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Sunday 28 January 2018

Legs Twelve

Remember this blog right here, wherein I talked about the pair of ulcers I had on my legs?

Time for an update - and it's good news.

Sheldon (the painful, annoying blemish on my inner right ankle) has been closed and healed for a long while. The leg still bears the scar - it was a savage wound after all. Now, though, the primary discomfort that leg causes me is through the arthritis in the joints.

Lefty, though; Lefty, who I have had since almost 2010 - Lefty has been a constant source of piss-off and pain. Draining. Ugly. Requiring constant wrapping and pressure.

Up until earlier this week.

Lefty isn't an ulcer, now. He's not a wound. Now, he is considered a Previous Wound Site.

This means that, in a couple weeks, my left leg won't need to be bandaged up to the knee; it will have removable compression, the kind that comes off whenever I like.

It is a very, very odd feeling to think that something that has affected me for so long will soon be technically over. It will feel alien, I know, to lay in bed and not feel the sheets cling to compression bandaging. To be able to reach down and touch the back of my calf, without feeling elastic and cotton in the way.

The day I am told that I no longer need that compression, I may just break down in tears.

I can't even tell you how much better this will make my life.

It's all thanks to the NHS. Without them I would be in serious and severe debt or worse - just ignoring the problem until it goes away. I've seen what happens if you ignore a venous ulcer. It spreads. Then you get sepsis and they take off your leg.

I can't thank the medical staff who have treated me enough. First at Garfield Surgery, now sadly closed - then at Tower House Surgery. The many doctors and even more nurses that have helped me not only with Lefty and Sheldon, but also with the various and sundry other conditions I suffer from.

Onwards and upwards, right?

I'll post a picture sooner or later.

Sunday 21 January 2018

Drunk Uncle Doesn't Like Your New Star Wars

I've seen a few legit complaints about The Last Jedi, but I've seen a lot more that are - basically - the same old shit.

You know the shit of which I speak.

They're the reason why I am painfully aware of the term Forced Diversity, a string of syllables that comes packaged with its own brand of irony, which I will delve into in a moment. They're the ones that resent a character not being part of their acceptable list. "Wait, that guy just kissed ANOTHER guy? Why do they have to CROWBAR these (insert slur) into MY (insert name)? Why do they always have to be EVERYWHERE? Why do there have to be WOMEN everywhere? Ugh! (insert name) is RUINED!"

Sooooo okay.

Who amongst my readership has never heard of Eastenders? It's a long-running British soap opera, set in the east end of London. (Fun fact: most soap operas were labelled as such because they were sponsored by soap companies, because of course, daytime serials are mostly going to be watched by the woman of the house who does all the cleaning, right? Seriously, it's fucking everywhere.)

Eastenders has been running since 1985, and it's had over five thousand episodes, showing like five days a week or something. I don't watch it myself, but it was impossible to get away from knowing something about it back when I was a kid. A lot of our parents watched it, older siblings, the works.

Hands up who on my friends list has spent any time in the east end of London.

There weren't a lot of people of colour on Eastenders for as long as I was aware of it. Which, you know, coming from the Isle of Wight as I do - that didn't really seem that out-there to me. If you've ever been there, though - if you've been to most bits of London, in fairness, some more than others - you'd realise just how laughable that notion is.

Current demographics puts the population of London as being about 60% white folks - but if you take a look at distribution, most of them live around the outskirts of the Greater London area, the suburbs and such. So let's be conservative and say that Eastenders should probably have a fifty-fifty split.

It doesn't, obviously. And in the past, there's been kickbacks from the show introducing people of colour as characters. A couple years ago the producer - who has since quit - said that if he had to adhere to "box-ticking ethnic quotas", he'd resign.

Now doesn't that sentiment seem familiar?

Spoilers: Star Trek Discovery has two main characters, both men, in a relationship. I've heard this described as forced, too. Why do there HAVE to be a whole TWO gay/bi men on a starship with a standard crew compliment of about 140? It's the same thinking that led to complaints about Lieutenant Uhura, pressure to make her quit during the original series' first season, until she was talked down by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr himself.

Herein we get to Forced Diversity.

Society built a wall, brick by brick, starting way back in history. It built a wall, and put everyone different to them on the other side of it. There, they stayed, because on one side of the wall - that was where all the money was, and all the political power. The walls stayed in place, because the people who could most effectively pull it down had no interest in doing so. As Dr King himself said - freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

As the world swings ever closer to the 2020s, more and more, we're starting to see media actually reflect the world we live in. It's work, though. It's hard. Pushing through the walls that were built to keep out everyone that isn't a middle-aged middle-class white cis het male. There's a lot of those walls still standing, obviously - and so any reflection of the actual diversity of the world, even taking steps toward such diversity, HAS to be forced. It has to be forced against mandate, against the preconceived notion that the main character in the movie has to be a white dude.

It has to be forced against the people who decided to make a cut of The Last Jedi without any women on it, because there's no women in space, or something. It has to be forced against people who believe there's just no LGBTQA people anywhere, so they shouldn't be in movies or on TV or in comic books. It has to be forced past the decision-makers who decided that a forthcoming Netflix series based on Journey To The West (a classically Chinese story) only needed a single Asian actor. (Who is playing Sun Wukong for fuck's sake, I mean if any of the actors in a story about the MONKEY GOD can get away with not necessarily being Chinese, it's the MONKEY GOD. It's like the fuckup cherry on top of a fuckup cake.)

A lot of more conservative right-leaning folks like to make the argument that seeing LGBTQA folks or people of colour or anything that isn't them in a piece of media is some kind of values-pushing. Like their lack of acceptance is a position that deserves defending, and that any show of how reality actually works in the face of that position is an attack on them personally. I suppose that leads to the belief that the very existence of a black woman in Star Trek is likewise a personal attack, let alone a gay couple.

Well, feel free to tune yourselves out.

Because this is how the world is, how the world actually is, and the desperate scramble to try and keep it off of our movie screens and comic book pages is just another paroxysm of bigots losing their grip on our lives, an inch at a time.

You feel free to keep making your fan edits, and to keep cutting things out that you don't like. Get creative with it. Apply yourselves! Write a better movie, a better novel, a better show format, that only includes the things YOU want to exist. Go ahead and get it made.

We'll be over here celebrating the release of Black Panther, and ignoring your 47 minute misogyny-cut of Star Wars.

Sunday 14 January 2018

Sell Out With Me

Let me tell you something, dear reader - I am a two-faced hypocrite.

No, I am, and let me tell you why.

If you go back through my blog history you will see a variety of responses to The Way The World Works (tm). You will find that a great many of them lean quite far to the left, and are critical of - amongst other things - corporate hegemony and supremacy. does a man that likes all this... claim to have a half-decent work ethic?

Isn't the entire idea of a work ethic antithetical to the resistance against the environment which requires a work ethic? Can someone really take pride in being on time and putting in good hours when they regularly speak against the concept that employment as it stands in this day and age is inherently anti-person?

You know, I actually used to struggle with this one. When I was a teenager I couldn't see how someone could work and be against the system that makes work a necessity, because I lacked nuance - or the foresight that I could sit around and yell about business sins all I wanted, I still had to eat, and I probably needed shelter.

Okay so peep this: under the current system, if you're not in the capital class, you work or you die. If you can't work, the state is allegedly meant to help you, though it takes every single opportunity not to. If you can't FIND work, the state is allegedly meant to help you, though it takes every single opportunity not to. If you just don't want to -

Well that's it, you're done. You work or you die.

(I predict that a minority of those who read my blog at this point will take off on the point of some people living on benefits that don't deserve to. Frankly - yawn. Look up some figures about tax avoidance and get back to me.)

So. Given that we have to work - because everything costs money - we are all in the same position. Everyone below a certain level has to put in the hours, and that means that we have to rely on each other in order to succeed.

This is even more important when businesses tighten their belts, as many of them seem to do constantly. Staffing levels slowly slowly slip downwards, the remaining staff left to cope with an increasing workload because they've coped with the other workloads before. Cuts in provision leaving gaps that the individual employees have to fill. The thin end of a wedge, of trying to reduce costs while providing the same service.

Here is where work ethic comes in.

Basically - you can spin it as respect to the business, respect to the image or brand or whatever else. What it is, is respect to the person next to you. Did a Grecian Phalanx learn how to lift his shield properly to honour the city-state he was from? No. He learned the positioning of his shield to defend the dude to his left.

So you turn up on time, and you put in the work, because if you don't, then someone else on your team has to. You make sure your work is decent quality, because otherwise your team suffers. Because that's how we survive. We band together in our groups, and we hang tough, because not doing so will lead to difficulties.

We don't do so blindly. We should know and understand that this isn't the ideal way for a world to work, and we should educate ourselves and others on ways this can change. That is why we aren't doing this (and doing this well) for the logo or the suit. We're doing this for the people to our left and our right, who are earning a wage just like the rest of us are. We show up and we work, and we do so together.

We also owe it to ourselves to know our rights, to know where we go if there is an abuse happening. To know that we are protected if something happens, that we can find that protection and that it isn't withheld from us. And just as hard as we work, just as early as we rock up to the office, we should also work hard to make sure those rights are defended and expanded.

It's not about the business. It's about us, as workers.

Lemme tell you a secret: if the business sees the value in your work, rather than your kowtowing to the flag or repeating the spiel, then it's a step up. It means that you and yours that support and amplify each other are going to get recognised for doing that.

Yes, we know that the surplus value created by our hands props up an entirely different class of people. Yes, we know that changing this is key, that inducing a change in the accumulation of power and wealth is how we as a race survive this phase of our existence.

But until such a time as we can do that - and we do need to be PREPARED to do that, and read up on what it means and how it happens - we stand side by side and we put in the hours.

I can do both.

Sunday 7 January 2018


Baby Driver is one of the best films I have ever seen, and I will tell you why.

It's not the gunfights that are perfectly set to the beats of the soundtrack - and that soundtrack is, for narrative reasons, very VERY important.

It's not the sheer stylistic brilliance of the thing - every look and every aesthetic slotting neatly into a world that feels just absolutely right.

It's not even the pitch-perfect performances of every single actor involved in the piece, and I can almost always find at least one performance in a film that lets it down, in this case that just didn't happen.

It's the small touches.

The difference between a mediocre film and a good film are in the large swathes - the vision of the director, the production, the performances of the actors, the writing. There's big steps between something generic and forgettable, and something genuinely good. It's rare that a movie can be taken from a mental rating of well-whatever to something that people actually enjoy watching simply by a deft touch of camera work or the use of a particular song.

But the step between a good film and a great film is the little touches, the small stuff. The tiny things that you might not even notice first time round.

For example:

Baby talking to Debora in Baby Driver about songs about a girl called Debora. He mentions there's two, and one of them is by Trex.

"You mean T. Rex?"

"Oh. Yeah."

This guy knows so much of this good old music - his ipods filled with Commodores and Carla Thomas and the Detroit Emeralds and Martha Reeves - but he doesn't know that the band's name is T. Rex? Until you work out why.

Old guy that he looks after is deaf and dumb. Old guy who owns all of these old vinyls, that he obviously grew up around and that informed his musical tastes. And they communicate via sign language, right? So does the guy sign out T dot space R E X?

No. He signs T R E X.


It's moments like realising that the graffiti on the walls is the lyrics to the song that Baby is listening to as he walks down the street to buy coffee, which only makes the Harlem Shuffle better.

It's moments like when the action of a character defies a stereotype that you thought they were built into - a moment's consideration for a human being from an otherwise unsympathetic character, someone doing something smart when you thought they would do something dumb. Moments of defying expectations that you realise have been built into your cinematic experience by watching mediocre films.

It's moments wherein you are brought to realise what is going on just at the right time, simply by subtlety - a shot, a turn of phrase, a sound mix, a focus on a single part of the scene. And you realise just before the movie tells you, and thus you get this rush of adrenaline which you are rewarded for immediately by confirming what you suspect.

There's some stuff that I can't talk about for fear of spoiling the film, but suffice to say - Baby Driver will probably surprise you, and will certainly make you feel better for having watched it at all.

It's not alone in possessing this greatness.

Something I adored in Blade Runner 2049 that may well have annoyed other people was the fact that some scenes ran longer than they strictly needed to. It was a slow, languid invitation into the world that is on the screen. It's an exploration, a thing that is happening, rather than a rush through a story.

Arrival. It's not about what you think it is about, and the moment in which you realise that is so rewarding because the entire world just slots into place all over again - like you just realised the jigsaw puzzle is double-sided.

It's the sense of humour in Thor Ragnarok, which is its own weird kookiness that makes a character previously rather stiff and tired into someone a lot more whole and believable, and makes his new friends all the more entrancing to watch and listen to.

It's the moments of irreverence in The Last Jedi. The moments that show you better than anything else who these people are, and that these people aren't necessarily who you assumed they are.

It's the sound in the world around Michael Corleone fading away to a hissing tension as he sits down to dinner with two men that he knows he is about to kill. It's the look on his face as he wonders if he can, debates if he should - and then knows he is going to.

It's the nerve-shredding tension of the shrill beeping of the motion trackers in Aliens, a noise so perfectly pitched that it ramps anxiety with ease.

It's the choice of colourising the girl's red coat in Schindler's List.

Just a thought, anyway.