Building the Perfect Beast

DAY 14: The end of 2018 deserves to be pushed out with a bang.

Blogging used to be a largely unassuming, cottage industry, but in 2019 it will become a bigger business than has ever been the case. The key, of course, is getting people to talk about your product with an air of genuine interest, and then that being used to further promote brands that rely on the word of mouth such endeavours create. Except, of course, there are those of us who don’t give a flying fuck about such associations.

What matters most, in the end, is truth. Kermode’s scathing deconstruction of why 3D is such utter creative bobbins might have (allegedly) ruffled industry feathers but it highlights both integrity and intelligence that ought to matter far more to those of us pursuing a balanced view of the World around us. Except, of course, more and more that’s not nearly as important as putting food on the table.

It’s that moment you dread when the much loved small streamer looks uncomfortable doing ads for the company that decided they’re capable of making sensible people buy their product. It’s the break in favourite podcast where hosts all talk about the sponsored service in their ‘style,’ desperately attempting to make you interested. It is the depressing, inescapable creep of corporate takeover that now consumes (almost) everything online.

Sponsorship isn’t necessary or required, of course. Except, inevitably, if a company believes your work is the best place to sell their wares, who in their right mind will turn down a lucrative placement deal? It’s one of those Moral Dilemmas that is easy to pronounce as a no-brainer right up until the moment someone hands you a contract. Honestly, will you be the one to say ‘nope’ when the amount offered really will change your life? Does it even have to be money? Is being approached enough to alter your outlook?

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It will, ultimately, all depend on your notion of Success. I turned down a couple of offers during my time as a small-time gaming blogger, one of which was a) impressive and b) would have actually made me money. The more it’s thought about, the greater is my satisfaction that, at least in this corner of the Internet, there are quite enough other people lining their pockets in this fashion. Yes, it’s cash, but not required for my individual notion of success.

This year there’s thought to approach a number of Mental health charities to freely publicise their efforts, after which there’ll be a push for people to give ME money to pass onto them. Blogging has never been about doing words as a business, always as hobby:  over a decade plus that mindset has never really changed. I don’t resent or object to those who are doing just this, and don’t envy them either. It’s hard enough to write regardless, without the shadow of a corporate contract hovering in the background.

If you can be honest regardless, that’s a good place to start.

Freedom ’90

Life is funny.

If you ask me what has gotten me here, in 52 years of existence, I’m betting only a very few would know the part Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd had to play in that process. Moonlighting was an almost vital part of my late teens, and although it is fair to say it has not aged well, its part in my mid 1980’s life was… well, indispensable. This song, and the Billy Joel album it comes from, had been lost from my memory until first thing this morning. Suddenly, it demands another listen.

The lyrics to this song are amazingly apposite as a metaphor for myself.

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When I got to Mulberry Street for the first time the significance of past to present didn’t really register. It’s taken all this intervening time, with exercise and writing, to grasp that an awful lot of my past has been suppressed. The reasoning behind this isn’t a massive surprise, and isn’t the point of this post. I’m here this morning safe in the knowledge that I don’t need to panic. Hard work is it’s own reward, that’s not just one of those stupid things people say because they can’t get the critical notoriety so craved.

Yes, you can change your life to suit your soul’s desire.

I’m also amazed that after thirty two years of not hearing an album the words to every track exist with perfect recall, but I can’t remember the names of any of the people I studied with at either school or college. How exactly does that work?

We Used to Be Friends

This is going to be quite hard to write, but it needs to be said.

I seem to outlast the people I care about. Right now, there are two lovely female friends who look after me, check on my welfare and health, and listen when things get tough. Without them, my life would be beyond miserable. There is my husband, of course, who remains my best friend by some way. After that, things get a bit murky and indistinct, because… well, I dunno, to be honest. 

A lot of the people I care passionately about have simply vanished.

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There’s effort, of course: trying to remember birthdays and Christmas, recalling the times when you were there because they needed someone, but ultimately they’ve gone. This year, of the dozens of lovely birthday greetings received, the most notably absent were those from those people I wished would remember, but never do. They did once upon a time, yet those moments are now history. Then it hit me.

I’ve moved on.

You have no obligation to anyone else unless it suits you. Finding real friends (especially male ones) is a particularly fraught exercise anyway right now, because of the obvious minefield of possibility that having someone you feel comfortable with presents. The thing is, male friends are what I yearn for the most. You can’t just conjure up trust and belief at a distance either. Asking for friendship is great, but only if the other person grasps what that really means.

I miss that a great deal indeed.

The truth of course is that this is the reason why it never works. All you single guys want to sleep with me, and when it becomes apparent that isn’t going to happen, all bets are off. The married ones can’t be friends with me because their wives will assume we’re having an affair. I’d love to not be some time in the last Century when it comes to all of this shit but it appears other people dictate those rules and not me.

It doesn’t help of course that the previous paragraph is bollocks, yet the same things happen over and over again. ‘You can talk to me about anything’ becomes convenient on their terms and not yours. If you give the ‘no, I really do just want to be mates’ speech a phenomenal number of blokes simply lose interest. I know this because of the last dozen or so male friendships I’ve attempted to instigate, every single one conforms to Billy Crystal’s assertion. 

Maybe it is time to stop looking and accept what I’m asking for doesn’t exist.

You May Be Right

What if everything you’ve ever done has been leading to this point?

A lot of time is spent contemplating our navels, like it or not. Imagination and role play as children allow vital opportunities to escape beyond the confines of self and stare forward to the future, with all the myriad of possibilities it presents. However, telling kids they’ll have it all sussed out by the time they reach eighteen and need to plan for a career is the biggest joke in the history of mankind (apart from the whole ‘everybody is equal’ thing, obviously ^^) Sometimes, it takes a bit longer to arrive at your chosen destination.

For some of us, a lot longer is needed to allow reality to finally register as significant.

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My favourite metaphor right now when trying to explain to people how I’m coping mentally with everything comes from the cartoon my kids loved as toddlers, and still enjoy now. There’s an episode of Spongebob Squartepants where he’s forced to help his frenemy Squidward Tentacles convince his snobby friend he owns an expensive restaurant. The titular sponge is forced to throw out of his head all the stuff that won’t help him focus on fine dining and breathing, and inside his sponge brain hundreds of tiny Spongebobs run around in anxiety and terror, shredding files full of memories of anything that’s not relevant to the task in hand.

For a long time, that was how it felt for me: ignore the bad stuff, don’t worry about the expectations of others and simply focus on what matters, which right now is cycling and writing… except, of course, this kind of approach is fatally flawed. Then you have nowhere else to send the stress, because all the other places it could have been siphoned off too are ignored. This weekend needs to be one where I don’t fixate on what could go wrong, and do my best to mentally relax, whilst simultaneously keeping up the training. I think there’s a Velo Park trip possible on Sunday too, which (if true) I’m already looking forward to.

It’s not going away, I can’t bottle and not do this. I have sponsors and a charity that is relying on to get the job done. The eternal questions of the Universe will have to wait, but they’ll help find the right mental balance going forward.

Time to get serious.

Three Lions

Maybe, we are making progress with the National Football teams. Writing their own history is a fine way of creating a positive mindset. Maybe, if they can make this progression, I can deal better with the stress.

I managed 90 minutes but the last minute equaliser was simply too much to bear. I’m still not sure that we’re good enough to beat either Brazil or Belgium on current form, and there’s the certainty of one making the Semi Finals. Fortunately, the game is on Saturday. I can lie in, because there’s still an adrenaline buzz remaining. The only consolation is that I’m not alone. The whole town is subdued.

To write anything of note, there needs to be more neurons firing. Maybe I should go and exercise early with the hope brain might finally bring some content to the party…

Truth or Dare

Unless you have been living under a rock the last couple of years, it is abundantly apparent that ‘freedom’ has become a hill that many millions of people are still willing to die on. Of course, we don’t have World Wars any more that liberate the oppressed from tyranny. The Internet is our battlefield, enemy an interesting juxtaposition of a past where the bad guys were a lot easier to identify. Let’s agree that liberals hate the conservatives, and that same is true on the other side: progress stifles monopolies, multi-faceted freedoms makes policing an increasing challenge In the middle, the Judicial System have their work cut out keeping everything balanced.

Really, very little has changed since Roman times.

The key variable in all of this is us. Us lowly peons are suddenly party to government decision making on a daily basis. We have the opportunity to challenge experts and those in authority in a manner that is, quite frankly unprecedented. Of course there’s still a group of people who make dick jokes and fuck about because me me me I’m the most important thing on the Internet AAAAAAAAAAAA. This proves, if it were needed, that even when presented on a plate with salad an opportunity to change the world, some people would rather wank in public and not care.

I’m hearing the word curation a lot more lately, as platforms open themselves up to everybody’s input without making a simple, and quite logical assumption based on how Humanity has always functioned. There is ALWAYS someone who turns up to ruin it for everybody. Unless you make your social media platform a closed entity, that requires people to log in and register and then abide by a set of rules which you will robustly enforce on an equal level regardless of infraction, there’s going to be trouble. Facebook’s inability to be either consistent or transparent in this regard is going to dog them in the Western world for some time, but until that indignation is truly worldwide, it won’t matter one iota.

The problem with having curated content however is that you need to believe those in charge are truly looking after your interests. I still have reservations over Blizzard’s handling of women and minority groups in their games, but it is apparent we’re light years ahead of what was true a decade ago (you’ll need to read the Blizzard Watch article I linked in the tweet for context to this). Your annoyance with rate of change will vary, of course, and listening to people with mental illness over the last week berating those who don’t have a fucking clue what it feels like to live in darkness is a case in point. You may not like the way people are talking, but it is a start. Sometimes, you don’t get the beautiful, well-lit and brilliantly narrated explanation that’s craved, it’s a brick to the face instead.

Curation is something I’ve practised on Twitter for years, and it becomes increasingly easier over time to spot the wankers almost instantly. However, now there’s a new area of the landscape that never needed tending to which is beginning to require attention: the Entitled. The demographic you might believe that inhabits this space isn’t nearly as white and male as news articles would have you believe either. There’s a lot of people, of either sex, who could do with a reality check. However, the biggest single issue remains undimmed: what about me? Why am I not important, or special, or taking your attention away from other people who are clearly not as smart, clever or hardworking as I CLEARLY AM.

Arrogance is a dangerous emotion. Assumption is even worse, because your existence, like it or not, is VERY small compared with the bigger picture. On most days, you’ll just get by but if you’re dumb enough to post without thinking it through, or get obsessed or fixated with one subject and nothing else? Social media shows up the flaws in us all, often without realisation. If the smart people can watch you for months and realise that you’ve got them muted, don’t be surprised if they leave. However, you might want to think about why it happened, because those revelations can be really helpful long-term.

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What worries me most is that we’ll all be looking back on this decade ten years from now and wishing that lessons had been learnt far sooner than is currently the case. Freedom has consequences, and if individuals continue to fight so passionately to maintain their versions thereof, there’s a war coming that could make the ones before look quite simple and pedestrian. I keep reading about the historians and economists predicting the fall of current Civilisation, but I’d argue it’s already taking place.

What will then rise in its ashes is what should be concerning everyone.

Memories of Green

The cultivation of my Happy Place continues apace, and this weekend there’ll be some more visits to Garden Centres to see what else can be added to the space. The plan on Saturday is to clear out what passes for our tool store and chuck out/recycle all the rubbish within, and then see what other stuff is missing. Then, I hope to get a new recliner and spend some time outside, reading. That will be happening using real books, and none of this Kindle rubbish. There is no objection to electronic reading, oh no, but spending far too much time staring at screens already demands the use of physical media.

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It really helps that this weekend will be the best weather for a while, though to be honest working outside continues to be a joy I’d not expected to appreciate as much as is now the case. It is about getting away from the normal run of words and responsibilities, to find a space where all that matters is relaxation and calm. These are the things that need work in life, and there is every intention to capitalise on the free time whenever it occurs.

Bring on the Bank Holiday Weekend.