Opinions. Everybody Has 'Em.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Gonna Be Nothing 'Special' About My Diet...

Special diets are something I know a thing or two about. I spent my life between the ages of 9-17 yrs following a weird ‘n’ wacky variety of special diets thanks to kidney failure and dialysis. Low sodium, low calcium, low potassium, low protein, high protein, high calcium, restricted fluid…and often a combination of one or more of the aforementioned. My mother’s kitchen was filled with measuring jugs, low-sodium products ( which cost a fucking fortune and were hard to find in the 1980s UK ), potatoes steeping in water overnight to remove their potassium content, and special weighing scales which went down to the nano-level to measure even the smallest iota of protein. If there was one thing I took away from the experience it was that following a special diet is a pain in the ass. Especially if you happen to be a lazy, undisciplined, occasionally hedonism-prone individual like me. Try as my doctors did, they couldn’t stop me from eating nuts - salted, unsalted, peanuts, walnuts, brazils, whatever - even though these were cited as frequent culprits in messing with my biochemistry. Yeah, well, I loved 'em. Still do. Never met a nut I didn't like.

One day, whilst I was on a low-protein diet sometime in the mid-80s, my mother and I were in the kitchen, weighing a Wee Willie Winkie sausage for my dinner. For anyone who doesn’t know what these were, they were tiny little pork sausages, about the size of an index finger ( No off-color jokes, bitches, please! ), and very, very tasty. Go here to view today's Wee Willie Winkie sausages. We ended up with a piece of sausage about 2 ½ cm in length which sat there forlornly on the scale whilst both of us stared in abject disbelief at it. My mother deadpanned “ Well, there’s your dinner, dear. Don’t eat it too fast now, in case it gives you heartburn” and we both dissolved into giggling hysterics at the absurdity of it all. I swore then that soon as I was able to eat and drink freely, I’d never get sucked into any manner of ‘fads’ or brainwashing as far as diet went, and I never have.

Oh, and my mother threw in the whole sausage that day, figuring - correctly - that it wasn't going to fucking kill me!

Today I firmly believe that telling people not to eat or drink something at all or ever again is pointless - not unless doing so is actually going to kill them, and even then it had better be sooner rather than later. It’s far better to practice moderation, to experiment with what suits you as an individual and to make that work for you. Attempting to follow diets set for some elusive ‘average person’ is also frustrating and pointless - who the hell is the 'average person' anyway? I’ve never met them. Have you? I suspect if I had, I’d have been so fucking bored by them that I wouldn’t remember anyway.

Lately, my docs made the discovery that I have gout - apparently something of an inevitability after childhood kidney failure, years of dialysis, and then years of taking corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs. Fair enough. They offered me the chance to control it through diet but I said, “ Gimme the meds” instead because those will allow me to eat and drink normally. Like hell I'm going back to futzing with my diet at this stage in my life! Besides, just about everything I love to eat and drink ( except for shellfish and organ meats which I loathe ) is moderately high to high in the purines which cause gout attacks, and if you read the contradictory literature on the disease, no one seems to know what exactly is best to cut out, cut down, or eat/drink more of. Some say taking more fruit and citrus drinks is a good for preventing attacks. Others say that citrus is a cause of them. Some say drink wine and spirits instead of beer. Others say that it’s better to drink beer in moderation than to drink wine or spirits. Yet others preach that you shouldn’t drink any alcohol at all ( yeah, any bloody excuse to flaunt your teetotal halo, huh? ). Some think peanuts are a cause. Some say lentils/ oily fish / peas / spinach are all causes.

I say fuck that noise. I love beer. I love cider. I love nuts. I love oily fish. I drink a glass of orange juice every day. I eat an apple every day. Okay, I could live without ever eating spinach again, but I really like peas with my oily fish.

The pain of an acute gout attack is something that I would not wish upon anyone. I’ve endured a variety of pain before - from peritonitis to pancreatitis, from migraine to damaged nerves - but nothing has ever driven me to the extreme of distraction that the acute gout pain did. My docs even broke their cardinal rule of never giving me stronger codeine ( that’s a blog in its own right! ) to try to kill the pain. In the end, the only thing worked was increasing my corticosteroid dosage…ironically, one of the very drugs which probably caused the gout in the first place! Drugs, and the human body’s reactions to them, are a fascinatingly contradictory thing at times.

So, all I need to do now is keep any further acute attacks at bay until the beginning of October and then I can start the anti-gout meds and start getting my regular life back.

10 more days. I can do that.

As my mother always told me, “ You can take whatever shit and nonsense life throws at you because you are stronger than you even imagine….” and added with a raise of her eyebrows… “ Besides, you’re also a bloody-minded little bastard who can't let anything get the better of you on principle! ”

Amen. Now, pass me that damned beer, bitches. Before I die of alcohol withdrawal!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

"Hive Mind" Reviews - Resistance To Them Is NOT Futile

No thanks,
I won't be making any
deal with the Devil today!
When an author has a public meltdown on the internet it’s usually over a review which they feel - rightly or wrongly - has been unfairly harsh to them. As with any dispute, there will always be two sides ( at least ) to the story, and no shortage of people jumping into it with poorly-informed and ill-formed opinions. In traditional and indie mainstream publishing these meltdowns tend to blow over as soon as the next juicy scandal comes thee-ing and thou-ing along to distract everyone. The amount of long-term harm done to either the author or the reviewer is debatable - probably negligible. As writers, knowing that we will all get a less than glowing review at some point because it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time, most of us have learned to take the rough with the smooth and not to get all bent out of shape about the former. Certainly, if the poor review comes from another writer, we have learned that it is particularly bad form to rubbish that writer back out of revenge, or to allow our fans and friends to rubbish or shun them on our behalf.

However, there is one corner of the publishing world where the giving of less than glowing 5-star reviews often continues to have more long-term and sinister repercussions for the review-giver, especially if that review-giver is another writer…and that is in lesbian fiction publishing. Sadly, parts of the lesfic world run on a “hive mind” where dissent is very often not tolerated. If A says that B’s book is the best thing since individually wrapped cheese slices, then it is expected that C through Z will agree with this position. Some may deny this is so. Probably the most vociferous deniers will be those who have benefited most from the hive mind - denial is an attractive and much-inhabited land, after all. Just not one which I choose to inhabit. The expectation of consensus may be unspoken, the pressure to join the consensus may be subtle, but it’s there. I believe that.

From time to time I post on Goodreads, and on my blogs, reviews of some of the books I have read. I post honest reviews which concentrate mainly on how I found the story to be. I rarely comment on the grammar or editing unless it is so bad that I’ve been left with the urge to hurl the book ( or my Kindle ) across the room. I’m often harder on traditionally published books than indie ones because if the trads want to continue claiming that they are better and sneering at the indies for poor editing etc, then they had better raise their own bar pretty fucking high. But so long as I continue to fail to see appropriate bar-raising in traditional publishing, I will continue to point it out if and when I feel the need to. I do try always to make it clear that my reviews are simply my opinion. As are anyone's reviews.

A while back I just stopped posting reviews of lesfic because I began to feel that subtle pressure to join the consensus at work in my own life. I felt the pressure to post only good reviews, that in posting anything less I was being subjected to the collective wrath of the hive mind. And I hated myself for compromising my own integrity. I hated that I backed off in the face of this insidious pressure. The simple truth is, if I'm going to post a review, I can’t post anything other than an honest one. If I find something good about a book, I’ll mention that. But I can’t go along with the shiny-happy everyone-gets-a-gold-star-just-for-participating mindset which says “ If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all!” And I certainly won’t join with any hive mind.

If all we ever saw were glowing 5-star reviews, there’d be no balance, no honesty, and it’s my feeling that the integrity of both readers and writers would be compromised by any such thing. So I won’t compromise. Even if A through Z are all singing the praises of a book in perfect chorus, I will sound any discordant note I feel the need to. I'll be the dissenter. I’ll be the only sour cherry on that fruit stand and I’ll be damn well proud to be so.

Yeah, gives me an excuse to post this!