Archive for the ‘Comment’ Category

Fin & Hitch’s Inspirablog – Week 2

2013-01-25 14.25.36

Niven on a Prayer

The first week went by and our first five runs seemed to go pretty well. Then the pain set in. Sitting down and standing up were all of a sudden problematic. My calves were sore. My thighs were sore. My knees were sore. It may actually be easier to express this in a diagram:

Inspirablog Diagram


So yeah I was sore.

We”ve started to stretch.

Track of the week this week is music to stretch to. Avoid our pain and stretch to the theme from The Lost Boys; Cry Little Sister because who doesn”t want to be reminded of one of the best things to come out of the 80s on a daily basis. Just try it. Stretch to an 80s power ballad and after the initial bouts of hysterical laughter you will know it”s exactly the right thing to do. Find it in the Spotify . The playlist will build up over time with songs for stretching and warm up at the start moving into running and warm down tunes.

A Hitch In Time Saves Nine

Limbero. Noun: That blank space of time between contemplating stretching a particular muscle but thinking better of it, and the point at which you work out whether you should have stretched it or not. It”s week two of our epic running slog, and we”ve been living in that gap of not knowing for far too long, and we have just reached the other end. And the correct answer was yes – we should have stretched.

I don”t know what it is about stretching. I can”t help but feel that stretching isn”t cool, as it seems a perfectly logical thing to do, we just don”t want to do it. No one loses but you, but still we skipped it. I mean, you wouldn”t see the Fonz stretching out before giving people the thumb (an odd sexual technique, but him being so cool I reckon he could get away with it) would you? You never see the preparation

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of anything. Even in the arts, Neil Buchanan”s never truly bothered with the fiddly first base layer of paint. We know now that not only did Art Attack have to do all the hard graft, but that even Neil Buchanan would have probably had to limber up before hand (probably for insurance reasons, as well as good performance technique). You can imagine him, can”t you, stretching his mouth and elongating his vowels. “Ba Ba Ba Bii Bii Bii Boo Boo Boo Bum Bum, Bumptaphillion. Bumptaphillion. The Butter is Bruised on the buttocks of the botty” I mean, I could go on.

“Ta Ta Ti Ti Ti (laughs) To To To Tum Tum Tum, Tumptaphillion, Tumptaphillion. The Tutter is Truised on the Tuttocks of the Tot-” Neil Slips on some acrylic paint, and his broken body finishes off a portrait as the mouth of a face. The head laughs.

Anyway, pain. All I can see is pain. The aches of my calves, the tightening of the knees, the dull thudding boredom of the flat of my foot – are nothing to the pain in my heart (not the breathing pain I got the first few days, more a metaphorical lament for a time when I didn”t run). I don”t think I even know what love is any more, as nothing can distract me from the aching and want to rest my legs. But still, we run. (but have to sort of hobble up stairs and down)

In an effort to counter this pain, we”ve learnt to stretch, though Finlay keeps on stretching his arms which I don”t think really helps anything – even though it looks spot on. We”ve settled on three stretches. The first, is the one where you try to kick your bum slowly with your heel and nearly fall over while trying to keep your balance and hold it. No one has told us professionally why we should do this, but I have assumed this is a good one as I remember it from school. Secondly, we do a step to the front and put pressure on one leg, stretching the back of it. The third one is what I call “opening the gate” but what other people may prefer to call “flash your genitals, and relax” in which you lift your knee, tilt it to the side (and if one was naked, presenting ones genitals to the judges) before placing the foot back onto the floor. This combination ensures that are legs are relatively unpainful.

We haven”t yet resigned ourselves to the embarrassment of public stretching, but soon we too will join the throng of runners up and down the land who stand by traffic lights, bouncing and grabbing, twisting and holding in various configurations of body while contending with the eyes of strangers. These eyes, often from car windows, point with jealousy at these brave exercisers and suspend accusatory against a lifestyle they wish they had the will to achieve, as if the limbering is a reminder of every burger, every chip and every collapsed evening in front of telly that has seen failure succeed in their lives, a taunt against their lust for lazyness. But we are thin people now, and when we look upon these souls, it is not out of fear, or anger, but simply to cheat and find out what stretches we should be doing without asking anyone.

Hitch signing out.


Hitch”s Mantra of the week: Pain is but the annoying sibling to success.


My First Hitchcock: The Birds

The Birds

As a rule, I don’t like horror films – not because I scare especially easily but more due to the fact that I am both disgusted and bored by gore. However, I recently read about the relationship between director Alfred Hitchcock and star of The Birds and Marnie, Tippi Hedren, a model and actress discovered by Hitchcock in the early 1950s. Hitchcock’s reported unreciprocated obsession with Hedren effectively ruined her career: her contract with him preventing her from working for anyone else. Perhaps most shockingly of all, however, during five days of filming of the penultimate scenes of The Birds, Hedren was in fact pelted with live birds.

the birds hitchcock

This real life romantic obsession/revenge dynamic was fascinating to me. So, while I may claim not to appreciate the genre, I decided there was analysis to be had in The Birds: also known as My First Hitchcock. Of course, the film has been reviewed numerous times over the years, and there is simply one aspect I want to focus on: the female characters, specifically Melanie. I expected little from the female characters in this film: firstly because it was produced by a man in the early 1960s, but more specifically due to Hitchcock’s feelings regarding Hedren. I was thus pleasantly surprised to discover that, for the majority of the film, Melanie is in her own right a fantastic character. She is confident and strong, warmly charming those around her in order to

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achieve her goals. Her relationship with Annie (Suzanne Plechette) is something that I feel modern day film makers could learn a lot from.


(Suzanne Plechette and Tippi Hedren in ‘The Birds’)

Although there is brief animosity between the two invoked by their respective relationships with the male lead, Mitch (Rod Taylor), Melanie and Annie do not treat each other like bitter love rivals, instead respecting each other enough that they even become friends. Perhaps more realistic than the hair pulling cat fights seen frequently in more recent productions. Melanie is also taken seriously throughout the film. For example, when alerting locals in a café to the dangers posed by the gathering birds, she is not dismissed as simply an irrational woman – because she is not. My positive feelings about the film and its female characterisation lasted until the penultimate, bird-chucking scenes. While Mitch and his family sleep in the living room of their house that has been boarded up in order to prevent death-by-beak, Melanie decides it would be a great time to carry out a little exploration upstairs. Naturally, this is when all feathery hell breaks loose. As she slowly climbed the stairs, I felt myself screaming at the screen. Why would a character who has otherwise been so rational and intelligent decide to make this move? Curiosity? Hysteria? Rebellion? It’s fair to say that Melanie’s reputation of rebelliousness precedes her at the beginning of the film, but she adamantly defends herself throughout, both vocally to Mitch, but also in her behaviour. My fear is that she is sent upstairs in order to make Mitch the hero, the stereotypical image of masculinity, carrying Melanie’s limp, injured body back down the stairs and leading the family to safety. I wouldn’t have such a problem with this if that had been the apparent dynamic throughout the movie – but I truly expected more. I did enjoy The Birds. The suspense was fantastic and I appreciated that it resulted from something other than the threat of an axe murderer. I will definitely continue to explore Hitchcock’s work, but my expectations of characterisation have been pared right back once again. It’s a shame, that.

Nanu Nanu Lost Articles: Best Moment of 2012

Best of 2012

For some very strange reason our year end list of the best moments of 2012 never got published. It may have been cursed from the beginning. Some believe it a conspiracy. Others say that the editor of the post forgot because it was Hogmanay. We may never know.

Do you remember 2012? Well we certainly do because all this exciting stuff happened in it. It may seem odd that we are publishing a list of stuff that happened in 2012 but remember the Oscars still haven’t happened and that’s the biggest year end list there is. Enjoy remembering things as we take you through some of our personal highlights of the year we call 2012.


In November 2011, sitting in the library, I read that The Rolling Stones were back in the studio, rehearsing and thinking about putting on a few gigs for that small anniversary they had coming up. I decided in a split second that I would be going to one of those gigs, no matter what lengths I had to go to. Were they going to play Glastonbury? I would be there. Would it be in the USA? I would be there. Would I have an exam the following day? Regardless, I would be there.

I thus have three interlinked moments of 2012 which come together as one overwhelming, surreal package. Firstly, the moment in October when I received an email which announced the dates of four Rolling Stones gigs, two of which were in London and at convenient dates for me to attend. The second moment would have to be when I realised I had managed to get a ticket in my virtual basket during the concert presale and that I had secured what was effectively a very expensive form of golddust.

The third piece of this moment montage requires little explanation beyond this video:

(NB: I am not the screaming woman in this video. However, I was definitely a screaming woman, sitting somewhere nearby.)


The 7th November 2012: the day Glasgow Celtic beat the so called best team in the world, FC Barcelona. This moment would have been a whole lot better if I had actually been at Celtic Park to witness it along with the rest of my family. Instead, I was in the library essay writing. Tough life, eh? Still, I think the text I received from my mum after the game sums up the euphoria of all Celtic fans on that fateful November evening: ‘Omg, it was amazing. Gran cried 3 times. Lol!’ (Actual text from my mother.)


Seeing the Queen jump out of a helicopter for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics has to be up there. I am not ashamed to say this, but Danny Boyle made me cry that night with his ceremony – and who couldn’t shed a tear when a deaf dumb and blind choir of children sung the national anthem? Or seeing nurses and actual patients of Great Ormond Street celebrating the NHS AND Children’s Literature Or having the inventor of the internet Tim Berners-lee send a tweet at the pinnacle of a ceremony that says – “you know what people of earth? We are fucking good at shit”. Even seeing Grime music given centre stage via Dizzee Rascal in front of literally billions of people – one of only a few features of East London that was actually celebrated. Actually the entire thing was pretty great – I don’t think £9 Billion is too much to pay for an Olympic venue full to brim booing members of parliament. Not in jest mind, in actual fully fledged hatred. Seeing private firm G4S get roundly screwed by their own ineptitude when a public entity could do it even better, and at a moment’s notice too was quite enjoyable. Somewhere there is my favourite memory of 2012, but given that everyone else on this page is likely to say something similar, regardless of how fantastic a job Boyle did (there are few people who can excite Huw Edwards and Trevor Nelson with the same spectacle) my favourite moment falls between man landing a rover on Mars, or Cern Scientists basically announcing

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that they were right about sub-atomic particles of which I understand very little. All I know is that it feels good to see scientists get genuinely excited by what they are doing, and having coherent trans-global efforts of man rewarded with success and demonstrating what can be done if we work together to do something that doesn’t simply

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Other Contenders: Not being killed in that apocalypse, Felix Baumgartner jumping from Space, Obama winning election even though 27% of the US still voted for a complete douchebag.


Chris Hoy
2012 has been a pretty big deal in the UK the Jubilee happened, NASA landed a Rover on Mars (@MarsCuriosity) and Felix Baumgartner floated to space and then jumped back down to earth. For me though I felt the best moment occurred during the Olympics. Olympic fever gripped even the worst cynic, I am not even particularly interested in people who sport, but something about it happening in this country and Britain doing so well made it compelling viewing. Everyone seemed to be hooked and as I was leaving work I realised that I was going to miss Chris Hoy’s final solo race. Walking up Lothian road I remembered the big screen in Festival square where I joined what appeared to be the entire staff of Clydesdale bank and the various other offices around the square to cheer on Sir Chris to his final Gold. I never thought I’d say this but cheering on an old Watsonian as he showed some cyclists a thing or two about cycling was my favourite moment this year.


I went to Copenhagen for a couple of days, that was pretty cool


It is undeniable that the Olympics were pretty great. The opening ceremony was exceptional, it some how got those of us who were expecting to hate the whole thing on board. I can’t quite remember the last time I enjoyed sports as much as I did in summer 2012. Other moments of the year are personal to me. This year I helped organise a 24 hour long radio show which I hosted with Christian Illingworth all in the name of charity. We interviewed a bunch of guests; highlights being Michael Winslow, Frightened Rabbit and Diane Spencer. We also played a bunch of games on air and didn’t sleep for over a day. It was certainly a marathon trying to keep the momentum going but we managed it and in the end raised a whole bunch of money for Waverley Care. My other personal highlight has been relaunching Nanu Nanu. After chatting to a few people it became clear that relaunching Nanu Nanu was going to be viable and so it happened. It has been really rather fun.

Inspirablog – Week 1


Resident Nanu contributors Hitch and Fin have started running and this is their inspirational blog to share their unique experiences. Hitch Hiking We have decided to be thin people. It was

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a tough decision and one which was influenced by selfish need than anything more virtuous – after all, being a fat person has its benefits, but it just isn”t viable in the long term . The reasons for being a thin person are plentiful – it’s cheaper for a start; one only need buy half as much food, although if you live twice as long this argument could wear thin. Health aside, it”s more fun too, both sexually (what with all the extra kissing you can do without breaking sweat) and most importantly of all when playing board games like Cluedo one isn”t obligated to play as the fat character. Also, playing video games and eating pizza is a far less seedy activity for a thin person, and so being

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able to do this without looking like a poorly cast extra in the next cyber-terrorist film will do our confidence the world of good.

Hitch 2

So this, our inspirablog (a conflation for “inspirational and educational running blog”) will act as a means to share our trials and tribulations, while also being a touchstone for keeping us fit, and making sure we are in the right direction. As such, it”s going to be an odd combination of advice, tips, experience, and other less traditional elements. For example, a regular feature will be “Hitch”s Mantra Of the Week”.

Hitch”s Mantra of the week: “Live with the body you want, not the body you have.

As well as this, we will have pictures, videos, and an ever growing playlist of music to run to which you are welcome to join in with. If you have enjoyed reading this make sure you follow us on twitter for various running based “banter” and if we get our act together we might think about setting up a charity page or something. This is Hitch, signing off! Niven Let Die The decision to start running was a pretty easy one to make. It was not a New Year’s resolution or based on the need to train for a half marathon or whatever. I just fancied giving being healthy a shot. Hitch and I had a conversation about it in early January and we have been running ever since. This blog will be here to give us a place to chat about our experiences and share our thoughts on running. First thought: sore legs. I will be introducing a song a week building up a running playlist on Spotify, .

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Not being particularly familiar with the usual dance music that accompanies work out music I have chosen Daft Punk Is Playing at My House by LCD Soundsystem as the first song on the playlist. In my opinion it works perfectly as a warm up song maybe even as a song to run to thanks to that base line. If you have any suggestions for future song sound off in the comments below. Total Distance Travelled: 5.4km (first run). Running this distance

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would probably take us to somewhere in Leith, so not particularly spectacular, but as the blog runs we will be letting you know where in the world we could have run to.

Nanu Lists of the Year: Biggest Let Down



The quality of Scottish snow has been declining for some time now.


The Hobbit

Until the 13th of December I would have said that “The Dark Knight Rises” was my biggest disappointment of my year. Dark Knight Rises was disappointing because Batman Begins and The Dark Knight had been really excellent blockbusters, Dark Knight Rises in comparison was flabby and slow. Before the 13th of December I was naive, I didn”t know what flabby and slow was. On the 13th of December I watched “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Peter Jacksons masterpiece of time theft. In a shameless bid to make maximum profit Jackson has stretched Tolkiens shortest book into three films, although he is also using the appendix to the Return of the King so its not all bad! (Sarcastic exclamation mark). I enjoyed Lord of The Rings, I am not a rabid fan but I liked them when I saw them, The Hobbit in comparison is nothing short of crushing disappointment. It is just shy of three hours and Jacksons greatest trick is to have essentially nothing happen in that time. We don”t even see the dragon it takes around half an hour (conservative estimate) to escape the shire. If like me you were disappointed by the Dark Knight Rises go and see the Hobbit then you will learn what real disappointment is.


I didn”t see Prometheus, but man did I hear it sucked. Brave too didn”t have the oomph – but it wouldn”t be right to call this a let down when it is just my own impossibly high standards that you are hoping for. The Edinburgh Festival didn”t quite provide what I wanted, which is both a personal admission but also reflects on the entire month in general for a lot of people. But I might go and talk about something that should have been covered in our lists but didn”t get a look in – video games. The industry itself is beginning to do some really great things, but it isn”t innovating nearly fast enough. Seeing La Luna at the start of Brave made me lament an industry that is missing potential – in a review I wrote I fantasized about a Mario Galaxy game that dropped that stupid plumber and embraced a narrative more suited to it”s brilliant game mechanic – and everywhere you look, repetition is denying real progress. One of the biggest let down”s for me therefore was returning to a franchise I LOVED with a next generation iteration that didn”t seem to work – Twisted Metal. I had more fun playing Death Drive than I did with Twisted Metal. I didn”t give it the time it deserved, for sure, but it was frustrating and difficult to play – and something which can”t keep you playing despite it”s flaws, has problems. But not putting the emphasis on one game in particular – even a game like SSX which was as good now as it was when first released is to blame or the Assasin”s Creed series which has some of my favourite moments in gaming to date – are testament to an industry that isn”t doing what it should. The independent scene is far more interesting with experimentation, and making games that are far more enjoyable in doing so – but I”d like to see the big bucks move into really brilliant, and genre defining, games for once. It says a lot that my favourite game of the year was Shadow of the Colossus  as I”d not had a chance to play it before. Pull up your socks please gaming industry – you should be killing this right now, and all you can do is violent and boring games.
Other Contenders: Realising that 2012 is almost over – the furthest way year I think I ever thought about as a child. I have no expectations beyond this from my youth as it seemed so far away… what the hell can we hope for in 2013? Not managing to go 2012 without Facebook too sucked balls.


I love Grease. I love the costumes, I love the friendship and romance, and most of all, I love slots the music. I love Grease so much that I even love Grease 2. Therefore, without a doubt, the biggest disappointment of 2012 for me has to be John Travolta and Olivia Newton John’s Christmas album, This Christmas. It should never have been allowed to happen.

The production is overdone within an inch of its autotuned life. Newton-John can still carry a decent tune, and perhaps a solo Sandy Christmas album would have sold less but sounded much better. On the other hand, Travolta’s voice sounds bizarre, which worked in Hairspray but here sounds creepy. The only track that isn’t a Christmas cover is ‘I Think You Might Like It’. It’s a hoedown country Christmas, accompanied by a video with a dance not half as catchy as that of 2012 smash hit ‘Gangnam Style’. A modicum of respectability comes from their gender role-reversal rendition of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, verging on a guilty pleasure: however, it just goes a bit too far. In fact, that summarises the entire album: an idea that should have been left at the drawing board, taken way, way too far.


When it comes to comic book super-heroes disappointment is an almost weekly endeavor. Series get cancelled, creative teams change and characters die. This is all just a part of following 50 year old characters in continuity that is complicated at best and convoluted at worst. It was this somewhat problematic continuity that both DC and Marvel tried to address with The New 52 and Marvel NOW respectively. DC started things off in 2011 with The New 52, an initiative that saw every book in the DC Universe relaunched at issue 1 and the history all but forgotten about as the 75 year history of these characters was replaced with a new 5 year history. This started off well enough and for the first 6 months I enjoyed the few books that I read in the line, but very quickly if the quality of a book started to dip there just wasn”t any drive to keep going. So after years of reading DC books I now only read a handful, but if I ever get bored of Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, Animal Man or even Batman I would sadly have no problem in dropping those books as well. Marvel”s own relaunch similarly reset a number of titles at issue 1 but kept the continuity. My biggest let down of 2012 is with DC Comics, but there is one saving grace and that quality is now all important and the days of reading a Batman comic just because it has batman on the cover are gone.


My biggest let down of the year has to be 50 Shades of Grey being named the best selling book in Britain…ever. I think I weeped when I saw the headline. In August, Random House Publishers announced that the erotic fiction novel had sold in excess of 5.3 million copies in both print and ebook. The latter has revolutionised the way we read: now nobody will know whether its Dickens or E.L James that’s causing you to smirk at your kindle on the train. If anyone did smirk at Dickens, that is. This being my biggest letdown of 2012 is probably just me being a pretentious English Literature student. Still, it is pretty depressing.


Nanu Lists of the Year: Edinburgh Based Experience

Edinburgh Fringe


An Eve

ning With David Hasselhoff

It was too close to call with my favourite Edinburgh based experience so I apologise but I opted for a cop out. My strangest Edinburgh based experience occurred during the 24hr fresh fringe broadcast, which FYI was on the short list for best Edinburgh based experience alongside watching Chris Hoy win gold with some really excitable bankers and my 21st which was a piss-up at a brewery. Now during the 24hr broadcast I won two tickets exactly 1hr30 before the show starts, the show was An Evening with David Hasselhoff. Easily the strangest show I saw this year, because of the timing I had to go directly after work by myself and be serenaded with the peculiar back catalogue of Mr D Hasselhoff. Sitting amongst the somewhat drunk hen parties and thoroughly ironic students I realised that the Internet and 1990's television have a lot to answer for.


Seeing Frightened Rabbit perform live in Avalanche Records, and meeting Alan Davies whilst working at the Fringe.

People outside Avalanche


Can I just choose the Fringe as a whole? Is that cheating? It probably is, but I’m choosing it anyway. This was my first year of living in Edinburgh during August and without the burden of having to catch the last train home to Glasgow in the evening, I got to truly experience the madness that is the Fringe festival. It’s crazy how different the city is compared to during university term time…I wish we had an upside down purple cow on campus all year round.

There truly is something for everyone at the Fringe, which explains why everyone in the world seems to be crammed onto the Royal Mile, especially prominent if you’re in a rush to get somewhere. Personal highlights of this year’s festival include spending a whole day trying to see as many shows as possible without spending a penny (the Free Fringe is full of delights), watching a performance of Camus’ ‘The Stranger’ with the worst hangover of my life, and meeting American stand-up Hannibal Buress at a party and thinking I was hilarious while telling one of his jokes to a group of people while he watched on. Facepalm.


I had a great time during my first full Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer (including meeting Suggs in the Pleasance Courtyard – just had to mention that!). I got to conduct and produce many interesting interviews, as well as reviewing numerous shows, some good and some bad. However, my favourite part of the Fringe was seeing Edinburgh in a different light to the student-centric hub that it usually presents itself as to me. I visited new places in Leith and the West End, as well as taking the time to simply take different routes around my regular haunts.

This continued into the second half of the year, and my first trip to Stockbridge allowed me to see a whole new side to Edinburgh. Along with Nanu contributor Ellie, I visited Stockbridge’s numerous vintage clothing and jewellery stores, stopping for tea in a quiet café and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. I have since been back to enjoy even more hipster activities: namely, record shopping.

Quite simply, I have explored a lot more of Edinburgh this year, and been less afraid to get lost in a city I now consider home. It’s been very pleasant, and I’m sure it will continue into 2013.


The Edinburgh Fringe is the busiest time of the year for most people in the city. It can

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be exhausting at times but filled with experiences that make it a joy to return to each year. This year Fresh Fringe (the August broadcast of organised a 24 hour show on the 22nd of August. I was lucky enough to host this marathon show with Christian, manager of Fresh Fringe and fellow Nanu contributor. This resulted in load many wonderful Edinburgh based experiences; being served dinner by the cast of Faulty Towers, interviewing Michael Winslow and a live session from Frightened Rabbit. Even after all that my absolute highlight of the Fringe was meeting and interviewing Diane Spencer twice for Fresh Fringe, once on the 6th for the Album Show and again on the 22nd for the 24 Hour Show.

Diane Spencer


Usually an Edinburgh experience comes from something at the festival, but this year's festival felt… empty. There was definitely less people knocking about to watch shows, and many of the acts too struggled to make an impact – despite the standard being raised exponentially. But without this glitz and glamour, Edinburgh can provide you with some wonderful experiences with it's own terrain – and nothing beats being sat on Blackford hill and looking at the city below to make you appreciate what this city has to offer, and that its real value is that which is already there all year round.
Other Contenders: Discovering the exact kind of well priced Chinese Takeaway that I wanted in Keane`s House, Arthur's Seats, Inverleith Park, Trying Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream and a Mayan hot chocolate at the Chocolate Tree

The F-Word – "Whether you like it or not, you’re probably a feminist"


I've decided to do something slightly different with the blog this week as, although women in sport is a massive and really interesting topic, it's also a fairly fact/stat-based one where there's not a lot of debate to be had. So a huge thank you to Claire and Alex for talking through it so well last night, but I'm going to use this space this week to chat about something that's been bothering me a bit recently – why are people so reluctant to call themselves feminists?

I began The F-Word in the hope that talking about subjects relevant to most or all young women today in this way might make people stop and think “actually, this does affect me – I must be a feminist then!”. Yay, congrats, nice one etc. End of. But I've come to realise in recent weeks that it's not as easy as that. Yes, feminism is having a massive identity crisis

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and one that's leaving young women in their thousands alienated and intimidated, and that's a problem that I'll hopefully also touch on. But at an even more basic level, these same young women seem to be fundamentally misunderstanding feminism in the first place. Please don't get me wrong – I'm not for one minute pitying these women or tutting and shaking my head at them or whatever. I think that their views, rather than being born from ignorance, are a product of society and some branches of feminism itself – which is more than a bit disheartening when you consider some of the things I've heard recently.

I've heard someone adamantly declare that they're “definitely not a feminist”, while another said that she might be if she “read into it a bit more”. A girl in a tutorial I was in recently said, in all seriousness, that she thought “feminists [were] mostly just lesbians”, while another woman described her friend as being a “hardcore feminist” because she believed that her boyfriend should pay for everything on dates. Someone else told me that feminists were “scary and exclusive”. Aside from noting that I seem to be quizzing everyone in my life on feminism all the time, there's a bigger point to take from this. Yes, there's a spectrum here, and there might be some remarks there that most people would agree are missing the point. But others just make me a bit sad really; the idea that feminism is an academic position, or the idea that a movement fundamentally built on equality could come across as exclusive.

For me, feminism comes down to one thing and one thing only – do you want to be equal? If I sat down with each of the young women above and asked them whether they wanted to be paid less than a man for doing the same job, or whether they were happy to be called a slut if they wore a short skirt, or whether they were cool with being whistled and leered at on their way to the shops, I'm pretty sure the answer would be a resounding no. So something has definitely gone wrong somewhere along the line.

I think the ones that depressed me the most were the woman who said that she needed to read more books, and the one who described feminists as “scary and exclusive”. Sadly, I think these are really common misconceptions about feminism and, even more sadly, I think they come from somewhere far more real

than the collective 21st century woman's imagination. I personally think that the only qualification needed to be a feminist is that you're human – altough feel free to correct me if you think I'm doing the canine population an injustice – and believe in a good quality of life for everyone. Feminism is beneficial for men as well, not just women; gender stereotypes are damaging to all genders, and the economic empowerment of women can be nothing but helpful for the economy as a whole. I entirely reject the suggestion that men can't be feminists, and I think it's vitally important that they are for a whole host of reasons including economic, political and social ones. It's up to individual women if they want to engage in these more 'academic debates' or in activism in the traditional sense but, fundamentally, they should be respected for their decision, whichever one it is. I admire women who engage in activism and I believe that it often does have great results. But I also don't believe for one minute that marches, demonstrations and rallies are the only form of protest, and I don't believe that a woman is any less of a feminist because she chooses not to engage in these.

I think a basic premise of feminsim is that women should be able to make choices about their own lives and that these choices should be respected by other people and obviously other feminists. I fully agree (and argued about it in last week's blog) that women are a group of diverse and different people and we're never going to agree on everything all of the time. That's fine. But it's not fine, as far as I'm concerned, to attack a woman over a decision to wear pink, or high heels, or to stay at home and bake because, in this day and age, these are all decisions rather than requisites, and decisions that were only made possible by the feminist movement in the first place. Personally I'm quite partial to my high heels (in this sense I probably don't have much of a choice, but that's less to do with being a woman and more to do with being under five feet tall), sparkly jewellery and all the rest of it. But I still want to be equal and respected. There's no logical correlation between the two.

The main thing tying all the above quotes together is that these are all young women who don't seem to realise that sexism, and consequently feminism, affects them. I don't want to be depressing – “you thought your life was great? Well guess what, you're actually oppressed!” – but my point isn't that these women aren't experiencing these issues, it's that they aren't identifying them as being feminist issues. So for these women who are all Edinburgh students in their early 20s, maybe childcare and pay gaps aren't the most important problem for them right now. But I'm willing to bet they've all received unwanted attention in a club, or felt apprehensive walking home alone once, or felt that they couldn't speak out when laddy boys at pre-drinks made them feel uncomfortable. That's what my shows are all about; I've tried really hard to make sure that each one is about a topic that's big and broad enough to make women – and men – stop and think about whether it's affected them. And chances are, it has. So I'm sorry ladies, but whether you like it or not (and you should definitely like it), you're probably a feminist.


The F-Word: Chivalry


As always, a big thank you to both guests on this week’s F-Word: Oliva Rafferty who argued for chivalry as a form of benevolent sexism, and Daniel Swain who felt strongly that it was an old-fashioned and irrelevant argument.

While I can genuinely see both sides of the chivalry debate, I do find it hard to support the suggestion that it’s old-fashioned and not worthy of our time (sorry Daniel). To me it seems that this view comes from a misconception about what chivalry actually means in this day and age. I feel really strongly that you can never just transplant yourself into a different time or place and say that you know how you’d feel or react, and so I’m definitely not making arguments about your Granny and “the good old days when people had morals and men were gentlemen and bla bla bla…”. Simply chivalry as it manifests itself for young women in the 21st century. So it’s true that ‘chivalry’ comes from the French word ‘chevalier‘ meaning knight, and it definitely conjures up images of horsemen and damsels in distress – but one of the main arguments against chivalry

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time, so let’s not make it credible again by updating its name.

But fair enough, chats about language can be fairly abstract – so does chivalry still exist nowadays in the real world? I think the argument that it doesn’t ignores the suggestion that language and concepts evolve over time and we’re not talking about knights on white horses fighting dragons anymore (although if

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chivalry was still as cool as that then maybe I could get on board). Chivalry as I see it is not just when a man holds a door open or your boyfriend carries something heavy. I’ve rarely found myself personally offended by chivalry despite having many doors held open for me in my time, and that’s because the men holding said doors were doing the same for other women, children and men, and therefore not expecting any return from their action. That’s what marks chivalry aside from general good manners. I can’t lie, I’m a bit of a manners nazi and there’s nothing that riles me more than bad manners; if a man slammed a door in my face, I’d be furious. But I’d be equally furious if he ran ahead of me to sweep it open in a grandiose gesture to save my dainty little hands from – god forbid – pushing it open. Chivalry isn’t manners because it expects something in return and therefore reinforces male control of a situation. You can say chivalry’s dead but I’m willing to bet that a large percentage of the men out there would find their masculinity bruised if a woman pulled out a chair for them or bought them a drink in a bar.

Buying a drink is a perfect example of how chivalry has evolved as times have. I can’t be sure, what with being born in the 90s an all that, but I’m guessng there weren’t many one night stands in the 12th century – chainmail would be a bit of a pest to get off, for one thing – so there wasn’t the same motivation for men to shower women with drinks all night. There were no boardrooms, let alone women in them, so no “saving the budget meeting until later so that the ladies don’t get bored”. And I’d imagine that men were too busy galloping around or sharpening their swords to even talk to womenfolk, let alone censor their conversation because there were ladies present. It’s a shame that the conflation between chivalry and manners means women are often looked down on for wanting an extravagant wedding, or enjoying pretending to be a princess when a waiter in a fancy restaurant pulls a chair out for them. It’s the subtle nuances that mark chivalry apart from manners, and that make some instances of chivalry more offensive than others – in a serious relationship you might expect a man to treat you like a princess now and again but in that situation you both know where you stand, you’ve already got what you want and he’s showing you he appreciates you. It’s not so cool when you feel uncomfortable about accepting extravagant gifts from near strangers or when you’re made to feel like you can’t just go

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home at the end of a date because someone has pulled out all the stops and just paid for your dinner.

But my biggest problem with the suggestion that chivalry is irrelevant and out-of-date goes wider than just chivalry into bigger ideas of feminism and just how to treat people generally. Fundamentally, I think that if something is a problem for even a tiny number of people, then it’s a problem. Not experiencing something yourself doesn’t make it non-existent or not worthy of your time, otherwise we might as well not bother about wars or hurricanes or third world poverty. Suggesting that something simply isn’t a problem for women anymore is to suggest that women are something other than a heterogeneous group of people with opposing thoughts, backgrounds and opinions, which is a slippery slope in my book. I don’t feel personally offended by chivalry on a regular basis, and maybe there are other ‘women’s issues’ that are more relevant to me right now as a 20 year old student in Edinburgh. But maybe if I was 20 years older, or a dress size smaller, or a few inches taller, or living 50 miles away, or in any kind of different situation at all, it might be a mssive problem for me. It might be the biggest problem I face as a woman. And that is not irrelevant.

The F-Word: Language


As ever, massive thank yous have to go to Ellie Robert and Christina Muller for talking so eloquently about language (meta) and the ways in which it affects attitudes towards women on this week's F-Word. Both did an excellent job but, as always, this blog will be my own take on the issue.

I think we're all agreed that language is pretty handy. It's the way we comprehend the world, it's how we learn, how we teach, it's – arguably – what makes humans human. But enough of the philosophical musings, I hear you say; get to the feminist stuff.

So here's the problem. All the things that make language really cool are the same things that make it a powerful and potentially dangerous tool, especially in the case of 'marginalised' groups like women, ethnic minorities and the disabled amongst others. This all sounds quite academic and abstract but take a minute to stop and think. Have you ever called anyone a slut or been called a bitch? Babe? Even sweetheart? Then I'm talking to you.

Everything is context-dependent. I'll always be 'darling' to my nana and 'sweetheart' to my mum and there will always be couples who call each other 'babe', 'honey', and all number of other weird

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names because they're sickening and cheesy… just kidding. The point is that they're not strangers in the street leering at passers-by, or men casually infantilising women with words like 'girlie' and 'pet' precisely to be patronising, or even people you know 'jokingly' passing judgement on your one-night-stand. It's all about context. So to pre-empt what some of you are inevitably thinking; yes, men can and do get called slut. But not within the context of a history of institutional oppression – and more often than not they're actually called playboy or hero instead.

I'm not trying to say that women don't use the term themselves; we undoubtedly do. But that's exactly the point I'm making – these terms are ingrained, unchallenged and said without thinking because, sadly, so are some ideas about how women should behave. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of a 'male' word comparable to slut or whore. If women are sexually liberated then they're entitled to go home with whoever they want as many times as they like as far as I'm concerned. I equally don't think most straight single men would be all that impressed if the entire female sex took a vow of celibacy in response to their 'disapproval' of promiscuity. So what's the point? I'm not convinced that users of the word themselves really know either but I would like to point them towards the wisdom of Christina Aguilera: “If you look back in history/It's a common double standard of society/The guy gets all the glory the more he can score/While the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore”. In fact, maybe I should have just posted the entire lyrics to 'Can't Hold Us Down' in place of a blog this week…

But seriously, these are just words that, just like any other word, we hear, learn, adopt and use without thinking about it. And yet they reinforce the

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idea of shaming and blaming women for their sexuality, which can have very serious impacts indeed when it comes to issues of sexual assault, for example. The same can be said for the comparison between 'spinster' or 'old maid' and 'bachelor'.

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I, personally, would love a bachelor pad like the ones that are always depicted in Hollywood films and reality TV. But

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I'm not much of a fan of cats and I quite like to brush my hair now and again, so I think I'll avoid becoming a spinster thanks. See what I mean? These words that nobody thinks about perpetuate age-old ideas about the domestic duties of women and men; women without families are useless and demented, while men in the same position are in the prime of their lives, all silver-foxy and “only improving with age”.

That last quote comes from a Daily Mail article about George Clooney. The Daily Mail, I know, SIGH. But they are just such an amazing example of everything that's rubbish about the media that I'm actually kind of grateful to them. In the

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same paper, you'll find entire stories formulated around pictures of women taking their children to school or browsing pregnancy tests and engagement rings. Not specifically language-based I know, but its always clear whether the media is talking about a woman or a man: “Helen ensures all eyes are on her as she prepares to enter the jungle” and “Lauren gets it wrong with an unflattering dress” while men (who are notably usually referred to by their last names only) are praised for their “soaring rhetoric” and “decision” to spend time

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with their families. The media has a huge role in the reinforcing of language and the attitudes that come with it. But it gets even worse than that, because so too do official forms and apparently gender-neutral paperwork through the various categories describing women – Miss, Mrs, Ms – in comparison to plain old Mr. It's not a coincidence that each female title relates directly to a marital status, and it's equally unsurprising that those who adopt 'Ms' are often seen as trying to 'make a statement'. French women this year did make a statement – a pretty massive one – when they

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successfully campaigned for the removal of the categories 'maiden name' and 'mademoiselle' from official paperwork owing to its origin in the French word for virginity.

Now I'm not claiming that every time I fill out a form, I'm huffing and puffing and rolling my eyes about having to tick a box – I don't really ever think about it, and I doubt a lot of you do either. I equally don't go through the paper angrily scrubbing out every other word and mentally composing complaint emails to editors. Because that's exactly the point really – language is so pervasive, subconscious and widespread that its affecting us all all the time without us realising it.

If I could wave my magic feminist wand and transform the dictionary then maybe I would. But the fact remains that language is just incomprehensibly permeating and mostly unchallenged. Whether it reinforces attitudes or forms them is a chicken vs egg argument, but it's actually kind of irrelevant. The important point is that the two are hugely interlinked, and this has effects in every aspect of life whether that's having a conversation, listening to a song, watching a comedy act or reading a paper. Maybe changing language really is the first step to changing attitudes, but how we even begin to go about that I have no idea. In the meantime I suggest that we quote Christina Aguilera to everyone and get working on those feminist magic wands.


Nanu Opinions: The West Wing

West Wing

Here at Nanu Nanu, we're big fans of Aaron Sorkin's work – especially The West Wing. With that, and the US election in mind, we've put together a list of our favourite West Wing episodes, and written just a few words about why. Elyse Jamieson Noël Season 2, Episode 10 This was an incredibly difficult decision to make as, in my opinion, the first four seasons of The West Wing are some of the finest television episodes ever made. For illustration, it’s important to note that I’d bought the entire box set having only watched the first seven episodes of series one. However, I eventually narrowed my favourites down to the series 3 finale, ‘Posse Comitatus’ (I love you, CJ), and series 2’s Christmas episode, ‘Noël’. Although neither are the funniest or most politically driven, these are episodes I specifically revisit time and time again. The latter came out on top. At least for today. ‘Noël’ centres on Josh discussing with a psychologist what turns out to be post-traumatic stress disorder, jumping back and forth between that meeting and flashbacks to the events that triggered him. Bradley Whitford is fantastic in his portrayal of the confused and scared deputy chief of staff – so much character development happens in the 45 minutes available. It’s also an episode which has a wonderful aesthetic, and that makes it an absolute pleasure to watch, even if it is a little upsetting in places. Of course, for light relief, there is always Bartlet’s desire to personally sign all 1,110,000 holiday cards sent by the office of the President. ‘Noël’ has got it all. Angus Niven 20 Hours in America (Parts One and Two) Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2 I understand this is annoying, being asked to pick one episode and choosing two, so apologies to everyone offended (tweet me some abuse if it makes you feel better) but it’s a two parter and impossible to separate. ‘20 Hours in America’ was the first episode that came to mind when I was asked for my favourite episode. I of course considered others but I just kept coming back to the fourth season's premiere. This was the first episode of The West Wing I ever watched back in dark days of the early '00's on More 4. I watched it before I knew what a stump speech was or a caucus or what the White House Deputy Chief of Staff did. I had no idea what was going on and yet I was totally engrossed in this episode, I was engrossed in plots I jumped in on half way through and characters I knew nothing about. That is pretty flipping special, I knew I had to watch the show. Josh, Toby and Donna are all stranded when the motorcade leaves an Indiana stop on the campaign trail. Missing the motorcade leads to them missing the plane which leads to 20 hours of shenanigans. Because of their absence Sam is having to fill Josh's role

while the President and Leo struggle with the aftermath of an ill-advised assassination and the loss of Mrs Landingham. My synopsis obviously doesn't do the episode justice. ‘20

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Hours in America’ is a prime example of The West Wing at its best, showing off the ensemble, somehow highlighting the characters in the midst of some truly gripping drama. Oh and did I mention that it’s also super funny? I probably didn't, but the Josh/Toby/Donna plot really shows off Sorkin’s love affair with 1940's Screw Ball comedies. Richard Hanrahan 17 People Season 2, Episode 18 It's a tough choice, as much like a father cannot choose their favourite child, for with The West Wing I would have around 154 equally talented, beautiful children, and tell 153 of them that I don't like them. Except some of the kids that hung around smoking and doing drugs behind the school when Aaron Sorkin wasn't watching them. The opening episode is quite brilliant, as Jed Bartlett makes his incredible entrance, or perhaps my favourite would be one of those festooned in light relief – where its open door policy at the White House, and all the staff have to listen to the crazy ideas that end up making sense to them. Or when John Goodman turns up (!). But I'm not going to go for spectacle, or glitz, or humour – the best episode has to revolve around my favourite character, Toby. He is the powerhouse behind the entire administration, whose idealism and intellect guarantee the moral authority with which the administration deserve. But when Toby, using spare brain resources while doing other important things, deduces why Jed Bartlett might not run for a second presidency, he creates the storyline that defines the maturity for the rest of show. And all in one catch of a bouncing ball. Finlay Niven Posse Comitatus Season 3, Episode 21 The last episode of the third season of The West Wing is the perfect mix of all that makes the show great. CJ’s relationship with her bodyguard comes to a head with a slim glimmer of hope for her private life dashed in one of the cruellest story lines on the show. The death of Simon Donovan in a senseless random crime is juxtaposed with the cold calculated assassination that President Bartlet and everyone involved is clearly uncomfortable organising. Also gearing up in this episode is the fourth coming election and in one of the episodes best scene’s President Bartlet

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meets his opponent Governor Ritchie. The Governor is smacked down

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in typical Bartlet style, as seen here. The West Wing was truly in full swing during this season and the next. For me everything seems to just work here. It was a difficult choice but when I sat down to re-watch this afternoon, so many of this episode’s moments stood out as exceptional.