I’ll never understand the pride people take in saying, “I was born and bred here” or the use of the same phrase to defend one’s perceived superiority or deservingness of housing, health care or other basic human rights.

I mean, what did you, yourself, actually do to influence where you were born or bred? Unless you were a particularly ambitious embryo, the answer is “nothing”. Sure, your parents might have made some kind of effort to select your place of birth. Maybe they strove to move to better housing in a neighbourhood with better services and schools. Maybe they’re even immigrants, like my dad, and they struggled long and hard to learn their fourth language in order to integrate into their adopted country. But you? You didn’t do anything. Why are you so proud of that? Think of the things you've accomplished in your life. Isn't it far more fitting and fulfilling to be proud of those?

And why the obsession with asserting the superiority of a single identity over the others? “I’m English first and then British.” Pro-tip: Most of the rest of the world considers both of those to be synonymous with “ex-colonialist imperialist arsehole” so it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. ^.^

Here is a list of the geographically-linked identities that I consider myself able to lay claim to. I’m proud of some and not others.

  • American
  • British
  • European
  • Hawai’ian
  • Filipino
  • Olympian
  • Seattleite
  • Angeleno
  • San Diegan
  • Londoner
  • Brummie (this is a new one; still feels a little odd)


Today, I think I’m proudest of being European. I earned that identity and that passport, and I’m still very pissed off that some people want to take it away.

Today is also, weirdly, simultaneously:

  • the anniversary of Brexit, aka the Colossal Waste of Time and Money Foisted Upon Us by a Generation That Tore Down Decades of Painstakingly Won Goodwill with Our Neighbours and Won’t Live to Experience the Disastrous Consequences, Thanks a Lot, Dickheads.

    And

  • International Women in Engineering Day


So, to close this post, here is a peaceful photo of a woman doing some engineering.

Scientist at work
Humuhumu: “Keiki, are you a boy?”
Keiki: “No!”
Humuhumu: “Keiki, are you a girl?”
Keiki: “No!”
Humuhumu: “What are you, Keiki?”
Keiki: “I’m a KEI-KI.” syllables of name drawn out emphatically

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[Humuhumu and Keiki in the bath, giving themselves bubble beards.]
nanila: (me: walk softly and carry big stick)
( Jun. 13th, 2017 02:01 pm)
I had wanted to post this yesterday, as it was the 50th anniversary, but ran out of time. So, a day late, but no less important: Here is my very personal celebration of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, handed down on 12 June 1967, that legalised interracial marriage in the USA.

Without it, my parents might have been jailed or permanently separated. Without it, I might not exist. I am grateful that what was just and correct prevailed in the face of popular opinion.

SCAN0174
[Image of my dad, baby!me and my mom, with one of my aunties in the pool at a Honolulu hotel. Photo taken by my maternal grandfather.]

+1 )
nanila: me (Default)
( Nov. 17th, 2016 12:53 pm)
It occurs to me that, while I’ve been very slow to begin to read long-form writing (e.g. novels & non-fiction longer than magazine articles) again, I’ve actually been watching quite a bit more new stuff than I have since before Humuhumu was born. Mostly since I no longer have to go to bed before 10 PM every night because I'm so tired. There are some spoilers here for "Planet Earth II", "Frozen" and "Paddington". The other reviews are of documentaries or are spoiler-free.

~~~Television~~~
Planet Earth II: Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, of course. I have to admit, I giggled all the way through the snow leopard sequences because I couldn’t stop thinking of that sketch from “John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme”, which features a cameraman and a biologist with absolutely nothing in common, stuck up a mountain together for six months. Eventually they find common ground in mocking Sir David for continuing to narrate all these grand BBC nature programmes after retiring from field work. “We should just get an ordinary leopard and Tipp-Ex it!” “Or get an albino serval and do potato prints on him!” Er, anyway, the scope and cinematography of the programme are excellent, as one would expect, and it is fantastic at the end of the day to soar with the eagles, face-plant into the snow with a bobcat, or cheer on a baby iguana as it navigates a treacherous run through a perilous, snake-strewn obstacle course.

The Missing: This is one of those crime drama programmes that felt like it was going to be a two-or-three parter and then wrap up neatly. The BBC does that sort of thing brilliantly. The first two episodes were wonderfully suspenseful and quite scary.

Now that we’re six episodes in, it’s all gone a bit silly. I’m still on the fence with whether I’m on board with that, given how unlikeable most of the protagonists are.

Masterchef: The Professionals: Let’s be real now, I mostly watch this because of Monica Galetti, who pulls the best faces and is also, despite the lack of Michelin stars, a better chef than Mr Beardface aka Marcus Wareing. He thinks he’s the best judge on the show when he’s clearly entirely limited his tastes to fine French cuisine. Monica not only has that expertise, she also has palate that is capable of appreciating more diverse flavours. And she has the best hair.

My investment in this programme is a pale shadow of my love of Bake Off [RIP]. It peaked during the “normal” Masterchef in 2013, the year that Natalie Coleman won.

~~~Film~~~
Frozen: Aaargh. I’ve seen it a few times now. I don’t love it. Too many dreadful sappy songs, not enough ridiculous snowman and reindeer dialogue. Humuhumu likes it, though she thinks the ice monster is too scary, which is why a parent has to watch it with her. Presently I’m being heavily questioned about why Hans wants to steal Elsa and Anna’s kingdom. Gosh it’s fun explaining to a four-year-old what powerful motivators greed and a lust for power can be.

Paddington: Happily, Humuhumu loves this film almost as much as Frozen, though she thinks the naughty lady (Nicole Kidman’s character) is scary. I don’t mind rewatching it with her, as it's a pretty blatant parable about the positive effects of immigration. She asks a lot of questions every time it’s on, trying to understand the moral implications of what’s happening. The last time we watched it, I had to tell her no less than ten times that no, Uncle Pastuzo wasn’t coming back, because a tree fell on him during the earthquake and he died before he could get to the shelter.

The Take: The timing of the cinema release of the film (Bastille Day 2016, the day a freshly radicalised Tunisian man drove a lorry through a crowd in Nice, France) was awful, especially given the premise - terrorism by white people is subsequently erroneously blamed on Muslims. I enjoyed this. It was action-packed, well-paced and featured a lot of Idris Elba. What’s not to like? It was also entirely forgettable; the week after we watched it, I had difficulty remembering the title. If anyone was looking for further proof that Idris Elba should be James Bond, this adds to the already enormous stack of evidence.

The Man Who Knew Infinity: The bloke and I are both great fans of G. H. Hardy’s A Mathematician’s Apology, which lays out the working and personal relationships between S. Ramanujan and Hardy from Hardy’s perspective. This biopic attempts to show the same from Ramanujan’s. There are some great character portrayals of Bertrand Russell and John Littlewood. The film makes an effort to illustrate how the combined impact of Ramanujan’s isolation from sympathetic peers, loneliness at the long separation from his wife, poor physical condition, and Hardy’s drive to make him rigorously prove his theories, drive him to an early grave. It gives flavour for some of the barriers he faced in the form of obvious institutional and societal racism and the more subtle, unintentional racism of his allies, as exemplified by the little scene where Hardy asks Ramanujan if he enjoyed the college dinner (mutton, which Ramanujan didn’t eat because he was vegetarian). But it falls short, somehow.

Hypernormalisation: The bloke and I watched this three-hour documentary in the run-up to the US election. It’s pretty epic in scope as well as length, as it attempts to draw together historical decisions to explain how we’ve arrived at the present stage of “post-truth” politics. Its narrative begins with the ostracisation of the Syrian government by western powers and heavily leans on the use of Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi as a pawn in a game of global distraction as well as the normalisation of the use of suicide bombers in modern warfare. There are a lot of diversions, including Jane Fonda and artificial intelligence research, which feed into the narrative with varying degrees of comprehensibility. The soundtrack is great (lots of Nine Inch Nails), although it feels like there are a few too many lingering shots of dismembered bodies. That said, I’d recommend it if you have the stomach, because it provides a compelling argument for the way ill-conceived political maneuvering has brought us to the stage where Donald Trump proved a viable candidate for the US presidency. It doesn’t offer any solutions, so it’s a pretty bleak viewing experience, although you may derive a certain hopeless satisfaction in contemplating becoming a devotee of nihilism afterward. Watch it for free on iPlayer here. Viewing requires a UK-based IP address.
My friend Holly ([personal profile] hollymath) is writing a book about being an immigrant. Like me, Holly has lived in the UK for many years as an immigrant and has written poignant posts on the subject, as can be seen the foreignness tag on her DW. She has a gift for voicing thoughts for which I often struggle to find the words.

The Kickstarter for her book, Duel for Citizenship, has just 12 hours left. It can be found here. Most levels of support include a copy of the book as an incentive. If you can support her project, which I see as a vital response to the clamour of toxic and xenophobic anti-immigrant/refugee rhetoric currently dominating the public narrative, I would appreciate it too.
Humuhumu has begun to drop her T's, replacing them with glottal stops. Wa'er. Beau'iful. Floa'ing.

I presume she's picked this up from nursery somehow, but I haven't worked out from whom. It sounds very peculiar when coupled with her otherwise Brummie pronunciation ("I loike oice cream").

It also sets my nerves jangling. "Floa-ting, darling," I say calmly through gritted teeth, "Not floa'ing." Inside my head there is a tiny rage-filled fiery-eyed Nanila screaming, "IT'S GOT A T! IT'S GOT A FLAMING T IN IT! PRONOUNCE THE T!"

I'm trying to unpack why this gets up my nose so badly. I have mental mechanisms in place for suppressing the confused welter of emotions, including sadness, that assail me when she speaks and she doesn't sound American. I know that once she realises I sound foreign, she'll never be able to un-hear it. I take delight in the Brummie accent, even though I'm fairly certain that in this rigidly stratified, classist, and small-c conservative society*, she will either have to learn to code-switch or train herself out of it to achieve material success. It doesn't bother me - much - when Londoners drop their T's. I have a terrible suspicion that I've managed to internalise a certain amount of class prejudice, given that when she says "free" instead of "three" or "bahf" instead of "bath", I have the same reaction, though reduced in intensity. I don't quite understand why it applies to my child and not to anyone else, though.

* Gross generalisation, #NotAllBrits, etc.
Humuhumu is presently in love with the Clangers. She has Clangers bedsheets, the Clangers DVD and a set of Clangers miniatures, all acquired from the BBC Shop clearance.

The episodes she loves most are centred around Granny Clanger. These include "The Curious Tunnel", in which Tiny and Small discover a tunnel that sucks things up and spits them out onto the surface of the planet, coincidentally where Granny is trying to have a peaceful moment to herself, and "The Knitting Machine", in which Major invents a knitting machine as a labour-saving device for Granny. (Granny is less appreciative of this than he expects.) I suspect the attraction is at least partly because Granny is a central figure in the Clangers' clan in the way that Humuhumu's grandmothers are not, due both to distance and personality types. Granny is embedded in the home lives of Tiny and Small, always there, knitting away, napping, caring and being cared for by the other family members.

The set of Clangers miniatures included: Tiny, Small, Mother, Major and Baby Soup Dragon. The set did not include: Granny and Soup Dragon. Soup Dragon can be purchased separately. The only way to acquire a Granny miniature, however, is to buy the Clangers Home Planet play set. I can afford to, and will do this for Humuhumu, but I find it most aggravating that the only way to acquire Granny is to spend about four times more than I spent on the set of other figures. Especially since all the other Clangers are available in pairs and individually as well.
So apparently it's International Women's Day.

I have celebrated by achieving new nadirs in parenting.

Humuhumu is off ill from nursery for the week. The bloke and I had agreed I would look after her today because he had to lecture. (Don't worry, I get uninterrupted working time later in the week. Equality, you see!)

We had received an appointment for Keiki to have his eyes checked for long-sightedness and amblyopia - since Humuhumu has both - several weeks ago. I tried to have it moved a few days ago when we thought neither of us were going to be able to take him in, but was told that because of cuts in local services, the next appointment would not be available for another four months. So we kept it.

It was at a clinic I'd never been to. If I'd known then where it was, I'd probably have decided to take the appointment at the hospital in four months' time.

Humuhumu and I had to pick up Keiki from nursery in the afternoon. The area around the nursery is currently a construction zone and its entrance is controlled by a three-way traffic light. The fun thing about this arrangement is that you can't actually see people coming in or out of the nursery slip road until they appear on the main road, and sometimes they block off the slip road during the day to do work on it. So I waited patiently at the light, observed that the road appeared to be blocked, and drove past and parked along the main road. Never an ideal situation when you're on your own and have two small children to manoeuvre in and out of a car. The walk to and from the front door was long enough that when we finally managed to collect Keiki and get everyone back in the car, we were already late for his appointment. I tried to keep calm and drove off to the clinic.

The clinic turned out to be off a tiny one-lane road with double yellow lines on either side, meaning that there was nowhere to park within 200 metres of the entrance. The metal fencing around the clinic featured a dizzying array of signs, which I tried to parse as I drove carefully through the narrow entrance and manoeuvred into a parking space. The wonderful setup of this car park meant that I was blocking off two other cars, and would have to reverse very carefully indeed in order to exit.

The one good thing about the appointment was discovering that Keiki's vision is absolutely fine. The orthoptist was the one Humuhumu likes best as well, and she monkeyed around the room the way toddlers do when they like someone.

We said goodbye to the friendly receptionist. I discovered that in the twenty minutes we'd been inside, two more cars had arrived and parked perpendicularly behind me. Also, someone was waiting to take my space. In theory, I still had just enough room to reverse all the way back to the gate.

And if I didn't have a toddler and a baby howling at me from the back, and if I were not quite so inexperienced a UK driver (coming up on nine months since I got my licence), I might have been able to do it, but after three attempts to get through the gap between the building and the first perpendicular car, I was very nearly in tears.

The woman waiting to take my space parked up next to the clinic entrance (double reds) and came to my window. Another woman who had just left the building noticed, and came over as well. Both of them were terribly sympathetic and understanding, which made it more difficult not to cry. One offered to guide me out, and the other to go in and ask the person behind me to move their car. I tried twice more to get past with the guide's help, but she stopped me after the second go, saying she didn't think I could do it without taking a wing mirror off.

A third woman exited the building, and after coming over and making a lot of comforting noises, moved her car so I could, finally, get out.

While all of the above was happening, the primary school next door let out, meaning the road and pavements were full of small children. As I reversed very, very slowly past the clinic gates, I managed to read one of its signs. It said, "This car park is for registered clinic personnel and disabled persons only." Ah. That would be the icing on the cake of this EPIC MEGA DRIVING FAIL, then. To any such persons using the car park that day were inconvenienced by me: I apologise.

After we arrived home, I plonked my children in front of the television (don't worry, it gets worse) so I could dial in to a telecon. Usually this telecon takes about 20 minutes, so I reckoned two episodes of the Octonauts would suffice to keep them quiet. But of course, this was the one occasion in fifty when everything was not normal, and people actually had to have discussions about non-routine items. I realised we were coming up to the time when I was going to have to speak just as the emperor penguin episode was drawing to a close. As the end credits rolled, both childrens' heads swiveled round to regard me where I sat on the sofa with my laptop. I cringed as they spoke/babbled simultaneously.

"I'm hungry!" announced Humuhumu.
"BWABAAAACAT!" shouted Keiki.
"Can we have your input now, Dr Nanila?" requested my laptop speakers.

I cast about in desperation and my eyes fell upon the box of Mother's Day chocolates I'd been given on Sunday. Flinging the lid to the floor, I selected two at random and shoved them into my startled childrens' mouths, which allowed me to give my crucial 45 seconds of input after a slight delay. Afterwards, I discovered one of the chocolates contained raspberry liqueur. (I told you it got worse.)

Hundreds of years of women fighting to be allowed equal opportunities in working life and pay as men, and you get days like this. Is it worth it? Pardon my sweariness, but (please imagine me saying this in full American mode): Ab-so-fucking-lutely.
I tweeted about this last week, but want to put it down on this more permanent record.

In a discussion about American politics last week*, my Austrian colleague stated that in Austria, both of the main political parties in the UK are seen as quite right-wing.

We all had little sit-and-think about that one. >.<

* My colleagues like to wind me up by asking me what I think of D----- T----'s latest gaffe. I think they quite enjoy the spluttering and hand-waving and noises of despair that I am incapable of repressing on hearing his name.
I'm spoiler-immune AND I read the book before I went to see the film, so I will do everyone who is spoiler-sensitive a favour and simply put this entire post behind a cut.

Spoilers, spoilers everywhere I'm sure )

Still, A++++, will def get on DVD and watch again.
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