Thursday, 28 January 2010

Youtube covers now available on

Hello hello, this is a quick blog to let you know that my dubious and/or infamous Youtube covers are now available for free download on my page. They include Gym Class Heroes' "Cookie Jar" (the topless one on Youtube), Britney Spears' "Womanizer" and my most-hit video, Outkast's "Roses".

There's a bunch more, some of them cool, some of them pretty crap. Download them all so I get more listens on! That's an order!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Covers and original bands

Last week I saw the band Supermodel at the month-long Botanical Garden free summer gigs. They were pretty good. Now normally I'm not a fan of covers bands, and even less so of original bands whose covers are better than their own songs. But firstly, this was a free summer gig in front of a bunch of strangers who want pleasant music with their picnic, so there wasn't many people marking points for originality.

Secondly, they did something very clever. They've got a new single out soon, and they were filming for it at the gig, which meant playing it twice. But in playing covers that people knew, such as A Kind Of Magic and Heart Of Glass - and playing them well - meant that by the time they played their single at the very end, there was a whole standing crowd 3 lines deep at the front singing along. Worth taking note.

You might wish to check them out and vote for them to play at Wellington's Homegrown festival next month.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Burkha ban and the multicultural model

After my post about UKIP's suggestion of banning the veil, apparently in France the governing party is actually intending to do it.

My previous post mentioned a lot of idealisms, but practical matters always have an impact - in both directions. So while I don't believe banning the veil, it's hard to see how young girls of some strictly Islamic families could shake off the shackles imposed by a family they probably love. In this sense, I realise in some circumstances and with the right arguments, I could be in favour of a ban.

However, when you get real, it's not a realistic possibility anyway: as a commentor on Gavin Hewitt's blog post says, while it's reasonable and sensible to ban the burkha in the workplace (although I'm not so sure about his reasoning that it would "scare children"), how do you write and enforce a ban that doesn't stop people covering their face with other clothing? A scarf in the cold, for instance, or a motorbike helmet if you're ... riding a motorbike.

Again, there's further practical considerations on this front - you can't wear a motorbike helmet in a bank (or probably an airport, I bet no-one's willing to try though). That said, you could argue this could/should apply to wearing the full veil as well.

Maybe small, practical bans might be the leverage to implement wider change. You could ban full face covering in banks and airports, and maybe for taxi drivers or other professions that require identification ("Hi, I've come to look at your gas meter? Here's my ID..."). In creating situations and circumstances where you say it is okay for a woman's face not to be covered, you create a train of thought that says it's okay to be uncovered in public as well.

I'm sure in some professions these "little bans" already exist because of existing, non-religious requirements such as ID cards related to a profession. And on the other hand, it's hard to say how many women who choose the veil or have it imposed on them would apply for occupations that require an open face at all times.

France, like a number of other European countries, is anxious that the multicultural model is not seeing integrated societies but parallel societies, where communities live in their own world. I think that is partly due to Europeans' resistance to difference - whether it's awkwardness (e.g. sitting next to a woman fully burkha'd up on the bus) or xenophobia (e.g. declaring all Muslims terrorists). In Britain we do both pretty well.

Secondly, there is also a question of numbers. While the distribution is probably not even, I don't think there's an awfully high number of women who wear the full veil - compared to the number of Muslims who don't, it must be a tiny proportion. Maybe politicians are concerned about cities in North of England where entire streets or suburbs are populated by Muslims and are even "no go" areas for white people. But the veil doesn't really have anything to do with this, and there surely can't be many of these places. Besides, there's still plenty of places in England which are no-go areas for brown or black people.

The multicultural model is a large, funny-shaped thing with fuzzy edges and unexpected possibilities, which is ultimately part of the Postmodern Globalised World Wot We Live In. Identities and lifestyles are multiplying and subdividing all the time, and cultures and religions are no exception. Being a dirty atheist and amateur feminist, I think the veil is backward and wrong, and I'd be perfectly happy if nobody wore one ever again. But in this real fast-changing world, the small collection of British female Muslims who wear the veil or the burkha or the niqab are no more than one subset of people, just like elderly climbers who live in Birmingham or transsexual birdwatchers in Aberdeen; it's hard to see the veil ever completely disappearing, and certainly not through a legal ban.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

New short story: The God Market

Lo! As promised I have a brand new humorous short story for you people. It's called "The God Market" and it's a funny sketch about the supply and demand for religion. You can read it here on the website ( if you're reading on facebook) under Short Stories, or on my Redbubble page at

Hope you like it, tell me what you think! :)

This is a genuine image I found on the internet several years ago, thought it quite appropriate here!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The veil is wrong, UKIP is more wrong

I strongly disagree with the veil, and all of its more severe relatives, including the hijab, the niqab and the burkha. But if it was banned, as a member of the British far-right euro-sceptic UKIP party has suggested, I would wear one in public and walk around in protest. It would probably say something like "The veil is wrong, UKIP are more wrong and a bunch of fascists" or somesuch similar. Let me explain.

I think the veil and Islamic dress is both bonkers and wrong for two reasons. Firstly, religion is a personal matter: you and you alone should chose what god(s) to believe in, and your relationship with that god(s) goes on in your head. No religion should impose a dress code on its people, full stop.

Secondly, Islamic dress does discriminate against women. This is no surprise given the major world religions discriminating against women throughout the course of history. But in a modern world where we can, should and often do believe that men and women are equal, it's unacceptable to demand that all women should wear clothing covering themselves in public. I'm not saying women and girls should run round with their tops off (or am I? Nudism has its place and some sound principles). But saying that men "should" do X and women "should" do Y is an idea that should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

However. Let's not fool ourselves that UKIP want to ban the veil in a sudden blaze of feminism. They and others on the conservative/right side of politics throw that point in like an afterthought, unrelated to their other arguments, as if just saying the words will somehow illustrate that they're not fascists after all.

UKIP do not want to ban the veil because they care about women's rights, they want to because they hate Muslims and brown people.

But UKIP's xenophobia is kind of besides the point on Islamic dress. If you were to decide that the veil is a bit backward (as I do), you don't achieve anything by banning stuff and deciding what people can and can't wear in public. You achieve it by encouraging people to choose for themselves, and rendering the rules of religion pointless and out of step with what people want.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Going to the Big Day Out in Auckland...

...was the best decision I didn't make. I initially mentioned the line-up last year, while in poor wealth and with no prospect of affording the ticket and travel, to the kiwi girlf, who days later bought tickets and declared them our Christmas presents to each other. In the event the weather was awesome (while Wellington was (still) a wet and windy horror - this is high summer remember!), and the atmosphere was fantastic, and the bands were brilliant. Combined with a chilled day in the sun/cafe/someone else's pool the day after, it was a marvellous and nourishing (if exhausting!) trip away.

I have been intending to start doing music reviews again for the first time in 7 years - mostly for albums I already know and love, but this will be a fine event to start with. You'll see it here when it's done!

P.S. In the meantime, my English friend is having some awesome adventures down South...