What’s Acceptable When it Comes to Body Image (by )

This video has been doing the rounds as it's the number one butt on the Internet, apparently. My social media is split between people perving and people being horrified that it exists.

It's Nicki Minaj Anaconda.

Taking the first - well, people will perve, both male and female; desiring or liking the aesthetic is not a problem as long as you don't a) think it gives you a right to the person b) make people feel uncomfortable c) assume that there is nothing else to them other than the physical appearance of their body.

The second one I have far more of an issue with. It is her body, she gets to decide how it is portrayed and to me it is much better to have her at the centre of the music and not a background pump-and-grind for some male lyricist. There is a very real issue with being told you can be a free and empowered woman as long as you conform to a set of behaviours and often this includes losing all sexual characteristics - instead of "sex on your own terms" it becomes "no sex what so ever", or a rather staid version. People are all individuals and as such we are all going to have different wants and tastes - she is expressing herself, it's not hurting anyone.

I'm seeing it argued that it is not good role model material in spite of being about having "curves" (more on this later). But, you know, music is an art form, it is about expression, about conveyance of what the artist wants to get across - now that may be a higher order better world stuff, or it may be a window into their own world and existence, or it maybe be a mood or feeling or story they wish to express - all of these things are equally as valid as another. Saying someone should not write, dance, or sing in a certain way as it isn't good for the kids or middle class sensibilities is censorship.

Censorship is a gag that chokes the creatives and the inventors and the scientists of a culture. Watersheds and age certification are not censorship, nor are warning labels as they act as guidelines and gives adults the choice of material consumption.

Obviously, the internet is still trying to sort this sort of stuff out but that is kind of a separate problem to what I wish to talk about.

You see there is another video about basically exactly the same thing which is considered far more acceptable by many of my friends - thus far I have many seen other women sharing this one:

It's Meghan Trainor All About That Bass

But you know, they are basically the same! The themes of the songs are the same but framed slightly differently, there isn't even that much extra clothing in the second one and the dancing is only a little less... bendy-bumpy. There is swearing in both, bum wiggling and grabbing and tongue in cheek humour in both.

So why is one so much more acceptable?

If I am being cynical, I would say it comes down to fear of the different and sub-cultures. I think this is what is being seen by a lot of people - second video shows an empowered woman being a bit earthy and bold where as the first video is a sexually excessive gang culture bling bint who is hanging it all out.

This is fixed into the concept of our own perceived body images for both women. One is assumed to have body confidence to begin with and therefore flaunting it is tarty, whereas the other is assumed to have low body confidence and so she is being brave and edgy.

Sadly I think there is some racial stereotyping going on here. Both of these videos are so similar that this really shouldn't be an issue at all. They are both going on about how large bums are beautiful.

Apart from the censorship angle there is something else going on here when people say that a piece of music should not have been made (this seems to especially apply to the work of female pop stars who can't win, whatever they do). What you are saying to the artist is, "You do not fit with my view of the world, you are different from me and therefore I wish to pretend you do not exist. You opinions and life views are not valid, you background renders you opinions invalid - you are invalid." Think about that for a moment - no one, dancer, builder, prostitute, doctor, is invalid; they all have feelings and thoughts and lives and ideas to express. They are not somehow less human and need to be hidden away from the "proper" people of the world.

Comments like "It's not even real music" bug me even more - how is it not real music? Again what you are saying is that it does not conform to the narrow range of music that you have been exposed to and/or told is "proper music". Also if it's not your thing then don't seek it out - don't listen to it. This is easier on the net than it ever was with telly - we get to be incredibly selective with our viewing if we wish. Don't like? Don't listen, or seek it out but then don't say it shouldn't exist or should be banned.

Now to the positive role model issue: showing people that they can make a living by dancing scantily clad is not actually an issue - the issue with role models is when that is the only model people are giving. When they are shown that that is the only option for them. And as always - if you think something is a rubbish bit of art, do not spend your energies moaning about it, but create your own, maybe even counter-examples, maybe even become the role model you think is lacking? Help create the diversity so every one sees there are multiple options and do not degrade someone for their life choices.

Right - now to the negative bit. I actually do have issues with both of these videos.

Both of them are about large bottomed girls, about how they are attractive and wonderful and so on. Brilliant - great! Challenge the fashion of beauty but... both of them use the phrase 'skinny bitches' as if women of slighter builds are at fault rather than a fashion industry pushing stuff for their own agendas. Both portray thinner women as "doing it on purpose" as if they are malicious and horrible rather than just naturally being built differently.

This is really really wrong because the truth is that the world isn't split into the fat and thin; it is split into the body confident and the body ashamed. Pretty much if you fall outside of the average zone you get abuse because you are too thin, or too fat or your boobs are too big or you're as flat as an ironing board. And just because people appear confident, it doesn't mean they actually are either; please remember that when you loudly comment about low plunged necklines or knobbly knees etc...

And lastly, because it seems to fit so well, here is my poem about body image that I performed at Pride this year:

The Gamification of Exercise, Health and Wieght and Stuff (by )

So a few months ago I thought I would see what activity I was doing and so see where I could increase etc... I got a pedometer - it was the second from cheapest at like £7 - it lasted a week. The recommended number of steps to do as a min a day is 10, 000.

In that week which was an average week I roughly did:

Tuesday 7, 000 (from when the pedometer arrived) Wednesday 21, 000 Thursday 4, 000 Friday 15, 000 Saturday 12, 000 Sunday 11, 000 Monday 17, 000 Tuesday - broke the thing

It completely was not accurate, it didn't measure all my steps especially on the Wednesday, this I think was due to the fact that as my pelvis hurts more, the more the walking motion is a shuffle - these steps are the hardest, most painful and muscle killing and it was very disheartening not to have them registered. It also added in "false" steps and I would have to check what it said before and after car travel as speed bumps registered etc...

Wednesdays kill me - every week I am so tired I am slurring speech and in pain - it is interesting to see that it was so high. Thursdays are drastically low as I see it as a recovering from Wednesday day. This was useful as it meant I could mentally tell myself I needed to do extra on those days the count was below the step count.

The next pedometer was £12 and lasted little better as the clips are rubbish and I found they would work their ways off my clothing and tumble to their doom.

The results kind of made me sad though, most days I was reaching the hallowed 10, 000 steps - my easy fix wasn't going to be that easy then. I found a recumbent exercise bike and started using that - except Wednesdays I've been trying to do at least 20 minutes on there - my legs where too short for it though and it isn't very recumbent and I think I could have done a lot more if it was more so. I found a fix to the short legs and it is called my platform shoes.

I already do my physio exercises (this is why there is a giant silver ball in our living room and sometimes the weights) and often the belly dancing warm up - though sadly due to a rescheduling of stuff for Al I have managed to get to a class for about a year. I have also spent the last six months hanging from a chin up bar and about 6 weeks ago had the break through of being able to life my feet off the floor - it is not a chin up but it takes a stupid amount of effort for me to do this - more than chin ups ever used to be.

Hill walking I have to be careful with or the damn shin splints come back - these plagued me in the village - sharp pains in the shins that steadily get worse until you can't walk and then they take forever to get better. I am also careful to try and avoid the over activity, rest, under activity cycle though as you can see from the Wednesday/Thursday it is not always possible to avoid in life and running workshops at festivals can take about two weeks to recover from.

I've worked really hard to get where I am so you can imagine my horror when the Dr asked if I didn't do anything more energetic than walking :/ walking is hard, there is no way I can do running - maybe in the future but the damn pelvis still shears if I step wrong - this is the sharp pain that runs down the centre of my pelvis at the front, it gets worse and then walking without crutches kind of becomes impossible - it can be mostly avoided if I just sit and rest lots on my walks etc... and I even managed 20 mins of climbing - I would have managed more if I hadn't tried to go side ways.

The Dr mentioned swimming - something I had been meaning to do but with the bleeding issues after Mary's birth, it had kind of become a non-option. That isn't the case now but the bleeding reduced so gradually to just two weeks a month last year that I kind of didn't notice. So that gave me the jolt I needed but I'm really useless at just swimming, riding bikes, walking - there has to be a reason/function above and beyond the health.

So for walking that is getting the girls to their clubs, blackberrying or taking photos etc... Or the allotment as an overall work out (bending, pulling weeds, walking with weed tubes, and so on - I can't dig I tried and it was instant pelvis out of action). I read or watch films with the girls whilst on the exercise bike (which is now on the highest level it can be).

I have had this situation for so long now that I have no idea what normal peoples energy levels and stuff are. From my perspective there are my ultra fit tri-athlon and marathon and bike riding friends, ME/MS/chronic illness suffers who all attempt bike riding, swimming and walking of some type but tend to be a bit chunky like me (though not all of them - the ones that don't have kids - not sure if that is coincidence or not! Male and female). Then there is a third category which most people fall into - they don't seem to do much and eat what ever they like and they are just well... normal, possibly over weight, possibly not but still functioning perfectly well - and bizaarly this is this is the group with most opinions on what you should be doing to keep fit etc...

I was hoping that the almost year of walking and the six months odd of allotmenting would have shown some sort of change in my weight but it didn't. And whilst in about my headaches and BP with the Drs it came up - my blood pressure is acceptable for my size but I am too big - well yes but what do I do?

I have calorie counted and even taking into account the meals out with people my average intake on a bad day is 1600. Two years ago I stopped making cake on a regular basis thinking that was the issue, I thought maybe I'd made the mistake of thinking I could have chips for lunch on a Wednesday. I've even taken to trying to make guests eat my cooking so we don't go out to places with lots of food - because you know I have pretty much always been hungry - it takes martial arts training not too eat EVERYTHING.

Often I one meal a day if we are going out to eat - ie the meal out. I tend to be useless when I do this though - and run the risk of passing out if we don't get there until late. At home Alaric eats 2-3 times what I do and he has chocolate bars etc... so I get quiet testy when people suggest cal control. To my surprise the Dr didn't say that this time - she mentioned slow metabolisms and diabetes (which I have been trying to stave off by eating alot of whole and/or raw foods often grown ourselves etc... and worked well for controlling the gestational diabetes with Mary - of course one of the big issues with my weight is I whoped it on during Jean's pregnancy, doubling my wight as theyd missed the diabetes there and fed me hospital food) and thyroid though I may not have either and just a very slow metabolism (thyroids been borderline since before Jeany but always borderline).

I am going to see the diabetic, thyroid, food nurse next week and I am hoping she can suggest some changes as I'm still convinced that the thyroid and diabetes can be controlled with diet. I really kind of don't want to add more tablets to the mix. I am not going to deny that I was hoping for more energy back with the reduction in bleeding even with the chronic fatigue though.

Having said that I know I have more energy than the year after Mary was born and I have been desperate to up the exercise stuff and so having busted a second cheap pedometer I decided I needed a better one and Al got a bonus. I found a £79 one reduced to £30 - it links with my phone - Al had to take over the app installing as I couldn't even get the thing to charge initially!

It has goals on it, number of steps, number of stairs, distance, activity and calories burned. They are set at:

10, 000 steps 1000 calories 5 Km 1 hr of activity 150 steps

I make the stairs and hours of activity easily a day - though it doesn't measure any arm movement or carrying heavy things (like toddlers).

Steps I meet easily most days but can be a struggle on bad days. I meet the distance one on and off - it is still the first week so can't really tell yet.

I have not yet gotten above 800 odd calories burnt and I'm kind of assuming that it is inaccurate anyway as it is calibrated for my height, weight, step length and energetic-ness (so running burns more than walking etc) and the issue is that I don't burn calories at the normal rate.

Anyway the thing is I love goals! I love setting them and achieving them and just the fact that I can check them on the phone is a big thing for me and had me walking in circles the first night to make up the last 200 steps. This was one of the reasons I wanted a more high tech pedometer.

I know from xbox games such as Connect Adventures that I will push myself that little bit further if I can get a badge or something out of it - even better if I can unlock bits of the games with it. I've been noting friends posting the outlines of their walks and stuff on Facebook and I thought that sounded like a potential motivator - cutting down on the caffine kind of killed my normal motivation of walking to get a coffee in the evenings once Al is home so I was hoping to replace it with something. Unfortunately the only one I could find that did all that stuff was over £200 so was out as an option.

It's a striiv for those who are interested.

The one I've picked has an extra feature and that is gamification! It has settings to add friends with the same pedometer to compete against each other - I haven't yet found anyone of the same sort of level as me with the same pedometer which is a shame but I did find a little in built game. It's called Myland - it has energy, coins and gems. You start of with some coins and gems but have to plant and grow and build things to earn the coins (you can in real life buy more but for me that destroys the gaming aspect). You have to get energy to build or grow the objects you've bought and to get the energy you need to move about, walking, stepping etc...

There are quests that give you people and animals to populate your little world with and so far this has worked really well for me. A few nights back it had been a bad day, my muscles were in spasm and I was tired and I had crawled through the day just doing domestic stuff that needed doing - I'd needed two naps and the kids had jumped on me lots etc... I had still managed to almost get my walking goal but I don't think that that alone would have gotten me to go out for my evening walk but I was almost at the end of a quest to win a tiger and so Al took us to a country park and we had an hour of mooching around watching the sunset.

I got my tiger.

I now have a dragon, a lemur, a fairy and two centaurs, a tiger and an ostridge , two extra islands and lots of plants and buildings half built. There is still plenty of map to unlock though I am already wondering what I am going to do once I have completed it all.

This type of thing seems to really help me - I kind of have no idea how to forward with all of this stuff at all. After Jean was born and I could finally walk properly again the only way I lost the little bit of weight that I managed was to be doing exercises 5 hrs a day and that kind of just doesn't fit in well around normal life and I think that that is an excessive amount of time, especially as it was pretty much all I was managing on those days.

I don't really know what to do - I am not putting on weight, I am just not loosing it and I want to loose it as I think that it makes the pelvis hurt more having the loading on it. On top of that just with water retention around bleeding (it's not periodic anymore so I've kind of stopped calling them periods), I can fluctuate by a good half stone in weight if not more in the same day - this is why I always wonder what others are talking about when they put down they've lost a couple of pound. Of course I know that if I ate loads of cream and stuff I could loose weight as 2 weeks of normal cow mild in tea every day is enough to start chucking up and pooping blood but that is not healthy at all.

I am not going to change my diet until I've seen the nurse and gotten her advice on stuff, I am however interested in what others do - people have already shared a lot fo stuff with me on face book and I have asked around the climbing wall and stuff. Feel free to add stuff in the comments but no preaching mkay.

I don't do cream or fatty/overly oily food as it makes me sick and I don't like the taste of most of it (bar some cheeses and choc which have been on the reduced list since Mary's pregnancy) - I don't even have spread on my bread if I can avoid it. We are mostly vegy - Alaric is so we don't tend to cook meat except on Thursdays when he is out - it is normally fish of some kind - I can't eat beef anyway as it is the fats and proteins that make me ill with the milk as well (sometimes I try to reintroduce it as was recommended by previous nhs dietician but still makes me ill).

Pizza is my sin food - massive whack of everything and going to make me sick if it's not home made - I tend to cave once every six weeks - normally when someone is visiting and refusing my cooking. I find it harder to avoid in summer holidays - yes poor will power and kids.

So there you have it all, warts and all. Sadly I have wanted to write something about all of this for ages but people are so judgmental about food and body shape and weight that it makes you not want to say stuff, not be honest. I don't want to mention what I eat as I get lots of conflicting advice, some nastiness and so on, I gave up trying to explain how much of a struggle physical activity is and how much I do as people either assume I'm being lazy/depressed and/or think I am being untruthful about the amount of physical activity I am doing. Alaric commented on the fact I seemed to want to prove to people how much I walk and stuff and yes there is that there as from things said I know people don't believe it - one of the joys of the app is that I can damn well show people - it would be good if I could post to FB etc... but I can't work out how.

But you know I shouldn't feel like that - that is not going to be a positive place to start off from. Like with the gardening being left to do it my own way with no one commenting on the amount of breaks I am taking has meant that I have spent WHOLE DAYS getting stuff done rather than fizzing out after 1 and a half and being in pain for days on end afterwards.

I think the big break through here is realising everyone is different - as the dr said a normal dieting regime isn't going to work for me - I need to fine tune - or maybe over haul I don't know. People sharing what is working for them is one thing people saying you have to do this or you are stupid is another thing entirely. Sharing is good as it shows people options but we need to drop the guilt around weight and food, if we can't share are experiences then we aren't going to have a chance to contrast and compare and so on.

I was loosing weight after I had MAry I had put on one stone during the pregnancy (oh the difference between controlled and uncontrolled gestational diabetes and getting to choose my own food). Then they put me on hormones to try and stop the bleeding and I put that stone and a bit more back on and hunger you wouldn't believe. As I said before I am always hungry but this was a new level and I had to ban people from bringing certain foods into the house lest I demolish them. Not having the foods there was the self control for this situation - I also grew facial hair - I am very glad to be away from all of that now. But when the weight was going back on people felt they could comment on it ALL THE TIME as if I was unaware of it, as if it wasn't something I was worried about or trying to control (of course there are those friends who always say I've lost weight - they are either weight blind, being nice or maybe trying to boost confidence etc).

Even after having Jean I found that well meaning people would start conversations with about when I was going to start my post pregnancy weight loss and what was I doing, was I drinking water before meals and so on. I kind of found this hurtful and the fact that I know most of it was well meaning made it harder for me. The result is a kind of perpetual guilt around all eating and I think for others who don't notice that is what happening can cause a rather nasty destructive cycle - those who have lost lots of weight themselves tend to be really bad with this one.

And to make it worse I was being told not diet at that point after both pregnancies - I can't remember why now but I think it was a combo of breast feeding and excess bleeding/aneamia and just getting enough strength back to walk/stand up on my own.

(ps if I have asked you for advice you probably are not part of the judgementals).

Now I must take the girls out picking blackberries.

Procrastination… Good? (by )

Most people think of procrastination as a bad thing. They see it as not bothering to do the work at hand or going of into a day dream etc... however recently I have found that procrastination is a good thing.

I think that some jobs actually require you to procrastinate, forcing yourself to try and think when you have gotten into a rut can be counter productive, like looking for errors in code for hours on end without a brake - you kind of become blind to what you are trying to do. You need a break - you need a mind reboot, you need to do something else.

The same is often true of the beginning of things, sometime the idea, the germ of a project is not yet ready and needs that little longer. Starting prematurely can stunt it's growth - deadlines are a problems and some of them need to be met but most of industry is actually soft deadlines which makes things easier - I myself manage much better with staggered soft deadlines than hard harsh big ones.

I see my performances and workshops and what have you as rolling deadlines - though there is stress there which I will come onto in a bit.

Back to procrastination, sometimes you need to procrastinate to re-fire the brain and sometimes it is your brain remembering something you need for your project but it can't quiet explain it too you.

For example: when I was doing my Science Communication coursework, I was desperate to include a certain concept but couldn't remember what it was called or who the lead educator was that was involved with it. In frustration I kind of gave up and in procrastinating found myself on YouTube watching Jason Silva who I find energising and stimulating (and yes he's my sort of eye candy but not that kind of stimulating honest!).

About two vids in and bam! The name I was looking for, mentioned as a throw away comment, in excitement I stumbled back and finished the work off in one sitting as it jogged my memory and the associated stuff all came flooding back in an accessible format for me - of course I am dyslexic and ADHD so this maybe a me thing but in that case it may well hold true for other like me of which there are many.

I have countless examples of stuff like this - being stuck with poetry and picking up a maths book and the words for the concepts of the numbers tumbled onto the page to make the poem that was stuck - and so on.

Then there is the stress - I am a stress bunny, I always have been and I think always will be, if I get stressed enough then meditation wont work as I'll feel stressed about wasting the time and so on. This is the point at which procrastination is kind of a saving grace. I can pass the work with reading books, watching films, knitting, painting, writing essays, going for a walk to photograph swans, having a bath, writing a song, playing the guitar, hugging the girls, tickling Alaric and so on.

Obviously most of this is only an option as I work from home/at events but it is something that has been working really well for me. It stops the nose bleeds and the burning skin that warns another out break of shingles is in the coming.

I am far more likely to make a deadline - even a hard deadline - if I procrastinate. It also works really well with the non-focus then hyper-focus thing I have and sort of bridges the gap between the two.

Now to my current stress head - I think I am being successful or the beginnings or something but this means people are now expecting stuff from me, a certain standard et... and that makes me stressed - I can't stand letting people down.

And so I was feeling too nervous and stressed to start on stuff I needed to do to sort my little play out, most of the work is done it just some admin pieces but it makes it all seem rather real and what if my stutter comes back or I am having a bad fatigue day or I'm just rubbish and it's naff and I'm being paid.... and I'm not GROWN UP enough for this.

My procrastination led me to pick up the comic book / graphic novel I got out of the library yesterday - another Neil Gaiman Sandman book. This one is called Fables and Reflections.

The first story is called Fear of Falling and as if made for the situation, it is about a play write panicking and trying to pull out of producing his play. Needless to say it was exactly what I needed.

So I am going for procrastination is good.

Books, e-readers, Libraries and the Cost of Books (by )

In our house we have a library, one room that is mainly devoted to books and reading and writing.

wall of books

We were very excited that we could do this - there are six floor to ceiling book shelves, a desk, filing cabinet and stationary cupboard with printers and scanners and shredders on top and finally the nursing chair (initially for breast feeding but now just for reading - my teenage cousins call it the BOOOOBY chair). There is also the guitars, ukes and music box.

nursing reading chair

On the window sill are some salad and chilli plants growing in containers and a few ripening tomatoes. Above them are some lovely sun catchers and photon pump windmill things.

sun catchers in the bookery

They are not the only book cases in our house - we have another covered with old books on tech and science and comic books and a shelf of my display cabinet with signed copies on and a half height one full of photo albums, cookery, wine making, gardening, first aid, bush craft, comedy and how to look after kids. The girls also have two book cases in their room - one covered in ceramic teddy's and christening gifts with one shelf for the books series Jeany (almost 9) is currently working her way through. The other is almost floor to celling with large bedtime books and small picture books and easy first chapter books through to my collection of Redwall, Phillip Pullman and finally on the top shelf the point horrors and terror accademies etc... The hardness of books increases with the height of the shelf it is on.

We love our library and we love our books - then some one came round the other day and took one look at the library and said, 'what a lot of clutter, you should get a kindle or something then you can get rid of all this and get the space back.'

I tried to explain that we had a kindle and a tablet computer (which was got for me doing my uni course) and that we read stuff on them but that the book collection was still important. They didn't get it - they just saw a waste of space and they are not the first person. Of course it is supposed to be a dinning room and it would be a fab one but we have a "breakfast" room off of the kitchen which mainly fits us - true when my parents visit getting all six of us round the table is interesting but it is doable and in the summer I make us all eat outside anyway and Christmas dinner we set the table up in the living room which is huge (did I mention how we still can't believe we have this house!).

But more over we can not simply replace our book collection with e-readers, about 20% of the books are not in an electronic format, and then some of them are signed copies which have special attachments as I or Alaric or Jean or Mary... have spoken to the author to get the signatures or they are dedicated presents or even dedicated to us (well Alaric anyway), some of them are hand made and are beautiful objects, and some of the books are ours - that we have written, that have been given to us by the publishing companies.

Also one of the shelving units in the library is actually full of workbooks and colouring for the girls, or educational kits people have gotten them or the books they have created in school and pre-school which they like to show relatives (that is the one with everything spilling out on it as Jean has free reign). There are old art mags, National Geographics and New Scientists which I use for collage, decoupage, ideas for stories and for various workshops I run - they can't really go either.

Now when we moved two and a half years we did cull our book collection, a lot of the old computing books and the scifi, fantasy collection - ie out of date tech books or ones where all the info was more upto date on a website and books we had both read and had no want to read again - we had book sales and stuff to raise money for Shelter and we will have others as time goes on (especially as there are still a couple of boxes of left over books in the attic!).

In short we would be perfectly happy to have ebooks of most of the fiction books unless they were really old with 50's covers etc... or signed.

But in truth we could not digitize as much as we actually want. I have a huge range of text books ranging from geology to history to my craft and art books and the ones that you can get electronic - all want the same sort of price I paid for the hard back physical copy that I OWN. On top of that a lot of e-books are only "loaned" to your device due to DRM - the anti-piracy/copying thing. The upshot of this is that to replace those books in ebook format would cost THOUSANDS of pounds and again due to DRM we wouldn't be able to keep back up copies, I find books also corrupt on the e-readers and some times they are actually MORE EXPENSIVE in electronic format than as a physical object.

Also small e-readers are still not really that good for text books with large and complex diagrams as you just can't get enough on the image in a readable manner on the screen. With the larger tablets pictures books are starting to be ok but they still aren't brilliant in electronic format and the danger is the kids will just be sucked into the gaming bit that comes with it. (We like games but I think the looking at the story bit outside of the game is initially important - games are good if it is a complex story that needs a bit more explanation or the kids already know the story really well.)

Recently there has been a big thing between Amazon and Hatchet about this and yes Amazon are a big company trying to make money but so are Hatchet - there are two bad guys in this tail. And though Amazons were acting out of non-alteristic motives they do actually have a point.

e-books really should not be as expensive as physical books. Now the standard cry is that you are buying the content so the format doesn't matter but it very much it does. You die, you get to leave your books to someone - currently you can't do this with electronic format, as I said earlier it is loaned - you do NOT own it.

And the thing is that though the pre-production costs and the marketing costs are the same with both - the writing, editing, type-setting, cover design etc... once in production that changes. With a physical book you have paper and printing costs, transport, checking up on the shops the books are in to make sure they are getting shelf/promotion time, possibly P&P including returns, warehouse storage, often a second lot of transport, risks of water, fire, customer browsing damage - rendering copies not fit for sale. Then if they don't sell you have pulping and shredding and/or more transport with sale or return or putting them in auction for the pound shops.

Of course physical books make books signings easier and get the author out there at book stores and conventions - something that is incredibly important for the no-list and mid-list authors but something that should make the physical book copy the special luxary item.

The post-production costs of e-books on the other hand just kind of aren't - even if you are getting enough downloads to need your own peer to peer connection and dedicated server the costs would still be drastically lower (even with books being printed whole sale and cheap in China - in which case there is the environmental balance of electricity burned by servers and ereaders verses multiple transports and paper and inks and so on).

I know many avid readers who see the cheap 99p ebooks as a cheap sustainable way for them to read and they simply do not buy the more expensive books, there are also whole swaths of free ebooks. Authors like Cory Doctorow give ebooks away and it boosts their sales of their physical books. I myself have found this with The Little Book of Spoogy Poetry. Most of the people who bought a copy of the book had been people who had downloaded it for free the previous year. They knew what was in it, they felt they wanted to invest in getting a physical copy of it.

I have however seen people saying they don't think this works or isn't as effective as people believe, I personally have not been impressed with their reasoning but that doesn't mean they are wrong - this is still a really new area of consumer consumption and none of us really knows what we are doing. And of course then there are people who only produce ebooks and eskew the physical print copies all together - this has grown the erotic fiction writing market drastically as people don't have to worry about those pesky covers giving them away on the train or at lunch time at the office.

But I note that most of them do not charge huge amounts for their ebooks - they are markedly less than physical paper backs.

Of course one of the reasons behind ebooks being able to be cheaper is that more people would be inclined to buy them - this does not always equate with them actually reading the work though and I have seen reports suggesting that more highly priced books are more likely to be read. But for a low end author if only one in say five of the people actually get around to reading you books and only two like it and only one of those tells their friends about you... you are still looking at a good growth potential making the ebooks something that both author and reader can experiment with to see what works/suites them - if they are cheap.

However this model of more sales of ebooks and less over heads making the lower price pay more.... only really works with fiction or high demand books. For specialist publications such as crystallography of man made drain pipes or something where there is not going to be vast numbers of potential readers... it doesn't. These books tend to be heavy on images and often actual images under microscopes and things, all of which cost money. They are often £110 in hard back and large. There are also shipping industry mags and the like that would have similar issues. These types of publications struggle to break even on physical copies and library loans and are often subsidised by other publications done by the same group. I don't know what the answer is for them as students kind of need their text books - maybe libraries? But the loan rates wont pay for the work either.

These books are the outliers though and not the big bulk of books - but the fact that they exist means that though I think ebooks in general should be cheaper than the physical copy, there are exceptions and as such companies like amazon really should not try to dictate what publishers charge for the books - the publishers then being greedy is another issue and one I think that will ultimately cause them problems.

I mentioned libraries in the above - now I don't mean our little one room library but Uni libraries which are epic though have been hit somewhat by various issues meaning that the journal you need isn't getable though of course that is another story.

But what of public libraries?

I hear it said quiet often that libraries are obsolete - that public money shouldn't be poured into them as books are so cheap now and there is the internet. For a start text books or factual books still aren't that cheap and many people still do not have ereaders or smart phones - they are becoming more common but there are still a lot of people without them and that is without taking into account those who will never get to grips with the tech.

Not everybody has a spare 5 or 10 pounds or more to spend on a book, and children can get through a hell of a lot of picture books which if you are in a small house or flat can be come an issue fast. Yes you can pick them up in charity shops but even the charity shops have gotten a bit pricey of late - some want up to up to a fiver for a dog eared picture book which in the cheap shops you can often get for new for the same or slightly below.

Also the internet can be a confusing place - what is correct? Which websites can you trust for information - critical thinking and biases analysis is not a major part of our main stream education. Most people lack the skills to filter the information themselves - most of the people being verbal about this stuff have a good education due to money or the area they were born into and do not see the need for the libraries.

But I have spent a hell of a lot of time in the libraries around Gloucester and Cheltenham now and the libraries are essential. They are places where school kids can go and do homework - and no they can't all do it at home even if there is a computer there. Some of the more well of kids go to the library on the home from school because they're parents govern exactly what information they have access to at home, that doesn't sound to bad until you realise they are not being allowed to look things up for their home work, that they have no privacy and that they can not electronically connect with their peer group at home. This is really a very un good situation and the library offers a safety valve for society in giving these children the chance to still learn. Now obviously they could still use their school library to do this but unless they go to a funky school, the schools resources are likely to be more limited than the large inner city libraries. Also the librarians are a huge help in finding the information you need, weather that be from the internet or from physical books.

Libraries also tend to have all the local history stuff in it, they are warm desk space for students and people who are freelancing and can't yet afford an office space. They have workshops and outreach programmes which have the knock on effect of showing people they can improve themselves and their lot and that is 60% of the battle won.

In my time using the library as warm office space/free child entertainment I have seen illiterate mothers come in and their children learn to read, people who have learnt to read in prison come in and shyly set up their account and then go off to the books that show them how to make things, cook things, create things - this reduces the chances of re-offending drastically and you know if they could have read in the first place, if they hadn't fallen through our societal educational crack, the crimes may never have been committed in the first place.

I've observed those who no longer have care centres to be in sitting in the library all day, drawing child like pictures which takes all their concentration - what would happen to them without the libraries?

The libraries I've been in have been pretty busy most of the time, they are information hubs for local events, groups and businesses, they do tend to have security guards which is sad but needs must and I'd rather that than they just closed down and I certainly don't want groups not let in for dress code or anything.

Of course the ones outside of the city centres have stupid opening times due to cost cutting measures which means they are less used and I am as guilty of this as many - this summer I taking the girls to Gloucester library rather than our nearest as I'm in Glos twice a week anyway and the nearer one is closed so many afternoons a week and that is my preferred library time, it only has one late evening and a half day (morning again) on Saturdays. This is a horrible viscous circle and I can't really see a way out of it for the libraries with all the cuts etc 🙁

Library funding not withstanding I personally think the day of the book is not over, that the electronic revolution will work out as an over all good thing and that will not make libraries obsolete. We love our library and our books and are quite happy with it, we are aware that a lot of people do not read beyond the more dubious parts of the press (pretty much all of it!) and have no critical thinking skills - these can be obtained from reading... oh look cheap e-books... oh look you no longer have to worry about looking nerdy in front of your friends as they think you're just on facebook...

As for our books and library, it is staying and ebook prices need to come down but amazon has no right to dictate the prices companies and/or authors choose and the writers are going to have to be careful not to get caught in the cross fire. Some writing collectives are bypassing publishers and amazon a like - I am watching their progress with interest.

The book market is kind of shrinking and kind of growing at the moment ie it is in flux. Comic books is the only strong growth area for physical hard copy books at the moment - I think the e-zines have helped drastically with this and this is a brilliant thing to happen.

a) comic books are a gateway to chapter book reading

b) many of them are complex, clever stories in their own right and make the reader think

So to sum it all up... long live the book.

p.s. being able to read does not make you intelligent nor wise, it is what you read that is important however not everyone who can not read is stupid or thick or unworldly wise, there are other sources of information imput - reading just helps and is needed to develop certain skills in the majority of people but individuals are individuals and as some one who came late to reading themselves I feel this needs pointing out.

The Fear Machine (by )

ok so just finished The Fear Machine part of the John Constantine HellBlazer and I have some questions - they maybe slightly slightly spoilery so looking for people who have already read the series.

a) Is he actually needed for the plot at all? I mean over all because in this one he wasn't he was kind of a exposition aid, we found things out through him but he was kind of interchangeable with others.

b) Please please tell me there are some evil she demons etc.... about in the rest of it, as lovely as the 80's womens empowerment through having their own powers that are equal but different to men is... it really kind of chaffed as they weren't off to do touchy feeling strong powerful women things to counteract the men things of violence. Kind of it was a stepping stone but I now read this kind of thing and go ARG that is sexist in it's own right. Is the whole series like that?

c) I kind of forgetting that it wasn't part of the Sandman comics as it could easily be set in the same universe it even seemed to be referencing it though I have no idea which comic series was written first etc...

d) at the back there is a write up to get you to read the rest, it says he's an anti-hero but I'm kind of like how? He's just a realistic "hero" ie one who is powerless in a lot of situations but does his best none the less. To me the anti hero is someone on the "wrong" side who is still noble and not evil and you can see why they are doing things - I assume I have gotten this wrong?

e) Is the TV series any good?

Anyway overall I really enjoyed it though I was kind of expecting it to be about the guy Keanu Reeves played in the film Constantine but it was completely and utterly different but with odd similarities - I know the film was supposed to based on the comic and there is like an undertone there but yeah... Americanised?

I really loved the way I recognised the places in the story - Gloucester, Bristol, Bath and so on...

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