I’m a man, and I order Lemon and Herb

Disclaimer: MWG had the TV on while I was watching this so I got distracted by the cheesiness of The Lizzie McGuire movie, so forgive me if this goes astray.

On Sunday night, to celebrate my birthday MWG took me to a rather fancy hotel. It was four stars and probably the nicest place I’ve ever stayed, having checked in we went for food and decided on Nando’s, I think in part to cancel out the poshness of the hotel.

nandos

For those unfamiliar with Nando’s it’s a chain of chicken restaurants that serve food with peri-peri sauce and have a Mozambican/Portuguese theme according to Wikipedia. The food’s pretty decent and it’s got a relaxed atmosphere, so it’s a pretty cool place all in all, apart from that some idiots go in there and use terms like “cheeky Nando’s”.

Whatever, as we sat down I decided on my order- a double burger. And as you can choose your spice level, from Plain(ish) to Extra Extra Hot, I opted for Lemon and Herb, which is towards the low end of the spectrum. If I’m having just one burger I’d go for medium, but with two I decided to take it down a notch, and the Lemon and Herb is actually pretty tasty.

While MWG placed the order I sat at the table and remembered something I’d read once, a quick Google found the same thing, via the Cosmopolitan website, where a Nando’s staff member confessed:

You wouldn’t believe how many guys order ‘weak’ chicken and quietly ask you to change the flag so it makes it looks like they ordered hot chicken. It happens ALL the time.

That is hands down one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever heard. And one of the most pointless.

If you don’t want spicy, don’t order spicy. There’s nothing wrong with not liking hot food, it’s just a personal taste thing.

I suspect it’s some kind of bollocks macho thing, where they don’t want to look weak or girly, which is a little bit depressing. And I’d argue it’s kinda weak to pretend to be eating Extra Extra Hot when it’s just a Medium, just be open about it, you are who you are, don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

The fact that these dudes feel the need to mask it shows how stupid this whole masculinity concept is in our society. It’s a vague concept at the best of times, that someone is somehow more “manly” than another guy. That there’s a checklist you have to tick off in order to be a “real man”.

There isn’t.

Stephen Fry. Tommy Lee. Bear Grylls. David Cameron. Russell Brand. Mike Tyson. Prince. The Rock.

All of these are men. Is one more of a man than the others? No.

Masculinity shouldn’t exist, or at least shouldn’t be a big deal. Why not just do what you want, rather than worrying about how it looks to other people?

I’m not the most macho of guys, and I regularly get grief from people about liking stuff which isn’t traditionally manly- rom coms, Eurovision, shirts with flowers on, Made in Chelsea, Lady Gaga etc. I get told I need to stop being “girly”.

lady gaga

This is annoying because (a) is being like a girl really an insult? I don’t think so and (b) what the hell is wrong with liking what I like? Does it hurt others that I like blaring Born This Way on my iPod? Or that I think When Harry Met Sally is a quality movie?

Does it matter that I don’t give a toss about cars or the size of their engine? That I scream when I see a spider? That I order a Korma sometimes?

There’s this pressure on dudes to be “manly”, and it’s not good. It’s making people insecure about who they are, and that’s never good.

It’s also not healthy, and potentially dangerous, making men less likely to open up about their emotions, or seek help for problems, because that’s not seen as being a manly thing to do. They bottle things up, but sooner or later something’s gotta give, and talking it out early on might save everyone a lot of bother and misery.

That’s the serious end of the spectrum, but it bleeds through into regular life for dudes. They worry about how they look to others, they can’t be open about what they like and who they are. It even ruins their trips out for some chicken, because they’re worried about being exposed as a Lemon and Herb eater.

And even more depressingly it’s continuing this view that feminine things are lesser, or bad. That the worst thing a man can be is like a woman, as if women are inherently a bad thing. Which I think we all know is utter bollocks.

You like what you like. Don’t worry about whether it’s traditionally aimed at the other gender, it speaks to you, so embrace it. Trying to stick to what society expects of your gender limits your opportunities and choices, and you’ll never match all the expectations and standards, and you shouldn’t try to.

You’re an individual, not some daft list of characteristics that people can’t even agree on fully.

You’re a man because you’re a man, not because of what you like or how spicy your food is.

Be who you are, and when you make peace with that, you’ll feel a whole lot better, and won’t have to switch flags in your chicken.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Inked: Live!

Getting your calf tattooed hurts a lot more than your arms. Or at least that’s my experience, because I’m currently in a fair amount of pain as Morgan at Frontier gives me a chubby mermaid on my right leg.
Luckily I have MWG on hand to comfort me with terrible jokes and to take pictures of my pained face for her amusement (see above).
To be fair as MWG and her mum have put cash towards this, an idea I’ve wanted for a while, as my 30th birthday present.
I’ve decided to blog as it’s done in order to distract myself. I’ve had worse pain, I caught the tip of Fernando in a zip once and watched the Wales vs Italy game where the ref screwed us over and we drew, much to the mockery of every single English person I knew.
Anyway, that being said this does quite hurt. Not in a “Kill me now!” Way but in a prolonged discomfort way, a repetitive scratching that surpasses what I’ve had before.
I think part of the problem is that the position, and it seems to hurt worse nearer the knee and on the sides, the meaty part of my calf isn’t so bad.
I think the major problem is I can’t see what he’s doing. On my arms I could see it all getting done and knew I was a fair amount in. I also knew that an inch was an inch whereas now I fear what feels like an inch has actually just been a few millimetres.
Still it’ll be worth it, Morgan got the concept and the sketch was bang on. I’ll post this later when I have a pic to add at the bottom, but for now, at 11:45 this is me signing off, halfway through.
And while I hate to be all macho and lame, I was raised on John Wayne movies, so feel I have to point out that despite the hurt I haven’t cried. Of course, it might get dustier in here.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Bearded Lady by Mara Altman

Body hair is something I discussed recently in a post, and while I think I got my points across well enough it’s always going to be flawed having a discussion regarding female body hair from a male perspective. Before posting it I talked to female friends about it, but decided I needed a female perspective so tracked down this Kindle Single that I remembered having cropped up on the “Top Titles” list at Amazon.

bearded lady

I’m glad I did because it’s a wonderfully written book, interesting and entertaining. Mara Altman is a self confessed hairy woman and writes this book which examines attitudes towards female body hair, the beauty industry and her own feelings about her body hair.

It helps that Altman is a funny, personable guide on this journey, opening up about her own obsession with removing her own body hair and the lengths she’s gone to do so (including some painful sounding therapies). She intersperses this with research into the history of shaving and the theories behind why it’s become such a big deal for women.

These theories are conflicting but put forward interesting ideas- that shaving became fashionable in the early 20th century when women had less control so it was one area where they were in charge, while another suggests that it’s founded in misogyny and that as men are afraid of women and their power, they’re more attracted to shaved women because they seem younger and more innocent. The misogyny theory is all kinds of creepy, and tied in with robbing women of being proud of their bodies and insecure. I’m not sure whether I fully buy either theory based on this, but further reading might develop them.

The book is rather short, but I think this is a good thing and Altman’s wit and humour throughout makes it a breezy read. It makes you think about the damage beauty standards might be doing and how attitudes have changed, but it’s most interesting on a personal level, with Altman being both bothered by her hair and bothered by the fact it bothers her so much. As the child of a hairy hippy mother she admits to feeling like a traitor when she decided to shave as a teen, provoked by her hairy legs being drawn attention to and standing out compared to her classmates.

It’s this personal story, and Altman’s acceptance of her conflicting feelings that make it an interesting read and finding out that Altman has written other books on issues like motherhood, sex and marriage, which I will be adding to my Kindle wishlist.

It’s not the full story, or the universal female perspective on body hair (there probably isn’t one), but it’s a fun and interesting personal story and Altman is beautifully frank and open. What appealed to a soft git like me is that one of the continuing themes is that she’s kept her body hair hidden from her partner, and the final sequence where she tells him, and his reaction is a funny, charming conclusion for the book.

Verdict: A fantastic read, very easy and fun, with Altman showing warmth, openness and intelligence throughout. It’s an interesting personal view on the issue of body hair. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: The Con Man by Ed McBain

I’m really getting into McBain’s 87th Precinct series now, and this, the fourth installment, may be my favourite so far. It follows the standard formula, dealing with the same bunch of detectives and moving on the strands and subplots from the previous stories.

con man

Here there are two cases developing next to each other, both involving cons and swindles. Detectives Brown and Kling work to track down and stop a serial con man and his partner who have been fleecing the residents of the city with various schemes, a case which angers Brown immensely.

Meanwhile, returning to duty after being shot in The Pusher, Steve Carella investigates a series of murders. Several young women turn up in the river, all killed by arsenic poisoning and all with similar tattoos on their hands. Carella begins looking into it, talking to different tattooists to track down his killer.

At the same time McBain shows us Priscilla, a woman responding to a lonely hearts advert and who meets a charming, good looking man who proposes, before revealing he’d like her to get a tattoo on her hand…

Will Carella find his man before Priscilla becomes the next victim? Is there a connection with Brown and Kling’s case?

What I love about this book is that McBain’s writing style, which is tough, vivid and loaded with sardonic wit. He’s a clever, funny writer who includes little riffs and insights between the action. It’s an engaging story and his decision to give Carella’s hearing and speaking impaired wife, Teddy, more of a role is quite a nice touch and lead to a thrilling and gripping conclusion. McBain builds the tension fantastically and I blazed through the closing stages, totally swept up in the story.

A fantastic, engaging crime thriller.

Verdict: McBain is a fantastic writer, showing his skills with building tension and naturalistic dialogue. This is a wonderfully crafted thriller and a great, quick read. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Christian Aid, please, stop bothering me

It’s Christian Aid week.
I know this because they’ve texted me about it twice.
They have my mobile number because I did one of their text donation campaigns. You know the ones, you text a specific word and it deducts a fiver from your credit.
It’s a good idea, because it’s a simple, quick way to donate to charity. For someone like me its a good thing because I’ve already paid for my phone credit, and with free texts that £5 isn’t really going to be missed. Better it goes to a good cause rather than I waste it listening to voicemails telling me I’m owed PPI or money for my recent accident, which must have involved a blow to my head as I have no recollection of it.
Anyway, I have no problem sending them money. My policy on charity is simple- I might be poor but there’s plenty of folks who are worse off, so when I have some spare cash I’ll give them to a chugger or drop them in a pot.
So with text campaigns I’ll text when I can afford it.
Which is why Christian Aid texting me is annoying me. I get they need to chase donations to keep doing their good works, but seriously, guys, back the hell off.
People donate when they can, and what they can. CA knows of me because I’ve already donated, as have plenty of others. I just don’t think it’s cool for them to go after people for more, making them feel bad or like they haven’t done enough.
CA should consider that maybe people can’t give more that that £5. That they want to help, but can’t afford more than that.
CA and other tragedies should gratefully accept what people can give and avoid this direct approach, which just feels a bit too full on. I don’t mind seeing ads or posters, but coming straight to my inbox is not on.
Charities need to respect boundaries and consider who they might be messaging, they could be making people feel bad or guilting them into giving more than they can comfortably afford to give.
At the very least they could make their begging texts funny or clever, not just route one “send us £5″ style messages.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


My Favourite Films #38: Taken

I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money…but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it- I will not look for you, I will not pursue you….but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you…and I will kill you.

That speech, delivered by Liam Neeson’s ex-government agent Brian Mills over the phone to his daughter’s kidnapper is the high point of this film and one of the most badass movie speeches of all time, like the 21st century equivalent of Dirty Harry’s “Do you feel lucky?” speech.

taken

The snatching scene is an immensely powerful film, with Brian hearing his daughter scream for help and get taken. It would be effective in any film, but with Neeson rather than a traditional action hero it’s even better. As he listens his face clearly shows the fear and shock as he lives every parent’s nightmare, and then incredibly subtly his face shifts and a steely resolve is clear. Then he delivers the above speech.

taken call

The movie, written and produced by Luc Besson, the French action movie legend, follows Mills as he travels to Paris on the trail of his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who’s been snatched by human traffickers. Arriving in Paris he punches, shoots and tortures his way through the Eastern European heavies to track Kim and her friend down.

Along the way he realizes that the Albanian mob has ties everywhere and even old friends can’t be trusted and he wages his one man war on the mob.

The movie exists in a post Bourne and 24 world so there’s some extremely gritty, bone crunching action along the way and Neeson’s character isn’t adverse to torturing people for information. This causes problems for some viewers, but luckily despite the gritty realism of some scenes it stays true to it’s roots by having a string of unremarkable goons for Neeson to wade through.

Pierre Morel the director and student of Luc Besson (he’d previously worked as cinematographer on Jason Statham vehicle The Transporter and directed the pretty ace District 13) is capable behind the camera and shoots the whole thing in a tight, fast paced way with plenty of in your face camera work and a real knack for capturing the seedy underbelly of Paris.

But above all else it’s Neeson’s film. Since this he’s had a string of action hero style roles, but this was the first one and it was a bit of a surprise to see an actor like him switch to doing a rather nasty exploitation movie.

Neeson in action

Neeson in action

The nastiness works in it’s favour, allowing Neeson to sink his teeth into a morally ambiguous, relentless character who seems willing to go to any lengths to get his daughter back. The rather vicious, grim tone is a large reason for the film’s success which makes the fact they cut the sequel down to a 12 all the more mindboggling and disappointing, because this movie is a well executed, solid B-movie that sticks true to it’s nasty roots but is elevated by a strong central performance from Neeson.

Mills is an engaging character. His skills are impressive, but his strongest trait is resisting telling his ex wife “I told you so” after his fears for his daughter’s safety are realized.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


30: Old

30 isn’t that old, really.

If someone dies at 30 folks would say that they were taken too early.

Most people make 30. Here in the UK most of us will double that, and quite a few will triple it, blowing out 90 candles.

Yeah, 30 isn’t old.

It just feels like it is.

Despite being one higher, “I’m 30″ sounds so much older than “I’m 29″.

I know this because I’m rapidly racing towards the big three-oh and it’s the first birthday that feels like a big deal.

30-candles

18- Big whoop, I now don’t have to fret over getting served, knowing I have a legit ID in my pocket.

21- I can already do everything as an adult, and am confused as to why this age is seen as a big deal.

25- Quarter of a century? Big deal.

But 30?

Thirty feels different, I think it’s because thirty sounds like proper adulthood. Thirty feels like I should know what I’m doing and where I want to go next.

When my Dad turned 30 he was a fully formed adult- he had the job he’d wanted and worked hard for years to get. He had a wife and a house, one kid and another a few months away.

When I was untimely ripped from my mother’s womb my Dad was a proper grown up, and a less grey version of the man he continues to be today.

As for me?

Well, I’ve come a long way since then, but sometimes I feel a few light years away from real adulthood.

Should a real grown up still daydream about being WWE champ? Or gaining superpowers? Or their plan for if there’s a zombie apocalypse?

I doubt it.

A proper grown up should know what they want, or at least what they’re doing.

I don’t.

I haven’t been on a solid footing since 2001, when I knew that I’d do my GCSEs and go on to sixth form college.

Since then I’ve just rumbled forward, stumbling and falling my way forward like a clumsy Juggernaut.

It's the Juggernaut, bitch!

It’s the Juggernaut, bitch!

 

If you’d asked me in ’01 where I’d be now, I’d wouldn’t have even hazarded a guest, but if you’d asked 2001 Chris if 2015 Chris would have it sorted he’d probably have thought he would.

But I don’t, which both terrifies and excites me in equal measure.

On the scary side, everything is up in the air. When my lease runs out I have no idea where I’m going, probably back to my parents’, which is a drag. I’m still adrift in unemployment. Financially? Don’t even ask.

But on the exciting side? I’m planning to build a life with MWG, and we’ve even looked at a cat together (which will live with MWG’s mum for the time being, but when I get a job we’ll look for a place together.

Career wise? Well, like I said, I’m drifting but I have the chance to take stock and try new stuff, which is sort of exciting. I have a few ideas I’m looking into and it’s nice to have options.

Going back to uni might not have worked out, but it at least got me out of the situation I was in before, where I probably could have slogged on for a few more years, unhappy but getting by. Rolling the dice on uni may not have paid off, but it at least forced me to act and change my situation. To paraphrase Nick Hornby referencing Bruce Springsteen– I escaped and burned rather than stayed and rotted. And I think that’s a good thing.

And going to uni is how I met MWG which is pretty amazing. So while it was a failure, it wasn’t a complete failure and I learnt stuff about myself, so I’m chalking it up to experience.

I think that going to uni is also part of why 30 feels like such a big deal. When everyone around you is at most year or two younger, it’s probably not a massive deal, but living with a bunch of kids people who are a decade younger than you and call you “Grandad” definitely hammers home that you’re not a youngster anymore.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act by Ron Gutman

This was a Kindle single I picked up which is based on a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk that Ron Gutman gave. For those unfamiliar the TED conferences are laid on around the world under the banner of “Ideas Worth Spreading”.

Gutman is an entrepreneur who’s CEO of a health and well being company and a seasoned traveler. His topic for his talk was smiles and their power.
smile gutman

Whether it’s alleviating a tense and seemingly hostile bus ride in Zambia or just smiling at a baby Gutman investigates why the smile is a global similarity that all humans share and the different effects it can have on our lives. It’s interesting to learn that research shows that frequent smiling can actually raise your mood, even if it’s for no reason, and that it’s actually more effective than eating chocolate or getting money for making us happy.

Gutman’s a positive voice who explains that smiling can set off a chain reaction which makes others feel better, makes them smile and in turn makes us feel better. It’s also the case that the people we smile at are likely to go on and pay it forward, which is pretty cool.

It’s a great quick read that gives you a few interesting fact and makes you think about how a small thing can make a difference to your life. And it’ll make you want to go out there and smile more, even if only for the reason that it’s supposed to make you appear more attractive, which someone really needs to tell Victoria Beckham, before her face freezes into that pout.

Verdict: An interesting and extremely positive read about how a simple smile can change our situation and our emotions. Filled with interesting facts it’ll make you think more about the power of your smile and make you want to use it as much as you can. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Shrapnel

£12.17!
Twelve pound seventeen?!
For this I schlepped all the way to Tesco, soaked my feet and got splashed by a passing car?
A while ago I added a money tin to my Amazon wish list. You know the deal, it’s like a regular food tin that you have to use a tin opener for. The idea is that you keep saving until its full, so you don’t just constantly raid your change reserves.
I’ve had mine for over a year now and everytime I had coppers or 5ps I’d toss them in. Every so often I’d give it a little shake or lift to see how full it felt, imagining what I’d do with all the cash I’d saved up.
This week with it almost full and my money getting low I thought I’d cash in. I broke into it, dumped it into a carrier bag and headed out into the rain to use the Coinstar machine.
I felt sure that I was looking at a decent payout, maybe around the thirty quid mark. Enough to treat myself to some comics, or maybe a trip to see Mad Max: Fury Road, or a Dominos for MWG and me. Whatever I daydreamed about strolling out with a wad of cash.
It was disappointing then that as the last few coins clunked down that the display showed that I only had a little over £12 to show for a year of coin hording.
It’d be like if they priced up Smaug’s trove and it worked out to be a couple of hundred quid.
£12 to spend is better than a bunch of coins you can’t use, but still, I’m now kinda annoyed that I hadn’t thrown in a few 10ps along the way, or waited until it was completely full.
I took £2 of my savings to Costa for a latte and then wandered home, wet, disappointed and a lot poorer than I’d hoped.
This is the annoying thing about change, it weighs a ton and then works out to be a pathetically small amount.
Gods, reading this back could it be any more of a First World Problem? Woe is me, I only have just over a tenner.
I don’t think I’d be that bothered if the weather was nice today or if I hadn’t hyped it up in my head.
Overthinking, see, never a good thing to do.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Having bought an omnibus of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom stories I decided to continue with this one, and was pleasantly surprised by how much it strays off the formula of the adventures thus far. Firstly, the protagonist isn’t John Carter, the Virginian transported to Mars, but rather his son, Carthoris and while previous installments have been narrated by the hero this is in the third person.

maid of mars

The story starts in Ptarth, one of Mars’ cities where Carthoris rescues Thuvia from the unwanted attentions of another city’s prince, Astok. Following this Carthoris reveals his love for her, but she tells him she is engaged to another, one of his father’s friends and allies, and that he has acted inappropriately. Carthoris leaves.

Shortly after Thuvia is kidnapped and suspicion falls on Carthoris, who sets off to Ptarth to prove his innocence, however his ship has been tampered with and he ends up in the wastes of Barsoom. Fortunately Thuvia has been brought to the same place, although she escapes her kidnappers only to be seized by the green men and stolen away.

Carthoris then sets out to rescue her, on the way discovering a lost civilization of powerful, telepathic Martians.

Meanwhile, Thuvia and Carthoris’ disappearance has pushed the planet to the brink of war. Can they figure out who’s really to blame? Will they be in time to stop the war? And does Thuvia feel the same way about Carthoris?

I quite enjoyed this book, even if it is a tad predictable. The change in style was very welcome as some of John Carter’s narration could be a bit arrogant and pompous, and it flows far better in the third person. There’s plenty of derring-do and fighting to keep you engaged, and ERB keeps it zipping along at a decent pace.

There are flaws, this is the third species of mysterious Martians that have been discovered, which seems a bit much. And Thuvia does very little other than get rescued, she’s never developed fully and aside from her looks we don’t have much sense of why Carthoris’ attraction to her is more worthy than those of the other characters.

That being said it’s a pretty enjoying adventure story and a quick read, I’d say it’s better than Warlord of Mars, and it’s nice to see a different focus and it’s nice to see ERB shake things up a bit. The only problem is that Carthoris being a native means we lose the outsider’s perspective a little, still at least we’re spared Carter blowing his own trumpet so much.

Verdict: Quite a fun adventure story, but a bit formulaic. Burroughs changes his style but a lot of it is more of the same. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


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