mock the silly people

D: They're watching us
Sparky: and don't they all look smug. I can almost hear them “awww, my gay and your gay are playing together”
D: *yells across the room* we're not hanging out! We're plotting the next step in the gay agenda! You should be scared, guys! SCARED!

Which, y'know means that she is both kinda awesome and also kinda worrying because this is not a gay bar and that kind of public, well, not so much outing as broadcasting makes me want to hide under the table.

However, it did get me out of awkward social occasion early (because now people were LOOKING at me) by claiming I'd been paged by the godfather of the gay mafia and that our time was nearly nigh! NIGH damn it! MUAHAHAAH!

Review: Hit List by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 20 of the Anita Blake series

Yes, here I am getting fully up to date with Anita Blake so I can have another break before I have to face this again. So, Hit List, by Laurell K Hamilton

Anita finds herself called all around the US and finally to Seattle in her role as US Marshall of the preternatural branch. The Harlequin loyal to the Mother of All Darkness are hunting tigers – weretigers – and leaving a trail of butchered bodies in their wake. Anita, away from St. Louis and her powerful magical foundation there, as well as her mighty and numerous – oh-so-numerous – allies now must face Harlequin and Mother Darkness with a few body guards and her fellow US Marshalls, including Edward, Bernardo and Olaf.

In some ways I was relieved when the focus of this book became clear. It was another Obsidian Buttferly, another rescue from the endless sex, another holiday from the angst. Another attempt to return to what Anita Blake was – Necromancer, kick arse fighter, strong, powerful, driven by justice and finding the bad guy. Rather than what she had become – sex addicted, surrounded by angst and personal issues, constantly emotionally crashing, constantly fretting about her loves and marvelling at the new shiny power du jour.

Already we've removed many of the problems that normally make me cringe at Anita Blake. Without the 10 zillion extra characters, we're not going to get stuck on unnecessary tangents and side-plots. Without her harem we're not going to have page and page of sex. Without all their emotional baggage to juggle, we're not going to get the endless angst pages. This made me happy! Less so when Anita picked up a new tiger boyfriend to put some of the sex and angst back, but still, it was an improvement

click for the rest of the review

Weekend was involved.

There was worky thing that was dull dull dull

A social thing that was awkward awkward awesome (my straight friends who are getting it in the ear – not like that you dirty dirty people – set me up on a gaydate. Yeah more on that later).

And my friend has a pet mutant demon. She denies it but I know the truth. I saw it!

Sparky: Yeaaargh, what's this thing?!
THING: Mrrrrow?
P: Oh that's Fluffy (yes, she called him Fluffy. No, really)
Sparky: *looks at wrinkly, bat eared, bug eyed, bald monstrosity* What IS it?
Fluffy: Mrrrow?
P: He's a cat!
Sparky: This? This is not a cat
P: Of course he's a cat
Fluffy: Mrrrow?
Sparky: Did he have a terrible accident?
P: It's his breed.
Fluffy: Mrrrow?
Sparky: he's supposed to look like this? Ye gods, why? Who would breed gremlins?
Fluffy: Mrrrow *advances*
Sparrky: Aaaargh *backs off* he's coming to get me!
P: He's very affectionate!
Sparky: he wants to eat my skin!
P: He wants a hug.
Sparky: He wants exorcising!
Fluffy: Mrrrrrow? *begs, loose skin flapping around*
P: Just stroke him.
Sparky: You can touch this monster without getting mange?
P: He doesn't have mange. He's naturally hairless, I told you
Fluffy: Mrrrrrrrrow?
Sparky: Uh-huh. I'm not touching this thing without gloves. And a shield of some kind. Maybe a flamethrower.

The breed is called a sphinx. And they are ugly ugly ugly freaky kitties. And, yes, ridiculously affectionate which means they just love to get up close and personal with all their ugly. And they do look like they want to eat your skin. In fact, they look like they're already wearing the skin of several of their victims.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Review: Bullet by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 19 of the Anita Blake series

Yes. I read it. I know I know, reading Anita Blake at this point redefines flogging a dead horse. But I feel compelled to finish this hot mess – and it's like a trainwreck, you just have to keep watching. So here I am, suffering through book 19 of the series. Book 19! Ye gods, who would have thought it would last this long

On the actual plot (let's cover it quickly since it's a relatively minor element). And there's some sorta there, carefully sandwiched between the drama, angst and random ongoing side issues.

It would appear the Mother of all Darkness is not dead. Though her body got all exploded, her spirit live son, possessing... the vampire council! And with this power Mother Dark can rule the world (dramatic laugh) and do deadly dark, evil things, using the power – political and metaphysical – of these mighty vampires to feed on death and destruction and raise up to new and greater powers until the earth is swallowed under a tide of badness.

Jean-Claude, Anita & the ever expanding posse will oppose this – by setting up a new Council and becoming a new pre-eminent power and part of this involves binding more power to them – especially the tigers – all the colours. The red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and... no, wait, that's Sing a Rainbow. Anyway, Anita & JC must bind to themselves to be the new Master of Tigers and Lord of the Day. Since (if you've been keeping up from the last book, or the one before. I forget, they all involved humping) Mother Darkness' arch-nemesis had these powers before Anita killed him after performing a sex show for him (yeah, I know, I know).

So, anyway. JC & Anita (and the posse) need to gather their power and their multi-coloured day-glo tigers (gotta catch 'em all!) and become the overlord of all Masters in the US to protect everyone from Mother Darkness.

That plot summation could probably have been done with little more attention. Probably. Sad thing is? The plot idea I liked. I was intrigued and the idea of again being forced to gather power to protect themselves and again facing a danger so epic and completely terrifying in scope as this was presented. And it was presented as that – it was literally a “oh shit” moment when you realised what the antagonist was. But it's so damn hard to be engaged in this series now with all the endless sex and utterly pointless angst that get in the damn way. I think the actual plot made up about 20% of the book, if that

Read the rest at Fangs for the Fantasy

Friday, 1 July 2011

In Bewildering fashion, some fool has tried to link marriage and procreation again

As in, the gays can't get married because we don't make babbies! And they're not a homophobe, they're just thinking of the babbies (can we have "think of the children” added to the list of ridiculous phrases that automatically get you labelled homophobes – like “I have gay friends?”)

Ok, my first and last post on this particular fuckery, because it's beyond self-evident and anyone with a moment's thought and half a brain cell in their heads should be able to work this out

Marriage is not about children, child rearing, having biological children or anything related. Even the briefest look at the laws and regulations of marriage would confirm this.

We do not require child rearing in any part of recognising a marriage. There is no requirement to have kids. No requirement to be fertile. No requirement to be of an age where child rearing is a reasonable possibility. No requirement of a settled intention to have kids either via biological offspring, adoption or any other means.

If you are married for a certain length of time and don't have kids your marriage is not dissolved. If you avow that you are child-free and will never ever ever have a child ever then they don't deny your marriage license. If you are 93 they do not deny your marriage license.

Child rearing and Marriage are NOT LINKED. This is beyond abundantly clear

And if it were? Then we need to change things – because there are an inordinate number of straight married couples who don't have kids, don't want kids, can't have kids and will never ever raise children. If it's REALLY all about the children then the laws need reworking to reflect that – so go out there and campaign for marriage and child rearing to be linked if you REALLY believe this and it's not just homophobic bullshit.

Because, guess what? Gay people have kids! No, really. Being gay does not make one infertile nor does it make all kids near you spontaneously combust. And even if adoption is banned by bigoted laws, there are still a large number of gay people raising kids from previous relationships, from artificial insemination (and non-artificial insemination for that matter) from innumerable other ways. There are a gazillion gay parents out there raising the precious babbies.

So, marriage is all about the babbies? Yet a straight couple that doesn't have kids and has no intention of ever having kids can get married but a gay couple WITH kids, actual living, breathing kids right there, right now, cannot have kids?

All about the babbies? I think not.