Expectations

EA long time ago, I knew a girl who was eccentric. Her name was Jan. As with most eccentrics, she always did her own thing, and it started early. When she was 10 and I was eight, she got her ear pierced. Yeah, just one. Often other girls would look at her one earring and their faces would get screwed up before they asked horrified, “Why did you only get one ear pieced?!” To which Jan would deadpan reply, “Arr.” Sometimes she would flick her earlobe as she said it.

Being her close friend, I also asked her about it and if it had hurt so much she couldn’t do the other one. I hadn’t been around at the time it was pierced, but in those days, it was usually a barbaric procedure performed by another kid with a needle, a cork, a piece of ice and maybe some rubbing alcohol if there happened to be some in the house. Despite the presence of the ice, girls usually whimpered quite a bit when the needle went in. I doubt Jan whimpered. That wasn’t her style. She told me she always wanted just one ear pierced because deep down she was a pirate and didn’t want anyone to forget it. I never did.

On some vague level, I understood she was wise beyond her age. I’m not sure exactly what brought about this wisdom. It doesn’t appear to be her parents. They were very close friends of my parents, and great as they were, there never seemed to be anything about them that stood out as exceptionally wise. Jan was simply an anomaly among her peers. She was funny and original and had an innate understanding of people. She also didn’t suffer fools, and fools to her were the people who lived their lives at the whim of others, at the tyranny of societal pressure. None for Jan thanks, and she often used her tongue as a humorous sword to fend it off and which often made those on the receiving end a joke. In particular were the attacks from other females who could not stand that she was her own person. And because she was completely unruffled by what others thought, she was a threat to them. But I never once saw her cry or whine about it. She just seemed to accept there were foolish people in the world who would go along with others and obliterate who they were.

But something finally broke Jan. Something happened, and I’m not sure what. Maybe society’s pressure finally taking its toll? Could be. I’ve speculated a lot over the years. Whatever it was, it put her normally sunny self into despair, because three weeks before her 18th birthday, she killed herself. And everyone was shocked. Her parents never got over it. And I still grieve it and most of all on her birthday, which is today.

It’s like I’m stuck in a time warp, and I keep wanting her story to change. But it can’t. It never will, and I hate it. She was the person who brought light into a room and made people see things about it they never had. What more could she have done?

One of these days I may consign her to the past, but for now, I write about her every year on this day, which is also the day I started this crazy place as a sort of backhanded tribute to her. She would have loved it and goaded me out of any bouts of circumspection, which I’ve had all day today and almost didn’t post. It seemed embarrassing to think I’ve done this for four years. Then I thought of Jan, and here I am.

Crazy People, Gotta Love ‘Em

CWhen I was a kid, I used to laugh about the crazy people in my family. Their trips to mental institutions or barricading themselves in their houses was a source of almost never ending mirth. Everyone in the family laughed about it including those who had been afflicted. At family reunions the joke was that the family crest should be three guys in straightjackets.

Then adulthood came with a vengeance, after college sometime, maybe 27, and I got serious and self-conscious about the very real nuts with whom I share a bloodline. Eventually, I also became afflicted with a good ol’ full blown nervous breakdown.

For the uninitiated, there is no such thing clinically as a nervous breakdown. Usually all sorts of other diagnoses are assigned to a person’s condition. Things like bi-polar with recurring anhedonia and occasional paranoia. Such fun and it comes with lots of medication too, and I’m not saying I’m down on medication. I’m glad I took it ’cause as the doctor said, it pulled me out of the hole I was spiraling further into, and once I was out, I was able to deal with the real issue of why I went there in the first place.

And may I tell you that coming out of the hole, out of the other side of a mental breakdown and yes, I’ll say it — insanity — is empowering. Yes, I’m saying this made me stronger, and it fascinates me how this kind of intense pressure and almost decimation of something that then survives and thrives more heartily afterward is reflected in nature.

One of the best things about the experience is that it made me lighten up about life and my family although sometimes I can start walking down that road again. The good news is I usually recognize the road after a short time instead of years later. Mainly, my experience allowed me to realize I had been too serious about myself. Let me put a fine point on that. I was too self-aware, too self-absorbed, too self-centered, and there is nothing more miserable. It’s also boring after a while.

I’m not saying everyone should have a nervous breakdown in order to gain strength, but if you have recently had one, don’t be ashamed. Learn from it and use it. And for the record, I do talk about this as my real identity and have absolutely no shame about what happened. I made a mistake. I had beliefs and habits that needed to change, and they did. It would have been great if I hadn’t suffered, but that’s not how it was going to be for me, and now I don’t care.

Speaking of crazy, yesterday, I highlighted a blog with ‘crazy’ in the title, and today, I’m going to highlight a few more:

Mad Scientist. Crazy Mom — very interesting person and blog. I will be spending more time there.

The Crazy Thing about Hugarians — isn’t that redundant? No, I’m just kidding. I’m learning some interesting facts from this blog.

youmuttonmeeecrazy — oh yeah, this guy is talking my language although I’m not quite as jaded as I used to be. Thank God.

My Richard Armitage segue: I would love to see him playing a character who is losing his mind or has lost his mind. Maybe we’ll get a taste of that in The Hobbit: There and Back Again. This screencap is from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but it could hint at some of what we may see in the next installment:

HobbitAUJ-218[Click to enlarge]

Yes, I would love to see him play insanity with more subtly and layers than Thorin has, but for now, I’ll run with this one.

See your tomorrow

So Many Blogs and Not Enough Time: The A to Z Challenge So Far

[note: My "official" A to Z post for today is here.]

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cAs part of the A to Z April Challenge, bloggers are asked to visit at least 10 other blogs a day. Yesterday, I visited more than 10 because I had the time. We’ll see what happens today.

As for blog selection, I’m not quite sure of the protocol (need to read the instructions again). In the meantime, I have been going with whatever jumps out at me.

Sleepless in Singapore — a blog by Peter Heppo. I had never heard of Peter Heppo, but I knew he was a pro before I looked at his ‘about’ page or glanced at his sidebar. He’s an Aussie too. Love their ability to take the bark off the tree. This is definitely a must read.

The OCD Squirrel — whose first post was about getting over her fear of the avocado. We need to talk.

Where the Mind is Without Fear — definitely caught my eye, and guess what? It is not what you think it will be. Hint: Nia Vardalos

Bench with a View — what’s on the tin.

California Dreamin’ Squirrel — a nice photo blog, and no, I don’t get the fascination with the name squirrel, but it did make me click the link. (note to self: don’t overlook the obvious).

Crazy Town in Looney Land — an interesting place where people share about their struggle with mental health issues.

B, B, B, B, B, B, B

BThink the ubiquitous Barbara Ann, and for those too young to know, to wit.

It was hard to decide on a topic for B. There are probably a week’s worth of topics in my draft posts about this letter. Actually, I’ve struggled with several letters wanting to take over and be posted on more than one day.

Since this is nominally a Richard Armitage blog, it seemed natural to post something related to him and B, but I can’t do it because I have always made this place safe for work, and the only B that comes to mind in regard to him is his performance in a piece that would take us into waters potentially not safe. No, it wasn’t porn. Wait. That’s not entirely accurate. For the British, it isn’t porn. In the US, it would be considered soft porn and frankly, I realized from learning of this that I may well be a prude. No, I am a prude. AT least about people having sex in front of me. I admit readily. But using some foul language to adequately describe things that cannot be described with more pristine words? I have no problem. Watching someone’s bare bottom in flagrante delicto? Nah, that’s not my thing, because I’ve never thought of sex as a spectator sport and don’t plan to start. A provincial American view? Yes, I’m a bit provincial at times, but hopefully none of that equates to boring, which is another word I thought to post on.

Boring is the shark that nips at a blogger’s heels. To be boring is to bring death, or so it seems. So how to prevent it? Be yourself, take chances and if you have to be anonymous to do this, then do it. Frankly, the biggest obstacle I’ve seen to blogging is that people think they have nothing to say. If they’re trying to sound like everyone else, then they don’t have anything to say that can’t be read at thousands of other sites. Boring.

But this is easily solved with a practical solution that doesn’t require you to undergo a head change before you begin. Merely keep an idea log. I used to carry a very small spiral notebook around with me to jot down ideas as they came. That got to be an obstacle because I got my best ideas while driving. I bought myself one of these, and it was revolutionary! These days I use my phone, and I’ve thought many times what in the hell did I do before I had these devices? Lost a lot of great ideas.

Now for the really important part to remember if you start collecting ideas. Don’t think too big. Yeah, I said think small. Some of the best ideas come from something seemingly small and fairly mundane such as seeing a dad carrying his small son on his shoulders, and then the dad turns around and you notice he (the dad) is wearing something at odds with what you would expect dads to wear while carrying their sweet little ones on their backs. If it’s fall or winter, a nice plaid shirt would seem apropos, or if it’s spring or summer, maybe a polo shirt. Not a t-shirt with a picture of a dog trying to lick himself in unmentionable places (notice my pronoun choice). I started laughing to myself about that when I wasn’t grossed out, and I was eating at the time too. Yuck. It occurred to me that my thoughts about this were probably shared with others, so I wrote a piece about it. Maybe I’ll post it before this challenge is done. Not sure yet.

In the meantime, a photo of Richard for your edification if you’re so inclined:

ep4_260

Oh heck, a couple more, and no, these aren’t from the piece referenced above. These are all from a show called Strike Back:

ep4_261

ep4_262

See you tomorrow.

Anonymity, April Challenge, and Richard Armitage

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis is my first post for the 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Therefore, some people who are not Richard Armitage fans will be dropping by to check me out. This post is for them.

Hello! and welcome to my fun place. Mostly this is a humorous site, and occasionally I pontificate about various subjects. You thought it was all about some chap named Richard Armitage? That’s some of it. And right about now if you are wondering who in the heck is Richard Armitage? He is this guy:

Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit; you can get a thumbnail of his work here.

06hobbit-pg-horizontal

Richard is a muse, if you will. He and more so his fans prompted me to enter the blogosphere as a writer who documents something other than vacation pictures and an occasional rant about current events. That’s mostly what I did before I entered this space, and I did it with my real identity. It was not fun. I was inhibited and unimaginative and so careful about my words that it would have taken aeons to develop a voice and certainly to be interesting. The specter of screwing up was the biggest obstacle, and so I removed that by throwing off the shackles of my identity and flying free with my thoughts. And yes, I do some fangirling, but I’ll try to keep that at a minimum during this month. No promises about Sunday.

See you tomorrow.

If You Can’t Lick ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Sharing is a fairly new business model, and it’s one that takes some outfits awhile to embrace. Guylty has a very significant post at her blog about Getty Images finally coming around to the 21st century in its thinking. They have changed their policy about the availability of their images. And for this blogger, it’s very welcome news.

I have had Getty Images go through my entire blog on two occasions in the last four years. The first time was early in the life of this blog. The second time was just a few months ago, which I talked about as a potential pitfall of blogging. The good news is I didn’t infringe. But if I even thought about it over the years, I had only to remember that once over I received early on to know I was not going to do something that even came close.

An embed using the instructions from Guytly’s post:

This was easy. Thank you, Guytly for the heads up!

Being a Pseudonym

It’s interesting being a pseudonym because no matter what, you’re still you.

With respect to RAFrenzy, this is me, and yes, I’ve toyed with being the “other me,” but then I am the other me when I’m here. What you see is what you get. There is no difference…a rose by any other name…;-)

If I ever thought there was a difference, my friends who knew me before I started this place have disabused me of that notion by laughing when they’ve read this blog and saying, “Yeah, that’s so you.”

And what do they mean by that? I take very little seriously, and myself most of all. Oh, sure I take some things seriously about life and myself, but it’s my belief that way too much is made out of most things. Have I lapsed into being pompous and taking myself way too seriously on occasion? Oh yeah. I’m human aren’t I? Last time I checked, I’m not God and don’t make perfect choices.

But I do try to correct my poor choices as quickly as I can, and one way is to laugh at myself. If I can do that, I can laugh in general. And laughter really is good medicine.

Please notice I don’t mean ridicule — the laughter designed to create pain. Granted, there is sometimes a thin line between ridicule and just the joy of laughing, and when it is crossed, there is usually misery. But happy people do not want to create misery. Maybe put out some snark sometimes when they see something that is just utter bullshit (as opposed to regular bullshit)? Yes. But to try to do harm to someone? No, that’s what miserable people do.

And if I don’t know anything else about this RAFrenzy thing, I do know one thing — I am not here to be miserable. :D

No picture with this post. I’m too lazy this morning to find one that would fit, and dare I say, I’m on my way to church. Yeah, I know that bugs some of you, but oh well. I can’t be someone I’m not, and I do believe in God (a very specific one at that), and He loves me bad language and all.

Maybe after I’ve heard a lesson, my mind will be more clear, and I can select a good pic.

#9 Email Correspondence

This is part of my series of posts counting down to and through the Thanksgiving holidays and expressing my thankfulness for something I’ve received, experienced or participated in.

Email.

Email is still such a wonder despite its existence to the general public for more than a couple of decades. I Know I have never gotten over the thrill of being able to converse with anyone from anywhere. And may I never. It is such a joy to be the recipient of someone sharing their thoughts and their feelings and their experiences. If there is one thing I could pinpoint as the most rewarding in being a blogger, it would be that correspondence.

I knew on some level this dynamic occurred with bloggers, but I don’t think it was more than a fleeting thought to me until I started blogging and received notes. This morning I got a note from someone who is a kindred spirit, and this happens quite frequently and is probably the most encouraging aspect of blogging. Not so much to continue blogging but to know that the initial decision I made to publish my thoughts about the madness of being a fan was a good one. Good in that it’s facilitated so many fulfilling relationships for me personally. I can never express my thanks enough for knowing all of you. It’s also good to know I’m not really insane. Unless of course we’re all insane. LOL!

And certainly there are people who send me notes which are criticisms, and I also consider those beneficial. It doesn’t matter what’s said, I love to hear from people. (Gee, I’m sounding like an extravert. :D) And maybe there are criticisms I need to hear. It’s a hard thing for anyone to take criticism, but I’m learning to listen more and more no matter if I initially like what’s being said or not. I do think about what someone takes the time to tell me personally.

The only thing that’s a real pain is all the junk mail. Currently, I have 22,000+ unread notes in the rafrenzy mailbox, and I’m fairly certain most of it is junk. Yep, you read that right. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but hey, I’ve been a little busy the last year. Yes, I’m steadily cleaning it all away!

And occasionally, I miss some personal notes in all that junk, and I did recently. I received a note from someone earlier in the month, and this person had emailed me almost a year and a half ago as well, but I didn’t see that one either. I was mortified when I realized I had ignored not one but two notes from this person — or at least that must be what they’re thinking.

To this reader, if you’re still there: I did not ignore you! I was asleep at the wheel. Reply coming!

I’m going to use this experience as a spur to finish cleaning that mail backlog, because who knows what other lovely notes I may find! :D

And for those who may be interested, most of the personal correspondence I engage in has nothing to do with people being upset by another. And I’m thankful for that being the case.

note: email is actually passe’ to the younger generation, and there is talk that email as we know it may go away one day soon. But until it does, I plan to enjoy it to the fullest.

A Potential Pitfall of Fan Blogging

sherlock__benedict_cumberbatch__by_klodia007-d4u6y5u

The somewhat startling news about Cumberbatchweb receiving an invoice for photos they may have used without license is reverberating through the blogosphere. This is not the first time that fear has been felt among bloggers, and with the ever changing state of content curation on the Web, it won’t be the last. Even with my limited use of images on this blog, it still ran a chill up my spine.

And for me personally, I’ve not only heard about image companies breathing down the necks of bloggers, I had the dubious distinction a couple of years ago of my site being thoroughly crawled by Getty Images. Let me put that in plain language. They looked at every page of my site (including the attachment pages), and they have done it more than once. Thankfully, they didn’t find anything to take issue with, and I hope they never will. I took that as a heads up, and I’m considering what’s happened with Cumberbatchweb the same.

Where does that leave me as a blogger? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m going to share a little of what I think about media use on the web and in particular as it relates to the entertainment industry and this blog. I’ll start with the fair use doctrine in U.S. copyright law (a similar doctrine in the UK is referred to as fair dealing; please note it’s not exactly the same as the fair use doctrine in the U.S.).

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
Source

(emphasis mine)

The case law and their conclusions on each one of these four factors can be so convoluted, I’m not really sure what it means. The only sure thing is to never post anything you don’t own. But the entertainment industry doesn’t really want you to do that. They often leverage fandoms to get publicity, and that in itself makes the fair use doctrine a bit murky with respect to entertainment images. However, I believe there is enough in the four factors to figure out how to proceed, and of course I say that with the proviso that things could change radically tomorrow. We just never know.

Most media on my site are screencaps. With respect to their use on this blog, I use the adage of don’t ask and don’t abuse. I also do some criticism, which may or may not be construed as added value. When I use screencaps, I never make so many that people can make their own film from them, nor do I reveal spoilers with the only exception being when a show is so old spoilers are moot. All other screencaps I consider promoting the show, and I think (which means I could be wrong), that’s how owners of the shows see it as well. Further, I think that the only time they would really object is if I were competing with promotion of their property or in someway marring it.

Same thing for official promotional materials. I don’t ask and don’t abuse. In fact, it’s my belief that entities such as Warner Brothers want us to disseminate those materials. However, if the materials are from other major media outlets such as a print or web magazine, I don’t post everything from them. Usually, I just post one image and that’s done so I don’t compete with the original publication itself but rather post as a teaser which can prompt those reading to buy the rest of the materials for themselves or at least go to the original site that produced them. Thankfully, in RA universe we have purchased quite a few materials and have oftentimes been responsible for selling out magazine issues even when the whole magazine has been posted somewhere beforehand.

Photos from a photographer’s photo shoot that are not specifically in a publication and are not put out on the web for sharing but rather to sell are another matter. Case in point are the recent Getty images of Richard Armitage. It’s clear (at least to me) these are not for our use except by purchasing a license. There is no grey area in my opinion, so I stay away.

For everything else, which includes non-entertainment and non-celebrity images, they are either mine, I have permission from the photographer, or I bought a license.

For all of you who sent me an email asking how I handle images, I hope this helps in some way. Obviously, none of it is legal advice since I’m not a lawyer. I’m just sharing my thoughts.

note: the artwork above is acceptable by the standards I apply here. It’s taken from a screencap and/or promotional materials and value has definitely been added. Click on the photo to see the artist’s deviantart page.

Fighting the Fight

No, I’m not dead. I’m so alive and ready to move, it seems unreal, and I’m going to share as briefly as I’m able why I have not been present for some of the fun.

Since SO received his kidney transplant, we get up everyday, look at each other and grin. It is wonderful and humbling to be in this place, and I mean humbling in the best way possible. Recently it occurred to me that I regained the SO of ten years ago. There were things I had grown accustomed to doing without namely his very quick mind, and now he’s back and the force I had encountered as a young woman in college and never having seen his like. I really thought I had remembered this clearly and have even written about it on this blog, but I was wrong. My memory did not hold a candle to what he really is, and it’s so wonderful to have him return that I’m almost like a babbling idiot when I look at him.

But there’s a dark side to what has been going on. We’re in a crucible. When he became a transplant recipient, he became eligible for Medicare. Considering the exorbitant cost of insurance that we have been paying the last several years, it made total sense for him to go on Medicare for the three years he’s allotted, and we did all we were supposed to do to bring this about. Dotted all the i’s. Crossed all the t’s. But something got screwed up on the government’s end. We have begged and pleaded to get it fixed, and we had to retain a lawyer. It is still not fixed, and the problem is the mistake they made cost us SO’s health insurance as well as potentially costing well over $100K. But most important, it may cost SO’s ability to get his immuno-suppressant drugs. He went to get just one drug and found out the insurance was canceled and was told he would have to pay $3,800 for a month’s supply. Without it, his transplant is effectively useless. All of his drugs cost over $8,000 a month out-of-pocket without insurance or Medicare coverage.

We could buy a policy, but it will cost a few thousand a month. With everything going on, it’s not prudent to commit to that. In the meantime, we did get some temporary assistance from a program that helped us pay for the drugs at a reasonable cost and were treated like we were mooching when we went to the office to apply. Unbelievable when we have never taken advantage of assistance. Our thinking has been that we’re able-bodied and need to take care of ourselves and leave programs for others who are not able. Since we were really in need this time, we availed ourselves. But what a demeaning process. I feel for those who have been through it. And please know we did not enter that office with haughtiness. We were grateful to be there but were still treated awfully as were others we witnessed and most of those terribly sick. That was the hardest thing — to see people who were not really able to manage the process be treated as if they were lowlifes.

Anyway, this thing has already almost beggared us at times, and we hesitate to completely wipe out our retirement, but if we have to do that, we will, and we have already been depleting it to deal with these staggering costs. And that with the knowledge it will be difficult to replenish. And why is all of this happening? Because a lady at one of the Social Security offices completely fouled up SO’s application,and I’m thankful that I don’t feel compelled to use the ‘f’ word I would have used a month ago. A particular meltdown in the middle of a neighboring town might have helped. Something happened about a week or so ago, and I literally was sitting in my vehicle alone yelling my head off over and over and over again. I’m sure if anyone happened to see me that they thought I was insane. After I calmed down and my heart rate slowed down, I let go of feeling that SO and I were almost completely alone in this fight and realized God is with us. In the midst of this realization, I began to be thankful that we have quite a paper trail to prove the government’s error, and now we just need to prove it. We have filed an appeal. But before we were able to do that or learned we could do that, the time and money spent on pursuing Social Security has been enormous. I won’t bore you with all of that. Just trust me that it has run us ragged hence the keening like a banshee. Certainly this place was not priority in the midst of that, and this is not an apology.

I said in another post that everything that is happening is making me into a crusader. I meant that about the insurance industry, and now I am becoming zealous about the government’s role as well. And my friends, I am a bulldog, but I don’t mean to imply that I’m rude. I abhor rudeness. But I have been accused a few times in my life of being tenacious and mostly from people paying it as a compliment with a couple of times meant as a criticism. Sadly, I’ve mostly recalled the criticism. Isn’t that how it always happens in our minds? But today, I’m glad I’m a bulldog. I’m glad I’m a fighter. I’m glad I’m not someone who easily gives up on something, and I thank God for that ability. He gets the credit.

Frankly, sometimes I like to think of God like Chuck Norris. No offense to the Lord, but I figure He can take on anything. Even Social Security. :D And yeah, the SS office can feel like thousands of cars barreling in on you:

chuck-norris-meme-joke-cars-car-traffic-jam-what-causes-traffic-jams

Earlier today when SO and I were speaking to a government investigator and the investigator said we have been through a lot, SO said, “I appreciate you saying that,” and later in the conversation said to the man, “I want to say again I appreciate you acknowledging our situation, but I keep thinking of all the people who are elderly or infirm or insolvent enough they cannot pursue a government error. What do those people do? I can’t stop wondering about them.” Yep, that is what keeps coming back to our minds. When this is over for us, we plan on doing something to help. I’m not sure what yet, but whatever it is this hard won knowledge we’re acquiring daily can’t simply stop with us. It’s just too dear to keep for ourselves alone.

All of that aside, I have so many things lined up to post here that are on the subject, and I am not giving up on those either. They’re fun and make me laugh or at least feel good, and I plan to share them. So bear with me as I deal with the crucible and am erratic in sharing my Richard Armitage grins. That’s how I think of them — even the things that are sometimes uncomfortable. Maybe I’m warped in that thinking, but I don’t believe so. I think (arrogantly perhaps) that my vision of life is becoming crystal clear, and I’m thankful to God for that and that I am not angry at the lady at the Social Security office, whose head I could have wrung off her shoulders at one point. I’m passed that now and glad because that kind of anger just clouds the mind, and I need it clear to continue.

Thanks for listening, and I’m skipping on a Richard picture today. Go over and look at Pinterest. :D

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