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)
Film

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 [livejournal.com 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.


TV

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.


Ouch.

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!

January
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.

February
Started several, finished none.

March
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.

April
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.

May
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.
 
June
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.

July
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.

August
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.

September
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

October-November
Started a few, finished nothing.

December
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)
Today I turned 30 years old.

I've spent months freaking out because this is not the life I expected to be living at 30.

Today, however, I managed to beat the odds and buy tickets for me and [personal profile] forthwritten to see the Manics play The Holy Bible in full in December, then I taught two good undergraduate seminars, then I went home and opened gifts from my parents and brothers; then I spent 3 hours building a Lego Delorean and then my parents (who are visiting Brighton) came over and we drank a bottle of really nice champagne.

My parents and I went for a meal at a Really Good vegetarian restaurant, and somehow we got into an argument about theology in which I calmly debunked my Dad's entire belief system (turns out my Mum is an agnostic despite regular Church of England communion attendance and she bowed out of the conversation early) and got to a point where my Mum admitted my non-conformist/anti-establishment opinions were her fault; "it's my fault you're like this, when I used to read fairy tales to you in the bath I'd criticise them, like Red Riding Hood - as if she'd think the Wolf was her Grandmother just because he was wearing her cloak!".

30, it turns out, is a fairly good age to be.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Too often, this blog is a litany of failure and despair rather than a balanced reflection on all the parts of my life.  With that in mind I've made a conscious effort to come here and record two really positive things that have happened to me in the past couple of weeks.

On the 4th of June I had my annual review.  This involved submitting 10,000 words to my department which was in turn passed on to two members of faculty who had similar research interests to me.  The 10,000 words I submitted represented two of the three draft chapters I have written this year.  The annual review was a time to discuss my work and hear any comments or recommendations the two person panel had to make.  

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  The panel said they enjoyed reading it, they used words like "important" and "cutting edge" in describing my research, they said my research data was "rich" (something my supervisors have been saying a lot, repeatedly, but it's amazing to hear it from someone a bit removed) and said my writing was accessible and ethical (re: the way I reported participant comments and discussed their responses)  I reflected a lot last year, and read a great deal, on ethical, feminist, and queer -practise in doing participant based research and it's really exciting that my commitment to privileging the voices and experiences of participants comes through strongly in my writing.  I skipped out of that office feeling 10 feet tall and massively inspired to get on drafting my fourth chapter.

Yesterday, I met with the course convenor of the module I taught on in the Spring term.  We were looking at the student evaluation feedback for the course.  Student comments were all positive and several of them made comments explicitly about the quality of my teaching.  In particular, students commented positively on my decision to begin the term and first seminar by asking students to share their preferred pronouns, and cautioning them to be respectful and thoughtful in discussion given the potentially sensitive nature of the topics we would be covering in the module.  My enthusiasm for teaching in gender studies came through as well as several of them commented on that and one said I was one of her favourite tutors ever which was wonderful to hear!  

The module convenor echoed their praise and said she was impressed at my ability given it was my first term teaching.  She wrote that she "strongly recommended" I was given teaching again in the Autumn term along with many other glowing comments on my performance.  In our meeting we also discussed what changes we want to make to the module readings and structure and she took all my comments on board and indicated if she was convening again she would make all the changes I suggested.

I feel so proud of myself that my teaching was so successful and that students responded so positively.  I reflected a great deal on what kind of classroom and atmosphere I wanted to create, and what my own experiences of being taught gender studies as an undergraduate was, and used all those things to inform my practise.  And it paid off!

In all? A two fold win in the two main areas of my life as a PhD student and tutor.  Really gratifying to get that explicit recognition and have the two things I have put most of myself into over the last year result in other people getting excited and enthusiastic.  That's pretty wonderful.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 I've been reflecting on my relationship with my brothers in the last few days.  

For those of you who need catching up... I have three half-brothers, all older than me. The eldest two are my Mum's sons and the youngest is my Dad's son. From the top down they are 44, 41, and 39 (and I am 29, if you are also missing that piece of information). I haven't spoken to the youngest of my older brothers (often called "3 of 3" in this journal) for about 2 years since I decided that his bigotry - most explicit in his uneducated views on 'immigration' and abhorrent racism - was not something I would accept from anyone else, so why should I continue to associate with him.  Brother 1 of 3 has a 16 year old son and has been unemployed on disability for about 14 years now after having a breakdown when his marriage ended, he is diagnosed as having schizo-affective personality disorder, I'm sceptical of that diagnosis but I won't get into that now.  Brother 2 of 3 has recently got engaged to the woman he met 9 years ago whilst in mental hospital.  He has been in and out of mental hospitals since 1995 when he had a total schizophrenic breakdown. He has been declared 'in remission' from paranoid schizophrenia for some years now and is stable as long as he keeps taking his pills.

I maintain an amicable relationship with brother 1 of 3 and 2 of 3.  I have a lot in common in terms of world view, music and film taste with brother 1 of 3, unfortunately because he now sits in his flat all day everyday, has almost no human contact, and has given up on himself, he's more or less impossible to hold a conversation with him beyond pleasantries and me telling him what I have done that day/week/month.  I have less in common with brother 2 of 3, although he is the glue who keeps up to date on everyone in our family, phones round, organises family events, etc etc.  I spoke to him the other week, after he and his new-fiancée returned from a holiday and we talked about how he proposed to her and what he got for his birthday from other people.  He asked me what I was doing and I said I had marking to do.  He asked me what I was marking, I said "essays" he asked "your essays?" and I explained that no, I don't write essays, I'm doing a PhD, I'm marking the essays of students I have taught this year. "oh yes," he said "you've been lecturing this year".  I didn't bother to correct him, I've explained - in the simplest terms - what doing a PhD involves several times over, and explained that I am a seminar tutor not a lecturer as many times again.  Try as I might I cannot communicate anything about my life to him in a way he finds intelligible.

Last night I lamented to my Mum that I have nothing in common with my brothers (implicitly, she understands that when I say 'brothers' I only mean 1 of 3 and 2 of 3, I truly have cut 3 of 3 out of my life even though I technically now have 4 nephews and nieces thanks to his rabbit-like breeding with his girlfriend)  She replied that 1 and 2 have never had anything in common, I replied that they spend quite a lot of time together now and that 2 told me that when 1 went mad they began to have a more-typically brotherly relationship.  She laughed and said she supposed it gave them a point of commonality.

I went on to say I can't even get 2 of 3 to understand what I do for a living.  She said she thinks his memory is no good now, and went on to tell me about the last time he was in hospital.  

In some ways, every time 2 of 3 went mad it was the same, in other ways, it was very different.  The first time - when I was 11 - was the scariest.  If you have never seen someone totally lose their mind you can't understand what it was like.  If you are thinking "oh yes, I've known people with depression/OCD/anxiety/anorexia" then nope, you can't know it either. Schizophrenia and psychosis associated with type 1 bipolar disorder are unlike any other mental illness.  They are absolute.  They gradually creep and take away the person you knew.  You are left with a mess of a human, unable to hold a conversation, follow short logical steps, living, functioning on a completely different and entirely inaccessible (to you) plain.  My brother was never violent, but he still scared 11 year old me.

Imagine being 11 and your big brother, the man who has been a hero to you ever since you can remember, the man who looked after you and played with you and teased you and laughed with you, imagine him stepping out and a stranger being in his place.  

When he went mad in 2003 until 2004 it was the hardest, which is perhaps surprising as I was 200 miles away from him and my family at university and didn't have to deal with the day to day interactions with him, just the phone calls.  He was mad, raving, absolutely on a different planet mad, and it was the 5th or 6th time he was hospitalised since that first time in 1995.  My parents were exhausted as they'd had to fight to get him sectioned, and it just went on and on.  That last time, I think all of us thought at some point that maybe he wouldn't come back.  He was gone for so, so long.

My Mum told me, last night, that his doctor told her, that last time, that 3 of 3 was so ill he'd never be the same.  He said that once you go that mad, for that long, a part of your brain is damaged and it never recovers.  It just shuts down. My Mum hypothesised this was part of the reason for my brother's inability to understand what I'm doing, and retain that information.

I had an argument with my brother at Christmas. It was all from him, thinking I was attacking or undermining him when in fact I was confirming what he knew was correct and offering additional information.  My Mum tried to tell me, when we discussed it in February, that there is no point arguing with him if he has decided something is a certain way, and I should give way to him rather than arguing.  I couldn't understand why I had to give way and back down from every misunderstanding and he didn't - why should I always cave?  I suppose this is the reason.

One way or another, my brothers have gone a long way away from me and if I want closeness, and a relationship with either 1 or 2, I have to work out how to do it on their terms, on their level, at their pace, with their needs first.

I'm the youngest, the baby of the family.  It's very strange to have to re-conceptualise my entire relationship with them around their new, their current cognitive capacity.

It makes me sad.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Decided as a lot of my blogging energy is going into my other blog right now, I'd do a round up of the posts in the last few weeks

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of Bed - how it feels when I know a down swing is coming
Accentuating the Positive - having cyclothymia isn't always all bad news
Irresistible Draw of Madness - why do I always want to watch stuff about people losing their mind?
Love Me, Love My Cyclothymia - where does my personality end and cyclothymia begin?
Wearing My Heart on My Sleeve - on living with self harm scars and getting angry with strangers
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I find you in the strangest places.

Sitting against the window in the sun on the train from Birmingham to Melton.  In the face of the girl in the queue for the Manics last week. In an echo of teenage lust for David Boreanaz in the first episode of Buffy.

In bluebells and in fat, ripe, purple cherries.

It's good to see you.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
It's telling it's taken me so long to be able to post one of these again, but what matters is I've taken some time again and...

Things that make life better: reading a good book in a sunny cafe over an enormous lunch

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Had a bit of a meltdown this week, ended up throwing myself on mercy of supervisor about the impending deadline (Monday) that I was definitely going to miss.  He took one look at me and said I should take a month off from PhD stuff and just focus on teaching (which right now is taking up 3 days of my week, oh my is it time consuming!) I'm not willing to flat out stop work on the thesis, but I am abandoning attempting to write anything for the next couple of weeks and just catch up on transcription.

I keep trying to do little things to remind myself how far I've come (like downloading a programme that counts the words in multiple word documents and discovering I've transcribed 242,000 words so far) but mostly I feel I've just taken on way too much this year.  I'm teaching which - based on feedback today after a lesson observation - I'm doing well, I'm organising a fortnightly seminar series with external speakers, I'm organising a big internal conference, I'm thesis-ing, I'm teaching on a Widening Participation programme, I'm still travelling around the country interviewing.  

It's a lot, by any standard.



Today would have been Lu's 29th birthday and it hasn't been as bad today as I feared - the beginning of the week was me bursting into tears a lot - I think lingering sense of grief and over-worked brain combined in emotional ways.  This morning I had Hepburn's I Quit stuck in my head.  I was boogying around my flat getting ready whilst singing, laughing, remembering jokes and singing to it when we were 14, then I left the flat and somehow my own silence overwhelmed me and I got a bit teary, then I smiled again remembering something else.  Her not reaching these birthdays brings things into sharp focus - I feel such a sense of loss - her loss, her family's loss, her friends' loss.  



I've decided to pursue private therapy at same clinic I went to previously here in Brighton and have an assessment appointment next week on Friday.  The following Monday I finally have my ultrasound guided steroid injection - I'm properly worried for potential pain after last time's agony but I also have cautious hope it could either resolve issue, or reveal a structural issue which can be resolved in another way.  My supervisor recently had 3 slipped discs and upon hearing I was also awaiting treatment to resolve chronic pain redoubled his entreaty that I take a break.  God I hope this injection fixes it - I'll even take steroid flare again if it subsides to no pain.

So, life.  Painful and sad and odd, but sometimes still beautiful - like the tiny break in the cloud today with sunshine crashing down around the pouring rain.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 Nobody ever tells you that when you get older you get less hung up on your body

Like I'm slightly saggy and squashy as I head to 30, and that's mostly fine. And if people have an issue with the fact I can rarely be arsed to shave my legs I'm more than happy to take them on. Actually, to destroy them. Just try and shame my body, you try it.

It's sort of freeing.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 I often use this blog as a space to express frustration and get out anxieties and fears. Over the new year period I saw a suggestion of keeping a jar and add to it, over the year, successes, achievements and happy moments written on scraps of paper and open and read all those bits at the end of the year. I love it as an idea but bits of paper and a jar doesn't suit me so I've decided, when I can, to make a record of things I've done or which have happened that make life better.

Things I've done this week that make life a bit better;
Monday: Danced in the queue in Morrisons whilst listening to Patrick Wolf. To start with it was unconscious but when I realised I kept right on boogying.
Tuesday: Ate mashed potato with my hands. Delicious. 
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 I was delighted to make it to 30 books in 2013 despite the demands of the PhD.  I proved to myself that investing in books I really want to read rather than dutifully trudging through unread books I own is worthwhile so I'll be keeping that in mind this year and allowing myself non-academic book purchases.

January
Nada (well, nothing finished)

February
1. Adventure of the Empty House, The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, and The Adventure of the Dancing Men from The Return of Sherlock Holmes in the Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle Still longing to get back to the full length stories but they are much more rounded in The Return of Sherlock Holmes than The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

March
2. The City and the Stars - Arthur C. Clarke Loved this, read in no time at all and completely adored the city and the stars and all the other rich descriptions.  I sense that my imagining of Alvin's robot was significantly shaped by Eve from Wall-E though...!
3. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes What a book! I had nightmares the second night of reading it which, although not fun, is always a hallmark of a book that I'm really connecting with.  Incredibly affecting, beautifully crafted narrative, tremendously magnetic narrator with flaws, faults and deeply felt pain and...wow.  Yes.  Really hit home with my own long term fears of losing my mind and watching it go but being unable to stop it...amazing.
4. Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke In a future where there is no war or hunger and all inequality is ended it fucked me right off that all women did was keep house, have babies, and make dinner for their husbands.  Supremely depressing resolution, supremely unhappy making. And I don't believe in a resolution being positive when it says that all that humanity must be lost - I'd rather we remained children in the universe.  I was struck at Clarke's ability to make Karellen the only character we ever have any sort of lasting emotional connection with.  Him and Jan....this book made me sad. And angry.  So I suppose it was extremely good?
5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson Picked this up in a charity shop because the title rang a bell.  It was a good read and very compelling stuff but it ended incredibly abruptly and whilst I understand why it ended the way it did, I still felt a little cheated.

April
6. Saga: Volume 3 - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples Try as I might, I couldn't limit myself to a chapter a day and ended up reading all but two chapters in one sitting. Oh god it's so good! Lying Cat and The Will probably my favourite characters but actually really liked the journalists who came through in this volume. Argh, more! Soon!
7. Brighton Rock - Graham Greene Took me about 7 years to find a second hand copy of this in a Brighton second hand bookshop (the restriction I had placed on my buying it given the connection to the city) so this was really exciting to finally get hold of.  I adored it - I always thought the Dicky Attenborough film was good, and it is, but compared to the book? A hollow imitation.  The film strips every female character of motivation and agency - and these are some really complex, interesting female characters.  The awful, grinding, absolute poverty that Pinkie and Rose come from simply does not translate in the film (or if it does, it's now lost in time and generational differences/cultural reference points) and without that, their actions become directionless/inexplicable. The book just makes sense, and it is all shades of grey and damning indictment of a society which lets those at the bottom slip under, and, to a lesser degree, of the Catholic church's dogma.
8. The Forever War - Joe Haldeman I've had this book for about 3 years and never got further than the first 20 pages previously.  This was a mistake because it's tremendous. I love that the main thing moving the plot along is just the cruelty of time. Relativity is a brilliant villain. And what an ending! Such authorial compassion. The way homosexuality is handled is, I suppose, of its time (1970s) but it wasn't so awful as to spoil my enjoyment.

May
9. Goodbye Chunky Rice - Craig Thompson Not as good as Blankets but better than Habibi.  Made for a nice read and had one particularly affecting panel.  Quite a difficult to follow sub plot though.

June
10. Good Dog - Graham Chaffee This is officially an adult graphic but non of it really has adult content and despite the hysterical reviews on back cover, it doesn't hold a torch to Animal Farm or Watership Down.  That being said, it's a good story about a dog, albeit a melancholy one.
11. Masquerade - Terry Pratchett Yay! Greebo! Also hijinks and such.  One of the Discworld's that came before I started reading and I never got to when I tried to read from the beginning.  As enjoyable as a Pratchett ever is.

July
12. Small Gods - Terry Pratchett Reorganised my bookshelves at my parents house and pulled this out, having never finished it when I bought it 16 or more years ago.  After getting through the dry introductory section that put me off last time, I really enjoyed it. Old school Pratchett; left me considering what he does with male and female characters - Brutha, Rincewind, Carrot all male characters who are good sorts, through and through, and get to stay in the books with no real character development.  Conversely, lots of interesting female characters Sybil Ramkin (later Vimes), Magrat, Adora Belle, Angua, are interesting and independent, and through-and-through good, but they get married and then disappear into the shadows of their husbands, or disappear entirely in the case of Magrat.  I'm not sure how I feel about that because I don't want to be annoyed with Discworld.  Susan Sto Helit is only woman I can think of who doesn't suffer that fate, but she does disappear, unlike, for example, the much less likeable Moist Von Lipwig. Hmm.
13. Behold the Man - Michael Moorcook The best thing I can say about this is that the narrative technique was interesting. It was shitty anti-women bullshit, navel-gazing Christianity revisionism, which in turn wasn't nearly as clever or original in doing that as the author thought. Nope.
14. Raising Steam - Terry Pratchett I think this will be the last new Pratchett I read. So much has gone from it and there wasn't a single good female character in it - plenty of characters who *used* to be good female characters were just shadows and wives and background noise. And just a nothing of a conclusion.  Felt like a waste.

August
15. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - JK Rowling I forgot how slow this one is, and how the grammar catches you awkwardly. Still a better world than this.
16. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - JK Rowling I must be getting old, spent a long time wanting to shake Harry and Ron. And oh god, the crashed Ford still makes me feel guilty by proxy.  My favourite in the series up next...
17. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - JK Rowling Oh Lupin, Lupin, Lupin, I love you.
18. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - JK Rowling When Harry hangs on to Cedric's body, that's perfect writing, basically and everything about Harry's affect from then to the end of the book is just spot on. Makes me howl.
19. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - JK Rowling I love who Harry is becoming in this book, love how real his hurt and angry and irrational lashing-out seems. I ache for Sirius' loss; when Lupin hangs onto Harry to stop him going through the curtain after him? Kills me.
20. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - JK Rowling I remembered this as being tiresomely plotted with very little action but I think I read it slower than I have previously and as a result the pacing was more agreeable. I did a real close reading of Snape in this, this time, knowing the 'truth' about his actions and it holds together pleasingly well.

September
21. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling I kept putting off starting this as I didn't want to lose Dobby, Fred, Tonks, and most of all, Lupin, again.  The cruelty of their deaths never gets less and I am still pissed at Rowling for doing it. Sobbed and sobbed as Harry walked along with the ghosts of Sirius and Lupin, as I have so many times before.  Had secondary level of reading happening where I refuted all the crap I keep seeing on Tumblr about Snape and Dumbledore being terrible people to name your kids after because they weren't through-and-through good guys. Personally I think heroes who act against their nature, or inclination, in order to do the right thing are more worthy of reverence than Superman-types, but there we are.  Certainly it's why I find Dumbledore and Snape such engaging characters, and Snape's life in particular, to be an unmitigated tragedy.
22. Now and Forever - Ray Bradbury I picked this up impulsively in the library as I scanned the blurb and it said it was a rewriting of Moby Dick set in the future/ship was a space ship and whale was a comet.  Turns out this book is two novellas, Somewhere a Band is Playing and, the one I wanted to read, Leviathan '99.  They were both written in fairly open faced prose and were an easy quick read but I never got engaged. Somewhere a Band is Playing wound up being rather indulgent and didn't move me. Leviathan '99 was better but suffered for being too short and not developing any sense of claustrophobia, as Moby Dick does, or loyalty to Ishmael or the Captain - the Forever War totally nails that part of space travel..  It also missed the great sweeping Romantic reflections on beauty and nature which, given they are speeding through freaking space past planets and comets and stars is a MASSIVE oversight.  All in all? It was no Fahrenheit 451.
23. The Caves of Steel - Isaac Asimov This was a really easy read with a compelling plot but the resolution was fairly dissatisfying, as was the sudden Christianity.  And, in the final quarter, the sudden, wholly unnecessary section about how women put make up on, those peculiar creatures! lolz! Which just underlined the problem which up until then I had been prepared to ignore, namely that in a future where a complete overhaul of the way we live, work and eat was reasonable, and the positronic brain had been invented, and technology functioned in astonishing ways, women still just had babies and stayed home. FOR FUCKS SAKE EVERY MALE SCI-FI WRITER EVER WHY IS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO IMAGINE FEMALE LEADERS BUT NOT FUCKING HUMANOID ROBOTS AND INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL?!?!?!  Also, less angrily, loads of stuff lifted from this for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which is no doubt not news to everyone else, but was for me.

October
24. A Woman on the Edge of Time - Marge Piercy This was...disappointing. I explicitly sought out woman-authored, woman-protagonist science fiction because, as above, I've been getting increasingly frustrated with sausage-fest futures.  This disappointed for being really woolly science-fiction, no hard sci-fi elements and really focused on emotion and physical descriptions and narratively-dull sex scenes. I didn't realise until just now it was written in the 70s which contextualises it better for me but still not a life changer. It was very dry in places, and I can't understand why there was only one, brief visit to the dystopian future as that was considerably more interesting than the utopian Mattapoisett.  I also can't get on board with a utopia being at war (which was plot hole anyway given the obsession of Mattapoisettians with eradicating waste in all other areas of life) and the death penalty continuing to exist.  It reminded me of Swastika Night and News from Nowhere, neither of which are gripping reads but are worth giving time to if you've got no better options/like to be well read within the genre.
25. The Clone Rebellion: Republic - Steven L Kent This is such a promising series but about half way I through I realised there were NO WOMEN. And then it started to make me angry.  There are so many ways women *could* have been in it, for a start - why not make the Liberators women? Then there'd be this amazing social commentary going on about society's fear of strong women and retribution/revenge.  I liked all the war and explosions and armour stuff though. Military sci-fi apparently appeals. Just not sausage fest military sci-fi.

November
26. On Red Station, Drifting - Aliette de Bodard I bought this in reaction to my previous read. It was dreadful. Lots of godawful grammar and comma abuse that even outdoes my worst habits. Then the story...which was very nearly good but failed to do anything science fiction-y and was just 'imperial China in space!!!!!'  Yes, there were female leads, yes they were in charge of their own actions and destinies but that's not enough - they need motivations (precious little of that for any of the characters) and some sort of characterisation (again, not so much for anyone) and some of the components that make me read sci-fi, like actual science fiction rather than a broadly magic system of psychic communication. I finished it out of spite, not enjoyment.
27. Virtual Light - William Gibson I loved, loved, loved this all the way to the last 50 pages or so when the narrative sped up and the careful, painstaking storytelling fell to the wayside to the point it was difficult to grasp how the plot was resolved.  I was also, unexpectedly, disappointed with the happy ending. It felt inauthentic.  I loved Chevvy though - yay decent female lead! Really enjoyed the threaded narrative of the end of the AIDS crisis and the conceptualisation of the shift to radical groups and massive division between rich and poor post social/economic collapse. It was just a really rich, textured world. Must read more Gibson.

December
28. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. 1 - Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson I was a bit on the fence about this all the way through and glad I was able to borrow it from the lirbary rather than commit to buying it.  I liked all the references to musical idols I just didn't quite...click with it.  I think I'm uncomfortable with the fantastic elements which is obviously what the series is built on...It's just not as me as Phonogram, I need to stop expecting everything McKelvie and Gillen write will be.
29. Journey to the Centre of the Earth - Jules Verne This was an impulse charity shop buy and I'm glad I did.  I think I managed to get a good translation and it read very quickly.  Ultimately, the fiction of the science was a little too much of a stretch for me, although I did reflect I would have happily suspended disbelief had it been set on a distant planet and not Earth - funny what a little knowledge will do in that respect.  I enjoyed the Victorian-Romantic reflection on landscape of Iceland and Denmark so much I plan to re-read Frankenstein in the new year so a Good Read.



The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist, The Adventure of the Priory School - Arthur Conan Doyle I read these two sometime in 2014 but as they are short stories I only count them as one book if I read more than three. So recorded for completeness.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Representation matters.  It matters to me and, I'm gradually proving in my doctoral research, it matters an enormous amount for a complex collection of reasons to a lot of other people too.

In itself 'representation matters' will seem fairly uncontroversial to my mostly leftie readers.  But some left leaning, centre left, centre types, will agree it matters, pay lip service to that idea, support it in principle, not put any road blocks in the way to things changing, but the moment you point out that diversity of representation is missing? They get pissed off.  The moment you ask why people are missing in the representations they make? They get angry, they ask why it makes any difference.

I complained aloud, to nobody in particular, the other day that every single chef shown in the Morrisons' Christmas claymation/animated advert was white and male.  "Does it matter?!" exclaimed my Mum as she passed through the living room, more than a little exasperated.

Does it matter who is shown on tv? Let's, for a minute, say it doesn't.  Let's start by stating it doesn't matter who is represented in television adverts.

If it doesn't matter, why did the animator create 11 little white male chefs? Wouldn't it have been as easy, given the characters differ slightly from one another, to have made some of them female? Surely the computer filled in their skin colour? It would have been just as easy, would it not, to colour some of them in a darker shade of peach? Perhaps even break out the brown colour palette?  If it doesn't matter whether they are white or black, male or female or genderqueer, then why are they all white and male?  Someone made that decision, someone designed that, someone animated that, someone signed off on that.  Lot's of someone's.  All of them.  

But perhaps the animator could only find the peach felt tip that day.  Perhaps the character designer can't draw long hair, or boobs.  Perhaps they don't know how to illustrate any gender markers for women, or for anyone other than men.

Tesco's Christmas advert this year compressed decades of Christmases observed by one family into a minute and a half.  Parents, children, grandchildren.  Tesco's don't feature their products in their advert like Morrisons do, instead they seem to say 'if you share the same emotions around Christmas as these people, maybe you should share a supermarket. Come to Tesco and buy a lifetime's Christmases!'  But the Christmas you have to share, the identification of 'just like us' to make?  All [apparently] white, all [rigorously shown to be] heterosexual.  But of course, we're arguing the representation doesn't matter right? So what we're buying from Tesco is not just Christmas cheer and food and drink and trees, but we're buying being white, and we're buying making our parents happy by having children ourselves (or our children are making us happy by having children). And we're buying being straight.  Come to Tesco this year! Get a better sexuality! Get a better turkey! Get a better ethnicity!

Someone hired those actors.  Every person was dressed and directed.  That advert was scripted and edited. There were choices made about what to represent.  

But perhaps it's a coincidence!  Perhaps only white actors turned up for an audition that day.  Perhaps the people who wrote the script have never met a gay or lesbian person, or a genderqueer or nonbinary or just plain androgynous person, so they couldn't even imagine that couples may not be made up of rigidly gendered men and women!  Perhaps they 'wrote what they knew' and not a single person involved in the casting, costuming, producing, filming, directing, editing, or release of that advert was anything other than straight and white and cis with only white straight cis friends.

Aldi managed to find one black person to put in their Christmas ad. And a parrot.  They don't say much about family, or sexuality.  John Lewis also went for animals (although in previous years they've been lovers of the white hetero, rigidly normatively gendered family at Christmas) Asda had snowmen. No, I'm not going to suggest they should have been snow people.  Debenhams' had what might have been a lesbian ball, but it was the girl and the guy gazing into each other's eyes and skating off together that we 'wished for'. M&S had a bad trip but they have at least been consistent for some years now in using Black and minority ethnic models in every advertising campaign, even if they do, inevitably, play the small roles in this ad.

If who is represented on television adverts doesn't matter, why is it, so often it's white, hetero, cis gendered people being represented? It's either an enormous coincidence that this keeps happening or perhaps...

Perhaps, then, representation does matter! [the unsurprising conclusion - aha! here it is].  And perhaps it matters to the people who get to pick which representations we see, who pick which ideals we are supposed to buy into.  Perhaps we should be surprised that in 2013, in the United Kingdom most of the major brands are still dreaming of white, straight, cis Christmases.

Unfortunately, my Mum didn't hang around long enough for me to give her this answer to her exasperated question.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?
Interviewed a lot of strangers after putting adverts on the internet. Even a year ago I didn't really believe in my ability to do this - the key data collection method of my entire thesis - and I've not only surprised myself in my ability to do it, but found I absolutely love interviewing and have so many complex emotions tied up in talking to people about their lives.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Read more... )

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