Posts Tagged ‘2016’

17 June, 2016

Noughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses, #1)Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Reading this, I read about a quarter of it I suppose, I thought say it was written by someone white from the opposite point of view, that is whites are on top and pushing their agenda, and they wrote in this very ‘I came top of English and joined a writing circle’ kind of way, would we still praise it? Or are we being all white-liberal and this book is kind of helping us say ‘mea culpa’ and the author is very, very cynically playing on that?

And I know it’s all about we can overcome prejudice and just share the love together, but to me that is not the underlying agenda of the book at all. That’s just the hook…

You may have a totally different opinion and disagree with every word I have written above. I respect that, and am happy for discussions. You might even change my mind. But, don’t troll me…

The rest of this is about me, you might not want to bother reading it.

On the island I live on, when I arrived there were about 6,000 people, not poor, nice place to live, very difficult to get to and everyone said ‘hello’ when you passed them on the street. It became very wealthy quite quickly and the government gave many scholarships for the bright young things who wanted to go to historically-black African-American universities in the US. Some of them were staff working before college, and they were a lovely bunch.

When they got back they would come and see me from time-to-time. Mo had become a Black Muslim. He invited me to a poetry reading and said that if I heard anything against whites I shouldn’t take it on, it wasn’t directed at me. Maie came back and started a political party for youth representation, grew her locks and wrote in the paper about how whites need re-educating. I had tea with a friend, a UN official, and later another one of these kids passing our table, now a journalist, said to her, “I know you have to do business with them but you don’t have to socialise with them to.” (My friend who didn’t feel like that told me). And so it goes.

They were the new intelligensia, angry young blacks carrying a chip on their shoulder of all the ills that African-American society has to deal with in America. What they had forgotten was that the black man is king in his own country, and the island government was entirely black, and doing very well.

They are older now. They are running the colleges, the schools, the newspapers, some are aiming for politics (not quite old enough), and they are nice to your face whilst maintaining their pernicious attitudes. They teach a form of history that is fake, they worship some of the most evil people looking only to see what their attitudes are towards white people. But always very pleasant to your face. They have me caused a lot of harm whether educationally with my kids , or giving book contracts for schools to a furniture supplier rather than to the white woman and her bookshop.

So I know where this book is coming from.

Do I say that Black racism is here and all the whites are innocent victims? Somewhat, nobody white has any power really. But there is plenty of white racism, very covert, it is not our society, but it exists and is often social. You don’t get invited places, neither do your children. Some of them won’t patronise a ‘traitor’s’ business (mine) and speak disparagingly of you. They have caused me a lot of harm what with no contracts from their schools, social isolation for my kids and talking trash to me (those who don’t know me) about blacks in general. They say things like ‘when we all leave this place is going to be like Haiti again’. (It never was, it was never poor).

I do see both sides. My ex is black, from a top political family. Two of my sons are black, one has locks, he’s lovely and loud and very protective of me. Although I am their stepmother (for most of their lives) when people say as they still do, ‘she ca’an be yu mudder, she a white woman’, they will immediately say I am and none of us will say ‘step’, just mother, just sons.

My youngest son turned out white, more or less, and as long as the whites in school didn’t mix with the blacks he was invited everywhere. But then came the funeral of a Prime Minister, a brother in law and everyone knew it was my family, and the invitations stopped from most of them. At 8 my son’s hair went kinky and light brown (rather than blonde). He was blamed for everything and thrown out of the white school. The black tutor I employed charged me 5 times as much as he did locals.

I really know it from both sides.

And I know where the author is coming from and I am disgusted.

The BFG

24 April, 2016
The BFGby Roald Dahl

April 2016

Do you know what the BFG stood for before his publisher told him he had to think of other words for the acronym? Dahl wasn’t joking either, not at all. This story is of a man’s interest in a prepubescent girl. The first thing he does is enter her bedroom in the middle of the night and kidnap her. Taking her away from the orphanage she lives in to the land of the extremely unfriendly giants who, in the original draft forced the little girl to look at their giant ‘clubs’. But the BFG’s different, he’s friendly….(grooming!)  It all ends with the little girl giving the BFG kisses and living next door to him and everyone is very happy. Dahl sees himself as the BFG giving Sophie, children, a new way to think, different from human adults, who don’t even believe in giants let alone let themselves be loved by them.

It is an inventive story without doubt, and all fairy stories require you to absolutely suspend disbelief. Lots of them include sexual and violent elements which children either don’t notice (sexual) or thoroughly enjoy (violent). When Disney gets hold of them, they lose both and become the anodyne Barbie-doll princesses (cue violins-in-the-background) we are used to. In that tradition, the BFG succeeds.

In the mid-to-late 20thC there was less emphasis on paedophilia than there is now, and I wonder if it this book could have been written at all in the 21stC. Ironically, this book is banned in some educational districts in the US for ‘teaching poor moral values’ and cannibalism. Ridiculous. Children laugh at those sort of things. I don’t believe in banning books, but Dahl was an unpleasant character and it is wilful blindness to ignore the feet of clay our heroes sometimes have as we place laurel wreaths on their brows.

Misogyny: Dahl’s misogyny, especially in his adult stories, is quite extreme, and, in shades of Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman being turned into To Kill a Mockingbird at the publisher’s insistence, the first draft of Matilda:

“Painted the protagonist as a devilish little hussy who only later becomes “clever”, perhaps because she found herself without very much to do after torturing her parents.”Dahl’s editor Stephen Roxburgh completely revised Dahl’s last novel and, in doing so, turned it into his most popular book.”

Anti semitism,: ” In a 1983 interview with the New Statesman, he said, “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason. I mean, if you and I were in a line moving towards what we knew were gas chambers, I’d rather have a go at taking one of the guards with me; but they [the Jews] were always submissive.” Buzzfeed

Racism and rudeness. Remember the Oompah-Loompahs? The NAACP objected that in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the manual labor, performed by characters called Oompa-Loompas, are described by Dahl as African Pygmies, essentially brought-over slaves running the chocolate factory. Look at the original illustrations for the first edition of the book on Bidnessetc In the BFG, one of the giants, the Fleshlumpeater is supposed a black character, certainly another of them likes eating Turkish people.

There is also a discussion on Bignessetc on his general misogyny and unpleasant character leading his publishing company, Knopf, who made a lot of money from him to write,

“You have behaved to us in a way I can honestly say is unmatched in my experience for overbearingness and utter lack of civility.”

Dahl used to belong to the only country club in South Wales that allowed Jewish members. My father and grandfather were members in their time. He once objected very loudly to the number of Jews dining there and how it fouled the atmosphere. The management threw him out and banned him. He is supposed to have done something similar at a gambling club in London with the same result!

I think he worked on the principle that everyone male, white and Christian shared his views on women, non-whites and Jews. I get it here, those sort of whites say racist things to me thinking because I am white I will go along with it. My clerks, always black, say they get complaints about whites from other blacks thinking they are bound to sympathise, but they don’t. But most of us aren’t racist or hate any group of people. Trouble is most people aren’t vocal about that in a conversation and are likely to nod and just file it away. We need always to speak out.

Perhaps the best link of all to Roald Dahl is This Recording. He was without doubt a horrible person, but equally without doubt, a tremendously talented writer with an extraordinary imagination. I’ve enjoyed on some level all of his books and the films made of them.

Untouchable

24 April, 2016

Untouchableby Mulk Raj Anand

April 24, 2016

This is only a short book and the first two-thirds are quite interesting – a day in the life of a downtrodden Untouchable latrine cleaner and his rat-eating family. The preaching of the last third rather spoiled it though. It is true that flush lavatories would solve the problem for the toilet-cleaning caste, but it is hardly a solution for the Untouchables, no matter what name Gandhi gave them.

Part of the problem of the Untouchable caste is that it isn’t actually a problem at all for anyone who isn’t Untouchable, in fact it’s desirable to have them. Since they, the pariahs of society, do all the work that no one else wants to do, and at minimum wage, and all this exploitation can be justified as being in the name of religion, in the name of not interfering with the Infinite plan there is no impetus from society to improve these people’s lives.

It’s not so far from the way the US treats illegal Mexican immigrants. It allows them to stay to do the work that no one else wants to do for those wages in those conditions. They live in fear of everything and everyone. If they are beaten, robbed or raped they have no redress. They daren’t complain. So just as with the Untouchables not being a problem if you aren’t one, neither are the illegal immigrants.

There are two ways, from a religious point of view, of looking at them. Either they must have done something pretty dreadful in their previous lives to get born an Untouchable and this is Divine punishment, or alternatively, these people must have been really good dogs, cockroaches or whathaveyou to have become human in this life and who are mere humans to interfere with this great Cycle? When looked at in this way, it’s a pretty clever organising of society, of religion, to get the work done. Another way of putting it, one more familiar to us, is the richer get richer and the poor live in ghettos and clean the houses, shops, subways and streets for them.

One of the solutions proposed is Christianity, which has the great advantage of not having a rebirth system so a lowly caste becomes a class problem for which education can provide a ladder up and out. Another solution, one partly in effect now, was Gandhi’s renaming the caste Harijan, or Children of God, and his movement to include rather exclude them from society.

The third solution isn’t sadly as widespread as it ought to be, the flush toilet. The poor who live and sleep on the pavements still shit in the gutter, those living in slums and tenements crap into plastic bags which they launch far into the air earning them the nickname of parachutes and those slightly less poor than that have flush toilets but no running water. So whether its cleaning latrines or cleaning (un)flushed toilets, or sweeping the streets clean of ‘parachute’ bags, this caste of Untouchables, these Children of God, are still plying their traditional trade.

Sometimes I wonder if everything evil under the sun couldn’t find its justification in one religion or another?

I don’t like being lectured to, and I don’t care what literary device is used to pretend that it’s just the story not a didactic excursion by the author, I just don’t like it. I would probably never have finished the book but my computer broke down and it took an hour to fix with all the endless waits while it checked files and rebooted. Lucky aren’t I, to have a bookshop and only a slightly iffy computer to annoy me rather than having to live with broken flush toilets and crap to clean from the streets?

Heavily revised 24th April, 2016. Originally reviewed Dec. 1, 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray

14 March, 2016

The Picture of Dorian Grayby Oscar Wilde

2016

Possessing eternal youth and beauty produces exactly the same effect as sentencing a man to life without the possibility of parole. Both have nothing to lose and morals disappear before the desire for immediate self-gratification in all things. And so it is with Dorian Gray. It’s a moral story so eventually his evil catches up with him and he dies, as does the criminal.

Is Oscar Wilde saying that it is man’s essential nature, to be so internally psychopathic and selfish that so long as he can keep his reputation he will wreak havoc on people’s lives and not care in the process of enriching his own?

Oscar Wilde was a man who held some very nasty views and only cared when extremely similar ones were turned upon himself. (He was imprisoned for homosexuality, but felt it was ok for Dreyfus to be imprisoned on a trumped-up crime but really because he was Jewish. He chose the wrong side on that one and lost even his best friend). I don’t like the author, but I do love his prose.

I read this book years ago. But the psychological story of a man’s realisation that there are no consequences to his actions, nothing is forbidden, everything is permitted, you never forget.

Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained

13 March, 2016

Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained. Prosopagnosia Types, Tests, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Research and Face Recognition all coveredby Lyndsay Leatherdale

2016

Here is a check list of the symptoms of prosopagnosia for self-diagnosis. If you have any difficulty recognising people reliably, you might find it interesting. I’ve put in my own experiences as I think it helps put the questions into context. Or not. Maybe I just like writing anecdotes 🙂


1. Failing to recognise close friends or family members in unexpected situations.

I once left my ex at the airport late at night. I thought it was him but I wasn’t sure. He’d been in college in Canada and his normal brown skin (what we call ‘red’) without the sun had paled to what we call ‘clear’ and he was wearing a hat. Last May I arranged to meet my son in a cafe after he’d come back from Law School and I saw him and called out Daniel. It wasn’t him. The embarrassment… you have no idea.


2. Trouble in following films or television shows that have more than a few distinctive characters.

I don’t have this.


3. Failing to recognize yourself in the mirror and/or have difficulty identifying yourself in photographs or sometimes in reflections.

I don’t have this either.


4. When someone gets a haircut, you may not recognize them when you see them again

I don’t think I have this.


5. Having difficulty recognizing neighbours, friends, co-workers, clients, schoolmates etc, out of context.

I have this big time. But I also fail to recognise them in context as well. There is no guarantee I will recognise even a good customer every time. It’s pretty likely I won’t outside the shop. Ex-employees I often fail to recognise especially if I had no real affection for them.


6. Another common symptom those with prosopagnosia experience is that they are more likely to not be aware that their close friends or family are in the same area if they are in a context that is not of their usual nature. For school friends, this would be at school, for brothers and sisters, this would be at home, or a work co-worker, this would be in the work environment.

Yes. At a party I didn’t recognise one of my sons because I didn’t expect to see him there. At a political cocktail party I failed to recognise a shop assistant I saw almost daily.


7. Lack of navigation skills. For this reason, these individuals are prone to getting lost.

I am famous for this. A few years ago I was staying in Miami and rented a car to drive to the Sawgrass Mills mall. The reception staff at the hotel printed me out a map and gave me very explicit instructions. I drove through the toll booth in the same direction three times in a row. I was with my son who doesn’t have prosopagnosia but also has no sense of direction. The pair of us navigated back to the hotel, but found ourselves first at Opa Locka airport and finally at Fort Lauderdale airport. There we were pulled up where we shouldn’t have been when a police car stopped and started to tell us off and then realised we were genuinely hopelessly lost, so the very nice policewoman said to follow her and took us all the way back to the Blue Lagoon Hampton. That is the worst I’ve ever been lost.


8. Inability to recognise left from right.

I have this to some degree but I’ve grown out of it. I couldn’t set a table properly until my 20s. However my parents said that as a young child I showed no preference for my right or left hand so they decided I should be right-handed. There are some things I can only do with my left hand. So maybe this isn’t related to prosopagnosia.


9. Inability to recognise emotions – Those with associative prosopagnosia may have the inability to recognise faces. It is often also the case that they are unable to identify the emotion of the individual as well.

So what may have been put down to AS for me is in fact another symptom of prosopagnosia. This would fit as I’m not really typically AS in any other way.


10. Inability to identify race or colour.

I like to think I’m colourblind but not in that way!


11, Difficulty in reading literature – It may be difficult for an individual to follow a story in a book. This is due to the fact that an individual has difficulty in imagining the faces of the characters described in the book.

Hardly!

So there you have it. I have associative, genetic prosopagnosia. If anyone else has suspected they have more than average inability to recognise faces (it is specific to faces and not anything else at all) and scores high on this test, I’d like to know. How do you cope with other people’s rejection and coldness when they think you have been rude to them and ignored them? How do you cope with the embarrassment? Do you have coping strategies?

Below this is my review of the book which contains one interesting bit – on some very famous people who have it as well, the rest is just personal opinion.

[I have this, but not badly, which might be worse. Oliver Sacks had it very badly, Jane Goodall about the same as me I think,Duncan Bannatyne the millionaire entrepreneur of Dragon’s Den fame has it worse than me, Chuck Close the famous portraitist ironically suffers badly from the condition and Brad Pitt has people thinking he is incredibly rude and snobbish, like all the rest of us, because he too cannot reliably recognise faces. I am not alone!

All of us are thought to cut style on people, deliberately offend them because we couldn’t care about them, and exhibit manners of the very worst kind. None of us have the faintest idea when we are doing this since if we can’t tell you from a stranger, why would we go up to you and be all effusive? When you say hello to us we try and simulate absolute friendship even though we still don’t recognise you, but there is always something missing and people know.

Why I said it is worse for people like me, Duncan, Jane and Brad is that we do recognise most people most of the time, but not always, so it’s like we say hello to you one day and cut you next. People like the late Oliver Sacks and Chuck Close do not recognise hardly anyone any of the time so they can explain themselves. I’m not saying they have an easier time of it, I’m saying people are probably more understanding.)

If you know people who have difficulty in recalling your name or it seems that they don’t recognise you, be kind. tell them who you are and where you last met. Please don’t cut them because you think they have ignored you, they may not know it’s ‘you’ at all.

You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know

13 March, 2016

You Don't Look Like Anyone I KnowYou Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first two thirds of this book were the author using the reader as a therapist and just letting out one long blast of hatred towards her family for being so appalling. Or at least that’s the way she tells it. There was absolutely nothing to do with prosopagnosia even vaguely hinted at.

The last third of the book was about prosopagnosia. Sellers sets herself up as an expert and authority on this neurological disorder that she and I share. Having read Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained. Prosopagnosia Types, Tests, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Research and Face Recognition all covered, I don’t share her confidence. The author says she can’t recognise people often, but then reading carefully it seems she can recognise people very often but not reliably, which is what I have.

I’ve had lunch with someone I see at least three times a week and thought I recognised them later in the supermarket but wasn’t sure. However I recognised their handbag (I gave it to her) so that was ok. Facial recognition is by a part of the brain that is discrete, that is all other kinds of recognition are not handled by that area.

For the few people I have met who know they are face blind to some degree, there are various other problems, some of which are to do with interpreting facial expressions which look as though the person has Aspergers, but in fact they don’t. Not all of the things we share are negative, all of us are somewhat intellectual and most of us are artistic as well. This leads me to believe that mild prosopagnosia may just be yet another neurotype, a different kind of wiring, personality really, that is less common that the average one, but not rare, one that people are generally unaware of and just say, “I’m never any good at remembering faces”.

One thing that changed for me was that I decided to be open, to ‘come out’ as it were and tell everyone, so that people would stop thinking I was sometimeish or cutting style on them by not speaking to them. However, half the people laugh and say they don’t believe it and the other half look at me like I’m mad and they don’t believe it either. The only people who do believe it are people who know me well and are forever prodding me when they see someone I know and if I don’t recognise them will tell me their name first. So all I’m doing by telling people I’m face blind is making myself look even more eccentric. What to do?

The book wasn’t a hard read and it was well-written but really reading about other people’s dysfunctional families can be extremely boring. Tolstoy’s opening lines of Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” might well be true, but it doesn’t make them interesting. The book started off as a 2, degenerated rapidly to a 1 and redeemed itself ending up on a good, golden, solid five!