Books, life the universe

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Woman Racket

I finished this interesting book by Steve Moxon last night and have posted a review on Amazon - which has not yet appeared. Overall I thought it was well written though the last few chapters were light on references and heavy on his own opinions. I have no problem with pornography as such though I must admit I didn't like his attitude that all pornography - including child pornography - is harmless. According to him punishing people for possessing child pornography is tantamount to punishing them for 'thought crime'. He seems to have missed the point that such photographs show children being abused and that a crime has to be committed in order to produce the pictures in the first place. Recent court cases have shown how child abuse can happen anywhere at any time.

I didn't like his attitude to sexual harassment laws either. He seems to be saying that normal banter between co-workers is what's ending up in the courts and people ought to grow a thicker skin and just put up with it. I have never had any problems myself dealing with unwanted attentions or offensive language at work and I must say the vast majority of men seem to have no problem in knowing where to draw the line. The legal cases I've read about are mainly where people have expressed dislike of what was going on and attempted to stop it and no one's paid any attention and just carried on.

His whole theory is that men have always been disadvantaged in Western society and women have been pampered and mollycoddled and still expect to be treated better than men. This is not the feminism I grew up with - which was that there needs to be equal opportunities for both sexes in all areas of life. I don't want - and never have wanted - special treatment. Like many male commentators he equates feminism with lesbianism and thinks the word patriarchy is a term of abuse instead of being simply a description of the society in which we live.

As I say an interesting read but giving certain women derogatory nicknames does not serve to enhance his argument, whatever he thinks.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Interesting facts about London Underground

I found Amazing and Extraordinary London Underground Facts by Stephen Halliday very interesting. It is a little book - less than 140 pages of text - but packed full of interesting snippets. I hadn't appreciated how many Americans - both speculators and engineers were involved in the building of it. There were plenty of conmen as well as people who made it their life's work to get sections of railway up and running.

I can just imagine what it must have been like underground when the trains were steam! Definitely not good for people with breathing difficulties. There are no illustrations and it would have been nice to see some photographs but this is meant to be a stocking filler type of book rather than a definitive history.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Leigh Russell

I am currently reading Cut Short by Leigh Russell and very good it is too. It is a psychological crime novel about a serial killer and features DI Geraldine Steel. It is a debut novel and not published by a main stream press but it deserves to be more widely known in my opinion. It is well written, the characters are believable and there are no excessive descriptions of violence - only what it necessary to the story. This is a great start to a new series and I'm already looking forward to the next episode. I recommend it to anyone who likes crime novels. If you want graphic and gruesome dismembered bodies then you won't find them in this book and it is all the better for it in my opinion.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Climate change

I think it is interesting that the current furore about the leaked e-mails suggesting climate change isn't man made comes just after the survey which showed the majority in this country do not believe climate change is anything to do with human beings. It seems common sense may be re-asserting itself. I've always thought climate change is a natural phenomenon if only because there have been ice ages before there was much human activity.

I know that doesn't mean we're having no effect but I do think it is easy to over estimate the effect and to underestimate the effect of such things as volcanoes. I have read supposedly serious articles which suggest earthquakes are man made though I have a feeling they originated with David Icke and are probably a fantasy. Paul Hudson - who does the weather forecast for this area and Yorkshire has suddenly become involved in the whole business because the e-mails were sent to him before they were made public. Some people are asking why he didn't make them public. I really can't see why he should feel obliged to do so but people get some strange ideas.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Concerned about rape

No no - nothing's happened to me. I'm still reading Steve Moxon's book - The Woman Racket and I'm starting to get annoyed. In two consecutive chapters he has demolished domestic violence and turned it into a wholly female on male crime and stated that anything up to 70% of rape allegations are false and that no one suffers serious after effects from being raped.

I fully accept women are not the only 'victims' of domestic violence and that men probably don't report it when they should for fear of ridicule. I also don't like the plans announced today to teach children that domestic violence is wrong but only when it comes to beating up women and children They should be taught that all violence is wrong - not just male on female violence.

As for rape - I know there have been several cases recently where women have been jailed for false allegations but it seems the author's definition of false is any case which doesn't result in a conviction and I have real problems with this. He also says if there are no signs of violence then it wasn't rape. Which does not square with anything women are told about self defence - if he's stronger than you don't struggle as you could end up dead or seriously injured. Better be raped and alive than dead - which seems like common sense to me.

He's also saying that the justice system is skewed against men in rape cases because they can't now bring in a woman's previous sexual history. In spite of this only 6% of cases result in a conviction - a result, I would say, of a jury trying to make up its mind beyond reasonable doubt about the defendant's guilt when it's often a case of one person's word against the other's. This to me is not a justice system unfairly biased against men. I do think that there ought to be anonymity for both - or neither - until after the trial.

The book concerned started off well with much evidence cited to back up his conclusions but the last couple of chapters seem to contain a lot of conclusions not backed up by verifiable data. He does talk briefly about male rape but doesn't seem so keen to suggest any of the cases which get to trial are false allegations. Which of course may be correct. I can understand why male rape could be more traumatic than female because many heterosexual men seem to be somewhat homophobic. But I don't think this should be used to suggest that women are not adversely affected by rape.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Retirement update

As it's almost exactly 6 months since my last day at work I thought I'd review the situation. Am I happy with the decision? Yes - totally. Have I adjusted to it? No possibly not completely as I still have the niggling feeling I ought to be doing something with a work feeling to it. It's that blessed Protestant work ethic I suppose.

I have every intention of doing either an Open University course or writing a book next year. I'm mulling over the idea of writing non-fiction instead of a novel as I think my talents probably lie more in that direction. Then there's the fact there is a much bigger market for non-fiction which makes it more likely it would be published. But more of that later when I've decided how to put my current thinking into action.

Then there's the inside of the house to decorate and the housework to do so there's plenty to occupy me not to speak of all those books to read. In short I love it and I'm really glad I took the plunge. It certainly felt right at the time - and that is always how I assess any big decision. Staying at work felt like doing the worst possible thing in the world when given the choice. I suspect there are several people left in the office I was in who wish they'd followed my example.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Brightest Star in the Sky

I'm not a huge fan of books by Marian Keyes though I have read a couple which I enjoyed so I decided to try The Brightest Star in the Sky - all 600 pages of it. If it had been a more normal size type face it wouldn't have been as long. It's in 13.5pt which is quite large for a book I think. Not that I'm complaining because it was easy to read. The story features the occupants of 4 flats at 66 Star Street in Dublin.

It also features a fairy - or ghost - take your pick, who is about to interfere in everyone's lives. Actually the fairy is not that intrusive and I sometimes felt the author had forgotten about the fairy. There is comedy and tragedy and yes it is a good light read but after much thought I downgraded it to 3 stars in my Amazon review because I've read much better. I know Marian Keyes has many thousands of fans but she doesn't quite do it for me. When there is a tragedy I expect to be moved to tears - I wasn't. Some of the book seemed quite muddled and there was some back tracking to fill in details. Many of the characters' actions were just not plausible and I didn't really care about them enough to worry about the sticky situations in which they found themselves.
The book itself has an all gold cover - which doesn't show up that well in the picture and is nicely produced as you might expect from one of the Penguin imprints but the contents were just not quite right. I don't think I'll be reading any more by this author.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Sorting out day today

I decided I'd got far too many unread books loitering around the place so I went through about 100 of them today. Many I don't think I will ever read even though I obviously thought I would when I bought them. The majority are second hand and cost me very little fortunately as if I buy a new book I will always at least attempt to read it even if I give up after 50 pages. I generally read at least 50 pages before coming to a decision. If a book hasn't grabbed me by that stage I won't usually persevere unless I have to write a review of it.

Having gone through them I've listed them all for sale on eBay and Amazon. And sold one within about 10 minutes - so that was a good start! If they don't sell within a few months they can go to a charity shop. If I didn't get ruthless with them I'd need a new house to put just the books in! The upside of the clear out is that I came across about a dozen which I'd forgotten I had and they've got themselves higher up the to read pile.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Education and feminism and Steve Moxon

This seems to be a common complaint of the education system these days. Apparently boys are being held back so that girls look better - not sure I believe that. People seem to be worried about most primary school teachers being women. I was at primary school in the 1950s/1960s and all my teachers - with one exception - were female. So how have things changed?

The other complaint is course work favours girls where exams favour boys. This is definitely a sweeping generalisation. I've come across more than one man who doesn't do well in exams but excels at coursework. I tend to do better in exams than I do at coursework but my mother used to go to pieces in exams. So surely if you have half the marks on the coursework and half on the exam that is fair to both? Or am I missing something?

I am currently reading an interesting book by Steve Moxon called The Woman Racket. I haven't got to the section about education though he has talked about men getting a higher percentage of first class honours degrees and being better than women at maths. His basic theory is that men are discriminated against because in almost any activity women cluster in the middle sections of ability with men at both ends - the best and the worst. Men have bigger brains and higher IQs. I paused to wonder whether that's because they were better at IQ tests but he seems to have ignored that point.

He also argues that the NHS pays more attention to women's health. Germaine Greer argues that's because it's an indirect way of controlling women by screening them for everything under the sun. I've also read somewhere that men in general resist attending for any sort of screening and that is one reason why screening programmes for prostate cancer etc are not considered viable. There is far more at stake than a simple discrimination issue.

Steve Moxon's basic argument is that women have never been discriminated against in any shape or form and have always lived privileged lives and yet they never achieve anything particularly noteworthy. Marie Curie anyone? Florence Nightingale? Rosalind Franklin? He also says we should not judge what happened in the past through the eyes of today. I know what he's getting at but surely nothing would change if we never looked at it differently? He is saying men are the ones who are discriminated against. He hasn't yet annoyed me and while I don't wholly agree with what he is saying it is interesting reading and is backed up by verifiable sources for a change.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Strange reasoning

Comments on news stories can show up some very strange reasoning. The two stories which have given rise to the strangest in the last few days have been the woman who was murdered with a captive bolt gun and the doctor who attempted to poison his pregnant girl friend. The murder was committed by an abattoir worker as might be expected and was carried out because the lady concerned did not want him as her boy friend and made it clear she didn't want him. The strangest were along the following lines:

She brought it on herself because she humiliated him by saying she wouldn't go out with him

All meat eaters are responsible for this murder because if you hadn't eaten meat there wouldn't have been a slaughter house for this guy to work in.

The doctor who attempted to poison his girlfriend to bring about an abortion of his baby prompted the following comments:

He's definitely innocent and she framed him by poisoning herself

Why was she going out with a married man? [She didn't know he was married until the police told her]. It's all her fault.

Women have abortions - this was no different. If he's got to go to jail then all women who have abortions should be jailed as well

What rational woman takes a cup of tea she thinks was poisoned to the police?

When I read the last one my immediate reaction was - any rational woman who wants to stay alive!

Monday, 16 November 2009

We have heating!

Well it was working while he was here and has gone on and off on its own so hopefully that is the problem solved. I haven't yet moved stuff back into the utility room and I think I'll leave that a couple of days to make sure. This is the best news I've had for at least a month. Just have to wait for the bill now.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

False Pretences

I gave up on the Cruel Hoax having realised that one of the books he was quoting from was actually revealed as a hoax way back in 1912. I have posted a review of it on Amazon which I'm sure will attract a lot of negative comments. The book already has two positive reviews which appear to have been written by men who have swallowed the theory hook line and sinker. I did read most of it though I skimmed through the last 50 pages as being hopelessly irrational and delusional.

I turned instead - with relief - to Veronica Heley's False Pretences which is the fourth book in her Abbot Agency series. I wasn't sure about this series at first but it is really growing on me. There is no on the page violence, characters attend church though they are definitely not holier than thou types. Zander - who appeared in a previous book - asks Bea for help. He works for the Tudor Trust which owns blocks of flats in London which it rents out at reasonable prices. Zander has discovered an ongoing fraud which is netting one of the directors a tidy sum each month and as a result has put himself in danger.

The plot is satisfyingly complicated and the regular characters - Oliver, Maggie, Max, Nicole and Piers make a welcome reappearance. This is a relaxing read with realistic characters and situations. I enjoyed it.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Cruel Hoax

I am currently reading a book called Cruel Hoax: Feminism and the New World Order by Henry Makow who seems to have an inferiority complex before he starts as he has PhD after his name on the book cover. His opinion - not backed up by verifiable facts - is that feminism was invented and propagated by the big banking families in America and Europe. It was done to destabilise society and make people more easily controllable. It was easier to invent feminism as women are much more easily brainwashed than men.

The whole idea is that women would be indoctrinated into thinking they should rebel against their oppression by men and destroy the nuclear family. According to this guy, feminists are all lesbians, communists and atheists and are being controlled by the Illuminati to break up families and not have children so that the world population reduces, society is fragmented and individuals are more easily controlled.

He seriously believes that women are naturally self sacrificing and find true happiness in giving up their wants and needs in exchange for being supported by a man. Men have only become promiscuous because women made them so and man's natural inclination is to have a wife and children but feminists thwart this desire. He says women should behave like they do in Muslim countries and not work outside the home. It is wicked not to have children. Obviously he is not aware that in Iran more than 50% of university students are women. The author says he never found happiness with women until he got himself a submissive wife who believes his word is law and that her own interests don't matter as long as he is happy.

Women should not have careers because it is not natural to have women in positions of authority over men. In fact all the things he says should happen if suggested in connection with a race or religion would be against most Western anti discrimination and race hate laws. I find it suspicious that even though he writes mainly about America he lives in Canada and his web site is hosted in Canada. Is he persona non grata in the USA? He also appears to have been adversely affected by being sacked from a University post because of sexual harassment in connection with his teaching of the works of D H Lawrence. His writing is emotive - 'feminists vomit' over material on his website and he does not back up his theories with verifiable facts only by quotes from long out of print books and articles.

I am far from believing that feminism holds all the answers but if this is the standard of the opposition they don't have much credibility.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Still no heating

The title really says it all. What's more the oil gauge keeps giving me a heart attack because it's showing the wrong reading. We even went out this morning to make sure the oil wasn't leaking out of the tank because it was showing half full when we know it's nearly full.

The boiler is supposed to have been sorted today but no one turned up. I just hope we aren't going to be faced with trying to get someone else to do it but I don't think I'm prepared to give him much later than Monday to sort it out before I do get someone else. This has gone on long enough.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Gender and the Media

I'm still ploughing my way through Rosalind Gill's fascinating book Gender and the Media. I was reading last night about magazines especially the ones which have sprung up over the last 15 to 20 years aimed at men. Some of the quotes are really awful - just so sexist and derogatory. As the author says it is almost impossible to complain about them or criticise because they are billed as ironical or humorous and forestall criticism by saying what follows is not meant seriously. In other words they are using the get out which some men have always used when you complain about an unpleasant remark - only joking, you must have lost your sense of humour.

I was also interested to read about women's magazines and how the majority spend all their time telling you how to have better sex, how to attract a man, how to make yourself more attractive. These were the reasons I stopped bothering with women's magazines. They never had any thought provoking articles in them it was all aimed at finding a man. Cosmopolitan was never like that when it first came out as it had hardly any fashion and make up stuff in it and was all about social issues of the day, relationships - other than with men - practical things, books, music, theatre travel etc. I stopped buying it because it became far more traditional.

For a while I bought one called - I think - Red which came out every fortnight and had really interesting articles about politics, problems in this country and elsewhere and sort of up market true confessions. But even that got boring after a while. Marie Claire was quite good as well at one time. Now I just don't bother with magazines except ones about writing.

Am I the only one who thinks clothes, make up, appearance, weight, doing the right thing to attract men and keep them interested is just soooo boring? These days it is so in your face it is difficult to avoid - it seems to be my duty as a woman to be always dressed up and made up and worrying about what people think of me. This 21st century woman wants more interest in life than that. Where have all the feminists gone?

Monday, 9 November 2009

Gender in newspapers

I was reading a chapter in Rosalind Gill's book last night about women's invisibility in news stories which got me thinking. If you're watching the news on television watch how many stories are about men and how many times an expert interviewed is male. I started off this morning looking at two newspaper websites - The Times and the Telegraph. The Telegraph was almost exactly 50/50 split and mainly it did not add anything about a woman's appearance or family background to stories about women unless it was relevant. The Times was much more male dominated with the majority of stories featuring men and male experts though again they did not tend to say whether a woman was married or not.

The Mail - which I also briefly looked at - had far more stories where a woman's appearance was described and descriptions such as 'single mother', 'mistress', 'widow' etc were used far more than on the other two sites. The stories featuring men or women were pretty well evenly spread between the two - it was only in the Times that there were far more stories featuring men than women. I was only looking at the top UK news stories rather than anything else on the sites.

Sunday, 8 November 2009


I am pursuing my interest in the gender war - not that I like that way of describing it because to me it isn't a war. I'm currently reading Gender and the Media by Rosalind Gill which I am finding fascinating even though it is really an academic text. It's about how the way different sections of the media portray gender so it's not just about women but about men and masculinity and about what is apparently called Queer Theory - i.e. lesbians, bisexuals and trans gender people as well as homosexuals. It covers newspapers and magazines as well as books - though not apparently the Internet.

I tried to read - and failed to finish - Dick Masterson's Men are Better than Women. It is basically a misogynistic rant and the author appears to think there is absolutely nothing a woman is good at or good for. I'm all for not having censorship but if he had written the same thing about any ethnic group it would have been an incitement to racial hatred but there is no law that covers hatred of women - or men for that matter. It made me wonder whether I would have felt the same if it had been a book written by women about men and I concluded I would have done. It is just completely distasteful. It is advertised as humour but even some men reviewing it on Amazon didn't think it was funny.
Audio book
As light relief I am listening to Jane Austen's Emma - read by Jenny Agutter - very relaxing and her voice is just perfect for this book. I had forgotten how bitchy some of the dialogue is. Mrs Elton especially is just so unpleasant in such a civilised way. I'm nearly up to the famous Box Hill incident. I really like audio books and listened to two of the discs before I got up this morning.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Boiler news

Boilerman could not get here yesterday because his son - who works with him - managed to wrench off half his thumbnail - ouch!! He arrived today and has tried to seal all the joints in the pipe from the oil tank into the boiler - without too much success. He has decided to replace the pipe from the oil tank to the boiler as being the only thing that's going to solve the problem as there must be somewhere along it's length that it is taking in air. He isn't going to dig up the old one though - just put in a new one - which makes sense. So he's coming back on Tuesday to do that. Well at least it isn't a new boiler and hopefully that should solve it - he is confident it will.

I'm feeling all right today - but then I'm one of these people who can deal with bad news it's not knowing what I'm dealing with that really freaks me out. It's also bright sunny weather - which helps. Think I need to invest in one of those light boxes.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Trip out today

I went into Boston today and had a pleasant mooch around. I've not really looked round the shops properly since I stopped working there in 2005 and the shopping area has expanded. There is even a Costa Coffee and a Greggs now not that these necessarily constitute an improvement. Everywhere was busy and as usual in Boots you needed a packed lunch and a good book before you joined the queue to pay. Why is the service so slow in Boots? I used to find this in Spalding and I thought it was just that store but Boston is just as bad.

The sun was out this morning - it's raining now - and I was standing at one end of the marketplace looking toward St Botolphs church - AKA Boston Stump - and marvelling at how dominant the church is. It sort of fades into the background if the weather is dull but comes into its own in sunny weather. One of the pubs close to the church is called The Stump and Candle which always amuses me. The Wetherspoons pub by the river is called The Moon Under Water - which may be particularly relevant if the river overflows its banks.

I've always thought Boston is a bit drab in appearance but when you look at it more closely there are so many Medieval and Tudor buildings it's amazing. Lots of lanes as well with their names in wrought iron in an arch at the beginning and end. Strange street names as well: - Strait Bargate (yes it really is spelled like that), Wide Bargate, Dolphin Lane, Pump Square, Pescod Square. I must go and remind myself of what Pevsner says about Boston buildings.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Central heating again and chocolate

Our boilerman arrived yesterday afternoon to fix the boiler - again. Which he did temporarily saying it was still taking in air and he would need to come back - when it is light to make sure it's nothing to do with the oil tank end of things. We were all three standing in the kitchen talking and half listening to the boiler to make sure it was all right. It went off - as it was up to temperature - came on again because the heating had cooled it down and then it went bang loudly three or four times. Leaving us all coughing because of the clouds of blue smoke.

So he's coming back again - in daylight - to try and find out what's going wrong with it. As he said - they shouldn't do that. Obviously he never normally sees boiler do that as he will only be called out once they've gone bang. I think I was the calmest one of the three of us - possibly because I have actually seen another oil fired boiler do something similar years ago. I called the fire brigade on that occasion because I was in the house on my own and the phone was in the same room as the boiler. So we're back to our electric back up system. Mind you we don't need the heating on at the moment because of the brilliant sunshine.


Yes folks as I've said before it really does make me bad tempered and irritable. I haven't had any for 3 or 4 days. I had a Cadbury's Twirl last night - feeling I deserved it - and today I am much more short tempered than normal. Yesterday I was fine - not even after the events related above was I irritable or bad tempered. Now I feel like snapping at anyone and everyone - grhh!! I really shall have to give it up - except for special occasions

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Sweet Sorrow

David Roberts' Sweet Sorrow is the latest in his Verity Browne and Edward Corinth mysteries. I think it is probably one of the best as well. I wasn't impressed with Something Wicked; No More Dying - the last one - was good, but this is even better. Set in 1939 just before the outbreak of war, it includes cameo appearances by Leonard and Virginia Woolf and Dylan Thomas. Verity is waiting to be sent abroad as foreign correspondent for her paper and Edward is waiting to be told what the Foreign Office and MI5 want him to do - which may or may not include escorting the Duke of Windsor to a place of safety.

In the midst of all this Verity and Edward have just got married and bought a house in a small village in Sussex only to find that violent death has followed them. Byron Gates a philandering poet is murdered with a sword. Edward spends half the book saying he's not going to investigate the murder while actually following various leads. The dialogue is excellent and it seems as though the author has really got to know his main characters over the course of the series. The early niggles of married life where each person misunderstands the other and over reacts to them is brilliantly done. The background is really good as well - politics, the BBC and the 1930s literary scene. Good reading

Monday, 2 November 2009

Dying in the Wool

I started reading Frances Brody's Dying in the Wool last night and found I was still reading it an hour later even though I'd only intended to read the first chapter to see what it was like. It's set in the Leeds area in 1922. Kate Shackleton is a widow and she has developed something of a reputation for solving mysteries. When she is contacted by an old acquaintance - Tabitha - who would like Kate to trace her missing mill owner father and is willing to pay for her service Kate is intrigued. The book is written in the first person and has unexpected touches of humour. I was attracted by the cover which absolutely fits the story. It seems as though it is going to be the start of a series - which is always a good thing.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Women's history

I am currently reading Rosalind Miles's The Women's History of the World. It is really interesting and shows how much more freedom and opportunity women had in civilisations before the Christian era. When the Gods were Goddesses and women chose their own husbands - the plural is deliberate. It seems to have been when the world went over to monotheistic religions that things changed. Women then became chattels - subject throughout their lives to male control and decree. Segregated from society for one week in four and regarded as animals to be controlled rather than sentient human beings.

I was intrigued to read the origin of the term faggot when applied to homosexuals. Male homosexuals were burnt at the base of the fire which burned witches - i.e. used as faggots in the other sense of the word, to get the fire going. What a wonderful thing is prejudice. Especially when you consider that in ancient Greece homosexuality was the norm and women were only there for procreation and not pleasure. Though the Greeks were better in their treatment of women than later civilisations - boys and girls being regarded as equal and educated to the same standard.
Seems as though in the Middle Ages in Europe the safest role for women who wanted a long and peaceful life was to enter a nunnery. They lived a lot longer - were not subject to any rule apart from that of their order and could rise to the post of Abbess. The only alternative was marriage - and constant child bearing before an early death.