Don’t be cruel

I follow a few different news sites on Twitter and groups that support marriage equality, and it’s been rather cheering over the last couple of years to here as an increasing number of American states have brought in marriage equality, with bans being found unconstitutional. It’s cheering work and as more of the American population are granted the freedom to marry their partners.

At the start of October, Nevada joined the list of states where same sex marriage was allowed. This is, in my opinion good news and means that now gay couples can join in with the tradition of quick, ill thought out Vegas weddings.

Vegas, baby!

Vegas, baby!

Sadly, however, there are those who refuse to give ground on the issue. Unfortunately included in this is A Elvis Chapel, where punters can be married by an Elvis impersonator, because isn’t that how everyone pictures their special day?

I don’t mean to disparage anyone’s marriage plan, heck, if I’m being honest being married by a man dressed as the King doesn’t actually sound that bad to me. I’m not religious so a traditional church wedding isn’t a must for me should I ever tie the knot and as a fan of both Elvis and tacky stuff, it might be rather fun.

king

My family needn’t worry, as hypothetical talks watching Don’t Tell the Bride reveal that MWG would be unlikely to allow it.

But surely homosexual couples might want to get in on the act.

Sadly, at least in one chapel they won’t get the chance. A Elvis Chapel has announced they will not be performing same sex marriages, and refused to comment on the story.

However, an employee has been quoted as saying that it is because of their religious views, and that they can’t agree with the new law. They added “we don’t want to discriminate against any people at all” before reiterating that they would do exactly that.

Sadly, they’re not alone and another Vegas marriage chapel, Vegas Wed, also said that it was no dice for same sex couples, again citing their faith as a reason.

It’s a bit odd to hear these places play the “sanctity of marriage” card when their chapels don’t seem to feature much in the way of religion and lean more towards Elvis idolatry, and will allow people to get hitched after they’ve been hitting the bars all night. Why not just be open and admit it’s because of bigotry, as opposed to hiding behind a flimsy excuse of religious belief?

Yes, the Bible contains anti-gay passages, but as these groups purport to be Christian they should heed the fact that JC never actually discusses homosexuality, and his death served to create a new covenant between man and God, meaning that the Old Testament rules no longer applied and needed to be followed. This is why Christians can munch bacon cheeseburgers and other stuff that their Jewish brothers can’t.

Christianity has thrown off many of the old rules, but it’s depressing that many still cling to beliefs that are discriminatory and hurtful, which seems to go against all the JC stories I remember from when I went to church.

There is good news however, and same sex couples can still get the King package at the Viva Las Vegas chapel on the strip, which is nice, but it’s sad that so many are against it, essentially breaking the law and continuing to discriminate against same sex couples. Come on guys, take care of business and sort it out.

Story here.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Skin Deep: A teachable moment?

Earlier this week it emerged that a student teacher, Charlotte Tumilty, was sent home from her placement and told she could not complete her training there unless she covered her tattoos. The press here jumped on it because (a) they have lots of pages to fill and (b) it’s the type of story that will spark debate and spread like wildfire, bringing more traffic to their websites.

Tumilty

Tumilty

The reason for this is because it’s a contentious issue, and will divide people. There will be many who feel that the school, regardless of it’s Catholic stance, was in the right and that teachers are meant to be professionals and should look a certain way. Then there will be the opposition, and that’s where I join in.

Personally, I think the idea of tattoos being unprofessional is slightly outdated. It harks back to the old fashioned view of tattoos and those who have them, as being thuggish or associated with the criminal class. However, times change and tattoos are increasingly popular, with around 20% of the population sporting ink (according to this article) and with a growing range of people going under the needle (encouragingly in the article about Tumilty a poll shows that 61% believe teachers shouldn’t have to cover up tattoos at work).

It’s likely that many teachers probably do have tattoos, but keep them hidden, but should they? Do children respect people less for tattoos? Or is that something that the older generation do? The kids might have been distracted or found it unusual, but once the novelty had warn off Miss Tumilty would just have been another teacher.

The fact is there is no standard teacher look, there hasn’t been since the days when they all wore caps and gowns like in the Bash Street Kids. When I was at school none of our teachers had ink, or at least none that I saw, but they were a diverse bunch- we had an English teacher who was a bit of a hippy, a History teacher who constantly wore knee high leather boots, a Drama teacher who wore shocking red lipstick, much of which ended up on her teeth, an Art teacher who had a pornstar tache and I suspect smoked weed, and a Music teacher who looked like a friendlier, slightly neater Johnny Vegas.

bash street teacher

In fact, the most “teacherly” looking bloke at our school was an aging English teacher with a big bushy beard who wore suits. And of all the teachers he probably commanded the least respect (aside from the PE teachers, but they don’t really count. To quote School of Rock: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym”). This was due to his advance age, habit of falling asleep mid lesson and the fact that it was common knowledge that his coffee was more than a little Irish.

What I mean to say is that teachers come in all shapes and sizes. As do all people. To state that there’s a certain way teachers must look is daft. What matters is there ability. Tumilty may have been

Also, it seems that the school handled the situation poorly, and might have been better off taking Tumilty aside and advising her that from then on she should wear longer sleeves. Sending her home on her first day seems to be a bit rude and also, embarrassing for the young lady. A bit of tact might have helped and the story could have resolved itself quietly away from the public eye, which I feel would have been in the best interests of everyone.

Unfortunately, it hit the tabloids. I’m not sure why, but I assume Tumilty, angered or upset by the school’s response complained to it and it got to the press that way. This is fair enough, I believe that she had a legitimate grievance and the school could have handled it better.

However, in doing so Tumilty has shot herself in the foot.

It turns out that before becoming a trainee teacher Tumilty made her living as a model. A model who took off her clothes.

Under the name Charlie Horizon she modeled for sites like Punk Grls, which seems to be a Suicide Girls rip off.

Tumilty in her Charlie Horizon days

Tumilty in her Charlie Horizon days

Now, I’m not judging, I’m not slut shaming, Tumilty used her natural gifts to make a living and that’s her decision. Some quick research hints that it was all softcore stuff, and she may have enjoyed the work. However, while the tattoos are easily defendable the fact that she did this does make her suitability as a teacher slightly shakier.

This cat coming out of the bag is a problem.

For the Catholic school it’s even more reason not to want her around and puts Tumilty in an awkward position. She may be at a primary school, and one would hope the kids would be unaware of her past but if she went to teach at a secondary this would give the students extra ammo and would definitely impact the student-teacher dynamic.

And there are plenty of parents who would kick up a stink over a former model teaching their kids. Despite Tumilty having done nothing wrong she will face prejudice and judgement because of her former career and many will attack her suitability as a teacher because of it.

And so it seems that Tumilty won’t be able to continue as a teacher. It’s a shame as well, because the anti-tattoo brigade can now seize on Tumilty’s case as evidence that tattooed folks are unprofessional, and will stop us from being able to have a rational debate about reevaluating what we consider okay or not professionals.

I still think the school was in the wrong, and kinda feel that Tumilty should still be able to pursue teaching, but I can see that she faces an uphill struggle now and is unlikely to overcome people’s prejudices towards tattoos and/or nude modeling. Our society is getting more accepting of differences, and hopefully less judgmental, and in future we may have tattooed teachers without anyone even raising their eyebrows, but sadly this may be a few years down the line, and not benefit Tumilty.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: An American Nomad: A Road Trip In Search of America by Stephen Braxton Thompson

I continue to torture myself with travel books, and this one was especially masochistic as it deals with a long term US road trip, which is on my bucket list.

It’s an interesting read, with Thompson, a former foreign correspondent deciding to hit the road as he gets older. The trip is inspired by his increasing boredom with his quiet life and realization that he doesn’t know much about his homeland.

What follows are his short recollections of the trip, the sights he sees and the people he meets along the way.

american nomad

At times he can be a crabby old man (not a fan of women with tattoos) but Thompson is always entertaining and clever in his writings, capturing his love of the America he discovers and the renewed energy the trip gives him. He also reflects on how America has changed, the way travel has changed and the towns which have become empty and forlorn as the road tourism has dried up.

Along the way he has brief liaisons with women, gets stoned and chats to random folks he meets, all of which he recounts in short, entertaining entries. Thompson seems to embrace the life on the road with gusto, enjoying the nature and solitude, but also using the skills of his former job to coax life stories from strangers and go off the beaten track.

Funny, touching and extremely honest it’s also a pleasantly quick and easy read, and I’ve spent my lunchbreaks this week tearing through it, losing myself out on the road with Thompson and torturing myself with dreams of being far away.

Verdict: A really good read, Thompson is a skilled writer and he meets fairly interesting guide. The only downside is that it’ll make you wish you were on the open road too. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Milking it: Seriously, Josie, it’s getting really hard to have your back

Josie Cunningham, the notorious “NHS boob job” girl, has continued to haunt the tabloid press, and her newly arrived daughter has been born into a crazy world. Having narrowly avoided having her entrance into this world attended by four strangers, her daughter’s now unwittingly become part of the tabloid circus following Josie’s latest Twitter blunder.

josie

Josie was asked by various people on Twitter if she was breastfeeding, and her response was, shall we say, unexpected:

wish people would would stop asking if I’m breast feeding like Kimberley Walsh! No I’m not! I think the idea is vile and borderline incest

She later stated to The Sun that her “breasts are for my partner, not my child”, which is just lunacy. She then stated that while it may be “natural” but people need to move with the times. Hmmm.

I get that breastfeeding isn’t for every mother, and pushing it as vitally important merely serves to make mothers who have problems doing so feel bad about themselves.

Josie seems to have forgotten that breasts served a purpose before they became sexualised, and that was feeding infants. She seems to have got mixed up on this.

It gets even weirder, as Josie has decided not to share the milk with her partner instead choosing to sell her breast milk.

She isn’t the first to do this (I wrote about another case here) and interestingly, Josie has proven to be slightly savvy in this new business. She plans to sell to other parents for £2 an ounce, but will charge £10 to milk fetishists.

Yes, milk fetishists.

Some might feel this is a little gross, but the world don’t move to the beat of one drum, and there are probably stuff we’re all into that others don’t dig or find odd.

In his second autobiography Russell Brand spoke to involving it in his liaison with a new mother, so it may be more common than people think.

brand

I can’t lie I’m rather curious about how it tastes, having not had any since my own childhood and I don’t remember much about that. Of course, if I ever do try it again it will most likely be provided courtesy of MWG should we have kids, and hopefully free of charge. This would also allow me to explore my attraction to pregnant women.

Whether Josie finds a buyer or not remains to be seen, but there’s probably a market, so she might make a small profit.

But this latest, bizarre plan, coupled with her daft views on breastfeeding is making it harder to defend her as she continues to hand ammunition to her numerous critics. However, I wish her and her new baby well.

Any thoughts? You know hat to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

As a bookaholic, I love charity shops. I get to give to a good cause and load up on random books. Taking advantage of a 3 for £1 offer I picked up this book, which I’d never heard of before. It turned out to be an interesting read, and not the kind of thing I’d normally go for.

In the Ukraine, Viktor is a struggling author, unable to finish a novel and with his muse only sticking around long enough for short stories, he’s in hard times, living alone with only Misha the penguin he’s adopted for company. However, one day he is offered an odd job- writing obituaries in his philosophical style, for subjects still living.

Death-and-the-Penguin-Cover

At first the job works out fairly well, with Viktor digging into the lives of notable figures, originally picking them from headlines before getting files of new subjects from his editor.

Things start to get shaky when Viktor is visited by an old man, Misha-non-penguin, who offers vague hints and a shady background. Then people he’s written about start dying, and Viktor begins realizing that he might be part of a bigger plot.

I have mixed feelings about this book it’s pretty short but in some places well written. Kurkov balances the mundane with the absurd, as Viktor stumbles through his life, often in denial and unable to comprehend what he’s involved with. The conspiracy theory unfolds at a leisurely pace, although it is a tad predictable, and at times the length of time it takes for the penny to drop is a struggle.

Viktor is an unlikable protagonist, self obsessed, selfish and slightly dim, but the story moves along fast enough to hold your attention. Kurkov’s weakness seems to be his character work, as none of them, not even the penguin seem developed enough and they don’t react in natural or believable ways.

There are few jokes but there is some absurd and dark humour throughout, some of which works, some of which doesn’t, and the ending feels fitting for the downbeat world the novel takes place in.

The problem is while it was a fine way to spend the time I’m struggling to keep a clear idea of the book in my head and the overall impression is that of disappointment.

Verdict: An interesting, darkly comic conspiracy theory. The protagonist is deeply flawed, but it’s a quick read and keeps you interested even if it won’t stick with you much. 4/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Hit you with your selfie stick

Okay, right at the top I’m going to say I’m not one of those older people who has a snobbish, negative view of selfies and those who take them.
Sure, when I saw four friends cram into a portaloo to take a selfie on their camping trip I thought “what’s wrong with you?!” But that’s an exception.
I read something recently about how it’s wrong to slam selfies as vain or self absorbed because its better to have a generation of people who love themselves and are comfortable with how they look as opposed to the “I hate having my photo” taken anxiety. I’m paraphrasing badly, but I hope you get the point. That you can view the selfie as being a tool for confidence building and self expression.
Why all this selfie talk? Well, as written in the previous post, I went to see Lady Gaga this week and there were lots of pictures being taken.
For me this is a bugbear, because I think some people take the piss a little. One or two snaps, fine but don’t record for minutes at a time or snap away like the paparazzi.
Some of the photo taking at gigs, particularly Gaga shows, is kinda sweet. The Little Monsters are stoked to be that close to their idol, or proud of their homemade costumes. As I waited for MWG at one point I saw two strangers having a picture together because one dug the other’s costume, how can you not think that’s good?
Selfies at gigs are weird, I get the “stage behind” ones or a quick “me and my mates” shot, but most will be blurry, dim or unflattering. Sure the odd person lucks out like the Beyonce fan at the top, but most won’t.
Three girls in front wanted a photo to remember the show, but due to height differences and short arms it was a struggle.
Call me old fashioned but at that point I’d have asked someone nearby to take the shot for me.
Not these girls. Nope, one produced a “selfie stick”. I’ve never seen one of these in real life before and watched in intrigued horror as they extended it and held it aloft.
It may have resulted in a beautiful shot, but it seemed a bit of a stretch just for a photo. And it was up in the air, blocking the view and swaying around with reckless abandon.
I snapped a quick shot, hypocrite that I am, and luckily after a quick photo shoot it was folded away.
The selfie stick is a bridge to far for me. If your arms aren’t long enough or there’s no mirror handy, you should bite the bullet and accept it’s not going to be a selfie, and just have a regular, old fashioned photo taken.
Gods, I do sound old.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Gig Review: Lady Gaga at NIA, Birmingham

As the rain lashed down on a miserable day in Birmingham, making everything washed out and grim, but for the thousands of slightly damp little monsters gathered in the NIA it was a far brighter, more colourful evening, because Lady Gaga was in town, and she was amazing.

artrave lady gaga

I’d kinda forgotten she was touring at the moment. When the artRAVE dates had come out I’d been broke and so not being involved it fell out of my mental calendar. Then on Monday MWG told me she had a surprise for me on Wednesday afternoon, the only hints she offered was that we’d have to drive somewhere and I’d need to dress tidy-ish. Being naturally suspicious and someone who isn’t too keen on surprises, I thought of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, where they tell him he’s going to be made but instead winds up whacked.

No prying could get MWG to budge, but she insisted I’d like it, so I just asked, as a shot in the dark, “Are we going to see Lady Gaga?”. She probably could have styled it out, but MWG’s poker face is atrocious and I knew right away what was going on (she’d bagged a couple of tickets that the original owners couldn’t use). I think she expected me to have a meltdown, but I’m British, dammit, so I kept a lid on the excitement which grew all through Tuesday and Wednesday.

I freaking love Lady Gaga. MWG is a fan too, and between us we’ve seen both of her major UK tours (MWG saw Monster’s Ball in Cardiff, and I went to Dublin for the Born This Way ball). It was really cool to go see her again, and especially cool that I got to be with MWG for it.

Even a downpour couldn’t dampen my spirits and I filed into the NIA with the other little monsters, once again feeling that I was probably one of the bigger monsters and feeling slightly underdressed in my t-shirt and 3/4 lengths. I marveled at the costumes some of the fans had crafted for themselves and took my place for the opening acts.

First up was Breedlove, a singer/MC who was alright but seemed terribly out of his depth. With no accompanying band or dancers he was just a loan figure on a vast stage, singing to a largely disinterested crowd. He’s probably quite good in a smaller venue, like a club or bar, but here he just didn’t seem to have the presence to convince, although his songs were fine and catchy pieces.

Next up was Lady Starlight, who hadn’t impressed me in Dublin but was better here. She seemed really into her techno set and there was something endearingly gawky about her dancing, she also looked like her costume was inspired by those collectible dolls you get representing countries. Austria maybe? It wasn’t really my bag but got me bopping away and was kinda fun.

And then, after a lengthy delay, the main event!

Gaga emerged, adorned with wings and played the title track from the ARTPOP album, followed by “G.U.Y”, one of my faves from that album.

lady gaga

It was everything you expected from Mother Monster, a show of campy excess, fantastic vocals and her own, captivating, individual presence at the centre. I said of the Born This Way show in Dublin that at times it felt like a cult meeting at times and that was evident here, with the charismatic singer holding the audience in the palm of her hand throughout the gig.

It may have lacked the prog-esque concept of the previous tour, but the set was a triumph, with some of the big hits mixed with lesser known songs from the most recent album. In between songs Gaga spoke to the audience, in a mesmerizing mix of earnest expression, foul mouthed humour and tongue-in-cheek posturing.

The theme here was for her fans to direct their emotions into art and her own journey and growth as an artist. She talked to the crowd about self expression, addiction, self harm and self-acceptance, always with a feeling of genuine sincerity and care. The cynical may see it as Gaga playing the ally card, but it felt real to me (gods, I sound like that wrestling fan don’t I? “It’s still real to me, dammit!”) and must be extremely powerful for her younger fans who may be struggling to accept themselves and their place.

But beyond that it was just a triumph of pop art. OTT costumes, sexualized dancing and banging tunes, it supplied each in spades and was incredibly fun. I sang along, bounced about and while I may not have descended into the screeching raptures of the woman a few feet across from me, I was thoroughly entranced and loved every second.

lady gaga 2

I probably preferred the Dublin gig overall, but then Born This Way is an album I love and have listened to more, but in the run up to this gig I listened to ARTPOP a lot more and it’s better than I originally gave it credit for, and I suspect that Lady Gaga is going to be on hard rotation on my iPod for the coming weeks.

I’d definitely go see Lady Gaga again, which would make her the second artist I’d have seen 3 times, after Motorhead. Heck, I might even dress up a bit next time, really get into the spirit of things.

Paws up.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


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