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Patriot Games. (Do you see?)  
12:39pm 27/10/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers

I don't know much about American Football - despite it being shown on Channel 4 in the 80s, the most abiding memory is of the Channel 4 ident with a helmet and my dad shouting 'FOUR FOUR FOUR' and laughing. I can name two players - the Refridgerator (because he's called the Refridgerator) and Rosey Greir (because he wrote a book called Needlepoint for Men). Seeking out any actual coverage possibly involves subscriptions to specialist channels such as Extreme Special Gridiron 4, so aside from being aware of the Superbowl, mainly how big a TV draw it is, my knowlege of 'football' is drawn from teen movies.

So on Friday afternoon, Alan asked me if I wanted to go and see some American Football. At Wembley. 'Um, do you want to go?' Yes. Yes he did. This was a man who, after lots of family holidays, started sporting a Miami Dolphins baseball cap and understands what 'sack the ball' means. 'They're free, as this work event fell through.' I thought why not. I've been to two stadia (Nou Camp and, um, Ewood Park) but never seen any kind of live match - why not break my duck at the national stadium? And it might be fun. I like seeing Alan all enthusiastic about things, and it's a kind of glamorous sort of rugby, is it not?

On Sunday morning, I had a GetLippie makeover. As my lips were being painted with something very red and Givenchy, I was asked where I was heading off to later. 'American football. At Wembley.' Noises of distaste were made. 'It's the most frustrating thing ever. Take a book.' I had one, but decided not to tell Alan. We met up, me feeling like Sarah Palin with lipstick and game tickets in hand, popped to Tesco for food and got the tube. As the tube got closer, the carriage filled up with shirts - some Patriots, some Miami Dolphins ('See that name? He's a good player') and others I didn't recognise. We asked each other whom we should support. Now, not being privy to such useful information as shirt colour, badge and mascot to help me make this blind decision, we went for the Patriots as New England sounded nicer.

Wembley was more crowded than we expected, which was good. After being frisked, learning that a pint costs £4 and chicken dippers and chips £8.50, we settled in to work out what the fuck was going on.

The first thing I noticed was how branded the game is. The leagues and cup competitions for football football are sponsored, but here - the game was going out on US TV - everything seemed sponsored. The 'fan-cam'. The replays. The player warm-up. The cheerleaders came on to a message saying that they were brought to us by Reebok. I was too far away to see their uniforms (they were as tiny as teenage girls - a testament to the powers of dance training)  but there was probably a logo here and there.

Secondly, it felt at times more like a theatrical event than a sports match. When a good play happened, Tekken-style compliments flashed up on the scoreboard. Breaks in play were interspersed with videos of players talking about their least favourite household tasks. During a touchdown, flagbearers came on with huge flags; the video screens directed us to wave the minature versions on each seat. The game kicked off with huge helmet-shaped balloons, pyrotechnics, and the cheerleaders dancing to Calvin Harris; the stage was quickly whisked off, the cheerleaders off-pitch, twinkling pom-poms at the side of the field until there was a Time Out, when they came back again to do a can-can to distract us from the team huddles. Football just has Gary Lineker looking sorrowful and sub-standard pies.

The game itself? Well, I was glad I had Alan there to explain things. With football, the team needs to get the ball in the opposing team's net as often as possible; the rest is just noise. Simple as a potato. I knew the touchdown and the field goals were the aim here, but it didn't appear to just be a case of getting one and carrying it on - there were so many conditions attached to where the ball could go and for how long. I enjoyed watching the tussles (one man went over on his head) and the touchdowns, but the middle part was a bit lost on me. Perhaps I could watch a match on TV, with commentary and close-ups, to get a better feel for it. The atmosphere was great, though. The stadium had a lot of Real Americans watching the game, some with home-made signs ('which is better? Off-fence or De-fence?' 'Shush, you.'), though given that football games usually have the crowd casting aspersions on the sexual habits of the opposing team's captain, it seemed a bit more polite than I thought it would be. Not dispassionate, just lacking in fans shouting things with 'up the arse' and 'when the girl says no, molest her'.

Oh, and the Patriots won 31-7. I wanted Tampa to come back to get the game more interesting, but as the person next to us said, they're reknowned as a fairly bad team. However, they had a better mascot, which is what really counts.
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Sorority Girl - 'shouldn't be hard'  
12:33pm 13/10/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers

This is a wacky Arena-style article waiting to happen. Or just sexist tosh. You decide.
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(no subject)  
02:55pm 09/10/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers
If anyone wants a copy of Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, it's yours for an SAE. Life's too short.
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The kids are on fire  
11:23am 07/10/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers
I was reading about Electric Dreams - the programme where a family has to live with the technology of a particular decade - and thinking about what, for want of a better term, I'll call the styles of decades. Mention the sixties, seventies, eighties and something comes instantly to mind: fashions, events (though this kind of cultural fingerprinting is more about minutiae than world events), music, food, daily life. (The Seventies, for example, always seemed an orange and brown sort of decade to me.) Yet the Nineties leaves me with a blank. I started a thread on GUT on this a few years ago, and someone suggested Pogs. For me, I think 'Nineties' and I think of The Face, Naomi Campbell shot in black and white, and lots of oatmeal coloured clothes, yet having actually lived through the decade that seems more like someone else's memories than my own. Maybe this is what summing up a decade reduces it to.

Now we're almost at the end of the 00s and we don't even have an agreed word for this decade. Naughties? Zeros? (Soon we'll be in the 2020s and it seems wrong to call them 'the Twenties'.) What was this decade? It would be too easy to say that it was the decade of reliving the past - every decade did; the Mods were teddy-boys in different jackets, and the Eighties saw a big 1950s Americana revival, as long ago then as the 1980s are now to the kids buying neon bracelets and bad sweaters. Yet I'm wondering what we'll look back on as 'now' that didn't belong to anything else.

I'm going back to reading about periods now. This appears to be what happens when you leave fiction alone for a while and start binging on social history and cultural studies...
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Middle-class guilt  
11:13am 18/09/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers
Following a message-board thread I was reading the other day, I was wondering about the ethics of Primark. I've never been a massive fan, only because their clothing does not fit me well, and I'm trying to move toward buying a small number of really good things rather than a large number of cheap things ('cheap' of course does not always mean low in price) and don't like a lot of the fabrics they use. The ethical issues are another reason to be less keen on shopping there. However, if we were to stop the income that underage workers get working for discount stores, won't that increase the likelihood of poverty? It's not an argument for cheap labour - and the worst kind of cheap labour, for me, is that which makes goods sold at premium prices, where there is clearly a profit margin there to provide for a decent wage and  conditions - but it does leave me wondering why I feel more icky about buying a pair of pyjamas made for £4 than ones made for £20, and if I do buy that pair for £4, am I contributing to a system that's both unfair and provides a (small) income for an extremely poor person?

It's an ethical dilemma, like air travel. Whilst cheap flights are said to be fucking up the planet, they've also opened up international travel to a large section of the country that otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to do so. It leaves me wondering how to balance things out, and what the best choice is for a consumer who, while wanting to save money, also doesn't want to contribute to Western Greed.
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Christians need to be careful not to embrace movies just because the theme seems right  
08:12pm 17/09/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers
Went to see Dickie Dawkins last night with Alan. He rather looks up to the man - he told him, whilst having his copy of The Greatest Show on Earth signed, that reading The Selfish Gene at a time when he was also reading up on Buddhism and feng shui was a pretty pivotal moment. Me? I can't help but wonder if the man is tremendously arrogant, if only because of what andrewhickey refers to as the 'New Atheism' - people discovering atheism as something to cling to in the same way they would have Slipknot, macrobiotic diets or nihilism, and seeing it not so much as a set of theories and ideas that both critique and compliment the religious world but as a way to tell people different to oneself that they are entirely stupid. But then, I'm agnostic. I believe that there are things that science is yet to explain and that this explanation may not turn out to please the skeptics; that if there is a God, he/she/it is less theist and more humanist, creating things according to some plan or other then setting them off to do their own thing; that the Abrahamic religions believe in more or less the same God; that you could do worse than Jesus Christ as someone to look up to, and some of the religious types I have heard and seen aren't worthy to call themselves 'Christian'; that religious doctrine should allow movement and updating for the times in which we live now, rather than being the unassailable Word; that a belief in a religion is like love - you feel it or you don't and not much will change that - and finding comfort in God/Allah/Yahweh/Buddah/a large egg is a great and enviable thing, but using this as a way to tell others that they're going to Hell for not living by your rules is, well, somewhat de trop.

Anyway, it was interesting - a quick crash course on evolution. I still find it bizarre that anyone doesn't believe in evolution - besides, fossils are fucking brilliant. I left people more learned than myself to ask the questions. Amongst them was a young boy who started off by saying 'Me and my friend go to a Catholic school and we've gone from being religious to pretty hardcore atheists....,' getting a round of applause from the crowd. 'Catholic school will do that to you.' I remember even at eleven, when I thought swearing was a terrible thing and arguing with the Bible probably not far off, wondering how we knew that Greek and Roman gods weren't real but God god was, why Jesus is the Son of God but Davids Koresh and Icke were mere nutters, and most of all, the part of the Mass where we said 'it is right to give thanks and praise' - and learning what the Catholic view of many of the things which affect women's lives came later. And I didn't expect to hear from Mr Dawkins that the Bible is something worth studying as a way to understand our literature and culture if not as a way to live your life - very close to how I feel about it. Later, he spoke about how a novel's age can be pinpointed not through cultural references but through the moral compass exhibited, going on to the idea of moral values changing meaning that a book written 2,000 years ago will barely have social relevance now. Interesting stuff.

We saw the atheist kid and his friend in the queue afterward and chatted with them for a bit. Smart kids, They probably would have got expelled from my school by that point - they had a debate in class on atheism vs. Catholicism and were clearly still buzzing from the exchange. The lad who asked the question - as cute as a CBBC actor - had an ironic 'Remember Jesus Loves You' sticker fixed to his green striped jumper. I wanted to adopt him.

In the pub, Alan handed over my new spacephone. I've never had a phone on contract before, and as I have a phone which is perfectly adequate for calls and texts the thought of taking in a new one - buying into built-in obsolecence - filled me with consumer guilt. Do I *need* handheld internet? Do I want to be plugged into the web everywhere I go? What if I leave it on the bus? Am I not too chimp-handed to send coherent texts anyway? But, today I was off work as I've been diagnosed with an ear infection and felt too rough to think, and when I went out for my prescriptions, I read the Guardian on the bus with a special app that downloads everything for me to read offline, and then when I saw a book that looked good in a charity shop window, instead of purchasing it I could look it up on BookMooch and get a copy for free. I'm almost converted. Almost. Now, does anyone want a barely-used but much carried Sony Ericsson W200i?
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This will be in my head all day now...  
11:03am 15/09/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers

The Male Nurse - My Own Private Patrick Swayze
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Or two women from Dundee  
01:27pm 14/09/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers
It all started when I posted to Metafilter to see if anyone had suggestions for recipes for faux-houmous for someone who is allergic to legumes. Poor Alan brings me a pot of houmous back from Tesco when I go up to visit, but a mere smidgen of the stuff sends him into a mild anaphylactic shock, not life-threatening, but obviously not pleasant. It seemed fair to try and work out some way he could taste the stuff to see why I'm so grateful.

Advice from the thread taken on board, I decided to have a go at making baba ganoush. I walked home past the big Asian grocery and came home with garlic, lemon, aubergines, a fat pot of tahini and some tinned chick peas - while I had the tahini, I might as well try making my own houmous. I used to do it as a student, but as I was then poor and gastronomically naive, I used Jif lemon and pickled (yes, pickled) garlic, making something that was nice in a pitta bread but only tasted as though it might have met houmous once and shared a clumsy hug. Might as well give it a go properly.

So, baba ganoush. I took two aubergines, cubed them, and roasted them in the oven until they were soft'n'squishy. I roasted half a bulb of garlic at the same time, and peeled half of that into a bowl with half a lemon and three tablespoons of tahini. Blended everything together, and it was LOVELY. I have no idea of the authenticity of my recipe - because of the allergy issue, Alan can't really do Indian or Turkish restaurants because of the heavy reliance on lentils and pulses, and as I mainly eat out with him, I'm yet to try - but it tastes smokey and mushroomy and deceptively healthy...

I ended up with two versions of houmous. The first - quarter bulb of the roasted garlic, tin chickpeas, three spoonfuls of tahini, half a lemon. It wasn't bad, but it was very heavy and thick, not diplike like the stuff from the supermarket. The reason reduced-fat houmous is thinner is down to a reduction in tahini, as this is the most calorific ingredient, and so I'd clearly used too much here. The flavour, though, wasn't far off Yarden houmous, which is lovely.

Second attempt saw me using up the garlic. For those not keeping count, that's half a bulb. Don't make anything with half a bulb of garlic - not only will it achieve chemical weapon status after sitting in the fridge, but although it tastes nice in small doses too many small doses will leave you having to go to bed with Garlic Illness. The cloves, however, were raw, and I think I'll be roasting them next time. The consistency on two spoons of tahini was better, but perhaps I need to cut down to one to get it just right. Hmm.
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(no subject)  
02:26pm 11/09/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers

I had a boyfriend when I was sixteen who longed after a long black leather trenchcoat. This was in a town where pretty much everyone wore anoraks adorned with sportswear logos (I don't kid when I say I got open-mouth gapes when I went home in an Afghan coat as a student) and so acquisition of such a garment seemed unlikely. He could afford it (the kid got so much pocket money that it wasn't even called 'pocket money' and took taxis into town rather than the bus) but, pre-internet shopping, if it wasn't available near you, you couldn't have one. This was pre-Matrix, pre-Trenchcoat Mafia, and the black leather coat for this very reason never became a big fashion item where we were. We split up when I was seventeen, he found a girlfriend very soon after with an identical haircut to mine but less moxie, and one evening I walked home from town to see him waiting at a bus-stop with her wearing a full-length black leather trenchcoat. Well, if he had that now, it must have been meant to be, I thought, as I moped home with The Smiths on my Walkman.

I don't wear the Afghan now - they were fashionable at the time, even if I got called 'eskimo' by drunk people, but I got rid of it because it no longer fitted and felt like a coat for a twenty year old rather than someone older, wiser and with a twee red duffle to wear. My velcro letter T-shirt might feel so very ten years ago, but then, I haven't been able to fit into it for about eight of those years.

So: trenchcoats - yay or nay? What's dated now? What did you used to wear that you never will again? Can you get rid of it?
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A high standard of confectionery-based double entendres  
12:44pm 08/09/2009
Wronger Than Ten Hitlers
IMG_2362 by you.

I realised yesterday that I've barely stayed in hotels at all. As a child, we always rented log cabins in western Scotland or self-catering accommodation in Greece - perfect for pretending to be local at a supermarket or saving money that would be better spent on windmills, but it means that I don't really get hotels. My last proper holiday abroad, aged 17, involved a stay in the spare room of my then-boyfriend's family off Long Beach and being dropped off at malls in his mother's car; aside from a student weekend to Paris, a work training course and two nights (albeit very memorable ones) in Travelodges, I have no actual hotel experience at all. Last weekend, we stayed in a lovely place in Eastbourne with a sea view and art exhibitions downstairs, and I kept forgetting that it wasn't our job to make the bed as we weren't staying on a friend's floor. Dammit.

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