askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
As started by [personal profile] nanila, below are my answers to the [bolded] topic headings. If you'd like to meet some more dw people [or LJ if you're reading this on the crosspost] please reply to this post with your answers and let's get meeting new folks!

People in this journal

Mostly it's all about ME....not really out of any sense of rampant egotism, more just that I'm currently single and live alone. Occasionally my family and some close friends turn up but whenever that happens I try and stick a sentence or link in to explain who they are in my life to the casual reader.

About my job
I am currently doing a PhD. I'm half way through my second year and will be finished sometime within the next 2. It's a topic that's really important to me in a field I believe I can contribute something useful to. I also pick up bits of casual work as an invigilator, office dogsbody, and formally work as an Associate Tutor at the university I study at. I don't tend to talk about any specifics relating to teaching for professional privacy reasons but have been known to talk in the abstract about how I feel about the experience of teaching and some more philosophical reflections.

Some random facts
I really like tagging my posts in a nice neat order?! All the links in this post are to search pages of pertinent tags.

I've recently realised I would like to become a parent in the next 5 years and this has come as a bit of a shock, and been accompanied by a new interest in other people's children. It's all rather unsettling.

I'm queer, and I'm a feminist. That pretty much describes my political, moral, and social outlook.

Things I like to do
In the last year and a half, since my PhD study began, I've really lost touch with the things I like to do in my downtime. I'm working on readdressing the work/life balance right now and that's likely to take the form of;

I love making shit. Unfortunately, I don't need anywhere near the amount of stuff I want to make. Fortunately, I have indulgent friends who gladly accept things I make for them.


I'm shit at painting, but I find it really cathartic. If paintings turn out half decent I tend to share a photo but don't hold your breath.

Half a lifetime ago I did a big ol' round the world ramble. Whenever I have a bit of cash and a lot of time I like to leave the country and see somewhere new. I love coming home, but I get itchy feet.

Taking in the City

I live in one of my favourite cities in the world, and there's rarely a day that goes by that I don't thank my good fortune (and life-wrangling) I get to live here. I like photographing the little bits of the city that I feel make it mine. I like strolling through the crowds, down the promenade, through the back alleys and streets taking in the rhythm of the city. I like sitting on the beach, in all seasons, looking out to sea and letting the niggles of life wash away. I love watching the city spill on to the streets when the sun shines and crowd into bars when the rain lashes.

I'm a fully paid up Manics fan and have been for 12 years now. I don't really read fanfic and have never attempted to write it so in that respect my fandom interests have no impact on the content of this here journal. On the other hand, I occasionally get overcome by the urge to blog about the many glories of Manic Street Preachers

Social media usage
I've been doing meaningful social interaction online since around 2000-2001 time. I spent most of my time in those days on two message boards, one called Stay Beautiful which was a Manics fan forum and is sadly now defunct. The other forum was a rather peculiar one which I, and a number of LJ friends, escaped and now refer to, in irony laden tones, as OFMB but only for in jokes and ribbing, so don't worry about that.

It does explain why I continue to cross post my entries to LJ despite disliking their policy and practice these days. I came over the DW in the early days and I like it here.

I have a second blog where I write single-issue posts, I tweet under this name, I tumblr under this name although all those accounts have distinct, slightly less coherent. personalities.

>Subscriptions, access and commenting
I subscribe to anyone and everyone who takes my fancy. I like to reply when I am moved to do so but consistently read everything on my subscription list.

I'm quite happy to grant access to any journal I can see is used/active/filled with posts that demonstrate it's run by a real human but I only grant access if people actually ask for it - many of my access-locked posts discuss emotional/personal/philosophical issues that I think could be described as 'full-on' and I don't want to thrust excessive intimacy on people who are subscribing to read my lighter/ephemeral posts.

tl;dr; if you want access, shout up. Otherwise, feel free to subscribe!

What I’d like to get from my participation here
To discover some more dw users who blog about a range of issues, serious and light, work and home. Always glad to increase my reading list.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Some time ago, I wrote this after hearing the person who made the documentary Crazy About One Direction speak (in an academic context). I've had it set to private for ages but in the context of my continuing participation in Manics fandom, and all that it has given me, I wanted to post it now. 

I watched Crazy About One Direction when it aired last year.  I also watched the enormous twitter fall out where the girls who were interviewed were attacked by other fans and expressed their regret.  I watched the film maker apparently bait fans on twitter to greater response and outcry.  I talked to two of the girls who appeared in the documentary on twitter about their responses to seeing the finished film and the twitter response they endured.

My conclusion was that the documentary was about exotisizing and laughing at the 'obsessive' fan performances of devotion. I felt the girls who contributed were hung out to dry.

I asked her today about a comment she made in her presentation that all the girls were happy with the film and pleased to be in it given my interaction with one contributor which was to the contrary - I suggested that perhaps we could understand it within a framework where outrage was a performative act of belonging to the fandom.  She suggested the girls who said they were angry about their portrayal were not being entirely honest because of the pressure they felt to hate the film.  I think that's a neat and plausible explanation but I don't feel it completely deals with the ethical issues raised by the film's airing and the backlash online.

She spoke about how she felt she had made an affectionate portrait of the fans and admired and enjoyed the culture they created and their experience of being in a fandom. She felt she could never win at making a film about the fans that they would enjoy.

Here's the issue, as it stands for me: if you haven't lived a fandom from the inside you can't talk about it.  If you 'admire' the cultural practices and creation of a fandom then you already miss the point.  If you think being inside a fandom would be wonderful and wish you could be - but aren't - then you are never going to represent that experience correctly because you cannot understand it.  There were a lot of shitty documentaries made about Manics fans, a lot of shit articles written about how we were obsessive and insane and impenetrable.  None of them understood why we were those things, none of them acknowledged how and why we came together and why we protected our borders so vigorously.

Manics fans got to understand the media, we got to understand you have to check credentials if someone wants to interview you.  We got to understand we needed to laugh at ourselves and doing so would help us, as well as take the venom out of the bite of the media when they tried to make those same jokes.  Most music press articles on Manics fans these days have a begrudging respect -  we stayed the course, we learnt to be media savvy, we made the jokes first, but we never sacrificed our passion for the band and our protection of one another. 

I tried telling the One Direction film maker I believed that a lot of the anger the One Direction fans felt was experienced by Manics fans in the past and that we had learnt to negotiate the stereotypes about what a Manics fan is - and that One Direction fans were too young a fandom to have got there yet.  She seemed to understand - but then she made comments that suggested she didn't understand at all.  She linked the threats of suicide and murder One Direction fans levelled at themselves and her respectively after the documentary aired to Manics fans cutting themselves as a performance of belonging.  I explained to her that she was confusing cause and effect - that, yes, perhaps belonging was coded in the Manics fandom by performance of self hatred, but perhaps - more likely -  it was that the Manics provided a space to talk, an outlet, and a siren call to those who were already hating themselves.  Perhaps, I told her, One Direction fans were not expressing self hate and feelings of ugliness because One Direction had a song on that topic (as she suggested), but rather because they felt that way and suddenly, finally, had a channel to express that.

She nodded with interest - this seemed to be the first time an alternative reading of that action was offered to her.  'But!' she countered, 'Manics fans are a very different demographic to One Direction fans.' I nodded in agreement.  'One Direction fans are working class' she said.  I hesitated - Manics fans are almost universally from working class families in my experience -  as conversation around us interrupted I lost the opportunity to correct her on the ways in which I felt they were different demographics.  'There's more than shared music for Manics fans though,' I said 'we have a shared political position'.  She nodded; 'yeah, suicide'.  I boggled.  'Suicide is not a political position', I said.  Conversation of people around us overtook us again and I never got a response from her beyond a laugh.  I was talking about socialism and political leftism.  She was talking about performance of emotional trauma.  She doesn't understand my fandom - she sees only the sensational in a fandom which has negotiated a new media relationship away from sensational representations of our fandom.  For that reason it's perhaps inevitable it was only the sensational, the disembodied, the abstract that was represented in what she believed was an 'affectionate' portrait of One Direction fans

I got talking, later on this evening, to a friend about my experience of being in the Manics fandom.  We talked about what it meant to me and what I understood the fandom as.  Family.  Family is what it is.  Manics fans understand me deep down and I understand them, we share a common cultural knowledge, a social and political position, and, perhaps sadly, a shared trauma in relation to family or mental health or society, or all three.  We skip the basics, the introductions, and we go straight to acceptance and understanding and compassion.  And we sustain one another, look after one another, forgive one another.  We offer each other all the things my friend gets from her family or origin.

I wouldn't dream of making a documentary about what it means to be in my friend's family.  But the cultural availability of fandom, the public construction of it, the apparent accessibility of it, means people feel able to talk, with authority, about what it is we are doing and why.  The jokes we make about what being a manics fan means - about self harm and self loathing and suicide and disappearance - they are funny because we live them.  They aren't funny because they are abstract or because they are excessive.  But those are the reasons people outside the fandom, including this filmmaker, laugh.  We laugh together, they laugh at us.  We laugh or we'd cry, they laugh because it seems strange and incomprehensible, because it is Other.

Ethically though? Nightmare.  I maintain her documentary was fundamentally unethical because of how it offered up her representation of those girls to a hostile and paranoid fandom.  And after speaking to her I strongly believe it fell down ethically because she was sure she understood their fannish experience and refused to listen to them telling her what it felt like from the inside.  She fetishised the experience of being inside fandom and that creates an insurmountable distance in story telling. My family is the Manics fandom, I find it hard to articulate what that feels like - but I don't want someone else to tell my story for me, to judge me by their standards, to point and say "isn't this weird, how they communicate and organise and live?! Isn't it novel and different?! Let's all look and stare!"

And that, I think, remains the fundamental misunderstanding of the filmmaker which means she can't quite see how inevitable the response to that documentary was.  And it made me feel misunderstood, as I tried to illustrate my point with my own experience of fandom because she got side tracked with what she thought she knew about Manics fans and stopped listening to me.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 I have submitted my PhD thesis.

It seems to have been such a long time coming.  Hard to remind myself that, with all the faults I can already see in my thesis. this is a huge achievement.  There were times I didn't think I would ever finish writing my thesis, times I was ready to quit, there are times I did not believe I could complete.  But I'm here.  Compared to where I was in January 2012 - sitting on my bed in my room at my parents house where I was living to save money for a PhD, writing an application for funding, dreaming of being able to go back to University - the me from then would be over the moon at what I've done.  The goalposts move as you go through and I'm trying to force myself to judge the achievement I have *right now* by the standards of 4 years ago.

Last night I went out with a large number of friends from uni, and with another PhD student who I share an office with and who submitted on the same day as me, for cocktails.  It was a lovely evening and a really wonderful atmosphere.  I had put a picture of my thesis acknowledgements page on Facebook and tagged a number of friends who were mentioned in it.  A lot of people commented on and liked it, which was lovely, but on the way home from the pub at 1am last night, another PhD student told me that reading it (specifically, seeing that I had thanked David Bowie and Manic Street Preachers for contributing to my ambition, self-belief, and for inspiring me) had inspired him and reinvigorated his own sense of connection to various pop-cultural figures as something which matters.  It was about the best compliment I could have.  My little risk (I was anxious it was inappropriate to thank celebs/idols) to include those people in my acknowledgements paid off, in that it inspired someone else to celebrate their own sources of inspiration and talk about the 'low culture' of pop and rock in the high-culture world of academia.  

My terms.  That's what I feel like - I wrote my thesis and my acknowledgements on my terms.

Things are challenging with my family right now.  My 99 year old Nan died 3 weeks ago - she was my Dad's Mum and had dementia which had got progressively worse over the last 3 years.  In the end, she stopped eating and drinking and died within a week.  It was sad but not unexpected.  My Dad has taken it very badly - which is sort of inexplicable.  His brothers and sisters have not been hard hit, she was very old and had had a long independent life (to 94) before she became unwell.  My Dad has withdrawn and is not talking to my Mum or anyone else, really.  The funeral was on Thursday and we expected that would move him on but it seems to have made him worse.  I phoned him yesterday to share with him my delight at having just submitted my thesis.  He said "oh?" and when I said "that's all you can say?" he asked me to repeat what I was saying, which I did.  And then he said "yes?".  I nearly burst into tears at his apathy and said "thanks a lot, bye" and hung up.  He text me several hours later saying he had been waiting for a call from the bank to sort of my Nan's bank account and was not concentrating and...I don't care.  This is the most important thing in my entire life.  This is wonderful, happy, celebratory news.  The world does not stop when you lose someone and the only way to get through it is to grab hold of good things when you can.

I spoke to my Mum today - he had not mentioned to her that I had called so I told her about the above.  She said she is becoming increasingly angry and frustrated with him.  He will not talk about how he is feeling, barely speaks at all, and when he does all he talks about is his Mum and his childhood and his brothers and sister.  My Mum says she feels like he doesn't care about us (her, my brothers, me) anymore, she said "it's like none of us, none of this, matter to him".  

My Mum (due to various reasons) had two Mums.  Both of them died many years ago.  Her Dad died when she was still a teenager.  She has lost all her parents.  She has been through this.  And she was widowed when she was in her 20s.  She knows what grief is like.  And she will listen and help my Dad.  But he seems to not want any of us and not be willing to look outside himself or accept that people die.  And we all have to die eventually and 99 is an amazing age.  My Mum asked him to remember how lucky he had been to have his Mum all this time (he's 71). He didn't respond.

I'm angry.  And I'm sad that he can't even muster two words - "well done!" - for something so huge for me.  

And I'm sad for my Mum, for her having to live with him when he's like this.  She's angry and frustrated and worried there's something seriously wrong with him.

And, at the end of all this, I'm just tired and sad and feeling kind of empty now the thesis is gone and the viva is far off in the future - perhaps very far off depending on whether my external examiner is participating in the UCU industrial action - and I need to muster energy to apply for jobs and write some journal articles.

This isn't how I thought I would feel at the [almost] end of the PhD.  Bit of an anti-climax. 
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I've had one major meltdown and one minor meltdown in the last 7 days.  

4 weeks to thesis submission.

Taking bets now on how many more meltdowns before then.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983)

Jack Celliers: "What a funny face. Beautiful eyes..."

There are a number of reasons I didn't watch this to write a review last time I rewatched all my Bowie movies.  The biggest being: this film is brutal.  

Before I put it on again I ran through, in my mind, all the other prisoner of war movies I'd watched. I decided A Town Like Alice was worse because of the crucifixtion.  Upon watching Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, I've revised that opinion. A Town Like Alice is a hard watch but it offers you something, right at the end; redemption. Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence offers no such concessions. It is an unflinching, critical, damning representation of war.

Everyone is brutalised. Everyone loses their minds. Everyone is lesser for war.  Everyone loses.

Against such a backdrop it feels almost trite to talk about the acting. But I will plough on regardless.

David Bowie isn't the star of the show. The stars, the backs upon whom the movie is carried, are Hara and the titular Lawrence. But I do think Bowie is perfectly cast for the repressed, guilty, self-destrcutive, honorable, uncompromising, Celliers. He is a madman in a world of manmen so it doesn't show. He is flamboyantly and quietly resistant.  I think it may be the best cast and best acted of all of Bowie's roles. Save, perhaps, for Labyrinth.

I understand Bowie was cast on the strength of his performance in The Elephant Man, which I feel gives him a quiet confidence in his abilties. Even the mime scene (because there has to be a bit of Bowie in there somewhere) is appropriate, proportional.  Bowie's character's death loses none of its horror with time. Again, I think Bowie acts those scenes of his 'crime' and death exceptionaly well. Blunt, almost numb. But direct.  I remember distinctly the first time I watched this movie I was in absolute disbelief that they could kill David Bowie, of all people, off so easily.  Some roundabout irony there, perhaps, to my reaction just 2 weeks ago.

The dud note - and again it seems there must always be one of those - is, for me, the decision to use the 36 year old Bowie to play his past 16 or 17 year old self.  Yes, this is Bowie - no, he does not look 36. But does he look 17? Not on your life. The whole flashback section is badly done but it does provide a visual relief from the desaturated nightmare that is the POW camp.  Finally, there's the lingering inconsistency of Celliers being Australian by birth and upbringing, along with a dodgy but not overdone accent up to the age of 17. And then the adult Celliers we meet at the beginning of the film apparently being cockney and in the British army, despite wearing an Australian army hat. BUT ANYWAY.

I must look up Bowie's comments on this role because it is such a big departure from what came before (although perhaps Celliers resignation to his fate does echo that of Thomas Jerome Newton) and it is, in my opinion, such a close study. I'd be interested too, to know what interaction if any he had with fellow actor and musician Ryúichi Sakamoto, who wrote the film's beautiful score.

All in all? A carefully made, and heart wrenchingly direct representation of life at a POW camp. This film is hard going, but Bowie and more make it worthwhile.

askygoneonfire: 'Love' painted on to four fingers of a hand (love hand)
So I was given 5 questions by [ profile] meepettemu. I am supposed to say that if you comment and ask, I'll give you 5. And I will.

1: do you have specific plans for after your PhD, and if so, what are they?
This is the question that keeps me up at night. The simple answer is, I don't. The more involved answer is I want to stay in academia but to do that I need to pull my finger out and publish something and be prepared for a few years of continued precarious employment and be open to moving anywhere in the country to chase down any positions. The thought of starting all over again somewhere else in the country seems exhausting. But so does applying for jobs just in Brighton. I think there is a cruelty to the treadmill of academia where, at your lowest ebb, you need to muster the most energy to secure yourself employment and career. Whatever happens, it will surely be narrated here.

2: Is there a significance behind your raven tattoo? If so, what?
It's a carrion crow, not a raven. And yes, there is a significance. It's more of a narrative, really;

I love crows, I think they are wonderful, engaging animals and I enjoy every interaction I have with them. They are also, to me, quite strongly tied to Brighton, I have only ever lived closely with crows here in Brighton as they dominate the university's campus and I often sit and watch them at lunch, on breaks, and during my office hours (one memorable day, I saw a crow disembowel a dead rabbit, it was hilariously gruesome). They are also, of course, members of the corvid family. An exceptionally clever genus (corvus) they include the new caledonian crow which makes and uses tools, and the raven which can solve puzzles quicker than a 5 year old human. Good old, common, familiar carrion crows have also been shown to mourn their dead.

There is considerable mythology surrounding the crow, some of it I believe is clearly linked to observable behaviour (such as their feasting on carrion, mourning their dead, and intelligence and rational approach to problems) and the rest is the usual imaginative leaps of man. In particular, I like the mythology which says they are messengers for the dead/from the dead/of the dead, and that they are said to be able to see forward in time.

When my friend died, I felt something huge had shifted in the world. It came at a time I was trying to decide the direction of my life. The night I learnt she'd died I vowed to move back to Brighton, take control of my life and direct it in the way which my gut told me to go, and not be guided by financial fears or ideas of what I 'should' be doing. I did all of those things before the year was out.

I knew I needed a tattoo to mark this shift in my life, as a tribute and reminder of Lux, and an emblem of my new outlook and determination. I had also been considering a cover up of a tattoo I had got when I was 19 and trying to remind myself of my own strength and ability to stay alive. So, bearing in mind all of the above, I chose a crow - conveniently being an ideal colour for a cover up tattoo.

My crow is facing forwards - as we must always do - but looking backwards - remembering what has gone, seeing the lessons and people that came before. And he knows death, but he does not fear it, he simply knows it is a part of life and an essential part at that.

3: When you were a teenager, what were your career aspirations?
I never had a strong sense of where I wanted to go or who I wanted to be. The only career I ever really wanted was to be either a vet or a zoologist. Those dreams were quickly quashed by a) going to a shit comprehensive that ignored talent and neglected to aid underachievement and b) spending ages 15-19 being fucking miserable and very nearly getting no A Levels. I was not good enough at Maths or Science by the time I was in Sixth Form - largely because I was depressed, stoned, and in a dreadful school - for that to be a realistic dream so I let it go.

I'm not sure how I feel about it.

4: How old were you when you first realised you might not be straight?
The thing with being bi/queer/pan/whatever is not being straight doesn't come into focus as early as it seems to for your out-and-out gay folk. You can rattle along quite happily fancying men and assuming your feelings for women are comparable to the idol worship of your straight female friends. The clues were always in the men I fancied - they were never handsome or rugged or butch. They were all beautiful, delicate, thoughtful, queer, and vaguely off beat. I was never going to be the 'right' kind of heterosexual.

I think I was about 13 or 14 by the time I actually started having sexual feelings for women - which is around the time I started having sexual feelings for men, now I come to reflect on it. And I was 15 or 16 when I started coming out. As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, David Bowie was part of how I came to be sure. And so was Nicky Wire. 

I think I was about 19 or 20 before I heard the term pansexual and finally found a word to describe my specific desires, and adoration of the Bowies and Wires of this world. Queer entered my lexicon when I did my Masters at 22 and added another dimension to my self expression. 

5: Where in the UK would you choose to live if it could be anywhere?
Brighton. Where I am right now. Where I can't afford to stay and am unlikely to be in a year's time. And that is already breaking my heart.
askygoneonfire: David Bowie as the Thin White Duke (Thin White Duke)
Just a Gigolo (1978)

Cilly: "They used to call me the child prodigy of the revolution, but the revolution was a little slow in coming so I moved on."
Paul: "Yes, that seems to be my problem"

Judging by the section on reception on wikipedia, the score on Rotten Tomatoes, and the summing up on Film 4, I might be the only person in the world who likes this film.

I'm not sure why.  It's funny!  It's a really quiet, dry, funny, but funny all the same.   For crying out loud, David Bowie is carrying a pig around, arguing with people about whether or not he is dead for the first 20 minutes! 

Some reviews suggest the film couldn't decide what it was but I think it knows quite well. It's a black comedy on the interwar period in Berlin; capturing the listlessness and vague sense of fatalism which inflected the actions and spirit of Berliners at the time.  Perhaps it's because it so quickly reminded me of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin that I was so open to it.  It also evoked something of Jason Lute's City of Stones for me.  And, of course, Cabaret; fundamentally different from Cabaret of course, but it felt like you had walked round the corner from Sally Bowles' club and stumbled on a whole new story.  Whatever the cause of my susceptibility, I enjoyed it.  

I liked that it was broadly pessimistic. Such subject matter must be bleak.  And that bleakness comes through in the slightly anarchic, offbeat style.  

I liked that it poked fun at the Nazis as disorganised and stupid.  I liked the quiet, wry comment of the conclusion. I liked that Bowie's character was vaguely tragic and also utterly self-indulgent. I liked it.

As I said in my last post, all David Bowie movies need a bit of sex, lingering shots of his delicate features, and an off beat character.  Based on that criteria alone, it is a roaring success.  There are issues though. Marlene Dietrich's refusal to return to Berlin, filming all her shots in Paris and then having them pasted into the film, actually shows. There are bizarre pauses in the 'conversation' between her and Bowie when she recruits him as a gigolo.  And, frankly, there isn't enough sex. In fact, the idea Bowie really is a gigolo is something of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it plot point. It's all a nod and a wink instead of a fumble and a gasp. 

All in all, I thought it rather fun, rather knowing, rather silly and rather wonderful.
askygoneonfire: David Bowie in profile with a hat (Bowie Man Who)
The Hunger (1983)

It struck me, as I popped yet another David Bowie dvd into the player, that I never concluded the series of blog posts on them.

Tonight I watched The Hunger for the first time.

As David Bowie movies go, it fulfils the key requirements; a number of lingering shots playing over his beautiful features, a bit of sex, a somehow inhuman, or superhuman character. Unfortunately, he's only in it for about 40 minutes and only recognisable for about 20.

The Hunger is a curious film. To all intents and purposes, it's a well made (if you can ignore the monkey murder), engaging gothic-thriller-mystery for the first 20 minutes. Then, as the "make up illusions" (so claimed in the opening credits) begin to emerge it all goes rather downhill. Fast.

There's a brief reprise in the form of a reasonable lesbian sex scene, with Susan Sarandon looking the best she ever has. Then it gets....weird.  It's somehow a low budget vampire flick with hammy acting and inexplicable plotting, and also a big-name-star erotic thriller with a pleasingly open (and also absurd) ending.  

The use of "special" effects is...well. I want to say comendable. Because anyone brave enough to use such low quality fake blood so unconvincingly must be applauded for their efforts.

But what to celebrate? As so often with Bowie films, it's the smaller moments that make this film worth sitting through.  The beautiful scene with Bowie playing cello feels like it was lifted from a high end drama (incidentally, that's the clip they chose to loop at David Bowie Is in the screenign room). The moment as he lays awake in the dawn light and the camera plays across his fragile, wonderfully androgynous features: and he looks tired, and happy, and sad.  The very real lust which plays across his face as he undresses the girl from the club and cracks his tongue up her body.

That bit gives me dirty, filthy, longing shivers.  

Like so many other Bowie films, he gives his all to utterly implausible plots and badly executed screenplays, and shines in moments, just moments, which never get joined up into the tour de force he deserved.  The Man Who Fell to Earth comes closest, and I do love that film more with age, but Candy bloody Clarke is never going to disappear from that film, so sadly, it will never achieve what it should or could have.  Much like The Hunger.

On Bowie.

Jan. 11th, 2016 04:34 pm
askygoneonfire: David Bowie in profile with a hat (Bowie Man Who)
What to say on such a sad day?

How to put into words the depth of a loss which affects no material change in my social circle? How to express all the things that stranger, that alien, that musician, that performer, that extraordinary star meant to me?

I woke up to text messages asking me if I was ok. Their sources were diverse enough that I knew it was not a relation. So I ran through the options in my head; Nicky Wire? David Bowie? David Bowie.  David Bowie.

Open twitter to read what I already knew in the pit of my stomach.  And laugh at the absurdity. David Bowie clearly cannot die.  How ridiculous. I spent all weekend listening to the new album. Nobody who made something so vital could possibly die. How ridiculous. Spent the weekend thinking about how Blackstar was like, and unlike Outside. Mulling over the imagery in Lazarus.

Got in the shower. Lost my breath to wracking sobs. Can't be true, is true, can't be true, is true.

BBC News channel, the only place to go when the world turns upside down. Is true is true.

But, united. The whole of my twitter timeline, text messages, messenger keeps pinging, all of my facebook feed.  All united. Saying "surely not? He means too much to us all.".

At first I couldn't understand why his illness had been kept secret, but it is better this way. We'd have mourned him for a year and a half whilst he was still here. Brutal though today has been, it's clean. 

_ _ _ _ _ _

David Bowie pre-dates the Manics, as my obsessions go.  Like the rest of my generation I met him in Labyrinth. But I'd always known his songs; I remember playing with space station Lego, singing Space Oddity to myself, over and over again when I was 4 or so. But it came together in 2002, I bought Heathen after a rave review in Q and added it to Hunky Dory of my shelf. For 3 months in 2005 I listened to nothing but The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  I waxed lyrical about his acting skill, and his dick, to a friend, when I got thrown out of a party for being too drunk and made him watch The Man Who Fell to Earth with me.  I went to Berlin with Station to Station and The Next Day in 2013.

I saw him live, his last UK show, in 2004 at the Isle of Wight Festival.  It was beautiful.  Perfect, actually.  He came on after England lost at football in some competition or other. Made a quip about sharing his initials with David Beckham. Launched into his set.  Turned around the mood.  Turned around the festival.  The sun went down as he played and when he went off stage, at the end, the woman near me shouted "we'll scream until the sun comes up".  As we walked back to the campsite there was a buzz.  People babbled in disbelief at what and who they had seen. I overhead two lads talking; "we saw him! The Thin White Duke! I can't believe we saw him!".  

I can't believe I saw him.

I knew I was not straight when I was young, perhaps 14 when it started to come into focus for me.  I remember asking my Mum, when I was 16 or so, if she liked Bowie.  She said "I did, until he said he was bisexual and then I went off him". And I remember that going to my very soul.  Bowie was with me, my Mum was not.  I clung to him. Immersed myself in Bowie's otherness.  I was sure my Mum would go off me, just like she had Bowie, when she knew the truth of me.  When I finally came out to my Mum it was with reference to that conversation; "would you hate me if I was bisexual?".

She didn't hate me.  She doesn't hate Bowie any more either. She told me today the news hit her like a punch to the stomach.  I think my sexuality and feeling accepted, and my Mum's feelings about Bowie will always be all tied up together for me.  

When I started reading autobiographies I felt a new sense of connection.  His brother had schizophrenia, before his sad death.  And that shaped who Bowie became and how he moved through life. A few people quote him as saying he feared he would lose his mind.  I know that fear. I am shaped by that fear.  Nobody who has stood so close to madness, to schizophrenia, can feel anything else.  My brother lost his mind when I was 11.  And then again, and again.  And by the time I was 16, perhaps earlier, I had no greater fear than losing my mind.  Still don't.

I took comfort in knowing Bowie shared that.  It changes you. It pushes you on.  

How far can you push yourself before you do? How does the free-wheeling, top of the roller-coaster moment feel? Who else can you be? Why be one person? If you have nothing to lose but yourself then it's time to let go of that tight grip of who you are and explore everyone you could be.

And look what happens when you let go, look what happens when you reinvent yourself, casting off each shell as you outgrow it. 

So he can't be gone, can he? It's just the latest reinvention.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Last year I read 30 books, although really it was 29 as the first one of the year was read between Christmas and finished on New Years Day so all in all, I'm maintaining my awesome pace of the last 5 years. I treated myself to 5 new books immediately after Christmas so I'm all stocked up and ready to read more graphics, sci fi, and the odd bit of crime fiction this year.

1. Watership Down - Richard Adams I bought this in the kindle sale, which in itself is becoming something of an annual bookfest for me.  I really, really enjoyed it. Having only seen the film before I didn't have the highest expectations because whilst the film is lovely, it's quite a thin story. I really loved the book - in particular I found the rhythm and texture of the prose to be really delightful, very rich. I also found the near ceaseless, but quite well defined, various conflicts to be really compelling.  My only critique would be that I wish we could have come to know Fiver better.
2. Pattern Recognition - William Gibson It's hard to know what to say about this book, on the one hand the plot was thin and nothing really happened and there were no twists where there should be if it was, as the blurb said, a detective/mystery novel.  On the otherhand, I loved Cayce (what is it with me and Gibson's characters?) and I loved having a protagonist with serious and non-dramatic anxiety issues which were both hindrance and gift. I also really like the portrayal of online relationships which absolutely correspond with my experiences over the last 10 plus years (back to 2003 when this was written/set). I'm sure I'll read the rest of the trilogy eventually, but it's not high on my list.

3. The Man in the High Castle - Philip K Dick It's hard to know what to make of this book and I'm trying to resist listing its faults.  I like the focus on minutae of life post WWII/German victory but I didn't really like any of the characters - except all of the Japanese who actually seemed to have integrity. I liked the acknowledgement that, had the Allies lost the war, they would have gone down hard and been accused of war crimes after the German victory - that felt true.  Otherwise it was very weak, quite meandering, lacking a real critical reflection on what fascism means - the idea that Germans were only interested in exterminating black and Jewish people felt really naive. I kept thinking of Swastika Night which gives a detailed account of the logical end of fascism with regard to women which Dick totally ignored/was unable to imagine. Similarly the Japanese are represented as reasonable, broadly compassionate victors which is problematic given the ideology which drove the Japanese war involvement in WWII.  As usual his female characters are all Madonna or Whore.  The suggestion, on the cover and in the foreword, that this was "the best sci-fi novel of all time" and that Juliana was a "fulled formed" character are laughable. It's not sci-fi and it's not even the best Philip K Dick novel I've read.
4. Interesting Times - Terry Pratchett Another of the 'old' ones I missed when I started reading Discworld.  I still adore the idea of a hero who, unlike your typical hero, hates finding himself in life or death situations and views every adventure as a disaster waiting to happen, or happening already. It shouldn't work, but good god it does.  Laughed all the way through. I must read the Last Continent again.

5. The Art of Flying - Antonio Altaribba This was a middling graphic. On the one hand, I enjoyed the history (the primary reason I bought it) and learning about the concentration camps Spaniard fleeing fascism were placed in, in France which was news to me. I disliked the representation of women - they were all Madonna's or whores and drawn in quite a juvenile way - all boobs and arse.  But there was a certain integrity to the story - even though it was the half-imagined life of a dead man. It's good.  Just not good enough to own forever more.
6. Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig I hated this. I bought it against my better judgement after Buzzfeed listed it. In short; his solution to depression and anxiety is basically; be lucky enough to have a partner who will support you and not leave you because you are suffering crippling depression and parents and a partner who will financially support you until you can work again.  He is also frustratingly evasive about medical intervention - he says he doesn't take meds which is fine, but did he have counselling or therapy? What interventions did his GP offer or make? There are a few mentions of GP visits which suggest he was known to doctor as a depressive/suffering anxiety - but nothing on what came, or didn't come of them.  Ultimately I found him patronising, privileged, myopic.  And as for the title? The reasons basically are "you won't be depressed for ever" which - great. Yes. True. But something more is needed for this sort of book, some baring of the soul, some revelation of the self. Instead, I found it superficial and evasive. The points where it was specific on what helped were things which are often part of the cause of depression for me and others - i.e having/not having family, friends, children.


7. Phonogram Volume 3. The Immaterial Girl - Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie It's a surprisingly long time since I started on my Phongram journey and I am sad and sort of happy that it ends here.  I liked it a lot more than Singles Club (vol. 2) and I was glad to find the reasons I liked Emily were right, somehow.  It feels like a document of our generation.  I'm glad of it.

8. The Last Continent - Terry Pratchett I started reading Carol but the PhD is sucking up all my emotional energy so I abandoned it/put it on hold for some laughs.  I don't remember much about the story from the first time I read it in 1999 so rereading was especially nice. I do remember that all the cultural-reference-point jokes largely flew over my head when I first read it so it was especially enjoyable to read again and actually *get* it.  I love Pratchett, and I miss him.  The sparkling wordplay and the confident, exhilarating plotting is just a delight. 
9. The ABC Murders - Agatha Christie After the success of getting through above, I picked up a Christie from the library as I always fly through them.  This was no exception.  Great story, lovely knowing, meta-stuff regarding how detective novels (usually) work and so on.  Great discussion of mental health and pathology (yay for non stigmatising depictions and nuanced descriptions of insanity!). And, as ever, the 'big reveal' was just a small element in a rich story.  Wonderful.

10. Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett In the first flush of thesis submission I started three different books but finally settled on giving this one a proper go.  I love it.  Granny standing firm, busting arses - and younger than she is in more recent Pratchett's I've read which is a beautiful thing about books - time travel.  She'll always be there, young and old, wise and impulsive. Waiting.
11. Divergent - Veronica Roth Good things; a largely pacey read - but becomes very repetitive in final third.  Bad things: the clear Christian-Right themes and morality (guns are power! fat is ugly, ugly is evil! Knowledge takes you away from the one true path - aka god) were really offensive.  As a young adult novel, I genuinely find it disturbing it represents handguns as a route to power and control and a whole heap of 'good' things.  Also: the characterisation was very poor, even when I finished I still didn't have a sense of Tris as a person.  Similarly, the writing was poor and the vocabulary was embarrassingly simplistic.  I hated being talked down to at age this novel is targeted at.  It left me with a bad taste in my mouth. 

12. Saga: Volume 6 - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona K. Staples I love love love this series. Rationed myself through this again.  I adore that more and more great female characters are emerging in every volume. And there is a trans character in this one which I loved. And yes.  Never end, Saga, never end.
13. Carol - Patricia Highsmith Took me bloody ages to read this. For the first half to first two thirds, I was bored.  It felt like same-old sad-lesbian story with everyone wringing their hands and carrying around lots of shame and sadness and it was so frustrating.  When Carol and Therese finally left on their trip it got radically more enjoyable really fast.  Ultimately, a really joyful book and radical for its conclusion which the author's postscript, written 30 years after publication, says was as well received and powerful as you might expect.  Glad I stuck with it.

14. Pyramids - Terry Pratchett Tried and failed to get into a Stephen Baxter book that I got cheap on kindle in order to make a decision about whether or not to read the 'The Long...' series he wrote with Pratchett before abandoning that, then tried to start the second in the William Gibson Blue Ant trilogy but couldn't get going with that and ended up doing impulse buying in Waterstones.  This was the last Discworld novel I had to read. So that's it, I've read them all now.  A very bittersweet achievement.  I loved every moment, read the whole thing in 3 days. Just wonderful, sparkling wordplay, and silly jokes and clever jokes, and warm, open storytelling.  Time to start the full re-read, perhaps.
15. A Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein The first half to two thirds of this novel are a delight. Save for some nagging sexism it's pretty much perfect and then it disappears up its own arse and becomes a trudge.  A contemporary review said it was "a disastrous mishmash of science fiction, laborious humor, dreary social satire and cheap eroticism" and i really feel that sums it up.  I don't know how or why it's come to be known as a 'sci fi classic' because it's barely sci fi, most of it reads as [erotic] wish fulfilment, which in principle is fine, but it's not what I signed up for.  It's not half as clever as it thinks it is and veers between loving women for being intelligent and independent, and some truly horrendous sexism.  I couldn't decide if Heinlein hated or loved women - I suspect it was a bit of both. He certainly didn't respect them as equals, more as exotic creatures.  The logic of his 'free love, human sexuality is wonderful' versus the explicit homophobia and expressions of disgust about m/m sex (predictably f/f sex is FINE) also really grated for me.  This review really covers the bases for me, I will try one more Heinlein - best 2 out of 3 - as I did enjoy Starship Troopers.

The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist, The Adventure of the Priory School - Arthur Conan Doyle I actually read the first two sometime in 2014 but as they are short stories I only count them as one book if I read more than three.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
Nothing 'big' but I was in a cinematic release movie, available on bluray later in the year, appeared on BBC tv. I had an operation - my first ever. And I kept ploughing on with the PhD - a determined continuation is new in a roundabout sort of way.

Read more... )
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 I had my shoulder operation on Thursday. It all went technically well.  Muscle and tissue were all in good shape so no additional repairs were needed and I have the small sling and quicker recovery time.  It was an arthroscopic subacromial decompression and ACJ resection, if you are interested in looking up the gory details.  

After the surgery and just after I regained coherent consciousness in recovery the surgeon came by to show me photographs from inside my shoulder which he took during the surgery.  I had been really enthusiastic to see these before going in for the surgery so I was really striving to get it together to understand and remember what he showed me.  It's a bit of a blur so being able to google the procedure and see photos of other people's shoulders has helped me make sense of what I can remember.  The white fluffy coral-looking stuff was the thing that stuck with me most, according to this page, it's called a bone spur.  It fascinates me how utterly alien the inside of our own bodies looks.

Overall, it wasn't a great experience.  The nurses barely spoke to me and left me sitting alone, with no info on how long I would be waiting, for 2 hours after admission. They also left me, alone and not checking back to see if I was ok, to put on compression socks.  These are challenging to get on at the best of times but try heaving them up your legs when you only have one good arm. I ended up crying discreetly and struggling with it for about 30 mins. No nurses ever came to check I'd managed it.  Similarly, when I woke up I was apparently quite fighty and the nurse with me in recovery said I had been "all over the place".  The first thing I remember in recovery is being told to lay back/turn off my side and onto my back and put the oxygen mask back on, all the while I was arguing/saying no/that I just wanted to sleep.  This is, I understand, not an unusual reaction to anaesthetic.  But the nurse made me feel really guilty and I spent the rest of the time with her apologising for having been difficult and she just kept saying "m-hm" and not the considerable more reassuring "don't worry" or "it's ok" or "it's not your fault".

I also heard the nurse help the man in the cubicle next to me get dressed (he had also had shoulder surgery and had a nerve block in his arm so no feeling in it like me) but when it came to me getting dressed the nurse made me feel really awkward about helping me put my bra on (like somehow it was inappropriate I needed her to help me with it?) and helped me put my t shirt on and then left.  Fortunately, my friend B had arrived by then and she was able to help me put my trousers, shoes and socks on but I literally would not have been able to do it without her help.  I don't understand why B had to do that, I was already calling in a huge favour of her in her collecting and looking after me for the 24 hours following the surgery.

Apparently I was my surgeon's last operation of the day (I came round at 2:10pm so a very short day for him!) and I felt like all the nurses wanted to go home/I was a massive inconvenience.  It was pretty anxiety provoking really.  The only person who was absolutely brilliant was the anaesthetist and his assistant who could not have put me more at ease or been more accommodating.  

The nerve block (which was a strange experience in itself, leaving my right arm totally without feeling, sensation of temperature, or any muscle control) wore off at about 3am on Friday morning, I awoke saying "OW!" and took the painkillers I'd been prescribed.  I had a totally restful Friday and Saturday and was pleasantly surprised at how manageable the pain was.  As of yesterday, however, I had a major pain spike and am now taking a double dose of dihydrocodeine which makes me stoned and nauseous but does make the pain seem distant and fuzzy.

I called my GP today to discuss if there was another pain killer option as I can't take anti-inflamatories or regular codeine and although they couldn't offer anything else (except Tramadol, but they sort of said if I could manage on dihydrocodeine it would be better as tramadol disagrees with many people) were so concerned for my overall well being, enquired how I was managing with washing, dressing, cooking and so on and offered immediate consultations if I need it in coming days.  After feeling like a number rather than a person throughout my time at the hospital, it was a welcome and slightly overwhelming change in tone.

Basically, I'm an emotional wreck, convinced the op hasn't worked (5% chance it won't/will make things worse, 15% chance it will improve things but not much and 80% chance it solves everything) and spending my days stoned on the sofa and alternating between happy/chilled and crying/despairing. 
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
...I skip an NHS waiting list and compress 3 months of work into 3 weeks.

I've unexpectedly got a date for my shoulder surgery before the end of the year. In fact, it's due before the end of the month.  Surgery scheduled for Thursday 26th of November and then my bff B is going to pick me up and I will stay at hers overnight - although she's apparently come out in sympathy for me and has a frozen shoulder so she may not be able to drive and pick me up if that hasn't resolved and it might be a pick up by her husband instead.  Then it's home to rattle around my flat alone and home I'm able to function/rely on the kindness of friends if I can't cook. My parents will have to drive and pick me up in the car for Christmas as I won't be able to manage luggage on the train as usual which is sad, as I always enjoy the Christmas-train home, the atmosphere is always lovely. The one advantage is if I am struggling alone, they can come and collect me earlier than I planned to go back, although that would mean I miss Burning the Clocks/Brighton's Winter Solstice celebration which I had intended to make a lantern for this year.

I think I've explained before, but the surgery is to relieve ACJ impingement, as here, and may also involve repair a bicep tear, as here.

I was injured 6 years ago when a twat knocked me off my bike at traffic lights - I was in the cycle lane, he was in left lane turning left and didn't check his mirrors. Smashed into me, waited for me to jump up, drag my bike from under his car, and then he drove off.  After being told to rest it after a visit to A&E (and my first ever x-ray) it stopped hurting and I thought that was that. 2 years later I took up swimming again and it emerged my shoulder was basically in the wrong place with massive muscular weakness around that shoulder.  So I had another x-ray, then referred to shoulder clinic. Shoulder clinic offered me steroid injection or physio.  Concluding physio would treat cause and not symptoms, I chose physio. 3 years of physio, 3 steroid injections, 2 ultrasounds, 2 further x-rays, and an MRI and it's still fucked - and not for any particularly clear reasons.  All the x-rays, ultrasounds and MRI could say was "maybe" my bicep tendon has torn, maybe the joint has some growth impinging it, and maybe the joint it out of alignment. Maybe.  So surgery it is.

I'm quite anxious - after a consultation in October I was told the waiting list was in excess of 3 months so I settled in for a long wait.  I think the sudden date has contributed to my anxiety as I just wasn't ready for it. I'm also a little anxious about having a general anaesthetic - I've had that twice before at the dentist but the last time I was about 12 and came round from the anaesthetic crying my eyes out on my Dad's chest so I'm embarrassed by that, and also a little worried about semi-conscious me having nobody there to cry upon. 

Mostly I'm worried about the pain.  They won't know whether they need to reattach the bicep until they look inside the shoulder, if they do it's significantly longer recovery and more immobility which inevitably means more pain. 

And I'm anxious about putting my PhD on hold for at least a month, and possibly longer.  And I'm stressed right now because I'm working flat out to get all my teaching responsibilities fulfilled before I have to hand over (3 classes of marking, rescheduling two seminars) and lots of admin/PhD stuff (writing 2 abstracts now because there'll be no time later, presenting at a research in progress event in order to promote my work across the university/in a newly established research group, contacting wished-for external examiner to ask if they will examine me in the summer, scheduling completion with supervisors) and just generally compressing the next 3 months of stuff into 3 weeks.

It's all sort of petrifying.  Although it has just occurred to me that once this is done, it'll be a clear run from January to the end of my PhD.  Which is sort of exhilarating.

If I don't die under anaesthetic, which I've convinced myself I will. Drama queen.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
It's getting to the point in my PhD now where I'm just circling - revising and editing everything. The only 'fresh' content I have left to write is the introduction and conclusion and, by definition, there is not much new I'll be putting into that, just summing up and contextualising.  It's getting harder and harder to write my thesis because of this.  The creative, blank page stage is in some ways very intimidating, but it's also quite freeing - there's no wrong place to start, just start throwing stuff at the page, deal with what sticks later.  Now is about focus, detail, concentration.  Honing my argument, tightening up holes, reading 20 books to generate 5 solid references to support one framing sentence.  It's peddling faster than ever to move slower and slower.

This is, in some ways, good. I'm firmly moving into the final stage of writing and the end is in sight.  Within 6 months I could have a full draft with a reasonable expectation I'll only have minor corrections to make before having a manuscript suitable for submission.  In other ways, it's never been harder than right now.

I'm exhausted; intellectually, emotionally, mentally.  And physically I'm in bad shape; my shoulder injury (displaced/separated ACJ) is at its worst, constant pain with the only variation being how much pain I am in each day.  I have an MRI on Thursday and a consultation with a surgeon in October.  I have done *everything* I could to fix this without surgery - 2 years of physio (over 3 years) where I did every exercise at home between sessions I was directed too, I've had 3 steroid injections into the joint, 3 x-rays and 2 ultra sounds.  And still I am in pain.  Still.

There is, in some respects, light at the end of the tunnel - it's reasonable to hope surgery will resolve the problem but, if it doesn't, nothing will.  That's terrifying.  Also terrifying is the prospect of more pain - that's guaranteed immediately after the operation for a minimum of 2 weeks followed by pain as I get muscles back up to strength.  And, perhaps most gut-wrenchingly, is the uncertainty of finances during re-cooperation after the operation.  

I don't get sick pay from my job teaching at the university because I'm on a zero hours contract and it's looking like I'm going to be having operation at end of year or early next year and thus unable to commit to taking on teaching during the spring term so I could potentially lose out on 4 months of money.  

I have carefully, excruciatingly carefully, saved up during the last 5 years and have precisely enough money to live on, pay rent, etc, for the next 12 months.  Every week and month I am out of action for as I recover from operation is time I am basically wasting money - as I won't be able to work on publications or thesis revisions, or teach, or apply for jobs.  The big fat gaping hole that faces me as I draw closer to the end of my PhD is made exponentially worse when I consider facing financial insecurity again.

I am fortunate in that my parent will not allow me to go hungry or homeless.  But they also don't have the resources to pay my rent; their help whilst appreciated and fortunate, would take the form of me moving in with them. Again. 200 miles from Brighton.  At the age of 32.

Everything is very uncertain. Everything is gradually getting harder and harder, more and more intense, and with every step forward I am more and more committed to this path which has absolutely nothing at the end of it unless I can generate opportunity, financial security, a career etc.  And god damn it, my shoulder hurts so much.  Chronic pain is fucking horrible.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)

I don't think I ever found the time to write about going to Manchester to see No Manifesto: A film about Manic Street Preachers. It was a documentary that was largely recorded 9 years ago and has been stuck in post-production for several years for want of funding to get a cinematic release. This year it finally came together and in January and February this year it had a limited theatrical release. I was interviewed for the documentary in 2006 and suspected I'd made the final cut as I'd been in the theatrical trailer they'd released several months earlier. Sure enough, I appeared in the 'cast photos' the film makers put on Facebook and I can be spotted a couple of times - although if you blink/close your ears you miss me.

On a personal note, I adore No Manifesto. It's all the things I, as a contributor and fan, hoped it would be. It has a light touch, a wry look at the band and the fans that come with it.  I sat with [ profile] snapdragon_666 and we laughed and giggled and cringed and had a thoroughly wonderful time watching it - and in our day together either side of it. 

No Manifesto has a wonderful line from Nicky Wire where he says "sometimes the fans hate us, and sometimes we hate them, and that's ok." And it really is.


Yesterday I attended the Manics Cardiff Castle gig which I had been so excited about since it was announced in December.  Unexpectedly, it was broadcast on BBC 2 Wales and, for the non-Welsh, on BBC red button.  It's available for the next 29 days on iPlayer too.

Even more unexpectedly - as I resolved to queue for no more than a couple of hours and decided I'd be quite happy not to be on the barrier - I ended up on the barrier.  And, taking my place on Nicky [Wire]'s side of the stage as I always do, found myself in front of the crowd camera.  I sent my parents a text to let them know they might spot me on tv.  I didn't expect to find myself featured quite so heavily and got home to my hostel last night to a pile of twitter notifications from friends telling me they'd seen me (and our other mutual friends with whom I was standing) on the live feed.

I travelled home from Cardiff today, still feeling the afterglow of a thoroughly massive, energetic, energising gig, and as I was getting the photos off my camera, I watched the first half of the gig on iPlayer.  And yep, there I am! Singing, dancing and generally having the sort of time I only enjoy when I'm crushed against barrier and bodies, screaming at Nicky Wire, without another care in the world.

This was one of the times we didn't hate each other. It was one of the times we bloody loved one another.  Fans and band, running off one another's energy.

A Day Like This a Year

So yes, my last entry was rather melancholy.  But, predictably, that doesn't reflect all of life.

And it's moments like these - laughing until I cry at a documentary in a cinema in Manchester with what felt like a room-full of friends, singing and dancing and cheering amid a mass of 10,000 bodies at a castle in Wales - that really make life.  These are the moments that last.  These are the moments that see me through.  These are the moments - especially the moments yesterday and this morning with friends - that really matter.


Mar. 1st, 2015 06:29 pm
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Had a fairly dreadful couple of weeks.  I'm still not sure if I was going through a downswing/having depression or had a particularly nasty virus or, most likely, both but today I woke up feeling OK.

Spent most of week of 16th Feb laying on sofa feeling knackered and, on Wednesday, dashing to uni campus for an emergency GP appointment because I couldn't catch my breathe.  Mystified GP concluded it was either weird virus causing breathlessness, or some peculiar presentation of asthma, either way I was prescribed an inhaler and used it frequently for about 4 days before symptoms tailed off.  The nurse who triaged me asked if it could be anxiety and I said I didn't feel anxious and she was happy with that but I really don't know if it was anxiety or not.  It wouldn't be the first time I've had all the symptoms of anxiety without consciously feeling stressed.

That weekend was my best friend, Becky's, hen do.  She's not into the pink wings hoopla, and we travelled up to her home town of Oxford to take over the pub she and her friends used to drink in as teenagers and get squiffy.  I was apprehensive about the entire thing but it turned out to be a lovely weekend and I felt I got to know my fellow bridesmaids which is nice ahead of her wedding in May.  It's a bit of an odd group as with the exception of 3 wives and girlfriends, I am the only outsider to join their friendship group since they were at school.  I went to a wedding of another couple from this group several years ago and was the only person at the wedding who wasn't either a family member of the bride and groom, or had gone to high school with them.  It's quite a compliment, and they are a lovely group, but it can feel a little strange setting foot in a group I've only been connected with for 12 years, when they have known each other for closer to 20 years.

Last week I continued to be utterly, utterly exhausted.  My parents visited on Tues and Weds and due to my teaching schedule at uni I only actually spent one day with them even though they were here for 2 nights.  It was nice and I didn't get aggro as I so often do around them.  

Thursday and Friday I was desperately sad, and slept for hours and hours across those two days and nights.  On Friday morning I realised that my building sadness over the last two weeks was due to a subconscious awareness that it should have been Lu's 30th birthday.  Instead, of course, her sister, mother, and friends, all experienced - to different degrees - that gnawing sense of pointless loss for the day.

It shouldn't have been this way.

And then I learnt that Leonard Nimoy had died and I went through the peculiar distanced grief which comes with the death of a celebrity you've had such a deep, life-long connection with.  Star Trek has shaped my imaginative world since I was god knows how old and watching Star Trek TOS on my brother's knee.  Spock is what Star Trek TOS is all about.  And Nimoy was Spock.  He put so much of himself into that character and raised the entire show above the realm of cheap sci fi into the force for good and hope and dreams I know it as today.  I adored his appearances in the Star Trek reboot-movies and I can't quite accommodate the idea he, and his special aura, are gone from our screens save for re-runs.

Saturday was hard too.  I was still exhausted, still feeling the paranoia and anxiety I associate with a particularly brutal downswing.  Forced myself out of the house to Asda which was very nearly the end of me.  Home again for the evening, sadness, introspection.

And then, this morning, I woke up before my alarm and didn't feel exhausted.  The fog has lifted and my brain can think.  I've been accepted to a conference in Ireland in June which may well make a lovely holiday (if I can get funding from the department to go!) and I cleaned the flat and tidied the detritus of a fortnight of inaction. And then I made dinner, wrote some emails...I came alive again.

And I remember why I get up in the morning and why I speak to other human beings and why life keeps on turning.

It's been an awful couple of weeks.  I want to weep for my past self, because I feel bruised from the sadness which has been following me around.  It hurts.  And it scares me every time it comes back, and every time it won't leave.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 There's nothing like Christmas to make you into a misanthrope.

I've just finished off my annual Christmas charity donation by giving £10 to Medicine Sans Frontiers which is about the only thing I feel good about after Christmas - I've donated a bit of my modest income to charity.

All the food, the generous and thoughtful gifts from my family just make me feel guilty.  Even though by any standard I need them (this year my main gifts were; a new blanket, a new pair of jeans, new socks and new pants - given both my blanket and one (yes, one and I wear them every day) pair of jeans both had holes in them. At any one time, half of all my socks have holes in...)

It's hard to cope with the insane consumption that surrounds us at Christmas when that's also coupled with reminders of the abject poverty and need all I ever end up doing is feeling guilty, sad, and - more than anything -  completely impotent to change the lot of those in need.  I'll vote Green in May. Hopefully Caroline Lucas will get in again but it won't have an impact of the fight between the tory's and Labour for power.

God I hate January
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I made it to 29 books last year - it would have been 30 but the publishers of Saga fell out with the people who made it available on Kindle so volume 4 was only available electronically from Comixology which, despite being owned by Amazon, is more expensive than the same graphics were on Kindle. Sigh.  ANYWAY; a successful year of reading sci-fi and a few other genres in 2014 and lots of good charity shop buys and library loans so I'm planning more of the same for 2015, onwards!

1. Idoru - William Gibson This was really the 30th book of 2014 as I began it a few days after Christmas and finished on New Years Day.  I really enjoyed it and am itching to read the third book in the Bridge Trilogy now.  Such a vivid, believable future.
2. Danny the Champion of the World - Roald Dahl After the wonderful adaptation of Esio Trot on BBC1 on New Years Day I decided I wanted to revisit some Dahl and picked this one from my shelves as it was the one I had the least memory of. In some ways, it has aged much more than other Dahl's, certainly when I was a child, growing up in a rural village and my Dad was the village policeman and poaching was a way of life, and my Dad, now I come to think of it, often turned up at home with a pheasant of unclear origin, Danny- had a lot more in common with the world I knew. In a world of internet, mobile phones, multiple car ownership, the end of village bobbies, and - for me now - city living, the story seemed much more removed from any sort of life I recognise. The epilogue remains as applicable as ever though; 
3. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams This was in the Amazon Kindle sale with the other 4 books and I couldn't resist the price at under £3 although I already have a hard copy of this particular book.  I think I last read this in 2005 and actually I had forgotten loads.  Laugh out loud funny - although I remembered doing that.
4. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams I didn't enjoy this as much as Hitchhikers although I don't know if that's just because I was in a bad mood. I did like the ending though, quite beautiful in its way.
5. Vincent - Barbara Stok I read the letters of Vincent Van Gogh a few years ago and was so struck I named my cat after him.  I'd heard good things about this graphic and wasn't disappointed.  The style is beautifully simplistic and offers the most striking and compassionate representation of madness I've ever seen - through the use of single visual cue in the panels, I was amazed by its effectiveness.  I absolutely adored it and intend to read it again soon.
6. Once Upon a Time in the North - Philip Pullman This was a Christmas gift and also a re-read.  I was on the fence about the His Dark Materials triology when I read it 5 or so years ago but I truly fell in love with Hester and Lee.  As it is such a short book and it's such a long time ago it all felt new to me and I was totally enamoured with them both again.  And I have, again, spent too long trying to work out what my daemon would be.
7. Life, the Universe, and Everything - Douglas Adams I enjoyed this much more than the previous book and was delighted with the quiet efficiency and brilliance of Trillian.  At times I found the prose a little difficult to navigate but very few complaints.

Started several, finished none.

8. The Lion of Comarre and Against the Fall of Night - Arthur C Clarke. I picked this up in a charity shop and bought it because I'd just finished The City and the Stars which I loved.  I actually prefer some of the characterisation, and small differences in the story in Against the Fall of Night.  The Lion of Comarre didn't really capture my imagination, although the thematic similarities to the second novella are striking. 
9. All Tomorrow's Parties - William Gibson. I was dying to read this and finish the trilogy but it wasn't as satisfying as I hoped.  Laney's death wasn't given enough time and for a character I particularly loved I was sad for that.  The prose was also a bit uneven - really odd grammatically at times and took you out of the flow too often. All that said, it was a good book again and compelling reading.  I liked that when we rejoined Rydell and Chevette they'd separated because I had found their relationship unlikely/circumstance driven at the end of the last book and this felt accurate. It just wasn't as good as it should have been.
10. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish - Douglas Adams This read really fast and I did enjoy it but I also felt I started to pinpoint what it is I dislike about Douglas Adams. Firstly, I don't think he writes decent women,  Fenchurch strays into Manic Pixie Dream girl territory and Trillian has been written out with bloody Zaphod? No. Secondly, and more strikingly, I feel a lot of the jokes seem like in-jokes, references to things I'm two decades too late to join in on and it's vaguely alienating. Compare to say Pratchett, a comparison many seem to make, and Pratchett is so welcoming in his jokes, so non-elitist.

11. Good Omens - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman I've been putting off reading this for years because a) I don't like co-authored books and b) I don't like Gaiman. As it was, the co-authoring element was fine but I didn't fully enjoy it or feel like I got lost in it.  I kept transposing parts to Discworld and some joyful bits of fun and clever wording clearly stood out as Pratchett's. Basically, I would have loved it if it were a) set in Discworld and b) didn't have all those cynical, slightly nasty (?) 'gosh look how clever I am' bits that seemed to smell of Gaiman. I did rather like the ending though, so that's something.

12. Soul Music - Terry Pratchett Very enjoyable. Good ol' Susan.  Kept missing some of the clever wordplay because I was reading it late/when I was exhausted.
13. Mostly Harmless - Douglas Adams I really loved this up until the end when, despite how logical the end was, I was really disappointed. I suppose that's good - if I wasn't attached to the characters I wouldn't have cared.
14. The Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett I can't believe I've been putting off reading the Tiffany Aching stories for so long, this was completely brilliant and joyful.  I even cried (right at the end, when Thunder and Lightning round up the storm and she just knows someone is standing behind her).  Looking forward to reading Hatful of Sky, and I found the Wintersmith in a second hand bookshop for a £1 the other day.
15. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card I loved this.  Really compelling read, loved characterisation. Struggled a few times with what 'the hegemony' was meant to mean within the context of the book but that was really only niggle.  I was surprised, as there is an Ender series, that this book ended quite decisively and not sure I want to rush on to the next book given how neatly everything was tied up - what could [logically] happen next?  The ending was almost too neat, actually.  Still a great book.
16. Saga Volume 4 - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Good god I love this series. This volume was the most compelling so far. Cannot wait for next instalment. Adore everything from characterisation to artwork to complexity of character relationships and plots.

17. The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester I was a bit back and forth on this throughout. Foyle is a really likeable character who does fairly horrendous things (casual rape!) but somehow his character is not drawn sufficiently harshly to really turn him into the anti-hero I think the book needs.  Olivia was a thoroughly weird character and very much of the time the book was written.  But I enjoyed the agency which some of the other women were allowed.  I also finished it quite quickly so it was compelling enough.  I liked the tension of war and greed which drove character's actions and shaped society and thought the characterisation of teleportation as a socially, economically and politically catastrophic invention was astute.
18. A Hatful of Sky - Terry Pratchett My second Tiffany Aching book and just as wonderful as the first.  Beautiful, wonderful story.  I adored it.  Pace, characterisation, story, all spot on.  I stayed up until 3am to finish it which I haven't done for ages.  And I cried.  A wonderful story, and just that reassuring voice of Terry Pratchett telling a story about how telling stories to one another really, really matters.  I miss him.
19. By the Pricking of my Thumbs - Agatha Christie Finally read (after a 2 year break according to these book logs) the next Tommy and Tuppence mystery. Loved this and read it in double quick time. There's something very real about Tommy and Tuppence which appeals to me much more than any amount of Poirot and Miss Marple.
20. Wintersmith - Terry Pratchett This was actually the book I found in a charity shop that prompted me to go backwards and get the two Tiffany Aching novels before this one so I could read the series properly. I still loved it very much but I did think the pacing was a bit off compared to the previous two. Still bloody good stuff.

21. Neuromancer - William Gibson I didn't enjoy this as much as my previous Gibson's - I found the prose very dense and descriptions too abstract to follow easily.  The story itself was largely compelling but I felt the ending was a little weak.  I really liked Molly and Case.  And I found Armitage quite interesting in the latter third of the novel.  It just wasn't quite there for me.  I've just bought his most recent novel and will use that as an indicator of whether I need to accept disappointing endings from Gibson novels in future.
22. I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett This might be my favourite ever TP. I adored the richness and brutality of the plot - opening with a [spoiler!] incidence of domestic violence and mob justice was gobsmacking and somehow, even though there were a few bits that felt repetitive, it never lost the pace, or the punch, it opened with.  Tiffany is a tremendous character and the Cunning Man is surely the most terrifying of villains ever conceived.  The Cunning Man is also, and I expect no less from Pratchett, so absolutely appropriate to the times we live in where we are forever being told to turn on our fellow man and those as let poison in surely welcome the Cunning Man in their acts of homophbia, islamophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny etc etc. That's what was so terrifying about the Cunning Man; he is immediately recognisable because he walks amongst us now.  I particularly liked that Pratchett took us back to that incident of brutality and inhumanity which is only really mentioned in passing in the Wee Free Men regarding the burning of the old woman's house and her manslaughter; it deserved more time and it felt entirely appropriate Tiffany had to be older before we could really explore what it meant.

23. Burning Chrome - William Gibson The short story format made it a little repetitive, and I liked all the co-written stories least but I really enjoyed this. They were exactly right length to read on commute too which was ideal. My favourite story was Hinterlands which I'm still thinking about and desperately want a full length version of.
24. Saga Volume 5 - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples I'm still enjoying this series so, so much. This was most brutal volume so far and I proper gasped at some of the developments. I'm enjoying the pacing too, desperate to know how many (in-universe) years the series is ultimately going to span

Started a few, finished nothing.

25. The Shepherd's Crown - Terry Pratchett I started this in October, then stopped after finding the death of the character at the beginning was too upsetting to continue, then as time passed, I actively put off reading it so I had something to read during my convalescence from shoulder surgery - which I did. Overall, it wasn't really great after the first 50 or so pages.  Rob's postscript suggests this was only really a sketch of the story and not a finished novel and that corresponds with how I felt about it - secondary characters were quite 2D and there were a few threads which didn't seem to go anywhere.  Overall though, I'm so glad we had this story and got to see Tiffany establish who she was once and for all.  Whatever the content, this entire book was always going to be tied up in my sadness about Terry's passing.
26. Blue is the Warmest Colour - Julie Maroh I had been cautioned by [personal profile] tellitslant that this may not live up to the hype and she was right.  I felt it started well and I Iiked the illustration very much.  Initially it reminded me of Blankets and that was a pleasant association but it fell apart in the final third.  Firstly, the central character was ultimately unlikeable ("no regrets" over cheating on the supposed love of her life and hurting them both?), secondly, we are so past needing bloody tragic lesbian stories. My one word summary would be 'hackneyed'.
27. Pregnant Butch: 9 Long Months Spent in Drag - A.K. Summers I loved, loved, loved this.  Really light touch but thoughtful and funny. I should have read this ages ago as may mention it in my thesis and had it for about 6 months but there we are. Will be recommending it to everyone.
28. The Peripheral - William Gibson This was mind crushingly complicated for the first half/until I acclimatised to the world[s] I was being dropped into. I loved it though. Read it incredibly fast for 500 pages and, unlike the last few full length Gibson novels, I also loved the ending. Great book, great storytelling.
29. Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke I started this in September but just wasn't in right frame of mind to enjoy this type of novel. With the exception of the occasionally excruciating sexism, it was an enjoyable read in the end. It put me strongly in mind of Journey to the Centre of the Earth with similar pacing, frustrations and resolution. I felt at times it was a love letter to the scientific method and not a sci fi book at all. Although the simps are the notable exception to that summary. 
30. Eric - Terry Pratchett I recently logged all my TP books and decided to make sure I finally read the ones I had skipped when I began reading discworld some 18 years ago. I believed I hadn't read this but rereading in a day it all felt quite familiar so perhaps I borrowed it from Lucy. It was enjoyable all the same and I do intend to a full reread in the coming years so this is more like a headstart on that.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
I started selling badges on Etsy and that's been a very modest little income which I like to think of as a hobby which pays for itself.

It's been a modest year all round, really.


askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
a sky gone on fire

June 2016

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