Friday, 28 November 2014

''The Beautiful Game' - guest post by Mark Tynan

Today I have a guest post from Mark Tynan. Inspired by an editorial in the guardian last week (Nov. 18th) Mark wrote a reply, a 202 word scathing assessment of professional football, the UK banking system and our favourite former PM.

The Guardian decided not to print. I felt (with Mark's permission) that it really should be read by more than three people.

The Guardian chooses to make professional football the subject of an editorial
My observation is that that status is ill-deserved. To adopt a phrase used by she-who-shall-not be-named, why give football, in its modern guise, the 'oxygen of publicity'? No longer a game nor a sport, football is now just a business.
The editorial makes no mention of 'the beautiful game', there is no mention of players, their ball-skills inspiring a new generation of would-be international stars. No, the stand-out words and phrases are 'lawyers', 'corruption','large debt' and 'global farce'.
How sorry is it that our 'national game' now has more in common with banking than actual sport, a situation, I feel, which was summed-up last year by a club waiting overnight to make the announcement of the sacking of its manager, a Mr Moyes I believe, until the opening of the New York Stock Exchange?!
'Global farce' is an understatement. Football, mired in greed and corruption, and burdened with a generation of professional players who are better actors than they are footballers, has become a laughing-stock. Cricket and Rugby Union take heed! Down that road, evil lies!

Mark Tynan

The observant of you will notice that the author of this an I share a surname. Mark is indeed father though I think any bias I have toward is writing is outweighed by the quality.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Thought Bubble Part 2: Accessibility

The previous post gave a summary of how thought bubble was supportive of different genders and age groups and gave a generally welcoming atmosphere. I thought that, in order to be complete, I should address a few of the other areas mentioned namely, accessibility for people with physical, developmental or neurological disabilities.

I have some physical disabilities and on tough days walk with as stick. I had my stick with me on the day and found accessibility for me was very good. Each of the main rooms had level access or gentle ramps to get in to them and had no steps once inside. The greeting room (where you paid, picked up your wristband, maps and program) had a number of steps at the front which surprised me a little but, I later realised (by seeing a woman zoom past me on her motorised chair) that there was also a gentle ramp up to the entrance so it was accessible to people in wheelchairs and those who can't navigate steps. This was excellent. I noted that there were actually a number of people using canes, crutches or in wheelchairs, both of the powered variety and self propelled. At no point did I see any of these people struggling to navigate the convention though I can not personally attest to how easy it was for people in chairs to reach the tables and exhibitors. The aisles were wide enough to pass down easily and without me feeling like I was an obstruction, though the sheer volume of people did mean I got jostled or my stick knocked a few times. I don't think that could really be fixed without having absolutely enormous spaces between things. I was happy to deal with the odd jostle though it might be a difficultly for other people. 

These little spaces between tables (carefully marked with an x) were great for standing out of the way.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Rediscovering Comics

and a review of Thought Bubble

Two weeks ago I went to Thought Bubble: Leeds' dedicated comic convention and part of a bigger festival of comic art and writing. I had been to comic conventions before: great jumbles of artists, stands, merchandise, games and anime. To be quite frank I hadn't enjoyed these experiences. The halls were too busy and without focus; I felt like a outsider, not knowledgeable enough about comics anime or games; I was older than the other clientèle, female, and not cosplaying. It was a world that was difficult for me to access.

Thought Bubble Annie Wu
Illustration by Annie Wu used with permission.

 Thought Bubble, I was told, was different. For starters, rather than the mishmash of everything from games to anime with comics thrown in there in the middle Thought Bubble was about comics and only about comics. OK it covered all aspects of this media from self published zines to big publishing houses and graphic novels but the core was still the telling of stories through printed art and words. There was only going to be the one subculture for me to deal with.
More than that, they said, Thought Bubble was, from day one, designed to be inclusive; accessible to anybody regardless of gender, age, ability or disability, whether they were life long fans of comics or turning the page for the first time. This was the real charm: a comic con that I could go to and feel safe and not excluded. I was impressed that a con would be organised in this manner, that the managers and staff that ran it went in to it with conscious aim of not discriminating against, in fact actively supporting, many groups of people.
I was told of policy regarding sexism and gender issues – those comic artists who were overtly discriminatory in their drawings or views simply weren't invited. Booth girls weren't a feature. People who used discriminatory language would be asked to leave. The organisers made sure to provide facilities for people with physical or neurological disabilities including quiet areas, gender neutral toilets and easy access to event halls. This sounded incredible but I was dubious about how it actually worked in practice.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Beauty Vs Chronic Illness

I was shown a video a few days ago called "Letting Beauty Speak'. It is produced by Cross Fit International and it wants to redefine beauty. The definition the video highlighted brought me to tears. It was an unexpected yet quite profound reaction and it is something I want to address.

Let me get this stated right now:

I like Cross Fit. I have no problem with CrossFit or with those people who do it (in general). I like the enthusiastic approach to being fit and healthy. I love seeing my friends so happy when then have achieved something new. I also think that 'organisations' and communities like Cross Fit are really good in supporting and encouraging people more than just a call to go to the gym. Many people thrive with that sort of communal approach to achieving a goal.
So, are with clear, I have no problem with Cross Fit.

Back to the core of this post: why a video redefining beauty that explicitly pushed against the usual media standards of beauty left me distressed. You may not care about my distress itself, but I would hope you care about questioning the media definition of beauty.
When I saw the title of the video I was keen to watch. I am very pro health and fitness, and even more supportive of things that de-construct media-pedalled 'traditional' concept of beauty and attractiveness; I wanted to see how a group of people I respect viewed beauty. I wanted to know their answer to the question ''what is beauty?''.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Chronic Fatigue: the physical impact

Chronic fatigue is so much more than being tired all the time. Fatigue affects your muscles and the amount of energy you have to physically move. Imagine you have just done the hardest workout of your life – completed a marathon; beat all your PB's in the box; walked the length of Hadrian's Wall in a week. Your muscles feel like sandbags, you feel wobbly and shaky and have no inclination to move. That's fatigue.
Now imagine that that happens every day through simple activities like having a shower, or walking to the shop and recovery is always incomplete. The thing is chronic fatigue isn't just tired limbs it is far more insipid, affecting every part of the body. I'll start with the obvious and then get down to the effects that you might not expect.

The NHS Choices website uses this as their picture for fatigue. It's not completely inaccurate.