12 Year Memorium

Monday 16 October, 2017

You and I have memories
Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

1985 – 2005

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The Sex Corner: Ding ding ding, round two!

Tuesday 26 September, 2017

Sticks of card with the titles of the books written on them in black ink arranged artistically against purple and green patterned wallpapered walls. The two titles seen clearly say Under the knife and The Ben Hope Series the card obscured at the back only shows the word The

Thought I couldn’t possibly find more fault in the big land of literature? Well, you would be wrong. My reading was down over the last year because University got in the way of reading for pleasure, but when I did read for pleasure I noted down which books were good, which books were bad, and which books deserved a special mention on this here blog.

So without further ado, here we are, round two of The Sex Corner:

It’s not easy being asexual in a sexual world, and it’s even harder trying to avoid something that is always considered a selling point. (Although it isn’t really, but that’s a post for another day). Luckily there will always be more books for me to get my head into. Well, for as long as my kindle works and libraries exist, anyway.

And that is where of which I procured the new editions to the The Sex Corner from. (Holy awkward sentence, batman!).

The first is an early piece by Tess Gerritsen. You might recognise her name, she is the prolific author of the Rizzoli and Isles series, but before them, there was a Under The Knife. It start’s with a female doctor, called Kate Chesne, being accused of malpractice which leads to the uncovering a murder plot. And that sounded brilliant, I was all for that! Murder? Hospital related? So my cup of tea it was practically a family sized teapot full of Tetley Decaf.

Until the lawyer came into it.

At first he was looking into the case, and then suddenly it turned into a whirl wind romance that left me wondering the legalities of the situation. Would a prominent lawyer take such a risk by dating his client? He wasn’t only risking the case, he was risking both his and Doctor Chesne’s reputation and their respective licences to practice, if she was to be found guilty. She could have been branded as the murdering doctor who slept with her lawyer so he’d guarantee she’d be found innocent. He could have been branded as the lawyer who had sex with a murdering doctor, not caring about the evil deeds she’d done, bringing his firm into disrepute. What does that say for either of them, in character and ability to act reasonable?

It says nothing other than this is book is full of ridiculous people who can’t do their jobs. I can’t possibly understand these characters, and I certainly can’t empathise with them. I don’t know if other people can or do. All I know was that I was in it for the crime and the court case, and I left at the door by badly written, convoluted romance and unfathomable scenes of a sexual nature.

So, in the sex corner it went!

And it was followed very quickly by Shadow of the wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Initially this is a story about a lonely lad, Daniel, who, grieving after the death of his mother, is shown a library of forgotten books. The Cemetary of forgotten books.

Remembering what someone once said to him about your first book always staying with you, Daniel carefully chooses a book called The Shadow of The Wind. And he becomes enthralled by it. After he reads it, he wants to know everything he can about the author. He wants to be an author! This book has picked up this lonely lad and gave him a purpose beyond his own existence. It was beautiful and it was brilliant! I was all for that.

And then it derailed.

Daniel, the lonely boy, develops a crush on an older girl called Clara, whose father is a rare book connoisseur. And it turns out this book is as rare as you can get. Not wanting to be turned away so soon after he refuses to sell his book, which was an amazing, once in a lift time gift from the very secret library of forgotten books, he offers to return regularly to admire Clara from an up close and personal distance. Oh sorry, no, I mean, so he can read to her because it just so happens that she’s blind.

And that still isn’t where my problem was with this story. Developing crushes is fine. I remember the older lad I used to have a crush on! But one part I had a problem with is that Daniel seemed to think that Clara owed him something just because he liked her. And she wanted to see him less and less, probably because she was 6 years older than him and he was just an opportunistic child. And he gave her the book to keep. Yes, the very rare book he at one point would not let out of his sight.  He just gave it away.

There is such a mystery surrounding The Shadow of the Wind. All the other copies of this book was burnt by the author himself. Why? That’s part of the mystery. One night, fearing for Clara’s safety and the safety of the book, he sneaks in to her flat to take reposession of the book, hears, uh, noises, goes to check the, uh, noises out, finds Clara is, erm… quite happy where she is, erm, shall we say? And then he promptly gets beaten up by Clara’s boyfriend. He flees with the book, and then makes acquaintances with an eccentric homeless man called Fermin Romero de Torres.

My biggest problem with his reaction after finding out Clara’s got a boyfriend and that they seem quite happy together, is that he seems to think that she was using him. From my point of view, he was foisting his attentions on to her and imagined a whole Will They/Won’t They scenario in his mind, like a delusional fantasist, whilst she probably didn’t even think about him at all, especially considering his age. Like, in her mind, he was probably like that young next door neighbour you used to play out with when you’re both in the bracket of “under 16”, and then you’re over 16 and you go off and do your A Levels, but the next door neighbour’s just gone into year 10. Except this book is set in just after the Spanish Civil War, so, you know. No A Levels, or year 10. But ignoring the speciifcs, generally speaking, that’s life, it happens, and everybody moves on and makes friends with people their own age.

Everyone bar Daniel.

But the scenes of a sexual nature don’t go away just because Clara is no longer in his life, nooooOOoooOoooo. First you have Fermin Romero de Torres, who is never too far away from talking sexually, and then you have the very graphic sex scenes.

I was less than a third into the book but I was out. I’d powered through the Clara thing in the hopes the mystery of the book and Daniel’s plan to be an author would remain in the foreground. It didn’t. Once again, I paid the price for powering through.

Just when I thought I was learning!!

So, last but not least is a series of books I think I got into under false pretences. My friend recommended this book to me (the same one who recommended the Languidoc series. I need to stop listening to this friend’s suggestions). She said it was like Dan Brown’s books, but better written, with better plots. And I thought, well you can’t get worse than Dan Brown, surely? So why not give it a go? Hah. Why not, indeed!

The series was the Ben Hope series, by Scott Mariani. I started in the order Mariani recommends on his website, with the prequels first. The first one, Passenger 13, was flawless, filled with violent action, mystery and a little bit of back story. I couldn’t fault it. The second one, Bring Him Back, similar on the violent action but the mystery involved a child with “special” telepathic powers. I could see the Dan Brown comparison. And yes, it was still very well written. Then I read his real first published Ben Hope book (if we talk chronologically by published date), The Alchemist Secret, and I didn’t think it was as good as the prequels. Mariani seemed to be suffering from a case of “Plot strong, writing weak” itis. I figured, that’s understandable. My writing wasn’t as good in my first chapters than it was in my 10th chapters of a multi-chaptered story I’m writing, I can forgive tired tropes and poor narrative in the early days of his career. I can’t forgive the James Bond-esque poor treatment of female characters, though, making them look bad so men look good. I had a watchful eye out but ultimately, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Then there was The Mozart Conspiracy, which again had a decent story but the narrative style really started rubbing me the wrong way. Some chunks of purple prose here and there, and the romantic elements on the up, and then as usual with male writers, using female character’s suffering to drive a male character’s story onwards. This is irritating and insulting to the point where I thought I’d draw the line there and then. None of the bad elements were what I was reading this series for!

But then I got an email from my local Library. The next book in the series was available. So I thought, I’d give it one more chance with The Doomsday Prophecy and if it’s the same, I’d give up. It was the same, and a little bit worse. In this story, he starts off so torn up about his dead wife that he plans to finish up his theology degree from years before, and reconsiders going into the priest hood. We get one woman chatting him up and he turns her down, though it seems more begrudgingly because of appearances of propriety and the prospect of a job rather than earnestly out of mourning. And then he spends the rest of the book having a sort of “will they, won’t they” type romance with the next woman he meets. I’m not saying he should have been donning mourning suits for the next three years, but the timeline in the book means it’s only about 4 months since the apparent love of his life is dead before all of this happens.

Some of the dialogue meant to be enriched with romantic tension is so convoluted I felt like I was reading bad fanfiction.

I ummed and arr’d over reading the next lot. I thought, “this isn’t as bad a decline as the Oz books, and I’ve not faced anything overly sexually graphic, just the romance really pulls the stories down” and planned to go on. Then I was hit by a snag. The library didn’t have the next two books on audiobook and had no plans to stock them. I couldn’t afford to buy them, especially if I didn’t like them, so I just waited it out and put Ben Hope to the back of my mind. Probably for the best, considering.

Then I found out something unrelated to this which has made the decision once and for all about whether I should continue reading or not. There was a promotional campaign for the latest Ben Hope novel in The Sun. And then I found out that HarperCollins is related to The Sun. I did not know that before then.

So now I will have to pick my books carefully because there is no way I’m supporting anything in relation to The Sun.

But, all in all, that doesn’t change the fact that these books will be going in The Sex Corner. And then after that, I might throw all Ben Hope novels in Mount Doom.

I may be slow to update, but as long as there’s good books ruined by unnecessary romance plot lines and sex scenes, there will be The Sex Corner, so watch this space!


The Wizard of Oz Series

Tuesday 19 September, 2017

I love the films. Well, the original film and it’s sequel, “Return to Oz”. The James Franco film was such a painful experience I like to pretend I haven’t seen it and that it doesn’t actually exist. I also watched an amazing miniseries called Tin Man and that is a gem of a find!

So, with that in mind, I got the whole entire book collection (For free, on Kindle. Thankfully) and set out to read my way through it. I knew people said bad things about it, I knew that he wrote in response to people’s requests, I knew that people lost interest the further along the series they got. I disregarded that and, much like Dorothy, started on the yellow brick road, prepared for the journey that was ahead of me.

I thought I was prepared, anyway. Turns out that I wasn’t prepared at all.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

This first book was alright, actually. All things considered. I think the Judy Garland film represented the first book quite well and some sloppy writing aside, stands up as a good children’s book.

The Marvelous Land of Oz

The second book, part inspiration for the second film, also mostly good. It is a nice little story, written for children.

Ozma of Oz

This book was most of the inspiration for the second film, Return to Oz. But sadly it’s where the problems were becoming too big to go without mention. There’s plot holes and cop out solutions. The story is very dragged out, and I think I would have been unimpressed with the story even as a child.

With the film, I was terrified of The Wheelers. They even unsettle me to this day. Tiktok could only make them behave for a short while and they come back later on in the film, scary as ever.

In the book, however, Tiktok disposes of them swiftly and they’re never seen again.

“Only, you must promise not to try to frighten children any more, if they come near to you.”
“I won’t–indeed I won’t!” promised the Wheeler.

I want to know why that didn’t happen in the film, because I lost a lot of sleepless nights thanks to them. That was the best part of an otherwise below average children’s book. I would not have been impressed if I’d have read it as a child.

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

This book was where I realised by what people meant when they say the books lost quality as they go on. I thought they meant further along, I didn’t realise they meant “book 4”. I mean, to put in perspective, I wasn’t that keen on the third book and this was worse.

In this book, we have plotholes, continuity errors and a whole lot of retcons. Dorothy’s personality has been lost somewhere along the way, and her strength as a female adventurer  went with it. The blatant sexism just came out of nowhere, as she deferred decisions to her male companion and fainted when things got tough. Her male companion did not faint, because, and I quote, “being a boy, he did not faint”.

I was very unsure about continuing to the next book, but I had the books, they were free, so perservere I did.

The Road to Oz

This was just dire. There’s no other words for it, it was Dire.

This should be named “Don’t Do What Dorothy Does” and used as a teaching device for children’s stranger awareness.

There is a character called The Shaggy Man, and he practically abducts a bunch of children! First Dorothy, who he asks for directions and somehow gets her to show him the way to a specific road, despite actually not wanting that road, he just wants to avoid it. Then there’s Button Bright, who they find crying in the middle of the road, digging, for some bizarre reason.

And then there’s Pollychrome, the daughter of a rainbow man.

It started off pretty much like an episode of Criminal Minds. And said like a true abusive character, the fact they followed him was their own fault, apparently. Or rather, it wasn’t his intention to lead Dorothy away from home and get her lost, nor to find these lost children along the way. But they did, so it’s their fault. I’m not sure how I’d take that as a child, but as an adult, it reads very sinisterly.

And then we have “the Love Magnet”.

This is an actual excerpt of the book:

“The Love Magnet! Why, what’s that?”
“I’ll show you, if you won’t tell any one,” he answered, in a low, mysterious voice.

The warning bells, oh how they rung!

It’s a real magnet, and it makes people fall in love with whoever has possession of it. Right? Because that sounds completely above board.

And then there’s Johnny Dooit, who the Shaggy Man wants “real bad”, who’ll do anything The Shaggy Man asks. We’ve gone beyond Criminal Minds here, and we’re in an episode of Tales from The Crypt.

In essence, the story is about the odd bunch of travellers AKA, The Shaggy Man and his Oblivious Gang of Abductees, going along trying to find the Land of Oz and Ozma’s palace; And they all come across all sorts of people along their way, in true Baum fashion. And the crux of the story is that leaders of all these different groups all want invitations to Ozma’s party.

Well, where I come from, it’s rude to put people in the position of asking for invitations from a mutual friend, but what do you expect from a land where changing people’s heads into animal’s heads is acceptable behaviour? Once that’s considered fine behaviour, a bit social faux pas is hardly going to be on the inettiquette radar!

And then we have the senseless animal abuse, and a good allegory on the topic of disability. The Musicker man can’t help but make music, it was the way he was born. Think of something like a musical-orientated tourettes. He makes music and it is out of his control. Everybody shuns him and feels sorry for him. Nobody wants to be around him because of the music he can’t help making. He’s considered annoying. There’s no disguising the lack of acceptance, and they are cruel about it. It’s ableism at it’s most basic form. It is childhood classroom bullying and I couldn’t stand reading it.

I skipped a lot because the formula had well and truly worn thin by that point, and the ending was no different.

That was me done for Baum’s Oz series.

Read the series at your own risk.

 


A Failed Journalist Reviews: Flare Path

Tuesday 12 September, 2017

Almost 2 years ago to the day, I did something that I haven’t done since before my operation in 2010.
I went to see a show, all by myself, probably to the downright horror of the theatre’s health and safety officer. But hey, that’s what a limited care package gets you.

Anyway, I’ll spare you the back story and get right down to business.

I broke out of my new normal to go see Flarepath, which was on at The Playhouse in Liverpool. Many things could have gone wrong during this play: I could have suffered an asthma attack, my back could have locked up, my heart murmur could have picked up and left me short of breath and dizzy. I could have thrown up randomly, I could have found myself in an altercation with a disgruntled fellow theatre-goer. I could have found myself needing the toilet and not being able to get back out again  – It has happened before. (Misadventure 1: McDonalds, Liverpool Town Centre, heavy door vs No manoeuvre room, Misadventure 2: Broadgreen Hospital, Orthopeadic Clinic, Very Heavy Door.)

I risked all of that, and possibly more! To see two people i’ve wanted to see act in a theatre* near me for years: Olivia Hallinan and Philip Franks! Both being in the same play, it killed the proverbial birds with one stone.

So, for those of you haven’t read Flarepath, and don’t worry, I am amongst you, the play is about a group of people who are staying in the same hotel, near the aerodrome in Lincolnshire, during World War 2. But it’s not just about any old people, no! We have an actor, called Peter Kyle, who checks in to the hotel seemingly under the guise of business, then we have resident Countess Doris Skriczevinsky. She’s married to Count “Johnny” Skriczevinsky and recognises Actor Peter Kyle straight away. She’s a fan! Fellow hotel guest is Patricia “Pat” Graham (played by Hallinan) who is also an actor. Yet, for reasons not yet disclosed at this point, Peter Kyle is rather cagey about whether he knows her or not. Despite having worked on a film together. See? Very cagey.

Then we have Pat’s Pilot husband Teddy, Air Gunner Dusty, who is married to poor Maudie, who is the most normal guest at the hotel. She lost everything when a bomb hit her house, and she’s very pragmatic about it. I loved her and Dusty so much that I would like them to have a play where they’re the main characters instead. Well, as well as, rather than instead. This was a good play!

Count “Johnny” Skriczevinsky, I’ve mentioned him already, he’s Polish and could be considered the comic relief. He could be, but I didn’t. There’s something poignant about a man fighting for a country he can barely speak the native language of. I know, Allies and all of that, it was common. But, no, this man was fighting for Britain, and his wife and their future together. And whilst he did provide brilliant comic relief, I do not want how well rounded and loving this character is, to be overshadowed by that comic relief.

Then there’s Teddy, who I’ve also already mentioned. He’s Pat’s husband, he’s a bomber pilot, and him and Pat have been married for 9 months. Then there’s the amazing Squadron Leader Swanson (Played by Philip Franks) who is all heart and no bite. Somehow, despite rankings and severe punishment for dissension in the ranks, Teddy gets away with calling him Gloria. Admittedly, I didn’t get the joke whilst I was watching it, but when I got back home and mentioned it, the response was “Oh, after the singer!” and I googled it.

Last but not least is the hotel owner, Mrs Oakes. Provider of the full English breakfast, and questionable sausages.

So, what’s the story about, with all these interesting characters? They’re all meant to have the night off, time to be with their loved ones, or in the case of Peter Kyle, seemingly sleep until he leaves the next morning. But far too soon,  Squadron Leader Swanson bursts through the door with bad news: They’re needed for a raid.

Let me break into the retelling of the play to talk about the effects and the set. They were minimal, but affective. The set was laid out like a lounge at the hotel, desk to the right, couch in the centre. The backdrop was just a general outside with a window in front. In the night scenes, before they drew the curtains, it was a dark blue night scene, in the day it was a brighter blue with a bit of a visible garden. The absolute star of the stage, outshining even the great Philip Franks! Was the realistic fire at the forefront of the stage. I wish I had a photograph of it because it was indescribably beautiful.

There was nothing technologically advanced to portray living near an airstrip, and yet! Yet! Some strip of lighting to represent the Flarepath (Yeah, that’s when I twigged about the meaning of the play’s name too) through the window, and some very close, loud, sound effects, and a synchronised reaction as if fighter plane’s were passing by right over head (it’s called acting, Dahling!) makes you duck out of the way. Genius!

I’ll be sending the stage managers the bill for my new heart.

Back to the plot, and this is where I should say there’ll be spoilers, obviously: Whilst the RAF members were away, the crux of the play unravelled. Pat, to the shock of myself, had been in a relationship with Peter Kyle. She had left him to marry Teddy, despite still being in love with Peter Kyle, and, further revelation! After 9 months of being married to Teddy, wasn’t sure she loved him! Teddy, that is. How awful! And Peter Kyle wanted her back! And she wanted to go back! And, urged on by the very site of Peter Kyle, whose presence originally seemed to annoy her, she decided she was going to tell Teddy as soon as he got back. Teddy had no clue that they’d been in a relationship, the poor clueless sod! Was this going to end with her running away with Peter Kyle!?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: She realised how despondent she’d been towards Teddy. She married him on a whim, it was a war time romance, they barely knew each other and she’d never bothered to try. I weeped internally at the struggle. So after a brief bout of ill health on Teddy’s behalf (Like, very brief. All of 15 minutes in real time), she decided she did love him after all, and could love him even more, and stayed.

Poor Peter Kyle, you might say. I thought the same, until he tried to emotionally blackmail her and manhandled her about the place.

To change the pace a bit, there was a hell of a crash over at the aerodrome. And then only Teddy and Dusty arrived back – it wasn’t looking too good for Johnny. They waited all morning for him, but Squad Leader Swanson returned – after having stayed a while over night with the women to keep them company (see, all heart, that man!) – to tell them that, whilst they don’t want to give up hope, they all knew the chance of Johnny returning decreased the longer it took to find him.

In a random twist of fate, with Peter Kyle out for revenge, to ruin Pat and Teddy’s marriage, Doris, who knows Peter Kyle can speak french, asks him to read out a letter The Count had left for her in the event of him never returning. It was heartbreaking. The letter said how much The Count loved her and how he was sorry he never got to show her his homeland of Poland. I’m not doing it justice, but trust me, I weeped externally and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

Realising how much of an arsehole he was being, he decided to keep his affair with Pat a secret and subsequently left quietly.

I’m very glad to say that whilst the foreground of the set was very busy, my attention to things that move in the background allowed me to notice a mysterious figure in a big hat come through the door, unnoticed by the other characters.

Could it be?
…Was it?

Be still by murmurring heart! Yes it was! It was Johnny! Wonderful! My heart swelled. Metaphorically speaking.

After a repeated, hilarious retelling of how he survived (I won’t quote it because I won’t be able to do it justice, but, it’s brilliant), they celebrated their reunion with a good, lung beltering rendition of “We don’t want to join the air force”, and, proving that life sometimes changes within a second, a bright light came up and a loud noise hit, and the stage went black. And that was the end.

Wow. I mean, WOW. The acting all around was almost perfect in my books. I was a bit distracted with trying to think who *Peter Kyle* reminded me of and, alright, maybe Philip Franks didn’t get enough stage time for my liking. But for what it was, it was great. I really don’t know why there’s so many negative reviews. Not just for the Liverpool showing, but for the play over all. Boring? Pretentious? Patronising? What play where They watching!? Uncultured swines, the lot of them.

I don’t know how much of the original written play they stuck with, I don’t know if Rattigan evolved it during his time, or, like a few other plays, a new version emerged at some point and theatre producers have been putting that version on instead since it’s incarnation. All I know, is that this play features a variety of characters, and some are flawed, and some you don’t get to know enough of, but there is enough there to relate to them in some way. Or, in my case with Peter Kyle, to know you absolutely dislike them 100%, and that’s okay because it means the actor has done their job.

I do have one criticism: There was a change in cast which saw the character of Percy played by Holly Smith yet one of Dusty’s lines was “Percy, my lad”. And on one hand, I understand audiences are also meant to have a bit of imagination about things, on the other hand, it was jarring and it could have been adjusted with changing the line. It could be because the line continued on to threaten to physically discipline Percy for not minding their own business, and maybe that would have come across wrong with the character being played by a woman. But that also could have been adjusted. I’m sure, as theatre directors should know, not every line has to be exactly the same all the time.

The ending might be too abrupt for some people, as well. At first I was confused, unsure whether I liked the sudden ending, and then it dawned on me, hours later to be honest with you, what it (probably) signified. Ouch, talk about mood whiplash. Talk about delayed mood whiplash!

Anyway. Would I recommend this play? Yes. Especially if Philip Franks ever returns to the cast.

I would also recommend film makers pull a History Boys with this and make a film with the 2015 cast. I have no other cast to compare it to, but, trust me on this. It’s Hallinan and Franks or bust!

10/10


Please don’t take our straws away

Friday 1 September, 2017

Hello, yes it is I, AFJ.

Funny story, I did plan to write film reviews, but here’s what happened shortly after my last entry. My laptop died a terrible terrible death, so not only was I without a desk with which to put my laptop on so that I could type up entries with ease, I was without the whole kit and kaboodle to type on.

It has been hell. But here I am, on a borrowed keyboard set up, and I want to talk about something which is kicking up a fuss on the internet that has me concerned.

As you may know if you read here regularly, I am all for saving the planet and cutting down on waste. I think frivolous purchases don’t do anyone any good and I think the throwaway culture we have is destroying the planet. I still have a fountain pen that lasted me 11 years, through my GCSEs, my A Levels, many hand written stories, uni the first year and a bit of uni on the second attempt, in my drawer in the hopes one day I can get it repaired. I find it disgraceful that we’re encouraged to just throw away things which at one point could have been repaired and buy new. So I really don’t say this lightly.

Do not take plastic, disposable straws away from shop shelves. I’m not asking, I am telling whoever is in charge of this world-wide campaign against straws: Do not take them away, it will have an inproporitonate negative affect on those of us who need them:- The Disabled Community.

Over the last year or two, things which have been, or could have been useful to disabed people have been mocked and revered by the able bodied eco-friendly campaigners. Explanations for how certain things make all the difference to disabled people is met with condescention and virtual shrugged shoulders. I am, of course, talking about the night everyone on twitter was up in arms about pre-sliced oranges in plastic containers, and pre-peeled avocados in similar packaging. And the latest item to be villified are straws.

I first became aware of this campaign when I saw this article on the BBC Website, which is worded slightly differently now than it was when I first read it. What has become a third-party re-write was originally an opinion piece by waste management spokesperson, Mark Hall, about how awful straws are and how anyone over the age of 12 using a straw were failing at being an adult, with the title of the article being the provocative statement “Only kids need straws with their fizzy pop”. An able-ist statement if I ever saw one. The article went on to suggest alternatives that should be used, and agian, only for children.

What these campaigners such as Mark Hall are failing to acknowledge is that many people depend on straws, and the alternatives are just simply not as good as what we currently have right now. I say this as somoene who only depends on them infrequently, but when my back and neck sieizes up I’m not able to lift a cup to my mouth and drink from it, and I certainly can’t tip my neck back to finish off a well earned cup of tea. Many of my friends are in the same boat, all of the time. The only way they can drink and stay hydrated, without having to have an invasive operation or depend on saline solutions delivered by a drip system, is by using straws.

I have read on twitter that wax paper alternatives don’t last as long as their plastic counterparts, they can be warped by heat. Are disabled people meant to just stick to cold drinks? I have also read reviews about metal ones, some people have found they’re not able to clean them properly, even if they have a washing machine. Usually there’s a public outcry if a children’s drinking cup or bottle catches drink remnants and goes mouldy, but claims on straws are met again with shrugs. As if those who use straws should just expect to ingest mould every now and then as a punishment for using something deemed childish and unneccessary by some. It’s not just a worry about the types of drinks that could catch in the straw, many medications come in liquid form which also need to be drunk and i don’t think mixing them would be a good idea either.

I’m aware my opinions come from people who might not know what they’re talking about, but I think I’d rather take my chances with people on twitter who have no stake in their claims, over businessmen who do and haven’t thought about the implications of their opinions and attitudes. And it’s one thing to have to scroll through the fire and fury people on facebook direct at novelty straws and multi-packs alike, it’s a whole other to go in to shops looking for straws and being told they don’t have any due to request of the public, which is starting to happen.

Campaigners might be patting themselves on the back, but disabled people are worried about being left thirsty or having to resort to drastic measures just so that they don’t dehydrate.

 


We need to talk about television 

Tuesday 4 July, 2017

As you know, I am an entertainment consumer buff. If I’m not watching films, I’m watching TV, if I’m not watching TV, I’m playing games, reading books or listening to audiobooks. I go through cycles and phases but I am always consuming media of some sort. When my health craps out, when I have the flu, when I’m brain tired but not body tired, I watch television. I don’t want to sound like a hipster, but I was marathonning tv shows before it became ~cool~, before the Netflix generation inherited the earth.

Here’s the problem, television keeps dissappointing me. It might just be me and maybe I have high standards, but there’s not many television shows made in the last 10, even 20, years that I have watched from start to finish, without either losing interest half way through or suffering through mediocre plotlines and self contained episodes until I can’t suffer anymore.

I could give you a whole list of the shows that have lost me or dissappointed me in my entire life time, but, in all honesty I just tried and I derailed and ranted and remembered how dissappointed in House I was and that spurred a very long entry on it’s own, and then had to go for a lie down.

So I’m going to just mention the last few series I had high hopes for, and try to keep it to the point.

But saying that, shall we get it out the way first? House. You know how I feel about this show and it’s downfall. It was the best thing on television… for all of 2 and a half years. It was everything I wanted from a show, I didn’t even realise it was what I wanted from a show. Murder mystery in a medical setting, because the disease is the murderer. House, like Holmes, has to work out the intricate web of lies and livestyles to figure out why the victim is the target, and who is trying to murder his patient. Sometimes he went wrong, and killed them faster, but usually, the man and his ducklings came through and saved the day. What more could you ask for!?

Well, consistency would have been good for a start. Then longevity. And a little less of the producer’s own fantasy wish fullfilment. I think it should have finished at the end of series 3, when something shifted the focus away from Patient of the Week and Clinic Patient of the Week, on to character drama. Yes, okay, we could have had a bit more about Wilson’s brother in the first series, but there is a middle ground between the strict procedural that left us wanting it was in the first series and the soap it turned during series 3.

I said I wasn’t going to go on about it, and I won’t. But I just really wanted to get that out. I loved House, then House changed, I feel not for the better, and then it dragged us through 5 more series until it ended.

Shortly after that was Alphas. I know, it was generally disliked by the masses. It was like X-Men, it was stereotypical, it had problematic casting by casting a british non-disabled guy to play an American 20-something autistic guy. But… for the first series it was quite good! It had me hook, line and sinker. I do love me some mutant powers and hey, X Men 3 was a botch-job, I had to get my Mutants Saving The Day fix somewhere. And then series 2 happened, and one character’s own personal problems and a love triangle drove one half of the plot, and the other half of the plot came from a personal vendetta characer arc that dragged on for far too long. It just lost what made it enjoyable in the first series. It did not surprise me that it didn’t get renewed for a 3rd series, though I am annoyed they messed with the airing of the second in the UK off the back of that decision. It also could have improved for series 3, with the feedback of what failed in series 2.

I was briefly into Rizzoli and Isles. I seem to be a sucker for any show that is even remotely Holmes and Waston-esque. Here we have Jane Rizzoli, a streetwise hard boiled egg of a Police Detective with her friend and colleague, Dr Maura Isles, an intelligent but socially-blind Cheif medical examiner, working together to solve Murders of the Week. It works very well, and should have remained a strong series despite set backs and personal tragedies, but the writing team behind the scenes changed hands and took the show in a different direction. Apparently, in response to the fan reaction supporting the idea of Jane and Maura becoming an item, they promptly wrote in male love interests for both characters to prevent anyone from doubting the two main character’s sexualities or romantic interests is anything but straight. Nothing is confirmed but the implications have been noted by better notekeepers than myself.

The introduction of the love interests wasn’t as much of a problem for me as obvious signs that the new writers had no idea or care for what came before their involvement. Jane had a dog called Jo Friday, the dog dissappeard off-screen, and eventually we got the bizarre explanation that Jo Friday wasn’t Jane’s to begin with and has been returned to her real owners, which the Mum keeps in touch with. Thank God that explanation was scrambled together, otherwise we might have thought they’d killed off Jane’s beloved pet dog in an arson attack on her flat. The same arson attack that led to her moving in with Maura, which fuelled the relationship rumours the writers became concerned about.

Maura had a tortoise. I don’t know what happened to the Tortoise.  Then we have Jane’s brother Frankie, which is short for Francesco. But you wouldn’t know it from the once-proud Italian-American mother suddenly calling her Italian-American son “Frances”, which just would not have happened in the earlier series. And all  sorts of other little details that were retconned or ignored or over-shadowed in favour of lazy writing, which was clearly starting to affect the actor’s ability to act.

One day I just stopped putting myself through it. Much like what I did with Person of Interest. Talking of…

Person of Interest was a flash in the pan in my eyes, but that might be due to the binge watching. I came to this party very late in the game. It was already on hiatus in America, and it was on Hiatus, from what I can gather, because it lost thousand of viewers over the course of series 4 and something was aired during a mid-season break that got higher ratings so the cast were waiting both to see if the first half of series 5 would be aired, and if it was, whether they would be in the second half. Added to that, the writer’s had admitted to losing interest in the show and did not want to complete it.

Going from series 3 to eventually seeing most of series 4, I can see why it lost viewers. This show, which started off brilliant and almost flawless, and with characters you can believe to be real people, changed into something else. It was a procedural with heart. Finch was the leader, a bruised and broken genius who lost his best friend before the start of the show. He follows the intel a highly intelligent machine gave him, and gave orders to his second in command, John. Along the way, after a lot of pain and anguish, they make trusted acquaintences with two new york coppers, Joss Carter and Lionel Fusco. For the first 2 series, Finch’s greatest enemy is a megalomanic sociopath with computer skills to rival him, she goes by the name of Root and she kidnaps him and terrorises him. John’s ability to take down the enemy for Finch and save people because that’s what good poeple do, Finch’s determination to save people because nobody else can, along with the goodness of Joss Carter and Fusco’s redeption of wanting to do good for Selfless reasons drove the series.

The series all fell apart when the writers dissolved the friendship between Reese and Finsh almost over night during series 3. I don’t like to talk about queer baiting because I still don’t really understand the phrase, but all the work put in to Finch’s past, the relationship parallels between a normal couple of Finch and Reese’s friendship, not to mention the looks between them that don’t seem within the normal paramaters of Friendship, it really feels like a plot bomb that was dropped was the end result of queer baiting and everything was retconned rom there. Then they turned Root from a very scary Baddie, to a redeemed saviour who had all the answers. Suddenly she was better at programming than Finch, a better shot than Reese, and it didn’t matter that she was practically sexually harassing late-joiner Shaw, she was what Shaw was somehow missing after years of working for the ISA. What the Machine was at the start was always going to change, but there’s very little reasoning as to why it had to involve Root being the Machine’s mouth piece over the more logical choice of Reese. Her redemption makes no sense either. It wasn’t like Fusco’s, slow, well written, with acknowledgement of his earlier wrong doings. Root’s is “Well she’s good now because that’s what The Machine wants, let’s forget she spent 2 whole days terrorising Finch, that’s all in the past now~!”

I stalled during watching series 4. I’ve now got 2 episodes of series 4 to watch before I can start series 5 and I just don’t really want to. The procedural element went, there was a lost plotline to do with a third party team getting revenge, and that didn’t really go anywhere, and it does seem to be the “Look at how brilliant Root is at everything” show. That’s not what I signed up for when I started watching the show.

The most recent dissappointment was The Flash. I really liked the first series. I’d been meaning to watch everything Super-hero related everything anyway, I was just waiting for the time to become available as well as the DVDs, then a friend lent me her boxset of The Flash. I watched all of the first series in 2 and a half days. I thought it was Brilliant, and it wonderfully filled in the holes that Person of Interest was leaving me with. It ended on a cliffhanger and I was dying to find out what happened next.

Series 2 did not have the same effect. It started off well enough but somewhere along the line, I think maybe with the Wells we grew to love to hate (and love again if you’re into that sort of thing) going, the dynamics of the show changed. It didn’t quite make the new mark, and the ending annoyed me. This show is superhero procedural with an over-shadowing arc with a Big Bad, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer was, and as the procedural element was being drowned out by personal drama as the character dynamic shifted and changed, the over-shadowing arc dragged on rather than shone. And then Barry pulled a Barry and left us all wondering why we wasted 23 hours of our lives watching series 2, specifically the Ross and Rachel plot line of Barry and Iris. And then series 3 happened. I won’t get too far into series 3, I think spoiler warnings can sometimes extend to a whole year! But I think it started off weak, everything was a mess canonically and it didn’t make for good watching… besides Julian. That was a nice little gem on an otherwise pile of bricks. I know the fandom loved the Musical episode. I was impressed by the singing, I wasn’t impressed with the execution or arbitrary plot developments leading up to it so that they could have it in the first place.

“Once More With Feeling” it was not.

And the big bad of the series? Called it. Though not the reasonings behind it, because I couldn’t have guesed that mess in a millon years. To me, that part of canon made very little sense whatsoever.

What has happened to this show!? I can only hope, without sounding like i’m mis-quoting D:Ream, things will get better. Before the last episode, I thought if the ending crapped out, I wouldn’t be watching series 4. I’ve heard that Arrow fell in a similar way and redeemed itself during series 4 and came back stronger, so I’m willing to give the 4th series a go. But it has until the 3rd episode to pull me in as much as the first series did, an if it doesn’t, I’m out.

It seems to me that most of these series start with a very strong recipe. They know what they want out of the show, so they know what to put in the show, and then suddenly what they planned ran it’s course. So they throw in personal drama, they change the dynamic, they hope it’ll make their characters grow but put hardly any of the groundwork to make it work like it did in the first series. They guess their audience and half the time they guess wrong.

I’m show hopping right now. I’ve found watchable shows to watch, such as The Blacklist, but nothing that has grabbed in the way that House/Alphas/POI/Rizzoli and Isles/Sports Night/The West Wing/Sherlock/Breakout Kings/Law and Order: Criminal Intent did before their inevitable downfalls.

And that’s what I think about Television now, and televsion shows. It’s only so long until the new shows of today have their inevitable downfalls, so is there really any point in investing time into watching them?

I want to end this on a special mention of the series of long, film length episodes: Hornblower. That show, though it changed over the years, and one of my favourite characters got killed off, never dissappointed me. Upset me, yes, but not dissappointed.


I survived, and to prove it I’m here

Monday 12 June, 2017

To follow up on my last blog post, I have to say that though the response I got from it was minimal, the responses I did get was appreciated. The relaxation techniques were tried (and then subsequently thrown back out the window – Sorry, but breathing calmly does not stop my head being as loud as Lime Street station on a busy day), and the more practical ones about revising did help a lot.

So, how did I think I did in my exam? Well I’d say it was an exam of two halves, which is an achievement in itself considering it had 3 questions. The first one I think I did okay with. I structured part A like an essay, I made and followed an essay in a good order, with all the revelant information I could think of, and part B was writing a short script, which I had fun with whilst trying to show I did understand the stuff I’d written about in part A. The second question started to lose me a bit. I structured it like an essay but half way through my brain shut down and I was struggling for information and coherency. It was my shortest answer and I’m just hoping that through showing what I knew about the metta sutta the length won’t be too much of a problem.

It all fell apart on my 3rd question. I hadn’t been well the week leading up so I wasn’t at my best because of that, I was also on antibiotics for it, which were not playing nice with me at all. I did take a small break to eat which perked me up, but it didn’t take away the wave of tiredness I was hit with or the grinding I was feeling in my ear. My third answer was word vomit of all I could dredge up on the topic of religious Touristification. There was a weak plan, and no structure to the essay. No introduction, no clear conclusion. I forgot locations, so I had to work around it by describing where I meant. I forgot specialist terms, and had to give a roundabout definition of them in the hopes the markers understand I did know what I was trying to say, I was just failing to do so. It was my longest answer and I felt I did as best I could do in the circumstances, but I’m not confident that I did well enough. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I will be glad if I scrape a pass. I’m not asking or expecting anything more than a pass.

But, I was relieved it was done and leaving the room made me feel a bit better almost instantly.

As soon as I was able to, I went on facebook. And boy was that a mistake. I’m sure in a few years time, I’ll look back and find it funny, but right now the feeling of my heart in my stomach and panic induced nausea is still a bit too fresh.

The normal finish time of the exam was an hour before I finished, so there was already a discussion about who answered what questions and how we felt about them going. I added what questions I answered (2, 8 and 12) and how I felt about them. Under my reply, someone else replied saying they did the same questions as well, “but part b”, they added “was awful!”.

My heart sank, I was devastated. I didn’t do part b, because I didn’t see part b. From what I could remember, in my panic induced haze at the time, the question I did started near the top of the page and ended just before the bottom of the page, and the next page was the last page with “END” or “LAST PAGE” written on it. There had been no more. I’d had nightmares about a similar scenario and I felt like it had come true. I couldn’t get past the idea that I had missed the queston in my eagerness to leave. I also tried to imagine the page was folded badly by the invigilator, or the pages were printed out of order, or left out of the pack altogether, something to make it not my fault, but those ideas didn’t stick. The one where it was all my fault and that I’d failed because of my own incapability stuck, and I was so disappointed in myself. How could I? There is always one person who misses out a question, why did I have to be the one to do it? It was such a “me” thing to do, wasn’t it? The scatterbrained disabled person. Just so typical.

I couldn’t face being on Facebook anymore right them. I went to the loo, I tried and failed to eat an apple, and I waited for my taxi to arrive.

Shortly after getting in the taxi, I got a direct reply to my comment so I risked another peek on the group. What can I say? I didn’t think anything could make me feel worse at that point, so there was no reason to avoid it any longer. It had happened, I couldn’t do anything to change it, I needed to accept it and enjoy the summer holidays.

I spotted a bunch of replies to the reply underneath mine. They were all panicked “WHAT PART B” type questions. “I didn’t do part b either!” were heavenly words to my eyes. A bunch of us had missed part b. I can’t be that much of an idiot if we all missed part b, right? We weren’t All in it together, but some of us were, and that was enough for me.

And then the person who originally wrote the comment replied, with an apology.

“Oh my god guys!”, she said, “I’m so sorry! I meant question 10, not 12!”

I was torn between relief sobbing and flinging my phone out of the taxi.

To summarise to those who might have missed that. I didn’t miss “part B”, because there had been no “part B” to the question I had answered. We were all fine, and I imagine all equally relieved.

 

I don’t plan to do another exam for at least 2 years and I am hoping by then the Open University will see sense and reintroduce EMAs as an equal method of testing students on their knowledge, because I don’t think I want to go through any of that again.

But ultimately I did survive and now I am trying to enjoy my summer. And with summer comes film reviews, so watch this space!