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Mar. 22nd, 2020


Subscription Meme

As started by [Unknown LJ tag], below are my answers to the [bolded] topic headings. If you'd like to meet some more dw people [or LJ if you're reading this on the crosspost] please reply to this post with your answers and let's get meeting new folks!

People in this journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Taking in the City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’d like to get from my participation here
To discover some more dw users who blog about a range of issues, serious and light, work and home. Always glad to increase my reading list.

This entry was crossposted from Dreamwidth, why not comment there?

Jan. 1st, 2017


Reading List - 2017

 Made it to an inauspicious 18 books in 2016 - struggled to commit to a huge variety of books and also had a run of dreadful choices interspersed with some real quality.  Got some great books for Christmas and hoping this will buoy me into the new year and to at least 30 books for 2017.

This entry was crossposted from Dreamwidth, why not comment there?

Dec. 22nd, 2016


2016 in review

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?
Completed and submitted my thesis, and passed my PhD viva. Pretty fucking massive. Managed to squeak this into 2016 with my degree confirmation from Senate dated on 14th December. Next month - graduation!

I was also on Match of the Day this year. That was new. And not something I'd have laid money on! I'm very visible in the video for Manic Street Preachers' Euro 2016 song for the Welsh football team, which was shown a few times on BBC1 before Wales' matches (I'm very prominently screaming at about 1:38 on that video).

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Nov. 3rd, 2016


(no subject)

 I am so lonely.

This entry was crossposted from Dreamwidth, why not comment there?

Jun. 3rd, 2016


Fandom, representation, and ethics.

Some time ago, I wrote this after hearing the person who made the documentary Crazy About One Direction speak (in an academic context). I've had it set to private for ages but in the context of my continuing participation in Manics fandom, and all that it has given me, I wanted to post it now. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that, I think, remains the fundamental misunderstanding of the filmmaker which means she can't quite see how inevitable the response to that documentary was.  And it made me feel misunderstood, as I tried to illustrate my point with my own experience of fandom because she got side tracked with what she thought she knew about Manics fans and stopped listening to me.

This entry was crossposted from Dreamwidth, why not comment there?

Jun. 1st, 2016


Thesis submission: achieved.

 I have submitted my PhD thesis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This isn't how I thought I would feel at the [almost] end of the PhD.  Bit of an anti-climax. 
This entry was crossposted from Dreamwidth, why not comment there?

Apr. 29th, 2016


The state of things

I've had one major meltdown and one minor meltdown in the last 7 days.  

4 weeks to thesis submission.

Taking bets now on how many more meltdowns before then.

This entry was crossposted from Dreamwidth, why not comment there?

Jan. 25th, 2016


David Bowie Is...Dying

Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan. 16th, 2016


Five Questions

So I was given 5 questions by meepettemu. I am supposed to say that if you comment and ask, I'll give you 5. And I will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm not sure how I feel about it.

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

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

5: Where in the UK would you choose to live if it could be anywhere?
Brighton. Where I am right now. Where I can't afford to stay and am unlikely to be in a year's time. And that is already breaking my heart.

David Bowie Is...A Gigolo

Just a Gigolo (1978)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in all, I thought it rather fun, rather knowing, rather silly and rather wonderful.
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