Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wimbledon, drag

Have a thing about John Inverdale.  I thought it would pass but now that Wimbledon’s started he’s all over the telly again and it seems I’ve not shaken it. 

I have this inexplicable urge to dress him in drag.  Yes, of course I know he’s all man, and it would doubtless offend his rugby-trained 100% brawn to hear himself discussed in this way, but I can’t help it.  Every time I catch sight of the Inverdale I instantly transport him in fishnets and fuschia boned satin to centre stage, Madame JoJo’s.

Am yet to put my finger on just why this should be, but I think it’s the mouth, particularly when he smiles.  It’s a perfect Cupid’s bow set within a granite jaw, that curls upwards and stretches wide to reveal a pristine set of pearly whites.  Plus his eyes are a flashing steely grey, heavily lashed, and naturally defined in a way that looks like Boots no 7. 

Mouth, neck, shoulders, eyebrows… all are oversized in the kind of way that would immediately rumble a drag queen’s gender however lavishly feminine the dress and garb.  And such a great hulk of a man is instantly emasculated when dressed in a suit and perched on a TV sofa.

No idea.  Am prepared to accept that this could be a psychological issue that’s all my own but Inverdale just seems a bundle of soft, raw, feminine, masculine contradictions that’s resulting in a warping of my mind.  Surely I can’t be the only one…?      

Monday, June 13, 2011

Caitlin Moran - new book....

..on top of everything else.  How does the woman do it??  Three nat newspaper columns - one of which she needs to watch back to back telly to write, additional regular lengthy features, high profile interviews - Gordon Brown, Lady Gaga etc etc- two kids under secondary school age, and now a book?  I don't get it.  Is she cloned for god's sake?

Fact is, I had been rather tiring of the sight. Over-exposure is an understatement.  It's almost like every wacky idea a Times editor has ever had in the last few years has been bunged at Caitlin, making her a regular cover girl, front page blurb, page one lead column, back cover sign off. 

Then she pretty much cleans up at the UK Press awards with three top accolades.

Moran is everywhere, something doubtless those down at Fortress Wapping (are they still there?) must be aware of?  Don't some of the other journos get a bit hacked (..) off?  Aren't some readers like me beginning to urge motherlike that she be given a break, so we don't all get Moran-fatigued.  Surely at this rate her own burnout is inevitable?  The wit will waver, the prolificacy wane, and she'll go the way of all those other one time wondrous female scribes - flogging freelance her wares to Red or Psychologies Mag.

It had began here already. Seeing her this weekend yet again on the front cover of Times Mag, blurbed yet again on the front page of the main section I had recoiled from more Moran, in the way you do from mojitos at a 1am lock-in.  The magazine sat for a couple of days, all its little sections consumed, while 'How to be a Woman' six page book excerpt got passed over. Until this morning.

Just before relegating it to the correct recycle bin I thought, babies napping, I'd have a quick skim.  And doing that I thought, hold on, this is funny and got a cup of tea, sat down and read it proper.

The woman's hilarious.  I'd forgotten. It's easy to see why they're bleeding her dry. Her memoir - which is what the new book seems to be, with a smattering of modern-day feminism humourously couched - is self-deprecating, warm, insightful and immediately engaging, her feminism a matter of fact shrug.  No in your face browbeating. Her writing just carries you along, generally prostrate, from a laughter-induced stitch.

An excerpt from the excerpt (she grew up, the eldest of eight children, in a council house in Wolverhampton):

"In my family, my fat family, none of us ever say the word "fat". "Fat" is the word you hear shouted in the playground, or on the street, - it's never allowed over the threshold of the house.  My mum won't have that filth in her house. At home, together, we are safe.  We never refer to our size.  We are the elephants in the room."

For that paragraph alone, I'll be buying her book.      


Saturday, June 11, 2011

King (and Queen) Kohl

Is it me or has everyone been applying more kohl since the Royal Wedding?  I'm suddenly noticing eyes like never before.  Amongst all these people (women) that I see on a regular basis.  The Kate Middleton self-applied eye makeup routine has, it seems, launched a million makeovers.

Now, I'd always thought that rule number one was never use black kohl - too overbearing; and that rule number two was never to apply it beneath the eye, corner to corner.  You'll look like a panda.

Eye-liner, according to my rulebook, should be grey, or green or brown and applied relatively heavily on the upper lid, thickening towards the outer corner.  It should be applied sparingly to the lower lid, from centre to outer corner. Followed by a smattering of smudging.

The Middleton sisters (both do exactly the same routine) have torn up my rulebook.  Their undereye kohl seems heavier than their upper lid liner.  And it's always black.  And it's corner to corner.  And it works!

And now everyone else is doing it, and I'm looking into newly defined eyes that shoot straight back at me, sparkling in a way that leaves mine feeling decidedly underdressed.

I shall be experimenting with king kohl forthwith.  Reminding myself, like all those wedding makeup artists do, that 'it might seem heavy to you now darling, in the mirror, but it won't from a distance'.

Doubtless that's what Kate says to herself when she leans into the mirror, stretches that lower lid and underscores with purpose.  I'm going away to practise.

How would you feel if it were your....?

Empathy [em-puh-thee].  the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

R. R. Greenson:  "to empathise means to share, to experience the feelings of another person."
Alvin Goldman:  "The ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand her emotions and feelings"
Simon Baron-Cohen;  "spontaneously and naturally tuning into the other person's thoughts and feelings..understanding the other's feelings and the ability to take their perspective.."

As a word, quality, capacity it's cropping up a lot at the moment.  In that scientists, psychologists, specifically criminal psychologists are pinpointing empathy as commonly lacking amongst those afflicted by autism, narcissism and psychopathy.

There is an area of the brain that is responsible for rendering us able to empathise.  Neurologists claim that for some of us it underperforms and in others it's underdeveloped eg there is evidence that those born into extreme repeated abuse be it physical, verbal, emotional do not develop the area of the brain responsible for empathy.

Which raises all kinds of issues for the judicial system in relation to rehabilitation and of course culpability, and is doubtless an area that defence teams for delinquent or violent children pore over.

Young or old it stands to reason that many of our violent criminals lack the ability to empathise.  No ability to feel the terror of your victim nor imagine the repercussions, subsequent shock, pain and agonising grief of their family, facilitates the capacity to harm.  There is no empathy barrier, no emotional brake, and by the same token, presumably no remorse. 

But what if the jury, those gathered to determine, on behalf of society, the degree of an indvidual's evil intent,  what if they too, collectively, are lacking in empathy..?

Consider the case of Joanna Brown.  Joanna Brown was killed by her estranged husband after three years of divorce wrangling.  She was from a rich family, he was not.  The three years of wrangling had been about money - what he'd wanted and what she was prepared to offer him.  He'd signed a pre-nup.

Throughout May of this year the jury listened in detail to how Robert Brown had dug a grave months, if not years previously in a highly secluded corner of Windsor Park.  Into this grave he had buried a plastic crate, big enough to act as a coffin.

The jury heard how three years previously the defendent had threatened to kill his wife by holding a large knife to her.  Such was her terror, her family hired a bodyguard and restricted the defendent's access to Joanna. 

The jury heard how on 31 Oct 2010 the defendent had taken their children, 9 and 10, back to her house (they had been staying with him over the half-term) at around teatime and had taken a claw hammer with him hidden in a bag containing his son's homework.

The children were dropped off, went inside, and were told to go to the playroom when the parents began to argue on the doorstep.

The jury heard a forensic pathologist explain, with the help a mannequin, how the defendent had taken the hammer and hit his wife over the head and face with it 14 times.

He had then wrapped her body in plastic, putting a plastic bag over her head to minimise blood spillage, and bundled her into the boot of his car.  His two children were watching from a side window as he did so.  He disabled the cctv and phone and then told the children to get back into the car.  He returned them to his house and left them in the charge of his pregnant girlfriend.

The jury then heard how he collected paper overalls, ties, and mallet from his garage and drove to the spot in Windsor park he had dug previously.  He lined the vegetable crate with plastic sheeting, again to minimise any seepage, bundled his dead/dying wife, into the makeshift coffin, secured the lid and then buried it using a spade he'd left nearby wrapped in tarpaulin to hide it.

He then disposed of the murder weapon and the cctv evidence somewhere in the woods - as yet unfound - returned to his home and got into bed with his pregnant girlfriend.

The jury listened intently to all the details, to the forensic evidence of the wounds inflicted as the victim had tried to defend herself, to the testimonies of her grieving mother (her father had died years previously), and the witness statement of her nine-year-old daughter: 'we saw daddy putting mummy in the car', 'asked whether daddy was going to take mummy to hospital' etc.

The jury sat and listened to all the evidence for the prosecution and then the defence.  The defence claimed their client was of diminished responsiblity and how it was preposterous that a man would take his children with him if he'd intended to kill his wife.   Yet, of course, given his previous threats, it's unlikely she'd have opened the door to him alone.

The jury heard it all in the presence of Joanna Brown's grieving mother and brother. Joanna Brown's mother, who'd seen her child grow up to meet such a brutal end, who'd had to identify her battered daughter's body,  witness the 'coffin' and grave in which she'd been buried and then in her shock and grief, take charge of traumatised grandchildren, whose lives will be forever scarred by the actions of their father. 

The jury heard all this.  Then, after a couple of days of deliberation, acquitted Robert Brown of murder. 

Despite all the evidence of premeditation (grave, hammer), foresight (lined crate, paper overalls, tools), diligent covering of tracks (cctv, telephone) etc. they convicted him of manslaughter ie. he didn't mean to do it.

How do you explain a verdict that flies in the face of all the evidence presented and defies logic?  Lack of empathy on the part of the jurors?  Or an empathy that's seriously misplaced?

The judge it seems concluded the latter, and sentenced him to 26 years.  The victim's family, although relieved at the sentence, are left with a lingering - presumably lifelong - sense that justice has not been done.

Well, if she'd been your daughter, sister, mother, how would you  feel?