Friday, September 22, 2006

Overheard 22.09.06

"yeah, I don't mind the Arctic Monkeys, but really I'm into the classics: I was brought-up on all the old classic soul - you know, Lionel Richie, Barry Manilow, all the greats..."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


TIMES ONLINE [19.09.06]

"HELICOPTER gunships thudded over the dusty streets of El Fasher in North Darfur this weekend as the Sudanese government stepped up its latest offensive in defiance of a United Nations resolution.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and 2m displaced since African rebels took up arms in 2003 to protest against perceived bias from a government dominated by Arabic-speakers. Sudanese government forces armed and organised Arabic-speaking tribes into the Janjaweed militias, which raped, tortured and murdered countless civilians.

“They (the rebels) are not seeing us as partners in the peace process but as legitimate targets,” he [General Collins Ihekire, the Nigerian head of the African Union’s (AU) 7,000-strong peacekeeping force] said by telephone from Darfur. Two AU soldiers were killed last month in an ambush, and more attacks were expected, he added. Most of the peacekeepers had not been paid since May.",,2089-2340344,00.html

by Arthur Marwick

"While recognising the essential uniqueness of historical events, Professor Marwick argues that these changes can be best explained by developing a 'model' which breaks war down into four meaningful components. Throughout the book [...] there is discussion of wars as DESTRUCTION, of the way in which war TESTS EXISTING INSTITUTIONS, of the manner in which PARTICIPATION in war-time benefits underprivileged groups, and of the PSYCHOLOGICAL REPERCUSSIONS of war."

[adj.] Lacking opportunities or advantages enjoyed by other members of one's community; deprived.

adjective: Economically and socially below standard: backward, depressed, deprived, disadvantaged, impoverished. See rich/poor.

noun: A person living under very unhappy circumstances: loser, miserable, underdog, unfortunate, wretch. See rich/poor.

Origin: 1897: The notion of privileges for favored people - the wealthy, or those in the know, or those connected to the government - has been around as long as civilization. But the democratic notion of privileges for everyone came into its own in America with our adoption of the word underprivileged. To say someone is underprivileged is to imply that there is a standard of privileges to which everyone is entitled, privileges that have been unjustly withheld from the underprivileged.

In the politically correct 1990s, underprivileged sounded too condescending, too accepting of a privileged point of view, and needy is now more likely to be used.

by Linda McQuaig

"In recent years, the word "underprivileged" has fallen out of use.

Too bad; the word was helpful. It captured the fact that what separated the poor from the rest of society was mostly just privilege - the advantage of being born into the right family. In other words, luck had a lot to do with where one ended up in life.

This fundamental realization helped foster an attitude of sympathy and generosity towards the poor. After all, they were seen as being just like everyone else, only less lucky. So it seemed fair that society should provide them with some support, to make up at least partly for the headstart the rest of us got.

This sort of approach has been brusquely pushed aside in the last two decades, replaced by an aggressive new right-wing ideology with a much harsher attitude towards the poor.

According to this new ideology, the rich are rich because they've contributed more to society, and they therefore deserve their big fortunes. (Many rich people find considerable merit in this theory). Similarly, the new ideology holds that the poor are poor due to their own shortcomings, perhaps laziness or some other character defect.

Thus, the role of privilege - while more pronounced than ever in the lives of the rich and more lacking in the lives of the poor - has been airbrushed out of the picture. Our willingness to embrace this new ideology explains why our streets are increasingly filled with homeless people. The poor haven't changed; we've changed. Egged on by this new mean-spirited ideology, we've kicked the supports out from under them."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

a conversation

"So why did you break-up?"
"I left some CDs in his car and he didn't tell me."
"He didn't mention it."
"You broke up for that! What do you mean?"
"I left 3 CDs in his car. They were old ones so I didn't realise until a couple of weeks later. It took me a while to work out where they'd be, but eventually I remembered I'd last played them when we went away for the weekend"
"and what? He denied having them?"
"No! When I asked him he just said, 'oh yeah, they were in my car.' I said 'where are they now?' because, you see, I've been in his car a few times since then and I hadn't seen them. He said 'they're at my flat,' I said 'oh!'
I was waiting for an explanation, you know? For him to say 'oh sorry, I completely forgot I had them' or 'I've been meaning to bring them over' or 'I took them out of my car so they wouldn't get nicked.' I don't know - something!"
"So what did he say?"
"Nothing! Nothing at all! I said I'd pick them up next time I came round and he said 'ok'"
"So what happened? He wouldn't give them back?"
"No! It's just that I was expecting, since I'd reminded him, that he would make the effort to return them to me. But he didn't. A few days later I went over to his place and he didn't mention it. I really thought he would say something! But he didn't. So finally, as I was leaving, I asked about them. He said they were on the shelf, so I went and looked - two of them were amongst all his CDs, the third was in the stereo!"
"So he'd been playing it?"
"Exactly! Which means he hadn't forgotten he had them! He knew he had them! He liked them! And he was trying to keep them! That's theft!"
"Theft?! I don't know about that! It's a bit rude..."
"It's Date-Theft!"
"Theft, is a little strong!"
"Date-Theft! I haven't seen him since."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Making Space

The most common space-making tactic on the tube is very simple: hold the newspaper up, open it wide and extend the arms to form a half-cell which lulls the commuter into believing he's not actually stuck in an overheated carriage with 458 other pissed-off, sleepy people. To carry it off properly the commuter has to look superior - as if he is above all this. As if he is only on the tube because the Rolls broke down. Yeah right.

This winds me up. It's denial of the worst kind. It is rush hour - now deal with it! I want to karate chop the newspaper - down the fold line. Not in a cool, Chow Yun-Phat, Kung-Fu kind of way. Oh no, more in a loud, camp, Miss Piggy kind of way - complete with 'ha-aaai-ya!' sound effect. Just to see the shock and fear on said commuters face. Lovely. [smile]

But some people - usually men [cos you boys like your ceremonies & rituals don't you?] will develop more complex, combative patterns. The lean fully forward in your seat, legs stretched-out, newspaper folded and held flat in front of you, is a favourite, I notice. I watched two young fellas duelling the other day: one would shake out his newspaper in a manly fashion - in doing so he would touch the newspaper opposite. So then the other guy had to shake his newspaper out and manoeuvre it so it ended-up resting lightly on his opponents. Cue a vigorous shake-out from the red corner and so on... yawn.

The single out-stretched leg is very popular with young blokes: throwing just one leg out to the side - not only claims half of the seat next to you, but it also demonstrates just how much of a man you really are. Yeah, course it does sweetie.

Women have a different way of dealing with it - look around you next time your tubing it - most of the women have their eyes closed. It works too - eyes closed and some loud music and you can almost kid yourself that you're still in the bathroom...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Love Underground

I saw love-at-first-sight happen this morning and it was a beautiful thing. I was sitting on the tube, in my usual semi-catatonic state, just vaguely people-watching. A seat came free, but the man standing in front of me didn't want it. A girl behind him, however, did. She said "excuse me" and started to manoeuvre around him. He turned, their eyes met and it was as if a jolt of electricity suddenly hit the carriage...

Seriously! It was quite amazing! And I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who felt it. You could almost feel the focus of the carriage shifting onto this central point between them. She started to smile and so did he, neither of them broke eye contact and everything seemed to slow down. As she tried to move past him she was also turning towards him, away from her seat and he turned with her - keeping her directly in front of him. It was like a dance, they were less than a foot apart, rotating slowly and neither could bare to look away from the others' eyes.

At some point she remembered where she was and what she was doing and moved away to sit down. He couldn't take his eyes off her. She was trying to play it cool - but she was blushing furiously and kept sneaking little glances over her newspaper. A couple of stops later she got off... and he visibly swayed towards the door. He actually moved one foot - I could see him thinking about it... should he follow her? I noticed several other women in the carriage were also watching him intently. I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from shouting "Go on! Go after her! At least say 'hello' and she'll offer a phone number - trust me! She will!"

She was moving slowly, with the crowd, towards the exit. I knew the doors would close any second and that would be it. Millions of people travel on the tube every morning, even if they both use that same route everyday - it doesn't necessarily mean they'll see each other again.

She was nearly gone and the doors HAD to close soon... then at the last moment she turned - for one last look at him. That did it: as the doors started closing he squeezed himself through them and the last thing I saw, as the train pulled away, was him reaching over to touch her shoulder.

Mmmmmmmm. There is hope!


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Modern Life

Phoned my mate last night, he said
"Can I call you back? Someone's just set light to a car outside my house!"
"Oh my god," I said, "that's awful!"
"I know," he replied "I'm worried it might burn my fence!"

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Early Morning

It's 8am and I have to leave the house right now to be at work on-time. No time for breakfast, so I grab a banana to eat on the way. I'm ready at the door... but I feel like I've forgotten something... I stop & try to remember what it might be...


My MP3 player - grab it and head to the door. Keys? Where are my keys, damn. They're not on the table; not in the pocket of yesterdays jeans, damn, not fallen behind the table; down the sink or... they're in the door. There they are, right in front of me, hanging quietly, in the door, all the time. Bastards.

8.09 - I really have to go now. Pick up banana, pick up music and out of the door. Lock the door, down the stairs, out the front door, step outside and have cold feet. Look down - I've forgotten my shoes. Damn Damn Damn. Back up the stairs, unlock the door, inside, sit down, put on trainers, curse. 8.12 - now I'm late. Have keys... stop... I know I've forgotten something... think... pick up banana, pick up music...


Damn, I was going to take the rubbish out. I haven't got time to take the rubbish out! Damn. If I don't take the rubbish out, by the time I get home my place will stink. Damn. Tie-up and remove rubbish bag, pick up banana, pick up music, have keys, have shoes, do I have my travelcard? Check in bag: have travelcard and have phone, 8.16. Pick up banana, pick up music, have keys. Out of the door, lock door, curse, unlock door, go back inside, pick up rubbish bag, out of the door, lock door, down the stairs and into the street.

Turn on music, put in pocket, plug in. I am now shielded by the protective powers of Desmond Decker *and* The Aces. Nothing bad can happen to me for the next 2 minutes and 12 seconds. Relax. Then I remember I'm late for work and start walking.

Walk as fast as I can to the tube station. Arrive 8.37 and approach the stairs. Am reminded, as always, of Gandalf leading the fellowship into the Mines of Moria - "what new devilry is this?" Underground it's 5 degrees hotter and 2 minutes till the next train. I walk to the end of the platform, everyone is in my way. I see the same faces daily, but never acknowledge them: the fat girl who would be really pretty if she lost a few stone and scowls at the world as if she knows that and it pisses her off. The tall man who is only good-looking from a distance - from far away he's Billy Zane, from up close he's Phil Mitchell. Scary - how can it be? The stylish girl who dresses like I wish I could, the loved-up couple, the man who always falls asleep...

The train arrives, I get on, no seats, the man next to me smells. I forgot to grab a newspaper - damn, damn, damn. Two stops later and I can feel the early symptoms of Tube-induced Coma: my limbs become heavy, eye-lids start to droop, a vague thought of sitting on someones lap, brain shutting down, doors closing... please... stand clear... of the... closing... and slipping... into... a coma...

Damn! Bounce around on the balls of my feet for a moment. Feel better, sweat more. Get funny looks from a middle-aged woman wearing footless tights. A crime against fashion! The best style-advice anyone ever gave me was never wear anything 'retro' that you were into the first time round. Those of us still scarred by leggings & the Soup Dragons in the early 90's, should never be induced (or seduced) into going there again. She should know better. Decide not to accept the funny looks. I make eye contact, and maintain it - benign but steady... she looks away and starts reading adverts. Ha! She's terrified! Victory is mine! Yes indeed, don't mess with me madam, you will find I am a force to be reckoned with! I am invincible! Give me any grief and I will LOOK AT YOU!

Take that!

Feel slightly foolish. Arrive at stop. Head towards escalators. Start feeling fierce again. Can't get to escalators - why not? The rules are simple: stand on the right and walk on the left. Not complicated! And yet there are those who can't grasp it. And I wonder - do all these people have stair lifts at home? Why not use your legs to walk up the stairs? Or just stay out of my way! [grin]

Finally up the escalators, through the barriers, up the stairs - Daylight! Sunshine! Air! Space! Joy!

Remember I'm late for work and start walking. Arrive at work 9.04. Exhausted. Have a cup of tea.