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Why? Who? What's this blog about? It's about MEEEE!

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My experience of dealing with grief as a widow

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About Jane's brain tumour journey: Astrocytoma.co.uk
 

Madchen in Uniform (1931)

29 February 2008


After having seen Loving Annabelle, I decided to finally check out Madchen in Uniform, the film it is supposedly based on. It is easy to see why the two films are compared but the only similarities are that they are both set in a boarding school and a girl falls for her teacher. Obviously in the 1931 movie, there is a lot of longing and declaring of love but nothing actually happens and, as would become the norm for lesbians on the screen, the main character tries to kill herself at the end.

Madchen in Uniform was first released in Germany in 1931 and caused quite a stir. A re-make was done in 1958 with Romy Schneider but that film is nowhere near as dark and upsetting as the original and it almost completely removes the emotional connection between the student and the teacher. When they tried to re-release the original, it fell victim to a Hollywood code that prohibited works “possessing the flavor of sexual irregularity or perversion." Despite that, the film actually won quite a few prizes at festivals in the 30s.

The Nazis tried to ban the film and most copies were destroyed. Most of the actors were Jewish and died in the concentration camps. There is a version on YouTube with English sub-titles.

The film is a landmark in lesbian films and is probably as important to the history of queer cinema as Radclyffe Hall's book "The Well of Loneliness" was to queer literary history.
Keep Reading: "Madchen in Uniform (1931)"

I feel the earth move...

27 February 2008

Funny how things take on a different meaning sometimes. Last night, England was shaking with an earthquake that measured 5.3 on the Richter scale. I have never felt an earthquake before and I was out of bed in a flash (I am talking within 2 seconds, upright, out of bed and wide awake). I don't like quakes when living on the top floor in a flat.

Anyway, in a week of earth shattering events, the quake last night seemed somehow appropriate.

JD's father died on Saturday night after having been ill on and off for the past few months.

Yesterday, we were told by the neurosurgeon that JD's brain scan has thrown up some questions about the tumour perhaps, slightly, maybe, changing size. He said it was almost negligible and nothing to worry about but in an already emotional week, we just wanted to hear him say: "We looked at your MRI scan and there is nothing to see. See you for another check up in a year. Goodbye." We did not want to hear him say that he will discuss the scan with his colleagues and see if they need to do a biopsy. Basically, one of the doctors says he has noticed a tiny difference between the latest scans and the ones done last year. JD's own neurosurgeon says he can not see any difference hence it will need to be discussed with other doctors. It may not be much, but it is still not the same as "No change".

Damn. It breaks my heart to see JD so sad. I would prefer it if she just cried all day or something. A clear emotion. But she is just quiet and sad. I wish I could make it all go away.
Keep Reading: "I feel the earth move..."

My Lesbian Self: Loving Annabelle

22 February 2008


Every once so often, I get a bit tired of living in a straight world. TV shows, films, books; all produced with straight couples. Fair enough as the majority of mankind is straight. Not problem with that. Just every once so often, I like to watch a film about two women meeting up, falling in love or whatever the story line is. A film where the central characters are not straight but, in a way, a bit more like me. A book where I am able to picture the love between two people in a way that relates to me.

Of course love is universal and as such, I can totally love a story about a man and a woman because the feelings are not much different. Just sometimes I would like to see two women making out on TV. Or see the tension build between two women who are clearly falling for each other but don't know it yet. You know, the regular stuff but about two women. Just so that I can skip the 'extra' step of relating to it even though it is about a man and a woman.

And so, my most recent 'Lesbian Discovery' centres around a film called "Loving Annabelle". Not being really 'in' with the lesbian crowd, I had no idea this film existed and that there is a proper cult following on the internet for this. Sometimes films get a cult status even when they problably don't really deserve it, based on their quality. But it is a sweet little film.

Annabelle is a charismatic and enchanting (read: good looking girl with great hair. Dammit I want hair like that!) new student who quickly draws attention for her rebellious behavior. Fearing Annabelle will influence the other students, Simone, the poetry teacher with the apparent will power of a wet lettuce leaf, is instructed, to keep an eye on Annabelle and get her under control.

Simone, however, quickly learns that the real challenge is not Annabelle's behavior but the attraction budding between the two. As Annabelle pursues her teacher, quite relentlessly and, a few times, really inappropriately as well (I mean, I don't think my teacher would just have given me a sweet smile or just walked away if I had put my hand on her leg in a totally suggestive way!), she unleashes the passion that has been locked deep inside Simone, who must decide whether or not to enter into an affair that could cost her everything.

I know, it sounds really bad but it is quite sweet actually. Good acting, a lot of Deep Pensive Staring, a lot of sighing and lustful looks, and when they finally do give in to temptation, it is quite hot!

The film is not really very good when you dissect it totally and there are huge leaps of imagination asked of the viewer (the Deleted Scenes on the DVD really should have stayed in the film to make stuff a lot clearer). But I don't really mind. It is a wonderful film with a nice looking actress and a really hot looking one. And they kiss in the end. So what more can I wish for but 79 minutes (yes, far too short) of immersing myself in the slightly taboo world of a 17 year old pupil hitting on her teacher.

Keep Reading: "My Lesbian Self: Loving Annabelle"

But I wanted Hillary!!

20 February 2008

In The Netherlands, we have the Voting Guide. This online 'quiz' helps you to determine which political party suits you best so that you can make an informed choice during the elections. I find it a very useful and, quite often, revealing, tool.

There is also one for the American presidential elections that helps you to pick the candidate that suits you best.



I will never vote Republican so the choice is between Obama & Clinton. I personally support Hillary Clinton but I have no real reason for this as I know nothing about her politics. Perhaps it really is as simple as: she is a woman and wouldn't that be awesome in the White House.

I did the Candidate Match Quiz and to my surprise, I did not even get close to Clinton OR Obama as my favorite candidate. I was relieved that 2 out of the 3 suggestions were at least Democrats but Mitt Romney?!?!?!?! And it turns out I should still prefer Obama over Clinton.

Interestingly, I found myself thinking about the answers, trying to guess which ones would match Clinton's, rather than trying to answer them completely unbiased. I am SURE I am not the only one doing this, as we always try to match our opinions to people we like to win and we always like to see our beliefs confirmed, rather than being told your opinion is not backed up by facts.

As soon as I finished the test, I noticed that you can decide which issues weigh heavier in the calculations. Obviously this means this can change which candidate suits you most. Because I really wanted to match myself to Clinton, I started thinking of issues she would probably find most important and then adjusted the sliders to get 'closer' to Clinton. It did not work. if I kept my answers the same (i.e. as honest to my own opinion) but changed the importance of certain issues, the only change was that Mitt Romney was substituted in 3rd place by Obama. No matter what I tried, I could not even get Clinton in to 3rd place.

Obviously, the whole idea is to challenge your own beliefs, rather than setting the quiz up in a way that will confirm them.

I think all Americans should do this quiz. Just to check if the candidate they support actually stands for what they believe in.

And yet, I would still vote for Clinton. Because I think a woman in The White House would kick ass. And that proves that even someone like me, someone who considers herself open to facts, rather than impressed by image, really, in the end, when it comes down to it, relies on gut feeling, rather than fact when it comes to picking a candidate. That leaves me very open to being influenced by rhetoric, rather than facts.

That makes me feel worried.
Keep Reading: "But I wanted Hillary!!"

Yay! (and not so yay)

17 February 2008

Went to see Alison Moyet this week. Stunning. Absolutely fantastic. Shame about the people of Northampton being just about the most boring audience I have ever been in! Nobody really moved, claped or cheered much. Other shows haev seen great banter between Alison & the audience but not so in Northampton. I hope she knows many people still thought it was fabulous. I certainly did.

Another rugby win this week. 39-12 I think it was today. No fighting this time :-)

JD & I were celebratnig being together for 5 years. Wow. 5 years. I never thought I would ever be with anyone for 5 years. An eternity. But still nice and lovely. Up to the next 5 years. And then some. Hopefully.

On the Not so Yay front, JD's father is in hospital again. He was in earlier this month for a chest infection. They let him out but he has gone back in today because he was coughing up blood again. :-( I hope he recovers this time but, sad as that may seem, I told JD that if there are things she feels she needs to discuss with her father, she should probably do it sooner rather than later. He is 70 years old and his health is not really getting any better.
Keep Reading: "Yay! (and not so yay)"

If the result is the same...thoughts on Corporate Social Responsibility

12 February 2008


*Boring article alert*

Let me apologise first for what is to follow. I never thought I would ever be able to think this deeply about CSR and still not understand it!

JD is doing her PhD on Corporate Social Responsibility and we frequently discuss the difference between Marketing-led CSR (i.e. CSR for the benefit of marketing exposure and enhanced profits) and so-called Ideology-led CSR: CSR from an ideological point of view. A more 'selfless' approach.

Perhaps it is because I do not know much about the whole topic but I struggle with a fundamental question about it.

Does it matter if a company does CSR only to get good marketing exposure if the result of the CSR efforts are the same as a company that does it for ideological reasons?

If I give £100 to a good cause because it gets me good publicity, is that £100 worth less than the £1000 that was donated by someone who strongly believes in the idea of empowerment or whatever else that charity does?

Is the reason behind it as important as the outcome? Should we distrust companies that send their staff to build orphanages in Sri Lanka and give it lots of press attention to improve their profit and applaud companies that send their staff to Sri Lanka to build orphanages because they passionately believe in the cause and so they do not try to get much marketing mileage out of it?

For example, I came across this quote from the Gala Coral Group's website:

We believe that by being socially responsible as a company, not only will Gala Coral become more profitable, it will be a better place to work.

How come as soon as profit and CSR go hand-in-hand, it is called Marketing-led CSR? As if that is a bad thing that should be distrusted.

Another example: Marks & Spencer. They are really heavily in to CSR. Their current boss really believes in it and is a strong champion of introducing changes throughout the entire business: ethical sourcing of clothes, food, organic stuff, no more plastic bags, get discount when recycling M&S clothes at Oxfam and what have you. But believe me, as soon as the profits are seriously affected by this new direction, it will be the first policy to be dropped. They will replace the boss with one who focuses again on the bottom line and all these CSR policies will be abandoned. They are currently getting loads of good PR from it all and are seen as a company with 'pure' motives in the whole process.

But really, they too simply practice marketing-led CSR. On their own website it says:

CSR can help us to draw shoppers to our stores, attract and retain the best staff, make us a partner of choice with suppliers and create value for our shareholders.

Not a word on how their CSR policies are good for the stakeholders.

Of course a lot of marketing-led CSR is usually just cosmetic, green-washing to make it look like they care so you buy their stuff, and can therefore not be compared to Ideology-led CSR. This discussion may therefore be purely theoretical but even so...

If Nestle decide to create a separate Fair Trade coffee product and they say:"Look at us being all CSR", We all know it is really just a marketing ploy. Because if they really believed in Fair Trade, they would overhaul their business and make all their coffee Fair Trade.

But take a company like Ben & Jerry's, the ice cream people. They founded the company on a basis that a business needs to take responsibilities in society. it does therefore a lot of good things for the community. That is of course a really good thing. But in the end, at the bottom line, the company needs to make a profit. So no matter how much money they donate to good causes, no matter how much more they are willing to pay for Fair Trade ingredients and locally sourced goods, there comes a point where they have to say: Sorry, but if we do this, we will no longer be profitable. And that would of course be the end of the company.

Is the difference merely in the marketing approach to how they communicate their actions? M&S said good CSR will make them attractive to shareholders, suppliers, staff and shoppers (not mentioning it will also be good for the people in the 3rd world, the environment etc). Ben & Jerry's say their CSR will help poor people, help the world and whatever else good they do (not mentioning it will also make people want to buy their stuff and increase profits for shareholders). So just by focusing on the OTHER parties that will benefit from CSR, Ben & Jerry's look like they 'really mean it' and M&S just looks like it is all about the profit in the end.

Maybe it is all just clever marketing, rather than true Ideology-led CSR?

So does that not mean that Ideology-led CSR simply can not be possible? I mean, in the end, it really is about what is left at the bottom of the balance sheet. Are there rules for how much a company needs to engage in CSR be seen as Ideology-led CSR, rather than the more cynical Marketing-led CSR? Is it marketing-led when you draw the line at 40% of the profit or is it Ideology-led CSR when you are willing to sacrifice 70% of the profit? 86% perhaps? 100%?
Keep Reading: "If the result is the same...thoughts on Corporate Social Responsibility"

Disappointment...

04 February 2008

I am impulsive. I react instantly when I feel something is unjustified. Sometimes I react too loudly or too intensely. If people have some kind of problem with me, I much rather they come up to me and tell me they don't like me. Fine. I can handle that. I'll stop trying to get you to like me.

Yesterday in a rugby match, I got into some verbal spat with a team mate. For some reason I feel that she seems to have taken a dislike to me. That is fine. We can not all be friends with everyone. People make me nervous though, when it seems they 'just don't like me'. I never understand how to deal with that. And so I tend to react extra strong when something happens between me and that person.

And so yesterday, I had the ball and the ref blew his whistle. But I did not hear that. My motto is: keep going until you are told to stop. This is important because sometimes the referee plays the advantage rule and lets play continue, instead of stopping it. So I kept driving forward, calling for my team mates to drive forward with me. Until someone pulled me back, telling me to stop. But not the way it normally goes. Not: "Stop, the whistle has gone!", the way it normally goes. No, she was telling me off in no uncertain terms for not stopping. I do not remember the exact words but it was along the lines of "what the hell are you doing man! Geez, calm down, the ref had blown his whistle so what the hell are you doing going on like that!"

That really pissed me off as I felt I wasn't doing anything strange. Everyone knows it is hard to hear with a scrumcap over your ears. And so I told her: "What the fuck? Can you not talk normally to me? I am not an idiot! I just didn't hear the whistle. For fuck's sake!" I shook my body away from her and stormed off for a few steps whilst composing myself again. I just felt treated like a child and I just got really angry about it. No problem. I played the rest of the match without talking to her. Stuff happens.

Later that evening I got a phonecall from our captain who wanted to discuss the issue because she had heard I had been involved in a spat with a team mate and some people (of course she could not say who) thought they saw me hit her later during the match. Excuse me?! What the fuck?! Turns out the girl had a split lip after the match and some people thought that perhaps they may have seen that a few minutes after my little outburst, I deliberately took a swing at her in a ruck.

Now a lot of things happen on a rugby pitch and it is not uncommon that you get hit by your own team mates by accident, when lying on the floor or tackling someone. But the suggestion that I had hit her more or less on purpose because I had shouted at her earlier on was just beyond ridiculous. And what's more, nobody had spoken to me about it. No, they had voiced their concerns to the captain who then called me. it was all very vague of course. no accusations but people were 'concerned' and 'thought something might have happened' and when they noticed the split lip, they just thought it might be related.

What a load of fucking shite is that? Does that mean people think I would do such a thing? if so, then I don't know if I want to be in a team with people who think that of me.

I sent the girl a text message, telling her that I did not know how the story got started but that I do not hit team mates. No reply of course. But that is it as far as I am concerned. I will not apologise for something I did not do and I will not apologise for shouting at her during the match as it was just a spat during a match. I'll see how things go at training on Wednesday. if I have the idea people are talking behind my back, I'll be out of there in no time and I won't come back. I refuse to be insulted like that.

Mind you, I have quite a few nasty bruises from the match yesterday. I could always vaguely imply that I think I might know how I got those... (see how ridiculously large that jump is from a bruise to the assumption it might have been deliberate)
Keep Reading: "Disappointment..."

Shopping with ADHD

01 February 2008


Some days, I forget to take my medication om the morning. This is not normally a problem and I tend to get through my day just fine. The only difference tends to be that I then also forget it at 1pm and again at 5pm. Still, not really a big problem as I do not have a very complicated, stressfull job.

But after 32 years, I should know better than attempting to go shopping on my own when I am 'off my meds'. Yesterday, I took JD to her fencing training and I set off for Tesco. I had a shopping list ready but I knew there were things we needed that were not on the list. The TESCO where I went is huge, absolutely enormous and getting lost and confused is easily done for anyone, let alone poor folks with ADHD like me.

I had 2 hours to complete the shopping. Enough time you'd think. Wrong.
First it went wrong when I noticed the Lidl was still open so I could go and get some of the stuff on the list for much cheaper by getting it there. So I did. But that confused me because I then had to remember what was normally cheaper at TESCO and what is better at Lidl.

I then entered TESCO already in a state of confusion. I spent the next 2 1/2 hours there and for every item I took off the shelves, the decision making process was something like this:

List says: Meat.

I think: Oh yes. Meat. What kind of meat. Pork. Yes, right. Where is the pork in this place? Oh yes, there. Now, what kind of pork? organic? Free Range ?Cheap? well, I SHOULD buy Organic as I want to do my bit. But I can not afford it right now. So I should buy cheap. But I don't like to buy cheap because I want to buy Organic. OK, non-Organic free-range as a mille-range solution. What kind of cut? Loin, chop, leg, belly? Hmm..I don't know, I don't know. Maybe I should just buy the pork chops from the frozen section? They might be cheaper. But maybe not. Right. Non-Organic Free Range it is then.

Right. One product in the trolley, only a whole shop left to go...

A similar process then occurs when buying lamb, beef, pasta sauce, pasta (wholemeal? Organic? Fusilli? Penne? Macaroni?) cereal, bread (Bagels? Croissants? Wholemeal of white? Thin, thick or medium sliced? Maybe pain au chocolat? )

As I went through the store, time was ticking away. I had to pick JD up from her fencing class and I was aware that the whole thing was taking a ridiculously long time, I still had stuff to get and then to check-out and then a 10 minute drive to JD. I started to feel stressed and panicky. This only made things worse as the whole process did not stop and trying to speed it up in my head just makes it worse as for some reason the decision is not made any faster and the two parts of my brain go and argue with each other:

Left side: "Come on, make a decision already!"
Right side: "Hang on, I am still thinking about it. I need to make theright choice here!"
Left side: "Yes I know, but time is running out, you need to leave now."
Right side: "I know I know, give me a minute OK."
Left side: "We do not have a minute. Hurry up!"
Right side: "Ok, I'll just have this one."
Left side: "Finally"
Right side: "Or maybe the other one is better"
Left side: "AARRGGHHH!! You are useless!"

it is difficult to explain to someone who does not have a similar problem as ADHD but there is simply nothing you can do about this once your brain goes in to this process. The whole trip just becomes extremely stressful, takes forever and in the end, you are still unhappy and unsure about the choices you have made.

In the end, I left the store at 10.15pm to pick JD up and I had not even managed to get to the fruit & vegetable section! So, I was late, took 2 hours and only managed part of the list! I felt upset and useless and had a little cry. JD said: it is heartbreaking to hear you go through that stress all the time. Sweet girl.

My own fault though. I should have taken my meds or at least known that it was not a good day to go shopping.

Needless to say I took them this morning. After all, I'll need to do fruit & veggie shopping later today!
Keep Reading: "Shopping with ADHD"