Friday, 25 May 2012

Stacey Sticks Up For Charlie


'Blessed are the uncomplicated, for they shall always be right.'

Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church of Maiden, North Carolina had his fifteen or so minutes of fame recently when he preached a sermon in which he indulged the fantasy that all the US lesbians might be coralled behind one electric fence, and the 'queers and homosexuals' behind another until the whole goshdurn lot of 'em dard out, cuz Paul says in Romans, 'they which commit such things are worthy of dayeth'. Does Pastor Worley wish to draw some distinction between 'queers' and 'homosexuals'? I doubt it - that would suggest a sublety of mind that is not evidenced by anything else he says. To his credit, he has noticed that homosexual sex does not lead to procreation, but this seems to be the ceiling of his awareness on the matter. Anyway, I wonder why this sermon has caused such a stink? After all, Worley must have been one of any number of US Baptist pastors who were ranting on the same day in much the same vein, simply repeating what they've always said. These are men who manage to reach middle age and beyond still thinking and talking like bolshy teenage boys.

Anyway, less You Tube time has been devoted to the reactions of Pastor Worley's flock, who number some twelve hundred, so I thought I'd bring to your attention Ms Stacey Pritchard, a warrior for Jesus and defender of her Pastor. Here she talks to Anderson Cooper on CNN. The set of her mouth and mild truculence of her tone suggest a woman who knows exactly what Cooper of the Godless Media Agenda is up to. The gist of her spirited defence is something like; 'well, he wudden do that, he wudden wawnt that, well, perhaps he mart, this's all gotten took outta context, look, people gonna take it their own way, that's the point, but it isn't, I agree but not really, and it's true and mostly it's rawng'.

There are 1,199 more where she came from.
When you hear that accent, you cain't help but think 'there goes another fundie creationist homophobe fuckwit', so here as balance is one of my favourite You Tubers, Wildwoodclaire, whom I was delighted to discover three weeks or so ago. She's a North Carolinian, a geologist by training, a prolific vlogger and a gleeful skewerer of creationists, fundie bull-artists and credulous lame-brains. She also uses a surprising amount of British slang, being especially fond of the term 'numpty', numpties in her estimation being the fastest-growing US demographic. Check out her weekly 'Coffee with Claire', updated each Sunday.



Thursday, 24 May 2012

Odds and Sods

I'm at my mother's until Monday. I arrived the day after my dad died on the third of the month, intending to stay about ten days. Mum had a minor operation the week after, and has been hobbling about on crutches ever since, so I've ended up staying over three weeks, washing, hoovering, shopping, making tea and cooking. I also marked a stack of MA assignments, getting them in ten days before the deadline, placing me in great good standing with the admin people, even though the students have apparently been moaning that my marking is stingy. Professor Jiaying Wang suggested I might consider whacking everybody up a few notches, but the colleague who double-marked the assignments said he thought my marks were fair, so they stay as they are. I think this was a little bit of thumb-nosing at Jiaying, actually, but I agree with him: most of the essays were not out of the top drawer.

All this seems far away, as I haven't set foot in the university for nearly a month. I'm almost a housewife. My mum has little interest in food when she's on her own and is an abstemious drinker, quite the opposite of me. I've been cooking Thai curries and spicy fried rice dishes, all chillies, lime leaves and basil, piquant Spanish stews with chorizo, bayleaves and smoked paprika and whatever else I can think of to entice the jaded appetite. Mum worries a bit about the impression given by the glass-box out by the front gate. Next door's contains a couple of jam-jars and a light bulb. Since my arrival, ours looks as if we are running a restaurant. I've discovered that Sainbury's cheapo rosé for £3.58, served just this side of freezing, is acceptable enough with a virulent yellow curry, and I can't tell their 'basics' gin from Gordon's, which is twice the price, so long as there's plenty of ice and slices of lime.

I get away occasionally to visit friends, either at their house or sometimes for lunch in town. I have a friend who works at the local Magistrate's Court. If we meet in her lunch-hour for a quick pizza or curry, I wait in a far corner of the square outside the courts for her to emerge, as I don't like the umm, clientele. For example, there was a solid, brick-red man in a t-shirt and waistcoat. His hugely muscled arms bore crude tattoos that looked as if they had been executed with a biro. On his shaven head was a tat of a spider's web, the interstices adorned with what might have been paper fasteners. He scanned the square impatiently. A woman approached him hurriedly, worriedly, and was upbraided for her tardiness: 'Where've yer fuckin been, yer fuckin knew I ad a fuckin appointment, din't yer, yer fuckin fuck?' She fuckin told him what had fuckin delayed her, and they went purposefully and beligerently into court as my friend emerged. She spends a lot of time with such Neanderthalers.

When we are not discussing J's cases, we usually get onto the matter of aging parents. Her father is now disabled from multiple strokes and her mother, fit and well but approaching eighty, cannot be persuaded to take in someone to do respite care on a regular basis. Just like my own mother, Mrs G. will not appear before strangers until she has done her hair and make-up and selected an appropriate outfit, and on the day the respite care lady showed up, Mrs G. emerged from her bedroom in her nightie and housecoat to find a cheery stranger letting herself in the front door. She had to dash back into the bedroom to put on her face, and later complained to J. that she'd woken up to find 'this woman' letting herself into her house at the crack of dawn like some brazen squatter. What kind of respite was that going to be if she had to start getting ready at all hours of the morning?

'That's the bloody point,' J. will tell her doggedly. 'You say in bed and have a lie-in and a leisurely levée while she gets on with seeing to dad.'

'But what if she comes when I'm in town? I can't hang about in town for five hours in mid-November!'

'You don't need to! Go home, get yourself a huge gin and tonic and have an hour in the bath! That's why it's called bloody respite care!'

Parents, we say, ruefully: who'd have 'em? Of course, we'll probably be like that eventually, making little assertions of independence in the teeth of evidence that we are no longer in a reasonable position to back them up. What that might be like is the kind of consideration that comes to me often at three in the morning: health worries, money worries, sanity worries. Sometimes these worries are not dissipated by the morning sun. This last couple of days I've had a mild reccurence of the anxiety that set me climbing the walls for ten days last June, but it has subsided a bit now.

Right, there's enough o' talk, I've a washerful of clothes to hang out (it's a grand drying day) and then a Spanish omelette to make, so I must be getting on.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Muwashah



Qiyans Krets is a group of four women, one Norwegian, one Scottish and two Swedish, who perform music from the Sephardic, Arabic and Occidental traditions. 'Qiyan' were highly educated slave ladies who performed music and recited poetry at Muslim courts. Here they give us a lovely performance of Lamma Bada Yatathanna, a very popular muwashah, a type of strophic song that originated in Al Andalus. The lyrics of muwashahat deal with unrequited love, or with the effects of wine as a metaphor for religious intoxication. The lyrics of the present song are translated thus:

She walked with a swaying gait,
Her beauty amazed me
Her eyes have taken me prisoner
Her stem folded as she bent over
Oh, my promise, oh, my perplexity
Who can answer my lament of love and distress
But the graceful one, the queen of beauty?

Don't know about you, but after the beauty of the melody and the rhythm, I find the words something of a let down, but maybe I'm just being a gay chauvinist pig. I'd rather have something by Abu Nawas, except he was in Baghdad, not Al Andalus, and maybe never heard of muwashahat.

I die of love for him, perfect in every way,
Lost in the strains of wafting music.
My eyes are fixed upon his delightful body
And I do not wonder at his beauty.
His waist is a sapling, his face a moon,
And loveliness rolls off his rosy cheek
I die of love for you, but keep this secret:
The tie that binds us is an unbreakable rope.
How much time did your creation take, O angel?
So what! All I want is to sing your praises.

Bit more like it. I like Abu Nawas most, though, when he's taunting the Imams for the charmless authoritarianism and grim conformity of their religion:

Always I have and will
Scatter god and gold to the four winds.
When we meet, I delight in what the Book forbids.
And flee what is allowed.

And:

I bought abandon dear
And sold all piety for pleasure.
My own free spirit I have followed,
And never will I give up lust.

That's them told. Somebody set that to music.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Kadir-Buxton Method



I have just discovered the website of Mr Andy Kadir-Buxton. Mr K.B. deserves our deepest respect, since he desires nothing more than to make the world a better place and happily, he has found ways of  doing so that are simple, low-tech and laughably cheap. For example, consider how mental health problems have burdened mankind over the centuries, and how amulets, herbs, exorcisms, dark houses and whips have failed to alleviate suffering. Consider the time and money required by modern treatments: we manufacture drugs, train psychotherapists and build institutions that we must staff with vast numbers of professionals from a wide variety of fields. Andy shows us how we can do away with all this expense.  His method for re-setting a mind gone wonky is simplicity itself:

The Kadir-Buxton Method is done by making a fist of both hands, and striking both ears of the patient at exactly the same time and pressure with the soft part of the inner hand which is where the thumb joins the hand.

It will readily be apparent that the technique derives from a similar method for rectifying such faults as shadows, scrolling pictures and snowstorms on tellies in the days when they had valves. Of the many advantages of this technique, ease of acquisition is by no means the least. Curing insanity could soon become a side-line for social workers, teachers, milk men and lollipop ladies. The method should not be confused with simply smacking somebody upside the head, however, and must be sensitively applied:

With the Kadir-Buxton Method, a patient standing on one leg whilst holding a rose would still be standing on one leg and holding a rose when they were cured. With a punch, the patient would be lying prone on the floor, and could well have dropped the rose. And just to add insult to injury, they would still be mentally ill. Try it for yourselves if you do not believe me.

I have not been able to verify Mr K.B.'s findings independently, partly due to the price of roses out of season, but chiefly because of ethical considerations. Could any insane person of my acquaintance actually give informed consent to being slapped about like this? Also, I am very hazy about such stuff as double-blind trials and placebos and what-not. Wouldn't you have to have a control group of crazy volunteers that did not get slapped or hold roses? Or maybe hold tulips and get kicked in the groin? There'd be all those flowers and body parts to go into. Still, I'm sure that like homeopathy, it must work and we needn't bother trying to prove it.

Clive Holmes is Professor of Biological Psychiatry in the division of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Southampton and Andy has been following his research into Alzheimer's. Professor Holmes says of the disease: "With Alzheimer's, the damage to the brain happens gradually over a period of years. The best thing you could normally hope for [with any treatement] is to keep things where they are. The underlying structure - of dead brain cells - will still be there." Andy, ever confident and optimistic, claims that repeated applications of his method, plus teaching the patient logic, would reverse all effects of dementia. I would like to see this in action, I must say. Lessons on set theory and arithmetical hierarchy delivered to people whose brains are slowly rotting, punctuated by repeated thwacks to the ears, would seem prima facie more rather than less likely to cause confusion than measured doses of Aricept and as much TLC as you can give. Again, we await clinical trials.

Andy turns now to that perennial headache, raising the dead. 'First, it must be ascertained that the heart of the patient has stopped beating.' Sensible advice, that. Once you are sure this is the case,

'...the edge of the shoed, or bare, foot must be brought down hard on the chest just above the heart. (Ribs can be broken with this method) The pain is so intense that it reaches parts of the brain which have not fully shut down, and this revives the patient.'

Once you've smashed his ribs in, 'the patient should be taken to hospital as soon as possible as there is a reason for them dying in the first place, which should be treated.' Just hope the shattered sternum is treatable too, or the corpse might be less than grateful for your intervention.

Andy is as good on wimmins' trubble as he is on every other ailment. He is able to reach his hand right into the womb to free blocked-up fallopian tubes. I don't know how he does this, but he says he 's been meddling with female parts since he was a small boy. Think of all those women, and the memories they must caress. What causes these fallopian blockages? You'd be surprised:

Polyps are the sides of the fallopian tubes expanding outwards because of the pressure from the blockage, or foreign objects such as ball bearings and even pen tops. The blockage has to be squeezed out a millimeter at a time... All blockages that I have found have been dead bacteria, or sometimes lemonade which is a result of a country-wide practice of lesbians at Universities. 

You can avoid the risks involved in shoving bottles of pop up your crack by gaining an orgasmic nose:

 The conditioning needed in order to get an orgasmic nose are both 'Hands Free' masturbation until orgasm, (the tightening and relaxing of vaginal muscles for five minutes until vaginal orgasm occurs) and also to then stroke the nose while having the orgasm.

On the Pavlovian principle of second-order conditioning, with time, touching the nose will automatically trigger orgasm. 'The common cold could become fun', Andy says.
 
Andy has decades' experience of handling ladies
It would be easy, all too easy - simplicity itself, in fact - to dismiss Mr Kadir-Buxton as a cheerful whack-job, away with the fairies, lost to reason, long since withdrawn into the back-arse of bat-shittery. This would be to wrong him, as he is at pains to point out that he is a great believer in logic, as may be deduced from a close reading of the foregoing. 'I always tell people that the best way of learning logic is to study and analyse the character of Mr Spock in 'Star Trek.'' And as all philosophy is but a footnote to Spock, Andy suggests that 'further studies can be of Ancient Greeks, such as Plato.'

When he isn't studying Spockean logic, Andy likes a good giggle: 'some laughter therapists have found that just making the noise of laughter without finding anything funny to laugh at is enough to improve health.' If you cannot find anything funny but need a boost to your immune system, try putting wine into a soda stream and then drinking the fizz through a straw, a practice Andy reckons has traditionally been seen as inadvisable:
I decided that I would try both at the same time to see what happened. Wine was put into the Soda Stream, which then added CO2. When drunk through a straw hysterical laughter ensue [sic], and when the laughter subsides you feel much better than you did before you started.
Another way to split your sides in the absence of anything really funny is to blow a lungful of cigarette smoke into a party balloon, and then hyperventilate on the smoke. 'Again laughter ensues and you feel much better for the experience.' It is perfectly legal at present to provoke mirth by both these methods, but we must be vigilant, because as Andy warns us:

I have had balloons confiscated by the British police on several occasions.
So there you have it. The key to the good life is to drink fizzy wine through a straw and fill balloons with cigarette smoke while you ponder the words and deeds of Mr Spock. If you have a partner who is prepared to thump you regularly on the temples and primed to kick your ribs in should you expire, so much the better. We need no longer fear old age, infirmity and dementia, and it's all so cheap and simple.  

Thursday, 3 May 2012

A Landmark

My dad died this morning. He was 76. This was the end of the ten-year fade out that is Alzheimer’s. You lose the person bit by bit as the disease progresses, disengaging somewhat from them as they do completely from you, imagining that the end will not come as a jolt, but it does. My sister and a family friend had stayed with him at the nursing home for three days. Text this morning at seven: ‘still hanging on’ then at eight ‘It’s all over. x’.

He was always extremely practical: a joiner, a decorator, a builder, a maker of furniture. Yet six years ago, switching on the central heating system he had installed himself twenty years before was a task that completely stumped him. He was a solidly-built, muscular bloke, but when I last saw him a month ago, there was hardly anything left of him. He was awake, but since he has been unable to move or communicate for two years, I don’t know if he knew my sister or me.

Alzheimer’s with Lewy Bodies is a variation on the theme of dementia which substitutes hallucinations for the more common memory loss. Dad’s memory for names and events was unimpaired, but in 2006 the house was peopled with builders, vagrants, ‘that plug-ugly woman’, removal men, wedding parties and blokes digging up the garden to lay copper pipes. He would rise in the middle of a conversation to open the front door ‘to let that chap out’, then realise as if waking up that there was nobody there. Publicly, he laughed this off. Privately, it must have been terrifying. He began to have difficulty standing up and maintaining his balance once standing, and for my Mum he became a full-time job. For Christmas 2007 Mum, Dad and I travelled from Huddersfield to Ipswich to stay at my sister’s in Bures. Only later, to my shame, did I understand why Mum had been dreading the journey. Dad would fall over like a domino on rising from his seat, go wandering off down crowded platforms with seconds to go before departure, and when we got back to Huddersfield, as we alighted from the train he fell straight down the gap they always urge you to mind. All of this he laughed at as if it were some silly fault of his own. This was very brave, done for all our sakes, because it really, really wasn't funny. 

In June 2008 I stayed a weekend at my parents’ as I had an interview at Sheffield University on the Monday. On the Sunday morning Dad had what must have been a mild stroke. We called the emergency doctor, who gained him admission to hospital. It took the ambulance five hours to arrive because on sunny Sundays, large numbers of drunks topple over into their barbecues and have to be rushed to casualty. When at length we got to the infirmary, the ward sister told Mum she had been doing the work of two nurses every day for two years. Back home, Mum declared she would not feel guilty for getting a couple of weeks’ respite, which was the time scale we were thinking in then. I cooked and we sat down to eat. I put on a CD, a compilation of stuff I'd never normally give houseroom to. Jennifer Rush came on. I was about to comment snidely on how much I loathed this trite rubbish when mum said 'this is a nice song', and burst into tears.

For I am your lady, and you are my man,
Whenever you reach for me, I'll do all that I can.

That sudden coincidence of commercial crap with real experience was heartbreaking: thank God I had kept my sarky trap shut for once, or it would have been even more so. Normally that blowsy, overblown song moves me to nausea rather than tears, but at that moment it had real poignancy. I have a heart of mush in a lead casket, decorated with tinsel. I cannot expose the mush lest I become mush entirely. This resolve not to become mush is what has made my mother determined that neither Dad nor she will have a funeral. Their bodies are donated to medicine, and… well, we carry on as if nothing has changed, I suppose. (I flunked the interview.)

It is not for any of this that I want to remember my Dad, of course. I didn’t always appreciate as a kid and teenager and even as a young(ish) adult what a kind and patient bloke he was, driving me all over the place to rehearsals of this play and that, driving me to Cambridge, bringing me back home from Cambridge, picking me up from Heathrow or Gatwick, putting himself to considerable inconvenience, all for my convenience. I always think our relationship was the perfect refutation of the old ‘weak, distant father’ hypothesis as cause of homosexuality. Dad was the perfect traditional male role-model: athletic, practical, hard-working, responsible, generous and fair-minded, utterly dedicated to the well-being of his wife, kids and grandkids. He would have loved a son who was into cricket, cars, football - a son who was his mate. I wasn’t that son. Sport and cars have never interested me in the slightest, and as a young teenager it was I who rejected him as symbolic of everything I did not then want to be, despite understanding nothing of what I was rejecting. I’m told, but cannot remember, that if he entered a room, I would immediately leave it. It hurt him, obviously, but he never showed it. Now, not for the first time, I regret the years spent away from home, the fifteen years in Greece in which I saw him maybe fourteen days each year. By the time I got back to England the fucking disease had already started - early, as he was only 65 when the first symptoms appeared. You should always tell people you love that you love them, they say. It’s soppy shit if you’re a British bloke, so you don’t do it. But you’ll still wish you had.

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