Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Merry Christmas all

Let's see, Friday was out dancing till 5am or so with the lovely ladies of P, A & M down in the Viaduct. We had quite an audience and left a room of very frustrated men but we were frightfully good and all went home to our own beds alone, apart from Anna who was duly delivered safely back to Benn once we found a taxi. We took good care of her and promise to take her out on a regular basis [and duly deliver her home at some point the next day] :P

Saturday we went up to Bethell's Lake [and Conan's back in town! *huggles*] and damn but that place is beautiful. We walked the long way up the river, beautifully warm, and came home over the dunes. It's indescribably beautiful and looking around at the largely untouched surrounds it's hard not to think of NZ Literature [S. II] and think of the novels written in the nineteenth century and what these women saw when they arrived here. Beauty, silence apart from the cries of birds, and untamed trees far from the streets and grimy bustle of London. It must have been exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The water was freezing to touch but I finally threw back my glass of wine and made a vague attempt to pull Bob in [who, in my defence, was getting ready to leap anyway] and of course missed and managed an ungainly tumble into the freezing water by myself. *g* Bob and Sridat joined in shortly after and Anna was right, I'd have been a fool not to have jumped in because it was gorgeous as long as you could manage to stay warm! [and upwind of Sridat who managed to cunningly position himself against splashing water every time].

Christmas was spent pleasantly with the family, ignoring the diet in favour of chocolate truffles, lounging around with, appropriately, Terry Pratchett's Hogfather and doing family things like teaching Nana how to play Tantrix - which I can't be bothered explaining but it involves tiles, colours and making sure all the intersecting lines match. We've stopped doing Christmas presents now until grandkids show up (don't worry Dad, you've got a couple of years yet) but each year Mum secretly buys a whole bunch of small gifts and there's a sort of Lucky Dip followed by swapping and sharing etc... I think the best thing though was the bubble mix and blowers. We went out and the sun and Mum and I, and then Dad, and Nana watching blew bubbles into the sun with the the light wind carrying them up over the houses into endless blue sky, and through the garden like iridiscent flowers or an attempt by a society grown cynical to bring back the wonder of the fairies

[except of course that in the old myths the fairies were both beautiful and desirable, fearful and dangerous; harbringers of knowledge, of change and of death as they symbolized barriers and taboos that could only be spoken of as subtle subtexts that were justified by signifying them through stories of the fair folk and the goodly neighbours - just as the Greek Furies were renamed the Kindly Ones lest their wrathful eye should turn upon the speaker and he should be judged...]

We've only a small family and it was nice for a change to have the table so laden with food that you actually have to pass food to one another, with the family silver gleaming and wedding china laid out upon the freshly washed cloth.

Boxing Day was spent with friends, most pleasantly, and I think Anna and I polished off a bottle and a half of wine each :) Bless you Benn for agreeing to be the driver! I ended watching The Princess Bride with Paul and Bob and being duly hassled for knowing most of the lines by heart. It is one of the truly classic films and all the better for remembering all the times I've watched it with a bunch of hardcore medieval swordfighters sighing contentedly over the footwork, cheering on the heroes and not at all put out by the soppy parts.

Monday, December 26, 2005

For Anna, Pam & Marieta

Milkshake by Kelis

Chorus: My Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
And their like "It's better than yours"
Damn right, It's better than yours,
I can teach you, but I have to charge (2x)

Vrs1: I know you want it... The thing that makes me,
What the guys go crazy for,
They lose their minds,
The way I wind,
I think it's time...

Vamp: (La-La-La-La-la)
Warm it up, (La-La-La-La-la)
The boys are waiting,
Warm it up, (La-La-La-La-la)
The boys are waiting,

Chorus: My Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
And their like "It's better than yours"
Damn right, It's better than yours,
I can teach you, but I have to charge (2x)

Vrs2: I can see you're on it...
You want me to teach the,
Technics that freaks these boys,
It can't be bought,
Just know theives get caught,
Watch if you're smart,

Vamp: (La-La-La-La-la) Warm it up,
(La-La-La-La-la) The boys are waiting,
(La-La-La-La-la) Warm it up, (La-La-La-La-la)
The boys are waiting,

Chorus: My Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
And their like "It's better than yours"
Damn right, It's better than yours,
I can teach you, but I have to charge (2x)

Bridge: Oh, Once you get involved,
Everyone will look this way so,
You must maintain your charm,
Sametime maintain your halo,
Just get the perfect blend,
Plus what you have within,

Spoken: Then next his eyes are squint,
Then he's picked up your scent,

Vamp: (La-La-La-La-la) Warm it up,
(La-La-La-La-la) The boys are waiting,
(La-La-La-La-la) Warm it up, (La-La-La-La-la)
The boys are waiting,

Chorus: My Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
And their like "It's better than yours"
Damn right, It's better than yours,
I can teach you, but I have to charge (2x)
O, what may man within him hide,
Though angel on the outward side.

Measure for Measure, III.ii.293.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Minimum Wage to increase

Minimum wage to increase

Workers earning the minimum wage will receive a pay rise of nearly eight per cent from March 2006.

Workers earning the minimum wage will receive a pay rise of nearly eight per cent from March 2006, Labour Minister Ruth Dyson announced today. The minimum adult wage, which applies to people over 18 years, will increase from $9.50 to $10.25 an hour from 27 March 2006, the largest increase since the Labour-led government came into office in 1999. The minimum youth wage - for workers aged 16 and 17 years - will also increase by nearly eight per cent, from $7.60 to $8.20 per hour, to stay at 80 per cent of the adult minimum wage. The minimum training wage will increase to the same rate. "The boost in the minimum wage will ensure that lower paid workers share the benefits of economic growth, encourage people to join the workforce and provide protection for some of New Zealand's most vulnerable workers," Ruth Dyson said. "The latest increase will benefit around 91,000 adult workers, most of whom are women, and around 10,000 youth workers. It can be made with confidence in the current economic and labour market conditions, without being at the expense of jobs. "With three months till the changes come into effect, businesses will have time to prepare for the changes." The Minister of Labour reviews minimum wage rates annually for adults, youth and trainees, seeking submissions from a wide range of organisations, including employer, union, Pacific, Maori and women's groups. Ruth Dyson said the government's goal is for the adult minimum wage to reach $12 an hour by the end of 2008, if economic conditions permit.
For more information, employers and employees can contact the Department of Labour at www.ers.dol.govt.nz or free phone 0800 20 90 20.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965). The Waste Land. 1922.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

William Butler Yeats, 'The Stolen Child'

The Stolen Child


Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal-chest.

For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Timeline by Michael Chricton

This Sunday was gloriously lazy. We had the final day of Children's Church for the year and I got to give the kids their prezzies and load them up on sugar as we made gorgeous cookies for the congregation (that became decorated by M&Ms and jelly snakes into smiley faces and mutated Kthuluesque creatures). I went to see King Kong with James and hang out talking for a while afterwards which was nice. Then I got to lie in the sun and combine two particular interests of mind - medieval western European history and quantum mechanics. The nice thing about Michael C. is that he always researches things so well, includes a full bibliography and even when he's stretching science the base is correct and the rest can't help but seem plausible if we could only harness the technology to do so.

The start explains (with diagrams) quite excellently the changing scientific ideas of light being a particle beam, then a wave, and then both. Sridat tried to explain it to me over dinner one night, and also Schrödinger's Cat, but I think I found this clearer (again, the diagrams really do help). Michael then suggests that if there is nothing in our dimension affecting the single photons being shot against the far wall, yet they are moved out of a beam function and intoa wave pattern, then it must be something in an alternate reality. This then gets combined with the idea of an infinite number of parallel universes that are, at any given moment, experiencing any and all moments in time ~ then the quantum particles in the universes most closely parallelling ours could stimulate those exisiting in our perception of reality. This then gets tied in with quantum computing, foam space, wormholes etc... and our heroes end up in fourteenth century France. Interestingly, the book in many ways is substantially different to the movie although I still enjoyed how the movie tured out.
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night.

Romeo and Juliet, III.ii.24-26

It manages to be visciously viscereal and ethereally romantic at the same


I keep meaning to post here but somehow time keeps slipping through my fingers and there's always something else to do and always somewhere else to be. The days grow long and fill with activity and thought; passivity and computers remain relegated to work and not to sunshine hours.

My brother turned 22 on December 13th. It's an auspicious number in our family, not 22 but 13. My mother and her father were both born on August 13 but he passed away when I was younger. I was due actually around then, closer to August 13 as well, wouldn't that have been one for the books - three generations of children born on the same day. But I came in early, six weeks in fact, tiny and not wanting to come out into a cold, strange world.

None of which really has anything to do, at first sight, with the title of this post but we went out for his birthday (my little brother growing so old) and saw the first of the Chronicles of Narnia at the movies in Takapuna - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I grew up reading those books, following their adventures in Narnia and taking comfort in an image of Christ/God that seemed far more comforting then the tangled paths of [differrent cultural times] violence and misogyny in the Old Testament of the Bible. I read all of the books, more than once, and for years we had the BBC versions on videotape. I was worried that the film would be a disappointment. That it wouldn't compare with the BBC miniseries or that, even worse, they would take something unmistakeably British and maul it somehow - like Dumbledore's American accent in Harry Potter 4. Instead, the movie was just right. I loved the opening with the war planes, it fitted in so well with capturing the audience instantly and transporting them back to another time, another war, back into our colonial past when Britain was still the Motherland and the Blitz was on and children were being sent out into the countryside for their own safety....

It's funny though, not realizing how much difference it makes to have read the books. I had several friends comment that the lion just wasn't vicious enough. It seemed strange that the theology upon which C. S. Lewis had built his books could be so easily missed - mercy, compassion, love, courage, willing sacrifice, resurrection, 'forgive us our trespasses O Lord'...
It's much clearer admittedly when you read the entire series as it traverses creation, the resurrection and armageddon. I particularly liked Lewis's vision of a merciful God. His idea was that all those who believed in that which was good, pure and righteous should know God, and know heaven, irregardless of the name they called Him.

"...Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for his oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child?..."
- C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, Chapter 15.


The other big film of course that's out at the moment is Peter Jackson's King Kong. It's funny really, I was being taught Jackson as a key New Zealand director back when I was in Sixth Form and before any of these new successes were even dreamed of. I am, I confess, sincerely glad to be away from the likes of 'Meet the Feebles' as it made me want to spew. I am however glad that he still keeps pieces of New Zealand and of his old humour in his new works. I mean, c'mon the huge phallic worm things (not teethed vaginas as is typical Freud but teethed penises) and the giant prehistoric wetas...I hate bugs, I may have cringed slightly during those scenes.

The movie was fantastic. James desperately wants to me to agree with him and say that it's better than Narnia but the two films fall into entirely different categories. I really enjoyed the original King Kong from the 1930s and I'm glad that Jackson retained so much of it while making it his own. Like the lines which they're acting on the boat were said for real in the original, or the 'natives' dancing around on the stage - that's how they had the natives on the island dress in the first film. It's hard somehow to write long descriptive passages about it when I keep wanting to simply say the brief and undisputable statements. The graphics were awesome and so were the fight scenes. Naomi Watts is hot (with a capital H). The rugged captain had the most damndest blue eyes. Jack Black perfectly portrayed zealous determination descending into an almost demonic madness that so well portrays that the real monsters often wall amongst us unseen. And Kong...was beautifully portrayed.
[A. Serkis - of Gollum fame spent time researching real gorillas and the vocalisations that they make, including what they meant. He rendered all of Kong's vocalisations in the film and they simply artificially lowered his voice an octave or two.]
I cried all the way through the end, right from his horrible captivity, through the beautiful snow play in Central Park, right to the bitter end. It's all so much more poignant knowing that he won't live. Or can't live rather, because in the end tales of star cross'd lovers can only ever be comedy or tragedy if they are to capture us and because all of our instincts, both the conscious and the unconscious that dwell on thoughts of racial or colonial fears and miscegenation, tell us that while we may allow ourselves to grieve at it, that such love can never know a happy ending.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Tanning Lotion

There's nothing like tanning lotion to make you feel particularly awkward and curse your favourite sunbed parlour for not being open outside of standard business hours. I mean first there's the angsting as you just know that inevitably your going to get a streak, a blotch or a handprint somewhere no matter how careful you are! Then you have to stand around awkwardly waiting for it to dry and hoping you don't get dressed too early cause the damn stuff does seem to stain clothes!

Work do

Ah, the morning after the big corporate christmas party....empty seats, cradled heads and the wafting scent of mcdonalds fills the air. We had 300 odd people from our central office of corporate and commercial invited up to the Heritage after work. The women's bathrooms were filled with giggling females as we all got changed, swapped makeup and commented that the last time most of us did this was years ago for high school prom. Most of the guys decided there was no point wasting time getting to the beer and just rocked up in their work gear (c'mon Ross we could see the little National horse on your shirt!). Communication being what it was most people had eaten little and early expecting dinner to be at 6....Instead there was alcohol for two hours or so before the appetisers were served and people were well pissed by the time dinner came out close to eight. In saying that though the fresh steamed salmon was nice and the pavlova was divine. Things had dragged and were looking fairly boring until they brought out the three girl band (well singers plus recorded accompaniment) who rocked things up for several hours. We worked off dinner and many glasses of wine dancing till we dropped on the dance floor - while cursing the lack of young cute guys and the fact that any of the men over forty seemed to want to hit on the girls aged well under thirty. Dammit is it asking too much to want single attractive young men aged between 24-30 to hit on us instead of guys old enough to be our fathers? [okay, well maybe not actually our father's cause dad's in his early fifties now but you get the general idea!].

People were so damn pissed it was hilarious. Luzette and I ended up cracking up over our fake scottish and irish accents [William Wallace, L!]. Emile was so bloody australian that we couldn't stop laughing - and we'll never let him live down eating the dinner roll he found on the floor! The guy who did our training was so off his face! The magic tricks were not too bad considering his hand-eye co-ordination was going but the michael jackson moves and looking like he was humping the wall - just, no...Some very impressive limbo dancing and the first time I've heard people La Bamba in years!

New Diet

So I started a new nutrition and fitness programme a week or so ago (a diet in other words) and it seems to be going well. It's with www.sparkpeople.com, which is the most wixked as website. It's free to join and it takes you through your diet goals and timeframe etc.... and sets a reccommended calorie intake and workouts etc... So, my new calorie range is 1200-1550, average is meant to be 2000 and these days most people are on 2500 or so. It's definitelydoable but damn it was hard watching everyone eating Burgerfuel last night! So, new shopping list of Cape Seed whole wheat bread, the new 99.9% fat free Yoplait yoghurt (which is actually really yummy), scanning calories on tins to compare between brands (there's huge differences!), drinking green tea and eating a ton of veggies. I'm walking home from work every day and doing cardio several times a week plus strength training. The strength training hurts like hell though, probably cause I didn't stretch properly. It looks easy until you've done 60 reps. The site's fantastic though because it supplies all the strength/toning exercises and even has little videos of them to show how to do them properly.


I went to a bbq/birthday party a week or so ago for one of Helen's workmates, Steve, who was just turning thirty. It was one of those standar kind of birthday parties where everyone knows the host and not anyone else...It was good though although oddly enough the ultimate icebreaker ended up being Singstar. It was cool if bizzarre seeing a group of sober to mildly pissed adults singing karoke in the lounge. The modern pop disc got pretty much passed over as because most of the people who were older than Helen and me didnt' recognise the music :P The '80s disc on the other hand proved hugely popular and we spent hours mucking around with the old rock and stuff.
Hauraki to teh win!


Our soccer team seems to be improving. We played our fifth match last night and admittedly we lost again but at least we're not losing by more than one point and both sides are playing tough defense and offense. Tuesday night was fairly spectacular though, apart from the brilliant goals scored by the guys. I played goalkeep for the first time, which went fine until I managed to catch a ball coming in hard and fast with my face! The damn thing hurt like hell and made my head ring but at least I stopped the goal :P Then later Richard C. received a groin shot as g.k. which must have hurt like hell!

This is actually the first time I've played sports apart from some basketball in Intermediate. I was always involved in the arts & culture sort of stuff before - drama, teaching theatresports, choir, debating etc... It's fun, even though I suck :P

Why Green Tea and Red Wine are good for your health

The Miracle of Green Tea
"Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one." (AncientChinese Proverb)

Is any other food or drink reported to have as many health benefits as green tea? The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of green tea since ancient times, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression. In her book Green Tea: The Natural Secret for a Healthier Life, Nadine Taylor states that green tea has been used as a medicine in China for at least 4,000 years. Today, scientific research in both Asia and the west is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking green tea. For example, in 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent. University of Purdue researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol. To sum up, here are just a few medical conditions in which drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful: * cancer * rheumatoid arthritis * high cholesterol levels * cariovascular disease * infection * impaired immune function

What makes green tea so special? The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerfulanti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of bloodclots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke. Links are being made between the effects of drinking green tea and the"French Paradox." For years, researchers were puzzled by the fact that, despite consuming a diet rich in fat, the French have a lower incidence of heart disease than Americans. The answer was found to lie in red wine, which contains resveratrol, a polyphenol that limits the negative effects of smoking and a fatty diet. In a 1997 study, researchers from the University of Kansas determined that EGCG is twice as powerful as resveratrol, which may explain why the rate of heart disease among Japanese men is quite low, even though approximately seventy-five percent are smokers.

Why don't other Chinese teas have similar health-giving properties? Green,oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. What sets green tea apart is the way it is processed. Green tealeaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG compound from being oxidized. By contrast, black and oolong tea leaves are made from fermented leaves, which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases. Other Benefits New evidence is emerging that green tea can even help dieters. In November,1999, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of astudy at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Researchers found that men who were given a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those given only caffeine or a placebo. Green tea can even help prevent tooth decay! Just as its bacteria-destroying abilities can help prevent food poisoning, it can also kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque. Meanwhile, skin preparations containing green tea- from deodorants to creams - are starting to appear on the market.

Harmful Effects? To date, the only negative side effect reported from drinking green tea is insomnia due to the fact that it contains caffeine. However, green tea contains less caffeine than coffee: there are approximately thirty to sixtymg. of caffeine in six - eight ounces of tea, compared to over one-hundred mg. in eight ounces of coffee.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bloody French

French winemakers have in recent times taken to objecting to the use of words like 'champagne' and 'burgundy' and now the buggers have gone and stolen the word 'kiwi' as well. Despite New Zealand label 'Kiwi White' selling in Europe before the establishment of LaChateau's new brand name 'Kiwi Cuvee', they are now banned from selling their product in Europe as French company LaChateau was the first to patent the word 'kiwi' as a trademark for wine. Since Kiwi White lack the money to wage a costly legal battle the French get to trade off on NZ's reputation as a stellar producer of sauvignon blanc.

- care of NZ Herald, 6/12/05

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Well, I finally went and saw the new Harry Potter movie last week. I'd already lost kudos with my Sunday School kids as they'd seen it within a few days of its release and three year old Charlie was proudly telling me that she hadn't been scared at all. It's never an easy task turning a book into a movie, especially a well known book with millions of fans who are sure to turn a critical eye to the endeavour. In the end the movie was well done but despite clocking in at almost three hours it didn't quite feel complete. The director is credited with saying that the problem was that there was toomuch material for one film but not enough to make two. I see his point, I do, but it's hard not to wish that that it could have been just that little bit longer. It's at the start especially that it feels like we're being shown snapshots of wider events and it's a shame they couldn't have shown a little more of the Quidditch World Cup. It's definitely an advantage therefore to have read the books beforehand so that you know the significance of the odd little comments made or moments shown, especially in regards to Snape who receives very little screen time in this film and will figure so predominately in the later books.

On the positive side the graphics in the film are brilliant and they had plenty to work with as the challenges allow them plenty of room to dazzle.The kids are still acting well, although Ron, Harry and Malfoy have already had their mid-teen growth spurt in real life so they look more like 16 yearolds than 14 year olds. The tension between Ron and Harry due to Ron's resentful jealousy of being best friends to a star is well played out and so is Hermione's fed-upness over them being completely oblivious to her being a chick. What did piss me off hugely however is the actor they have playing Dumbledore. I mean for crying out loud, how hard is it to find a remotely elderly male British actor of film or theatre? There's plenty of them and instead they have a bloody American playing a British headmaster and he's useless at holding the accent! He does okay in small parts but he keeps breaking out into this broad American twang that made me want to strangle the casting director.

It's the time for blockbuster's....King Kong and The Lion, the Witch and theWardrobe coming out within the next few weeks, both with Kiwi directors (Peter Jackson and Andrew Adamson respectively) and both shot here; let's hope the tourism market plays its cards right and uses these as good promotional tools.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Random facts cause I'm bored at work:

- The liver is renewed every six weeks.
- The heart muscle is replaced every three months.
- Your red blood cells are totally replaced every 90-120 days.
- Your stomach lining is renewed every 5 days.
- You have new skin every 30 days.
- 98% of all your cells are replaced each year.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"Take my advice, if you meet anything that's going to be human and isn't yet, or used to be human once and isn't now, or ought to be human and isn't, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet."

(C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Handmaid's Tale

I've recently finished The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and thoroughly reccommend it. I actually picked it up because I'd seen it mentioned on another blog, in a discussion about women and female rights I think, which,ultimately, is what this book is an examination of. Or rather, it's an examination of attitudes about, and to, men and women and their role in society.

The following is a bit of a spoiler which you may want to skip if you haven't read the book. The narrative is a bit like art cinema I suppose. The book is less a linear driven narrative of overcome obstacles andachieved goals and rather more like Fassbinder's films which focus more on the lives of the characters and the way they react to circumstances moreso than actively creating them. As Offred tells her story more and more detail is revealed to piece together a picture of how this society came to be. It is essentially a highly controlled caste society under an essentially militant religious regime. Women are either wives, breeders, cooks or servants - apart from the econowives who have to be all four. Marriages are arranged. In a world where sterility has become a huge problem those who are fertile (in that they bore children before 'the world changed') are relegated to being breeders. They are assigned to a man of status and are obliged to have sex with them (with the wife watching). If the continue to not get pregnant then they get reassigned. If the conceive and manage to bear a healthy child then their future is relatively secure - although the child is taken and reared by the wife as her own. However, three strikes and they're out. They are sent away with the old and infirm to essentially act as clean up crews in contaminated areas. Women are also forbidden to read and are restricted to the property of the man they belong to. If they are lucky they may be permitted to pick up the weekly groceries from shops which now have pictorial signs since reading is forbidden to women. That women belong to men is most clearly emphasised by the breeders. Their own names are forbidden and they are now called 'Offred' or'Ofglen' or 'Ofwarren' - a patronymic, composed of the possessive preposition and the first name of the gentleman in question. Men, apart from a few servants, are in the military. They hope to gain enough status to be allocated a wife and eventually a breeder as well. In the meantime, homosexuality, dating, porn, masturbating etc.... are all illegal and punishable by death or torture. Meanwhile, the rest of the world goes on. There's still a limited tourist trade and to them America's new cultural customs are quaint and merely a curiousity. The scariest thing about the book is that this isn't set far in the future, it's not an alternative reality and this society is restricted to one country. It's described as a society that could occur today given the right circumstances and those are already beginning to come into play (bar the mutated STD causing sterility on a large scale).

America is already nervous about an enemy given to them by the government and the press. It is not an enemy located nearby, there is no war immediate within their neighbourhoods, but, nevertheless, there is an enemy. Think along the lines of the Cold Waror the War on Terror. There is a coup and the old government is dead, replaced by a regime that has 'the good of the nation' at heart and desires to 'protect them from the enemy'. The government then does what Hitler did and declares a perpetual state of emergency. Curfews are gradually introduced, propaganda continues, military recruitment is stepped up, patriotism is hyped. This continues on for some time and the public accepts it. Then, one day, across the nation new legislation is introduced and immediately enforced. All women's passports are cancelled, their bank accounts are closed and transferred to their husband or nearest male relative, they are forbidden to work. Suddenly they have no funds and no way of escaping. Some men try and flee with their families to Mexico or Canada, if they can obtain the passports and visas to get past the heavily armed border patrols. Others simply accept it and women are told not to worry, that women are required to be kept safe and nurture their families for the duration of the war. Gradually society is switched entirely onto a war footing. Subversives - political opponents, those of other religions -are tracked down and executed. A new society is created. The book examines the way that a society can radically alter and the way that there will always be those who will embrace it, those who will passively accept it and those few who will try and actively oppose it - the difficulty being that, as in Germany, there are spies everywhere and everyone is encouraged to report 'deviance from the party line' in the hope of personal promotion or reward.