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October 17th 2016
Although I often write here about some of the bigger political issues of the day, I have so far steered clear of writing about the US presidential election. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, I don't really know much about American politics (apart from what I have gleaned from headlines and the West Wing boxed set); secondly, I tend not to bother writing the same thing that everyone else is already saying. That is, I'm not sure how much I can contribute to the world by writing another blog post about how Trump is awful, and I'm certainly not going to write one that says he isn't. However, I am approaching the topic of the election today, a little tangentially.
Given that the election is now Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, it is perhaps unsurprising that it has been framed in some quarters - much more than Theresa May vs. Jeremy Corbyn has been, so far - as woman vs. man (and, let me say, if that's the battle we're having then Donald Trump is not the man I'd have picked to represent us). I've seen quite a lot during this election - mostly on social media, and mostly from people I don't directly know - about what men are like, and in particular about how Donald Trump exemplifies this. What's different now is that it's not just women making these comments.
Previously, I read women saying things like: yes, of course Hillary coped well with being interrupted by Donald during the debates, because women are always interrupted by men - didn't you men ever notice before? And now it's men saying: yes, Donald used some unpresidential language to talk about women, but that's just how men talk when women aren't around - didn't you women know that?
The difficulty in contradicting the first kind of statement - that men interrupt women - is that doing so plays into the narrative of men trying to silence women and denying their experiences. So, even though I'm certainly not aware of interrupting women any more than I interrupt men; even though I'm aware of it happening the other way round; even though the logic falls apart completely ("The only reason that you've noticed a man interrupting a woman is that you never notice men interrupting women"), there was nothing to be gained in setting out a rebuttal. But I can certainly contradict the second statement.
I won't dwell on the content of Trump's comments, which were so bad that even he felt he needed to apologise for them (sort of) - you can read them here if they've escaped your notice - but they reveal an attitude towards women in general that is entirely repugnant. The word 'misogynist' is thrown around with careless abandon on the internet, with some people willing to ascribe misogyny to anyone who makes any criticism of any woman, but Trump's comments are indisputably misogynistic. Well, I say 'indisputably', but there have been a number of Trump supporters willing to defend him of that charge: it was just 'locker room' talk, and the kind of thing that all men do. Well, all 'real men', anyhow.
I don't know if I count as a real man for the purposes of this - I own a spirit level, if that helps; I have never used it, though - but I can confirm that I would not talk about women in the way that Trump did. And I have rarely heard other men do so, inside a locker room or out. (There is an amusing advert in which Anna Kendrick describes herself as being "hot to the kind of guys who, like, feel bad calling a girl hot", and that's really more my speed). So it is unpleasant to be tarred with the same brush that some of Trump's supporters merrily tar him with.
The thing is, I think it is very easy to fall into the trap of believing that our own experiences are more or less universal - for example, Trump probably thinks that his behaviour is indeed common to the majority of men, because it's how he and his friends act and behave. This can happen to much better men than Trump: I remember my good friend Rob commenting, while watching a football match at his local pub, that he enjoyed the fact that this scene was being played out more or less the same across the country; I had to contradict him, as I'd never watched a football match in an atmosphere like that. In that instance it was likely to be a class thing - it was a fairly working class pub, and most of my football-watching has been middle class - but it serves as an example of how what we view as normal can be entirely alien to others. I have written on the same theme on this page before, concerning alochol consumption.
I am neither arrogant nor humble enough to believe that I am the same as everyone else. I have weaknesses and failures enough that I don't think are common to the majority of men - I am keenly aware of that - and I have gifts, too, that I belive are not unanimously held. So I do not claim to speak on behalf of all men (I suspect most would be grateful that I do not), but my point is that we are not all the same. Not even remotely. There aren't any traits at all that are common to all men, and I'm not even convinced there are many which are common to the majority. I mean, there are 3.5 billion of us around, and even if you're just talking about white western men - which I think many commenters are - there are still comfortably hundreds of millions. So when I read that men are comfortable with asking for raises, or stating their mind in office meetings, or, yes, interrupting women, I do wonder exactly who these men are.
And I know that there's a meme on this - #notallmen - which suggests that men who question these blanket statements are engaging in their own misogyny (inevitably) by distracting from the problems faced by women. Sorry about that. Not my intention. And, if I can't speak on behalf of all men, I most certainly cannot speak on behalf of all women.
Getting back to Trump - and by way of example of just how alien his outlook is to me - the message comes through from his commments and behaviour that he believes any woman he likes (wants?) will automatically reciprocate. Or, at least, acquiesce. My own assumption is precisely the reverse, and while I'm certainly not recommending my character in this respect, I am flabbergasted by the confidence of the man - however misplaced - and saddened if, even with the coarse language and actions removed, it is widely believed that this is common to all men. I know that men are not the victims here, but it doesn't make life any easier.
All of this is by way of saying that I don't know what men are like - and I don't know what women are like - and half the time I barely know what I'm like, either. But I do know that I'm not like Donald Trump. And I'm pretty sure you're not, either. Let's leave him out of this.
(Oh, and if the man vs. woman thing ever does kick off in anger, I've given it some thought and I'm nominating Tom Hanks for our side).

October 24th 2016
Bob Dylan has recently been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and apparently they're giving it to him whether he wants it or not. I'm not exactly a keen follower of the Nobel Prize - let's be honest, Dylan is the first winner that anyone's heard of since Harold Pinter in 2005 - but I'm a big fan of Dylan and I applaud any recognition he receives. After the Beatles, he is my favourite artist.
To celebrate the occasion, here's a list of all 37 of his studio albums, with a track from each hand-picked by yours truly. Actually, a handful of them I've left blank on the basis that I haven't heard anything from the album; I've put asterisks by all the albums that aren't in my collection (but in some cases I know at least one track anyway). In many cases the songs I've chosen are my favourite from the album, but for others I've just picked an interesting track. Enjoy.
1. Bob Dylan: House of the Risin' Sun
2. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan: Blowin' in the Wind
3. The Times They Are a-Changin': The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
4. Another Side of Bob Dylan: I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
5. Bringing It All Back Home: Subterranean Homesick Blues
6. Highway 61 Revisited: Ballad of a Thin Man
7. Blonde on Blonde: Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
8. John Wesley Harding: All Along the Watchtower
9. Nashville Skyline: Girl from the North Country
10. Self-Portrait: Blue Moon
11. New Morning: If Not for You
12. Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid: Knockin' on Heaven's Door
13. Dylan*: [...]
14. Planet Waves: Forever Young
15. Blood on the Tracks: Tangled Up in Blue
16. The Basement Tapes: This Wheel's On Fire
17. Desire: One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)
18. Street-Legal: Changing of the Guards
19. Slow Train Coming: Precious Angel
20. Saved: Saved
21. Shot of Love: Every Grain of Sand
22. Infidels: Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight
23. Empire Burlesque: Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love)
24. Knocked Out Loaded*: Brownsville Girl
25. Down in the Groove*: Silvio
26. Oh Mercy: Ring Them Bells
27. Under the Red Sky*: Under the Red Sky
28. Good as I Been to You: Tomorrow Night
29. World Gone Wrong*: [...]
30. Time Out of Mind: Make You Feel My Love
31. Love and Theft: Cry a While
32. Modern Times: Workingman's Blues #2
33. Together Through Life: Life is Hard
34. Christmas in the Heart: Must Be Santa
35. Tempest: Roll on John
36. Shadows in the Night: What'll I Do
37. Fallen Angels*: [...]


what was I listening to?
Tempest - Bob Dylan
what was I reading?
Firefly: A Celebration - Joss Whedon et al
what was I watching?
Edge of Tomorrow
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