Tag Archives: feminism

June 5th

On this day in 1833 the seventeen year old Ada Byron, later to be Ada Lovelace, met Charles Babbage for the first time. It was a meeting that led to a lifelong friendship and to Ada becoming known as the first computer programmer.

A photo of the young Ada

Now, there is some debate about how much input she had into the “programming” for Babbage’s Analytical Engine, but from what I can see this is mostly because she was a lady and Babbage was a big old clever man, so she was probably just writing down stuff that he’d told her to write down and wasn’t that clever at all. My response to this sort of stuff is quite simple: whatever. There is more than enough to suggest that the Countess of Lovelace was plenty clever enough to have created a dinky little algorithm on all her ownsome. I’ll tell you more about her and not too much about Babbage, because, you know how it is, that man gets all the publicity. Time for him to lurk in the shadows for a while.

Ada was born in 1815 and her father was, as you know, the really rather gorgeous and allegedly mad, bad and dangerous to know, Lord Byron. However her mother (Anne Milbanke) and father separated soon after her birth, he died when she was nine and she never knew him. He wrote this about her in Childe Harold:

`Is thy face like thy mother’s, my fair child!
Ada! sole daughter of my house and of my heart? 
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled’ 
And then we parted,-not as now we part, 
but with a hope.’

Which was quite pretty. Her mother thought that Byron was  total mentalist and to ensure that her daughter didn’t end up all loco in the coco, she decided that she should be well-educated in mathematics and science. I can see her logic, what with maths and science being all, well logical, but if she’d had a proper think about it, she would have realised that a lot of scientists and mathematicians are barking. Thankfully, she didn’t and so Ada received an education which as unusual for a girl of her background in that period. She had fine tutors and it was generally agreed that she was a first-rate student who might go on to be a first-rate mathematician. Despite this, biographers still like to give it “well maybe it was Babbage who told her what to do”. Shut up, already!

When she met Babbage, she was already a fine maths geek and their friendship was in part based on their mutual love of the subject and

Right nice painting of Ada

interest in research and doing big hard sums. Babbage also called her the Enchantress of the Numbers, so it’s probably not out of the realm of possibility that he wanted to get into her pantaloons. But he didn’t. She got married to an earl and he tried to make mechanical computer type things. Her algorithm was written in 1842-43, when he asked her to translate something an Italian had written up for him about his Analytical Engine and  how it worked. He also asked her to add her own notes, which she did, her notes exceeding the text she’d translated. The fact is that Babbage saw his engine as pretty much a giant calculator; Ada saw that it could be more than that, that it could in fact be used to analyse just about anything. He was the mechanical genius, but she was more able to visualise the actual workings of the “software”.  That’s putting it simplistically, but it’s along the lines of how it was, so we really don’t need more complexity.

Her algorithm was to do with calculating Bernoulli numbers. Now, I could tell you all about Bernoulli numbers, but you don’t really need to know much other than they’re a sequence of rational numbers. I could pretend to know more than that, but frankly I started reading about them and my brain started to hurt a lot, so I stopped.  The engine that could have made this algorithm work wasn’t built, but according to computer type people, it would have worked and even though computers are electronic and not mechanical, and even though she wasn’t writing for something that she didn’t know would exist, she had written a proper programme of sorts.

All that really matters is she was very bloody clever, she knew what she was doing at a time when women were supposed to wander around being dim and fainting if someone said “nice tits” and her expansion of the theory/practice of what the analytical engine/computer could do was ground breaking, which is why she has  computer programming language named after her.  Them there Byrons had some pretty fine genes!

 

Today is the birthday of Marky Mark.

Now, I know I should be nice and call him Mark Wahlberg, but that man could live to be 102 and people will still remember that once upon a time he was Marky Mark off of the Funky Bunch and that Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were really quite shit. That said he was better looking than his brother Donnie who was in New Kids on the Block and many a teenager swooned for his six-pack. I found it a bit unnecessary, but each to their own.

Nice arse, awful pants

Marky Mark was also trouble and was in enough trouble in his childhood (racist beatings, attempted murder, etc) to last most shitbags a lifetime. He repented his bad ways and went straight, but there’s still something a little “meh” about him. That said, I hold my hand up to falling a little in love with him in Boogie Nights when he played Dirk Diggler. However, I realised in retrospect that it was the slightly simple Dirk I thought was lovely and not the muscled up dick, Marky Mark.  I first saw the film with a couple of friends. There were only about five other people in the cinema (it was an early daytime showing) and within a few minutes three of those had walked out. We figured they thought they were coming to see a bit of a disco film and were shocked by all the cock and stuff. And of course that’s the other thing.  How disappointing must it be for women to go home with Marky Mark and find out that the cock at the end of Boogie Nights was a prosthetic? Poor old Marky Mark, destined to always be a disappointment.

So, he can act quite well at times, he was in a rubbish band and he’s been a deeply unpleasant criminal in his time. To be honest, I’m only writing about him because (a) I love Boogie Nights, (b) it amuses me to call him Marky Mark, and (c) it’s given me the excuse to say cock more than is strictly polite.

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May 31st

On this day in 1531 there was an uprising in Amsterdam. Women revolted. It was the Women’s Revolt.

One of the revolting women offering the burgermeesters her special cheese

When I first read this, I was rather excited. Feminism in action in the Netherlands in the 16th century?! Get in! Alas, I was disappointed. The women were revolting about a wool house in a churchyard. That in itself might still have been all about the sisters doing it for themselves and if I’m being fair, I suppose they were, but rather than it being about their rights or about economic hardship or bad social conditions or, well anything like that, it was all about some alleged holy bloke, who’d crawled into the churchyard back in 1345. He was dying and given communion, which being all weak and dying, he vomited back up. The vomit was thrown on a fire and then in the morning, it was all back whole and host shaped again.

Well, that was obviously a miracle, so when the burgermeesters decided to put a wool house there they were all really rather cross and asked the burgermeesters  to please not to build a house of commerce on a holy spot. The burgermeesters, rather like the honey badger, didn’t give a shit. So, then the women of the city got together a petition, a pretty damn big one at that, where nearly all the names were real (they did hide a few pretend names like Minnie Mouse and Eleanor Roosevelt, but as they hadn’t been born or created yet, the burgermeesters were none the wiser) and they handed it in. The burgermeesters read it and were all “Yeah, that’s nice and that, but piss off ladies we have work to do.” That’s right, they just went right ahead and dug the foundations for the wool house.

Well, the women were not happy at all and on the night of the 31st when the builders had all gone home for the night, 300 women got into the churchyard and put all the dirt that had been dug, back in the ground and flicked the Vs at the burgermeesters. And that, dear readers, was their revolt.  Not stunningly exciting and all in the name of some holy vomit, but those sisters did it for themselves and the burgermeesters were left defeated. For the time being at least.

 

Today is the birthday of Brooke Shields.

Brooke found fame as a child when she was all sexualised and played a child in a brothel in the Louis Malle film, Pretty Baby. She was 12 years old and doing nuddy shots, which is a bit off really. When she was 14 she did the Calvin Klein jeansadverts (Tagline: “You want to

Despite her age, Brooke still has big lips and bushy eyebrows

know what comes between me and my Calvin’s? Nothing”) and was pretty much in the public eye for the next decade, famous for being the sexualised virgin. She was a virgin until the age of 22.

Her career pretty much tapered off in the 90s, although she’s continued to do TV and stage work. Despite this, she still remains a big name and a recognisable celebrity. Personally, I’ve never had that high of an opinion of her, but when she had post-natal depression and Tom Cruise was giving it all “Oh she’s a bad woman, drugs are bad mmkay and PND isn’t even real”, I loved her for socking it to him hard and good. The fact that she then accepted his private apology and then went to his wedding makes me think she’s a bit of a dick though.

Anyway! She’s looking good, she seems to be happy, life has treated her well and the early dodgy stuff doesn’t seem to have damaged her too much, so fair fucks to her. Happy birthday Brooke Shields. That is all.

Oh, nearly all! If you’re going to click on one link here and you haven’t already seen the honey badger, click on that. It’s aces and, indeed, skill.

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April 16th

On this day in 1943 while most of the rest of the world was up to its neck in war and shit like that, a Swiss chemist called Albert Hoffman was getting off his tits on lysergic acid diethylamide. To be fair to Bertie, his first trip was wholly accidental; his second one, three days later was not.

Hoffman may or may not be off his tits here

Hoffman had first synthesised LSD on November 16th 1938. At the time he was trying to obtain a substance to use as a stimulant for respiration and circulation. He did not do anything with the synthesis at the time and other experiments took up more time. The LSD synthesis was put to one side for nearly five years. On the morning of 16th April 1943, Hoffman decided to make another synthesis, but this time accidentally contaminated himself (he got some on his fingertips) and ingested an unknown amount of the drug. He later wrote about his experiences on that day. About an hour after the accidental ingestion he began to feel a little odd and had to go home for a bit of a lie down even though he was restless, he was also dizzy and all out of sorts in the normal way of things. Once there he lay with his eyes closed because the daylight was too harsh for him. The next two hours brought him pleasant and strange images, feelings and a whole kaleidoscope of colours. Luckily for old off his tits Hoffman, he was having a good trip.

The same could not be said for the trip he had the following Monday. He had figured that the odd experiences he’d had were linked to the LSD, so he decided to take it again, in controlled conditions to see if he was right and what would occur. First off, he totally overestimated the threshold dose. He took 0.25 miligrams (250 micrograms) figuring, from his knowledge of other ergot, that this would be about right. The threshold dose is in fact 20 micrograms. Less than an hour later he was utterly fucked and had to ask his assistant to take him home. They had no car available, it being wartime and petrol being at a bit of a premium, so they had to use bicycles. Hoffman, was by now in a heightened state of paranoia. His mood wavered between anxiety and, well, sheer terror. He believed that his next door neighbour was a malevolent witch, that he was going insane, that the LSD had poisoned him. A GP was called out, but the only physical change he noted was Hoffman’s incredibly dilated pupils. The doctor’s visit reassured Hoffman, whose trip now took a different turn, back to the images, colours, shapes etc of the previous Friday, but more intense, due to the larger dose he had taken.

Hoffman was immediately convinced that LSD would be a breakthrough psychiatric drug, because of its introspective qualities and LSD was used extensively in psychiatric research and on some patients throughout the fifties and into the sixties. However, Hoffman

Aciiiiiiiid!

did not think that LSD would ever be used recreationally and there he was quite wrong. Everyone knows about Timothy Leary, the explosion of LSD use in the 1960s, the hippies and all that. But before the whole counter-culture thing, it was also being experimented with by people as unlikely and diverse as Francis Crick (the DNA man), Cary Grant (who lectured to students at UCLA on its efficacy), Aldous Huxley, JFK and Groucho Marx. The CIA also used it in hugely unethical experiments. They would, effectively, spike someone with acid and then see what the effect was. Not surprisingly this led to a lot of psychiatric problems for many of the subjects of their experiments and may have led to more than one suicide.

From my own personal experience, I would not advocate the use of LSD, especially not if you’re going to watch Groundhog Day, you will cry because you have been watching the film for centuries and at the same time be fascinated by Bill Murray’s pulsating nose. You may also find that acid makes you bossy, form a belief that you are a godlike creature and it will almost certainly make you a strange inhabitant of a small Welsh village at 6am in the morning. Probably. Bad trips are bad, but my stepfather has told me that vitamin b is very helpful for alleviating these and for bringing the subject down from a trip. Oh also note that if you happen across a Shabba Ranks video while tripping you may feel as though the whole world is turning in on itself. In this likelihood I recommend The Breeders and the foetal position.

Today was the birthday of Mary Catherine Isobel Bernadette O’Brien, better known to the world as Dusty Springfield.

Instead of waxing lyrical about Dusty’s fine and beautiful voice, I’m going to put a video of her singing at the end of this and let her voice do the talking. It’s so hard though. What on earth does one choose when everything she sings is so damned wonderful!

Dusty came to the public’s attention in the early sixties with “I only want to be with you” and came to define a certain cool of the period for the rest of the decade. She was instrumental in bringing Motown to the attention of the British, both by her singing various Motown covers and getting artists spots on tv shows. For a period she was the biggest selling female singer in the world and

Dusty

songwriters, especially Burt Bacharach, vied to write for her and have her sing their songs. Her voice is instantly recognisable and has the most luscious soft, breathy sensuality that the listener is always in danger of melting away into a puddle while listening to her.

Dusty’s life away from the stage was not so easy. She suffered from depression, battled alcoholism and addiction and because she was not ever linked to any man, her personal life was under constant scrutiny. She refused to identify as “bent” as she put it, but said that she loved men and women and why not.  Her only known loving relationships are with other women and she admitted to being scared of men, but wanting to be straight. She was also a self-harmer at times and it seems that there was a darkness at the centre of her life that is so horribly sad. This woman could break and mend hearts with her singing, she could bring joy to others, but  …

I don’t want to dwell on the darkness, I just want to say a heartfelt happy birthday to a woman who brought happiness to generations with her voice. She was in the wilderness for years after the sixties and then came back with the Pet Shop Boys and we all hoped she’d never go away again. Her death came too early, her beauty lives on. Happy birthday, Dusty, I hope that you have found love that is always close at hand.

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March 22nd

On this day in 1638 a woman by the name of Anne Hutchinson was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for getting a bit above herself and discussing scripture in a way that the old white beards didn’t like, especially as she was a woman who really should have known her place. The whore. Nowadays the Massachusetts State House has a monument to her as a “courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious toleration”, but that didn’t stop their forefathers from telling her to do one.

As you can see, she was a right lewd bitch

Anne was born in Lincolnshire in England and left to go to the colonies with her husband and family in 1634 in search of greater religious freedom.  Given that she got chucked out for being the wrong sort of religious just four years later we can see how well that worked. What did she do to piss off the Massachusetts crowd? She started having bible discussion groups in her  home. They were initially just for women, but proved very popular and soon men were coming too. As they got even more popular, Anne’s home was too small to accommodate the numbers attending and the meetings were transferred to the church.

In most aspects, Anne’s views tied in with the general puritan outlook. However, she differed on a couple of things. First thing’s first, she was probably a bit cracked because she honestly believed that she had “divine inspiration” that led her to be able to interpret biblical texts. Now as someone on the atheist side of life, this makes me think “You big mental!”, but this has to be tied in with the fact that Hutchinson was definitely a proto-feminist who was very much in favour of female emancipation and equality and she also questioned the underlying racism of society and why it was considered right and fair to enslave native Americans. Therefore, despite my reservations about the whole “divine inspiration” thing, it has to be said that Anne was a good sort and as such it’s not at all surprising that she got under the skin of the elders of puritanical old Massachusetts.

If she’d been less popular, maybe they’d have ignored her, but she was getting 80 people or more turning up to listen to what she had to say about the bible and life in general. A woman, at that time, telling everyone that the story of Adam and Eve should not be interpreted in the way that men said it should be, because Eve was not at the root of all sin, was going to find herself in a bit of trouble. She was arrested and imprisoned and charged, with among other things, lewd and lascivious behaviour (well the hussy did have men and women in her house at the same time!). Anne, being the sort of woman she was, refused to be cowed by her so-called betters and argued her case rather well, but they’d decided they wanted rid of her so voted to excommunicate her from the colony. It’s nice to know that a bunch of men who thought the Catholic church was decadent and stuff were happy to act like little popes with the whole excommunicating thing. The hypocritical bunch of bastards.

Their behaviour gets worse. Anne was 46 and in the final trimester of her fifteenth pregnancy (ouch!). The strains of the trial led her to miscarry. Her judges gloated about this. Gloated! They saw it as God’s punishment, the nasty wee shites. But soon, Anne was away from their idiocy and settled first in Portsmouth (the American one) and then moved to New Netherland, in what is now the Bronx. Unfortunately her life had a tragic end. The whole family, except for one daughter, were murdered by Native Americans. The family had been friendly with them, but the Dutch settlers treated Native Americans so badly that they no longer trusted any settlers. The daughter who survived the massacre did so because of her red hair. The attackers had never seen anything like it so kidnapped her instead and brought her to live with their tribe where she stayed happily for many years. The moral of this part of the story is that everyone who thinks it’s okay to take the piss out of “gingers” should think on.

The moral of the whole story is, well, strong women often get the shitty end of the stick, but in speaking up for the despised and in quite clearly caring about those around her, Anne Hutchinson has lived on in memory whereas the fuckers who kicked her out of their uptight little colony are all forgotten. Speaking up for what you believe in might not always be easy, but it is always worth it.

Today is the birthday of William Shatner. Ah, Mr Shatner, how shall I count thy virtues! The thing is when I think of his name I often think “William shat on ‘er”, which is probably rather juvenile of me, but then I’m not the one with the word shat (past tense of shit) in my name. Other things that are important about old William. He managed to be a sex symbol while toting a small paunch, no

The Shat has a detachable cock

I’m not downplaying his rather large paunch in later life, but even as a young man he had a small one and the beginnings of man boobs. He kissed Lieutenant Uhuru in an episode of Star Trek which was the first interracial kiss on US television. I don’t know why they made such a big deal of that when the horny bugger was kissing aliens all the bloody time!

Please note that in Star Trek he played Captain James T Kirk and then in his next hit TV show he played T.J. Hooker. The same initials just the other way round! I don’t think this is important at all, but it might be, so we should consider it.

He’s also done some musical stuff, mostly spoken word performances of popular music type songs. His most recent was a cover of Common People by Pulp, which I’ve heard and was pure mental and really rather good.

These days he wears a wig and a corset and is a bit tacky, but that’s the lot of the ageing lotharios of this life. I think he’s 97 today or maybe a little younger. He is Canadian and has fleshy lips.

Happy birthday Mr Shatner, I think I fancied you when I was about 8, but I also fancied Virgil Tracy off of Thunderbirds, so don’t get too excited about it.

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February 19th

On this day in 1963 a very wonderful and important book was published. It was called The Feminine Mystique, its author was Betty Friedan and it pretty much kick-started what became known as second-wave feminism.

 

Enjoy it, fucker, it's crammed full of arsenic!

Friedan had set out to conduct a survey of her former classmates at Smith College – they were about to have their fifteenth anniversary reunion – to see what everyone was doing with their lives and how they were enjoying what life had given them. The answers were more or less “not much” and “it’s shit, I hate it.” She decided to turn her findings into an article, but no magazine would publish it, so she turned it into a book. The magazine editors who turned her down were probably a little bit angry with themselves when they saw chapter two in which she slagged them off to high heaven. In fact everyone was pretty much left mouthing “WTF!” as they read the book and had to face up to the fact that society was not really doing it for around  half its members. Betty looked at: magazines and the fact that most editorial decisions were made by men who liked to show happy housewives and mentalist career women;  psychology, especially Austrian fuckarse, Sigmund Freud and his whole “Ooh, you wish you had a penis, but you don’t so sit at home being pretty and make some babies, bitch!”; sociology, specifically functionalism, which was all “stay at  home  little ladies and you’ll be happy cooking and cleaning and producing ickle babies!”; advertising, which had women as either “domestic engineers” just gagging for a nice new vacuum cleaner or a life-changing food processor, or all tits, arse, and vacuity and selling high-end tut using their ladybits; education in the US, which was all about under-educating girls, just in case their brains got too big and they went mental from learning or something. In short Betty stuck it to all and sundry and added that in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, women were stuck somewhere around the whole “I’m good for nothing but sex and cleaning” level.

 

Now, changes were already in the wind, but this book sped things up quite rapidly. Lots of middle-class women who’d been getting through the tedium via the means of Valium and vodka, wrote to Friedan, thanking her for telling it like it was. She set up the National Organisation of Women which became a very influential feminist organisation.

There were criticisms, of course. She was accused of not being the typical housewife she “pretended” to be, of not getting it right about magazine content (those editors were very, very cross with Betty!), and for ignoring the experience of lesbians and non-white and

Betty telling it like it T.I. is

non-middle class women. The first two criticisms were just sour grapes, the last was true, but to be perfectly honest, it was akin to going back in time and telling the Wright brothers that their plane was a bit shit because it didn’t even have a jet engine. Someone has to start things off and expecting them to include everything and get it totally right first time is as futile and arse-achingly stupid as asking for the moon on a stick.

 

The Feminine Mystique has been translated into a number of different languages, sold over 3 million copies and pretty much helped to change the world which is more than any of the whingers who hate it for whatever reason (“she didn’t go far enough!”, “there be feminazis!”) have ever managed.

 

Today was the birthday of Karen Silkwood. Karen would probably be pretty much forgotten if it wasn’t for the Oscar-nominated film Silkwood which was made about her life and her untimely death. Silkwood was a blue-collar worker in a nuclear power plant in Oklahoma and a member of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union. She became a local union rep after a strike at the plant and was tasked with looking into health and safety. She discovered that a lot was wrong with the plant and in the summer of 1974 testified to the Atomic Energy Commission about her findings. From here on in her troubles started. In November of that year, over a three-day period, Silkwood was tested and found to be contaminated with plutonium. At the time she was only working on paperwork, so this was, to say the least a little odd. The owners of the plant claimed that she was contaminating herself to make them look bad; she claimed she was being maliciously contaminated. Given the circumstances and the utter cuntery of the owners, the latter is far more likely.

By this time, she had compiled a lot of documentation to back up her claims of dangerous practices at the plant and she announced

Karen Silkwood, 1946-1974

she was going to go public with them. On the night of 13th November 1974, she was driving to Oklahoma City to meet with a journalist from the New York Times; she never arrived. She was found dead in her car, having crashed into a tree. The police claimed she had fallen asleep at the wheel, that there were Quaaludes in her car and marijuana. More interestingly than this, there were no documents in the car, there was a dent at its back-end, and skid marks on the road suggested that she was trying to pull the car straight again after being rammed from behind. The most likely scenario is that Karen Silkwood was murdered for causing problems for the plant owners and looking out for the rights and safety of herself and her fellow workers.

 

She was not a celebrity; she was just an ordinary woman who died far too young because she was trying to make a difference, trying to do the right thing and battling against the sort of forces who didn’t give a fuck about anything but profit. She didn’t live to see her children grow up and become adults, but at least her children knew that their mother was a woman to be proud of, a woman who looked adversity in the face and despite her fear did what she thought was right. Happy birthday, Karen Silkwood. You were a helluva woman!

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