Molly Haskell on Women.

Film  After seeing a recommendation on the brilliant Be Kind Rewind YouTube channel my latest read is From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies by the film theorist and critic Molly Haskell.  Haskell's best known for defining the "women's film" genre and this book is laser focused on not just how female characters developed but also how Hollywood abused the actresses playing them.

It's early days, we're still getting to know each other, but the first twenty pages are devastatingly good.  There's a passage in which she talks about how male critics tend to give films a pass if they fancy the actress and pages pretty much burn as you read them.  After lengthy quotes from Otis Ferguson's lubidinous prose about Margaret Sullivan, she takes aim at some of her other colleagues:
"For James Agee, it was after croaky-voiced actress, June Allyson, who could turn routine movies into musicals and musicals into masterpieces -- momentarily.  To Ferhuson's and Agee's crushes (which he shares), Andrew Sarris adds a passion for Vivien Leigh which led him to see That Hamilton Woman eighty-five times.  Vincent Canby has been known to make considerable allowances for the performances of Candice Bergen ..."
And so it goes on.  Andrew Sarris (who helped develop auteur theory) incidentally was her then husband, they'd been married for five years and this is just the sort of insight you might expect from someone who's seen a particular film just too many times.

But the best paragraph so far is on the second page and defines the work which Haskell is committing to.  It's quite long but worth repeating especially in the light of the current and past presidential elections and the treatment of female candidates by the media and opposition party.  
"The prejudice against women is no less pernicious because it is based on a fallacy.  Indeed, to have sanction by law and custom a judgement that goes against our instincts is the cornerstone of bad faith on which monuments of misunderstanding have erected.  We can see that women live longer than men, give birth and endure pain bravely; yet they are the "weaker sex."  They can read and write as well as men -- are actually more verbal according to aptitude tests.  And they are encouraged to pursue advanced education as long as they don't forget their paramount destiny to marry and become mothers, an injunction that effectively dilutes intellectual concentration and discourages ambition.  Women are not "real women" unless they marry and bear children, and even those without the inclination are often pressured into motherhood and just as often make a mess of it.  The inequity is perpetuated as women transmit their sense of incompleteness to their daughters.  But men, too, are victimized by the lie.  Secretly they must wonder how they came to be entitled to their sense of superiority if it to these "inferior" creature to home they owe the debt of their existence.  And defensively, they may feel "emasculated" by any show of strength or word of criticism from their nominal dependents."
That was written in 1973 and some of the language has dated.  But glass ceilings still exist.  Some women's careers still take a hit if they decide to have a family, perhaps even giving up their employment, their spouses still inoculated against such things.  Pay parity is still being fought for.  Fifty years on, the white male voice still feels loudest.  Especially in cinema.

Taylor Swift endorses Joe Biden. Properly this time.

Politics   Back on election day 2016, Taylor Swift posted a photograph of herself voting but despite the implications of the sweater she was wearing it wasn't until after election day that it was confirmed that she had voted for Hilary Clinton.  

In the documentary Miss Americana, we see the back and forth with her management over how political she should be with Taylor clearly very angry that she'd essentially been muzzled by nervous men not wanting have her image tarnished with right wing fans (even though her silence had led a whole lot of racists to believe she was on their side).

It's been a long four years on this occasion time, Taylor isn't being subtle about it:

The article in the magazine or at least what must be a preview of it is on their website and she says pretty much what we're all thinking.  We need this to stop.

How are we all?

Life One of the key blogging rules from back in the day was never to apologise for not posting for extended periods, just to blog. Which is correct, of course, so instead, I'll simply offer an explanation.  What with one thing and another, I haven't felt the ability or need to write anything here, which has been a problem for a good couple of years but has been exacerbated more recently by the slow apocalypse and my own slightly fragile demeanor.  One of the key elements of anxiety is fear and folks, I've been very, very frightened.  Petrified in fact.

This came to a head on Monday in the local Spar shop on a garage forecourt.  Regular Twitter readers will know I've been conducting something of a survey of the supermarkets in the area, trying to find somewhere close and safe so I can buy Mum her Liverpool Echo.  Up until last week, we were getting it delivered and because we live in a tower block that meant the flat's intercom ringing at any time between three and five in the morning.  After six months, not getting a full night's sleep was beginning to have adverse emotional effects.

Crazily this Spar seemed like the best option.  Although its small and the staff don't wear masks, there are plastic screens at the counter and the geography of the isles mean its possible to ditch along them if someone comes into the place not wearing a mask either, which happens frequently because for the most part its drivers paying for their petrol who can't be bothered keeping everyone else safe for the brief time they're in the shop.  Plus it has a large selection of groceries which is incredibly handy in such close proximity to home.

But all along I've never really felt properly safe in there, but put it down to not actually feeling safe anywhere outside my own home.  Each shopping trip has felt like being a strategy game, having to navigate social distancing from people who don't really care about such things.  Having to be constantly vigilant is tiring as is the feeling of being the only person taking all of this seriously even as the number of cases in Liverpool increases, feeling sometimes as though I'm being unnecessarily paranoid even though all evidence is to the contrary.

Anyway, back to Monday.  Having waited long enough for the maskless to dissipate from the queuing area, I stood in line on the spot designated on the floor by a large circle with the Spar logo on it.  Within moments a young man, earlier twenties. stands just a foot or two behind me.  Already a bit wound up by the sheer bigness of things, I turn to him and ask him to step back and make some distance.  He refuses, saying that he is distanced.  Which.  He.  Isn't.  

"Plus" I say, "You're not wearing a mask." 

He isn't but I don't know why I added this, because he knew full well.  At this point it's a choice not to.  Asking someone to wear a mask has apparently become a huge deal - people don't like being told what to do by total strangers even if it's in their mutual best interest, even though by not wearing a mask they could be giving me a deadly, airborne disease.

"You don't have to...!" He screams back.

I'm seething.  I'm next in the queue so I walk forward and plonk the newspaper and lolly ices I'm buying on the counter.  Meanwhile I can hear the man talking to someone else, "That nob head telling me to wear a mask."  The person he's talking to is wearing a face covering by the way.  They're inches away from each other.

I turn my head slightly.

"Because it's mandatory to wear masks in shops!" I yell.

"No one asked for your opinion." He hollers back.

It's not an opinion, I want to tell him, it's a fact, but think better of it.  My heart is pumping in my chest and I just want to get out of there.  After months of keeping my mouth shut, the damn has burst and I've become the person I didn't want to be.  For all I knew, there could be reasons why he personally couldn't wear a mask and Ive added to his nightmare.  Perhaps I should be posting this to Reddit.

After paying, I turn to look around and notice again the small size of the premises, how few people are wearing masks or social distancing and I realise I've been deluding myself, making excuses against reality.  This place really isn't a safe place to shop.  Nowhere is, unless everyone is following the rules.  There's always a chance of something going wrong, of spending just a little bit too much time breathing the same air as an undiagnosed super-spreader not wearing a mask.

When I was being signed off from the telephone CBT I received at the start of the lockdown, the psychologist said that she didn't really have anything to teach me because I already had most of the elements of knowing how to deal with the anxiety locked in, especially how to "solve" those problems which were causing me to tip over, but also how to do that in such a way that it doesn't stop being from gladding about.

This virus has rather changed that.  In this case, one of the ways to stop myself to becoming overwhelmed is to shop online and top visiting supermarkets, even small ones.  We did right the way through proper lockdown, but the ability to visit somewhere and choose things off the shelves offered a sense of normality when there's no such thing as normality right now.  The attitudes of others make that impossible.

Now I've found a couple of newsagents were the staff do wear masks and there's perspex shielding all around the till area, limit customers and who take card payments. It's still a risk, but a small one and we've agreed that's better than not having a full night's sleep ever.  Not to mention that it forces me to go out at least once a day and breath some fresh air, as best I can through the mask.

The other reason I haven't updated much is Blogger's horrible new interface which somehow makes the process of updating the blog a more laborious process.  For a few weeks the "legacy" interface was still available through a hidden URL but that loophole has been blocked and it now redirects to this supposedly tablet friendly nightmare which hates HTML.  Let's see if I can get this to post.  Stay safe.

The Secret History of Writing.

History The Secret History of Writing is currently on the iPlayer (although the first episode drops off in a fortnight). Across three episodes it describes the development of written language from symbolic to alpha numeric characters, the development of how those letters are captured on paper and in printing and finally how roman characters are slowly conquering the world. 

Typical of the show's casual revelations is why we call the edge of the book its spine.  This dates back to the original utility of vellum.  In the series we see the scraping and stretching process on the cow hide but despite the craftsman's work, anatomical features of the animal's carcass can still be seen on the surface including the spine of the animal.  It's at this point the pages are folded and hence the name we still use.