Book Review

Earlier this week i was loaned a book through a process my friends call 'gubbins' whereby we pass on things we no longer need.

The book piqued my interest as it was entitled 'How to be a woman' - surely a book for every woman to read. Indeed there is a quote from Grazia magazine on the cover that says just that. It is written by Caitlin Moran, whom the foreword informed me is a columnist for The Times. I had not come across her before, but her book is written in such a way as she assumes the reader is familiar with her 'fame'.

The book itself is a mixture of reminiscences from Caitlin's past and rants about the things women put up with. This leads to a view of feminism as seen through the eyes of someone who cares a lot about clothes, shoes and sex. The backstory of her experiences as a women are an odd mixture, moving swiftly through having to wear her mums old knickers to being whacked out on Ecstasy.

Large sections of the book felt irrelevant to my personal ideas of 'how to be a woman'. It is attempting to be humourous and witty but often falls short of the mark by spending too long contemplating how underwear and clothing styles combine make a woman have four or eight bottoms. At one point i felt compelled to count the space taken up by justifying why a modern woman can hire another woman to clean her house. Two and a half pages by the way.

The book does not focus solely on what her personal experiences of being a woman are. She also writes about feminism. These two and a half pages on why it is okay to pay someone else to tidy up for you, contrast starkly in my mind with the two bullet points given to explain who can be a feminist. Feminists, according to Caitlin Moran, must have vaginas and must wish to be in control of them. The desire for everyone to be equal and have equal chances, to me, does not belong solely to the person with the right kind of genitals. She later goes on to asign blame for the unequal lot of women to 'the Patriarchy'. This brought to mind some kind of mobster gang who go around deliberately oppressing women. Unfortunately i don't believe it is that simple. Inequality is engrained in our culture, and that takes time and effort to change. It is not one gang of men doing it deliberately but instead a multitude of tiny exchanges that need to change. However there is redemption for Caitlin Moran when she uses the point of comparison for how it would look if men did the same thing.

There are other points made where i can feel myself nodding along and saying an internal 'right on, sister'. For example when she discusses how women re the same as men when it comes to being vile to each other, when she points out that journalists always have to ask about when (and not if) a female celebrity will have children, and the irony of a wedding being the 'best day' of your life. The frankness with which some sections of the book are written can be refreshing, but this feeling doesn't last as she quickly delves of into an inane area of her own pre-occupations.

The disjointed nature of the book makes it hard to mesh together a solid idea, as the writing flits between rant and rememberance. The foreword informs me it was written in the space of five months, and it shows. Overall it has some witty highlights, but it was not what i expected initially.
As it turns out every woman is not the same person, and so despite the book appealing to others, i was left with a distinct feeling that despite having a vagina i was not the target audience for this book. I don't need six and a half pages on wearing high heels (i just don't) and two and a half pages on hiring a cleaner. This book should be more accurately entitled 'how to be a woman like Caitlan Moran'.

Memeries are made of this...

How this works: Comment with your favorite color and I'll respond by asking you five questions so I can get to know you better. Update your journal with the answers to the questions. Include this explanation in the post and offer to ask other people questions.
from justrhys1812

1) What's the first book you ever really loved and do you still love it today?
My first book was 'can't you sleep little bear' and i really enjoyed it. However the first book i loved was most definitely 'Anne of Green Gables' by L.M. Montgomery. I still enjoy reading these stories, although I am no longer of an age with the heroine.

2) Someone gives you a million pounds. What do you do with it?
Pay off my mortgage and my mothers. Give a modest sum to friends who i know struggle financially. Build an extension on Dan's house and put in central heating. Invest the rest so that I can live a quiet reclusive life without ever wondering where my book money will come from. Appease my conscience by donating some to a local charity.

3) What was your favourite subject at school?
Mathematics. I loved maths very much. In primary school i went to maths masterclasses on a saturday morning at one of the posh Edinburgh schools. This was run by two maths professors and I can recall being spurred on to maths achievements because the first one to answer got a tunnocks tea cake. I cannot recall much now, but i would happily spend time studying it again. I gave up after narrowly failing my advanced higher maths. There was a lot going on for me at the time, and i think i am capable of doing more than i already have.

4) Have you ever been told that you look like a celebrity and if so who?
I was yesterday told that I looked like Kaylee in Firefly. I doubt this is true but I liked it. I have previously been told that in a movie of the student tv station i would be played by Susan Sarandon.

5) Now that you can drive is there a dream car that you really really want (money being no object, see question 2)?
Yes. It is called a motorbike ;)
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Cake and Make Returns

Cake and Make night will be starting up again this thursday 10th of January. It will be in my flat from 7.30pm, but feel free to turn up earlier. PM me for the address. Baked goods will be provided.


I have noticed recently that I post updates very rarely, but I often compose them in my head. Whenever I feel the urge to share with the world, I will usually work through what I would say, and how I would say it. The result of this is that I feel like I have already written the update, and no longer feel the urge to go through the laborious process of typing it up.
I am going to endeavour to share my thoughts more often (starting with this rather odd little post), as it allows me to look critically at my thought pattern, and in some cases may allow for discussion on topics which I am currently missing.
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Ereaders and Sherlock Homes

Having recently purchased an e-reader i think it might be a good time to review it. In the end i bought an Eslick ereader because i knew someone who had one, and knew some advantages it had over other products (faster page turning, no special software associated, good with .pdf files).

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Overall i can see a place in my life for an ereader, and it will get used regularly, but i will still keep buying second hand novels and building up my library of 'real' books.
I was tempted by the kindle with it's 3g connection, and by the ipad with its... well, everything. I decided against them because i was looking for a device to read journal articles on, having an internet connection would not help that objective, and all the other features i have on other devices. I like having separate devices for separate purposes. I find it much easier to read a journal article when i cannot have instant access to facebook.

As i mentioned earlier i have been using my ereader to read a few novels. As i have access to a large number of free e-books i have been taking advantage of this and reading a few of the classics i truly enjoy. I read little women, siddhartha, the scarlet pimpernel, the three musketeers (wonderful story), and i am now making a start on re-reading the sherlock holmes stories, starting with A Study in Scarlet. I am about a third of the way into the story, and very much enjoying it. I have always loved mysteries and enjoyed the recent tv adaptation much more than i had expected. Re-reading these books is like re-discovering old friends, remembering the (imagined) adventures of my youth.

I am hoping that more SF stories will become available via the gutenberg project - surely some of the good ones are out of copyright now?

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Poem on being a Woman

My Gran wrote this :)

To be a Woman             

I'm glad to be a woman
and dress in clothes so gay,
with itsy-bitsy heels
and skirts which flounce and sway.

It's good to be a woman,
I think so every day.
I wouldn't like to be a man,
for I was made this way.

It's nice to be a woman,
To have children who will say,
It's all because of Mum
that we are here today.


You are a Hippie

You are a total hippie. While you may not wear birks or smell of incense, you have the soul of a hippie.

You don't trust authority, and you do as you please. You're willing to take a stand, even when what you believe isn't popular.

You like to experiment with ideas, lifestyles, and different subcultures.

You always gravitate toward what's radical and subversive. Normal, mainstream culture doesn't really resonate with you.