Thursday, 26 January 2017

In Which I Await the Wrath of Fellow Feminists

Photo from user GallowBoob (aptly)

When I moved to Brooklyn some years ago, back when Dubya (now the beloved elder statesman!) was sending troops into Iraq again, I was taking the apartment of a friend of a friend of a friend who was moving home to save money (all very New York, thus far). When I came to see the apartment, as I was leaving she asked me if I was going to an anti-war demonstration at the UN later that week. When I said I wasn't, she was actually, literally agape. But it's important, she told me. I, being naturally politically difficult, asked her what was important about this particular demonstration. It just is, she told me like it was self evident. "There will be tons of people there."

And there it was. It was important but because lots of people were going. If lots were going, it was obviously important, and if it was important, lots would go.

I have never been a fan of protesting. Mostly this is because I feel it is used at the drop of the proverbial pussy hat in recent decades. I have what I term protest fatigue. I cannot, genuinely cannot, figure out what the truly important issues are to people anymore. Everything seems to warrant the same level of outrage.

Once upon a time, public demonstration happened rather rarely, and it was always dangerous. Violence at the hands of the police or military or bystanders was a given. If you marched, it was because there literally was no longer any other thing to be done to solve a particular problem - it could not be solved through normal democracy or the exercise of rights. It was a march in a very martial sense, heading to battle, even if you the foot soldier of your cause armed yourself with nothing more than your own words. Think of early labor regulations, women's suffrage, civil rights, the Vietnam War draft. These were moments in history when protest was a last act of desperation for a group that had nothing left to lose. And each group had a specific goal in mind and ideas on how to achieve that goal.

Lest you believe I am glorifying some kind of golden age of protesting, let me make clear: I would not return to times such as these, to an America full of large swathes of people who are unable to make the changes they want to see because of constant, conscious, deliberate dehumanization.

Are there groups of people in America who face systematic discrimination: yes. But I believe, rather unpopularly, that protest no longer holds the power it once held, and it is because it is wielded so often, and often by groups with lots of other recourse to creating change, and, I'm sorry to say it, so often incompetently. It has become difficult to take seriously, and it is even harder to pick out which protest deserves real attention from government.

I didn't march in the Women's March last week, and not just because I wasn't in the US. I wouldn't have marched there either. Here's where I trot out my credentials: I am a feminist, an intersectional one, and I have always been one. But I am also - very unpopularly amongst my fellow feminists - highly critical of feminism. Indeed, I think it is important to be so, and the Women's March in many ways illustrates why.

Intersectional feminism is a philosophy that connects all oppression. We all understand that oppression is about keeping power in the hands of some at the expense of the rest. We all innately understand who the some in power are: men. It is in the skeleton of our very language, a ribbon running through our social interactions and our assumptions about everyone we meet. It's just there, there is no point in debating it (although feel free to engage me in this conversation if you really want). Wresting that power out of the hands of the few and giving it to the many is a hard job, an act of attrition, a labor of devotion that lasts lifetimes and will probably never end completely. And yet feminists continue to chip away at this pointless construct in an attempt to improve lives.

What intersectional feminism isn't is a political party. And since it's not a political party, it doesn't have a political agenda. That might be a surprise to people. But it's true. Feminists, like any group of philosophers, cannot agree exactly on how their philosophy should manifest in real life: what equality is or should be or how it should or can be achieved or even what a feminist act is. Some people believe wearing a hijab can be a feminist act while others believe it never can be. Some feminists are pro-choice and some are pro-life. Some think all sex work is exploitation and some believe it to be empowering. The list goes on and on.

Knowing this, I couldn't help but feel a giant "Whyyyyyyyyyy" forming in my mind upon first hearing about the Women's March. It's slightly facetious. I know why. Women are angry at Trump for his disgusting remarks about women's bodies, his bizarre commentary on his own daughters, his apparent encouragement of sexual assault. The man is clearly a misogynist. It could not be clearer that however many women he employs, he believes them as a group to be inferior to men, items for men to control. It's gross. Women are right to be mad about it! Women want to show their anger. They want to believe other women feel angry. They want a reckoning for this offense, a release valve to vent their spleens. So they come together to demonstrate. So far fine - a social event essentially. But then the organizers predictably trotted out a political agenda, which anyone could see coming a mile away, and which was the cause of my existential dread.

The problem herein lies with the fact that feminism is not a political platform, as stated above. Immediately there were accusations of exclusion, there were criticisms of Linda Sarsour's hijab, etc. And the organizers couldn't - and I mean that literally, they were unable because of the very nature of feminism - settle on a single, focused political point to get their full and formidable weight behind - think of all those millions of people across the world! Instead they had to disburse their influence across many complaints with the Trump administration. All perhaps valid complaints, even, but so many of them at once that they were all drowned in the cacophony. And in the end the biggest takeaway from this historic event was that women are fucking savage sign makers. I mean there were some absolute corkers.

Meanwhile, while everyone has patted themselves on the back for a cracking good march (so many people! It must have been very important!) Trump has merrily signed his name to executive orders cutting funding to interantional NGOs providing women's health services if that includes abortion services, destroying an international trade agreement with plans to destroy others, stopping the hiring of desperately needed federal employees at places like the VA, which serves the nation's soldiers healing the physical and psychic wounds of war and giving them jobs to come to when they leave the service, limiting immigration from countries full of people desperate for the hope that comes with a ticket to America. He has hamstrung the ability of the nation's scientists to disseminate data unmanipulated by political interference. And throughout it all the only commentary about the Women's March from his people is to quibble over how many people were there. Trump is not the type of person to hear criticism and think, "Hm, maybe this needs further thought before I act." He's the type to say, "Fuck 'em."

So yes the march was perhaps a much needed spleen vent. And it perhaps brought a touch of hope to those who felt like the world was ending last week. But it also acted as a handy press distraction for an administration hell bent on doing and undoing as much as possible as quickly as possible before anyone can catch their breath.

So if you want to make real change, if you want not to be marching again in 50 years like the woman in the picture above, you'd better catch yours, quick.

Monday, 16 January 2017

On the Eve of a Trump Presidency

This week, we will find out what happens when Donald Trump becomes President of the United States. We all think we know. We all have an idea of what we believe will happen. But truthfully, for probably the first time since the very earliest days of the country, we have very little idea of what to expect from the government over the next 4 years. We have an incoming president whose main selling point during the election was that he has a complete lack of interest in diplomacy or in understanding contrasting points of view. I'm not even convinced that any of what he promised during the election was anything he strongly believed in so much as it was repeating whatever got the biggest roar from the crowd.

This particular election was so ugly, truly ugly, that I'm not surprised that people's reactions afterward are so steeped in disgust. I'm not really convinced that it would have been better in that regard if Clinton had won. It feels like people - across the political spectrum - have just been angry at everything, but very few are willing to try to actually pick apart the problems and solve them. It feels like people want to be right, at the cost of executing actual change.

So I have two challenges in 2017 for my friends and family who voted. Do you want to create a better society? Really? Or do you just want to complain about it? You, no matter how helpless you feel, can do one very small thing to enact the changes you want, no matter who you are and no matter where you fall on the spectrum. But for the sake of this exercise, I'm going to divide everyone into Trump voters and non-Trump voters.

TRUMP VOTERS - Many of you, I'm sure have felt the need to justify your vote since the election, and to trot out your credentials as a non-bigot of one sort or another. So, I'm asking you to put your money where your mouth is. I challenge you to spend at least 1 day this year volunteering for an organization in your community that serves a marginalized group that you keep telling everyone you don't mind. Easy, right? After all, you don't have anything against these people!

You don't have a problem with the gayz? Sweet. Now you can prove it to yourself and everyone else by spending a day helping out at charity that serves vulnerable LGBT youth, like The Trevor Project or the True Colors Fund .

Never had a problem with anyone who believes in god, even if they aren't the same religion as you? Excellent. Head on down to your local synagogue, mosque, Sikh or Hindu temple or any other place of worship that isn't your usual haunt and ask if you can help out their community in some way. They serve their communities in pretty much the exact same way as any Christian church would - food pantries, providing yard services to the elderly, having social days for various community members, etc. Think your town doesn't have a religious minority? Guess again - even if your exact town doesn't, a nearby one will. Get thee to a nunnery, or the equivalent in whatever religious group you're going to work with, and start helping out.

Are some of your best friends [insert racial minority here]? Well then, you won't have any problem whatsoever helping others from their community to get ahead in life. Check out The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families for ideas on how to help. Or plan a fundraiser for the Jack and Jill Foundation. Or look up what's happening locally to help racial minority groups near you. Google, people. It's so easy.

Think women are perfectly capable of handling any job a man can do? Good. Now help the next generation of women prove it to the naysayers. If you've got a talent for computers, start a Girls Who Code club in your community or volunteer with an already established one. Or mentor a girl from a disadvantaged community to help her realize a brighter future with Step Up.

You get the idea. Do it. Show everyone what a caring, inclusive, non-bigot you are.

NON-TRUMP VOTERS - You're not off the hook. Get on the phone, email, write a letter and let your Congressperson know right now that having a temper tantrum and refusing to work because the new boss is an idiot is NOT HOW SHIT GETS DONE. It's how - leftwing buzzword coming up - silos get created. If your representative has publicly stated that they:

  • are boycotting the inauguration
  • refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Trump presidency
  • aren't going to work with Republicans for the next 4 years unless they disavow their democratically elected leader
  • are unable to bring themselves to discuss anything with the incoming adminstration
  • just can't even

then you tell them that their job, the job they've been elected and are paid to do by YOU, is to suck it up and get in there and represent all the things you care about to this muppet. It's their job to ensure that Trump and his advisors are unable to ignore the problems that people like you care about. If your representative won't engage with the incoming administration, then your representative isn't able to deliver the things they promised to do for their constituents: you. So let them know that they'd better put away the duvet, take a damn shower, and get out there and work for you and for the sake of the country. It's going to be a difficult 4 years, make no mistake. But if they don't do their job, then Trump gets to enact all the terrible legislation he wants or thinks he wants without any proper opposition. Now is not the time to hide and hope it goes away. Now is the time to stand up and ensure that the spirit of the USA, the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the ridiculous optimism that has been the hallmark of American culture for so long aren't trampled to dust because of one cotton candy-headed prune and his shouty little mouth.

Don't let him do this without making it a proper fight. Don't let your representative hand over power by doing nothing.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Ushering in 2017

I had lots of plans for things I was going to write about my family in reference to immigration, religion, visa applications, and many other things as a reflection on 2016. But I think my first entry, about poverty, made all the points any further entries in a series would have made: people like to think in black and white. It's our nature. We like to believe we know who is a welfare cheat and who isn't, that hard work and discipline always lead directly to economic health, that the bad guys can be easily picked out of a crowd, that everything can be categorized as good or bad, that we all get what we deserve, and those of us in a position of privilege did something differently than others to get here. Etcetera.

But we're wrong. The world doesn't work that way, and training your brain to see beyond easy and intuitive connections and into reality is hard graft. Which means some of us can't be bothered. We'd rather swallow the blue pill and wake up in the world we've constructed in our mind than take the red one and have to face the reality that what's easy to accept is often a distraction from problems right in front of us. I don't need a whole series of blog posts to reiterate this point. I don't need to provide example after example, because there are examples literally everywhere, all around us. If we choose to examine them, we'll find a complex web of intersecting values that, in my opinion, actually indicates more good in the world than bad. People are mostly good, trying to do what's best, and sometimes getting it wrong.

It is tiring to retrain your brain. It is exhausting to question yourself as vigorously as you'd question an ideological opponent. But it's the moral and ethical thing to do. Even if you can only bear to do it in tiny doses at a time. I challenge you to incorporate this little exercise as part of your resolution.

That said, 2016 can get cast back into the horrible fires of hell, because it's New Year's Eve, and there's work to do. Coming soon, I review Moana. You know you're looking forward to that.

Happy 2017!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

2016 End of Year Diary, Part 1

It's been a long time since I've written on here. It's not for a lack of opinions, of course, or even for a lack of time, necessarily. Perhaps a lack of sufficient cohesion of thought to create something in this format that felt worth sharing. But that time is over. I haven't felt such focus in my life in a long time. This has been a challenging year for my two countries, the US and the UK. And now that we're through the big political events of the year, I really want to share a reflection on the year through the prism of one small family's experience.

 The thing I feel an urgency to discuss in Part 1 is not misogyny or racism or xenophobia or any of the seemingly million little bigotries that have gotten the big headlines. I most want to talk about social services. Not my usual lightning rod, but particularly in the last few days, I've seen some comments on the social media of friends and family that make it clear that there is more than just the usual grumbling about freeloaders and illegal immigrants. There is a catastrophically toxic resentment that, in a tax-paying political system, some of the money you earn helps people who need help. I mean a real, deep-down anger that some people need help. It's not anger that some people scam the welfare system or anger that some people get help while others go without (the old bugbear - illegals get TONS of welfare, but veterans get nothing - being a regular on this circuit) or even the anger that some people live comfortably (how dare they?) while also collecting welfare. It's anger that people need help. This anger leads almost inevitably to a division in people's minds of the deserving and the undeserving poor. But here's the thing: everyone deserves help when they need it, and everyone needs help sometimes.

 Here's the story of my family. Firstly, we are poor. That is information that I don't normally share, but I really feel like it's important for everyone to understand what poverty means in reality. Are we as poor as some people? No. Are we eating enough? Yes. Do we have a car and a place to live? Yes. But we are still poor. Sometimes, we are desperately poor.

 Some of the reasons we are poor are down to choices we've made: We have made specific choices about education and work that have probably cut into our ability to make as much money as others in the first place [I did a Master's degree that I didn't go on to use, Husband didn't finish his degree and switched careers immediately after I had a baby, I have chosen to work in creative industries where there isn't much money, etc.]. We have spent lots of money visiting family. We like buying books.

 Some of the reasons we are poor are down to dumb luck: I have terrible health problems that, as well as costing us money, have cut into my ability to work consistently or to progress in a career path. We had a baby who was born very prematurely and needed a different type of care at the beginning than a healthy baby. Both husband and I have lost good jobs. We rented a house next to a family with a domestic violence problem and had to move. We started our careers and family life together at the beginning of an historically horrendous financial crisis that the world has yet to recover from.

 So what does poverty for us mean. It means that we have had periods of homelessness where we have had to live with our parents because we couldn't afford to live on our own. It means we have lived in homes of our own that are drafty, moldy and smelly. It means we have decided for long stretches to only heat one room in the house and to spend all our time in there. It means that our weekly menu is carefully planned down to the last scrap to ensure we eat healthfully within a tiny budget. It means we almost never go out to eat or for a drink or to see a film or anything else that costs money to do. It means that we have never ever had a television hookup. It means we make almost all the Christmas gifts we give. It means we only buy new clothes when we absolutely have to. It means that we still make the same amount of dinner as we always have, but as our child grows bigger, we just eat less and let her have more. This is our everyday existence. It is not necessarily the same experience as others who are poor. It is ours. And it sounds a bit grim. And sometimes it is.

 But would you have known this about us if we didn't tell you? Some of it, perhaps. But the truth is, we get on cheerfully enough - we work as and when and how we can. We get the car fixed and pay the rent and buy the short dated food and don't complain about it (much). We own some nice things, bought during times of "plenty". We aren't what you see on television, people with nothing, including the wherewithal to change their circumstances, people with drug and alcohol problems, people trapped in an abuse cycle or whatever else you think being poor means. 

Here's more you should know: there have been times that we have relied on government money to see us through. We have applied for and received Job Seeker's Allowance, Social Security disability, money to pay our rent (housing benefit and council tax reduction) and buy food (WIC). We have relied on socialised medical care A LOT. Not just the NHS. When I had my kidney transplant in the US, I was covered by a combination of Medicare and Masshealth, and so was my donor and so was everyone who was tested to be my donor. This was because, in part, neither Husband nor I had a job that offered private health care. I, in fact, didn't have a job at all. We have had to use each of these social services at one time or another in order to just carry on with a sense of normalcy. Not luxury. Not indulgence. Not giddiness. Normalcy.

 And like virtually everyone else collecting welfare, we didn't enjoy it. It didn't feel nice, and it didn't feel like we were getting one over on anyone, and it didn't feel easy and full of loopholes to exploit, and it didn't feel like it was money for doing nothing. Every bit of it has been a dreadful ordeal, fraught with condescension, prejudice, anger, frustration, despair, tears and shame. There were times (several) that we opted NOT to bother because it was just too horrible to face it yet again. We aren't glad that we've relied on taxpayers (including ourselves, by the way!), and we aren't glad that we're poor. We just are.

 Here's the big thing that has kept us separate from the poverty porn you see on television. It's not that we're super smart with our money (though we aren't too shabby - we love a spreadsheet or 12). It's that we have some significant privilege backing us up. We both come from families with stable foundations. We grew up in modest comfort without wanting for pretty much anything. We had both our parents around and working. We've had good educations and a network of friends and family to point us to opportunities. We have had a place to go live when we couldn't afford our own place. We have had relatives who feed us whenever we visit and send us home with food and other presents. We have friends and family who treat our daughter so very well, who are generous with their time and love. This is where we are rich, and this is why our poverty is bearable and why we are able to carry on and find happiness in life in spite of the challenges we have faced and still face. We have needed help sometimes, and our friends and family have helped us. And so have perfect strangers. And in turn we try to help our friends and family and perfect strangers however we can. And we are happy to do so.

 When I see people on facebook cheering the idea of taking away public services for people in need, when I see them getting angry at people for taking assistance, I feel extremely sad. These services have flaws. And they should be constantly reviewed and tweaked and improved and toyed with to meet the requirements of those in need. They should forever be under discussion. But when these friends and family angrily complain that people don't deserve this assistance, I want to tell them that they are talking about me. They are saying I don't deserve to provide a home for my family or to feed my family nutritious food. I don't deserve to have my transplanted kidney or the lifetime of drugs required to keep it going. I didn't deserve a spot in the NICU for my baby, and she doesn't deserve a spot at a safe and decent school. We as a family don't deserve the chance of normalcy. But we do. We all do. And sometimes we, all of us in the world, need help to achieve just that most basic threshold: normalcy.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Book Review: The Children's Book

The Children's BookThe Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Possibly this is not the best introduction to A.S. Byatt, who is an award-winning novelist. Indeed, this book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. This fact, however, only adds fuel to the suspicions of many (myself included) that the Booker Prize is a closed shop. In fact, Byatt won the prize in 1990 for Possession. No surprises there, then.

Byatt is, of course, a beloved literary national treasure in the UK. This being my first foray, I expected much. I will say this: the woman can research. Holy Jesus, can she research.

Briefly, the story follows a handful of avant-garde politico-artistic families in fin-de-siecle London & Kent as they navigate the changes in social mores from the Victorian era to the Edwardian one and into the First World War. The characters are numerous, and they are all essentially anarchists, socialists, communists -- the fact is, most of them aren't totally sure, but they try them all on for size. Which is quite human of them, really. There are parents and children, and various tangled love affairs, as well as the usual parent-child betrayal when the child discovers the parent is not a golden hero, but a real person. There are some lovely images of the countryside, and some excellent character developments.

There are, however, a few foibles that frankly drove me crazy. They are little bits that for me, in any case, make me feel that Byatt, after 50-ish years of publishing well-received novels, still feels like she has to prove that she's actually, like, a totally creative thinker? And, like, maybe not everyone will get it, but, like, that just proves how good she is? I thought for sure she was a MUCH younger author, let's put it that way.

1) (Because I love me a list) She affects an annoying little signature stylistic motif that serves no purpose whatsoever EXCEPT to remind you that you're reading a book by A.S. Byatt. It is that in a section of text, when a person is about to speak, instead of doing it the conventional way that everyone is taught and understands, like this: "Jenny said, 'Gee, A.S. Why do you have to be so annoying?'" She does it like this: "Jenny said

'Gee, A.S. Why do you have to be so annoying?'"


2) Look, make no mistake. I value a novel that is well-researched, and this is. But there are some moments, a lot of moments, when I felt like she was including information just BECAUSE she researched it. I get that she was trying to show how tumultuous society was at the time by highlighting lots of examples of the crazy tactics of anarchists, suffragists, bolsheviks, etc etc. But there was so much. So so so much. There were pages and pages of it that I finally just skipped because it stopped adding any value to the story. It may be an absurd standard, but if you want to know how to do a well-researched historical novel, read Tolstoy. He's like the Coco Chanel of historical research -- he always takes off the last accessory he puts on. He doesn't clutter his writing with a billion examples or include juicy tidbits just because he thinks they're too interesting to leave out. He only includes the bits that matter to the NOVEL.

3) She frequently drops in phrases in other languages (French, German, Latin) without bothering to provide a translation or even a gist of meaning. This is annoying. She perhaps wants to believe her audience is learned and multi-lingual, but it just smacks of elitism. Not all of us went to boarding school in the Fifties, Byatt.

4) Occasionally she uses words or phrases that are just unnecessary. This sounds very nitpicky, but it's really just good editing. At one point, instead of using the word "globe," she says "globuar world." She definitely means globe in the context. This kind of thing is probably more her editor's fault, but as she has been in the game so long, she probably doesn't get a very heavy edit, one imagines.

Ok, I've been harsh. The book isn't bad, it just has some bad elements. I would like to believe other Byatt novels are better, and I would definitely consider another.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A Real First World Problem

Ok, I know the whole #firstworldproblems thing is like SO 2011. But really there's no other way to describe the conundrum I am facing.

I have reached a point in life where, generally speaking, I'm not terribly interested in re-reading books. Not because I don't love books and not because I don't think I'd get more out of a re-read book, but because there are so very many books that I want to read, and life is short. Sometimes very short, indeed.

Obviously I make occasional exceptions to this no re-reading thing. It's not a rule. It's just a general feeling.

So here's the conundrum: keeping books. I love my books, but I am a merciless clutter culler. The Husband and I often pick up a half dozen new books at a second hand shop, read them and then donate them back. But not always. We sometimes keep ones that were especially good. Husband is a serial re-reader. Nothing he loves more than reading a good book for the 14th time. He's also an especially fast reader, so the whole mortality thing maybe is less important. He can get through about 5 books to every one that I read (and I pleasure read quite a lot I think -- a couple of hours everyday). When we're on vacation, he has to pack at least 3 or 4, and even then he usually ends up reading the one or 2 I've brought as well.

Just recently I've really gotten stuck on one book in particular, and thus a problem arises. Last year, whilst Child was being born and nursed in the hospital, I was reading First Circle, by Solzhenitsyn. It's a monstrous door-stop of a book, a paperback with the dimensions of a new hardcover, with nearly 600 pages of normal paperback sized text. It weighs much. It's also weighty in its subject matter: 3 days in the lives of dozens of people associated with an urban gulag for engineers in the Soviet Union. It details the excruciating minutiae of their days as prisoners, guards, civilian employees, and outsiders under suspicion. There are moments of levity as the prisoners attempt to keep their sanity with a variety of mind games. There is terror as someone new is brought into the prison and immediately dehumanized in a few short hours. There is love and devotion and despair and labyrinthine rules creating one catch-22 after another. It's the type of book that gives great clarity by exposing obfuscation. It is vast in its scope. It's a wondrous book, I enjoyed it, and I would recommend it.

Will I ever read it again? No. Why not? It doesn't really matter, but mostly it's because it took me ages to finish it. Partly that's because it's huge. Partly it's because I read it during a difficult period of life when I didn't have loads of time to devote to it. But the main reason why I don't want to read it again is that I want to read other books, and if I spend all my time re-reading this, I can't do that, or at least I can't do it as readily. It basically boils down to: it's long and I don't want to.

So, should I keep the book? If I donate the book to a charity shop, there's a chance someone will pick it up who would otherwise have never considered it, and their life will perhaps be richer for it. If I keep it, I can push it on people who I think would like it, and perhaps more people would read it if it were being handed to them by an enthusiast. I lend books out a lot, and I can easily think of several people of my acquaintance to whom I'd suggest this particular book. Do I have a duty to circulate it? Should I hang onto it in case Child reaches a point when she might like it? Should I base this decision on how much room it takes up in my bookcase (answer: a lot)? Although huge, it does look nice on my bookcase. I don't mean that in a snobbish way -- if I were worried about whether guests thought my bookcase was highbrow enough, it would look a lot different. But aesthetically, it adds an interestingly brutalist splotch in an otherwise more colorful visual block.

Opinions welcome.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Blog about Blogs

Perhaps this is like writers who write about writers and writing. Nonetheless:

I am a voracious reader of blogs - particularly food and gardening blogs, some on politics. Nothing remarkable here. I have on a few occasions attempted to start a food blog of my own, which invariably falls down because a) I have terrible photography skills, and this is important to a nice food blog; b) my food, though delicious, is not always beautiful (I'm no Martha); c) I have a lot of difficulty committing to it, i.e. posting regularly (this post on this blog is a pretty good example of my lack of posting commitment).

Today I was reading through one of my favorites, which I haven't looked at in a while (Things We Make), gathering ideas for goodies. In the course of doing so, I started to think, I really should post that if I make it. So many people I know would love that. Ooo I should make that and post it. Yes I know someone who would love it, and it would be pretty!

Then I had this thought: I do want to make these, but do I really want to go through the hassle of posting it? Will anyone even care if I post it? If I post it and only 2 people look at it, will that be worth it?

Then a millisecond later I had this thought: Why the hell am I always thinking I should post anything? Isn't it enough that I make wonderful little treats for friends and family and share them in person? Why do I feel compelled to share them on the internet? Why do I care so much whether other people agree that my cookies look scrumptious. I don't care if someone on the other side of the planet thinks they look scrumptious. I only care if they in fact are scrumptious, and only people who are close enough to eat them can tell me that. Why must I seek validation for my baking skills from a non-consumer audience?!

Clearly this whole thing got a bit out of hand very quickly.

But my questions remains: why do I feel the need to share pictures of unexceptional things with others? I might make some delicious delicious cookies, but it is unlikely in the extreme that I will make prettier cookies than Claire of Things We Make or Deb of Smitten Kitchen or David Lebovitz or a host of other much more polished and professional foodies. I really ought to leave it to them to supply the photographs of the finished products. They also have fancy cameras and light boxes, and have attended classes in Spain and Jamaica and everywhere else on food styling, photography and the like. I have a phone with an ok camera, and an ok camera that isn't a phone. I have no light box, and I have pretty much no clue on good photography, though not for lack of reading about it. I am not disheartened or have some kind of insecurity issue. I am merely stating the facts of the matter. I am not a good food blogger. I am a terrible food blogger. So why am I, and so very many like me, always trying to food blog?

If I were to get really socially analytic about my own motivations, I'd say it's to do with the fact that once upon a time, I was more likely to share food with my loved ones in person than I do now. Most of my loved ones live too far away to have the odd Sunday dinner or even major holidays together. These were important  food moments in my childhood, with hours spent around the dining room table having course after course, well into the evening. Those days are mostly gone now, or at least for  now, for the above-mentioned reason. Also there's the fact that Husband's parents are wary of my cooking, so they refuse any food from us 99% of the time. (I won't even delve into the irony of that last sentence, since it is frankly an abyss from which I wouldn't resurface.) There is an element of pride to it, in that I think I wish for family and friends to see that I'm still carrying a torch for the dinner parties of another era, that I can do it as well as my mother did it, perhaps, even though that's getting a little too pop psychology for me.

Lastly, why is my conceit so overwhelming that I felt the need to share this with the universe? Basically that I promised myself that I would write at least a little bit everyday, and I got sick of blathering to my personal journal about these trivialities. Have a nice day!