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l'enfer du North Island

  a diversion from bicycles to gender politics Friday, 22 August 2008 link

So Rebecca's really into Lego at the moment. It's great: I loved Lego as a child, and I'm well pleased that she's enjoying it too. Even Heather's gotten into the act: she'd never done a Lego set before, but after helping Rebecca put together a rubbish truck she proclaimed the whole experience "really interesting". It's all good.

Or rather, it isn't, because Rebecca has pointed out a glaring deficiency with her Lego. She has about half a dozen Lego minifigs - all men. "Daddy, there's no Lego women" she said plaintively. "Yes there are, dear, we'll get you some" I replied. But it's not that easy. In all seriousness, the only female Lego characters that I can find at the toyshops are either from Star Wars, Harry Potter, or that damn stupid "Girls Lego" range where everything is pink and there are lots of horses. What about, say female Lego doctors? Or cooks? Or mechanics? The only set currently available in the shops is the Lego Town set, which includes a female cook and a bride, and costs about $250. This is incensing me beyond words. Lego meant a lot to me as a kid, so finding out that it's a bit sexist these days is seriously pissing me off. It's not as if you can't get Lego women, just that they seem to be very much the exception rather than the rule and not particularly available at the moment.

So I'm having to resort to buying female Lego minifigs off bloody eBay. I'm not happy, let me tell you.

And in a week where Boobs on Bikes got a lot of attention - for which I'm sure the organiser is crying into his soup - a few quick thoughts. I have two daughters. Neither of them have ever seen pornography. But they've seen a lot of other media, from fairy stories to Disney movies to the Olympics on telly. And if we want to talk about deeply ingrained misogyny and negative attitudes to women and women's roles, I don't think that starting at the R18 end of the spectrum is the way to go. I am - and this is an absolutely honest statement, I am not exaggerating in any way - more worried about the girls growing up seeing shows on TV that show mummy in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and dad working on the car, and present the reversal of this as a humorous situation. I am worried about the girls seeing ads that imply that feeding the family is just the mum's job. I am worried about the fact that even one of my favourite childhood toys turns out to be subtly saying that only men work outside the home. I am bloody worried about the fact that Rebecca the other day said to me, "no daddy, boys are clever, girls are pretty!" when I said she was clever. A parade with minor (and perfectly legal) nudity worries me not a jot.

Plus, half the conversation about Boobs on Bikes had a tang of proprietary attention. Much was made of the fact that one woman in the parade was married and her husband had (gasp) let her take part. Are we really still in a place where there's implicit notions of ownership at play here? "How could he let other men see his wife's boobs!", etc. Fucksake. Much has also been made of the fact that these women are being sexually exploited. That's an arguable point: while there's probably some exploitation, these women are all adults who've made the decision to do what they're doing. And presumably the reason why they're doing porn rather than teaching physics or working in a cafe is that the money's good and it pays enough for them to put up with the negative aspects of what they're doing. The difference here is that this job involves sex, and we've still got a nice virgin/whore dichotomy going. About the only argument against the parade that I think holds any kind of water is the one that it helps encourage a perception of female sexual availability and shore up the misogyny that underlies a lot of western culture. Which I think is a fair point, but I think it's not the worst offender, and it's certainly not highest on my list of priorities - see my point in the previous paragraph.

I'd also like to take mild issue with one common thread in the commentary on the parade: the constant assertion by the male commentators, particularly us lefty-liberal types, that while they had nothing against/a great affection for the naked female form, the female form on display in this parade was a terribly unsexy caricature and that they, personally, did not find it arousing. Personally speaking, I'm pretty pro the naked female form, and I thought that - a few obvious boob jobs aside - the participants of the parade were pretty attractive. I think a few of the commentators have been slightly over-egging the pudding in their shows of public disgust with the bodily forms of the participants. I also think a few people were too busy fulminating against the sheer nature of the spectacle to note that at least one of the ladies participating was obviously in her 40s at least (and good on her, go the milfs!), and I saw several topless men and (clothed) drag queens as well. I am in general pro-sex and pro-nudity, and I think that the annual reaction to this shows that there's still a lot of prudery underlying our culture.

  my throat feels like sandpaper Friday, 8 August 2008 link

About once a year, I spend a week listening to a lot of Rollins Band.

This is that week.

Vaguely thought about getting a personalised license plate. Discovered that "KTHXBAI" is too long and "KTHXBI" is gone. Sank into morass.

Maggie has a favourite word. It's "nom nom nom nom nom nom nom".

Actually, Maggie has basically sussed walking and is shifting around the place like a blue streak. It's heartwarming. It's also made looking after her just that little bit harder - now she can be in trouble somewhere else even faster. She's a good girl though.

  it is, genuinely, part of our ethnic folkways Tuesday, 5 August 2008 link

Reasons why I love my country, another one in an intermittant series: because the NZ electoral commission is broadcasting an ad, encouraging people to enrol to vote.

With the tagline, "If you don't vote, no-one gives a shit what you think."

  whoops, forgot title Monday, 4 August 2008 link

I find it hard not to agree wholeheartedly with the Bike Snob NYC in his reflections on Critical Mass. I've never been on a Critical Mass ride, and frankly I don't intend to. As he points out, riding around in huge groups deliberately pissing people off isn't exactly the best sales tactic. I reckon that the best way to convince people to ride is to demonstrate how doable and convenient it is. Easy and fun, people; easy and fun.

Had a good weekend. On Saturday, we dropped the kids off with Mum and went to an evening function at the Affordable Art show. Good fun. Some of the stuff on display was a bit dodgy, but some was excellent and well worth seeing. Unfortunately, the only stuff we really liked was either expensive, heavy, or both. Never mind.

Sunday afternoon we took Rebecca to the movies for the first time. We saw Kung Fu Panda, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. I don't think Rebecca spotted Jackie Chan's role. Of course, when I mentioned this at work, everyone said "Yeah, I really enjoyed it", and then started discussing who they knew who'd been on the production.

Brief note on what it's like working for Weta: walking around Miramar at lunch, I saw a truck painted in orange camoflage. "I bet that's one of ours" I thought. I was right. It's a lot like that, all the time.

The other day - literally the next day after installing Specialized kevlar belted tyres, the 700cc equivalent of the the tyres that I ran on my MTB for two years with no punctures - I punctured. I'd hit an inch-long building nail that just happened to be in the road. Some days, you just can't win for losing.

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unspoilt by progress

calm, peaceful, sweary

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