Sunday, 22 February 2009


this morning i bought Patti Smith's Horses, and i think i can safely say it's one of the best things i have ever done. i'm not one for buying cds- i tend to download most of my music (TOTALLY LEGALLY OF COURSE, TOTALLY, DEFINITELY, NOT A LAW BREAKER I, NOPE, NO ILLEGAL DOWNLOADS HERE... ahem) but for some albums i'll make an exception. let's start with the amazing cover:

is there anything wrong with this picture at all? her expression, the shirt, her hands, the little pin on her blazer.... wow. surely, surely, you say, no album can live up to the promise of such a superfantasticamazing cover? surely we should just throw the cd out the window and stick the picture on the wall?

a fair assumption but, luckily, as far from the truth as i am from the explanet pluto. i have spent the last ten mintues trying to desricbe just how good this album is, but it's not really possible. Gloria is a wonderful, furious first track, patti smith's voice all thick with sex, and it only gets better. the way smith sings, speaks, growls leaves me speechless. she is so singular. there is noone that sounds like her. all the way through, smith's prowling singing is complemented by this angular, arresting guitardrumpiano.

and, and the words, the articulation.. oh. just, oh. one of my favourites at the moment is from elegie:
'There must be something I can dream tonight,
The air is filled with the moves of you'.

so, she's an amazing poet and musican. her voice is strong and honest, and goes from a purr to a shout to a quiet rhythmic hum, like she's reading you a poem . she's sexual but not dependant on her sexuality to sell her work. is that enough? no. she also happens to be the coolest looking person ever.

i adore the way she dresses: highwaisted, tight jeans, loose boyteeshirts, blazers, stompy boots; all made more perfect with thin chain necklaces, badges, ribbons as bracelets, big rings. and it's not just what she wears but the fact that her whole appearance fits her. she doesn't look like she's trying to play up to anyone else's ideas of what she ought to look like, or what's cool; she looks so utterly at ease, so utterly self possesed. i can't imagine what it would be like to see her live- there is so much power just in these photo snatches of her, in her recorded voice.

and is she any less cool now? is she like fuck.


a recent post by prettyface, on the subject of the scrutiny of female celebrities' weight, got me to thinking; more specifically, these two questions really played upon my mind:

"Doesn't seeing that starlet having put on an ounce of weight give you just a teensy bit of sick satisfaction? Doesn't seeing her then looking strangely skeletal provoke a tiny spark of jealousy, which you then have to disguise with the correct amount of disapproval?"

part of me does not want to admit it, but these are feelings that i recognise- probably moreso the latter than the former, but still, both have fleeted their way across my mind in the past. nowadays, my response is more likely to be concern than jealousy, something which makes me feel both lucky and relieved; to me, it represents a move forward in my relationship with beauty, my body and both self-acceptance and the acceptance of other people's bodies. but it leaves me with sourtasting questions: why was this feeling of worry and sorrow, of sympathy, not always my response? why are underweight stars referred to as 'lucky'? why was my own slenderness (especially in high school: i grew upwards before i grew outwards, leaving me looking, in my opinion, somewhat two-dimensional) the one thing classmates constantly sighed and cooed over, using my body as a weapon with which to beat themselves?

we all know the old line about beauty not being skin deep, and that the phrase has been used time upon time to emphasise the importance of personality over physicality; but what about when the surface is thought to embody qualities and desirable character traits? the body has been taken as a signifier of character traits for hundreds, thousands, of years: Gareth, a nobleborn who eventually becomes a knight of the round table, for some reason disguises himself as a kitchen boy in his youth; but his beautiful white hands (um, yeah) hint at his concealed nobility. to me, the jealously felt when you see the slender reediness of some hollywood star cannot just be due the aesthetics of slimness, of slightlytoothinness, but the aspects of character that thinness implies.

maintaining a certain weight takes self discipline, control and willpower. the personal trainers of the famous have themselves become famous, indicating our interest in the gruelling exercise regimes of celebrities. low calorie diets bear the names of actresses and models, giving us insight (be it factual or supposed) into the regimented food intake of the 'beautiful'. through this we are able to construct an idea of how we think the famous eat, exercise and live- and then line ourselves up against it for comparison. did you have that chocolate and not spend half an hour on the exercise bike? that's not what gwyneth paltrow would do. BAD YOU. did you get up at five this morning and kickbox for two hours before breakfasting on a fruit smoothie? no? madonna did. did you eat something not on your dietry plan? you don't have a dietry plan? where is your self-discipline. tsk.

thinness can- has- become a way to signal your 'positive' characteristics; and in the same way, fatness now equates with greed and compulsion. there have been times when plumpness showed fertility, wealth and health. nowadays? well, fatness is weakness. you didn't say no to that food. you overindulged. in 2005, the nhs announced that they were considering plans to refuse treatment to people whose lifestyle was largely to blame for their state of ill health and yes, you've guessed it, obese people were on the list of lazy, inconsiderate fools who didn't deserve free healthcare. fat is demonised everywhere we look, as indicative of the stupidity, laziness and unhealthiness of those people with it (see this post from the feministe for a prime example of how such themes are played out in the media).

are we so convinced by these discourses that the sight of a young, too-thin woman first sparks that flicker of envy, before we swallow it down and remark on how someone should send her a sarnie? and even if we don't look at the extremes here, it surely cannot be denied that many female celebrities, the world's 'most beautiful', hover just below a healthy weight. when we praise their beauty, are we also praising their character, their ability to keep their body in a certain shape? at the same time, are we by extension, using them as a way to punish ourselves, and our deviance from the (good, controlled) lifestyle we believe they lead?

why is super slimness the ideal of beauty in our culture? what does fat, and the lack of it, actually represent to us? discipline and lack of control are two aspects of it- not by any means the only aspects, but ones that i find intriguing. the language used to describe fatness and thinness focuses alot on such concepts, and means that in order to understand our reactions to celebrity bodies, we must address the deeper questions of what a body can signify to those observing it.

(i apologise for the hastiness of this post, and the undoubted absence of many MANY other issues. it's more a train of thought than polished argument. and i'd very much like your input on the matter; lots of minds are better than one, obviously).

Friday, 20 February 2009


today was opening my bedroom curtains to a courtyard full of mist; buying homemade treats at a random vegan bake sale, as part of my mum's birthday present; a trainride across mintgreen fields; annoying fellow passengers on the london underground (it doesn't take much) with bulky bags; and reading fiction/watching television (oh the luxuries of home).

song of the day: the smiths- london

obvious, yes, but it's not only because it fits literally- this is one of the songs that i could listen to over and over. it does something funny to the space just behind my ribs, makes it tighten a little. the mark of a good song.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


today was an essay-writing day, as well a reading-all-the-sources-i-didn't-read-during-the-week-for-my-class-tomorrow day. a very hyphen full kind of day, as you can see.

i spent far too many hours in this position, or variations of it. i have not yet been able to work out a way to sit at a desk comfortably; it's been two and a half years of historianing now, surely, SURELY that is a long enough time to solve the problem? alas, i just end up slumped backward, feet rested in pulledout drawers -me and my desk are intimate friends. happily, i had grapefruit squash to help me through this diffcult time (see the mug? it's covered in little illustrations of gardening implements. why? noone knows. it is simply brilliant, and there are no further explanations needed).

the reading and writing would have probably taken less time had i not been sucked into flickr- damn you, beautiful, seductive flickr. what kind of person makes BAJILLIONS of wonderful photographs available to me on my laptop? what kind of person does that to a girl trying to do work? eh? eh? mean sadists, that's who.

favourites of the day:

from cluttershop

from Vaguery, who has a fantastic collection of public
domain images, like this one (which, if i'm honest
i found a while back, not today- but it is so beautiful
that i have to gaze upon it periodically)

a girl after my own heart.

thank you, michal, for making my day a bit more beautiful.


my morning, as told through the medium of itunes

6.40 am. teenage riot, sonic youth. because i thought i would be less angry at my alarm clock if it played a song i love. this turned out not to be true.

7.15 am. in step, frankmusik. wooo, electropop, THAT will put me in a positive, energised essay-writing mood.

7.19 am. okay so that didn't work.


7.58 am. why is caleb followill saying potato roller at the end of king of the rodeo?

8.29 am. the red telephone by love has to win an award for best opening lyric ever: 'sitting on a hillsiiiiideeee, watching all the people DIE'. ah, how lovely.

8.35 am onwards. BJORKBJORKBJORKBJORKBJORK. god that woman is amazing.

9.08 am. seriously, is this woman actually real? is she human? how can her music be this good?

9.26 am. a short break from music whilst on the phone and food shopping. ho hum.

9.50 am. kiss with a fist, florence and the machine.

9.55- 11am. ten seems like a good hour for twee-ish, sometimes gloomy, altogether lovely scottish indie pop. hallo, camera obscura. come on in.

11 am. camille, le fil and music hole. best lyric: 'cats and dogs are not our friends, they just pretend... and if it rains again next weekend, it's all because of them'. thank you, camille, for bringing the feline-canine axis of evil to my attention.

11.45 am. david bowie's greatest hits. sometimes i wish i were david bowie. i think this is a common wish.

Monday, 16 February 2009


today i love: la roux

synth pop + cameo jewelry + trenchcoat + odd beautiful shoes + that hair? yes please. i have been listening to her music pretty much nonstop for, oh, the last month. i love her voice, the electroness, and the shameless fun of it all. pop should be fun. sigh. LOVE.

so, things i need: oversized pink tshirt, big woolly socks and A SWING IN MY BEDROOM.

it is also nice that she is really hot. just saying.

Sunday, 15 February 2009


it has snowed too much recently. days were all cold feet and slipsliding journeys to the library; a nice white pavement turned to mudslush by nine in the morning. and when the snow eventually stopped, then came rain and wind like wolfbites. sigh. i want days that feel a bit like treacle sponge pudding, please. i want days that feel more like this:

p.s. my girlfriend is supertalented with a camera.


My college history society held its annual dinner on friday: a good, oldfashioned five course meal (!!!. that is the only response i can properly articulate. cambridge is a strange place to me, still), complete with a ridiculous amount of cutlery and four different kinds of wine glass. the whole of the college's history 'community' is invited, from lowly undergraduates to the mountaintop high Regius Professor of Modern History, making for lots of awkward conversation. The four different kinds of wine help to lessen this awkwardness.

The meal was very nice, and my absolute fear of being sat next to a scarily intelligent historian was somewhat assuaged by her lovely normalness (the waiter acicdently poured her red wine into the wrong glass, and apologised profusely; after he'd left, she looked confused, and said very quietly, 'but all these wine glasses look the SAME'). It was the after-party, however, that made the night: we all went back to my friend D's room, and when i say all i do mean us normal undergrads and ALL OF OUR PROFESSORS, including mister.Regius Professor. it is quite a surreal thing to see the man who holds one of the most senior positions in our history faculty getting completely drunk in the corner of my friend's room.

to cut a long, rambling, alcoholsaturated story short, i ended up trying to explain lolcats to a man credited with being the cleverest young historian around.

'oh, right, does that stand for laugh-out-loud cats? why is she telling me this?'

yes, and it also stands for 'OH DEAR GOD I AM A DRUNKEN IDIOT'.

sigh. lesson of the night: lolcats should remain within the realm of the internet. also, do not try and verbally teach someone leetspeak.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


oh dear. the neglect has started already- such a shame, in a blog so young. ANYWAY. look forward, not back, right? right? am i right? i'm right, right? right?


this week i am reading about education and the enlightenment, a subject brimburstingfull of the (now) amusing views of stuffy old misogynist men on female reading. take John Bennett, for example, in the moral and instructional programme he addressed to his niece, Lucy:

'Plays, operas, masquerades, and all other fashionable pleasures have not half so much danger to young people, as the reading of these books.'

(folks, he's talking about novels. EVIL, CORRUPTING, SEDUCTIVE, IMMORAL NOVELS. consider yourself warned, and stay away from the bookshop, unless it's one that only stocks bibles, and knitting patterns.)

And it's not the young people in general he is worried about; no, he is in pure paternalistic, save-the-fragile-girls SUPERMAN mode, asserting that reading is particularly damaging because girls can do it 'in private, without any censure, and the poison operates more forcibly, because unperceived'.


oh, i see, educate girls at home, where they can be under the 'immediate inspection' of their parents at all hours, and have their daytimes 'strictly arranged'. Good.

i read somewhere, a very long time ago, that comedy is often tragedy from a distance (i think it was in a paula danziger book. what, they had loads of well good moral messages). two hundred years is a good amount of distance, it seems.