Thursday, February 10, 2011

Small town America and the friendly neighborhood hoochie joint


On the way home, I read an article in the free sheet Evening Standard about a new chain of strip/ lap dancing clubs that are aiming for a different, more 'up-market' clientele. The owner, Simon Warr, says he's setting out to be 'classy'. Generally, in my experience, if you have to use the word classy; it's not.

Warr's challenge is to change perceptions about what goes on inside his clubs. "I want people to have a good time. For women to feel they can come with their boyfriends and not be objectified. It's a fun, upbeat, safe environment. It's a highly charged atmosphere, and booze is important to us, but people will feel entertained. We want to sell an overall experience," he says.

Umm, yeah... And although booze is important to me, too - I can't imagine that I would find this particularly entertaining. But what really got me was this...

In America, lapdancing is mainstream. In some small towns, the local club might really be the best place to get a steak and a cocktail. "Often in the US there won't be a local pub. The club almost fulfils that role in some communities," says Warr.

Really? Really? OK, I know I was raised in the buckle of the Bible Belt...But I've never heard of a small town community where folks all head on down to the neighborhood lap dancing joint for a relaxing family evening of steaks, cocktails, nipple tassels and thumpa-thumpa hoochie music. Someone, please, correct me if I'm wrong.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Just get on back to Texas

I was just followed on Twitter by a BBQ joint. That's cool, I like me some BBQ. "Best BBQ East of Texas" it promised. Cool. London could use another BBQ joint, I thought. But let me check this out...just how East is East?

I check the website. Oh, I see - it's as far east as Brentwood, Tennessee (suburb of Nashville, for those not familiar). Nashville is not a town short of BBQ joints the last time I checked. And the key selling points, the authentic Texas-ness of the owner...

Hook 'em Horns! Tending to the smoker, or inside the one-roomed restaurant, you will find one Aubrey Bean, whose credentials as a Texan are unassailable and extensive... He is from Austin, he is a sports-crazy jock, he has a degree in petroleum engineering and he learned to cook barbecue from his granddaddy. He wears a Texas Longhorns cap, and his Suburban (the standard Lone Star vehicle long before it became the preferred ride of Nashville soccer moms) sports the Longhorn logo on the back windows. For crying out loud, to be any more Texan... not just a Texan (not that there's anything wrong with that) but not an SEC fan and a bit derisive of the hard-working mothers of middle Tennessee. Maybe it's some kind of reverse psychology marketing plan. I'll insult them ever so subtly, and they'll be hungry for some extra sides. Of course, it has tempted me to write about them...

But even the notion that a Texan would need to bring BBQ to Tennessee is a just a little bit laughable. Look, I like brisket. It's good. And it's a more than acceptable form of BBQ in the landscape of BBQ; I suppose a balanced BBQ diet can include beef. But it's not like Tennessee doesn't have its own multiple BBQ traditions. Or that BBQ isn't -well, pork. This strikes me a little bit like someone from the South coming to the UK saying "Hey, how 'bout the best fish n' chips on the planet. We know how to cook fish 'cause we're American." Right... But if someone brought genuine catfish and hushpuppies, a different take on deep fried fish and starch, and said "Yeah, we know your fish n' chips is awesome, but this another way of looking at it. It's not better per se; and we know you already know how to fry fish. Try it when you're in the mood for a little bit of change."

But hey, dude - good luck to ya.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Knights of the realm

Buddy is very fond indeed of his Knights and his castle. The Vol-in-Law doesn't like me calling it his dollhouse, but that's what it is. A dollhouse of few comforts and a cast of tooled up fellows with barely concealed rage.

He's behind you...

And the boy often pretends to be a knight or a king. He's a king a lot.

The other night he told me "I'll be the King, and you be a knight. And Daddy be a knight."

This sounded like a lot of standing around in mud in heavy armor in inclement weather and possibly some kind of physical danger. "I don't want to be a knight. Perhaps I could be a special advisor. Can I be a special advisor?"

"Of course, you can," he said. "You be a special advisor, after you a knight."

knight at rest

Saturday, February 05, 2011

What's wrong with a little muscular liberalism?

Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear.

Freedom is in peril

Let's forget, for a moment, the issue of Islamic extremism. If we can. There's a nuanced spectrum of people who mix anti-Westernism and/or self-loathing with standing against origin-based hate and people who support the liberal principles of Western democracy who rub shoulders with haters. There's a lot of ugliness in the Venn diagram of principled stands.

But I welcome Prime Minister David Cameron's speech on standing up for liberal values - at the very least here, at home where we live - and abroad, when we can.

I applaud his hierarchy of principles, though I might shuffle the cards a little, and his means test of liberalism.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality.

I recognise that many people I know don't believe in liberal democracy. But I do. Strongly. That liberalism starts first and foremost with freedom of speech. That's not speech without consequences or rebuttal, but it is speech without fear of losing one's liberty or property.

My freedom of speech does not end at the thin margin of your tender feelings. Nor yours, mine. So I support the right of people to say what, in my view, is pretty reprehensible on all kinds of matters. But freedom of speech is simply freedom, it's not a claim right of support from public funds or for ministerial support by sharing a platform.

And if we draw the line anywhere, in terms of supporting groups that are supposed to be good, we ought to draw at those who want to speak out against speaking out. Those who don't support rule of democratically determined liberal law. If that means not supporting with money or standing alongside those who don't support liberal democracy, then good.

If we want to have a tolerant society, if we want to have a society where different cultures can rub along then there are principles of liberalism which must be applied across the board. This means no platform and no public pounds to organisations whose views are the antithesis of liberal democracy - even if some believe there may be some expendiency in doing so.

I think it's unfortunate that many are focusing on just the wrong things in this speech. Implying Cameron is a racist, etc. I wish if they would attack him - they would do so honestly by attacking the principles on which he's standing - free speech, tolerance without acquiescence and making a stand against tolerating hateful things like misogyny and the most basic denial of rights to homosexuals and systems of law which enshrine inequality.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Maternal fears borne out

I was randomly looking through my old posts when I found this one on my pre-natal fears that Buddy would have no sense of humor. My husband scoffed at my fears. But now we're coming to grips with the fact that the boy may well have inherited the no-humor gene from his father's side of the family.

When he was a baby, I longed to hear him laugh. He didn't. He wasn't a laugher. He laughs now. But mostly at slapstick. He laughs when someone else gets hurt. He laughs when we punch him. No seriously, the boy begs to be hit. He loves rough-housing. I avoid it as much as I can, 'cause it creeps me out. But he never laughs so loud or so gaily as when things have got out of hand. The only time I've ever heard him genuinely laugh at tv was at Tom and Jerry.

He sometimes laugh when we laugh. But it's a forced laugh. Ha, ha, ha. A laugh akin to the praising of the fine hues in a painting by the color blind.

He's missing some teeth, too. They just never came in. But that can be fixed with money. A lack of a rich, complex sense of humor can't.

I'm hoping that as his language skills become more sophisticated his sense of humor will develop, too. But I'm lowering my expectations.