…no post today. I spent yesterday hiding from daylight, when irony of ironies, after posting a survival guide to migraine, I had one. Needless to say no writing was done yesterday, hence no post today. I’m off now to deal with my post migraine hangover, I hear a shot of whiskey and a gun with one bullet works well…
With the sheer volume of migraines I’ve been suffering from lately, it seemed timely to write a short piece on how to cope with them. Anyone who’s had a migraine will understand just how unpleasant they can be. For anyone who has never had one, but who has someone in their life who is a sufferer I think perhaps a short explanation is in order.
Migraine are a curse. They can alter how you see, for example when I have a full-blown migraine I usually go almost completely blind in one eye. They can make you incredibly sensitive to light and noise. In short they can make doing anything normal, completely impossible for as long as they last. I think the best way to explain how it is to have one is to describe one of the nastier ones I’ve suffered.
I felt like a red-hot, knitting needle had been shoved through my left eye. Then someone had attached a vibrating massager to the needle. Finally, to add more insult to more injury, a metal wedge had been hammered into the base of my skull, right where the spine comes into contact with it. Every movement, no matter how small, made me want to vomit. Even the movement from breathing was enough to make my gorge rise. The slightest change in light intensity made me want to scream, the slightest noise made me want to cry. Basically it was one of the most miserable days of my entire life.
So how do you go about coping with one of these?
I won’t be talking about medications here, I’m not qualified to. But there are a lot of other ways to help get yourself through one of these days from hell.
The single best piece of advice I can give is if you don’t have one, buy a hot water bottle. They can be used as either a cold or hot pack and depending on which way works best for you, they can be a sanity saver.
I personally lie with a very warm, but not quite hot, water bottle in the hollow of my neck, on the side which is in most pain. It definitely helps, I presume this is due to relaxing muscles which are locked up from the pain.
The next thing I would advise anyone to get is a loose black hair band. Not for your hair, but to use as a blindfold. They take virtually no space in a bag or pocket, so can be carried anywhere, but will allow you to hide from bright light for a while.
Ear plugs can be a god-send as well. Most pharmacies will carry an inexpensive pair. They won’t block all noise, but will help you to escape from the loudest sounds.
Sometimes a migraine will be accompanied by a blocked nose. Most people would suggest some Tea Tree oil or a decongestant spray. Personally I would suggest a menthol chewing gum, like Airwaves. Not only will it free up your sinuses, but I also sometimes find the chewing action can make it a lot easier to cope with the pain.
Weird as it sounds, washing your hair can sometimes help a migraine to end quicker. Use loads of shampoo, again a Tea Tree one is a bonus because of the cooling sensation it causes on the scalp, and massage the hell out of your head. Having hot water running over your neck can be a big help as well.
If all else fails and your migraine forces you into bed, assuming you aren’t allergic, have a feather pillow to hand. Feather pillows can be moulded to support your neck and head perfectly, and anything that takes strain off of your neck is only a good thing. For me a feather pillow combined with a hot water bottle and a darkened room, ends most of my migraines in very short order.
Finally, if like most people your bedroom curtains don’t really do a lot to block out light, you might find it useful to buy a really heavy, dark coloured blanket. Make sure it’s large enough to cover bedroom window and using a few metal hooks to hang it over your curtain rail. I suggest this because nothing, absolutely nothing, helps nearly as much as a really dark room to lie in. It also has the bonus of helping to deaden any noise coming from outside.
There are probably hundreds of other simple tricks that other people use to help cope with migraines, which I simply don’t know about. But these few have been genuine lifesavers for me over the years. But I will say that if you suffer from frequent or recurring migraines, talk to your doctor about them. There are medications out there that can help end migraine very quickly, or even sometimes prevent your having them in the first place. So talk to your doctor and save yourself some suffering.
Apparently Summer has arrived. In fact, it supposedly arrived several weeks ago. Did you notice? Well neither did I. But then I remembered, I live in Ireland. A country where a good Summer is assessed by a slightly different scale of measurement.
10: You find yourself woken at 5am every morning by full daylight streaming into your south-facing bedroom.
9: But that daylight is diffused nicely by the thick dark grey, leaden sky.
8: Nothing says “Irish Summer” quite like hundreds of thousands of pasty skinned Irish people, all trying to get a tan from the sun which lies hidden behind that leaden sky.
7: The membership of Dail Eireann inform the nation that we should all holiday at home.
6: The membership of Dail Eireann climb onto passenger jets and take their holidays in the south of France.
5: Instead of wearing 6 layers of clothing, you strip down to a mere 3. Way to go near nudity!
4: You catch the neighbours cat eating its third swallow in two weeks. Said cat is unapologetic and looks to be getting decidedly plump.
3: Someone releases a terrible food based dance song…(see these two particularly bad examples from the past, you’re welcome.)
2: Every day of every week throughout the entire Summer, the news warns of imminent water cuts. Despite it seeming to rain several hours every single day.
1: Though it must be said of that rain, that it falls nice and vertically rather than near horizontally.
P.S. I admit this list is probably not up to my usual standards, my apologies. Lack of sleep is my only excuse.
On the night of Sunday 19th, BBC4 showed the last part of its three part series, A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss. I was unlucky enough to miss the first two parts, but found the third, an episode based around American 70’s horror movies an absolute treat. I have had a very long love affair with horror movies. Though my love of horror did not actually start with horror movies, but with two particular moments in two classic 1980’s fantasy/science fiction movies which at aged 5 made me both cringe away and long for more.
I’m sure everyone has seen both the original Clash of the Titans (1981) and Flash Gordon (1980). Both are classics of imaginative movie making, one for the remarkable skills of StopMotion maestro Ray Harryhausen, the other for its immense campness and a surprisingly remarkable cast. I remember C.O.T.T. for many reasons, not least for the incredible Kraken puppet and Flash Gordon has always stuck in my mind for its incredible movie score written and performed from beginning to end by the immortal Queen. But both of these movies are jointly responsible for launching my love of the horrific and the macabre. How so?
Well, Perseus has beaten the Gorgon Medusa, taken her head and is on route to save the fair Andromeda from being sacrificed. Along the way Calibos, son of the Goddess Thetis sneaks into his camp and stabs the bag containing Medusa’s head with his trident. For years I felt like screaming every time I saw that moment. The mere thought of that trident stabbing into Medusa’s skull even now 30 years later is enough to give me a severe case of the collywobbles. Yet as I was repelled by that moment I was drawn to watch it again. It scared me shitless and at the same time the adrenaline surge made me crave to be scared the same way again.
But it was a year later when I finally got to see Flash Gordon, that my love of being scared was finally cemented. At the very end of the movie, Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe and as good a villain as has ever been written, has the spike on the very nose of one of his own ships plunge right through his body. He then turns his ring of power on himself to escape being captured. Again it was a moment of impalement, again it made me cringe and again the horror of that moment had an immensely powerful effect on me.
I was hooked. I spent the next three decades watching every horror movie I could get my hands on. Which for the first decade wasn’t very many. Ireland in the 1980’s was almost a video nasty free zone, especially if you didn’t have access to any of the U.K. television channels or worse still didn’t own a video player. Every Halloween I would scour the RTE Guide in the hopes of a couple of decent horror movies. Most years I was sadly disappointed. But even so occasionally, I would luck out on something nice and scary, that had managed to slip through the RTE censorship net. I remember one particular year when they showed Halloween 3: Season of the Witch and I loved every second of it.
For me, someone who has a severe illness and so has a fairly caged existence, horror movies and their close cousins the creature-features have an important part to play in my life. They’re in some ways far more of an escape from the pain of day-to-day life than even science fiction can be. A good horror movie sweeps me away completely. There’s just me, the screen and an absolutely huge overdose of adrenaline. Even the names of the classic and modern masters of horror are enough to make me excited Lugosi, Karloff, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Romero. Those are the names of my movie heroes. The names of the story tellers I most admire. And I admire them because in a way they are the very best at tapping into the atavistic core of even the most civilised human being. That caveman we all have buried at the centre of our brains, terrified of what’s creeping around outside in the darkness. Terrified of what’s waiting out there to make a quick caveman snack out of us.
Please note though that here I am not speaking about the torture porn, masquerading as horror which has flooded our cinemas and homes over the last decade or so. Saw, Human Centipede, The Hostel are to my mind not horror movies. They’re genuine video nasties which mostly serve by showing the depths of depravity which some human minds contain. But mixed in with these movies are genuine horror gems The Ring (2002) being one of the stand out examples.
I’m feel lucky though, unlike the current crop of horror fans, I grew up before the invasion of torture porn. I grew up in a time when we had the entire golden age available with moves such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and White Zombie (1932). But it was also a time when we had the modern delights of John Carpenters movies, Romero’s then zombie trilogy, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Children of the Corn. I feel that bad Halloween knock-off slasher movies and atrocious torture porn aside, this is the true Golden Age for horror fans, myself included. Everything is available to us either on satellite television or in DVD stores, but best of all through that best source of all things a little dodgy, the internet.
My love of horror and horror characters has never gone away and I hope that it never does. I adore the ultra punk Pinhead, Candyman rocks and who could fail to grudgingly like The Omens Damien?
As my regular readers will probably know, I am currently in the build up to launching my first webcomic. I’m really enjoying it, it’s so much fun learning new skills and relearning old ones. For example, on Wednesday of this week I spent an hour learning how to use GIMP to layout the panels on each page. After about an hour of struggling with the controls it all suddenly clicked together, and the satisfaction of teaching myself a new skill is impossible to overstate. So like I said it’s been a really enjoyable experience.
But earlier this week it also became a very odd experience.
This webcomic is intended to be a sort of autobiographical one. Where I use a mixture of my own life experience and some, I hope, funny or at least interesting visual metaphors to answer some of the questions people have about transsexual women, lesbians, same sex relationships, being a gothgirl…well basically anything that’s part of my life, but outside of the experiences of most people. So being this sort of semi-autobiographical medium it almost by definition has to include images of myself. Hence the odd experience. I sketched my first self-portrait, ever.
There isn’t much about being a transwoman that can be described as easy. But for me at least, the hardest part is usually to look at myself in photographs, or even in the mirror. The reason is simple, I’m extremely over critical. Just like any woman who looks at herself in the mirror, I tend to pick at self perceived faults. My chin is too strong, my eyebrows too bushy, my skin is too blemished. But in addition to those I tend to add in a constant self assessment of how “male” I look at any given moment. This is all quite pointlessly irrational. Because rationally I know that actually my skin is usually very good, I love the fact that I have very strong eyebrows and my chin is actually quite nice as well. And more importantly, I know with certainty that I don’t look in any way “male” anymore.
But because of my experiences growing up as a pre-transition transsexual woman. Because my experiences while I transitioned from pretending to be one gender (male), to living as what I actually am (female), these thoughts, as irrational as they are, are always here with me.
Then I drew a self-portrait.
Whenever I start a creative project I always set myself one solid, immovable rule. One condition about the project, which is absolute. For my webcomic that rule, condition, is that I refuse to be anything but absolutely honest in it. That rule meant that rather than drawing an idealised version of myself, I would have to draw representations of myself which are actually true to what I see in the mirror. No matter how much that act of honesty may end up hurting me.
So that being the case, on Sunday evening, while my partner and puppy slept on the couch, I took a mirror, my sketch pad and my favourite 3H pencil and set about creating an honest self-portrait. The result of which has really surprised me. As self-created image, it is not in any way idealised. It is a simple sketch of exactly what I saw in the mirror during the 20 minutes it took to draw. Yet it has changed my perception of how I look almost completely. In fact it has improved my perception of myself immeasurably. Because while what I saw in the mirror failed to make me happy, the sketch, which shows my strongest features as I saw them in that same mirror, showed me a face I’m happy to live my life behind.
The mirror showed a sickly, woman with handsome features, but that’s all. The honest sketch showed me a handsome woman, with three features which make her, not pretty, but at least beautiful in a very strong, rather than delicately feminine way. Think of it as the difference between Eva Green and Helena Bonham Carter. Eva Green has delicate features which lend her looks an ethereal quality, Helena Bonham Carter has much stronger, almost harsher features, which don’t make her any less beautiful, just beautiful in a different way.
That’s the sea-change my self perception has been undergoing for the past week. The change from my reality not matching up to an impossible dream of delicate features, to the reality of strong, more handsome, yet still beautiful features which I am happy to have and happy to live with.
Essentially drawing a self-portrait has taught me to find myself beautiful. For the reality of me. Instead of looking in the mirror and being unhappy, for almost a week now I have looked in the mirror and liked what I’ve seen. I may be no Eva Green, and never will be, but I no longer want to be. I’m happy to be strong featured, with a jaw line to crack granite with. After all along with Miss Bonham Carter, I am most definitely in good company.
Having played WOW (World of Warcraft) from just shortly after the WOTLK expansion (Wrath of the Lich King) launch, I felt I was lucky enough to play it in a golden age. It was challenging, playing a Marksman Hunter while extreme soloing and general raiding was wonderful. Everything felt, right I guess, a little simple but right. Then Cataclysm launched and…well I leveled, played all the dungeons at both levels and slowly lost my mind.
The game I loved for three years is now inhabited by wall-to-wall kid-iots, old-time players who have this insane sense of entitlement, worse still mana vanished, extreme soloing became so easy that all challenge had vanished. In short I was bored to tears and only my close friendship with a few of my guild-mates kept me there. But frankly I’ve had enough. Aside from a lowbie character to play with my lil sister and the occasional dungeon or raid session with my guildies, I’m done.
So what has this to do with EVE? Well like a lot of gamers, I’ve toyed with the idea of playing EVE from time to time. Monday was one of those days, so I went onto Amazon, just to price a DVD copy. I prefer a DVD installation to downloading, much the same way that while I have an e-book reader, I prefer the feel of real paper in my hands. I’m just an old-fashioned geeky goth-girl I guess. Anyway while I tried to get Amazon to give me a price in Euros, I accidentally ordered a copy of EVE, for what turned out to be less than the amount I spend on chewing gum most weeks.
Aha Fate! I could have cancelled the order but, I didn’t. Which begs the question, Why?
Put plainly I need a challenge. On the hardest setting I have almost finished Crysis after less than two weeks of very casual gaming. WOW is no longer any sort of challenge. Star Trek Online became boring after I ran through what felt like the same mission, for the umpteenth time. And yet there’s one game which has successfully kicked my ass over and over for years, X – Beyond the Frontier.
This game was launched approximately at the same time as EVE and despite X being a single player game and EVE being a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) they have a lot in common. They are both set in distant parts of space with you cut off from Earth, in EVE’s case for thousands of years. They both have huge strategic elements, as well as tactical action, trading and exploration based aspects. Indeed many moons ago, when I asked a friend what EVE Online was like he told me it was like “X with other players, griefers and the an even more complex set of control panels.” Yes he really did talk like a computer magazine reviewer writes, a slightly odd guy.
Well from everything I’ve read, as well as everything I’ve been told by other gamers, EVE will be a challenge. I will lose ships. I will get my ass handed to me over and over. I will struggle to create a successful character. And I will get head-bangingly frustrated sometimes.
I can’t wait. But while I have to wait for the postal service to get my copy to me, I think it’s time to make up some EVE playlists, you know just because. I think I’ll start with some Heather Alexander, hmm maybe some Queen.
Last week I posted a very short entry, it called on my readers to help support a Syrian woman named, Amina Abdallah who had apparently been kidnapped. At the time like the vast majority of LGBT people I simply accepted the apparent facts of the case. Her blog had been extraordinary in its emotion and its descriptive language. In short like virtually everyone who had read it, I believed her words, I believed in her and I wanted very badly for not only her but for her family and nation also, to be well and safe.
To be totally honest I along with everyone else was had. There is no Amina Abdallah, she is instead a figment of the imagination of a married, male, American, named Tom MacMaster who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. In a ridiculous pseudo-apology posted on the Gay Girl in Damascus website yesterday, he admitted the truth, while claiming that he perpetrated this global fraud in an attempt to raise issues surrounding LGBT and civil rights in Syria. In the post entitled “Apology to readers” he said “I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.”
However, regardless of what he would like to delude himself into believing, the truth is almost certainly the opposite. Rather than helping he has created a poisoned chalice for the next real person who finds, him or herself in such need. He has rather than creating a voice, created a reason for people to disbelieve genuine horror stories from real people, in real trouble, whose lives are actually endangered.
In all likelihood he has endangered the lives of real civil rights activists in Syria, and set back the cause of civil and LGBT rights in Syria, perhaps other Middle-Eastern nations, months, if not years. Why? Because his thoughtless fraud has probably sent many activists back into hiding, out of fear for their freedom, safety and in such a hardline nation even their lives. For the words of genuine rights crusaders who will have to live with the repercussions of MacMaster’s foolishness read this article on GayMiddleEast.com.
But after all of this the LGBT world is left with one burning question. Why?
Why create such an event? Selfishness? Greed? A “look at me” mentality?
What ever the reason, people are angry over the actions of this man. People who took time from their lives to try to help a non-existent woman are angry. People who took time to pray and worry for her, are angry. People who put faith in the honesty and reality of “her” words, are angry. I’m certain that the various diplomatic officials, who wasted perhaps hundreds of man hours and thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars searching for her, are furious.
So Tom MacMasters why did you do it? And why shouldn’t some very angry LGBT folk take you out behind a woodshed with a garden hose filled with lead-shot?
Sorry but no post today, feeling like living death for the last 2 days and writing is the last thing on my mind.
I have chosen on this day to speak, fondly of my soon to be departed EEEpc 701 netbook. You see this venerable example of its breed is not long for this world. The poor dear has in the last few days developed several symptoms which point to a not very sudden demise. In fact it was only on the evening of Saturday the 4th that my poor beloved netbook developed what can only be described as a nasty death rattle. So with its consignment to computer Valhalla assured in the near future, the time has come to pay my respects to this, the greatest of my electronic game-day players.
I still remember the day that my netbook arrived in the post. It had taken me 12 weeks to save and another weeks wait after ordering for that moment. But it had been so worth the wait. In it’s surprisingly small white box waited the best piece of bad technology I have ever owned. Which is saying something when you consider I once owned an Atari 5200. I very carefully opened the box and inside, resplendent in hot pink and white lay my EEEpc 701. Without even switching it on, I fell totally in love with its miniscule size and equally tiny weight.
Less than ten minutes later that netbook won first blood, when a sharp piece of soldering inside it cut into my knuckle as I fitted the second stick of ram. That was when I knew our future held many battles of willpower, where the most stubborn would be the victor. How right I was.
You see this was back in the day when netbooks only came loaded with Linux. The operating system I loathe most of all, even more than Apple OS or Windows, Linux represents everything I hate about computing. It’s clunky, badly realised and so completely user-unfriendly as to be almost unusable for the uninitiated. Needless to say at that point in time I was most definitely one of the uninitiated. That said in time and through sheer pig-headedness I grew to be proficient with Linux, though I will never like it. But even so, to this day my sickly netbook and I have toe-to-toe battles, caused purely by that most hellish of mankind’s creations Linux.
Yet despite these ups and downs, my netbook and I grew to have an extraordinarily productive relationship. To date, between blogs, articles, four drafts of one whole novel, one-quarter of its sequel and miscellaneous other pieces of writing, together we have churned out a minimum of a half million words. That of course is without counting emails and the innumerable posts on Facebook.
On its tiny seven-inch screen I have watched dozens of episodes of the Angry Video Game Nerd, trawled the mucky streets of 4chan and spoken for hours with friends on Skype.
Yes my netbook has been my link to the outside world when my health has prevented me from leaving home for days and occasionally weeks on end. It has been my release from boredom in Airport lounges and even my MP3 player when my real MP3 player has simply given up and died, mid train journey.
All this for just over €200 almost five years ago, five years of heavy use.
Unfortunately though, my netbooks solid state hard drive has started to fail, the screen flickers, the voice from its speakers is roughened with age and the “m” and “k” keys only work when they feel like it. It’s almost time for my netbook to be brought out behind the wood shed, so I can put a deer-slug through its processor, releasing it from its current state of misery.
But today friends I take this opportunity to say a fond and loving farewell to my fellow adventurer in my forays into literature, while it is still alive and striving still to kick my ass, with its hateful operating system. My netbook I raise a glass to you, you have been a worthy companion and occasionally worthy enemy. I will miss you now that I am forced to replace you in the coming weeks. But for the time being I will still love using you, even if you are occasionally spitting up digital pus and blood while you sit on my lap.