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Actor Russell Crowe

A few days ago, actor Russell Crowe criticised the ritual of circumcision on his Twitter account by branding it “barbaric and stupid”.

The topic of male circumcision– the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin (prepuce) from the penis- has remained a contentious debate for centuries.

People choose to circumcise their children for cultural and/or religious reasons and is one of the world’s oldest surgical practices.

The religious history of circumcision in Judaism can be found in the Hebrew bible whereby according to the book of Genesis, God told Abraham to circumcise himself, his household and his slaves as an everlasting covenant (agreement between God and His people) in their flesh [Genesis 17:10-14].

In Islam, circumcision is widely practiced and is considered to be sunnah- a practice taught by the Prophet Muhammad that fulfills religious rites and the molding of life according to the will of God.

Circumcision is also customary in most African and West Indian cultures.

During his rant, Crowe, who uses the twitter ID @russellcrowe asked:

“Who are you to correct nature? Is it real that GOD requires a donation of foreskin?” 

Personally, I have nothing against male circumcision as long as it’s carried out when a child is a baby. In fact, I find the thought of an uncircumcised penis a little cringe-worthy.

I remember one of my work colleagues telling me about when he was circumcised at the age of 8. Originally from the Philippines, he triggered his memory back to when he was on holiday there and being against the idea of having a little bit of his pee pee snipped off. His parents had made numerous failed attempts to persuade him to agree to have the procedure and eventually resorted to tricking him to go to the hospital. He described the pain as “excruciating” and told me he wished it had been done when he was a baby so he wouldn’t remember the intensity of the pain. He also talked of the embarrassment he faced having to go out in public only with a cloth wrapped around his lower body for a few days in order to help with the healing. As a common practice in that part of Asia, everyone in the street knew what had happened to him, however, despite going through all of this, he says he’s happy that he was circumcised.

Ancient Egyptian tomb painting of circumcision

One of my husband’s friends had a baby boy late last year. Out of curiosity, I asked the father if he would be getting his son circumcised and his response was “Of course”. ‘Nuff said, I thought and probed no further. Sure enough, within three months the little bubba was foreskin-less. I remember speaking to the mother about it afterward. She, understandably, seemed to have found it quite traumatic herself, let alone the baby. “I couldn’t stay in the room as it was done”, she admitted. “He cried so much. I just wanted to hold him. Luckily he healed within a few days”. She then jokingly remarked: “But now he has a pretty penis”. I couldn’t help but laugh at her latter comment.

The British Medical Journal has published numerous articles concerning the link between male circumcision  and HIV. Medical studies have shown that when carried out by a qualified practitioner and alongside other precautionary measures (such as using condoms etc) circumcision reduces the risk of contracting the HIV virus.

Other independent medical studies conclude that the procedure may decrease the risk of infections, penile irritation as well as cancer of the penis.

Self-studies by circumcised men indicate less sexual dysfunction and an easier ability to maintain penile hygiene, making it cleaner and far more attractive.

In response to a suggestion about circumcision from one of his Twitter followers, Crowe later facetiously wrote: “Hygienic? Why don’t you sew up your ass then?”

Those who are vehemently opposed to circumcision believe that it is a violation of human rights and regard it as a form of mutilation.

Some medics say that circumcised men have a reduced sexual sensation compared to those who haven’t had the procedure because the thousands of fine touch receptors and other highly erogenous nerve endings in the area that is cut off are lost. I think many circumcised men would beg to differ on this.

Other arguments against male circumcision include:

  • If you thoroughly wash daily no hygiene issues should arise;
  • If you’re born with it, it’s meant to be there;
  • Babies can die from the procedure (18 out of 100,000);
  • It’s a traumatic event for your baby that can affect breastfeeding, sleep, and even maternal bonding;
  • It’s outdated and on a steady decline.

After realising that his comments had not only caused offence to thousands of his followers but had also been reported by the media, Crowe issued an apology.

It’s safe to surmise that he hasn’t been circumcised and that has largely shaped his opinion on it but what’s your take on the whole matter? Do you agree with Russell’s comments? Do you prefer your partner to be circumcised or does it make no difference to you?

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It’s that time of year again where some men frantically rush to their local Interflora, Thornton’s and Clintons Cards store to show their other half (or potential other half) that they  “really care”.

Today, a male Twitter buddy of mine wrote: “Just coined a pretty insightful piece of philosphy. Was moaning about the cost of flowers (£45 for 12 roses!)… I’d rather pay the money than pay the price”.

I can’t help but think that Valentine’s Day is more a day for singletons, new couples or more conveniently for people in the doghouse with their partners. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against it but, apart from Christmas, never have I seen such unnecessarily ridiculous amounts of money spent on very impractical gifts: humongous teddy bears for grown ass people (??!!), intoxicating amounts of eau de toilette, days worth of fattening chocolates (not so mmmm), and flowers that will start to wither in three days max.

The history of Valentine’s Day varies depending on the source. Some experts say that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine”. And so, February 14 became the day for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers who marked the day by exchanging poems and simple gifts of affection such as flowers.

But the purpose of Valentine’s Day- demonstrating true affection through actions and consideration- has somewhat been engulfed by the giving of expensive material possessions. The day has become so commercialised that even some restaurants change their menu prices for the evening. A three course meal out for two that is normally around  £60 will cost you near the region of about  £80 to  £120 on the day. Why not just take a trip to your local supermarket to do some grocery shopping, stay indoors and together prepare a lovely candle lit dinner? You’ll find that you probably not only enjoy the meal a lot more but enjoy the time you spent together making it- and it’s also much better value for your money.

For some however, V- Day ends up being more like D-Day with many people actually deciding to break up with their partner on this particular day … leaving cupid unhappily taking back his arrows. Aaaawww.

My fiancé and I don’t really feel like we need a special day in the year to express our love for one another- we do so all the other 365 days of the year and I’m sure many other couples feel the same way. Having said that, I suppose it’s always nice with the chaos of life to have a day that you really take time aside to think just how lucky you are to be loved and how equally important it is to demonstrate love.

However you’re spending this Sunday evening, whether it be alone with a microwave ready meal, out with your single mates that were unfortunate enough not to get a valentine or canoodling with your partner, have a lovely Valentine’s Day. Or as the case may be for some, just have a nice day!

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The sad news was reported today that British fashion designer Alexander “Lee” McQueen had taken his life. He was found dead at his London home at the age of 40  just days before the start of London fashion week and a month before he was to unveil his new collection at Paris fashion week. His ingenious designs and vision for advancing fashion helped build his well respected brand. The industry has truly lost a great…. You never know how a kind word can save a life. Be there for your family and friends to let them know you care.

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West Bank barrier Banksy artwork: Little girl frisking a soldier

He’s known for his creative stencil work in the most unassuming of places, but now Bristol-born graffiti artist Banksy has embarked on a project of a different sort. And what’s that? I hear you ask. Well, he’ll be internationally premiering his debut film at the Sundance Film Festival this coming Sunday.

The movie, titled Exit Through The Gift Shop, shows him speaking on camera for the very first time and is narrated by Welsh actor Rhys Ifans (you might remember him as Spike in the film Notting Hill).

The man himself has described the film as how he “set out to film the unfilmable – and failed”. Erm, OK.

Little is known about the plot of the 89 minute feature film– that too is on the hush hush. But the festival website vaguely reveals that the film is about French filmmaker, Terry Guetta, setting out to record the “secretive world” of street art, when he subsequently meets Banksy, and so the adventure ensues.

Banky’s appeal is in his anonymity and elusiveness, so unveiling himself seems, to me, a very unlikely prospect. If anything, there’s a greater possibility that he’ll leave audiences asking more questions rather than having any pending ones answered.

Have a look at the trailer below.

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‘Twas my friend’s birthday earlier last week so I treated her (and myself) to see Tennessee Williams‘ Cliggiddy-Cat on a Higiddy-Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre in London. And what can I say? It was a such a hoot!

I’ve never been to the place and was quite impressed at how fancy and posh-looking it was inside. Immaculately painted walls, huge fairytale-like mirrors, chandeliers galore! Nice, I thought.

The birthday girl and I (who are regular theatre buddies) commented on how that was the first time we’ve ever seen so many black people in a theatre audience. “Black people attract black people”, she surmised before getting a strange look from a white lady sitting to our right.

No adventures to report, apart from a woman who asked one of the ushers “Are those seats behind us taken? I ask because that man *she points rudely to her right* keeps coughing and spreading his germs I was wondering if we could move!”

“Mother!” Her son whispered fiercely, “Will YOU be quiet! You’re embarrassing me”. Of course, this only propelled her to make more of a fuss. But she wasn’t the only one who noticed the middle-aged man on her row that took it upon himself to spread his nasty bacteria- the whole audience did! In fact, it was as if he was the star of the show!

Towards the end of the interval, the coughing mongrel greeted his friend back to her seat with a very loud: “Here she is!” She had only popped to the loo! He then grabbed her by the shoulders and laid a smooch on what would have been her lips if she didn’t offer her cheek instead! I actually wanted to throw up! It was painful to watch…so I watched! But nothing would have prepared me for what my eyes were about to behold. As she sat down, he stayed standing and started thrusting his hips towards her before lunging forward as if trying to stretch out his calf muscles. Eeeewww! I didn’t pay my money to see this tomfoolery!….

Anyway, once again, I digress!…. As described on the official website, the all black cast is “dynamic” indeed. It’s led by Academy Award® nominee and two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones (he played the king of Zamunda in Coming To America), Tony Award® winner Phylicia Rashad (you might remember her as the mum in The Cosby Show), Olivier Award winner Adrian Lester (Mickey stone in the drama Hustle) and Tony Award® nominee Sanaa Lathan (a.k.a the eye candy).

Directed by Debbie Allen, this 1955 masterpiece (though shifted into the 1980s for this production) is about a wealthy American family from the dirty South who get up to the normal dysfunctional everyday shenanigans. The play is set on Big Daddy’s (the patriarch, played by James Earl Jones) 65th birthday. He and his wife, Big Mamma (played by Phylicia Rashad) are the only ones who are unaware that he is actually dying from cancer rather than just suffering from a spastic colon (that’s not a joke. That’s the actual medical term).

Their alcoholic son Brick (Adrian Lester), a former professional footballer, makes many attempts throughout the play to fend off the sexual advances made by his nymphomaniac of a wife, Maggie (Sanaa Lathan) because she had an affair with his best friend who drank himself to death (literally) and doesn’t feel like he can measure up. And considering Brick’s left leg is plastered and he has to rely on crutches he does a pretty good job at avoiding Maggie, the sex fiend.

Brick fears intimacy with his father but all is revealed when the two finally sit down and talk. And thank goodness he eventually gets that ‘click’ in his head that he’s been waiting for all day (you’ll know what I mean when you go and watch it).

The funniest part for me was when Big Daddy and Brick were having their male bonding chat and Big Daddy says: “You know what I want to do?” He demonstrates a fingering motion with his index and middle fingers and then gyrates his hips while saying “Bang, bang bang!” Or something along those lines. Cringe-worthy or what! But hilarious nevertheless!

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot but the play is filled with just the right balance of laughs and seriousness. The acting is second to none.

Sanaa Lathan effortlessly delivers a very sultry and sassy Maggie; Adrian Lester has a very impressive American accent and projects his character’s discontent most convincingly; Phylicia Rashad made me chortle on many occasions but I didn’t feel enough of her character’s pain. And of course James Earl Jones’ presence as the aggressive, foul-mouthed, wealthy Mississippi plantation-owner was tremendous.

I did however, wonder what Richard Blackwood was doing in it. I think he said a grand total of… wait for it…..drum roll please….four words. My friend only noticed him at the end when all the characters came out to bow. She was like “Oh, there he is!”. Pahaha! (Sorry, that was mean of me to laugh).

My only disappointment with the play lies with its ending, which I thought came to an abrupt halt.

But in all honesty, it’s one of THE best plays I’ve seen. I give Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 8.5 pearls out of 10.

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof will be playing until Saturday 10th April 2010. To book your ticket visit: http://www.catwestend.com

(Photographs: Alastair Muir- The Telegraph)

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French Vogue‘s 13 page spread caused outrage earlier this week and I’m sure, by looking at the image above, you’ve noticed why. The October issue of the magazine features 4 photographs of 25- year- old Dutch model Lara Stone with a blacked out face and body. The spread was shot by Steven Klein and ‘ethnically’ styled by the magazine’s editor Carine Roitfeld.

Some say it’s an interpretation of high fashion but painting white people black for the entertainment of other white people is so inextricably offensive that it stands entirely apart from cultural context.

Ironically, the issue, which  is promoted as the Top Models Special, doesn’t feature any black models. This clearly communicates that they’d rather hire a European/white model and turn her black rather than actually hire a black model- it’s not as if they’re lacking in numbers. It’s a shame but the issue of racism in the fashion industry feels like a broken record.

Speaking of regression, this YouTube video of an Australian blacked out Jackson 5 tribute act also raised a few eyebrows this week. American singer and actor Harry Connick Jr, who was a guest judge on the Australian variety show expressed his shock:

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n85497682086_3804I’ve returned home from what can only be expressed as a truly uplifting evening out. Tantalizingly described on Facebook by its organisers  as “vibrant spoken word, emotive, intimate live music and saliva-conjuring short films”, I had to ask myself: ‘how can I possibly say no to Writer’s Block?’.

The event, which was scheduled to start at 7:30pm, was held at Juno Bar in Shoreditch, East London.

My favourite performers included songstress Floetic Lara, hip-hop verbalist Breis (pronounced breeze), soul artist Martyna Baker, poet Deanna Rodger and of course the 7 piece band The Illersapiens.

Floetic Lara was truly delightful. Her ultra positive aura had me smiling throughout the whole of her performance. She freestyled so well with the band that it could have almost been mistaken as rehearsed. You can tell that this lady is doing what she loves: the passion, and spiritualism is infectious. The tone and balance to her vocals was so soothing that I just had to buy her album. Love, love, love.

Breis. I remembered his name purely because he spelt it out when performing one of his tracks called Identity (It’s da B to da R to da E to da I to da S…) Loved the song and loved his humour and free-spiritedness even more.

MB effortlessly played the guitar as her impeccable voice told a story so touching, I was almost moved to tears.

DR kept me so engaged that I almost felt as though I was right there, living her ‘Love Story’: her ups, her downs, her woes fears, realizations, and her tears.

The Illersapiens topped off the night with spectacular live music (and yes my right shoulder bounced along to the beat, as requested by the band’s frontman). The band’s singer has a beautiful voice and the MC was so on point with his flow, his content and his finesse.

That’s not to say the others weren’t amazing but these acts really stood out to me.The poetry was deep, conscious and inspiring. Admittedly, many of the acts put me in a trance and all the performers definitely gave me food for thought. I left the bar feeling somewhat elated and strangely wanting to rhyme every sentence and speak in iambic pentameter. I suppose that’s how I know the ‘writer’s block’ has had its affect on me. Can’t wait for the next event.

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