WARCRAFT: THE REVIEWENING

I saw Warcraft this weekend.  I did so with a certain amount of trepidation after hearing it get so roundly trashed by basically every critic going.  I adored it, but just to get the niggles out of the way, here are the bits I did not enjoy [HERE BE MASSIVE SPOILERS]:

  • All the freaking mumbling!  Definitely a directing problem – big musical swells should probably not be put over a scene of a fella whispering his last words from underneath his own golem.
  • Weirdly, Dominic Cooper (who is normally aces in everything) was extremely wooden and, I think, badly miscast as Llane Wrynn.
  • Too many close-ups of Garona looking anguished and helpless.
  • CGI of Gul’dan seemed a bit off somehow.
  • Too few female guards in Stormwind.  This ain’t vanilla, guys (or is it?).
  • The magic shown was only mage-based.  Perhaps we’ll see other types of magic in the sequels, if other races are more involved.
  • First 30 minutes of the film will be utterly incomprehensible to anyone who has never played the game.

OK, so now the good bits. Oh, the good bits. By the mighty chest-hair of Durotan, the good bits:

  • Humans and orcs are equally sympathetic characters, the orcs possibly even more so.  Motivations of both sides are easily followed without too much clunky exposition.
  • The CGI is OUTSTANDING. I cannot believe the first render from the trailers is even the same movie.  In the final battle with the orcs, each warrior (many of them women!) has different hair, build, armour, tattoos, etc. and they all react individually.
  • Garona’s betrayal of the Alliance follows the comics while also putting a new twist on it; I thought this was cleverly done. Also, Medivh: totally her dad, right?
  • There are a nice number of Easter eggs without it being too wink-wink fanservicey (Rwlrwlrwlrwl! Fishing bobber! *wild summoning stone appears*).
  • The film, while not overly gory, has pretty realistic looking violence.  It’s made very clear that war and magic both have serious consequences and are not to be messed with. Half the main cast dies.
  • DAT CAMEO THO

I think that the stars of the show though are Azeroth/Outland, which will only really be fully appreciable by WOW players.  The first aerial shot of the gates of Ironforge actually made me gasp out loud, it was so perfect.  Same with Stormwind, Blackrock Mountain, Hellfire Peninsula, etc.  And the various animals; the gryphons, the battle wargs, the multi-horned deer.  But to someone coming to all of that with fresh eyes, it probably seems like standard fantasy filler rather than a loving recreation of a very familiar world.  There are also a number of characters that appear in the film which are never named (Grommash Hellscream, Tyrande Whisperwind) which was fun to spot for me but would be just another background extra for a non-player.  And of course, Dancing Baby Groot Thrall.

Overall, I do think it was an excellent high fantasy film, made with obvious love, humour and an understanding of the source material.  I suppose it was always going to walk a fine line between being too generic to please the fans, and too specific to attract any other viewers.  I hope that it will succeed enough to make the sequel(s) worth making; my worgen druid will never let me hear the end of it otherwise.

 

Mental Health & The NHS

First of all, a massive disclaimer: I am ONLY speaking about my own experience with mental health in our glorious republic’s state healthcare system, and I am very aware that this does not translate to everybody else’s experiences.

I have mental health issues.  I have had three points in my life where these intersected with the NHS.  The first, chronologically, is the hardest to talk about, so it’s good that I get it over with.

When I was 14, I was clinically depressed like a lot of 14-year-olds.  I gossiped about friends, like a lot of 14-year-olds.  One day, I talked shit about one of my friends to another of my friends.  I do not remember whether the things I said were true; it is possible that they were not.  One night, the mother of the friend about whom I had said shit rang my house and threatened to kill me.  I went to bed, took an absolutely massive overdose of various painkillers, then after about an hour I chickened out and told my parents what I had done.  The night ended in a blur of A&E, drugs to make me sick (as I was still conscious albeit high as a kite) and blood tests on the hour to make sure my kidneys had not failed.  They hadn’t.

The next day, I had to speak with a psychologist before I could be allowed home.  I was asked nothing about the events that precipitated this crisis; instead, I was asked a lot about my family history and it was strongly suggested that either my parents or my brother was sexually abusing me.  Just for the record, no.  I had to go to two appointments after that before my records could be sealed, but by this time I knew their agenda, so I just smiled and said the right things and never told them how I really felt.  They wrote me off as just another stupid teenage girl looking for attention, to my great relief.

Round 2, age 22.  My father had very abruptly left my mum for someone else.  I had just found the courage to break it off with my abusive boyfriend.  I went back to college to find that my ex and I not only lived in the same halls at his request, but that he was determined to exclude me from college activities because he was fucking one of the other girls on our floor.  So he would knock on my door at all hours, push creepy notes under it, tell people weird stories about me.  At the same time my father, who was now living with his mistress three miles from my college, started writing me letters saying “I’M WATCHING YOU”.

I ended up dyeing my hair green and slashing the shit out of my arms and breasts with a pencil sharpener blade.  I went to the doctor and told him I thought I was depressed and not coping.  He asked me if I had had suicidal thoughts and when I said that I had, tried to push drugs on me without asking me anything else about my circumstances or offering me any other options.  I didn’t submit the prescription.  I fled home in the middle of the night, and spent the next few months trying to get well.  I was given diazepam, I don’t know who by as I don’t remember the appointment.  I took two of them but they knocked me out so I stopped taking them.  I have a three month gap in my otherwise excellent memory here.  I was given temazepam and that helped with the insomnia and the sleepwalking.  I don’t really remember but I did get better and I didn’t get addicted and I went back to college and got a first so fuck you dad, and fuck you ex-boyfriend.

So, Round 3.  It had been coming for years actually, with no support at work and a seriously toxic culture that I didn’t even recognise until I was out of it.  Then I got sent to work down on the Olympics and that ended up as a shitstorm, as after having been heralded as the second coming of Christ by our Ops director, he abruptly veered into calling me a lazy cunt in front of the client (still no idea what I did wrong, the only reason I was out of mobile range that day was because your dumbass contracts managers hadn’t done the site visit for the wildflower turf, Lee).  God I hated it.  My one experience of working full-time on a really exciting project and it’s ruined by the incompetence of one stupid director out of his depth.  I worked 72 days in a fucking row without a break for that man.  ANYWAY.

I got really sick.  The only way I managed to get on that train every Monday morning was by fantasising about throwing myself in front of it.  I put on weight, was drinking far too much.  Even when I got back, it was hanging over me and I was making mistake after mistake.  Eventually it precipitated a crisis at work, at which point I admitted that I was suicidal and needed help. Work were utterly shit about it, and I was made redundant a couple of months later, which was an unexpected relief. But in the meantime, I had moved house and registered with a new doctor and when I finally went to ask for help, everything changed.

Because my doctors were fucking wonderful, y’all.

I went to see my new doctor and stutteringly admitted that I thought I might be depressed.  She stated that she specialised in depression, and ran me through a checklist of symptoms, at which point I was tempted to burn her as a witch because ARE YOU READING MY MIND WOMAN???  She was reassuringly matter-of-fact and went through my treatment options.  She agreed that stuffing me on anti-depressants and then abandoning me (which had been my fear) was not the best choice.  She thought CBT would work for me as I was very goal-orientated in my professional life.  She told me that we could review this and that drugs might be an option later on.  I was referred in two weeks.

My CBT therapist was lovely.  She batted nary an eyelid as I told her about my redundancy and how good it felt.  She didn’t care that I had a new girlfriend and it was causing problems with my mum.  She gave me homework.  I felt very safe and, gradually, I got better.  After only four months of therapy, she signed me off as being in remission and I knew it was right because I actually was better. She gave me her card because we both knew it would come back.  I haven’t called that number yet, but I will someday maybe.

Since then I have had a low point caused by being on the pill.  The doctor I went to (a locum, same practice but different person) gave me excellent advice about the hormones and was completely non-judgemental.  I will be going back soon to see if I can go on the low-dose version, and I already know they will tell me yes, but as a trial, let’s just see how you feel.  That is very soothing.

I guess what I wanted to say with this post is that yes, treating mental health sucks, and that it varies hugely on who you see.  I do believe that it is getting better and the visibility I have seen in the press on this issue is very encouraging.  But please, please, if you are not comfortable with the advice you’re being given, don’t assume it’s just because you’re a loser who wants to be coddled: it could be that (well it could) but you are entitled to ask for a second opinion.  Doctors are just people after all, and some of them are ignorant/insensitive/oversensitive just like the rest of us.

Most importantly, you are not alone.  Yes, icky platitude, but it’s true.  What, you think you’re so important that no-one understands your suffering? Pfffft, get over yourself.  WE ARE LEGION. And we can be helped, and we are worth saving.  Yes, even you.

The Ancient One

The news broke this week that Tilda Swinton is being considered for the part of the Ancient One in the MCU.  I have a lot of feels about this.

On the one hand, SWINTON.

On the other hand, this is whitewashing at its most classic. The archetype of whitewashing, the standard to which all casting directors must be held when protecting their audition lists from those terrifying POC.

On the other other hand, the character is such a terrible Asian stereotype anyway, written by white people for a white audience, that I’m not sure casting an Asian actor would actually be less racist.

On the other, other other hand, if you review the military and political history of the country from which SWINTON and I both hail, the chapter entitled “Tibet, and How We Royally Fucked It Over For Shits and Giggles” is a particularly unpleasant one.

On the other(other other other) hand, if they do cast an Asian actor, is it likely to be someone of Tibetan ancestry, or are we just going to have another round of Hollywood’s “You People All Look The Same To Me”?

I actually have no idea how to feel about it.  Everything about the sheer existence of the character makes me so uncomfortable that I can’t see any good way of getting round it.

Depression, Hormones or the Power of Injured Birds in Little Jumpers?

Egad, everything is making me cry at the moment.  People who know me in person and are accustomed to my usual brand of steely cheerfulness may be surprised by this.  It’s not even proper sobbing, with maybe some dabbing at the eyes with a lace hanky whilst pining over my lost love.  It’s not being SAD exactly.

It’s being unable to sing along to Frozen because I tear up after nine seconds.  It’s reading heart-warming stories about acts of charity and having to switch off because my chest hurts.

It’s seeing a picture of a black-headed gull with a poorly wing sitting in his little box in a rescue centre wearing a MOTHERFUCKING LITTLE GREEN JUMPER and having a total meltdown (Oh god that one was bad.  A TINY LITTLE JUMPER PEOPLE.  IT WAS CABLE KNIT).

Is this what people with normal emotional ranges feel like?  I’ve always wondered.

Why Women Don’t Respond

Sooooo, online dating. That wretched hive of scum and villainy.

I frequent some corners of the internet that discuss dating, and I also partake in online dating (OLD) myself, currently OKCupid.  Results include one long-term relationship, some friends, dates and hook-ups.  One of the complaints I hear a lot from men is that women just don’t reply to their messages, even to say they are not interested.  Now I know the reason women do this; there are a lot of men for whom anything other than “take me now, big boy!” counts as an insult, who will then take any contact as a green light to insult, harass and abuse the woman who had the temerity to not want to have sex with them.  I had a conversation with one such champion the other day.

The beginning of the conversation is missing because I had thought it was over and therefore deleted it.  He sent me a brief message and then when I didn’t reply immediately sent me another asking me to tell him if I wasn’t interested.  I checked his profile.  It had almost no information about him except that he liked “having some beers lol”.  So I sent my standard reply: “Hi, thanks for your message.  I don’t think we would be compatible, but good luck in your search.”  See?  See?  See how nice I am?

He sent me one back asking me to tell him why.  And again.  I explained that men very rarely respond well to even constructive criticism and that I didn’t want to get harassed for giving feedback.  He accepted this but wanted to know if he was doing something specifically wrong.  Having already told him I wasn’t interested three times at this point, I decided to be honest without being cruel.  I told him that I personally didn’t find his profile interesting or well-written, that if he read mine he would see that we had approached it in very different ways and that he would probably be better looking for women with whom he had more in common.  I did not point out that his profile read as though it had been typed out by a drunken chimpanzee with a lobotomy, although that would have been the truth.

Then this happened (names have been, er, kept to incriminate the guilty?):

dicky_01

dicky_02

dicky_03

dicky_04

dicky_05

dicky_06

dicky_07

dicky_08

So now you know.  This is probably the most persistent knuckle dragger to message me but I have a looooong blocklist of sad sacks who wouldn’t take no for an answer. This is normal; this is life on the internet for women.

By the way, if anyone does read this post, wants to comment, and feels the urge to #NotAllMen me, or tell me I should have not replied, or that I had a moral responsibility to somehow find the magic combination of words that would enable me to reject this twatwaffle without hurting his special manly feefees, then I have a message for you: Son, just don’t.[/Steve Rogers]

HOMEOPATHY: THE HIGHEST BULLSHIT ATTAINABLE BY MANKIND

Over the years I have argued with a few people about homeopathy, and my stance that it represents the most perfect state of ignorance that the human race has ever achieved.  In other words, it’s bullshit.  I live in a country that is facing, in the next few years, the prospect of a monarch who is trying to use his privilege to bully MY health service into providing this medical batshittery to actual sick people in place of medicine.  To say that I am not best pleased about this is an understatement.  However, it seems to me that a lot of people don’t understand what homeopathy is, or how it (doesn’t) work: this is my attempt to provide enlightenment.

HOMEOPATHY IS NOT THE SAME AS HERBALISM

Herbalism means using plants as medicines.  It is an old science, stretching back centuries, and although it contains a lot of rubbish in its mediaeval form, it is in fact the basis of modern medicine.  While we no longer think that eating plants shaped like fingers will cure your poorly hand, we do still take extract of willowbark for headaches (aspirin), extract of foxglove for arrhythmia (digitalis) etc.  While most of the active ingredients are now synthesised in their pure forms rather than taken from actual vegetation, the natural world still provides an opportunity for huge new advances.

In short, herbalism: not just the grooviest of the collector professions in World of Warcraft.  Can actually be science.  Of course, there are still plenty of snake oil salesmen who will tell you that anything “herbal” must be good for you, and they are lying liars who lie.  Spoiler: Echinacea does not prevent colds, sorry.

SO WHAT IS HOMEOPATHY?

OK, so we know what it isn’t.  But what it is?  In this section I am going to describe the preparation and principles of homeopathic treatments, with little comments about what science actually thinks about all of this.  There may be sarcastic language.  Possibly some swearing.  I’m not going to go into detail about the history of homeopathy, but basically what you need to know is this: it was made up out of whole cloth in 1796 by a guy called Samuel Hahnemann because he was a very bad doctor.  Right, onwards.

Step 1:

If you want to treat an illness, don’t find something that cures the symptoms, find something that causes them in people that don’t already have them.  Yes, you did read that right.  If the illness causes bleeding from the eyeballs, find something that makes people bleed from the eyeballs.  People that were not already bleeding from the eyeballs because they have the illness, that is.  Shut up, you know what I mean.  Bonus points if it is an extract of some obscure and poorly understood plant that may or may not be deadly to humans.

SCIENCE SAYS: Hahaha, what?  How is that supposed to help?  Make their eyeballs bleed HARDER?

Step 2:

Dilute the extract to a 1:100 solution.  That means for one drop of plant gunk, you have 99 drops of water.  This is what’s called by homeopaths a 1C solution, as in 1(Latin for hundred).  Then you give your solution 10 sharp taps on a beanbag or something to activate the water molecules.  I swear I am not making this up.

SCIENCE SAYS: OK, so the dilution might be what you have to do to get a safe dosage.  But what are the taps for?  Water molecules do not become something else just because you whack them on a beanbag.

Step 3:

Dilute by a factor of a hundred again, and keep doing it until you have done it 30 times. This is what’s called a 30C solution. Some homeopathic preparations are diluted to 200C, as in diluted by a factor of a hundred, 200 times.

Homeopaths will tell you that the more dilute the solution, the more effective it is.  People who live in the real world will point out that for a solution that dilute, it would be verging on mathematical impossibility for even one molecule of the original active ingredient to be present.  Indeed, studies have shown that homeopathic preparations do not contain anything at all except water.  Homeopaths will reply, ah, but it doesn’t matter you see, because the water REMEMBERS the shape of the original molecules and becomes, like, magically medicine in ways that are undetectable to science.  Because of the tapping, you see.  That’s what the tapping was for.  At this point there is usually a lot of hand-waving and SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP.

SCIENCE SAYS: NO REALLY WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.  Water molecules cannot remember the shape of something that was dissolved in them once, tapping or no tapping.  Which is a good thing, because otherwise we would all be drinking medicinal poop.

Step 4:

This is the best bit.  People like their medical interventions to be as sciency as possible, right?  And taking pills is more sciency than drinking a little bottle of magic water.  So they drip a drop of magic water onto a sugar pill, let it dry out and then sell them to idiots at seven quid a pop!  And the justification for this, when it’s pointed out that the water has evaporated, is that the water has somehow passed the memory of the active ingredient on to the sugar and made it into magic sugar!

SCIENCE SAYS: … We got nothing.

So in summary, all of the principles of homeopathy, and the techniques in preparing it, are utter and ridiculous crackpottery of the highest order.  I think that about covers it.

BUT I KNOW A PERSON WHO SWEARS BY IT FOR THEIR BACK PAIN/HAY FEVER/ARTHRITIS

I used to take homeopathy pills for hay fever when I was a teenager and thought it was the same as herbalism.  I can’t honestly say they helped but they made me feel like I was being pro-active and I probably actually did feel better for a few minutes after taking them.  That’s because of the placebo effect.

The mind and the body are not actually two separate things.  After all, we experience our body through our minds, whether it be pleasure, pain, or that itch lurking juuust under the arch of your foot, you know the one, you can’t scratch it with your other foot, you’ll have to take your boot off in the middle of the office, goddammit I hope no-one sees.  Aahaha, you’re welcome.  The point is, pain and discomfort are very real but they are also, fundamentally, all in our minds.  They can be influenced by our mood and beliefs and by the behaviour of others.

Now obviously, positive thinking is not going to influence whether or not you bleed to death from a severed arm.  But it might ease your back pain if you take a little sugar pill that you think is medicine.  And actually, the placebo effect is only shown to be effective in chronic conditions, i.e. long-term, lower-grade pain or allergies, rather than in acute conditions where the symptoms are less subjective.  And the more sciency the intervention feels, the stronger the effect.  That’s why acupuncture is the king of the placebos, because it involves needles and people in white coats and feels like proper science even though it’s not.  For a much better description of all of this, and some fascinating examples, I recommend Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science, which will also help you understand statistics and why the Daily Mail needs to be burned to the ground.  Ahem.

WHERE’S THE HARM?

But, you cry, if it makes me feel better even if it is all in my head, where’s the harm?  Good question.  I have very strong feelings about this, so forgive me if I get a little heated.  Here’s the harm:

  • Promoting homeopathy as medicine promotes scientific illiteracy. It makes people ignorant and fearful about their own bodies and makes them vulnerable to charlatans.
  • It encourages people to take homeopathy instead of, rather than as well as, the genuine medical interventions that they actually need.
  • Purveyors of homeopathy are keen to promote their products as safe and natural, in opposition to the evil drug companies who want us all to die of chemo, apparently. There are many good reasons to distrust pharmaceutical companies but this is not one of them. Also, homeopathy is only safe because it is made of MAGIC FUCKING WATER and doesn’t have anything in it. Sorry, just had to reiterate that.
  • Sometimes, homeopathy isn’t safe. Because it’s completely unregulated on account of not actually being medicine, occasionally an active ingredient or contaminant makes its way into one of these little pills. People have become very ill as a result of this, including permanently losing their sense of smell. Homeopaths have absolutely zero accountability for any negative results of their “treatments”.
  • Homeopaths and other alternative medicine quacks don’t just claim their magic potions can help your back pain. Many of them also claim to be able to treat serious illnesses including cancers, diabetes, and heart conditions. There is not a single shred of evidence that this is possible. Basically these monsters kill vulnerable people for profit and then turn round and tell their grieving relatives that they obviously didn’t follow the regime properly. They are absolute fucking scum and deserve to be eliminated forthwith with a flamethrower.

BUT…

Believers in alternative medicine, like the religious and anti-vaxxers, generally don’t change their minds when presented with evidence that their beliefs are fairy tales.  In fact, they tend to double down, become ever more entrenched in their views until the delusion becomes a core part of their identity.  So I don’t expect anyone to change their minds as a result of this screed.  I just hope that, for those of you who didn’t really know what homeopathy was before, you now do and see how utterly bonkers it is.