[sticky post]spam in comments
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Kind readers
I know that most of you have nothing to say, or not enough time to make your point but I've noticed that most of the comments I get here I'd spam or irrelevant content nothing to do with the subject.

Here is my spam policy:
1 pure spam- deleted and poster permanently blocked
2 irrelevant content will be deleted
3 comments in a language other than English will be deleted, this is an English speaking blog

RadFem2012 - a critique
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There are 3 problems with "RadFem2012" and its activists.

1. The event explicitly went out of its way to single out one group, whether or not they had decided to attend, and exclude them without any knowledge of their circumstances or reasons for wanting to come. This makes it clear that far from wanting to prevent a known troublesome individual or group from attending, the organisers decided in the abstract to exclude this group. This is unfair.

2. The inviation of Sheila Jeffreys reinforces the antagonistic stance mentioned above and suggests that there is a deliberate desire to provoke the trans community on multiple levels.

3. The debate around the event has been truly horrible and laid bare to me the depth of viciousness of the RadFem sect. I'd always known that there was a hostile element in the separatist community who were uncomfortable with trans people having a presense. I heard about what happened at Dyke Night in Dublin in 1999 where one sole, lone transwoman called Debbie was turned away at the door with bleats of "sorry, born women only." I also had a minor moment of discomfort in Cork in 2003 when a friend alerted me to the fact that a couple of older women were grumbling about the presence of a transwoman in our group. It was interesting that they hadn't the guts to say it upfront. I think this is key to 1 above - if a transwoman arrived at the door and politely asked for her registration and was identified, the door keepers would be rightly embarassed. Firstly they'd have to consider if she is actually born trans or if they're mistaken. (Given the "heavy dutyness" of many RadFems it would mean they could end up questioning the physical sex of many entrants!!) The reality is, I suspect, is that the organisers of RadFem2012 don't have the guts to turn away suspected transwomen at the door.

The irony of course, is those of us who are cis transallies and passing transladies could have walked in unnoticed and caused a lot of amusement. I'm even sure that a full cavity search would have identified the transgirls from the bois. (Ladies, some you might perhaps be able to help me there).

I'd never heard of "Bug" Brennan before this hullaballoo and frankly, I wish I hadn't discovered the presence of this stain upon humanity. This vicious, despicably evil snipe basically makes it her goal in life to antagonise mostly quite young transgirls and make their lives more difficult than they already are. She seems to target younger women in particular and has been involved in some quite disturbing campaigns towards rolling back trans rights globally. But Brennan's attacks go further and are miniced by her small but highly commited band of supporters. Abuses include:

· use of male pronouns to desribe transactivists and often explicitly describing them as "men"
· labelling transactivists and cis-women who support them as "mens rights activists", I've actually been described using a male pronoun by one her fanatical followers myself
· accusations of being "rapey" - whatever that means - in any case its a thinly veiled attempt to sexualise tw in a very offensive manner
· accusations that such permissions would permit male sexual predators to dress up as women and attend such conferences - an especially fanciful notion
· constant and persisting assuptions of "privilige" notwithstanding other social circumstances of the persons in question's actual social situation
· dismissive, insulting and frivolous comments to porn scorn on tw - plus a peculiar obsession with the nuts and bolts of transitioning and physicality in general
· And finally, scornful and dismissive comments on comparative marginalisation stakes - this is a scary one as even the most priviliged of transwomen tend to have a lot to lose in the transitioning stakes. The idea that they retain some kind of male "privilige" and the nonsensical notion that it makes them pushy and dominant in discussions are clear shite. I've been in plenty of groups with transwomen throughout the years and it seems to be quite the opposite actually - they tend to, in fact, be more accepting of injustices meted in their direction, I suspect out of fear of retribution, exposure or other negative reactions.

I think this needs to be made clear:
· Brennan does NOT speak for the majority of women, nor does she have any right to speak on behalf of the dyke community which her movement has both colonised and tyrannised.
· Her followers are actually a quite tiny but active group. A lot of radfems don't agree with them but are bullied into silence by the sheer aggression of the Brennan/Jefferies cult
· There are many flaws with radical feminism, but they are not representative of feminism in general. On the other hand there are a lot of good ideas in radical feminism which can be bought out and developed without needing to hang onto the bad parts.
· Separatism has been on the way out in dyke circles for at least 12 years, whether the die hands, like it or not. Here in Dublin, Ireland, we only have 1 women-only night left, organised by - wait for it - a transwoman activist!!
· Women make up only half the world. The entire population are stakeholders in this game, whether radfems like it or not. Male buy in is necessary in order to end patriarchal aggression. It cannot ever be eliminated by petty name calling and separatism. Feminism must be a concern for everybody in conjuction with transversal political action.

self portrait
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self portrait by lff12
self portrait, a photo by lff12 on Flickr.


Online Dating 101
Gran Canaria May 08
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Well now that I've a life again, I'm back dating. And its been so so interesting.

Firstly, I found not a lot of messages, but two or three women were kind of interesting. One was a bit far away (lives in same town as my last girlfriends partner does, and that is a big turn off), another replied too infreuquently to arrange a proper meeting, but number 3 had potential. There were issues, bisexuality, a married past, only recently out, a long history of illness and some rather dogmatic ideas about life, but for the first time in a long time I found myself talking to somebody my own age, articulate, mature, with a reasonably broad outlook, outside of the cult of the dyke ghetto and well, up for it. Oh and easy on the eye too. In fact, she actually looked better in person than she did in her photos.

Of course I totally blew that one. Did the grand gesture and the OTT femmerama. I think I scared her knickers on rather than off. Sadly, she didn't want friendship even, so I was rather hurt. But it got me thinking and kind of drop kicked me into making a bigger effort to actually attract a wider range of women and sift rather than project.

At the same time it was really nice to finally discover that there was one - at least one! - woman out there who I could actually be attracted to. It made me realise that there are actually rare but good potential matches out there if you keep looking. And of course I am well aware that there is a large silent majority of women-loving-women who do not buy into the dyke ghetto, and find it not only scary but hugely unsexy. Come on, who would want the bitter taste of a Basher Bindel style one anyway? I was in the Flounge on Friday and two very macho dykes arrived in, they pretty much looked like they would beat the crap out of you, complete with mens clothes and mens haircuts.

But you see, that isn't the reality that most WWSWW live (as opposed to MWSWM). Loads of women just want nothing more than somebody nice and normal who loves them for who them are, can take reponsibility for themselves and be a good friend and lover, and is capable in bed. They don't want somebody who is basically a man with a uterus. Nor do they want somebody who they have to answer for, or be marginalised with. I seriously think that one of the saddest twists of radical feminism is its failure to recognise the reality of female to male gender disphoria, and I think a hell of a lot of these girls are quite potentially gender disphoric. And I think its something that has staRted to become more of phenomenon.
Anyway, back to dating. The hard thing, is I don't want to repeat my last two mistakes, and most importantly, I don't want to end up with somebody who doesn't read books, think about politics but instead lives in front of de telly. I don't want that anymore and its so, so hard to strip away the layers to find yet one more stereotype who is glued to Fairly Shitty every night and X Factor all weekend.

Looks like I'll just have to keep trying.

Current Projects
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Ultra Xtreamer setup with multi boot for home AV use on network
Bridged wireless Wifi lan (largely complete)
network devices placed on lan (Belkin)
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The use of Western Human Waves in disputed territories and the threat of martyrdom
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Mr Yildirim, who was on board the vessel, said some of the activists had grabbed guns off 10 soldiers in self-defence. "Yes, we took their guns. It would be self defence even if we fired their guns," Mr Yildirim said, adding that people shouted to them not to use the weapons.

"We told our friends on board: "We will die, become martyrs, but never let us be shown . . . as the ones who used guns," Mr Yildirim said today. "By this decision, our friends accepted death, and we threw all the guns we took from them into the sea."

He said the Israeli commandos fired rubber bullets from close range before switching to live ammunition, after some activists on board had attacked them with chairs and bats.

"The Israelis published videos of the bats used on the ship, but they damaged their 'strong Israeli army' image, as the world saw that a bunch of volunteers can neutralise them," he said.

Describing the dead as martyrs, Mr Yilirim said his charity would continue to organise aid convoys until Israel was forced to end the blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

 

From The Irish Times, 3rd June - http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/0603/breaking24.html?via=rel

I have to say that while the agression of the Israeli attack on the so called "Flotilla" at the weekend can only but shock and appall any lover of human rights, I am a little uneasy about the pro-Palestinian supporters use of foreign volunteers in the context of a legitimate but dangerous and provocative attempts to break the blockade of the Gaza strip in the wake of repeated aggression from IDF in that region.

In the midst of the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 onwards, a massive and terrifying strategy was the use of the Basji in "human wave" formations.  Often aged as yung as 12-18, young Iranians, often unarmed, were sent out in formations to clear fields, and were butchered by bewildered Iraqis in their tens of thousands.  The promise of martyrdom sent out the initial waves, later on, enforcement became more common - the young teenagers were often tied together and guns pointed to their backs as they advanced to their certain deaths.

While martyrdom has long since ceased to be a western millitary value, except perhaps to some very limited extent in the ranks of the US right-wing, its largely now an increasing concern within millitant Islam.  Human bombs, human shields and suicide missions are markedly more common than missions where the assailants expect to survive the attack.  From 2001 on, a significant number of the attacks on western and non-western targets for political propoganda purposes have been suicide attacks.  The glory associated with martyrdom is a significant driver for activists who seem not only willing to die themselves for their causes, but also to sacrifice brave but unwitting western volunteers, who seem blinkered to the process at play, particularly within the ranks of pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli political activism.

What is of major concern is the conflict between western efforts to protect the political integrity of legitimate protest by placing civillians in a position of risk and Islamic activisms willingness to exploit these as part of an overall strategy of heroism through martyrdom.  Interestingly, there appears to be the grains of a backlash against increased martyrdom from the ranks of its very heart in Iran, with clerics such as Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei condeming it in 2006.

Nevertheless, martyrdom remains a risky business, particularly in the high octane world of Israel's efforts to defend its borders from attack and to protect itself from internal terrorism, especially in cities.  The appalling treatment of Palestinians at check points is not only a massive atrocitity against the rights of Arabic residents, it also massively corrodes the Palestinian economy as it effectively prevents normal business and any sort of normal way of life.  In doing so it invades the civil rights of Palestinians and ignites resentments that effectively lead to massive challenges of Israeli legitimacy, not merely in occupied regions or disputed territories, but in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem itself, and not just by the Islamic world, but by an increasing band of western non-islamic support, especially amongst the traditional and millitant western left.

The dangers imposed by this seem to be invisible to those who support pro-palestinian liberation organisations with tentative but real connections to organisations considered to be practicing terrorism.  In the 1980s we had significant support for the secular Palestination Fatah movement, but in the wake of apparently collusion with Israel to crush more Islamicist organisations with a more millitant agenda (i.e. the total dismantling of the state of Israel and presumed explusion of Judaism from the middle East), with the establishment of an excplicitly Islamic republic in its place.  While this is usually presumed to be based on the Iranian model, its debateable as to what such a state would be intended to look like in reality.  Assumptions that it would end up exactly like the state of terror that effectively exists in Iran is uncertain - though unfortunately it would not be at all unrealistic to expect that this model is exactly what at least some activists want.  Even in Gaza, it appears that there is already use of civillian outposts such as schools etc, as millitary defence points, thus provoking outrage as it did in Operation Cast Lead, where IDF retaliation against snipers etc unavoidably ended up blitzing civillians in the wake.  It is highly difficult to know whether or not Hamas or even more millitant groups stepping up to challenge them are using such positions or accidentally ending up there as a result of the "normal" manourvres of war.

The real dangers is the use of foreign civillians in the midst of provocations to the IDF.  There is no doubt that the pro-Palestinian movement scored an enormous political coup by the deaths of numerous Turks and roughing up of other foreigners as part of the original Flotilla.  No amount of IDF footage indicating that an unsophisicated but bitter physical attack occured as the "peaceful activists" attacked IDF soldiers in hand-to-hand combat can challenge the political reality for Israel of numerous dead foreigners.  The international left simply see the dead bodies, not the extent to which provocation might have brought this upon the Flotilla.

By including numerous major politicians on board, such as the incredibly politically naive Minster Michael Martin (who almost made it) and many peace activists, the impression is given that the flotilla is entirely devoid of a political agenda.  Yet the Palestinian authorities flags hang on the ships, and no legitimate and non-political charity seems to want to have anything to do with it.  The concern there is now is that a fresh flotilla is moving towards the coastline.  All the IDF need to do, politically, is prevent it from landing.  The problem is, in order to do so they need enormous levels of discipline to ignore minor provocations that potentially could occur.  The situation is in such a sense, more volatile than ever.

But the question for me remains - in the knowledge that the Gaza's economy is crippled, why are no major apolitical NGOs trying to organise food and medical aid?  Why are the only groups ones which appear to have slight but real connections to the political movements in the middle east?  Anti-sharia campaigners maintain a defeaning silence while the world (justifiably) condemns.  But nobody acts to create a legitimized assistance programme.  Why?

TV this week
Gran Canaria May 08
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Haven't been watching a lot of TV lately but managed to catch one or two that interested me.

Jean Byrne continues to be delightful.  This week included tight black satin trousers and a figure hugging elbow length black top - unfortunately married to a puffy white jacket that kind of reminds me of a chessboard.  Not one of the better ones, but hey its new.  The leather jacket from her 11th Hour appearance last week was almost certainly Joanne Hynes - a really gorgeous number I have to say, very feminine and nicely matched with a simple top with design.  Despite some fairly heavy lighting, Byrne still managed to look about half her age, and came across as very appealling, the sort of person you'd be very happy to get stuck beside on a long flight or in the cube next to you at work.  Incidentally, forgot to mention two rather funny things from that programme.  Byrne picked out music from David Bowie and Welsh singer Duffy.

Bowie - good choice, I thought - Fanning put on heroes.  Funny comment Byrne made was that men wearing makeup was an interest - when I caught that it was a real case of Don't say that, you'll only encourage them!!  Liking guys with makeup on isn't your average middle Ireland hetero thing - although it might turn off a few potential stalkers not to keen on having to don lippy and eyeliner.  In fact the main reason most girls I know don't like it because the guys they know who do that, not only want to wear THEIR makeup, but half their wardrobe too.  Say no more.  Anyway, we'll put it down to and off-the-cuff remark rather than a deep knowledge of the crossdressing fantasies of so many hetero males.  (Oh yes many - you'd be surprised how many good male friends I have, married with kids etc, who like nothing more than to don a short mini, a shocking wig, heavy slap and 6 inch heels).  I loved Bowie as vampiric lover of Catherine Denueve in the Hunger - one of his most sublime performances, particularly the scene in the mens where he looks at his aging self in the mirror, and the rather sad and painful scene where he devours his lover's favoured teenage violinist.  Fabulous.  Very angrogynous and an almost unwitting statesman, along with former wife Agnie, for bisexuality.  Anyway, nuff of that.

Duffy I didn't immediately get but I had forgotten that Duffy's debut was a 60s-esque style number which started "You got me begging you for mercy, Why won’t you release me."  Ok nobody else spotted this (not even on BDSM-Ireland's recent discussion of BDSM themed songs) - but well - the imagery is just too close to the popular folklore regarding tight leather tunics and determinedly straightening your long black tresses.

Anyway, more of Byrne soon.  I didn't watch the finale of Lost, having lost touch with it during the first season, but unsurprised to hear of the finale.  Ok, I got that as soon as I heard they started quoting one of my favourite author's - Flann O Brien, in his book The Third Policeman.  Did you know that O'Brien became an honorary member of the Irish Housewives Association?  I'll bet you didn't.  Its one of the many pieces that my baby sister has dug up in her PhD study of womens organisations in the middle of the 20th century.  He poked a bit of fun at them in his column, but according to Ash he was in fact a good supporter, especially in their lobbying for better prices for consumers.  Ash also says that while IHA supported the Mother and Child scheme, they were not so keen on the children's allowance because it was allocated to the husbands, and there was still shortages.  She says that they feared price inflation because of the perception of greater consumer power and preferred instead a system of vouchers.  I skim read the Sisters piece in the Irish Times during the week and I really felt how so many women, even now, could read this and find it hard to relate to.  Maeve Binchy's piece was good, but I do feel sometimes that ordinary women with husbands and kids, who sometimes work and sometimes don't, might find it easier to relate to groups like IHA and ICA than more overtly political groups.  The north has a good string of community based womens groups that in context of over heavily divided communities, can actually be more than a bit diverse.  In fact I found out about the northern groups through a closet lesbian single mum of two in a large town.  Someday that could be ripe pickings for a PhD.

Anwyay, 2nd programme I watched this week with interest, was Rising After Redundancy.  You might have seen Bill Cullen's little performance on the Front Line a while back where he demonstrated vast ignorance of the reality of unemployment today as compared to 20 or 40 years ago.  Indeed, vast ignorance of Ireland, full stop.  Cullen grew up in inner Dublin, in a Dublin where tenements were the way of life.  I know a little about these as many of my family grew up in them also.  You'd have as many as 80-100 people living in a large Georgian house.  Families of 10 in 2 rooms.  As a result, from the 1940s onwards, slum clearance programmes aimed to move people to less cramped housing in order to mitigate against many of the problems of overcrowding.  This was well in progress in the 50s and 60s, and many of Cullen's age would have moved from these areas as children to a variety of places, nice and otherwise.  Dad's family were particularly fortunate and moved to Marino.  Those less so found themselves in places like Coolock and later, Ballymun.  Anyway, Cullen doesn't get one thing - housing is now a huge expense for the under 40s.  And many older people too.  There simply isn't cheap, low quality housing for purchase and even less so for rent, which remains stubbornly high.  This eats heavily into the salaries of low paid workers.  In the 50s, those with low paid or occasional work could survive because of cheap if poor housing.

One of the primary impacts of better housing in Ireland from the 60s onwards has been the massive inflationary bubble which in reality started in the late 1960s and ended with the collapse of house prices in 2008/9 - and is still ongoing.  House prices started doubling every 4-5 years from the end of the 60s, and in fact, this continued until the stagnation in the 80s and early 90s.  It picked up where it had left off around 1994, and relentless increases continued for the next 12 years.  Rents shot up even faster - especially housing policy changed and welfare-dependent renters were dumped into rented sector rather than social housing from the mid 90s on.  My Dad also, funny enough, went to primary school in Gardnier St.  Anyway, the key problems today are a workforce that is immobile because of negative equity in housing, and inflexible because of poor skills.  This is to top off the fact that about 250,000 jobs have simply vanished, leaving a hard core of unemployed chasing a declining number of open vacancies.

Unlike the 80s, when the mantle fell particularly harshly on young workers, and workers over 40, this has been a far more democratic recession.  But Cullen was ignorance itself when he suggest that people "work for nothing."  Now don't get me wrong.  Unpaid internship is great for young folk without experience, fresh out of college and with some skills but little practical experience.  But its totally unworkable for somebody on the dole with maybe a mortgage and a few other debts to pay.  Those inbetween - early career years to mid career, in the 25-40 age group would be particularly hard hit because there is an assumption, especially if they are highly skilled, that they will not only find a job quickly, but that they will find one paying the same.  And contrary to popular folklore, there are loads of people who simply wouldn't survive if they had to take a 20-30k paycut from maybe 40-50k to 20k for anymore but a brief term.

So the programme, unfortuantely, almost starts at the common view made of redundant folk on tv: not looking hard enough, unrealistic expectations, unsuitable skills.  The big thing I notice is that a lot of people let go are being dropped from areas which in a normal job market would have reasonable currency.  Things like administrative work, marketing, IT, etc.  The recruitment guy - I am sorry, but I find him an obnoxious tosser.  I have really grown to like most of the others, but he just rubs me up the wrong way.  Barney is particularly likeable and probably very typical - like the 130,000 construction workers who were let go, he probably just found his role in Aer Lingus in the 70s or 80s, worked through trainee programmes, did fairly well, managed to survive all the various turbulence in that industry.  This is why Michael O Leary's nasty little propoganda campaign against the DAA is so insidious: the workers at the former Team Aer Lingus plant were old fashioned, older, heavily unionised.  O Leary would never give them a job.  Instead he would have taken in school leavers on the minimum wage and possibly on temporary contracts for ever.  If he was ever to start such an operation, it would be to break the spirits of those workers.  But he'll never do that - he can well afford to play the media game - after all thats what O Leary does.  He is a master of marketing and subtle propoganda.  He runs a lean airline that focuses on a very particular type of travel that probably makes up about 75% of all travel - and just does it very efficiently.  Thats why Ryanair, in its current guise, will never run a transatlantic flight.  What they will probably eventually do is adopt a failing carrier or start a separate company - probably as a kind of experiment, only they don't really need to - lots of carriers in Asia are doing this on Australia to the Far East and I reckon O Leary is watching carefully to see what he can learn and reproduce.

Anyway the problem I have with this kind of  programme, are these points:
  • that the work is out there, but you are not really trying hard enough
  • that you can pitch yourself to any job without having the qualifications and experience - or worse still, that you can "retrain" overnight and be a huge success - "Decide and start a course, just do it, it will never be a waste when it's an area that you're interested in."
  • that you can change everything overnight and on aspiration alone, be hugely successful
  • that you have to lower your expectations and work for little or for free
  • and finally, the big one, that something in yourself needs to change - "Back yourself, believe in yourself and you will succeed."

The last point is the big one. This programme is based on a kind life coaching thing run by a company called Harmonics.  Like many of these companies, this advice doesn't come cheaply.  "Career Health Check Programme"as its called on their website, will set you back an eye watering 1500 euros - that 7 and a half times the adult weekly dole rate - nearly 2 months of payments or 1/6 of an unemployed persons annual income.  Exploitation?  I think at this rate, yes.  They do cv/interview prep too - for a cool 400 euros for 4 hours.  Ok, thats 2 weeks dole - or more than a week on the minimum wage.  But the big Daddy of them all, the "career and financial planning" - thats 2,900.  Yes, you read that right.  Thats 4 months on the dole.  In fact its more than I get after tax in a month.  Its considerably more than an average earner will get after tax in a month.  Guess what?  I changed career for free.  In fact lots of people do it.  Or, you can spend your 2900 on something like this which is a rather good Certificate in Management from the Open University - very useful for anybody considering starting up their own enterprise.

I wouldn't have an issue with this programme were it not for the obscene amount that they are looking for.  The career health check for example, amounts to 150 euros an hour - i mean, aside from hospital consultants - who gets that?  And why are RTE doing a great big glossy ad for not only this company, but the many, many, often much worse and more grossly exploitative parade of often inexperienced and unaccredited "social marketeers", "consultants" and "coaches" of all descriptions.  People are really getting ripped off by this kinda stuff.

Thing is you see, I spent about 8k on the Open University, and slowly, its working for me, even though I'm not finished.  What shines far more on your cv than yet another get-rich-quick and believe-it-and-it-will-happen session is that 4-6 years you spent working away.  I really do have an issue with the poking through peoples lives on this programme because it makes it look like these courses are good value for money.  As it happens I spotted some (and I have to say - quite good) writing online from one participant, and I don't know if its really worked for him, and I can only presume that he didn't have to pay 1500-2900.

As for "start your own business" which is the mantra of many of these programmes - please please please will Fas get in and make everybody who wants to do this go through a full time one week course first?  One which explains things like your personal liability, the impact on your PRSI payments (which effectively remove you from many entitlements people take for granted) and the complexity of dealing with banks etc as a self employed person?  I know a lot of self employed people who have lost houses, have nearly lost houses and even one who is likely to lose a SECOND house because if things get bad, its potentially even worse than the dole.  Its NOT a get rich quick route.  For most people its a good way of life, but not a wealthy one.

Anyway on to the TVnow awards.  What can I say?  Just awful.  Excruciating to watch.  Embarassing.  And who the fook is Anna Daly?  Jean was robbed (but the frock was nice - bring a chaperone next time - it helps, believe me).  Whoever edited this should never be let near a film again.  I could have done better myself.  Not inviting nominees was just pathetic.  And the two RTE ladies who were completely hammered were painful.  Less red wine next time, girls.

More leather & weather
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Weather has been rather interesting lately - rather cool but dry. According to Joan Blackburn on this morning's radio we have been experiencing 6c lower than normal for April but rainfall is quite low. This sort of coincides with the warm dry spell last September (much of which I missed as I was in Budapest).

Jean Byrne has been shopping again! On 28th April she appeared wearing a rather interesting number from Joanne Hynes SS10 collection. I'd seen the promo photos in white but seen the original which was in Hynes 2 week pop-up shop in Brown Thomas in Cork. I don't get to Dublin so much these days, and when I do I'm rather busy so rarely get to BT, so its nice to see some designers appear in Cork, even when it is for just a week. Anyway this will probably all change, as I'm laid off in 4 weeks time and no job offer yet, so quite expecting to end up in Dublin at the end of June for a while. Maybe I might visit BT more often, even if a lot of the clothes would eat into an entire dole rate for 4 weeks! It costs nothing to have a look anyway.

Anyway Byrne also showed up on the awful Dave Fanning's 11th Hour wearing what I am sure is another one of Hynes new leather jackets. Just over a simple black t shirt and black trousers. She does come across as rather diffident when interviewed. Its nice in a sense to hear that she takes no notice of online comments since to be honest many of the male ones are simply "whoa" and her style is individual, and dare I say, appropriate to her own personality.

If the jacket is the Hynes one I am thinking of it has some rather interesting work done around the upper body which makes the texture look rather interesting. One thing I find about Hynes designs is not only do they look at their best on "real women" with breasts and hips (compare any of the youtube rips of Byrne wearing the ss10 zippered leather number to the white version in Hynes ss10 promo shots - the design looks much better on Byrne, simply because she has a feminine shape) but they are in a sense, ageless.

Two years ago, Linda Grant wrote a very interesting piece in the Guardian questioning whether or not older women could wear leather jackets. She was particularly considering if wearing them in your 50s could make you look a bit like "mutton."  Now it isn't anything I should be worrying over just yet as I'm not quite 38 yet, but you do wonder sometimes if that item just might be pushing over the boundary.  I know, for example, a woman in her 60s who determinedly wears Pennys stuff designed for teenagers, and to top it off, she's transgendered and transitioned later in life.  As a result she looks like a server from a Munich beerhall.  Byrne, curiously enough, contradicts one suggestion that Grant has regarding many very beautiful older women - I wouldn't have described her as ravishingly beautiful 5 or 6 years ago.  In fact I hardly noticed her at all.  There is a rather old photo which somebody managed to dig out of the RTE archives of a very pretty, and girl-next-doory Byrne working in the Met quite a long time ago - dates are for sissies! - which I have to say rather shocked me as it indicated to me that I'd underestimated her likely age by at least 10 years!  Thats rather good - to look 10 years younger than you actually are - well done Jean!  Anyway, what is rather amusing about the photo is what Jean is wearing -a  plaid shirt with denim dungarees.  Height of fashion at the time.  It was pretty next too - but in a girl-next-door kind of way rather than dashingly glamorous.

I think sometimes that is what happens to "nice girls" who grow up and eventually just stop caring what anybody else thinks of them.  From what I've heard of Byrne she doesn't give a shite what anybody else thinks and I have to say I really like that.  In Ireland outside of the catholic church everybody is so terrified about what everybody else thinks we've almost pertrified.  Look at politics and the key message the opposition parties churn out is "omg what will everybody think of us" (which to be honest isn't completely wrong considering that US multinationals in particular and quietly leaving Ireland in droves).  Grant's idea, by the way, of just wearing one or two really dashing items is something I'd be inclined to pass advice to all ages on.

Linda Grant's blog is here http://www.thethoughtfuldresser.blogspot.com/

The Public Gaze
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Jelie Feeney's lovely song, goes "You're impossibly beautiful, is it just cause I'm looking or is it just cause you are?" Well recently Ireland has been thrown into a rather curious and unexpected debate regarding perceptions of beauty by a shift by one of the longstanding Met Eireann meteorologists who delivers the weather on RTE1.

For reasons not 100% explained by Jean Byrne's explanation that she was getting a lot of requests for where she bought her clothes from "Mothers of the Bride" and possibly more to do with cutbacks in the wardrobe department in RTE, probbly allowing announcers a greater level of autonomy regarding decision making than they previously might have, we've been treated to a lovely fashion shw of designer dresses, unique fabrics, leather and some rather special accessories. Two Facebook groups have popped up with delight - sheer raw lust from male members (and I'm sure more than a few females) and fashionisting from females.

A suggestion that Miss Byrne's soothing contralto might be appropriate to announcing Ireland's televote results for the Eurovision (given RTE's increasing bring conservatism, a nearly certain no-no) triggered me to start off a petition for the same, despite its obvious clash with the values of the broadcaster. Already we are treated to a daily borefest on the radio from Tubridy to the truly dreadful Joe Duffy, who is really at his worst on the old whineline. Not a women to be heard, now banaished to what has become a rather fine weekend schedule - Marian Finucane's programme is great and Miriam O Callaghan's programme is pretty good too.

So Byrne manages to liven up what has become a rather jaded schedule on TV also, with really only the hard-hitting populism of the Frontline to generate real debate along with Primetime. An Cór I must admit I like, but I do enjoy traditional music - many don't. RTE's native programming is really currently at risk of vanishing into oblivion - there really are very few really good programmes being homegrown at present, compared to a few years ago when we'd stuff like Bachelor's Walk, Pure Mule, and the side splitting Soupy Norman.

One late night last Novemeber I thanked my lucky stars as I heard the gutter almost burst with the force of rainfall, that I live right on top of the hill in north Cork city and not down by the river, as torrential rain first flooded the North Gate to the Lee Fields (followed by a grim week without running water) and then a cold spell froze us out until late January. As it got colder, somehow the fashion on Miss Byrne's forecasts got jauntier and I seriously thought while watching one a week before Christmas that she was definitely on her way to a Christmas shindig, until I saw what she sported on Christmas Day.

Well lots of people didn't like it, but I have to say, despite my intial sense of "surely there is no party today?" it was a rather grand guna indeed. A silver, figure hugging party number, and Miss Byrne has a lovely curvy feminine form to fill it beautifully. I hope the turkey was good later on too! Her excuse was that she hoped that everybody by then would have had a glass of vino and wouldn't notice - but instead Ireland was treated to Christmas cheer. In fact she was probably the highlight of the entire seasonal schedule.

Well despite Miss Byrne's bemusement, and the fun of the many discussions on various forums, it seems that the lady has gone from being regarded as dour to a veritable sex symbol. But this ain't no Susan Boyle: dig back through the archives and you'll see that from day one she's been a really good looking woman no doubt obscured by the essentialism and purpose of a weather chart.

Now as somebody who awoke 6000 foot up a mountain range in northern California last Easter expecting 18c and instead shivering in my tent cabin to 0c and heavy snowfall (thank God I'd snow tyres on my hired 4x4 to get me to San Francisco on the last open road) I have to say that there are plenty of times when the message of the Met is highly critical. So indeed the medium should not distract, unless of course it is so predictable and boring that its far more fun to look at what the presenter is dressed up in today.

All of a sudden, Paul Cunningham was in on the act, but after his wonderful French dough Afghan hat, and the legendary guy slipping on ice on the news, Miss Byrne has outlasted them all. Many women are critical, seeing her dress sense as over the top, disliking hairdos, and even some rather unkind comments about availability of mirrors. But many are enjoying the kind of unwitting game that has evolved as suddenly the poor lady realises that half the country are as much interested in what outfit she can produce as her wise words regard all things weather.

So what to now though? Are all presenters now free to willingly air their individuality? Who shall rise to the challeng? Aleady sites such as the amusing www.whattheywerewearing.com are comparing and contrasting the newreaders, weather forecasters and even poor Kathryn Thomas (although she has the extra benefit of getting to show a bit of leg). And frankly, nobody cares what George Hook wears or most other male presenters, to be honest. Its the poor ladies to get it all.

I mean look at how much of the abuse of Mary Harney explicitly turns on her age and weight, its merciless and unfair on somebody who in fairness has been lumped with by far the most impossible portfolio politically. And as for the constant diet of dumpy tracksuited wans produced on every second programme to be coifed, buffed, chopped and dressed up, well its rather cruel and unfeeling. Nobody ever does that to men, however sloppy their appearance might be.

Of course a lot of this is relative and a matter of luck and lifestyle. It was in a sense slightly tragic to see Nell McCafferty strip for the cameras. Honestly, it wasn't beatutiful and I think its probably brought her more abuse than respect. Go do the Spencer Tunick thing, but thats about turning the human body into an abstract form and besides, mingle in with the crowd and nobody, hopefully, will notice you. But long may we enjoy the delights of Miss Byrne's lovely clothes, so please RTE, don't go hard on the wardrobe constraints! We are enjoying it!

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