Musclebound

Exercise is bloody hard work. Believing that simply taking protein supplements is going to give you a body like The Rock’s is, like it or not, living a massive delusion. I have to admit, the implication that under 30’s would believe this feels pretty insulting, and without any kind of hard facts that prove the point, the bigger issue is teaching better nutritional awareness. Protein shakes have their benefits: my husband’s using them to very good effect currently as a way to maintain weight, in tandem with what is a stupidly healthy diet prior to another bike race on Sunday. They can be incredibly useful to kick-start weight loss too. The article that started all this talks about what an average body requires to stay healthy in terms of protein: no two bodies are alike, and if you don’t sit behind a desk every day the number of calories needed will vary.

Mostly, the press can only ever talk about health issues in general terms. Studies and reports increasingly are taken out of context to highlight particular issues, headlines created as clickbait. It is quite rare to be presented a whole truth in reporting: like it or not, that doesn’t make for very engaging content. History reminds us however that promising people better bodies using advertising is hardly anything new. This kind of ‘persuasion’ has been going on as long as newspapers have needed advertising: this isn’t about buying anyone into the idea of supplements or aids either, it is convincing the gullible that their physique is flawed. In the modern world, obsessed now with body image in all its various forms, that is probably more concerning that handing over money to companies for anything that could be considered largely pointless if you just amend your diet and exercise more.

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I was asked at the weekend why I’d started weight training by a total stranger. The answer is twofold: it has always been something I wanted to do, because I equate strength with physical fitness. Body image is largely irrelevant, but keeping asthma in check is far more important: I can have a direct and positive effect on managing an illness which, as a child, meant exercise was off the cards… except, now I find myself wondering what might have been different if my parents had encouraged that urge and not suppressed it. I’ll never know, of course, but now I’m in a position where breathing difficulties are the exception due to my own hard work. The sense of satisfaction and achievement that gives is beyond significant.

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The irony for me is that my stomach refuses to process either protein shakes or gels: I can swallow them but they’ll be straight back up in short order. If I want to lose weight and build muscle, it’s good old fashioned food groups: chicken, lean meat and white fish, flapjacks and nuts, or protein bars at a stretch. On days like this when the sugar craving is strong, that can be a hard ask, but my brain’s spent over a year grasping the undeniable truth that you really are what you eat. If protein shakes help people be healthy, honestly, what’s wrong with them? In 40 years, if Global Warming has its way, we could all be eating proteins in powder form anyway. There’s an assumption only one real way exists to be healthy, and that’s simply not true. Sure, you can eat cake and drink coffee but if that’s your life without exercise, it’s as bad in its own way as never eating a ‘healthy’ meal. The key here is not one thing or the other in excess, but balance.

The truth about health is never hard and fast. Reality, as always, depends on the individual deciding to make a change, and then sticking with it. There are many success stories, but for every miracle weight loss or transformation there are the many who can never make it past the scales or the next meal. Like so much else in life, change must be yours to instigate. If you want something enough, it will happen. For myself, I can attest that a healthier lifestyle has transformed my life at 50, but that is only part of a far larger and more complex set of circumstances. Knowing that, I’ll never discourage anyone wanting to start the journey, but it has to be on your own terms.

Decide what you want, and then make a plan to get there in the healthiest manner for you.

Fight the Power

When I grow up, I’d like to be a Professional Troll-Slayer.

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No, not THAT kind (though I do have the beard for this) but the type that has enough brains, clout and sheer bravado to take the Internet Troll to task: news feeds are now littered with examples of how J.K Rowling slays all who deserve it. Often Trolls don’t care about anything but the attention: their actions aren’t motivated in order to provoke a response, it’s being able to spew hate without caring over consequence. Except now, with increasing regularity, trolls are being held to task in spaces outside of social media.

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Jack Monroe’s a local lass, friends with at least one person my husband knows, and extremely capable of not taking shit from anybody. The fact she’s now suing one of the most notorious spewers of arrogant and selfish rhetoric on the Internet, Katie Hopkins, fills me with a great deal of both satisfaction and comfort. This is the same Ms Hopkins whose employers at the Daily Mail were forced to cough up a six figure sum over another libellous claim only a few months ago: sadly however, it looks unlikely that this woman will ever change or discover the importance of considering consequence before speaking. However, one assumes that if you get libel proceedings posted against you enough times then eventually people will stop employing you… but we all know that’s not true either.

However, what this case (and others like it) will hopefully highlight is that you can’t just say whatever the fuck you want on the Internet any more without there being some kind of consequence. On the other side Twitter themselves are finally beginning to respond to many complaints that there’s simply not enough ways to deal with the speech at source. There’s been a number of new features that were introduced by the Company at the beginning of February, and indicators that certain behaviour may be being blocked completely. However there’s no independently verified confirmation of this, just the muttering of various websites with quite obvious and extreme right wing political bias. So, perhaps it is best simply to concentrate on the stuff we know is truth, from the source:

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I’ve used the Abusive Tweet service on several occasions since November and it is certainly a better and more thoughtful means of targeting what should be genuine abuse or attempts to spread disinformation. However, what this doesn’t provide for is twofold: the previously normal person who ‘goes rogue’ or the professional person such as Ms Hopkins whose presence on Twitter is as important as advertising for the platform, right up until the point it becomes detrimental. As we discovered with a certain young British chap who made his name via social media, you can get away with pretty everything until sex comes up, and then it’s Game Over. Twitter may have banned him last year but by then the damage was done. If the wrong person gets upset or angry, and goes on a rampage, even deleting those Tweets won’t be enough: as we have discussed with George Takei in recent days, people have surprisingly good memories, and everything can be screen-shotted.

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However, by far and away the best tool to prevent people from taking you to court is a brain. You simply don’t post, or step away to begin with. If you do go in with your axe held high, be prepared to fight clean and clever. Rowling’s undoubted brilliance is, unsurprisingly, as a writer, and her barbs aren’t hurled at the person but at their comment. Libel, strictly defined, is a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; effectively a written defamation. None of those sick burns are ever about the person themselves, simply the words used, and as long as you understand how thin that line is? You can tread it safely, secure in the fact that this is the way to approach Trolling with Style. The moment you start threatening a person physically or calling their personality into question is when the alarm bells should ring for everybody.

In essence, social media demands people to consider their anger in a literary context when it comes to people or events they find discomforting. If you can take the time to use your words well, they are better weapons than any you might find lying about to poke others with. In fact the damage these words can and will do should never be underestimated: it isn’t the sensitive or exposed at threat here either. On any given day, the President of the United States can be made angry and annoyed by what he hears on a TV screen or on Social media. Journalists can be offended. Prime Ministers can agree or disagree. I’ve seen this all in the last week, and all of this has happened with the power of letters, connected into sentences. Your words can destroy, or liberate, and yet so many people never consider their significance until it is too late.

Time to think more, friends, and hate less.

Picture This

As I’m planning to spend more time writing here as time goes on, it occurred to me that I ought to start tacking more meaty subjects than my own exercise failings and stupidity online. The problem is, right now, there’s so much of the latter taking place on a daily basis that I could probably make a full time living doing just that. So to begin your week with a stop and think moment, let’s give a lesson in a subject I am learning more about with each passing day. It’s the game your entire Followers List can play: Objectification for Fun and Profit.

It began with this floating into my timeline: woman of colour Serena Williams has done a photo shoot (for Sports Illustrated) not wearing very much, and a white woman has seen this before getting the right hump. More importantly, it is a woman who is not of colour throwing someone who is a ton of shade for deciding she can do whatever the fuck she likes because she’s successful. I’d love to say that women should stick together, and that you’d not see this happening anywhere else, but that’s just not true either. Let’s roll in the other tweet that made it to my timeline yesterday to prove that sometimes, complaining you don’t like something when being paid to write about it is the worst thing you can ever do:

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Not only is it bad to show off your body when a woman of colour and pregnant, or when successful, it is also terrible to celebrate story lines that involve women of colour, despite the fact that movie’s more than likely to win the Best Picture Oscar. It won’t win it because the Oscars committee got grief that there wasn’t enough diversity, for the record, but because it’s a fucking brilliant piece of cinema according to all the sensible, rational people I believe who have seen it. No, I haven’t, but in this case even if I had I’d still take Camilla Long to task, or indeed any of these journalists who think that this is either a way to make money or a fair representation of actual truth. That’s the unexpected advantage of writing fluff pieces for newspapers: it is your opinion, freedom of speech gives you that right yet however wank that is, you’ll still get paid regardless.

Those of us who do this for love think a bit harder about what gets used as subject matter.

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Image #7 when I type ‘cosplay’ into Google ^^

I use Tweetdeck for Twitter reading for one reason: it allows me to mute people and phrases when the traditional means of silencing stupid on that platform won’t work. It means therefore that if you put the word ‘cosplay’ in a Tweet I won’t see it either, and I’d like to explain why as an example of how objectification has NOTHING to do with the people being photographed and EVERYTHING around who looks at and then shares those pictures. I enjoy looking at both men and women’s naked bodies, but in my own time and certainly not on social media, and that means I make a conscious choice to remove all references to scantily clad females that other people choose to share online. It is, effectively, people deciding that X has great tits and that everyone should share. That’s objectification, and because I want no part of it, I remove it from my timeline. I’ve also started doing this with shirtless pictures of men, I won’t lie, as I realise that it is just as objectifying as the lovely lady above being waved in my face.

The fact she chose to have this picture taken is NOT her objectifying herself. Sure, it might appear to have that effect, but if you make a conscious decision to allow your life to be public property, that is a consequence everyone takes, from the 40′ waisted pole dancer to the intersex model. Size, shape, colour or sexual preference are irrelevant. An object (and no, I’m not dissing anyone by being this literal) by definition has stuff directed at it, and is not the thing doing the objectification:

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I’ll freely admit that this is a concept I’m coming to quite late, that staring at desirable things is always something that’s been done without really grasping the significance or consequence of the action. After all, if you go to a museum and stare at a naked statue, which presumably is only an interpretation of a real person, what’s the difference between that and the nice young lady pretending to be a representation of a dragon with 44 DD breasts? Of course, with Serena Williams and Beyoncé there is an issue of race that really shouldn’t even exist in 21st Century thinking, where movies like ‘Moonlight’ should just be considered as the norm and not an exception. Objectification happens in too many places, and with not enough consideration for a global stage. It doesn’t help that fascism and introversion are now turning back efforts to expand people’s minds, and that ‘fake news’ makes this the new reality.

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It makes me sad that people won’t get along. It’s even more depressing that, faced with choice, it is a natural reaction for most of us to assume we’re right and everybody else is wrong. There’s an awful lot of space on this planet for everybody to work together and get along, yet easier to divide and conquer people and ideas to keep what are considered as ‘unruly’ people in line. I’d like to think that if I was ever paid to write this kind of crap for a living I’d make better choices, and wouldn’t think about dissing people or picking targets without understanding what it was I was doing in the first place. Mostly, it seems to me that writing is becoming a lost art: easier to throw a metaphorical plant at someone and forget about finesse. If that’s the case, honestly, these people should be out of a job. This isn’t news, and neither is it opinion I have any interest in, yet undoubtedly outrage causes clicks and makes money.

That’s probably the larger issue that could do with addressing.

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Mexican Standoff

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Today, has all been about a woman called Gina Miller. That’s her in the picture, and she and her challenge to the belief that the Prime Minister nobody voted for could just tell Europe we were buggering off in March has set the entire Brexit ‘situation’ on its arse. Now, we’ll need an Act of Parliament and at least a parliamentary vote to make the whole thing legally binding because GUESS WHAT? That vote in June wasn’t. Back then the smart pundits said it: the vote might indicate the country wanted to leave, but without the ratification of Parliament? It won’t happen. The High Court’s judgement is already being called one of the most significant in modern British legal history, and with good reason. It pretty much roasted the Brexit people before chucking them out of court on their ears.

That vote in which you lied and deceived people to get your way? You know the one that many people called a veiled Tory leadership challenge in disguise? Well now it doesn’t matter that much. In fact, the first thing that happened when I turned on the radio after the judgement was the BBC suggesting we could have a General Election next year in an attempt for the Tories to secure a fresh mandate. I’m looking forward to Mrs May and her cronies trying to convince the 48% who didn’t vote for this that the ‘will of the people’ is what matters in this situation because if that were the case, you wouldn’t have tried to bypass Parliament, which is our publicly elected body.

Shortly afterwards the Daily Mail imploded and frankly after that, everything was glorious.

Honestly, if I made up this shit, people would laugh at me. It’s like the party in power refuses to listen to the advice its been given and instead feels this mistaken sense of obligation to entirely trash the UK because they had a vote that told them to do just that. It doesn’t matter how much damage and ruin will be wrought for future generations, let’s just do this anyway because we have to say we were good on our promises. Sometimes, it’s okay to admit you were wrong, and now the law of the country tells you how frankly awful this idea of the vote was to begin with?

STOP DIGGING.

Frankly, it’s been fucking fantastic theatre. It’s also a reminder to my mates in the US. You can still stop the trainwreck. There is time.

Planet Earth

There was a bit of a row last week about oranges. There was a Tweet. Then the World imploded. I picked up this response this morning, and of everything I’ve seen it provides the most intelligent of responses I’ve read. For me, however, nobody in this argument appears to have grasped the larger point. Ironically, the woman who started this is as perplexed as I am.

If you’re going to assume there’s an agenda to someone’s actions, that is undoubtedly going to be influenced by what you are. The people on my Twitter feed for instance with disabilities or who knew someone who did were all over crippledscholar’s point of view with good reason, because there is both empathy and association with the stance. However, if Ms Gordon’s actual reason for Tweeting was to highlight the stupidity of Whole Foods’ action? Well, she did the job there, quite apart from any other point that needed to be made. I’ll admit my first thought when I saw this was environmental. Now, in the game of Worldwide Consequence Top Trumps, environmental disaster won’t immediately beat disability issues, and it shouldn’t even be a contest. However, if we played this game for other things, I can guarantee that we’d increase the chances of that being the case a great deal faster than would transpire if the oranges kept their skins on. Perception is a bitch, after all, and she’ll let anyone sell their angle as long as the Earth still exists and has people living on it to listen. Minorities aside, all this convenience still depends on maintaining a planet capable of producing the food to skin to begin with.

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What bothered me most with all of this was when I suggested that people could peel oranges easier with a knife. Yup, using a scary sharp object to do stuff was met with an incredible amount of negative reaction. I will happily admit that this is not practical for certain people, but I’ll also argue quite passionately that trying is better than simply dismissing an idea completely out of turn. I think that’s what irked me the most about a lot of the casual reaction this thing has garnered: if someone needs help to peel an orange, you offer it. You don’t make a big deal, you simply help. If they’re capable of helping themselves, shouldn’t that always be the default state to begin with? Yes, I understand that this isn’t possible/practical for some, but if you can? I’m not suggesting this is the only answer, and I’m certainly not advocating it’s the right one. However, if I as a human being have the ability to do something, surely I should at least attempt it?

My hands are covered with scars from knives over the years, and scalpels too when I used to use them for practical work. I’ve been hospitalised for my clumsiness. However, the damage teaches me to be better. Somewhere between my youth and now that ability to make mistakes and learn from them appears to have vanished from certain people’s mindsets, and it bothers me greatly. I’m not sure if this is fixable, or whether I should be as concerned about it as I am. I utterly grasp the frustrations of those who feel that minorities aren’t served by the modern world, but there are points of intersection and overlap that many people just don’t grasp. If it were as simple as opening the world to everyone, I’m pretty sure humanity would be all over this by now, or at least the version I ascribe to. However, that involves everybody pulling together, and doing the most they possibly can to ensure the entire planet’s moving in the same direction.

Looking at this argument, that’s sure as hell not happening right now.