On Thursday I was on the BBC’s Briefing Room programme talking about Black Lives Matter UK. For those that listen, my intake of breath towards the end wasn’t deliberate and sounds more dramatic than it was meant to be!
I wrote my first article (in my personal capacity) for Christian Today about Trump, his critics and how their condemnations of his comments on women are revealing. It’s a different audience than I’m used to, and I’m still learning how to bring all of me more explicitly to the proverbial table – my faith, my feminism and of course my preoccupation with politics.
So, the best thing about TV show Suits is now gone. Jessica Pearson, as played by Gina Torres (my ideal Wonder Woman)* bowed out at the end of Season 6. I will miss her.
Jessica is fierce, feminine, wily and more ruthless than any of the men – but compassionnate, too, she just takes care of business. Quite frankly, I don’t know who will step up now that she’s gone. Everyone else is usually off crying (Rachel), whining (Rachel and Mike), faffing (Lewis), plotting (Lewis and Harvey), plotting and messing it up (all of them) and sooner or later they all wind up at Jessica’s door.
And Jessica takes care of business. I love the camaraderie and respect between her and Mr Zane, (Rachel’s dad), himself a shark in the industry. Jessica does it all on her own terms and goes toe to toe with all the men.
And then there is the fashion. Everyone in Suits looks sharp but Jessica took work wear to another level: stylish but daring, sexy, powerful, avant-garde and always, always on point. I am pretty sure most of her scenes were of her walking around because the office was her runway and she looked so damn good.
She had a powerful last few episodes, rediscovering her idealistic side in defending a man on death row, at great cost to herself as she prioritised him over the high-rollers she usually works for. She continued mentoring Rachel, my least favourite character and permanent wet blanket – hopefully she’ll step up a bit with such a strong female character leaving. She got her happy ending with Mike-on her terms. She sold her stake in the firm and decided on a new direction for herself, and one that included the possibility of love.
Her scenes with Mike were among my favourite. He loved her just as she was: ambitious, flawed, beautiful, terrible. He wasn’t intimidated and he didn’t want her to fold down into a smaller version of herself. His issue was her emotional unavailability and to an extent, her lying. But of course, they worked it out. They had a beautiful scene though where he told her that he didn’t want her to change herself, but that they had to have a certain level of trust to make the relationship work. He put his cards on the table. She went all in.
Gina Torres slays in this role. But what I love about Jessica is that she’s allowed to be complicated and morally ambiguous in a way that women still aren’t often permitted to be on TV and in film.
A brilliant role for a brilliant actress. She will be sorely missed.
*yes, I keep saying it. I’m hoping someone will make this happen one day if I keep speaking it into the void.
Part One: In Which My Temperamental Boiler Gives Up The Proverbial Ghost.
Scene: My kitchen. The repairman and I have exchanged pleasantries (“Where is your husband? Why aren’t you married?”)
I love Westerns. It’s probably because of my favourite films when I was young: Giant. Blazing Saddles and the Magnificent Seven. The soundtrack to the latter never fails to fill me with childish excitement.
The remake by Antoine Fuqua is great. But it’s missing something. The older version was slower, perhaps even dragged in places, but it had a slow burn to it that the slicker new version is missing.
Nevertheless, it’s still moving. There’s something noble in the story and I think that’s part of the romance of this classic underdog tale.
Denzel Washington reprises Yul Brenner’s role brilliantly. Chris Pratt tries to play it mostly straight, though he is still funny. Lee Byung-hun is a brooding Billy Rocks and I must admit, it’s nice to see a diverse cast**
The part I really loved is that at the end, the Black guy, the Mexican and the Native American make it out alive. (for a change).
**mmmm some stereotypes there particularly for the Native Americans…but I would say character development on the whole was a bit underserved. It felt a bit rushed to get the seven together so that there could be more time for battle scenes, whereas the original I think was just long and spent a lot of time with brooding cowboys.
I think it’s safe to say that 2016 is a dumpster fire. Between the deaths, Brexit, the impending US election, rising xenophobia and racism across Europe, terrorism, natural disasters…
Every year has its horrors, but it does feel like the status quo is being given an almighty shaking down this year.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but it’s scary. Some of what has been unleashed – racism here, for instance – is truly horrific, but I suppose it was there all along. Perhaps this is the year of things coming to light, being laid bare, a mirror held up to ourselves.
After all, there’s Trump and there are the baying crowds cheering him on.
There’s Farage and now the spectacle of so-called mainstream politicians nicking not only his clothes but his manifesto.
The Establishment, intellectually exhausted and/or simply unwilling to admit that the neoliberal consensus has failed the many, takes comfort instead in populism. It is willing to “listen” and”pander” to only the most extreme and rightwing voices, deriding the res of us as the “metropolitan elite” – as if prejudice is a justifiable response to poverty..as if only poor people are racist. They offer no solutions. We have big problems, but our politics is small, its view of our humanity diminished, its perspective on that of the “other” even more so.
For me personally, the last few months have been a wild ride – highs and lows, sweet moments and heartbreak. There comes a point when you start to fear that this might be “it”, maybe you can’t come back together again, hope – and in my case, sleep – deserts you. A few more things happen and you start to wonder, is this the worst year ever?
But you rally. You always do.
I am hopeful that the 2016 tide will also turn. Maybe we won’t have President Trump, though the effects of this vituperative campaign, as with Brexit, will be felt for a long time to come. Things have been said and done which cannot be undone.
T’was ever thus.
There are so many threads to this tragedy, which I’ll leave to cooler and wiser heads than mine to unpick. My heart breaks for the victims, their families, the injured and everyone whose life has been affected by this. I thought Obama put it just right when he described it as an act of terror but also an act of hate but that hasn’t stopped the “All Lives Matter” crowd from trying to whitewash it.
So far, Gary Younge’s reflection is the best I’ve read:
“The truth is it is, most likely, about lots of things. And the bolder the claim that it is about any one thing, the more vulnerable it will be to contradiction and qualification. While the act of killing so many so quickly is crude, the underlying factors are complex.” -Gary Younge
And Owen Jones’ riposte and reaction on Sky News Paper Review that exposes the callousness of the All Lives Matter brigade.
Ok, so let’s get the little stuff out the way. Sarah Woollaston MP’s defection from Vote Leave to the Remain camp – mainly on two issues: the NHS lies being peddled by Leave about pumping millions into the service if we leave, and the anti-immigration rhetoric which she says is “indistinguishable from UKIP”.
I think it’s great that a politician can think again and change their mind. I applaud her honesty. I do wonder what party she thinks she joined up to, though, as those “Go Home” vans pushed out by the Tories in the coalition were indistinguishable from the National Front and even gave Farage pause at the time.
But onto the big stuff.
The funniest article I’ve read this year, about a seagull that fell into a vat of chicken curry (it survived, but the write-up is hilarious):
“When he came in you wanted to feel sorry and concerned but he was making everyone’s belly rumble,” Lucy said.
“It was the weirdest thing we have dealt with here.”
And the monkey that caused a national power blackout in Kenya:
The monkey lost its purchase on the roof of the plant, and it tumbled down to land atop a transformer. What happened next played out like a catastrophic game of transformer dominoes: With a monkey on its back, the first transformer shut off its electrical flow, causing other transformers at the station to trip as well. KenGen said in its statement that “a loss of more than 180 megawatts” at the power station “triggered a national power blackout.”
“We should cherish the memory of Ali as a warrior…a gleaming symbol of defiance against an unjust social order…”- Robert Lipsyte, New York Times
The New York Times obituary on Muhammad Ali is my favourite so far for striving to present a balanced picture of a legend. In particular for attempting to memorialise his activism and radical politics. Ali was so much more than a sportsman, as one of NPR’s blogs collecting anecdotes and memories by black journalists shows, dwelling not only on his activism but also his faith.
So I was happily reading on the BBC site about the latest finds from King Tutenkhamun’s tomb (closet archaelogy fan) – with new X-ray technology they are going over artifacts and discovering all sorts of new details about ancient people and their way of life – when I got to this line:
The researchers say the presence of iron – along with levels of nickel and cobalt – “strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin”.
I’m sorry – what?
For starters, I was a little peeved that the story was filed in the Middle East section and not Africa, but this isn’t really on the BBC. The authors of the report into the artifact actually wrote that, in all seriousness.
We would sooner believe that aliens – ALIENS – which we have no proof for yet (though I’m not ruling it out, the universe is massive) made this fancy knife from meteor rock before we believe that AFRICANS (just erase all those Liz Taylor-as-Cleopatra-style movies from your mind) could possibly have made it?
Couldn’t they have found the rock and made it? Given all that we don’t know about the Ancient World, could it not be that people did it? Why is that so unbelievable?
A lot of the conventional history on Egypt (that Egyptians were somehow European, set apart from the rest of Africa) has been debunked in the excellent history book by Malian academic Cheikh Anta Diop – The African Origin of Civilisation, which changed my whole perspective as an 18-year old history student.
Amid all the talk for the decolonisation of economics and other subjects in academia, it’s clear that archaeology could do with a shake-up too and is still mired in a particular context.
At the time that the Easter Island statues and pyramids were discovered, people of colour were barely considered human. Early explorers couldn’t believe that they could do it. Since then we’ve had all sorts of finds that show that explorers who were not European went all around the world. That people who were not European made stuff.
Stuff that wasn’t “discovered” and countries that didn’t “exist” until Europeans found them.
And they wrote the history books.
They still do.