10 Things the UK must do to move into the 21st Century

20/03/2012 Torn and tattered Union Jack flag on Plymouth Hoe pic by Lucy Duval

The 5th anniversary of my moving to London from Los Angeles has passed. Even now, people ask me to compare living in the US to living in Great Britain. A few things are superior over here, such as sensible gun laws, the NHS (although this is deteriorating), good public transportation, great beer and a simplified tax system. Actors and musicians are top notch and of course, there’s the rich history every Brit boasts of proudly. But after 5 years, I can say with absolutely no regret whatsoever that this place needs work in some very basic areas. The UK would be better served by moving into the 21st century in the following 10 ways:

Get some decent clothes dryers. Laundry takes 8-12 hours per week. I’m not kidding. In winter it’s longer. It’s tortuous, slow and everything has to be a. hung up or left to b. left spinning in a “water extractor” dryer for many hours at great cost to the electric bill. If it saves money and time, surely it’s worth drilling that small vent hole, right?
Put screens on the windows. The UK has flies, mosquitoes, wasps and the biggest house spiders I have ever seen. Not to mention wandering cats (one of whom let himself in through my bathroom window repeatedly and turned out to be a real sweetie), mice and rats. But not one window has a screen on it anywhere in the UK. The technology is not new. Bonus: Having screens makes having the windows open during the 4 days of summer much more pleasurable and a lot less like camping out.
Make it illegal for companies to require women to wear high heels to work. To be fair, not all companies have this incredibly sexist policy, but many do. Parliament will be debating this issue following a petition that signed by over 150K people asking the Government to force companies to make their dress codes equitable.

Eliminate recruitment agencies. For those unfamiliar, these are companies who work for other companies looking to hire people. Their employees are mostly very young and work on commission, which they receive when they make a successful match. They take valuable resources from the hiring firms, who are too stupid or lazy to build up their own internal HR and recruitment departments and have no interest in matching the right people with the right company because they work on commission. They care about nothing other than their sales record and monthly bonus. They frequently block good people with experience from communicating directly with potential employers, ignore career changers or anything that their “keyword” software doesn’t flag. In general, they are a nasty bunch of self-serving kids with little respect for their clients. I am hopeful that businesses will soon realize what a waste of money these jokers are stop using them.
Learn some damn manners (applicable in London only). Simple phrases include: Please, Thank You, Bless you (for sneezes), excuse me and I’m sorry.
Improve your dentistry. You knew it was coming, right? Well, far be it from me to break a stereotype. The less said about brown teeth the better.
Get over your classism. Bono once said that the difference between America and the UK was that Americans look at a big house on a hill and say, “I aspire to have that.” In the UK they say, “I’m going to get that son of bitch.” Truer words were never spoken. Example: Just because a person eats at a gastropub and drinks craft beer does not mean they are “posh” or “stuck up.” It means they have better developed taste buds and yes, probably a bit more money. Is it a bad thing to work hard and spend your earnings on healthier, tastier victuals? For a large segment of the UK population, it is. Conversely, a person who wears a leather jacket is not necessarily a criminal waiting to rob you blind and every shopper with a backpack in a department store is not shoplifting.
Get some therapy. Alcoholism is rampant among all age groups and binge drinking is a huge problem among under 25’s. Recently, the London sewer water tested for high levels of cocaine. This, to me, is evidence that everyone is miserable and repressed. So society has set up “pub and club culture” as a way to self-medicate and allow for “social lubrication” (apparently it’s terrifying speaking to other human beings while sober) on a grand scale.
Legislate renters’ rights and real estate rules. Currently, any one can sell or rent a house in any condition to anyone else and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do to protect themselves. Agents have no governing body or required license and landlords are not required to keep up with maintenance.
Stop funding the Royal family. Stop wasting tax pounds in an era of austerity where libraries are being closed while paying for an already rich family’s palaces, cars and boats. It’s freaking ridiculous. They supposedly hold no political power, so why not let them survive on their own millions for a while?
Of course, none of these are likely to change any time soon, unfortunately. What they need is a good old American-style social revolution. But the Brits have a habit of losing revolutionary wars.


Why Selifes are Bad for Humanity


Yesterday, a friend called to tell me about his awesome trip to Plitvicka Lakes National Park, Croatia. The conversation soon turned to his annoyance with crowds blocking the hiking trails by stopping to take selfies at the most scenic spots. Having been almost impaled by an extremely sharp selfie-stick last summer in Venice, I sympathized. I am convinced that the taking of selfies is bad for humanity. Here’s a list of reasons why:

  • It is annoying to your fellow bipeds. We don’t just take selfies in front of spectacular scenes or monuments. We do it everywhere. In the process, we piss off countless others simply trying to walk to their destination.
  • It feeds into a fear of the natural process of aging. Andy Warhol said, “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” Perhaps this is what motivates millions of us to document every single moment in our otherwise ordinary lives. Because some day, we will get old and die and it’s important that our great grand children know about that time we stood in front of the bus stop waiting for the 57 to Raynes Park looking hot.
  • It is narcissistic. I am reminded of the scene in Madonna’s documentary Truth or Dare where then-boyfriend Warren Beatty questions her exhibitionist decision to have her throat exam filmed. “Why would you say something if it’s not on camera?” “What point is there existing?” The answer for many is that there isn’t.
  • It’s potentially dangerous. Earlier this year, there were stories about people ignoring safety signs and ultimately dying trying to take selfies in Yellowstone National Park and my friend said the same had, sadly, happened in Croatia. Let’s think about that. They died trying to capture a moment rather than being aware of their surroundings, enjoying that moment for real and surviving to tell others about their amazing experiences.
  • It brings out the worst in people. The worst abuse of the technology I have come across was late at night when I came across a group of drunken 20-somethings who had awoken a homeless man and forced him to take selfies with them. It was almost as if the camera phone gave these people protection from real-world consequences. He pleaded with them to leave him in peace. It was the single most disgusting thing I have seen since moving to London and that includes watching a rat consume fresh human vomit on a train platform.

My solution is to avoid taking selfies unless only I find myself in the very rare situation that I am surrounded entirely by people who are missing all manual digits.

What will yours be?

Top 10 School Supplies we had in the 80s


It’s back to school time in the USA. Many of my former classmates from the 1980s are now teachers. Even the ones who threw 6” steel nails at Mrs. Drake’s head and flaming matches at Mr. Passer in the 9th grade. They are sharing how different things are in 2016 when compared to our time. Ahhh, the 1980s. When Eddie Murphy was funny, hair was big and mascara thick. Things were simpler then. Especially in terms of school supplies. Rather than 3-page lists with specific requirements from schools that must be upheld, we had a few simple items that lasted all year. Here is a list of the Top 10 things that every kid had.

  1. A Trapper Keeper. With this, you could fit all of your schoolwork into neat little pockets, with dividers for each subject. Mine had kittens on it.


  1. Number 2 pencils. They started out long and tall. An ideal slingshot frame. By the end of week 2, they would fall victim to the horrible medieval pencil sharpeners mounted on the walls in each classroom.

#2 Pencil Nub

  1. Shitty eraser tops. They broke apart and smudged color all over your freshly ruled paper but they were good for stress chewing and throwing at other kids. Hurt like hell if you took one in the eye.

Shitty Erasers

  1. Troll pencil toppers. I never understood this fad. I always thought they looked like creepy old junkies with pencils up their asses.

Troll Pencils

  1. A Real Metal Lunch box with thermos. Not the plastic kind! Mine was from my then-favorite TV show Space 1999. Still a great show available for download on iTunes. Somehow it made the crappy bologna sandwich taste better.

Space Lunch Box

  1. Duffle bag a.k.a a Book bag. The boys typically had a sports logo and the girls had unicorns and rainbows. All were brightly colored so as to blind you. Doubled as a deadly weapon when full of books.

Duffle Bag Unicorn

  1. Sketch Scented Markers. They smelled like fruit. They actually encouraged kids to sniff them. AWESOME.

Fruity markers

  1. Brown paper bag book covers. They lasted the whole year and were mandatory to protect your textbooks. You could draw on them. Band logos, landline numbers and dick pics never looked so good.

Book Cover

  1. Folders with popular characters on them for extra paperwork. I had one with Garfield in a Hawaiian shirt and another with the Purple Rain album cover. Of course I did.

Garfield Folderjpg

  1. Denim Jacket fully customized with favorite band patches and pins. Not so much a supply item but a standard for small-town American kids. Where uniforms were not a requirement, we established our own. Pretty much the same now. It’s nice to know that some things never change.

Denim Jacket 2

Spotlight: Filmmaker Julia Marchese

Out of Print


This Thursday, London’s top revival independent cinema The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square will be screening first-time-director Julia Marchese’s indie-documentary Out of Print, a fun and informative film that highlights theatres just like the Prince Charles. Those reasonably priced privately owned cinemas with double features, theme nights and old-school popcorn with real butter. There aren’t many of these places left in 2016 no matter where you live and that is why Marchese made this movie.

Although the film largely focuses on Marchese’s former employer, The New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, through the eyes of its employees and customers such as director Joe Dante, the broader theme highlights the consequence of the advent of digital formats on the little guys as well as the relevance of watching older films in their intended formats and the importance of film preservation in general.

The financial struggle for these cinemas is real. Especially in the light of a recent decision by several major studios to halt the striking and distribution of any 35mm prints for any films, new or old regardless of how they were originally made.

As a Los Angeles resident with for 15 years with a passion for film, I spent many an evening at the New Beverly. I remember Julia selling me tickets and wondered how she made the transition from behind the ticket counter to behind the camera. She was kind enough to answer my questions in an interview conducted via e-mail last week. This is the edited version. Julia herself will be on hand Thursday at the screening to answer more questions after the film.

Q: Independent filmmakers all face great challenges, from raising money in the beginning to distribution in the end. Which were the most difficult challenges to overcome and what are you the most proud of, looking back over the past 4 years? 

A: “I’m proud that I set out to make a film and I did. My motto (like Elvis’) is Taking Care of Business in a flash. I’m proud that I took this movie from an idea in my head to a 35mm print. The most fun thing about it was learning how to do everything. And luckily I had so many incredible people to guide me through every step.”

“The most difficult thing was getting fired from the New Beverly after the film was already complete. It was so bloody crushing to have a film that suddenly switches from a joyous one to a melancholy one. I have a film that promotes a place that I no longer wish to promote, so I feel like that has hindered my joy about the whole project a bit. Now I would make an entirely different film, of course. But the film has a bigger message – that EVERY independent cinema is important, so THAT I can be proud of.”

Q: When making Out of Print, where did you draw your inspiration? Were there any documentaries that you watched that inspired you? 

A: “Yes! The four that I repeatedly watched were Exit Through the Gift Shop, Grey Gardens, Cinemania and American Movie. All of these films treat their subjects with reverence and a sense of humor that I love. Each one is endlessly watchable and absolutely fascinating every time.”

Q: Who is your favorite filmmaker?  

A: “Alejandro Jodorowsky. His films absolutely blow my mind. He is unlike any other filmmaker out there, and he is still making such extraordinary work. Dance of Reality was terrific and I donated to his campaign for his new movie, Endless Poetry.”  

Q: Since your petition to preserve film prints, what positive developments have happened in the area of film preservation? 

 A: “Across the world, there are thousands of dedicated souls working in archives everyday to preserve film prints. They were there before I made Out of Print, and they will be there after, and I am so grateful to each and every one of them for choosing to spend their lives saving the past. No matter what the studio decide, we will always have these silent warriors fighting the good fight.”

Q: In Out of Print, one of the interview subjects drew a very apt parallel with the digitalization of music. Vinyl has had a recent resurgence, with many old classic albums being re-issued over the past 18 month and bands even releasing new material in both formats side by side. Do you see this as a trend that may happen with film? Why or why not? 

A: “…The thing about vinyl is that it is a medium directly available to the public – film prints are owned by companies. There are 35mm collectors, but they are few and far between, and were never meant to be owned by the public. …It’s tricky.”

Q: What other developments, technical or otherwise, do you potentially see happening in the future regarding film preservation?  

A:  “Sooner or later, the studios are going to realize that all films need to be stored on film. Hopefully that will cause them to up their production of it again – digital just isn’t permanent.”

Q: This film goes a long way at getting the word out on the importance of revival cinemas and film preservation. What do you think that revival and repertory theaters could do on their own to help the cause and improve their bottom lines? 

A: “Making every single customer feel comfortable and like they’re part of the community is so important. Try new things. See what others around you are programming, and ask for help if you need it.”

Q: You spent some time filming in London at the Prince Charles Cinema for Out of Print. What is the biggest difference in the film-geek culture that you saw in Los Angeles vs. London? 

 A: “I programmed a double feature of Fast Times at Ridgemont High & Night of the Comet at the Prince Charles Cinema, so I got to see those up on the big screen, and I caught a midnight screening of El Topo there too. (Jodorowsky! Yay!) The audiences for both were awesome. There really wasn’t much of a difference and that was what was so bitchin’. Movie geeks are pretty awesome everywhere you go – that’s what makes independent cinemas so cool! “ 

Q: What project or projects are you working on now?

A: “I am hoping to start a new project in the UK, filming a series of mini-docs. Each one will focus on a single cinema, and we will see it through the eyes of the employees and regulars – the people who love it most. I’m really excited!”

Tickets for Thursday’s screening with director Q&A are available here: https://www.princecharlescinema.com/performances/16661/

Think Before You Cheer

I woke up this morning to find a Washington Post article about runner Feyisa Lilesa putting his hands in the shape of an “X” at the finish line of his silver-medal winning marathon run.


He was protesting the barbaric killing of his people, the Oromo, in Ethiopia by the Government under the guise of “fighting terrorism.” This is horrible and something worthy of a protest. Genocide is never, in any way, excusable. The comments section cheered him on as a brave man and a hero. I was feeling the love. Then I did something that I’m almost certain no one else who commented did. I googled The Oromo. Turns out that 80% of their females from age 4 to puberty are victims of the worst kind of Female Genital Mutilation (is there a good kind?) The kind where they have everything outside removed and the vagina is sewn up permanently, leaving only a tiny opening to allow for urination. It seems there has been a small reduction of these numbers in recent years, but the number should be zero. Zip. Nada. If this is the type of “freedom” they are fighting for, then I would suggest that the Oromo men forcibly have the tips of their penises removed and see how “free” they feel. This is freedom to repress one gender. Does this vindicate the murder of their people by their Government? Of course not. They should be allowed to live freely, practice any religion they choose, control their own lands and natural resources. But it does shed new light on the complexities of the problems in that region. Suddenly, I don’t see Lilesa as a hero or a brave man, but a man who protests only when something happens that threatens males in his community. If he were truly brave, he’d be advocating for the modernization of his people and the improved treatment of its women. So, instead of honoring the “bravery” of this man, I will be spreading the word to help Oromo’s women and girls. Not only are they being killed by their own Government, by they are being tortured and mutilated by their own people. They have no options. And all the hand signs in the world won’t help them.

FGM in Oromia

Citations: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10963253



The Women of Star Wars


A few days ago, the trailer for the latest Star War film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropped online. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frdj1zb9sMY

For those unfamiliar, it is a stand-alone prequel that takes place immediately before the events of 1977’s Episode IV: A New Hope and tells the story of the mission to retrieve the plans for the Death Star which ultimately led to its destruction by Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance. Remember the data that Princess Leia hid inside R2D2 for delivery to Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine? That’s what the team in this film will be stealing. From the Empire. Before Darth Vader was killed. So, it’s a pretty important and dangerous errand. And from the trailer, it looks as though the task will be assigned to a woman by a woman. [Insert fist pump here.]

First, we have Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), who was supposed to have made an appearance in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith as a Senator and one of the founding members of what would later become the Rebel Alliance, but was cut from the finished film. In Episode VI: Return of the Jedi she appeared as one of the strategic leaders of the destruction of the second Death Star. In the new film, Mothma recruits another strong woman, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who is described on the Rogue One Wookiepedia page as a loner with a criminal past who is “impetuous, defiant and eager to bring battle to the Empire.” Essentially, she is Han Solo with a vagina. She is also the first female within the Universe to have a checkered past and was the first action figure design to be released to the public. With this new progressive development, it seems relevant to take a look back on the evolution of the main female characters throughout Star Wars history, critically and commercially.

Jyn follows on the heels of the strength of other female characters in the Universe, beginning of course with Princess Leia Organa, the outspoken rebel leader who got caught as a spy and not only showed no remorse, but insulted Darth Vader to his face in his own castle and lived to tell the tale. She endured torture and watched her adopted home planet being blown up by her captors and still didn’t give up the location of the rebel base. There are those who argue that she wouldn’t have survived had it not been for Luke and Han rescuing her, but in the context of her knowing that the plans had been stolen, it only makes her stronger. She was ready to die in that prison cell should her cohorts successfully launch a run on the Deathstar while she was still on board. Then, she bagged Han Solo, the bad-boy with the heart of gold on her own terms, giving up none of her strength of character in the process. [Insert high-five here]. Not to mention rescuing him from Carbonite and choking Jabba the Hutt with her own slave chains while rocking a bikini. She was an icon for a generation of young girls. We embraced her in the form of readily available dolls and action figures and dressed up in the official Princess Leia Halloween costume. Generation X girls had it good.

Then came the prequels and arguably weakest female lead of the Universe. Although Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) in Episodes I-III is a morally strong elected leader on her planet Naboo, she talks more than she acts. She is very rarely pro-active in any way (other than with her hair and wardrobe) and simply allows things to fall apart around her. She voices her concerns to the Senate time and time again, but she spends most of her time hiding out, or sitting in her throne room lamenting the crappy future. Then, in the most baffling development of all, she falls in love with, marries and becomes impregnated by a whiny teen stalker-cum-serial-killer who later becomes Darth Vader. Why? What is likeable about this guy on any level? Yes, he can make apples float using the force. But he’s an asshole to the core, who only sees her an object of beauty and clearly has nothing in common with her. She is even denied a decently written death in childbirth when the robot OB-GYN rolls into the room and declares “We don’t know why. She has lost the will to live.” So, she would rather die and leave her unborn children parentless than envision a life without the serial-killer dude who just slaughtered 50 kids. This is the mother of Princess Leia? Seriously? Deep sigh. Despite the poor example she set on screen, Padme was graced with a rich and varied line of merchandise available to the kids of the ‘90s, which was consistent with the marketing of the original films.

Then came Rey, the sarcastic force-sensitive ace-pilot survivalist of last year’s Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Rey was reminiscent both visually and in terms of personality, of Leia Organa, who is represented now as a General. She was set up to the start of the next generation of Jedi. But the franchise’s new parent company, Disney, made the mind-bogglingly bad decision to exclude her from the first run toy line despite her being the MAIN character of the film. After a social media rebellion of its own, Disney had to reverse course and make her the star of the second line of toys. Something we took for granted in 1977 and again in the late ‘90s was now something young girls had to fight for. This showed a clear regression in the understanding of the appeal of such characters to young girls and their spending power by those in charge of marketing.

So, here we are 2016 with the trailer for Rogue One and the merchandise preview. So far, it looks like Disney, as the new guardians of the franchise, is taking its first step into a larger world. A world, that is old yet new again, filled with well-written strong female characters AND widely available connected merchandise. Let’s hope they continue this trajectory so that the young girls of today will have the same great memories 30 years from now that countless women have today. May the Force be with them. Always.

The Great Bikini Experiment

Today, Yahoo published a story about young woman at a pool in London was told off for wearing a bikini by an older woman. The older told the younger it was “inappropriate” for a new mother to wear a bikini. https://uk.style.yahoo.com/woman-who-was-told-a-1489467660550198.html

I am an older woman, and I can assure you not only was that woman wrong, but she should remove the pickle from her ass immediately. In fact, here is my own story with wearing a bikini for the first time:

Swimming. I love it. I have always loved it. I learned how to swim in the community pool in my hometown and grew up swimming and snorkeling in the cold, fresh waters of Lake Ontario in Central New York. Being a chubby kid, I always wore a one-piece swimsuit. In my ‘20s, I moved to Los Angeles, a.k.a. “size-zeroville.” During my time there, I rarely went to the beach, partly because my partner at the time wasn’t a beach-goer but mostly out of fear that I would be mistaken for a beached whale. In my head, I envisioned a humiliating experience where I would be captured in a tarpaulin under the guise of “rescue”, hauled to deep water and subsequently released to the sounds of self-satisfied applause from good-looking, blond, skinny, be-sandaled do-gooders. Los Angeles. It isn’t good for the self-esteem. Unless you’re Margot Robbie. I’m sure she’ll be just fine.

Then, in 2013, and 2014 I went to the South of France. I wore my normal one-piece.

Both times, I looked around and noticed that I was the only one. Once again, I felt out of place, but this time for a very different reason. On every beach I went to, there were women of all sizes, shapes, ages and ethnicities all around me wearing bikinis. All of them seemed relaxed, happy and enjoying themselves. Amazingly, they didn’t seem to care if people stared or judged them, and in fact, few people did (at least openly), as they were more interested in their own beach activities. Equally, there were men of what (in the USA) would be considered questionable age and physical condition wearing speedos. They didn’t give a crap either, and you know what? No one went blind for having to look at them. There were no children crying or running in fear and I’m assuming no one ended up having their day ruined from watching the old Italian dude in the budgie smugglers playing with his grandchildren happily in the Mediterranean.

At first, I was curious as to whether this was a by-product of the body-positive trend I kept reading about on social media, but I was assured by some friends that this was simply the normal way of life for continental Europeans. So, in the spirit of “when in Rome…” I decided, this year, to find out what it would feel like, at the age of 40+ to wear a bikini for the very first time in public on a beach with other human beings present.

I was delighted to discover that in the shops in London, there are comfortable, flattering bikinis in cool colours available in my size, which is not huge, but definitely on the “curvier” end of the scale. Second, I was delighted at my spouse’s reaction when I told him about my purchase and explained my nervousness. He loved the colour (dark turquoise), and said it made me look a model. I jokingly said “yeah, for the fat girl websites?” “No.” he said. “For the websites where the models are healthy, curvy women. Not girls. Women.” He clearly he knows about some websites that I don’t.

So, off we went to France for the third time and beach day arrived. Oddly, I wasn’t worried about wearing the 2-piece. But, I was worried about how I’d feel about wearing it. So, I wore the standard cover-up for the walk to the beach. Sort of like a security blanket. I put up my sun umbrella, laid out my towel, and sat down. I surveyed my surroundings and decided to go for it. I slipped off my shorts and top and lay back on the towel. I did it. I was there in my bikini with people. There were no screams of horror or whale-rescuers. There was only the sound of the waves, people chatting and laughing in different languages and the glorious sun warming my skin. Oh, crap. My skin. I looked down at my pale white delicate belly and lower back that until that moment had literally never been exposed to the sun. I was like a ghost compared to all the other people there. I was astonished at how quickly one self-esteem issue morphed into another. But, I was even more concerned with the thought of a painful sunburn and skin cancer, so I grabbed the 50+ sunblock for albinos and applied it liberally.

Then came the moment of truth. I got up into a standing position, where I wouldn’t be able to suck my tummy in. I walked from my spot on the beach to the sea, past all the people with their beautiful bronze skin. Every step made me feel better about myself. I had conquered it. I stepped into the sea and noticed an attractive older man following me with his eyes. Whether he was thinking “Man, that lady is hot!” or “Wow, that’s sad.” didn’t matter to me at that moment. I had successfully adopted the French “Zero fucks given” attitude. The sun and sea were warm and glorious and I swam the backstroke to my heart’s content. The water felt great on my back and stomach. It was freeing and absolutely lovely. My advice to anyone asking is, do it. Don’t let the world of perfect skinny bronze bodies and judgmental assholes keep you from trying it. Maybe we can even change the beaches of So Cal. One chubby lady at a time. I realized body positivity comes from both within oneself and within the society around you.

On my way back to my towel, I felt happy and relaxed just like everyone else on that beach. Then I spied a woman with no top on and remembered that all the beaches in France are all optional topless. I chuckled to myself. There’s always a new challenge.