Wednesday, 23 August 2017
Sunday, 29 March 2015
I have been somewhat quiet on this blog for a while after all the activity in 2014! I am currently running a couple of tumblr blogs (one of which I am neglectful of and really want to work on). Because I work all day on a computer and have some eyesight issue I rarely write long posts.
However I thought I would write a post about my long-term hopes and plans for the next few years today
I either hope to move to Dublin or Liverpool in late 2018/early 2019. I need to first sort out my finances however! But getting there).
I am finding London more and more aggressive and expensive to live in. Every working day, I have a long commute and it is fairly soul destroying to witness the selfishness, lack of understanding and sometimes outright aggression of commuters. I hate that I have to be hard myself to deal with this commute and am concerned about what it is doing to my empathy for others. I am concerned about the growing social divisions in London. I know I am lucky to earn a good wage and have a pension and mortgage, but I still find London an expensive place to live in. I live in quite a deprived area, and I see how it is getting further marginalised in the rush to redevelop surrounding areas. I am lucky to have friends in this area, as London can be a very anonymous place to live.
Liverpool appeals to me as firstly appeals to me as I have a ready made group of friends there. I know and respect these friends tremendously. Also I love Liverpool as a city and like the people! The fact that it is the Beatles city also does not hurt in the slightest.
But Dublin is where my heart is, and the place that I think of when life in London gets stressful. I feel so happy and at peace when I visit there. I know that Dublin has its social issues but will go with my eyes open. However moving to Dublin would be considerably more complicated than moving to Liverpool for a number of reasons. Maybe that is for later in my life.
I feel somewhat 'in a rut' at this point of my life but know that I have achieved previous goals I have set myself within the time scales I set myself. I see no reason why I should not achieve this goal. It may take time and a lot of research but I am hopeful!
OK before I go any further I want to say I absolutely love ‘All Things Must Pass’. I am not saying it is not rightfully regarded as a masterpiece (in the truest sense of what ‘Masterpiece’ means). But as a fan of George as a solo artist I go get frustrated that ‘All Things Must Pass’ is the only solo album by George that gets any kind of critical respect and that the rest of George’s solo output rarely if ever gets any attention. It is also frustrating that it is usually only songs from ‘All Things Must Pass’ that get radio play or that get covered (even the recent ‘Georgefest’ and Conan O Brien’s ‘George week’ concentrated on George’s Beatles songs and ‘All Things Must Pass’). I also get really annoyed that in the music press it is assumed that George did not produce anything as good after ‘All Things Must Pass’.
George made an additional nine studio albums as a solo artist and continued to record as a solo artist for 30 after ‘All Things Must Pass’ was released. Simon Leng did an excellent job in ‘While my guitar gently weeps: the music of George Harrison’ of examining all of Georges solo output, arguing the case for albums such as ‘Living in the material world’, ’33 1/3’ , ‘George Harrison’ and ‘Brainwashed’. I can thoroughly recommend Lengs’ book to any George fan who have not read it. In my opinion it is the best book written about George as it is meticulously well researched (he interviewed several individuals who worked with George such as Klaus Voorman, John Barham, Doris Troy, Joey Mullholland of Badfinger and Bob Purvis of Splinter amongst others) accurate, sympathetic but not blindly so and concentrates on that small thing that often gets overlooked with George- his music! Leng is also comprehensive in covering all of George’s collaborations with other artists and his performances on other artists’ recordings.
Leng shows the wide variety of musical influences on George’s solo albums such as soul, jazz, classical Indian music and folk and that George’s song writing and musicianship (particularly his guitar playing) continued to develop after he recorded ‘All Things Must Pass’ right up to ‘Brainwashed’
Personally my favourite two albums by George are ‘Living in the Material World’ and ‘Brainwashed’. I find both more intimate, personal and warm than ‘All Things Must Pass. Interesting there was an article published on George’s birthday this year which agrees with me! Georgehttp://thecelebritycafe.com/feature/2015/02/happy-birthday-george-harrison-ranking-his-solo-albums
I have written about ‘Living in the Material World’ so I will write a few words about some of my other favourite George albums (I want to come back to Brainwashed separately at some point)
‘33 1/3 contains some very fine groves thanks to the crack team of musicians George played with on the album, including Billy Preston and Willy Weeks. Leng shows how George was influenced by funk and 70’s soul on this album. It has great songs such as ‘This song’ and ‘Learning how to love you’. George sounds revitalised and enthused after the traumas of 1974 and 1975.
‘George Harrison’ which has some of George’s most affecting songs (Blow Away, Dark Sweet Lady) and finest musicianship. George sounds genuinely happy and relaxed, and it is his most joyous album. You can’t help but love the album for that reason. Leng notes that on this album George was recording music for no other reason than it was pleasing to him and did not feel the need to conform to industry demands to be commercial or provide obvious hits. That makes George an artist of considerable integrity.
The original version of ‘Somewhere in England’ also ‘could have been a contender’ – ironically the four dropped songs (‘Sat Singing’, ‘Flying Hour’, ‘Tears of the World’ and ‘Lay his head’) are amongst George’s best. I know a lot of George fans love these songs. It is gratifying that George has been proved right about them
Certainly ‘Cloud Nine’ is an excellent album. George sounds very energised after recharging his musical batteries and rocks out on tracks such as ‘Fish on the sand’, ‘Devil’s Radio’ and ‘Wreck of the Hesperus’. But George also offers such considered songs as ‘Just for Today’ and ‘That’s what it takes’
George always remained true to his lyrical concerns throughout his career. George says as much about where he was in his life and about what mattered to him on an album such as ‘Cloud Nine’ as he did on ‘All Things Must Pass’ (for example ‘Just for today and ‘Fish on the Sand’ are straight out spiritual songs addressed to God). Each album George made contains at least a couple of wonderful tracks and tells you about where George was in his life when recording it.
Certainly George himself was proud of ‘All Things Must Pass’ as shown by the care and love he gave to the 2001 re-issue of the album. However even in his notes on the re-issue he expresses some (gently put) misgivings about Phil Spector’s production.
Part of why Olivia and Dhani have re-issued George’s solo output is to allow it to be reassessed and get the appreciation it deserves. There was certainly a lot of positive comments about George’s later solo Apple Records last year when ‘The Apple Years’ Box set was released.
Personally, I am at a point where I am as much of a fan of George as a solo artist as I am of the Beatles. If George had not produced great albums after ‘All Things Must Pass’ this would not be the case. One of the positive things about tumblr and youtube is the ability to see that there are many other fans of George and see their appreciative comments about his music
Having written all of this I am still absolutely delighted that ‘All Things Must Pass’ is considered the greatest album by an ex-Beatle and that George got to see how well regarded and loved the album is when it was reissued in 2001.
Thursday, 1 January 2015
I have really enjoyed blogging here in the last year. It has been incredibly enjoyable to share my love of music here and write a few more things about Turner Syndrome. I have been a bit distracted with Tumblr to post here as regularly as I would like but I have been blogging which is the main thing. I tend to blog more about George Harrison at friarparksoulclub.tumblr.com and have a tumblr especially about Turner Syndrome
I have found it very empowering to discuss the issues I have here in the last year.
Highlight of 2014- seeing Richard Davies live twice! I waited 16 years and he did not disappoint. It allows me to believe anything is possible. I also enjoyed seeing friends in Edinburgh and Liverpool. But trips to my beloved Dublin have been the thing that have sustained me. I may not be able to go as often in next year but I will certainly be going! In particular the trip in June showed me I could turn a day I used to dread into a day of great joy. Here is a photo from this trip from the Botanical Gardens
Monday, 29 December 2014
I do consider this behaviour, particularly by the male paediatrician a form of abuse. It has had a profound effect on how I view myself.
After several weeks and about three emails to the clinic I got a response from the head of the clinic last night. He was very non-committal and more or less told me to wait until I have my annual appointment in early January (I did not want to go into specifics with him over email for obvious reasons I was not best pleased by this and a somewhat patronising response when I asked to speak to him personally. I raised the issue of women with TS not feeling able to assert themselves in a clinical setting and issues around power in Doctor/patient relationships. Got a sympathetic (sort of!) response so I will go to the clinic in January and try and speak to him. If I have done nothing else I have at least conveyed the feelings of other women who have attended the clinic that is frustrating to have to see a different doctor each time.
I am going to my clinic in early 2015. I will keep you posted!
Sunday, 21 December 2014
There are two particular individuals who are particular individuals who are the main targets for this type of material- my favourite Beatle George and his first wife Pattie Boyd
The particular tumblr (beatlesgirlsconfessions) where some material was on has been deactivated. It was where people (mainly young women and teenage girls) made ‘confessions’ about the Beatles’ female partners. There were ‘confessions’ such as wanting to see Pattie and George in a highly explicit situations, regular leering comments about various parts of Pattie Boyd's body, a 'confession' leering of naked photos of Pattie by Eric Clapton,and regular requests to have Pattie write full and explicit accounts of her relationship with George. There were even confession about wanting to have sex with Pattie. Other confessions included wishing that Pattie would marry Ron Wood (just look at the recent years headlines around his behaviour to see what this is something you would not wish on any woman) and one where an alleged incident where Pattie was the subject of an unwanted pass by another famous musician was described as ‘cute’(or something along those lines). All these confessions as far as I can make out were by teenage girls/young women This tumblr was administered by young women. These type of confessions were moved other to another tumblr which is still as far as I know active but that I cannot bring myself to look at.
There are also several forms of ‘shipper’ fiction on tumblr. I am not going to call it fan fiction as the individuals who write this material clearly have not taken in or read George’s comments about the effect of the constant media speculation about his personal life had on him. ‘Shipper fiction’ (As I will refer to it) is a development from ‘Slash fiction’ which imagined romantic/ homosexual relationships between two male fictional characters such as Spock and Captain Kirk, Frodo and Sam etc. However this expanded to include real people – I could write about how the Beatles have been victims of this genre. I have written about why this is disrespectful on Tumblr (but this is a separate concern to what I want to discuss in this post). However this ‘evolved’ into ‘Shipping’ also includes heterosexual partnerships- thus George Harrison and Pattie Boyd.
There are at least a couple (if not more) role play tumblrs which regularly put Pattie in explicit situations or saying sexually explicit things (impattieboyd for one). Again these are run by young women. They are completely unapologetic about what they are doing.
There are at least two 'Beatle girl' 'Femslash' tumblrs. These consist of stories imagining the Beatles female partners indulging in lesbian activity. Again the young women who write these materials are completely unapologetic about what they are doing.
There are at least two tumblrs which writes ‘shipper fiction’ which rejoices in imagining an adulterous relationship between George and Pattie during his happy second marriage to Olivia Arias, the wife who saved his life on at least one occasion and was responsible for helping him put his life back together in the mid 1970’s (pattieboysdiary and wonderfultonightuncensored). Ironically this plays into the exactly same misogynistic constituency that condemns Pattie Boyd for having a relationship with Eric Clapton during her marriage with George by casting Pattie as an ‘adulteress’- i.e. a woman who is having a sexual relationship with a man who is married to someone else.
So... There seems to be a constituency of teenage girls/young women who seem to be behaving in a matter akin to a bunch of leering 70’s rock stars which is deeply ironic as these young women are always criticizing the way certain 70’s rock stars behaved and the sexist behaviour Pattie faced. They also claim to be fans of Pattie and that they are defending her honour. They seem to believe they have a right to publically objectify and sexualise Pattie Boyd and her life story.
I help but feel that some of these young women are working through their sexual identities. However they are appropriating another woman’s life and another woman’s personal history to do this. They ways behaving towards a woman in a way that would be rightfully condemned if it were men were writing or saying the same things.
How on earth did this situation come about?
I cannot help but feel that this is a result of our over-sexualised and p*rnified culture. You only have to look at how easy it is for young people to access hard core p*rnography online as Gail Dines discusses in her book ‘P*rnland’. I quote a relevant section from Gails' book
By inundating girls and women with the message that their most worthy attribute is their sexual hotness and crowding out other messages, pop culture is grooming them just like an individual perpetrator would. It is slowly chipping away at their self-esteem, stripping them of their sense of themselves as whole human beings, and providing them with an identity that emphasizes sex and de-emphasizes every other human attribute.
To illustrate this, Gail uses the case of how sexualised young female pop stars such as Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé Rhianna and female celebrities such as Anna Nicole Smith and Kim Kardashian are made t portray themselves in the media. I have heard her talk about Miley Cyrus’ gradual rebranding from wholesome child star to ‘sex kitten’ and how this fits in with the pattern of young women having to be seen to be
xxxxable otherwise they become invisible.
Pattie Boyd fulfil this role in terms of being a woman who fits in with western standards of female attractiveness (blue eyes, blonde hair, tall slim figure). She worked for several years as a model so her physical appearance became in the eyes of the world her most important attribute. I feel this is the main reason she has become the focus of all these fantasies. I could go over what feminists have written and said on the issue of the misogyny of the beauty and fashion industries and the pressure on women to be physically attractive and ‘feminine’.
One aspect of p*rnography is to project sexual fantasies onto women without having to consider that they are human beings with hopes and feelings. I see much of what these young women as doing as a similar form of projection, even though they nominally respect the fact that Pattie Boyd is a person with a history and emotions. They find it difficult to have the fact they are appropriating her story pointed out. As an aside I also see a lot of latent racism in the resentment of Olivia Arias Harrison, George’s second wife. These young women find it difficult to understand that George was with Olivia for 27 years until his death and that he was clearly in love and content with her. I believe it challenges these young woman’s Eurocentric view of what constitutes beauty- they genuinely cannot handle that George had a much longer relationship with his working class Latina partner to an Upper-Middle class Blonde English Rose. It almost seems to be an affront to their world view and they say some incredibly rude things about Olivia (calling Olivia 'Ugly' and a 'Bxxxh'). They get very defensive/angry when the latent racism of the George/Pattie 'shipping' is pointed out claiming that that is just their taste to prefer Pattie. They fail to engage with the fact that we live in a society where there is not just institutionalised misogyny but racism.
If you want a prime example of how 'Erotic literature' written by women reflects how reactionary and sexually dysfunctional our society has become you need only look at the success of the '50 shades of Grey’ novels Theses novels, written by a woman, glorify the domestic abuse of the main character Anastasia Steele by Christian Grey. Many feminist are heart broken by the success of these novels not just because they glorify male sexual sadism towards women but because ‘Christian Grey’ fits the classic profile of a domestic abuser in all other aspects of his behaviour towards Anastasia. Gail Dines proposes the end of the story in real life would be Anastasia running for her life with two traumatised children to a women’s shelter. Tellingly these novels began as a shipper fiction inspired the also highly popular 'Twilight novels’ (again written by a woman). Many feminists have pointed out Edward Cullen’s behaviour in these books also fits the classic profile of a domestic abuser (Aside here- I have seen a ‘shipper poster’ which casts George as Edward Cullen and Pattie as Bella Swan).
These young women are trying to work out the difference between love and sex. Much of what they write shows their confusion and conflates the two. They are trying to work out the role sex has in romantic love and has in and of itself. In doing so, they end up focusing on sex. This in and of itself is not a product of p*rn, but the easy access to it has certainly informed this material and upped the ante.
We live in a society where in spite of seeming growing acceptance, lesbian culture and lesbian spaces are under more and more pressure from a variety of areas and it is still difficult to be out as a lesbian. ‘Femslash’ plays into this in a variety of ways. It plays into p*rnography’s hijacking of lesbian sexuality and making it purely about specific acts. Like p*rn, it uses lesbianism for titillation of the audience. Like p*rn, it completely divorces lesbianism from any social, cultural or political context. ‘Femslash’, like p*rn, also regularly has a man involved in the various ‘activities’ described. I do understand that some young women who write femslash may be exploring their sexuality. However, should we view women (who are usually heterosexual) writing explicit fantasies about other women different from men writing identical material?
I find it highly telling that one of the main defenses for posting this material is ‘freedom of expression’/’Freedom of opinion’. The posters often highly defensive/aggressive when challenged about the fact they are posting highly sexually explicit material about actual individuals. Their attempt to defend their actions are very similar to the p*rn industry’s argument that making and viewing p*rnography is a free speech issue, and that p*rn is fantasy with has no harmful effects, be it to those who work in the industry (the diseases Dines lists as prevalent in the industry makes a nonsense of this), to the men who view it and to the wider society. However wider society is rightfully beginning to become concerned about how easy it is to access p*rnography online and the effect is having on how young men view women and how young women view themselves and their sexuality
P*rn objectifies women and girls, reducing them to items to be serviced by men. These ‘shippers’ at their best ultimately reduce Pattie Boyd in to someone is only defined by relationships she had with the men she was married to. At their worse, they reduce her to an object of lust to be serviced. They take some of the most painful moments of her life and turn them into p*rnography. Is this the behaviour of fans? As a fan of almost three decades of George, I am appalled that he gets reduced to a stud who services Pattie. This echoes something that Gail Dines says about anti-p*rn activists. They have enough love and respect for men to see them as human and more than their sex organs/drives.
Gail Dines in her book ‘P*rnland’ discusses how p*rnography has become ever more explicit and violent over the past few years. She shows that this is in direct response to p*rn users in effect becoming ‘Addicts’ who need greater and more extreme hits (like drug addicts) the more material they view. Indeed some men movingly describe how their addiction to p*rn has affected their lives in just the same way as a substance would. The p*rn industry is all too willing to feed this addiction. I see these young women as having a similar addiction in needing to project their sexual fantasies onto Pattie Boyd and George. I see it as deeply sad that the only model these young women can find to express their admiration for Pattie is in a hypersexualised manner.
Oddly enough these young women have conservative attitudes to divorce and adultery, as some young people do. They have issues accepting not just that Pattie and George’s relationship broke down but that the other three Beatles 1960’s relationships (I include Paul McCartney’s relationship with Jane Asher here) broke down. They also have conflicted attitudes to extra marital affairs. Some who defend Pattie’s extra-marital relationship with Eric Clapton get seriously affronted by Maureen Starkey (Ringo’s first wife) for her alleged relationship with George towards the end of their respective first marriages. I have seen a post by the young woman who runs Impattieboyd on beatlesgirlsconfessions saying that Pattie’s behaviour was fine while Maureen’s deserved censure. Thankfully some say that it was better for Pattie to leave her marriage to George when it became clear it could not be fixed.
One of the reasons I get so heartbroken by this material is that George Harrison spoke on several occasions about the effect that being ‘objectified’ as a Beatle/Ex Beatle had on him. He spoke in a 1978 interview (in irony of ironies ‘Men Only’ magazine, a p*rn magazine) about his frustration at the amount of focus his personal/love life received in the press and his desire to protect the privacy of his loved ones (i.e. Olivia and his new born son Dhani).
There is one silver lining to this story. Perhaps in considering Pattie Boyd’s story, these young women may actually consider issues around misogyny and domestic abuse. I hope as they grow older I hope that they develop healthy relationships and sexualities. However I cannot help but feel seriously concerned for the future of some of these young women. I may be angry about some of their attitudes but am trying to understand they are trapped in such a toxic culture for women and girls where it is difficult to take ownership of an authentic female sexuality.
As Gail Dines continues from the earlier quote in her book...
These are the same symptoms found in girls and women who have been sexually assaulted; in terms of effect then, we appear to be turning out a generation of girls who have been ‘assaulted’ by the very culture they live in. An there is no avoiding the culture. The very act of socialization in involves internalizing the cultural norms and attitudes. If the culture now is one big collective perpetrator, then we can assume that an ever-increasing number of girls and women are going to develop emotional, cognitive, and sexual problems as they are socialized into seeing themselves and mere sex objects, and not much else.”
Monday, 25 August 2014
David Skuse published research in ‘Nature’ Magazine in Mid 1997 claiming he had found the reason why women have better social skills than men based on research on girls with Turner Syndrome. He claimed that girls with TS who had got their one X chromosome from their father had better social skills than girls who had received their one X Chromosome from their mother. He claimed that girls who had received their X chromosome from their mother had brains that were more similar to boys, and that they behaved more anti-socially because of this. This was supposedly because there is a particular gene on the father’s X chromosome that confers socially acceptable behaviour. All women who have normal XX karotypes would have this X whereas only some women with TS would have this gene. All men get their single X chromosome from their mothers, therefore would never have this ‘magic gene’ that was supposed to be on the father’s X chromosome. Notice the sexist assumptions that underpin this. Somehow the father’s genetic material is better than the mothers. Note that women are expected to be well behaved, put the needs and thoughts of others (i.e. Men!) before themselves and be socially docile. They are expected to be ‘no trouble’. Women with Turner Syndrome offend against male notions of ‘femaleness’ in the first instance by being infertile. We also offend by being short and often having ‘physical defects’ such as webbed necks and moles, therefore fail to be conventionally attractive. We are an easy class of women to stigmatize. What is even worse is that this research said that certain women with Turners were better than others.
This research was reported in Time and the national press in the UK. I can only find one online press report of the time. We live in a misogynistic patriarchal society which seeks to establish scientific reasons for the treatment of the two sexes. In particular there is a quest for ‘brain sex’ which apparently roots the different treatments and experiences of men in women in purported neurological differences rather than looking at issues of sexism. Cordelia Fine has written extensively about this, especially in her book ‘Delusions of gender’. I have to say this but Skuse was claiming that his research went towards explaining the differences in female and male behaviour http://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/12/us/parental-origin-of-chromosome-may-determine-social-graces-scientists-say.html
Imagine how women with Turner Syndrome felt about press coverage like this. As if it was not difficult enough before this to be open about Turner Syndrome. I have heard from friends with Turner Syndrome that some people claim to know all about women with Turner Syndrome and that they are ‘socially inept’ from reports of this research. This research also plays into the idea that somehow women with Turner Syndrome are not fully women or are ‘damaged’ women. As it happened there was an international Turner Syndrome conference scheduled in Coventry that summer. Lucy and myself had booked to attend. David Skuse was scheduled to talk. Guess what, we made sure we attended his talk. We challenged him about his findings and his methodology. We also passed notes between each other making less than respectful com-ments on Skuse! (see, we women with TS are so badly behaved!). The woman who runs the Turner Syndrome Support Society in the UK was and remains very supportive of David Skuse’s research. She did not understand how it creates problems for women with TS and what is worse she affirms his negative portrayal of us. This is one of the reasons I am not involved with the national TS group.
Skuse’s theories have been used in TV documentaries (why men don’t iron on Channel 4 and at least another where a young woman with TS had to say she had awful social skills simply for saying they did not like someone’s haircut- I kid you not). Now I have to ‘fess up. I took part in the next stage of David Skuse’s research in 2001-3. This involved having several brain scans and having a meeting with David Skuse himself. He really enjoyed talking to me as I seemed to explain some of the cognitive/social issues women with Turner Syndrome have. I do not regret doing this. I do not believe David Skuse is a bad person and that if his research had been used differently it could have been potentially helpful. I also feel that I have no right to criticize Skuse if I am not at the same time willing to assist him and work with him.
An unpleasant side effect of this research I inadvertently learned which parent I got my one X chromosome from. This is information that needs to be imparted gently. Yet it was there on a piece of paper in front of me at a hospital check up. David Skuse continues to claim in his research claims that women with Turner Syndrome have autism/Asperger’s Syndrome type behavioural/social issues. He still speaks at TS conferences (apparently Lucy and my Liverpool TS friends had a few things to say to him at a re-cent conference!)
This continues to lead to Turner Syndrome being reported like this http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2005/feb/04/guardianweekly.guardianweekly11
I have actually had to deal with the consequences of David Skuse’s research. When I was referred to an occupational therapist by my work, he basically used David Skuse’s research to say I had Asperger’s type behavioural issues. I got in contact with David Skuse to ask for guidance as to whether I should get assessed for Asperger’s. It took a considerable time for him to meet me. After our initial meeting, he did not bother to contact me for several months. I eventually got him to arrange a meeting with one of his researchers who turned out to be an undergraduate. I feel that what was offered was completely inadequate.
One of the main reason I am concerned about David Skuse’s pronouncements is that he does not appear to understand the effects of his pronouncements on the lives of women with Turner Syndrome. I had helped David Skuse with his research but when I needed some guidance it was not given. I do feel his research allows for the scapegoating of women with Turner Syndrome. There have been no positive or constructive suggestions to help women with TS leading out of this research.
But my concern here is not just for women with Turner Syndrome. Women are expected to be socially compliant and to be accommodating. Women who fail to do so are seen as transgressive and abnormal. Brain Sex’ does not excuse or explain thousands of years of the effects of women living under patriarchal systems