Jesurgislac’s Journal

April 28, 2009

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Plantain and Pineapple Curry

I’m writing this on Sunday, not on Tuesday, because I feel the need to write up the recipe before I know for sure if it was fail or win.

My usual recipe for this is Banana Tofu Curry. It’s very good. But, I’d been wondering for some time if it were possible to make it with plantains. (Those big green banana-like fruit that need to be cooked before they’re eaten.)

So on Saturday I bought four plantains, and on Sunday I cracked a coconut I’d bought earlier (cracked two: but one of them seemed off, so I decided not to use it). This part involved much thumping and bashing with my heaviest hammer. Great fun.


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April 26, 2009

Dominican Republic passes constitutional amendment against women

This amendment is billed by the Catholic News Agency as a “pro-life triumph”, in the odd kind of way the Catholic Church regards “life” as not including women. (Or girls. Catholic doctrine, if you recall, is that an 11-year-old girl made pregnant by rape who will die from a ruptured uterus if the pregnancy is allowed to continue to develop, ought to be let die by this natural course: her mother was excommunicated for saving her daughters life by authorising an abortion.)

This new amendment says that when a woman is dying of an ectopic pregnancy, or eclampsia, or any of the other causes of maternal mortality or morbidity, the law of the Dominican Republic is that the doctors must let the woman die.

The fetus she is carrying will die too, but for all the talk of how “life” must be protected, the fact is: these people do not care if women die, or fetuses die, or babies die. They care only about forced pregnancy. This amendment makes forced pregnancy the law of the land in the Dominican Republic, and as a direct result, more women will die.

Some forced pregnancies may be brought to term. The government of the Dominican Republic does not appear to have considered how to care for the unwanted babies and the orphans who lose their mothers – there is insufficient provision made already for the street children who have no families at all. Even the detention centers are not safe places. But then, caring for children once they’re born isn’t as important as forcing a woman through pregnancy and childbirth against her will.

Amnesty International has more.

April 24, 2009

Ryanair announces sex discrimination charges

I think Ryanair are going to find themselves in serious legal trouble if they try to implement their extra charges for men over 130kg but women over 100kg (or for men with a more-than- 45 inch waist but women for a more-than-40 inch waist): it’s normally not legal to announce that women and men will be charged different prices for the same service. They may also have a difficulty with BMI, as women and men vary on that so that a court may find that this is effectively sex discrimination even if not explicitly so.

They may be able to charge for a second seat if a person doesn’t fit into just one (their fourth option) as that’s their only non-discriminatory option: but I noticed in the news that a Canadian court has ruled that in fact airlines simply have to swallow the cost of an extra seat, if they choose to provide seats that are too narrow for their customer base to fit into.

I like this better.

April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle: “I dreamed a dream”

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

I don’t often post Youtube links. Nor do I often post them with this recommendation: Listen to this. Watch it.

I swear to you: it’s a peak experience. It’s worth just listening to, but the first time through: watch it, watch the faces. Then the second time through: watch it again knowing what you’re going to see.

Then come back here and tell me I was right to steer you there.

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April 12, 2009

Lesbian and Gay Books Disappear

Years ago, in the city where I lived then, there was a gay bookshop. This wasn’t usual by any means in most UK cities, but my city had one. And then Waterstones came to the city. And they had the money to stock lots of lesbian and gay books – detective fiction, science-fiction, erotica, teenage fiction, humour – and they did. Instead of heading out of the way to a small bookshop that had a limited kind of stock, LGBT people could stop off at a mainstream bookshop and browse their way round a vast stock.

So when the gay bookshop went out of business, which it did, it didn’t seem to matter so much (well, lots of us were sad and angry, of course …. Waterstones wasn’t the only reason: but it was certainly a strong contributing factor: the main culprit was, as is usual with UK gay bookshops, HM Customs and Excise) …except that as soon as the gay bookshop had gone bust, Waterstones stopped stocking lesbian and gay books, and moved them. Instead of shelves out front for anyone to find, and a vast range of titles and genres – within a year, all the lesbian and gay books that Waterstones stocked were fitted into one shelving unit, in the basement, next to the heterosexual erotica shelving unit. I’m not joking. That’s exactly what happened. I may even have exaggerated how long it took.

Waterstones needed to stock these books when it was competing with a gay bookshop: when it was no longer competing, when we didn’t have a choice about where we shopped, or what books we could buy, Waterstones knew they could serve up crap. And they did. That’s the free market in action to diminish choices.

Amazon is most LGBT people’s gay bookshop of choice. Or rather non-choice: these days, unless you live in London, the odds are there is no where else you can buy gay books. There may be a shelving unit in Waterstones, somewhere at the back out of the way, or there may not.

And now Amazon have decided they want to do the online equivalent of pushing their gay stock to the back of the bookshop.

Mark R. Probst, author of The Filly, noticed something rather odd on April 10th:

On Amazon.com two days ago, mysteriously, the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay romance books: “Transgressions” by Erastes and “False Colors” by Alex Beecroft. Everybody was perplexed. Was it a glitch of some sort? The very next day HUNDREDS of gay and lesbian books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including my book “The Filly.” There was buzz, What’s going on? Does Amazon have some sort of campaign to suppress the visibility of gay books? Is it just a major glitch in the system? Many of us decided to write to Amazon questioning why our rankings had disappeared. Most received evasive replies from customer service reps not versed in what was happening.

And this is the answer he got, from Ashlyn D, at Member Services for Amazon.com Advantage:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

“Adult” materials, eh? Well: that apparently doesn’t include this:

With the first Centerfold, who just happened to be the radiant Marilyn Monroe, Hugh Hefner masterminded a cultural icon: Playboy’s Playmate of the Month. Now, for the first time ever, Playboy has gathered together every Centerfold from every issue into one luxurious collector’s edition. That’s over 600 beauties. We’ve reproduced these Centerfolds exactly as they appeared in the magazine to create a full-size, deluxe volume. Paging through this colossal, chronological collection provides a breathtaking view of our evolving appreciation of the female form: from the fifties fantasy of voluptuous blondes to the tawny beach girls of the seventies to the groomed and toned women of today.

But perhaps Amazon think people only buy Playboy Centrefolds for the articles.

I’ve never read these novels – so I checked out the Amazon pages for a few I do know. The Fires of Bride, by Ellen Galford, a beautifully funny novel about a lesbian artist who goes to live on a Hebridean island. No graphic sex whatsoever. No pics of naked women. No sales rank on Amazon, either. But it’s out of print, so perhaps that isn’t surprising.

How about Desert of the Heart, by Jane Rule? Even less sex than The Fires of Bride, and it’s in print. But it has no sales rank. How odd. What about Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson? Well, well: that has a sales rank on Amazon.co.uk, but not on Amazon.com. (Perhaps the .co.uk webmaster went on strike when instructed to consider Winterson, who is quite famous as a literary writer in Britain, a “lesbian writer” all of whose books are “adult” material to be pushed to the back of the shop out of sight?) Of course this is disgusting that Amazon should be doing this to any writer, any novel, simply because the subject matter is LGBT. It wouldn’t surprise me if, next week, Amazon.com reverses its decision over many novels with famous writers or with pro-active publishers: but the less-known novels, the small-scale publishers (and most LGBT books are published by small-scale publishing houses and are less-known novels) will find themselves still relegated to the shelving unit, in the basement, tucked away out of sight where the decent men who buy Playboy Centerfold won’t be disturbed by them.

c_smith_author writes:

Please note that just before this, Erastes’ Transgressions and Alex’s False Colours were topping out the rankings. Also note that The Filly is a YA Books, and therefore I would suggest one of the more important books to have out there for kids questioning their identity, and Transgressions and False Colours are being shelved with the Romance section of Barnes and Noble. Though as Mark points out, that is of no fucking importance because this is homophobic bias pure and simple.

I have no idea what to do about this except spread the message. If anyone has any ideas on what to do, tell me. Because I am not letting this lie. As vashtan said, they are happy to take the money, but not happy to give these books the recognition they rightly deserve.

I don’t know what to do either, beyond publicise Amazon being homophobic gits.

Update: Nicola Griffiths speaks out:

Amazon’s policy is idiocy of the highest order. Some thoughtless manager OK’d the low-hanging-fruit approach. (“Hey, if you want to protect Moral Americans from na-s-s-s-ty sexual content, then deleting all queer books from the rankings—and therefore the bestseller and some search listings—will get lots of ‘em at once! Woo hoo, straight Christians will be safe!”) That manager should be fired.

And then I want a public apology from Jeff Bezos.

This is important. A quick and quiet revocation of the policy is not enough. I want a public acknowledgement and a pledge to never again try to shove queers under the carpet. It’s the only way to counter the perception queer readers and queer writers don’t count.

Being invisible is dangerous. It ruins careers and it puts young readers at risk.

Nicola Griffiths is the award-winning writer of Ammonite and Slow River and other books with many lesbian characters. As far as I can see, all her novels had their sales ranks removed in the Easter wipeout, and though Amazon is restoring some of the high-profile books, they’re evidently not in a hurry to do that for all of the titles blocked from sales ranking.

I agree with Nicola Griffiths, wholeheartedly: the least that should happen is that the “glitch” is fixed, and fast, and then Jeff Bezos should publicly apologize for wiping so many LGBT books off the listings at Amazon.

Below the fold: Screenshots of the page for Playboy Centerfolds on Amazon.com (which is evidently not “adult” material, as it has a sales rank) and the page for Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, on Amazon.com, with sales rank suppressed on account of it being “adult” material. Also compared: Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, by Nathaniel Frank, with Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk. One’s about DADT, one’s about young straight men beating each other to a pulp; guess which one is considered “adult”?

Update: Amazon Rank Open letter on Booksquare Amazonfail on Twitter.

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April 10, 2009

Maggie Gallagher says NOM

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

(For past posts on the claims by Maggie Gallagher and her nommy crew, see Maggie Gallagher redefines marriage, They’re trying to ‘protect marriage’ with this dreck?, and, for the benefit of the Christians still earnestly trying to figure out where in the Bible Jesus said anything about same-sex marriage, Jesus just sat down with sinners, he didn’t offer them health insurance!)

moar lolcats under the cut
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April 9, 2009

Vegan Lunch Box Turns To The Dark Side

It is a truth not sufficiently acknowledged: being thin, and being healthy, aren’t the same thing. (I wrote about this a bit in October last year: Diet Merchants Lie.)

I believe in eating healthy, delicious food.

I love (or rather I loved) the deliciously simple Vegan Lunch Box blog, which for a year or so was the one thing I could always turn to with a smile: a blogger who, every school day, posted a photograph of the beautiful and tasty vegan lunch she had made for her small son to take to school. (Such as: this Easter lunch, a beautiful layered bean dip lunch, a yummy French Toast lunch, an injera and pea stew lunch that makes my mouth water just looking at it, and some really lovely musubi. Just a short list – I could go on and on…) Lovely, healthy, delicious lunches, not intended to be slimming or diet or anything ugly promoting thinness over health… so I thought.

The small son is now homeschooled, so he doesn’t get daily lunch boxes (and is in any case past the age where he could accept without embarrassment his mom blogging about his lunches every day). I don’t check Vegan Lunch Box every weekday: two or three times a month, usually – about as often as it gets updated.

A couple of weeks ago, Vegan Lunch Box got all exercised over the blog that posts awful pics of deeply unhealthy food in large portions: thisiswhyyourefat.

She wrote:

So I started thinking, what if, instead of looking at images of junk food every day, we served ourselves up a daily helping of healthy images instead? Can healthy images trigger the same reaction but in reverse? Can they inspire us to better health, make us crave a colorful salad, or help us get to the gym?

Good plan. So, what did she come up for as a counterblog?

thisiswhyyourehealthy?

Nope. Vegan Lunch Box isn’t interested in promoting healthy eating of good food. She wants to promote being thin. Her new blog is thisiswhyyourethin.

It is completely bloody wrong to equate “Being healthy” with “being thin”. It is objectionable in the extreme to try to advocate that people eat healthy, tasty, delicious foods to get thin.

If you are healthy, you probably aren’t thin. If you are thin by modern standards – BMI less than 18.5 – you are unhealthy, no bones about it, you skinny bag of bones. Even if you are carrying more weight than BMI standards say you should, if you eat a healthy diet and don’t go on yo-yo diets and exercise regularly, you are more than likely more healthy than someone with a lower BMI: certainly you are more likely to survive a debilitating illness or a serious operation.

Oh, this is the post on Vegan Lunch Box where she proudly touts her new skinny baby: My Brand New Baby Blog. Huh.

To quote my favourite American doctor: “She has gone from the 25th weight percentile to the 3rd in one month. Now I’m not a baby expert, but I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to shrink.”

Update: why Vegan Lunch Box is going off my blogroll
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April 8, 2009

Obama: for or against torture?

It would appear that President Obama has till May 11 to decide whether he does, in fact, actually oppose the US military torturing prisoners… or if he would just rather not know what the US military does to prisoners.

On May 11, Clive Stafford Smith, Binyam Mohamed’s lawyer, director of Reprieve, will appear in court to be charged with the crime of telling President Barack Obama that the Privilege Review Board had redacted the whole of a memo Smith wrote to Obama describing Binyam Mohamed’s treatment in Guantanamo Bay. (See Glenn Greenwald’s interview on Salon Radio.)

For that crime, Smith may spend up to six months in jail: that is, for the crime of telling the President of the United States that a secret committee in the Pentagon did not want him to know exactly what had been done to Binyam Mohamed.

Obama’s preference with regard to torture is clearly and explicitly to do nothing – that was unfortunately clear from November 22, when he announced he would keep George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense in the position he had held for two years. That’s an improvement on the pro-torture policies of the Bush administration, certainly – as King Log is better than King Stork.

But merely deciding to do nothing – neither to authorise torture techniques, nor take steps to prevent ongoing torture (prisoners were still being tortured at Guantanamo Bay in February this year, as Binyam Mohamed – and the doctors who examined him on his return to the UK – can testify), nor to prosecute those who committed torture with President Bush’s authorisation – is a complex balancing act, absolutely dependent on no one pushing.

Many Americans who objected to torture under Bush appear content now to not push – not to ask why Obama did not act to stop torture at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere as from January 21, not to ask why Obama is not setting in motion an investigation of torture under Bush, not to ask why the current Secretary of Defense, who may be implicated in the torture of prisoners under Bush, has been allowed to retain his position into Obama’s administration.

It’s true: Obama is so much better a President and a man than Bush that it’s actually hard to compare them: and the US and the rest of the world dodged a bullet when McCain lost so comprehensively last November. (Two bullets, in fact: President Palin.)

But because Obama is so much better than Bush, he should be pushed harder. Now it’s come down to a decision Obama has to make: is he going to take the position that people should be prosecuted and jailed for telling him about prisoners being tortured by the US – and let that happen to Clive Stafford Smith and others at Reprieve? Is he going to ask to read the unredacted memo? Is he going to begin the investigation of torture in the US military that should have begun in 2004?

May 11th. Obama has a deadline.

April 7, 2009

But we are winning…

XKCD - AntiMindvirus image

I dunno. What is this obsession with incest, polygamy, and bestiality that most of the anti-marriage movement seem to have? I just stumbled across yet another of these people. [redacted name and link to blog]

FWIW, “MK”, Dan Savage has the right of it, and in words simple enough for even you to understand: “Bestiality is wrong, wrong, wrong, because an animal cannot give its consent.” That may be the problem, of course: these creatures howling at the edge of the world don’t really understand the concept of sexual consent, any more than they have any more understanding of what marriage involves – I mean real marriage: real commitment to another person, to love, honour, cherish, live with and long for. Until they have got a basic understanding of sexual consent, one hopes they do not, in fact, engage in marriage – if they could find anyone, since their notion of marriage is strictly limited to “Are we interfertile?” and not in any way touching on “Are you the one person I want to be with for the rest of my life”.

So for them, and particularly for you, Matthew, you zoophiliac, go read A Modest Proposal: The Thorny Issue of Sexual Consent.

In the mean time: that XKCD cartoon is addressed to me, to all of us who support marriage as a civil liberty essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness: the doors are opening, and love is coming in. However sad and horrible these people are, however vicious their attacks on families and on marriage and even on simple human loving – they are on the losing side.

Let me try and remember that.

Update – not an afterthought, exactly, because it’s one I had before.

I was at a friend’s funeral last week. And it was sad and strange – he had been slowly dying for years, but it was like: he had been almost dying so long that we all kept thinking he would keep doing it forever. But it occurred to me, sitting with his other half’s parents at the post-funeral meal afterwards, I mean really and literally right there and then – because my friend, like myself, had been a long time involved in gay equality activism – that even twenty-five years ago, a funeral like this with both their families and all their friends mingling, with a church service and the pastor who was the officiant at their wedding attending the burial, would have been all but unthinkable. Yet it is so. Now, today, 2009: this is how it is.

And I thought, for my friend as well as for myself: We got to do what not many people ever do. We live in a better world, a kinder and more generous and less hatefilled world, than the one we were born in, than the one we grew up in. We helped build it, this better world: it’s part of your legacy, as a gay activist, it will be part of mine.

He’s dead. I go on building.

April 4, 2009

I love you.

Filed under: Dragons,Good Stuff Happens,Internet — jesurgislac @ 7:16 pm
Tags: ,

In the name of love.

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love

(nobody like you…)

Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love…

It came upon the noontide clear,
That glorious song of Pride,
And marchers bending near the Clyde
Their rainbow banners steer.
“Peace on the earth, good will to all”,
From queens and dykes drag-king
The streets and traffic do not stay
To hear the marchers sing.

Still through the traffic’d streets they come,
With rainbow banners unfurl’d
And still their whistles blow the noise
O’er all the straightly world.
Above its grim and stony roads
They march with song and Pride
And ever o’er its Babel sounds,
The Prideful marchers sing.

Yet with the woes of gay-hating
The world has suffered long;
Before the march of Pride has rolled,
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not,
The love song which we bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the marchers sing.

And ye, beneath hate’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Look now! for gay and rainbow hours
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the marchers sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
by dykes and queens descried
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Pride;
When Pride shall over all the earth,
Its rainbow splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song,
Which now the marchers sing.

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