Veiled Justice

If you have the impression that Muslim women wearing the full veil are not in touch with the modern world, you would be wrong.

A woman serving on the jury of a murder trial has been arrested for listening to her MP3 player under her hijab, while the defendant was giving evidence. He was later found guilty. I can see that one going up on appeal. Can you say, “re-trial”?

It’s not like this woman wanted to be in court listening to her MP3 player. She avoided her first two summons to jury duty. She doesn’t have a job, so she tried to say she needed to go job hunting or go on a nursing course, for which she could provide no details. Then she kept arriving late to court during the trial, but the judge wouldn’t dismiss her. She doodled instead of reading the evidentiary documents handed to her and refuse to put them in the into the lever arch files provided to her.

The judge even thought he heard “tinny music” but decided it was his imagination, until another member of the jury finally complained.

The woman almost certainly faces prison if she is convicted. I have a had time imagining how she could not be convicted. The maximum sentence is indefinite imprisonment and an unlimited fine. I would expect that she would get at least several months.

Equal Pay for Unequal Work

This is the first year that the women’s champion will get the same payout as the men’s champion at Wimbledon. After her win yesterday, Venus Williams paid tribute to the first famous sporting lesbian Billie Jean King for fighting for this for years.

But has Venus really earned her money? She will get the same £700,000 for playing 15 out of a possible 21 sets of tennis. The men play a possible 35 sets, of which today’s finalist, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played 16 and 20 before meeting each other in today’s final. Thus Venus has been paid £46,667 per set, or if you want to give her credit for the possible 21, which she has completed in short order due to her superior skill, that’s £33,333 per set. By that calculation, Federer and Nadal can only make £20,000 per set. Today’s final went five sets, so on an actual per-set-played basis, Federer made the same as if every challenger had taken Venus to 3 sets.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love women’s tennis. I’ve always been a bigger fan of the women’s game than the men’s. They have much nicer legs. But if you want to talk about superior skill, Venus could pump up her biceps all she wants, but she could still not compete against the men. Not just the best of the man – any of the men. No woman has ever beaten a ranked men’s player.

For all of her talk about Billie Jean, remember that BJ beat Bobby Riggs when he was in his 50s and she was in her 20s. He had been the top tennis player in the world two years before she was born. It is often forgotten that Riggs beat then-No. 1 Margaret Court 6-2, 6-1 several months before he lost to Billie Jean.

The male players know the women shouldn’t make as much. British No. 1 Andy Murray is opposed to the equal pay and former No. 1 Tim Henman has called the women greedy. John MacEnroe favours equal pay, but openly admits the women don’t train as hard as the men. I clearly have a more favourable view than Pat Cash, who has called women’s tennis “two sets of rubbish”.

Clearly legs that look as nice as those of Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, or Michaëlla Krajicek are worth something, but £700,000?

Summer Saturday

It was starting to look a lot like there would be no summer in Britain this year. The last time I was out on a bright and sunny Saturday, I was watching parachutists jump onto the fields outside Sainte-Mère-Église at the beginning of June.

I enjoy going to the city centre on sunny summer Saturdays. We used to always eat sandwiches out in front of Marks and Spencer until Subway arrived and then that became a tradition for awhile. Today we ate at Subway again.

In WH Smith I found the sequel to the book I’m reading. I almost bought it since I haven’t been able to find it at Tesco, but I decided to look on Amazon. I can get the hardcover for £5.15 (including postage) or the paperback for £5.14. That’s nearly £2 cheaper than in the store and I don’t have to go back into town to get it.

After we got back from visiting friends in a nearby village, and the kids had their dinner, bath, and were off to bed, I sat outside in the waning sunlight to read more of my book. I looked up from time to time to see over the river to the cathedral, where the scaffolding has finally been removed. The newly cleaned spires on the four corners of the tower glowed in the evening light. Groups of teenagers sat on the playing fields and a dad was kicking the ball around with a couple of boys who would be too old for that sort of thing too soon.

There are worse places in the world.

I tried not to look at the chain linked fencing that cuts across the ancient meadow, blocking off a large portion occupied on the weekdays by workmen as they prepare to destroy the beauty with unnecessary flood defences. But Asda gave them money build concrete walls and huge earthen mounds to push the water downstream into the houses that have never flooded before and that’s what they are going to do. This is probably the last summer I’ll have the view that came with my mortgage.

Summer or not, being Britain after sunset, the chill in the air got me before the light faded. I found my bookmark and put Northern Virginia in the summer of 1862 on hold. Now that I’ve made a cheesecake (from a box, of course) and I’m waiting for that to set, I’ll get back to the story.

I’ll pick up from the line: “I’ll stay sober, sir, I promise,” for he had a whore to bury and general to see.

One day I’ll write stuff like that.

Stringing Me Up

I stopped by a local music store this afternoon to purchase a guitar pick. It took the idea of Rip-off Britain to another level. A single Dunlop Tortex .60mm cost 80p ($1.60).

I’m sure there has been some inflation of plectrum prices since I left the States. The last price I remember paying for an identical pick was 45¢. May they are as much as 80¢ now and it is just another example of prices being the same figure in dollars as they are in pounds.

A set of 12-string strings starts at about £13 ($26). I found a set of Martin strings from an eBay shop in the States for $9.69 (£4.85) including international first class postage. The best price I found for the same thing from a British eBay shop was £7.70 ($15.40).

I looked at guitar prices and again I haven’t been in the market for a guitar for a long time, but I can’t imagine that some of the guitars I looked at were anywhere comparable to the price for the same instrument in the States. I played a Freshman cutaway six-string that had good action and an okay sound for £400. Surely this wasn’t an $800 guitar in the States. I would have said maybe $400, even though the body of it felt a bit plastic. Freshman assures me that it wasn’t, even though their guitars are made by cheap Southeast Asian labour and shipped to Scotland.

Music appears to be an expensive habit in this country.

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

When she appeared on the Doctor Who Christmas special last year, Catherine Tate did not get far from the one-dimensionality of the characters on her eponymous BBC3 show. The episode was critically panned by fans, primarily due to her.

Now she’s back as the Doctor’s companion in series 4. This is not a positive direction for the show. Freema Agyeman did okay in picking up where Billie Piper left off. But there was the real problem: Billie should have never left. There was a lot more time and space mileage left in Rose.

Now I suppose Donna will have to fall for the Doctor as well and there will be more women (and Captain Jack) pining for him, keeping the tension up with unrequited love.

Freema is spinning the Martha Jones character over to adult-oriented Torchwood for three episdoes, before coming back to the Doctor in the middle of series 4 – at which time there will be two companions for the rest of the series (or season, as it would be called in the States). I don’t care if it is bigger on the inside, the TARDIS is going to be a bit crowded.

I hope they don’t crowd me out as a viewer. Given that all this will bypass Aidan’s brain and his appetite for Doctor Who programming is insatiable, I’m sure we won’t miss an episode.

Of the Making of Books

The first difficult aspect of writing a novel seems to be picking which “how to write a novel” book or books to buy. I had seen one at Waterstones and went back to refresh my memory of the title so I could look for it on Amazon. That was the easy part.

Once I got on Amazon, I found there were loads of others. All of them are claiming, of course, to be the best book on the subject. This, of course, undermined my faith in the first book, which was based entirely on the fact that I had seen it first.

It also caused my fragile confidence to waver anyhow, because if there are enough people to buy all of the “how to write a novel” books, there are an awful lot of people trying to do the same thing I’m doing. And chances are, I’m not better at it than they are. After all, the scramble for readership due to the Malthusian nature of the blogosphere is evidence of this.

Every time I go into a large bookstore I realise just how many books are on the market at any given time. These are the lucky ones – the ones that are not languishing manuscripts in the bottom of drawers or computer files in no need of a printer, or even half-formed ideas in somebody’s head. Most of the time they are not the ones that have been repeatedly returned with a rejection slip.

So I think why bother? After all, my mother thinks I should write short stories and my wife wonders why I’m not sending off more magazine articles. But then I’m not sure there’s any money in the former and it takes ages to the latter published for a very small sum in return. Sadly it seems no different than the music business. Everybody wants a break and so few are talented or lucky enough to get it.

It reminds me of the monthly “Jesus Jam Night” at the Sonshine Inn, the Christian coffee house where I used to be on staff. People would get up on stage all evening. Some were mediocre, some were worse. Many of them did Christian karaoke, using backing tracks to sing somebody else’s song, but not nearly as good. Occasionally a real talent would come along, but they were rare enough that even some of the mediocrity would get picked up for the regular rotation of artists and bands playing the coffee house. I’m evidence of that.

I was going to get back to researching my book, but in my head I’m still playing with some chord changes in my new worship song. Off I go – jack of all trades, master of none.

Adding to the Rotation

My two new Delirious? CDs got here today. I got their most recent studio release The Mission Bell (2005) and King of Fools (1998), the first release the produced under their current name. (Before then they were part-time musicians called The Cutting Edge Band, because they were the worship band for a youth outreach called Cutting Edge.) They are best known in the US market for the 1995 worship song “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”.

Having been very impressed with World Service (2003), I was hoping I would not be let down. Both CDs are very good. More depressingly excellent musicianship. I’m currently listening to the radio chart singles off of King of Fools. I listened to the whole thing, unaware of which tracks had made the UK single chart. Now I’m going back to see if they stand out among the others, because the whole album is impressive.

I don’t buy new music very often. I tend to play the same CDs in the car. Until I got World Service, for months I have rotated between The Best Worship Songs… Ever, Geoff Moore Greatest Hits, and Rich Mullins Songs. I don’t often find new music that’s worth buying. I will probably end up getting just about the entire Delirious? back catalogue.