Family travel with flair
Currently Browsing: In the news

They don’t eat horses, do they?

TweetThe news of beef burgers in several big supermarkets around the UK and in Ireland being contaminated with horse meat is all over the headlines today. It reminded me of this picture that I took in Brenham, Texas, last summer. At the time, I was surprised to see it — I’d never heard of horsemeat being an issue in Texas. I knew from living in France and visiting other countries that people do eat horse but always thought of it as an issue of personal taste and social custom. When I researched the issue after returning to London, I found out that slaughtering horses had become a heated debate. Slaughterhouses in Texas exported the meat to Asia and Europe and many Texans were against it, based either on the belief that the animals suffered unduly or that these creatures — because of our attachment to them as pets and companions — aren’t the kind of animal you should eat. It’s strongly tied to identity, as my picture shows: We aren’t the kind of people to eat horse. In 2007, Texas slaughterhouses were shut down, and some activitists kept fighting the sale and transport of Texas horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico. But there are also some America politicians promoting horsemeat, as detailed in this Houston Post blog. Of course, the issue for the beef burgers here is slightly different: something was in the burgers that shouldn’t have been and that wasn’t divulged to consumers. That has to be rectified. But the stories highlight our discomfort both in the US and the UK about eating horses. We think of them as beautiful animals to ride, race and own. We still have the problem of a few unscrupulous owners who mistreat their animals. But whatever you do, the consensus seems, don’t put them on our plate....

Bloggers: what are we good for?

TweetI love this question. Coming from the print world, I often talk to 3 kinds of fellow ink-stained wretches. 1. The ones who are plugged in or getting plugged in to social media and love the freedom and power it brings 2. The ones who want to get all social media’ed up and are a bit scared (despite controlling budgets of large departments or writing award-winning copy) 3. The ones who are sure that bloggers and the like don’t really know anything and that the whole social media thing will eventually blow over or just not apply to them. I always feel a bit sorry for the last group, who are the flat-earthers and Republican global-warming deniers of the print world. Today Liz Jones writes in the Mail about bloggers and it seems she’s firmly in the second camp, and thinks of all us women bloggers should just don our burkas and get on with the self-oppression. Read my latest post about it, over on the BritMums blog: It’s time to wake up and smell the bloggers  ...

Dressing up for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

TweetOne of the big surprises of living among the English (and there are many) is how much they love to dress up. Americans may work Halloween like a mofo, but the English wouldn’t settle for just one day a year. Fancy dress is a standard not just of children’s parties and All Hallow’s Eve. Attending balls in elaborate costume is as much a part of university as beer bongs are in America. It continues on into post-college life, middle age and beyond. (At my daughter’s school, the fund-raising quiz night has a creative dress-up theme that in recent years spurred one team to dress as Romans and bring a pig’s head, and others to tart up as KISS, 1950s stewardesses – vavavoom – and 40something Occupy protesters armed with tents and piercings…and no, we didn’t even win the costume competition with that last one.) An English man’s infatuation with dressing up in drag should never be underestimated. Now it’s come to my attention that, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee fast approaching, there’s an optimal opportunity for dress up. (Even the restrained Elizabeth II pushed the boat out for the occasion 60 years ago, ermine, sceptre and all.) For kids, of course, the whole costume thing comes naturally and the shops are full of Jubilee options – Queen masks, tiaras and crowns. My daughter has a dress from TKMax that allows her to take the historical route. It’s a grand full-length gold dress with fake pearls draped at the neck and velvety detailing*. The fabric is more substantial than many children’s dressing-up costumes, giving it real shape. Warning: Putting it on may cause children to swan around and become – as my daughter puts it – “queeny”. (See picture.) She wore a vest underneath so the reverse of the velcro closure wasn’t scratchy against her back. There’s also a version in red and in blue both with crowns. All (£19.99) have been so popular that they’ve sold out online, but you can look for them in your nearest store. For my costume, I’m going to focus on the more recent past: the year of Elizabeth II’s coronation. That means a 1952-era dress with full skirt, red lipstick, “done” hair. I have a black dress with white polka dots and puff sleeves that’s coming out of the cupboard along with some high-heeled mary janes. I might even put a bow in my hair. Of course, the Jubilee celebrations – flotilla, street parties, carriage procession – lasts a full 4 days. You...

Launching the UK’s ONE Mum blogger programme

TweetOver the years I’ve become pretty jaded about charity appeals. I don’t question the need for people to extend help to one another for all kinds of reasons, and many organisations do many good works. But I question whether the influx of money to poverty-stricken areas is used to greatest effect and whether it simply creates a reliance on international aid. One of the latest initiatives by the charity ONE addresses these concerns by focussing on an area I really believe in: helping to change the political and financial realities for developing countries so they can transform themselves. ONE has a petition urging EU leaders to pass strong laws that require oil, gas and mining companies publish and be transparent about payments they make to foreign governments. This enables the citizens of those countries to ensure the payments don’t get siphoned off but are used for government projects like schools, roads and health clinics. That’s the kind of change I really believe in – empowering citizens and local activists to create homegrown checks and balances. Sign the ONE petition here. In the coming weeks, with BritMums and the ONE Mum Ambassador bloggers, there are going to be a host of other ways to get involved in worthwhile initiatives, starting with the #ONEMum and #LetsThrive Twitter party on Tuesday 10 April at 12:30. Join us! And check out my post over on BritMums, which tells more about the programme, the bloggers involved and how you can get involved too!...

My day on 9/11

Tweet“This is so fucked up” “What are you talking about?” “Turn your TV on.” Ten years ago I was sitting on my sofa in Brooklyn when my friend B. IM’ed me on AOL Instant Messenger a little after 8:45. I turned on the TV and saw what so many other people did – smoke billowing, newscasters reporting that a plane had hit one tower of the World Trade Center. The two of us IM’ed back and forth, trying to deduce what exactly had just happened – was it small plane that had simply go astray? Something bigger? I was watching the towers on TV at 9:03 when the second plane hit and there was no mistaking it – this was all planned. I watched at home alone, IM’ing friends as long as I could, until I couldn’t stand the solitude anymore. I was safe from the carnage in downtown Manhattan, but I was also cut off from my fellow New Yorkers as the ground shifted beneath our feet. So I set out on foot to find people to connect with. The rest of the day was surreal. I ran into one friend outside a Brooklyn restaurant. We both had the same idea –shouldn’t we go to the hospital to give blood? It later became clear that there wouldn’t be thousands of survivors needing blood. Word on the street was that hospitals wanted you to stay away rather than clogging up their waiting rooms with useless helpfulness. About an hour later I was in downtown Brooklyn and saw a friend I’d gone surfing with several times. She was riding around on her bike, seeing the people coming streaming over Brooklyn Bridge and looked as aimless as I felt. I spent the rest of the day trying to get to friends in another part of Brooklyn. First I was abandoned by a bus driver with a dozen other people at a remote stop amid warehouses and overgrown lots before a local car service cruised by and returned four of us – an hour and a half later – to the downtown stop where we started. Later I stood on an overhead platform for the G train and took pictures of the blackened mess after the towers fell. I finally made it to the pub where my friends were and the conversation at every table was, “What’s happened to our city? To us? What does it mean?” Despite having worked at an office on Wall Street, I didn’t know anyone who died...

Attention, women: America’s Tea Party doesn’t want you

Tweet So much has been written and said about the Tea Party and how it taps into the old-fashioned economic and family values. The image that the party and indeed far-right socially conservative groups like to promote is one of middle American wholesome goodness, untainted by the long-hairs on the West Coast or the elites on the East. But the latest pressure the groups have brought on the negotiating of a new budget deal demonstrates just how little they care about women at all. The Tea Party’s demand that all funding to Planned Parenthood stop was a main sticking point in the budget negotiations. Because Planned Parenthood provide abortions. Of course, more than 90% of Planned Parenthood’s services are preventive healthcare to women without insurance. These includes things like screenings for breast and cervical cancer, birth control, tests and treatments for HIV and STIs. Already law prevents any federal money going to PP to be used for abortions (don’t even get me started on this issue, but that’s a whole other story). So basically the Tea Party is saying, we don’t want poor women to get healthcare…especially that icky kind that has to do with their female parts. Amanda Marcotte cannily pointed out this week in the Guardian that the Tea Party’s “fiscal conservatism” is actually about who “deserves” government funding. It’s no secret that the threat of budget shutdown in the US – with thousands of people shut out of their government jobs and a cost of $6 billion in lost income – has been fueled by this abortion issue. It’s become obvious that the Republican party is willing to consider papering over its own differences with the far-right by selling out women. It’s not all that surprising to me that women are members of the Tea Party. You will always have people willing to partake in their own subjugation, for whatever reason. But I hope this is a wake-up call to female Republicans to examine what their party really offers them and just how “equal” they are within it. For years the anti-choice lobby has been characterising its stance as one of religious and moral views having to do with the life of the fetus. With this move, its motivations are revealed to be much more far-reaching. The motivation is to impose moral judgment on the freedom, health and ability of women to control their sexuality. In short, the far-right don’t want that, and the Republicans are OK to slip that into a bill as a sop...

Playtime is over for New York parents

TweetWhat does any NYC parent worth his or her salt do when they feel their child’s nursery education is not up to snuff? Of course – they sue. The Times wrote yesterday about the lawsuit brought byNicole Imprescia against her daughter’s preschool. You can read that piece on the Times’s site (even if you’re not a subscriber, for £1 you got all of the stories from today’s paper plus extra content on the website. Go on, you know you want to). I lived in New York City for a decade, which is probably why I wasn’t completely surprised by the story. Find out why in the guest post I’ve done on the Times’s School Gate blog. There are also some great comments on the New York Times’s Motherlode blog, including this from one dad: $19K? How about $32K? That’s what I pay for daycare! Is that what they mean by a New York state of mind? Photo: © NYC & Company...

One of Jane Russell’s finest moments

TweetI first saw Gentlemen Prefer Blondes while researching a story for Premiere magazine (may it, like Jane Russell,  rest in peace). If anything makes you despise modern-day romcoms, it’s watching classic versions like this. The storylines are always just a little convoluted (in this case, two girls – one a gold digger, one with a heart of gold – are followed on a cruise ship by a private detective hired by the gold digger’s fiance’s father…it spools out from there). The dialogue is snappy. The characters well-drawn. And the women – even the “dumb” ones like Marilyn Monroe’s character – land zingers and don’t rely on their boobs to produce the comedy. The Bounty, it ain’t. And the musical numbers! Madonna and Kylie ripped off Marilyn’s version of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, but I love Jane Russell’s sassy take while wearing a blonde wig. Russell may have died today, but her fringe-shaking appeal lives on.  ...

Has “Jewish” become a schoolyard insult?

TweetThe news that the president of the National Union of Students was subjected to anti-semitic abuse last week was disturbing, but as the student protest have become more chaotic and fractured, I had chalked up some of that to a small group of idiots demonstrating their, well, idiocy. But tonight I heard a segment on Radio 4 in which students of various ages talked about how “Jewish” has become an run-of-the-mill insult – as they describe it, it’s not actually related to being Jewish. You know, it’s just like saying something or someone is “gay”. That doesn’t refer to actual homosexuality; it’s simply a term of disapprobation. It’s a schoolyard insult, they said – seemingly implying that as a result it shouldn’t be read as anti-Semitic. Whatever your thoughts about the leadership of the NUS’s Aaron Porter, the idea that someone wants to insult him and reaches for the word “Jewish” is profoundly depressing and alarming. It’s made all the more surreal by news reports that point out he isn’t in fact Jewish, which kind of draws attention to the fact that the word is being used as an insult while in a way also distancing him from the root meaning of the insult. Whether or not he’s wearing a yarmulke and going to temple is wholly beside the point. I was an adult before I ever heard an anti-Semitic insult. (Like most places, where I grew up wasn’t without its racist insults but – also like most places – they were directed at the most immediately visible minority groups. We didn’t have many Jewish families in my town so I didn’t even understand why people would think calling someone a “Jew” was any more offensive than calling them an “Episcopalian”.) Then I moved to New York where I not only met a lot of Jewish people and learned a lot about Judaism but also more frequently came across anti-Semitism. Here in London my awareness of it had once again been subsumed under other visible ethnic bigotries. That makes hearing a schoolgirl telling a reporter it’s “just something you say” all the more of a shock. It’s truly worrying if these young people weren’t just a random selection that the BBC dug up but are representative of attitudes among kids. It’s the easy rationalisations that unsettle – the way these kids describe that it doesn’t mean what it really means. To a lesser extent, the same thing happens with terms like “girl” and “woman” – ie “don’t be such...

Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes