Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Idiocy of Recent Statements About Rape

Just to warn you, this post discusses rape and ignorant attitudes regarding the subject.

Last week Deb wrote a rather amazing post about some of the things we can do to prevent rape.  It was very well received.  Indeed, even her hero, Captain Awkward, retweeted and mentioned it.  And so she should, as it was very important.  It addressed some of the errors people make in campaigns to reduce incidents of rape whilst also pointing out the behaviours we can do our best to stamp out.  You Really Must Read It.

After having written it, however, the proverbial has most definitely hit the air circulation device.  There have been several things in the news which fly in the face of Deb's advice.  Obviously the people involved did not listen to me and read the post.  So, I feel that I should go through and list some of the mistakes people have been making, most of which are covered by point no. 7 on Deb's list;

Use The Word Rape to Describe Rape.

Julian Assange has been accused of a crime.  It is entirely beyond me to know whether he has or hasn't committed this crime.  That is what the legal system is for.  However, rather than relying on the process of that system, there seems to have been another tactic used.

Denial that the act of which he's accused is rape.

Although, as I say, I don't know if he's guilty or not, I find this difficult.  If I had been accused of rape, my first act would be to address my guilt rather than to quibble over what is or is not rape.

But quibble people have.  Most recently George 'Meow' Galloway has waded in.  He has suggested that raping a woman while she is asleep (and so unable to consent - hence rape) is 'bad manners'.  Even now, having been condemned and given the chance to retract his statement, he has not.

"What occurred is not rape as most people understand it. And it's important to note that the two women involved did not initially claim it."

As most people understand it.  Well now, this is part of the problem.  Mr Galloway is not human as I understand it - if he were he would be unable to say such a thing.  However, I understand that my belief of what constitutes humanity is in contradiction to what biology and, sadly, the law states.  If I wanted to, I could brutally murder a spider (if I were brave enough to get close to one in the first place, that is) with no legal comeback.  However, if I were to do the same thing to Mr Galloway, I would be rightly charged and convicted for the act.

If I went about expressing my view of Mr Galloway's lack of humanity enough, I might even be able to convince people to join me.  Soon, with enough voices chanting, he might become sub-human in the eyes of society.  It's happened before.

That is the power of belief.  And so we have to chant;

Rape is rape.

It might also be worth addressing the rest of the above quote - the two women did not report it initially.  Oh well then, that makes it so clear.  Because every victim of rape marches straight up to the nearest police station and reports the crime.  Because that's an easy thing to do when there are silly people out there muddying the waters by suggesting that what most people understand as rape is something other than what they have experienced.  As Deb says, 'So often accounts of rape begin, “I wasn't raped, but this thing happened to me once where I was forced to have sex against my will...”'

People are raped and don't report it.  Proper statistics seem a bit impossible to me, but take this Independent article from March of this year;

'One in 10 women has been raped, and more than a third subjected to sexual assault, according to a major survey, which also highlights just how frightened women are of not being believed. More than 80 per cent of the 1,600 respondents said they did not report their assault to the police, while 29 per cent said they told nobody – not even a friend or family member – of their ordeal.'

So the women weren't raped because they didn't report it, George?  Please.

The problem with the Assange situation is that he is a hero to many people on the left.  But in their desire to protect their hero, they are making the lives of those who have been raped so much harder.  They are also painting a very damaging image of sexual life.

Not that I blame this entirely on Assange and the left.  You just have to read some of the dodgy articles in both men's and women's magazines to see a very dangerous image of a sex-life which is both aggressive and plain weird (read point no. 5 in Deb's post).  And then there are things like the 'romantic' scenes in stories like Twilight.  Stalking behaviour is somehow elevated into something sexy.

Galloway's initial interview paints a picture of a man who, when acting properly, wakes up the love of his life and says,

"'scuse me, do you mind if I put it back in again, please?'


I think this is where plain sense should overcome anything else.  If this is your image of right and proper...then something serious is wrong.

In America, the problems with rape have been somewhat different, and yet entirely the same.  No. 7 has been breached but so has all scientific (rather than just legal) reality.  I would be amazed if you'd not already heard the specifics, but in brief;

Todd Akin has suggested that women suffering 'legitimate rape' are able to magically protect themselves from getting pregnant.  Challenged on this he has claimed to have used either 'a wrong word' or 'wrong words' depending on which interview you read.  He does not, however, specify which of those words were wrong.

Obviously the whole thing is wrong.  It is scientifically, factually, morally and in all ways WRONG.  As I understand it (and I am no expert in American politics) his motives for saying and, presumably, believing such a thing is that if this were the case then it would help to support his anti-abortion stance.  If this were the case he can then say that only women wanting to get pregnant will get pregnant.  So there's no need for abortion.

As leaps of logic go, it makes Sonic the Hedgehog's jumping abilities look like, well, mine.  But as well as the logic and science flaws, we have a concept of different kinds of rape.  Legitimate and illegitimate.  The crime is once again something that can be question.  Was it really rape?  Well, you did fall pregnant, so you must have wanted it.

Well, you didn't report it straight away, so it can't be rape.

Well, you were in bed with him, so you were asking for it.

Well, you did put on the short skirt...

Well, you did go out walking in that neighbourhood...

Well, did you do everything you possibly could have done to stop him...?

It is heartbreaking seeing the look in someones eyes when they come to terms with the fact that they were raped.  It is heartbreaking when someone questions what rape is, questioning what a victim has experienced.  It is heartbreaking seeing what is, effectively, another violation and the change in their body language as the damage hits home.

But because of the fear that we might have to witness someone we love dealing with the aftermath of rape, because we might know someone who could have committed rape, and because, ultimately, we might have acted in such a way that we could be a rapist, we question the definition of rape and the validity of the experience of victims.  That is nothing less than absolute cowardice, if not significantly more.

And by we, I mean men.  Every one of the idiots involved in these things have been men.  They talk with such authority and absolute arrogant certainty and don't stop for a second just to question what it is that they're saying.  And the scary thing is, you get the feeling they wouldn't stop to question what they're doing either.

We need to question ourselves.  Men need to look at the things we do and think and say.  We need to listen to the experiences of women and understand.  And when we find other men saying stupid things, we have to speak out, lest those we love and care for are hurt.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Pi squared

You know, I don't know how I managed to miss the PlyPi from my list of achievements.  Although I listed artistic achievements, and the Raspberry Pi case was included vaguely along with that, I was trying to deal, at the time, with getting a couple of photos ready for an exhibition.  But I think it's fair to say that, other than one or two popular photos on Flickr, the PlyPi is my biggest achievement in terms of public reaction.

Raspberry Pi - PlyPi - Open Case and Bolts

And today there's more!  Jon Yoemans has written a piece for ZDNet which features, along with seven other brilliant Pi enclosures, the PlyPi.  And I couldn't be more proud.

So here's a link - read and enjoy.

And if you've not seen it already, here's the Venture Beat article which has been drawing people to my blog for a good few weeks now.

Rest assured, I have more ideas for Pi cases and, fingers crossed, I will soon have the means, time and energy (all of which are in short supply) to put some together.

Thank you to everyone who have said such kind and supportive things about my work.  Being a poorly type means that so many of my achievements are small and unrecognised.  This is all rather...strange.  But nice.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

5/5 Going for Gold

Being traditionally British, success is a difficult concept for me.  I've been bought up to believe that taking part is the most important thing and that actually lifting the gold cup is actually a bit excessive, a bit immodest, a bit OTT.  We are programmed to say "Well, it's nothing really" and downplay success.  It's no coincidence that Ali's "I am the greatest!" came from supple American lips, not stiff British ones.

So please accept how tricky this blog post is to write.

I have been tremendously successful recently.  Even when I've not been.

Let's start with the easy stuff.  Already this last week I have written about;

  • My birthday and how well it went - no family rows, no trauma, no thrown birthday cake (only one dropped one, and that didn't do it much harm) and no unwanted socks.  Instead I got everything I wanted and more.  We all enjoyed the day in an easy and comfortable way.  And I did not suffer any anxiety about entering my third decade.
  • Although I didn't enjoy the film ever so much, I was able to see the theatre production of War Horse.  Although this might not seem like a tremendous achievement, it did mean travelling into London and surviving the theatre production and trip back home.  It was a big day and I suffered for it.  But the memories, as you could probably tell, live on in a very positive way.
  • I photographed an outdoor theatre production in the dark with a 300mm zoom lens.  Not many people do that kind of thing and I believe that I do it very well indeed.  I can get into the rhythm of Shakespeare and use that to help guide when I press the shutter.  I hope that my photos make some of the cast smile, especially given how much they make me smile.

And on a similar vein;

  • I have completed a degree in Classics and made it into London (again!  And I don't even like the capital!) to graduate.  Because of this I feel I have a set of knowledge I can use to rubbish incredibly successful novels.  And also to enlighten and inform anyone who wishes it.
  • I have two photos ready to go into an exhibition in a couple of weeks time.
  • I am learning Latin and ukulele and loving both.
  • I am producing art in various forms.
  • I am helping people in many ways, including practical things (I helped with a Holiday Club for children by sorting out IT issues) and more airy fairy emotional stuff.

Of course, life cannot be all success.  But when things go wrong, increasingly I feel that this just becomes another possibility for success.

I recently found out that my blood pressure and cholesterol were both raised.  Given that, due to my health, I cannot exercise, this means that my chance of heart attack or stroke are quite significantly raised.  Obviously this is a pretty bad thing, but since then I've been working hard on both diet and stress.  I have cut my salt intake (which was hard, because I didn't ever overload on salt) and reduced the amount of saturated fats I'm eating.  I've not had a single rasher of bacon in over three weeks now.

And the interesting thing is that success in this is not measured by the reduction in BP or cholesterol (my BP has reduced somewhat...although whether enough or not, I'll let my GP decide) but in how well I've made the change in diet.  I'm not doing anything with my diet that is hurtful or upsetting.  I'm still really enjoying the food we eat.  That's very important to me - food is a huge element of my sensual enjoyment of life.

Likewise, I've been trying my best to relax.  This one is harder and perhaps less of a success.  But I've found new images to use in an attempt to meditate and reduce BP, heart rate and such.

And even when health gets in the way of something like my planned blog a day for a week, it actually allowed me to include something more.  And my blogging has just extended into the weekend which is no problem at all.  And this morning when I've been awake early with pain, I've been able to concentrate on writing this.

So I really do feel that I am succeeding in life.  I don't believe that I am the greatest, but I'm beginning to feel that I'm getting close to being the best I could possibly be, and what's more, I'm accepting of the things that limit how much I can achieve.

Of course, I'm not always this enlightened.  I still get frustrated and angry.  I still sometimes forget my successes and dwell on the things that I wish I were doing.  But on the whole I feel...comfortable.

And the good thing about seeing all this success is how excited that makes me feel about the future.  Because if I'm succeeding now, then there's no reason why that shouldn't continue into the future.

The future's bright - the future's gold.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

4/5 - Moan of Achilles

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - Review

I'm part of a book group on facebook, although honestly I'm rather behind; in part because I've been doing other things (not to mention reading other things) and in part because...well...we'll get to that in a minute.

The group decided to read Song of Achilles mainly, I think, because of its recent win of the Orange Prize for Fiction.  I was very pleased with the choice because of the subject matter - an interpretation of the relationship of Achilles and Patroclus: heroes of the Trojan War.  And when the book arrived, I was even more excited - in the extensive list of recommendations and panegyrics were ones from both Donna Tartt and Bettany Hughes *swoon*.

Now I must make it clear that I'm yet to finish the book.  We're about a hundred pages from the end.  But those hundred pages are beginning to look like the last twenty meters of a particularly long and hot walk over burning coals.

We are not enjoying the book.  Well, that's not entirely true - we've enjoyed laughing at a few bits.  But thus far there are some major problems.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the editing doesn't seem right.  There is a lot of repetition.  At first I thought this might be a stylistic thing - attempting to mirror the repetition you get in traditional oral storytelling (of which the Iliad is a major example).  However, in the first couple of chapters there were three separate references to Patroclus' thumbs.  I half wondered if I'd forgotten something important about this particular body part, but it just seems to be some little fetishistic detail that got left in.  Again, it makes sense that Achilles' feet are referred to on multiple occasions; he is, after all, swift footed Achilles.  But does there have to be so many?  And why do we have to read at least twice each chapter what he smells like?

And the smells, in general, are a bit funny.  It's like someone told the author that the key to writing is to describe what you see, hear and smell and if you do that you can't go wrong.  But, well, firstly that's not true.  And secondly, there's something odd about the smells.  It's like they live in a Greece that's at least two thirds Boots perfume counter.  Nothing ever smells bad, but it does often smell exactly the same over and over.

From my perspective, however, the most upsetting thing is the damage done to the story.  From the reviews I've read, people have been very impressed and moved by the story.  But the story is not hers.  And she really has hurt it in key ways.

Firstly, and most scarily, Patroclus is made as un-manly as possible.  Soldiering?  Not for our Patroclus - he can't fight.  Apart from in the last few pages where he's suddenly survived years and years of hand to hand combat without a scratch.  Being part of a homosexual couple, it would seem that Patroclus isn't allowed to be 'masculine'.  Achilles, meanwhile, becomes a serene photo of a character.  He's a poster on a teenager's bedroom wall, with much the same level of animation and spirit.  Diomedes is unrecognisable.  Odysseus is perhaps the most correct in translation, but the way that his story-telling dialogue is written is completely obtuse to anyone without knowledge of the myths and just not correct.

Not that any of the dialogue is correct.  Honestly, it is entirely flat.  And reading it out loud to each other (as we have been) really proves that point.

The result is a story that, thus far, has read like poor slash fan-fic.  The Iliad has been ravished and the characters rewritten to suit the fantasies of the author.  She inhabits Patroclus, allowing her to fondle Achilles who remains as 2D as the paper he's printed on.  And the worst part of the slash fan-fic style is that it ruins the *proper* relationship.  Ancient sexuality is not modern sexuality.  The early scenes in the palace are absolutely devoid of other homosexual relationships even though it's a veritable den of heterosexual iniquity.  It's as if Achilles and Patroclus are, not only 'the only gays in the village', but also the only gays in Greece.

This is pretty inexcusable.  It changes the relationships as much as the truly disturbing Troy solution - "Woah, we can't have two men kissing in an action film.  So how are we going to make sure that doesn't happen?  I know!  Let's make them cousins!"

It also makes the elements of heterosexual sex feel extremely weird.  And it would seem that there's more of that to come.

There are other modern moralities that really mess with the meaning of the story.  Patroclus and Achilles 'saving' women from a life of rape and slavery is a prime example.  I can understand why you'd do that...but it's an ancient story.  Your main character is a sulky brute who brings about the doom of his comrades because he's upset about a slave girl being taken because that reflects badly on his status not because of some kind of humanitarianism.  He's not compatible with the modern idea of hero.  But either you need to accept that and move on, or at least rewrite him properly.

The Iliad is a story about the universality of war and the experience of death.  It is also, in the wise words of Dr Nick Lowe, a book that tells you all you need to know about men.  All of this is gone.  The fighting is, thus far, the most competently written part of the book.  But it is neither interesting nor meaningful.  The motives of the characters are lost.  How can Achilles be sulky about a wound to his pride when, presumably, he'll be upset because a woman who is treated as free and meaningful is stolen?  How can his great decision (fame or life) be understood as the foundation of his entire existence when it's replaced with some third rate romantic obligation?

Why on earth did it win the Orange Prize?  Deb feels that it's down to the Classical themes combined with a study of a homosexual relationship.  I don't know.  I'm just horrified.  I just hope that people go on from The Song of Achilles to actually read the Iliad and realise what the true meaning of war and love is.

Olympic Interval - Bouncing Back (Including a review of As You Like It by Abbey Shakespeare)

This is written in part to honour the wonderful athletes who we've just been watching during the Women's Trampoline.  Great stuff.

As has happened to so many Olympians, my efforts, though driven and deliberate, floundered.  I'd hoped to post on my blog once a day for a week.  But really that was rather silly given what a week it's been.  On the plus side, I now get to write an additional post explaining my absense, and then I'll follow on with my planned subjects.

So, Wednesday.  Each year I take photos for the Abbey Shakespeare play at St Dogmaels Abbey.  I'd hoped in the morning to get on and write Thursday's post, but alas I just didn't have the time.  Instead, I was trying my best to look after Deborah who was very poorly.  I wasn't feeling too good myself - a muscle in my leg was spasming for 14 hours straight.

So in the end Deb had to stay back in the van (with her cold weather gear consisting of Russian-style hat, tights, leggings, fleece jacket and sleeping bag) and I went off to the play.  This year was As You Like It, a rather distinct change of mood from last year's King Lear.  And excitingly the play was the directorial debut of one of the long term cast.  He did a great job and I hope he's really proud of the result.

I tried a new tactic this year with photos - raising both the shutter speed and ISO.  I'm still getting used to how well the 7D deals with ISO noise so it took a great deal of trust.  Also new this year was my fantastic monopod.  I've used monopods in the past, but only the very cheapest ebay sells.  This year I treated myself to a Manfrotto 680B with a 494RC2 ball head and the beast was more solid than any tripod I've ever had, let alone a monopod.  I'd read some reviews which mentioned people using it as a walking stick at the same time as a camera support and that seemed entirely appropriate for my needs.  It might make taking photos around the garden a bit more straight forward.

As for the play: it really was superb.  There was such a lot of humour packed in.  The rather eclectic modern setting was perfect and little touches (use of mobile phones and modern american wrestling) really raised it.  There were times it was hard to keep the camera steady from laughing.  The wrestling bout itself was very brave.

As You Like It - Abbey Shakespeare 2012
Photo of one man in one in mid air kicking another man in blue tights, lime pants and a blue hood in the face. And who wouldn't?  The colour clash deserves nothing less.

There were some great comedy performances from the supporting characters.

As You Like it - Abbey Shakespeare 2012 - My Favourites
A woman in a light blue skirt suit with a replica shotgun, flowery bag and glasses pinched from the receptionist in Ghostbusters.

Not to mention the puppets.

As You Like It - Abbey Shakespeare 2012
Two deer who are obviously deeply in love.

The leading actors were absolutely faultless.  And, of course, highly photogenic.

As You Like it - Abbey Shakespeare 2012 - My Favourites
Rosalind played by Mary Glynn - a blonde woman with flowers in her hair being a great actor.

And who can object to a happy ending?

As You Like it - Abbey Shakespeare 2012 - My Favourites
A happy ending - what more can you say?  Smiles, hugs and cherubs.  No, seriously, there are cherubs.

It took a day to edit the images and another day to get them all uploaded.  It has also taken a few days to get over the pain.  Hence the lack of blog posts.  But it was very much worth it.  I do hope that the rest of the run went well for the cast and crew.  The rain kept off for the entire evening on the Wednesday, but I'm not sure if that will have been the case for all the nights.  I also hope that they're pleased with the photos.  I would think as an actor, your memories of the performance might be strong but limited to your parts (not to mention your perspective).  Hopefully my perspective will make their memories stronger and more complete.

So now on with the next blog post...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

3/5 - Olympic Rings

Yesterday I was writing mainly about something that happened two years ago.  Today I'll write about something that happened two weeks ago.

You wouldn't believe it given the soaking we've had this morning, but for the last few weeks the Welsh skies have been relatively free of rain clouds.  The ground, though, has retained the consistency of slightly thickened ocean, having been pelted for the last few months.  But this also means that the surroundings are green and lush and full of life.

A demonstration of the lush green life around these parts.

We drove down the coast road for fish and chips.  The particular chip shop has recently been visited by royalty, and so they should - the food they produce is absolutely outstanding.  It's always a really special occassion eating their food, particularly as we tend to wolf it down whilst looking out over the sea.  There's a circular unity of smells and tastes.  It is perfect and infinite.  And that's just the portion sizing.

This time was a little different though, as I had with me a ring.

Deb loves silver and her favourite colours tend to be on the blue spectrum.  So I'd chosen a ring inspired by the Welsh coast line.  Set in it (because we don't much like the ethics surrounding diamonds...not that other precious stones are necessarily that ethical, but you know what I mean...) was a deep blue sapphire.  It was, of course, too big and will need to be resized.  But she accepted it nonetheless.  She then gave me a silver band into which the skeleton of a leaf has been pressed.  It was, of course, the perfect size and I'm wearing it as I type.

So we got engaged overlooking the pewter sea.

It's a funny feeling, really.  It's not a massive change, but it was a massive emotional event and that was quite challenging.  I was rather poorly for a few fact, I'm not that sure I've entirely recovered.  And there is also the added pressure of planning a wedding.

However, and I wonder to myself if, in fact, all couples think this way, but even so I reckon that we might be right - I think we will have the best wedding ever.  We are limited by our health, but already we've got the bare bones of a day planned out that will be calm, relaxed, joyful and easy.  There will be no pressure for perfection.  It will not be expensive and we've decided one of the fun bits of the process will be making our own rings.

The day will be, I hope, about the equality and universality of love.  It will be small and wonderful.

When I studied Classics I was particularly interested in narrative.  One of the traditional ways of telling stories is to mirror the structure of the beginning in the end.  This, appropriately enough, is called Ring Composition.  And so, in my attempt to be traditional, I should point out that I'm already gunning for a wedding dinner of fish and chips.

My fiancee.