Summer Buzzin’

This is one of those weeks where I’m glad I’m a freelancer. I go to work in short shorts, I have lunch in my garden and I start the day watching my dogs lollop around the field with the canine equivalent of beaming smiles before flopping down inside all day like sleepy cherubs.

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It’s also one of those weeks where Instagram stops working, I realise that I’ve got a lot of birthday and holiday-related expenses coming up and I just splashed frappe all over myself and the kitchen.

Still, maybe by the time I get to Zante the euro will have been replaced by a skills-based economy in which my particular brand of cute sarcasm will be gold dust… and maybe Brussels will have cancelled the debt, handed out icecream to every Greek citizen and worked out a solution to the refugee crisis.

Actually, while I’m thinking about it: I shall be offline from 26th July- 6th August, mostly because I need to retrain my brain not to assume every second sound is an email. My Etsy will be on ‘vacation mode’ – it’s going to Tahiti with its girlfriend – and I might schedule some posts for here/Tumblr/wherever to remind you all I exists… hopefully on a beach or clifftop with some nice music and some decent Fanta.

Okay I have to stop typing now because I’m having this paradoxical experience of daydreaming about my holiday while quashing suffocating terror that I can’t really afford one. If this were a Tweet, #freelancelife would be apt.

Enjoy the weather while we have it and drink lots of water!

So is it too early for me to start making divorce jokes? 

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Mostly. 

I found it quite disconcerting to watch yesterday’s news – at lunch there was news of France’s terrorist attack, then mid-afternoon brought rainbow flags and the happiest my Twitter timeline has ever been, then by dinner there was two more terror attacks and some plonkers against equal marriage tried to tell everyone that their country was in a bad state.

Hmm. Good thing we’re capable of multiple emotions in one go, eh. I keep smiling stupidly at all the rainbow sparkle vibes I’m feeling while listening to a conversation about Tunisia, so strange. 

Something funny happened to me this afternoon: I was at a vintage fair in my town and there was a box of records at a stall. I’ve no idea why I flipped through – I don’t own a record player – but halfway through there was a 1965 record by a lady named Antia Bryant, whose album consisted entirely of faith songs and hymns. The producer had written some lovely information on the back, about Ms Bryant’s genuine and heart warming faith in the Lord. It would have been completely heartwarming as well, had she not gone on to the anti-gay movement and help pass laws banning LGBT people from doing weird shit like keep jobs. 

We’ve come a long way, huh. Not all the way, not by a long shot, and I really wish more people were around to see it… But for now I’m content that something completely wonderful is happening alongside all the terror.

I have no idea if Anita Bryant is still around, but with the timing of finding her record I did find myself wondering if God exists. She might be too, come to that.
Happy wedding day to a lot of people!

In Which I Have Learnt About Racism in the US

I wasn’t going to comment on the Charleston terrorist because I knew that a lot of people would automatically take umbrage with the term ‘terrorist’, and more might expect a ‘not all atheists’ blog. Both of those potentials are weird and exhausting so I figured I’d just share some posts by people smarter than me. Like this and this:

I think between them they express my opinion enough that I don’t need to waste Internet space trying to say the same thing. What I would like to talk about today is what I’ve been learning about the American south recently. I have never actually been to the States and I suppose I’ve been quite lucky in that the American culture I’ve absorbed over the years is as intelligent, if not more so, than the culture I’ve experienced from anywhere. MCR, Mindless, a million and one novels, the civil rights movement et al is all really fucking smart. No racism allowed, no sexism allowed, don’t be a piece of shit to other people and what in God’s name is wrong with letting people get married.

In the wake of this Charleston murder spree I’ve learnt that I’ve been really lucky, and blinkered, to only experience the smart people. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that there are stupid laws about letting idiots own guns and letting police officers shoot unarmed suspects… and I have a Tumblr account; I read the ‘white privilege’ posts. I just didn’t fully understand them until recently. I try really hard not to be a ‘all x people’ – when the English say ‘Americans are stupid’, I’m usually the first person to say ‘maybe you just haven’t met the smart ones. There’s a lot of people in that country, statistically they can’t all be as thick as this fucker on Fox News’.

By the same token when I see a post screaming about all the white people, promoting misandry or being rude about straight people, I think ‘you’re tarring a group the way some people tar your group. Kindly look out of your fucking window and understand that being discriminated against does not give you leave to discriminate’. Judge people based on their shitty personalities for Christ’s sake… So that’s me trying to be less of an arsehole than the dregs of Tumblr.

I just had no idea that the Confederate flag flies over the South Carolina or that roads are named for Confederate generals who fought for slavery that descendants of slaves have to pass through every day on their way to work. Those Tumblr users still need to grow up, but I think I understand more about why they’re so angry. I’m angry, and I’m white and live thousands of miles away from where this shit is happening. There is an inherent race issue because it’s fucking ingrained into the nation’s subconscious. Changing laws is one thing; changing culture is quite another and I must say, American government, I can’t believe you have the gall to invade other countries to teach them how to deal with racially-motivated terrorists when you have the problem within your own boarders.

I also didn’t know that being an atheist in the South is a really huge deal. Until I saw this:

There are two schools of atheist thought? Some atheists are against feminism? Whut. I think I’m beginning to understand why Dustin Lance Black makes a point of going back to Texas… Liberals in the States are dealing with a lot more shit than I ever appreciated and they have a massive job on their hands politically, socially and geographically. (Seriously who decided Texas should be the same size as the entire UK. Scottish independence just looks like if Dallas wanted fiscal autonomy.)

So that is what I’ve been learning recently. What about you?

In Which You Can Drink at School and Not Get Kicked Out

Is it raining where you are right now? Unless you are in Australia I think you are completely justified in saying ‘f u weather bye’.

I’ve been on Tumblr too much. But seriously if this is summer then I want to be a theist just so I know where to lodge a complaint.

Yesterday some friends and I went back to our old school to collect our certificates of 13 years of unpaid slave labour education and it was pretty weird because a) I left a year ago but it felt like 15 years and five minutes, and b) they let us drink wine which was disconcerting to say the least, not to mention you could speak to teachers almost like they were real people

I just skim-read the post I did last year about going to school when you don’t really want to, and it reminds me of how bitter I was about my school experience. In retrospect I should have seized the day and all that shit, and appreciated how lucky I was to have free education until I was 18, but at the time all I wanted to do was leave, become a writer and set my own hours.

Now I have in fact done that for a year, and to be perfectly honest I don’t feel like I’ve magically got everything together. ‘Becoming a writer’ was a great plan, but that was all I had. I didn’t really know about personal finance or budgeting or product research or good rates for copywriting or the importance of self discipline, and all those other little things that you learn as you go but wish someone had warned you about. I didn’t appreciate that consistent income is something you only miss when you don’t have it any more, or that building a portfolio career means sticking with projects for months on end even if they pay absolutely nothing… and it’s only been a year. In another year, if I’m still doing this, I’ll have (hopefully) learnt a lot more. Maybe I’ll even have a consistent, national-average income, although I looked up the living wage versus the minimum wage yesterday and nearly fell over, so I’m not holding out too much hope.

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I do hope I’m still doing this in a year, though, and not just because a lot of people I saw yesterday for the first time in a year thought my job was cool. (These are people who are studying mechanical engineering and foreign languages and medicine full time for a £40k debt holy shit they are the ones with steely determination.) As hard as it is to make sure I’m doing copy and freelancing and trying to improve my Etsy sales – hint: you can help with that one – and blogging and not ready to pack it in and move to Tibet, I know in my gut that I made the right choice between this, a ‘regular’ job and uni.

Or I think I did. Let’s see in another year.

Rachel Dolezal/I Have No Idea What My Opinion Is

I don’t know what prompts it, but I seem to have the blogging heebie jeebies either very early in the working day or in the evening. I’ve no idea why – maybe because when I was at school I wrote everything when I got home unless there was an emergency post that had to be finished before school? (By heebie jeebies I mean ‘desire to blog’, not the creeps. Not sure what else to call it.)

Anyway, today’s topic: Rachel Dolezal. I had never heard of her until about two days ago; she was president of the NAACP, the black civil rights organisation in the US, until she resigned over a row about race. She didn’t suddenly announce her affiliation with the KKK; the issue is whether or not she’s black. Her parents say she’s white (they are white and have adopted children and extended family who are black), but she says that she identifies as black. Some people who are unquestionably black have said ‘excuse me, that’s a bit rude, please don’t pretend you’re one of us because you think we’re a cool club have you seen how we can be treated?’.

I’m white and I don’t have enough direct experience of the black American civil rights movement to get on a soapbox about the politics, except to say that racism is gross and will require all people from all races to realise it’s gross before it goes away. In terms of Ms Dolezal, my initial feeling was that if she says she’s black the response should be ‘okay, whatever’. Like if a queer person insists they’re straight, it’s not anyone’s place to drag them out of the closet – and if someone says they identify as non-binary, even if you think they’re off their rocker because you’re a bit ignorant the polite thing to do is say ‘okay, whatever’. If it’s a phase, it’ll pass – like how a lot of people in senior school announced they were bisexual for, like, a week in year 10. If they still are now then yay for them – if it was just something they were trying or wanted to be part of then that’s their business.

By the same token, if somebody insists that they’re of a race different from what they were assigned at birth, so to speak, is it not polite to say ‘sure whatever’? Like that one straight friend who wants to go to a gay bar for a ‘gay experience’? They’ll leave eventually, either when they realise no one’s interested in fulfilling a bucket list or when somebody really is and your friend has a mild epiphany that they’re straight. I don’t know – nobody I’ve ever come across has decided they identify as Caucasian… can’t think why.

I get the impression that the wider issue is more concerned that she once actually sued a college for discrimination because she was white, before becoming president of a prominent black civil rights organisation? Like did she just decide one day that she was over being white? I think I would be pissed if a LGBT person became the first out prime minister then said ‘actually yeah I’m straight/cisgender’. Does that detract from the significance of their work? On top of that, I kind of feel like underneath all the race appropriation arguments, Ms Dolezal is looking for some sort of acceptance from a social group?

I have no idea. And I did a lot of stuff between drafting this and finishing it so I’m not sure if I had an opinion earlier and have since forgotten it, or if it’s just a really complex topic that requires a lot of thought and may never have a solid conclusion (it’s now nearly five; I started this at 8am. Told you.) Thoughts?

A Magna Carta Retrospective

Do you think any of the onlookers at the Magna Carta signing actually thought it would be celebrated eight centuries later? Like did any watching peasants have a debate?

Steve the Peasant

Dude they’re signing that peace treaty so we won’t have to pay stupid taxes and the barons can’t get away with everything.

Jimmy the Peasant

Yeah we can’t even read that, it’s in Latin. And it only applies to free men. Which we aren’t. And it says women can’t accuse men of murder and I, personally, see that as sexist.

Steve the Peasant

Dude it’s a start. Maybe future generations will polish it up, take out the stupid bits and use it as a foundation for declarations of independence or bills for human rights!

Jimmy the Peasant

Whatever, man, we still have to pay our fucking taxes.

They head off to herd cattle and fight dysentery. 

Should’ve placed our bets with Steve, huh. Although it really didn’t let women accuse men of murder… it wasn’t much of a peace treaty either.

Still, I like to think they had no clue at all that a cramped, slightly ugly, almost completely incomprehensible peace-treaty-that-wasn’t would be remembered as the start of something wonderful… or as something less shit than a megalomaniac king and war-funding taxes, anyway.

Happy Monday!

PS check out that link and the video about half way down. It reminded me why history is brilliant if you let filmmakers get hold of it.

When Smart People Make a Boo Boo (#DistractinglySexy & Tim Hunt)

Generally speaking I think it’s a good rule of life to never engage with online debates, mostly because ‘debate’ usually means ‘people SHOUTING THEIR OPINION with NO INTENTION of EVER listening to OR learning from the other side(s).’

But  I must say I’ve enjoyed the #distractinglysexy hashtag.

For those of you who try not to listen to news about people being sexist: Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel Prize-winning science professor at University College London, recently told a conference that when one is working with female scientists, ‘three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.’ I’ve never worked in a lab, but apparently it’s just one of those things.

I suspect someone has had a few fleeting/wonderful/awkward workplace romances in his time. Which is okay. When you’re attracted to someone, they are incredibly distracting. If I did work in a lab and liked a colleague, I would have to transfer workspaces until they moved or it blew over, just in case I accidentally spill polonium on my shoes when they take their coat off. (That sentence in itself may be why I’ve never worked in a lab.)

So it’s okay, Tim Hunt. We get it. What we don’t get is a) why you are distracted by all the girls, b) why they cry why you criticise them (the best teachers do not criticise, they merely point out what we can improve), and c) whether or not your views have ever genuinely impacted someone’s career.

I’m really not that bothered about a 72-year-old thinking a certain way about a certain type of person, and he’s perfectly within his rights to say it – although he might not be all that smart if he thought it would be a good idea to be sexist in front of a room full of women. The only really worrying thing is that people with ignorant views, whether they’re sexist of racist or homophobic or whatever, are often in positions of power and responsibility – and not everyone can separate their personal views from their jobs. I’ve no idea if Tim Hunt was ever involved in allocating grants or awarding places, but some people are and it makes me want to petition a law preventing CVs from showing anything but skills.

Still, at least the people on Twitter are making light of it all.

Review: ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven’, Mitch Albom

First ever book review, weird. To be honest, I rarely read other people’s reviews. I don’t want their impression of the book to impact mine before I’ve even started. So I’m thinking of these more as recommendations, and I promise I will try not to contaminate your potential view with my own. (And that’s a definite first for this place.)

The novel I started with was Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which I think I was given; I found it in a bag of books I lent Isobel for school When she returned it, she said the book was mine so I think someone in my family must have picked it up somewhere then passed it on – which is quite fitting because the story is about an elderly gentleman named Eddie, who dies on his birthday trying to save a child in an accident. When he gets to heaven he learns that everyone there meets five people you knew in life, all of whom are linked to you and who help explain your life. That’s nothing that’s not on the blurb – don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything.

'The Five People You Meet in Heaven' by Mitch Albom

In a nutshell, I do in fact recommend it. I’d never heard of the author and had no idea what to expect, although with stories about existential crises, death and/or philosophy, you can guess that the content might not always be a barrel of laughs, or align with your personal spiritual (lack of) beliefs. It’s not a particularly sad book though, and nor is it particularly preachy. All in all, if you like stories about normal people, big life questions and/or a few twists and turns, head to your local library or independent bookshop now!

Okay now let me know if this was a terrible review and/or recommendation and/or if you’ll read it! You can pledge to support me on Patreon every time I review a book here.