Sunday, November 01, 2009

It may be a coincidence but the Evening Standard doesn't seem to have published anything by Nirpal Dhaliwal since it went free. One of the last things, so far, he wrote for them is this column, and I can't tell if he's joking or sincere...

Evening Standard: Honesty puts my ex-wife in a league of her own
-August 5, 2009

MY ex-wife, Liz Jones, has a new book out this week, The Exmoor Files: How I Lost a Husband and Found Rural Bliss. In it she gives her version of our marital break-up two years ago, which she documented in her newspaper columns, and her experience of moving to the country afterwards.

It was excruciating to have my dirty linen aired like that but I'd been an appallingly unfaithful husband and to some extent felt it was her prerogative to badmouth me in public. Like the mistakes I made in my marriage, it was an experience I never want to repeat.

I now look back on Liz's work and am awed by the phenomenon she created. She turned the genre of confessional journalism almost into an art form and made a name for herself in the process. Detailing the intimacies of her private and emotional life with brutal frankness, her columns had a pace, turn of phrase and expectancy that any novelist would be proud of.

Uncomfortable as it was to be her subject, I could never fault the quality of her writing.

Others disagree. Last Sunday, one magazine published a disdainful interview describing her as looking "a bit mad", implying that her writing stemmed from a mental disorder.

When we were married, I sometimes called Liz mad too. I now acknowledge that she is, in fact, a genius, a brilliantly effective writer who can provoke 130,000 comments to a newspaper with a single article about her anorexic relationship with food.

Some dismiss her work because much of it focuses on herself, but the same is true of many journalists, diarists, even novelists. And how many other writers have tapped the public nerve so powerfully and consistently? Though her columns concentrated on our marriage, they recorded a unique moment in the history of women as they finally flood through the cracks in glass ceilings in unprecedented numbers. Liz articulated the anxieties of a successful woman who out-earned her husband and sacrificed motherhood for her career yet still felt pressured to conform to idealised notions of beauty and achieve the mythical state of "having it all". Her success reflects the increasing feminisation of our culture, in which women's interests in relationships and domestic life compete equally for attention with male concerns.

On topics such as multiculturalism, female empowerment and the neuroses of consumer society, other columnists pontificate loftily without insight. Liz, however, took readers on a unique journey through the reality of these issues via the nitty-gritty of her mixed-race marriage to a less accomplished younger man me. Her columns were compulsive reading.

Other writers have boosted their careers by penning what poses as the highly confessional while omitting detail to spare themselves ridicule, such as the fact that a husband's affair was actually with another man, or publicising the trauma of giving birth to a sickly child without admitting that booze and fags were enjoyed throughout the pregnancy.

It is Liz's merciless honesty that put her in a league of her own and I readily acknowledge it, even when the honesty hurt me. Like that other great columnist, Julie Burchill, she provokes adoration and hatred for daring to unveil the darker side of the female psyche. Julie confessed she felt nothing for her first child, while Liz admitted that she feels superior to others simply for being thinner.

Like her readers, Liz's critics are overwhelmingly women. But however strange they think she is, they can't deny that she has pioneered new limits for journalism and has the sort of hold on the public imagination particularly of women that most writers can only dream of.

Of course, Nirpal does not mention that he lacks Liz's 'merciless honesty', that he not only called her 'mad' but also 'fatty' and that he still calls her for money.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Spectator, of all magazines, is reporting that the Guardian has been prevented from reporting on a question asked in Parliament, including who asked it, who will answer it, who injuncted the Guardian and why. Never mind, other people not yet having had proceedings taken out against them seem to think it's Carter-Ruck, a collection of lawyers that, as regular Private Eye readers will know, make Wolfram and Hart look like fucking Aslan.

The article reports this as being their best guess at being the offending question.

From, “Questions for Oral or Written Answer beginning on Tuesday 13 October 2009″

N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

And here is the Guardian article on that Minton report. So yeah, Carter-Ruck seem to have managed to stop a newspaper reporting on business in Government about press freedoms to report when big companies massively fuck-up and then try to hide the evidence. Let everyone know, yeah?

These injunctions-which-include-you-not-being-allowed-to-tell-people-that-there's-an-injunction-against-you are worrying, even if they tend not to work on the Internet. Andrew Marr, the BBC journo, has one which is apparently about him fathering a child with a journalist he had an affair with.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Posting this on behalf of others, so I am not one of the 'we', though I know some of them and support all of them:

London trans activists call for boycott of sham demo on October 17th

We are a group of trans activists who wish to make known our concerns about a demo, claiming to support the depathologisation of trans people, in London on 17th of October. The facebook group for the demo can be found here:

The description of the event reads:

"Being transgendered is not a mental illness. We are simply part of the diversity of humanity. Gender Identity Disorder is therefore not a valid diagnosis. Homosexuality we removed as a mental health diagnosis diagnosis in 1987. For us to achieve true liberation and recognition we need to throw off this unjust stigma. We are not ill, just different"

A large number of people were invited by the demo organiser, a non-trans man by the name of Dennis Hambridge, and some of us were initially concerned by the rationale for the demo. In particular, we were worried that campaigning for the removal of Gender Identity Disorder as a medical diagnosis without proposing an alternative mechanism by which transsexual people would be able to access medical transition resources was premature and dangerous, especially in a climate where NHS primary care trusts need only a minimal excuse to deny funding for our hormonal and surgical procedures. We do not support the labelling of our gender identities as disordered, and realise that our relationship with the medical community is far from ideal, but do not wish to support a movement which may give the impression that we seek complete divorce from the medical community.

These concerns were put to the Facebook group by a number of trans activists. Rather than address them, Mr Hambridge entrenched his position, making claims that gender dysphoria was an artefact of society and the medical community, and that removal of any form of classification of gender dysphoria by the WHO was "non-negotiable".

In moves more reminiscent of the actions of transphobic radical feminists than supposed allies of trans people, Mr Hambridge started deleting some of the comments from those trans people who were concerned about our future access to hormones and surgery. Subsequently he banned a number of those trans people from the group, silencing them in that space.

To reiterate - Mr Hambridge, who is organising a demo which is allegedly supporting the rights of transsexual people is using his position as a group organiser to silence and shut out the voices of the very people he claims to support.

In light of Mr Hambridge's intransigence and refusal to listen to the voices of actual transsexual people, we are calling on all activists who support the concept of transsexual people having a say in our own medical care to boycott this demo. We further call on Mr Hambridge, who is not trans himself, to stop claiming to speak on our behalf when he is ignoring our protestations and silencing our voices, and to call off his demo.

Please spread this open letter widely.

Roz Kaveney has more information here and Aunty Sarah here.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

It worries me to be seen to agree with conservatives so instead I will simply say "It is my intention to bring peace to the whole world. Can I have my Nobel Peace Prize now?"

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Lily Allen has been saying some very silly things about piracy recently. Dan Bull has a response. [via Bloggerheads]

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Johann Hari gets it spot on: If we care about the BBC, we must fight to defend it.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I am a gadfly flapping around in the wind of public opinion or somewhat, so needed Kate Harding to remind me that Roman Polanski drug-raped a child and was then a fugitive from justice for thirty years, not a victim of cruel and unusual prejudice. She presents some especially inglorious highlights from the 'OMG!!1! Will no-one think of the poor persecuted rich artist who has been able to get on with his career in Europe' crowd. She points to Joan Shore at HuffPo who, in what I hope is a satirical piece, says that while she doesn't mind about the Swiss Banks holding on to all that looted Nazi gold what she can't stand is their police seizing a rapist. A surprising number of film directors and producers seem to share this view, including Henning Molfenter, who is quoted as saying "There is no way I'd go to Switzerland now. You can't watch films knowing Roman Polanski is sitting in a cell 5km away". Then there is Whoopi Goldberg, who doesn't think nonconsensual sex with a minor is rape. Bernard-Henri Lévy manages to sum up the issue in the pompous manner we all love the French for, We ask the Swiss courts to free him immediately and not to turn this ingenious filmmaker into a martyr of a politico-legal imbroglio that is unworthy of two democracies like Switzerland and the United States. Good sense, as well as honor, require it. Yep, it's dishonourable to pursue a felon for a crime they pleaded guilty to. Fortunately not everyone on HuffPo wants to give a pass to artists.

There's more from Kate Harding here.

If you like that sort of thing, there's a Facebook group here.

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