annwfyn: (Mood - post-manic comedown)
So, recently I wrote a piece on social media for #timetotalk2017, in which I talked about my mental health, and mostly ended up talking about recovery. A couple of people were terribly nice and said they were impressed by the extent to which I seemed in control, and how far I’d come.

And, after wobbling for a day or so about how I don’t feel impressive at all, I decided maybe it would be helpful if I wrote up the stuff I’d done to keep myself sane. This has all come from conversations with Jez, with my psychiatrist, and my CPN, and is written up in various forms as a care plan, and a keeping well plan. My psychiatrist has also said nice things about my methods, so I figure they aren’t totally random and arbitrary.

Of course, this is a plan that works for me, and my particular brand of crazy. I don’t promise it will work for everyone, or will even work for me all the time. And most of this is stuff you may already have thought of. I’m not setting myself up as a font of all wisdom. But I figured the top ten things that have kept me upright and walking around might be worth writing down.

So, here they are.

Read more... )
annwfyn: (cats - ying/yang)
This came up last night while randomly chatting to a couple of folk about kittens (which are the cutest thing in the world - trufax) and I was encouraged to post here. For I have now had cats in some form for most of my life, with my current precious precious goblin cats having been with me for (I think) twelve years.
Five things I wish everyone knew and accepted before acquiring a feline overlord to rule your every move.

Read more... )

I'm not going to pretend I'm the perfect cat owner. I've made mistakes and compromises like anyone. There are also big issues I'm not getting into, like whether you can keep a vegetarian cat (I know folk who do, I know folk who say it's cruel, I don't, so have no comment to make) or the whole 'adopt, don't shop' movement (we got our cats as kittens as Jez's asthma means that Cornish Rex are the best breed for us - they don't seem to set off an allergic reaction in anything like the same way as most other cats. And I regret nothing). I also am not going to discourage anyone from getting a cat, because I think my cats are gorgeous and lovely and I feel constantly grateful that I've had the massive privilege of their company for the last 12 years. I just am aware, more than ever, that they are a big commitment. I've been super lucky with mine - they have largely been healthy chilled out little beasts who have never destroyed a sofa or carpet and love human beings with all the beneficence that cats can manage. But they have changed my life and they will change yours, if you get a feline.

Good luck.

annwfyn: (Sally - Helen's wedding)
More Sense8, now I've watched the Christmas special. Not a long review, but some comments. Also, spoilers...
Read more... )

So, that was my review. How about you? Did you like the special?
annwfyn: (Mood - pondering fox)
So, Sense8!

I can’t remember who recommended it to me first, but I’ve now finished Season One (not the Christmas Special). Sadly, I didn’t live blog it, but am now posting with my thoughts from the first season as I prepare for more.

Review. With spoilers )
annwfyn: (mood - hedgehog food)
I had a weird emotional moment last night.

I cooked a decent curry.

I am trying to find words for why and how that was important to me. First of all, I want to be clear, it was an exceptionally good curry. I take no credit for this; my sole part was providing the hands that moved stuff around in accordance with the recipe given to me by Gousto. It was a coconut prawn curry, served over cinnamon rice. I cooked it and jez said it was the nicest thing I’d ever fed him and he’d not be ashamed to serve this to his father.

Jez’s father is a Sri Lankan gentleman with a very strong curry game. That was high praise indeed.

I wouldn’t have been ashamed to serve that to my family either. Not even my mother (who was born and raised in Sri Lanka) or my grandmother (who lived 50 years there and had an exceptionally strong curry game indeed). It was a good curry.

I almost wanted to cry. For some reason, a decent curry (I scorn anything that is mince, tomatoes and chilli) feels like it should be beyond me – balancing spice with complex flavours, making sure it’s not too oily or wet, using all 11 hands to do the multiple things you’re meant to do at once, not being too hasty or too slow – was just not something I could do. Until I could.

And I think more so because most of the people I know who cook decent curries are of the older generation, a generation who really knew this shit. I never thought I’d be within breathing distance of them.

But I cooked a good curry.

I am very proud.
annwfyn: (Mood - bunny suicide)
So, one of my huge accomplishments in 2016 was somehow, miraculously, transitioning from 'possibly the worst cook in the world' with a repertoire of exactly two dishes which didn't involve 'put in microwave, press button' to someone who currently cooks from scratch around four times per week, using proper ingredients.

I do not consider myself someone who can cook, exactly, yet, but the process of becoming someone who cooks at all has taught me a number of things about the great divide between those people I know who say such things as 'but cooking is easy' or 'surely everyone can make a basic cottage pie' or 'anyone can cook cheaply and healthily, and there's no excuse for feeding your kids junk food' and those people for whom it all looks like some kind of weird black magic.

And, because I compulsively write these things down, here is the list of the top five things I wish both sides would know.

Read more... )
annwfyn: (seasonal - December)

So, I'm in Germany for the first time since I was fourteen. Also, driving in Europe for the first time ever.

Thoughts:

...German drivers are definitely more polite than English drivers. And the autobahns are fast, but in general I think Is a feel safer driving here than the UK.

...driving on the right is ok. Driving in a car with the gearstick on the wrong side is terrifying. All my autopilot driving has to change.

...I can't quite describe Cologne. It doesn't feel like any city I know in the UK. It's lovely, though; I suspect hip, not too expensive, feels like there's a lot going on without being too crowded. Would happily stay here more.

...the Christmas Markets here are lovely. Some mass produced tat but a lot of genuinely lovely crafts with enough variety to keep you trundling on.

...I know understand entirely that the Germans invented Christmas. And the spirit is strong here.

...German food is really underappreciated. So far we've had amazing curry wurst, delicious raclette, glorious waffles with cherries and hot chocolate, fresh baked pretzel and a hog roast roll with sauerkraut. I have not been fed this well in forever.

...German dress sense is definitely more conservative than British dress sense. Cleaner lines, sober colours and less variety.

...my spoken German is truly appalling. I need to practice!

Today, another two markets, Cologne Cathedral, and New Model Army this evening!

annwfyn: (Nonsense - hedgehog courage)
Following on from a conversation I was having elsewhere, I figured I’d put this up here – my top five TV shows of 2016. As a note, these are shows I’ve watched in 2016. They may have been made earlier, but due to the wonders of Netflix, only came to me this year.

I have also, in a bout of negativity, added the five TV shows I found to fail me the most in 2016. And then I think we should trade recommendations. And one that was just confusing.

So, without further ado.

The Good – Five best TV shows of 2016.

1)      Westworld.
This may yet be a mistake. It might be. I’ve not watched all of season 1 yet, but dear gods, it’s been amazing so far. It’s subtle and complex, and discusses issues about memory and identity and humanity that I’ve been wanting a TV show to ask ever since I first encountered the holodeck on Star Trek. It has amazing writing and a stellar cast that could probably make the phone book compelling but instead are given this astonishing world to work with. It is big and beautiful and has cemented my conviction that TV, and HBO in particular, have stolen cinema’s crown when it comes to in depth and high value exploration of fictional worlds. This is amazing.
2)      Glitch.
I am told this is a bit of a marmite choice. It’s a six part Australian TV drama that’s on Netflix and follows a similar premise to ‘The Returned’ with the dead coming back to life for unexplained reasons. It’s a slow burn show, with very little dramatic happening for most of the first season, but it has some beautifully detailed characters and a real sense of place with the characters from Australia’s history. It ended on a cliff hanger and I’m terribly excited about season 2 in 2017.
3)      Game of Thrones.
The very predictable choice, but it really has exploded this year. It turns out that George RR Martin may write amazing novels, but holy crap, the show runners make amazing TV, and it’s gotten even better since they overtook GRRM and got to have their heads a bit more. Sansa, my beautiful Sansa, grew as a person. Arya got back in the game. And they repeatedly outdid themselves. I thought nothing could top the Battle of the Bastards which was flat out the best battle sequence I think ever shown on screen, but then came the Winds of Winter. Oh Yara and Dany – please stick together. The worlds needs you two, you know.
4)      Gotham.
Again, I think this may be a marmite choice, but Gotham has really grown on me lately, to the point where I feel like it may become my favourite Bat-screen-representation. Sean Pertwee is amazing as Alfred, I think I prefer the kid Bruce Wayne to Christian Bale and the bad guys continue to steal the show every time. Oh Penguin, I wept when you murdered your family. DC can’t write a movie to save themselves, but they can do TV.
5)      The Man In The High Castle.
Amazon Prime’s greatest success – an alternate history America in which the Nazis won. And it’s amazing. I’m not sure who the good guys are. I think there may not be good guys. But I want the second season, and I am still thinking about it month’s later.



The Bad – Five TV Shows that failed me in 2016.

1)      The Night Manager.
A little controversial, I know, but this show vexed me. I wanted to like it. I really really wanted to like it. I adored at least one of the characters – Olivia Colman – and I like spy thrillers. But instead I spent increasing amounts of time wanting to throttle Roper for being so ridiculously naïve about Pine, who always radiated dodgy, and even more time wanting to throttle the writers for their conviction that while men needed many character traits, a woman only needs to be beautiful.
2)      Once Upon A Time.
I loved this show once. I really really did. I watched it faithfully through the ups and downs, I endured the Neverland plot and the ridiculous appearing backstory and family trees. I even supported Rumple and Belle up to Season 4 when I should have given up long before. But I have finally accepted that this show just needs to die. The Disney rip offs have become too much, too blatant. Rumple’s fake out near redemptions for Belle and immediate relapse just looks abusive at this point. And Henry isn’t cute, he’s well into puberty, and it’s just not working any more. Please…just lie down.
3)      The Killing.
Again, I loved this show all the way through series one when it was a tense cat and mouse nourish thriller. I struggled through season 2 because it felt like filler, but I was resolute. I would keep going. Now…I am just out of steam. I think the show invested way too much in Jamie Dornan, for way too long, and wouldn’t admit that basically, he wasn’t a glamorous figure. He was just kind of seedy.
4)      Homeland.
This show hurts me because I still want to love it. There are very few highly functional bipolar heroines on TV. Um. By which I mean one. There’s Carrie. She’s great. She is. But dear gods the racism. Oh yes, the racism.
5)      The Good Wife.
This is here mostly because I gave up watching it before the end. Somewhere along the line, I realized that none of the characters were nice people. Alicia wasn’t the nice woman making it in a harsh world. She was just a shark. And I really missed Shalinda. So I drifted away. Goodbye, Good Wife. I loved you once. But you turned mean.


The Ugly – I don’t understand this TV. It leaves me all befuddled.

1)      Shetland.
I just worry whenever I watch this. Shetland is such a tiny place. Yet the murder rate is uncomfortably high and looks set to keep growing with series three coming soon. And there’s only about three people in the entire police force. I just don’t think they can stay on top of this, as evidenced by the old murders that keep resurfacing. I fear it may end up like Midsomer, that horrific hellhole in southern England, where your survival chances are low and the odds of a painful and exotic demise are higher than Mogadishu.


So, those were my top shows. What about yours?
annwfyn: (Misc - hedgehog & fox)
So, I was on a course on communication yesterday. As I’m a charity fundraiser, my course was all about how to communicate with people until they give you money, but as I sat there it occurred to me that I probably ought to be trying to learn more about how to communicate with people the rest of the time too.


And then I thought the rest of you might be interested in it, particularly the stuff about persuading people and bringing them over to your point of view, as I know a lot of you guys are activist types.

1)      Don’t overwhelm with facts. This is definitely my flaw in all online debates. If in doubt, I find a lot of numbers and throw them at the screen. I think this ought to work, but apparently, it actually doesn’t. There have been various studies suggesting that people tend to make an emotional decision first and then look to facts to support that viewpoint. And a quote for you – ‘logic makes people think, emotion makes them act’. So you need a narrative first that clicks with people and then use your facts sparingly to back that up.


2)      A positive narrative has more impact than a negative narrative. There are also studies which show that the bigger and nastier and more overwhelming a problem, the more likely it is that someone will ignore it. Telling anyone that the world is awful is statistically unlikely to get people to stand up and fight and more likely to make them feel a bit crappy and decide to give up on everything and have cake. You need to provide a positive narrative – the normal charity narrative is ‘there is this bad thing. We did the good thing. Now we are on the way to happy ever after’.


3)      Give people a call to action. Generally, 90% of people out there would like to make the world a better place but aren’t quite sure how. This, randomly, is why clicktivism and the like tends to be very successful – it’s a very clearly defined and attainable call to action. And while clicktivism isn’t necessarily hugely successful in terms of impact per person, there are some examples of how it’s achieved an awful lot just through weight of numbers. In financial terms, 10 people giving £100 each are doing a lot more than 10,000 giving £1 each in terms of the cost to each donor. But the £1 donors can sometimes produce more money just through weight of numbers. See – ice bucket challenge, the advertisers pulling out from the Daily Mail etc. So if you can find a call to action every time you engage with someone, even if it’s little, it’s not a bad thing.


4)      No one starts out a major donor. I think this is the same with activism in all its forms. Pretty much no one goes from ‘blindly unexamined privilege and voting for Teresa May’ to ‘manning the barricades’ after one fierce argument on facebook followed up by solitary googling. In fundraising we talk about the donor journey – from suspect (doesn’t really know much about the cause, might be open to hearing it exists) to prospect (isn’t donating, but is interested in finding out more, knows about what we do and supports us in theory) to donor (is donating, usually small and affordable amounts that won’t affect them hugely, may or may not talk about the cause to their friends, but understands our cause and supports us) to major donor (gives significant amounts that may impact on their own finances. Has made a commitment, has made us a priority) to advocate (gives significant amounts of time and money, reaches out to many people in their community on our behalf, has made us a major priority and is a leading figure in the cause). The thing we remember is that we need all of those people in our community – people at every stage of the donor journey. This means that when people fall back or drop off the journey (as is normal) others can step up. And some people will never progress that far and that’s OK – they are all contributing. I think that’s needed in activism too. Some people need to spend time as a prospect – not going on Black Lives Matter marches, but wearing a safety pin. Some people need to settle at donor – they might give some of their time and money to a cause, by donating food to a food bank to combat poverty, for example, but they won’t push. And that’s also OK. I think there is a tendency in social justice movements to constantly shame people for not doing enough and that is actually super counterproductive. Yes, some people may be inspired by that and fight on to do more, but that isn’t a normal human response.


5)      Don’t argue to the death. Make a point and leave people to think about it. Changing someone’s mind is a slow process and normally occurs over a number of encounters. Another reason why internet dog piles are so useless – overwhelming conversation over a short period of time isn’t helpful. A drip drip approach is much more likely to work.


6)      Listen as well as talk. If you can’t find anything to agree with in what someone says, you’re probably not the right person to be talking to them. Leave them be and find someone else to engage. Unless you have common ground you are very unlikely to get anywhere.


7)      Use examples and case studies. Use personal stories. People respond much more to them than they do to numbers – it’s called ‘the identifiable victim effect’. But you need to make these stories relatable. One of the case studies we looked at was a woman suffering from very complex mental health problems. The case study barely mentioned them. It just talked about how the charity had helped her reconnect with her children. It didn’t ask us to look at her as a patient. It asked us to identify with her as a mother and I think that’s really important. It’s also why I think campaigns like the LGBT campaign for equal marriage rights has been so successful – ultimately, most people can identify with a narrative that says “I met someone I really love and wants to get married” and it’s very hard to argue against that without looking like a horrible person. It’s a really common (if not universal) story. It’s far harder if you start off by saying “these people are totally different to you, but you have to support them anyway”. People don’t emotionally engage with the alien and if they aren’t emotionally engaged, they are far less likely to act. I also don’t think it’s true – everyone has a human story. Focus on that.


8)      Bring the issue as close to home as possible. Remind people that you aren’t talking about aliens – an Oxfam campaign about women farmers took off massively after they found a young female farmer in the Hebrides to act as the face for their campaign in Scotland. She went to the Scottish parliament with Oxfam reps and brought in £8million of funding for women farmers worldwide. A young woman from Bangladesh would have been unlikely to have that impact. If you’re talking about racism to people in the UK, don’t just talk about police brutality in South Central LA. Talk about the Met police, for example. And, again, remember that no one will do anything to support the Other.


9)      Assess your audience and objective. And there’s nothing wrong with going for a quick win. The WWF know this. That’s why they put pictures of the panda everywhere. No one cares if a bug goes extinct. This is also my massive flaw in argument. I become enraged by simplification and try and explain, at length, complex and contradictory and messy nuance. But it’s far less persuasive. Sometimes you need to give a streamlined message.


10)   Put your audience in the story. Sometimes you can be broad with this – one campaign tagline was ‘calling all former children’. It sounds silly, but it works. Remind them ‘this could happen to you’. Humans care, but humans are ultimately selfish. You need to harness this to your advantage.


And this stuff works everywhere – if you’re talking about Black Lives Matter, or Jeremy Corbyn, or Scottish Independence. Because really, it’s about persuasion. And people’s brains work the same all over. Obviously, sometimes you might get into a fight that isn’t about persuading – it’s about stigmatising certain kinds of behaviour, certain lines of speech – and I get that. Sometimes it’s just that you’re hurt and angry and fed up and want to let people know. I get that too. But we need to be honest about what is genuinely effective and what isn’t. I don’t promise that any of this will work. But I can say this is the stuff that has science behind it. And I like science. 
annwfyn: (Nonsense - hedgehog courage)
So, last night was the Glasgow gig as part of the Levellers 25th anniversary tour for Levelling the Land. And Jeremiah and I went. I don’t normally do reviews, but I was filled with thoughts and feelings this morning and so felt the need. As all my reviews are, it is divided into three parts. The good. The bad. And the ugly.

So, without further ado.

The Good:

  • The support acts. Ferocious Dog & Gaz Brookfield were both awesome. Gaz Brookfield is a very warm and witty acoustic singer and songwriter, who did a fantastic job of getting the crowd engaged. Ferocious Dog, it turns out, have Fruitbat from Carter USM as their guitarist, and also an unhinged tattooist as their lead singer who lists Lenin, Scargill, and Marx as his influences on their website, thus indicating a great deal of resilience in the face of an unforgiving political world which probably does help when trying to make a living as a folk rock musician. I accept that my political views are, compared to him, practically Genghis Khan like, and he probably doesn’t want the likes of me appreciating his music, but I really did. And their violinist was flat out incredible.

  • The venue – lovely bouncy dance floor, decent space, small enough to keep the buzz focused, large enough that it was easy to breathe. And it was less than an hour to get home which is a distinct improvement on the last Levellers gig I went to and no mistake.

  • The audio-visual at the beginning. I liked the neat little summary of the world according to the Levellers, from the 1980s to now, and it really put them firmly back on track as protest music, which is something I think they’ve drifted from slightly in recent years. Again, I know I’m definitely way to the right of the average Levellers fan (for I am a fickle bitch and have not kept the faith with my teenage politics) but I really appreciated that they were focusing on that edge to the songs.

  • The music! Of course! They basically played through Levelling the Land entirely, which pretty much doesn’t have a weak song as far as I’m concerned. I danced until my knees gave way and dear gods, I was happy. They remain absolutely reliable – decent vocals, decent instruments. Maybe they are getting old but they are not out for the count just yet. And, unusually, they played Julie! It was their encore song and as that’s the Levellers song which reliably makes me cry this is good. Then the final song was ‘Beautiful Day’ which is my least favourite Levellers song, so meant I could get my coat from the cloakroom before the crowds dispersed.

  • The entire gig made me think. Which is always a good thing. I’ve not yet sorted out my thoughts, especially the coherent rational ones from the ‘I used to be really passionate and idealistic and have all the answers to what made the world good and then I got old and also, I was thin when I believed that stuff, and my hair wasn’t at all grey. If I believed that stuff again, would my hair change colour? Is grey a sign of the evil in my soul’? But I do have thoughts and it was nice to have them.



The Bad:

  • The crowd booed Thatcher. Loudly. They booed Blair. Loudly. They stared in baffled silence when Farage appeared on the screen. This vexed me hugely for reasons I’m still trying to articulate. Probably mostly that I think if you are going to be so politically bloody engaged, then how about engaging with the actual political villainy of the now. This might, however, be me being unreasonable.

  • A slightly odd running order to the gig meant that they basically really front loaded the whole thing. They started with ‘One Way’, and then played through Levelling The Land, which really pushed their good stuff to the start of the gig, while the crowd were clearly getting on a roll. And that then meant their second half was slightly more random which was not bad, exactly, but could have been better.

  • More screens than I would like. I love my mobile as much as the next girl, but there is a time and a place. And if you’re in the middle of the pit at a Levellers gig, that is not the place to stand rock still, hold your phone aloft and mutter between songs about people jumping in the way.

  • The amount of pain I’m in this morning. I don’t want to admit this, but I think I might be getting old. I certainly am not in a place where I can go to a gig, dance all night and go to work in the morning feeling good about the world. Well, maybe mentally about the world. But not physically. I ache!



The Ugly:

  • Here I can only offer advice. If you’re a middle aged punk, I’m glad you’ve kept your individuality and spirit. If you want to go to a gig wearing a kilt – that’s awesome. If you want to take your shirt off then I even support that. But if you’re going to do these things, might I suggest you ensure your kilt is securely fasted to your belt, and that said belt is solidly in the middle of your stomach, before you start jumping around enthusiastically during the songs. Thank you!



Also, Ferocious Dog are playing in Glasgow again in January. I would very much encourage anyone who likes music of the New Model Army/Levellers persuasion to give it a go. Jez and I will definitely be there.
annwfyn: (Misc - journey)
This is a follow on from a conversation on someone else’s FB and my finding the CV of Failure that a Princeton professor wrote a while ago online again.

Today I have been thinking about the failures that at one point felt soul destroying. But which, with time, I’ve come to realize were the best things that could have happened to me. There are many, but for simplicity, I list the top three here for you.

Read more... )
annwfyn: (Misc - hedgehog & fox)
Read a really interesting FB post by Ruth yesterday about thin privilege in LRP and it vaguely got me thinking.

All very dull unless you're interested in people, Live Action Role Play, and how people respond to size )

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