vagNerve-endings, wet-dreams and pubic hair; true to form, television series Gavin and Stacey stars Margaret John and Joanna Page, and broadcaster Sian Lloyd don’t beat around the bush. Pun intended.
Based on author Eve Ensler’s vagina interviews, conducted with women from all over the world, Vagina Monologues is part Sex and the City, part hearth-side gossip. At times it will have you crying with laughter; at others with heart-wrenching sadness.
Although superficially the play explored a woman’s relationship with her genitals, the three actresses highlighted some of the issues which have historically plagued women world-wide.
Inevitably many of the women interviewed shared the same fears, insecurities and secret pleasures, and the performance relied on these themes for its depth and humour – it is a monumental landmark in understanding and celebrating female sexuality without the burn-your-bra form of feminism which alienates so many.
Although dated (the play was written in the 90s and features a Bosnian rape victim), Vagina Monologues is essentially geared towards the middle-aged and older generations and the performance sometimes felt forced, with over-zealous shock statements slapped in for good measure.
On the other hand, this only highlighted the shift in attitudes towards women and their bodies over the last 40 years, making many of the monologues all the more poignant.

The Vagina Monologues is a mass female visit to the therapist, and aims to put to bed unhealthy, but ingrained, attitudes towards women and their sexuality. But while the topics are still relevant, it is high time they were re-addressed and re-vamped.

Hair: what to do with it?

Here come the girls…

February 4, 2009

 

dsc02421The Buffalo Bar on Windsor Place is one of the funkiest places to go in Cardiff most nights of the week.

Last Thursday they hosted ‘Buffalo Boutique’, a retro clothes sale, when the whole upstairs dance floor was transformed into a boudoir complete with dimmed lights and a feast of vintage clothes, hand-made accessories and nicknacks. 

The best stand was probably Kitty’s Corsets, a beautiful collection of corsets, fabulous Edwardian-style lace umbrellas and, oddly, a weird and wonderful array of nipple tassels. Kitty designed and made everything herself, and she was there selling her wares, setting the scene nicely by wearing a deliciously sexual black and red corset over her dress, voluptuous breasts barely contained.

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Girls swarmed in their dozens, polite, but barely concealing their frantic scrabble for the occasional gem lying among the hats, shoes, jumpers and dresses. The earrings were a particular favourite – and cheap to boot – most pairs were just £2.

Buffalo regularly hold events like this so watch out for the next one on their website. At only £3 a ticket the evening was certainly good value, particularly for a girls’ night out. 

For the boyfriends and male company waiting (maybe not so) patiently downstairs, there was a vast array of special beers and good music. Boys beware: the atmosphere on ‘the boys floor’ was uncannily reminiscent of outside a Topshop changing room!

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dsc02487Any act which begins: “Ladies, gentlemen and people from Splott”, is sure to get a Cardiff audience riled up and ready to go.

Essex lad Russell Kane‘s intelligent performance consisted of pulling the carpet from underneath traditional family relationships, and humorously examining his theory of flaws; an analysis of the British psycology, it’s threshold of affection and love of all things broken or worn. 

Although a little unsure of how to approach the Welsh/English divide, Kane battled through his obvious discomfort to comically evaluate his fixation with his father. Obviously the guy is a very troubled soul, but incredibly entertaining nonetheless, and it is always thoroughly enjoyable to see the flaws of our fellow men and women being reenacted onstage.

Click here for tour dates.

Googlemap key: Red: pubs closed in 07/08 (compiled by British Beer and Pub Association). Blue and Purple: Local pubs in operation (purple indicates multimedia).

As you wonder through the streets and suburbs of Cardiff, though there are numerous bars and clubs jostling for attention with their bright signs and funky beats, it is only after searching that you will find a lonely and forlorn traditional local pub, squeezed between fast-food outlets and yet another Wetherspoons.The Rummer Tavern

Despite falling steadily in number, paint cracking and décor worn, they stand resolutely among them almost as a relic from another time, serving as a reminder of the days when they held the city together.

Figures released by the British Beer and Pub Association last year revealed 27 pubs per week closed throughout the UK in 2008, with Wales particularly affected. And despite being the commercial hub and lifeline of the Welsh economy, Cardiff has not escaped the head-count.

November’s pre-budget rise of 6% on alcohol duty added to the existing pressure on the pub trade. But will this mean last orders for local pubs already struggling to survive after the smoking ban in 2007?

High prices have driven punters to drink in their homes, where they can avoid crippling alcohol prices and enjoy a cigarette with their beverage.

But although a range of factors – from a crackdown on drink driving to, dare I say it, the credit crunch – have contributed to the problems these establishments are facing, as modern life has changed, so have the drinking habits of Cardiff’s young.The Pen and Wig

Rhys Williams is 22 and lives in Cardiff Bay. He said: “I don’t really have a local. We just go into town. There’s a few clubs and bars I normally go when I’m out, but if I just wanted a beer or something I’d probably go round to my mates house.”

Grangetown, a traditional working-class community in Cardiff, was once an area where local watering holes flourished, providing labourers from the nearby docks with a much-needed pint after a hard-days work.

But the closure of local pubs, like the Lord Winston in Grangetown, indicates the changing traditions and local pastimes of the city.

Yasir Tufail, 27, has lived in Grangetown all his life. He said: “Loads of pubs are closing down because the drinking culture’s changed, people drink at home.”

He added: “We [Muslims] are always told not to drink even though we do. So we don’t really go to the pubs. Pub people play football because of the drinking culture. We do boxing instead”.

Rita Feresey, who has worked at The Grange for 36 years, said although there are still some regulars at the pub, most of the young now go to the city centre, and feels sorely the loss of community spirit which local pubs brought to the area.

But The Golden Cross, a listed building and one of the few gay bars in Cardiff, has managed to hold on to its customers, and say business is still booming despite the smoking ban.

Manager Richard Anderson said: “in theory it’s a gay bar so that’s why we get in a lot of the local gay population, the same as the Kings Cross up the road.”

“Because we’ve got such a loyal clientel, this place will always stay open. There’s not many gay bars in Cardiff, they’ve got to have some place to go.”

Pubs have played an important role in British life over the centuries. So much so that Wales without its public houses is hard to imagine.

But the face of Cardiff is continually changing. The Vulcun on Adam Street, built in 1853, is one of the oldest pubs in Cardiff and is due to be pulled down this year to make way for St David’s 2 car park. (Click here for Save The Vulcan facebook group).

Brian Smart, who works at The Vulcan said: “they should have developed the area and left the pub. That would have been the best plan. But they [the council] don’t see it that way.”

Many a pub in Butetown has struggled to keep its head above water since the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay, so I spoke to Tina Paulakis, owner of the Albion in Penarth and South Glamorgan Brains winner of CAMRA (Campaign for real Ale) in 2008, to find out how she managed to reinvent her pub.

(Click here)

Communities drastically divided by these redevelopments have left local pubs, and the traditions they bring with them, to be cleared out along with the rubble.

The human nose for sniffing out the simplest and most effective way to fornicate should not be ignored.

And internet dating is, shock horror, becoming a socially acceptable way of meeting people.

Of course there are the still the perverts and sad old men out there, but more and more people are beginning to understand the appeal of dating services that never close. Busy people can now avoid being discovered three weeks after they died alone in a one-bedroomed flat, having been gnawed by Alsatians (Bridget Jones’ greatest fear). 8642751

Do I sense the prick of ears from fellow underpaid and undersexed journalists? Deadlines, early mornings and late nights do no favours to our wild-eyed and over-worked complexions. Is a CV comprising of a well-angled photograph and witty one-liner beginning to sound appealing to anyone in the dating market?

According to Caroline Marcus of the Sydney Morning Herald, the future of TV is also online.

Thats Why You’re Single is a dating television show due to be released on Yahoo7 this December. It is shown in five minute snatches throughout the day to fit in with all of us who spend far too much time having sneaky Facebook checks while our bosses are looking the other way.

It also highlights how television stations are taking note of the changes in store for the industry.

Human mating instincts pounced on the internet as a convenient and fresh way to meet other like-minded people, leaping aboard the bandwagon with a zealousness that is only now beginning to infect the media world.

For the unlucky-in-love, this is the chance to grab the attention of a man or woman who would look straight through you if you passed them on the street. Lets face it; odds on at least somebody out of the millions of visitors to Internet dating sites won’t be repulsed.

Echoing this, for the first time smaller papers and magazines are finding themselves on a level playing field with nationals and big magazines like GQ, turning the industry on its head. Small businesses, small time journalists, small men, you name it, they all have just as big a chance as the big boys. It is astonishing, but unsurprising, that youtube gets more hits than the Guardian website.

But just as your blind date can turn on their heel soon as look at you, small papers that don’t deliver aren’t going to keep readers.

Of course people get screwed over…but don’t they in real life? Even Shakespeare, a man famous for his heartfelt soliloquies of love, admitted all ain’t fair in love and war.

But at least the Internet is going some way to help those with smelly feet find a mate. Television, newspapers and magazines have started to take note of the opportunities available using the Internet to maintain readership, but have found themselves facing real and stiff competition for almost the first time.

News Is A Hot-Dog Stand

November 5, 2008

Artist Charlotte Andrew modelled her C’art gallery on an old hot-dog stand she had shipped over from the States.

But instead of the usual (undeniably tantalising) buns, stuffed with emulsified pig intestines, fried onions and garnished with unnaturally bright yellow mustard, she sells conversation and creativity.

Charlotte muscles her way to her chosen destination with her C’art using National Rail and pure grit, and sets up shop, inviting passers-by to grab a piece of paper and paint, ink, draw or colour a picture. Then they exchange their picture with one that somebody else has left displayed.

The pictures they took home
The pictures they took home

When I had a go, I found it surprisingly difficult. I don’t think I’m alone when I look back to the last outing of my now scattered colouring pencils as a distant memory from primary school.

It made me sit still and really look at my surroundings, and after the initial awkward few minutes I quickly became absorbed with getting right the shape of a goldfish in a beautiful little garden just off Leicester Square – a seemingly impossible task considering they absolutely never stay still!

Charlotte’s creative instincts were rewarded by people’s enthusiasm. A few graphic designers who worked in Soho returned almost every day the gallery was open, loving the opportunity of a creative outlet and like-minded people to chat to.

People’s generosity also shone through. An eight-year-old returned with a new set of pencils for the C’art while she was doing a show at the Liverpool Biennial.

In part for survival and in part because of technology increasingly available to them, journalists too are beginning to appreciate the immediacy of capturing people’s attention using different mediums.

London

Psycogeography is an interesting concept which has been called upon by journalists and artists alike. It encourages the study of human emotions and behaviour to support inventive tactics exploring anything which excites people enough to stray from their predictable paths.

Charlotte’s C’art is a good example of using different kinds of multimedia to achieve just that. She has documented through photographs and video people of all ages – from five-year-olds to 90-year-olds – interacting with their city and other people through pictures, to create…what?

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As the saying goes: ‘people is news’. Listening to voxpops on websites like Murmur demonstrates how individuals are far more likely to respond to cities they grew up in or have strong links to. People attach significance to the cinema where they had their first kiss or the bench the local drunk always sat; a sense of nostalgia surrounding places and people inspire responses which journalists can learn to harness.

Dan Meadows, a fantastically charismatic guy who gave an Online Journalism lecture at Cardiff University last week, helped to set up BBC Capture Wales. This project promotes the mantra ‘everybody has a story to tell’ and provides multimedia tools through which people can tell their own stories.

What Dan, Charlotte and increasingly, journalists, are trying to do, is to use the medium ‘as the message’. That is, to involve people using film, photography, pictures, the Internet, and so on, so they can see news (or art) as something which is relevant to them and their lives.

Words and images often carry great weight and are loaded with meaning, particularly when they are used together. The strength of feeling conjured up through nostalgia is a powerful tool that can be used by the media, but should be done so responsibly.

An extreme but poignant example: Irish Republican newspapers published pictures of Bobby Sands, a republican who died in prison after going on huger strike, which specifically conjured up embedded memories of folk law, religion, and symbolic iconology. This manipulated already heightened emotions and tensions and arguably led to many more deaths during the Troubles in Belfast. (For more info click here).

Journalists can use multimedia as an effective way to reach their reader, but they should be aware of the power of doing so.

As future journalists we must learn to understand our readers so that as the news industry changes we are able to draw-in and maintain readership.

Overall women still use the Internet less often than men, although this has changed over the past few years to the extent that there is now only a few percent in difference (click here for details).

What is interesting from a journalist’s perspective is that although women are catching up with men in most measures of online life, there are huge differences in the types of ways they use the Internet. Studies have shown that men generally use the internet to find sports, financial and hard news information, whereas women are more inclined to use support groups and interactive forums.

Lumping women (or men) together does not reflect their diversity, but the Internet often reflects and reinforces stereotypes that remove many women from central political debates. This tends to isolate them within platforms that are often not considered with equal weight by malestream media.

Obviously there is a lot of rubbish on the Internet but this is not to say that these platforms are not valuable. firstwives.com gives tips on ‘how to catch your man and keep him’, but is also a great example of an enormous support group of ordinary women who offer advice on subjects from marital law to post-break-up stress.

Blogs provide a forum for open discussion about politics, human rights, stories, ideas, conversation and women’s issues. Black Looks: Musings and Rants by an African Fem, Blog Sisters and Media Girl are the sorts of sites that are increasingly used by men and women who are disenchanted by news and politics in its traditional form. The Internet lends itself well as an alternative to more established news forms because it offers variable platforms for people to undermine the (essentially male-dominated) news industry.

So how much influence do female news consumers have in comparison to men if their strength lies in a different domain? And how can we interest such people in a business that is losing readers fast?

The World Association for Christian Communication issued a report, “Who Makes the News” showing that women’s views, news, concerns, and perceptions, as well as female journalists are seriously under-represented in the media around the world.

The Global Monitoring Media Project 2005 also came to the conclusion that male journalists and their comments are prevalent in the media and highlighted how female journalists are often young and gorgeous, particularly in broadcast. Many of my favourite chief reporters and news editors are women, so it is not entirely a lost cause, but these are worrying attitudes.

Such attitudes disadvantage journalists, both male and female, because the way that news is traditionally presented leaves an enormous gap in the industry, and with increased opportunities to search for news in other places newspapers are losing readers fast.

The potential of the Internet is huge. But it is potential that hasn’t been tapped to its full extent. Many women are interested in politics and we must be wary of stereotypes, however, statistics are enormously helpful in enabling us as journalists to reach our readers and incorporate them in a more balanced way. Hopefully this will maintain maximum readership, using different kinds of platforms to draw in readers and take on board their opinions…keeping up-to-date on any changes along the way.