Change

The normal school run route this morning was closed: a Police car blocked the road, lights flashing whilst female PC directed traffic. My daughter gave her a thumbs up and amazingly, officer returned that gesture. My 14 year old turned back to me and smiled, as I apologised over being horrendously late for school: ‘It’s okay mum, I’m loving your story about the weekend. Keep telling me what happened.’

The last three days has already altered so many things, in little ways. Most of that, it occurs to me, came from my own willingness to give so much of myself to total strangers, for that’s what all of these women were. A couple had reached out via social media the week before, but there was nothing to believe I’d get on with anyone successfully across the weekend, yet I did. Connections were forged with so many people.

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However this morning the most significant change that presents itself is belief in myself. I’m off to see an old friend tomorrow, to explore a part of my psyche that is still largely untouched after exposure during counselling. It should be a lot easier to do that now, it will be simpler and less stressful than would previously have been the case. I’ve done a write-up of my early experiences here but what that won’t highlight is just how deeply affecting every single interaction was in different ways.

This wasn’t just positive either, and that point needs to be highlighted. A very small number of women I tried to talk to across the weekend were really not interested in returning that gesture. Once upon a time that rejection would have been devastating, but not any more. Not everybody will be your friend. The fact I lucked out over 90% of the time however is a statistic that is a testament to the empathetic skills of the organisers.

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Realism is important in the modern world, and although some love to highlight negatives as soon as they appear, ultimately this is a bad thing when the vast majority of your experiences are positive. It’s why the business of online criticism has become so difficult and perilous in recent years, especially in the industry I’ve walked away from to go it alone. There’s almost a blind mentality of dissemination without thinking, just because you agree with someone else’s grumpy take at the time.

To stop and think is what I had to do across the weekend, time and again, processing what I’d learnt or heard and occasionally failing. In fact I reached capacity at Sunday lunchtime and became mentally incapable of absorbing any more. That’s why I’ll apologise now and warn you that over the next few weeks here is where that is likely to take place. To do so that means not thinking too, which is what an early PT will facilitate.

Time to go lift weights and allow ideas to percolate…

Cruel to be Kind

Once upon a time, my life would have been put on hold on Wednesdays. Those days have (thankfully) passed, existence considerably better for the change. There was also a time where an obsessive need to attain goals would completely consume my brain: with reflection, it is more about understanding when to work, and that not doing so is probably more important. Body decided at about 10.15pm last night, today is a physical rest day: being able to snag an extra PT lesson tomorrow morning is perfect synergy required to get my head down this morning and work the grey matter instead.

List is written, washing is on, time to make the difference.

Learning from my kids is something that happens so many times during a day: it is not just your task to teach as an adult. There is an obligation to listen, learn and then suggest alternatives. Occasionally the intractable needs to be introduced but as has become apparent with my two, intelligence can make for a fine weapon against such restrictions. Then, it is up to you to clear middle ground. Not them, you, because the more that control is flaunted, the less likely it is that any outcome will be non-confrontational.

I’ve got very good at avoiding confrontation across the last few years, a skill not taught in my youth. Now, this and my limited parenting abilities are having unexpectedly amusing and satisfying uses. Control’s a funny thing, when all is said and done. Thinking that someone or something else is frightening or scary, when a lot of the fear never issues from the object of your concern. The amount of control you can wield is immense and really is capable of changing the World.

You just have to believe enough in the possibility.

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My paths are not once as clear as they were. Other things are appearing as important. As changes occur, and possibilities present, it is up to me to ensure that the journey forward isn’t just a single-minded steam towards one reward, if there other more important side-achievements to be had. All that gaming has finally found a use.

Who knew?

The Revolution will Not be Televised

DAY 5: We interrupt our scheduled wibbling for the first of a series of planned observations of reality. This Saturday? It is time to remind you all about the concept of TRANSMEDIA and how, in the space of a week, that concept has utterly altered the entire course of entertainment.

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Bandersnatch is a work of undoubted genius, created by Charlie Brooker who remains right in the front carriage of the Sci-Fi Alternate Futures ARE STILL COOL EVEN IF THEY’RE FUCKING SCARY Hype Train. However, let’s be clear, other people have been doing this shit for years: ‘choice’ in fiction has existed in video games, books, even films for quite some time, well before this Netflix original came along. Working across platforms isn’t new either…

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So, why is everybody so excited? In the simplest terms, Brooker’s the first person to shove on a particular set of wheels and throw engine into the chassis that’s been crying out to be redesigned since it became apparent what computer code can do if you tell a story with it. Here is the fuel of pretty much every Sci-Fi future: one screen provides all. The thing that presents both news and offers entertainment also grants possibility to alter and shape reality as you see fit. Given the building blocks of a story, each individual gets to decide both victor and reward, with thousands of possible variant versions.

Television ascends again as the ultimate serotonin delivery device.

The bigger irony right now, of course, is that if you try and access Bandersnatch through the smartest of smart TV’s, you’re met with a compilation of Black Mirror protagonists from series past apologising that ‘sorry, you can’t watch this episode on this device.’ If you want true interactivity, go watch TV on a Tablet, phone, PC, Laptop or Games console instead. The one TV ‘drama’ that will redefine storytelling going forward cannot be viewed on a dumb, flat screen.

Overnight, everybody’s non-code operated gogglebox got rendered totally and completely obsolete.

Gil Scott-Heron was a visionary, and non net-savvy TV companies might have a bit of a problem going forward. Well, not a problem per se, but organisations such as Sky will be looking long and hard at their set-top boxes, realising that catch-up TV is great and all that but they are yet again behind the curve. The day Netflix launch their fully interactive rival in collaboration with Disney and UEFA all bets are off as to what you’ll want linked up to the ‘TV’.

The future is no longer sending signals to a screen and expecting that to be enough.

Suddenly, TV has the opportunity to combine everything in the one place you want it. No more PC’s in the corner of a room: run it from the widescreen HD central screen, transfer it to a tablet before taking it everywhere. One core processor unit oversees and dictates every form of interactivity in your house. That same Home Entertainment Unit is Alexa’s search facilities and Siri’s voice combined with choose your own drama shows, themostatic controls plus lighting dimmer switches, with the kids homework and your favourite FPS, all voice activated.

Esports will vie for prominence with real sports, but not watching teams of young people competing via controllers. Live sports provide an unexpected new industry : all computer sports games will sign deals with broadcasters to provide means by which players can allow their favourite team to win both Cup and League. Interspersing historical footage with computer generated graphics so real, you’ll never notice the difference and suddenly, choose your own outcome versions of every sporting event in history becomes possible.

There will be a backlash, of course: Traditionalists will shun all new style visual media and return to VHS, Laserdiscs and DVD’s as the only version of entertainment that matters. Books will become their own unique currency, with people hand-producing their own versions of great historical novels with unique, personal twists. Then, there are those who’ll have original TV signals directed directly into their optic nerves, eventually choosing to spend the rest of their existence

only as brains in jars…

As a writer, it’s fun to consider the consequences of things such as Bandersnatch in a wider context. Undoubtedly, the effect of social media on news and entertainment is beginning to alter how the collective consciousness absorbs information. With such new possibilities on the horizon, conventional TV will have to undergo some fairly significant changes in order to embrace such technologies, but if there’s enough demand, it will happen.

Old style TV units and broadcasting mediums are on notice. Aerials on houses will become a thing of the past. Everything is heading towards a future where ‘smart’ and ‘interactive’ beat everything: whether that’s through a fibre connection or via satellite is yet to be decided. The next year also gives Netflix, Amazon and the digitally native platforms a massive advantage over traditional TV. If I were Disney, for instance, I’d DEFINITELY be looking at launching my own dedicated streaming service to take advantage…

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Expect a Disney ‘make your own TV show’ very soon indeed, and once they start it, we’re all doomed.

Audacity of Huge

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It’s a new month. I’m a bit behind, but not hugely so (which is progress in itself) and once I have caught up today (which I will) there’s an entire month of important and groundbreaking stuff from me. A list was written at the start of the year, and although some of it has not yet taken place, an awful lot of change and improvement has come to pass.

I started an Instagram from scratch for this Project. I’m hoping my artwork will attract an audience because that is what this will be for the next 31 days: art based around poetry. I have no illusions either, but as I’m doing this right now completely for my own enjoyment and satisfaction? It doesn’t matter. It starts a process of using visual media in different ways. That’s October’s plan: push the envelope. Produce original work and escape the current comfort zone. There are still a few glitches along the way to overcome, but we’ll cover those too.

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I’m still not a poet, but the role is becoming easier to wear as time goes on. My main focus remains on fiction, and on that front, I announced yesterday my formal participation in NaNoWriMo this year. However, I’m yet to commit to the piece I’m working on. That’s causing a bit of concern, but there is now a distinct lean towards doing things ‘properly’ and planning an original idea from scratch. I’ve given myself a deadline of Friday to commit, one way or the other.

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I’m effectively using November to write, and blogging will pretty much completely encompass this process on the Writing Site. I’ve cancelled my Patreon output to accommodate this and will spend the month redesigning the ‘idea’ of IoW: when I began the journey, I considered poetry as something of an afterthought. This month I’ll be entering The Poetry Society’s official contest for the form. There’s a place I never thought I’d ever reach, and the next stage in my writing journey is short stories. This month’s offering is a forced and radical departure from previous attempts, for that very reason. You never learn by simply doing the same thing, over and over.

This month, many comfort zones will be blown.

The Message

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Right then, Universe, you and I need to have a chat.

I entirely grasp that being a selfish, arrogant fucktrumpet is a bad thing. There is no issue understanding that you need to be accommodating and empathetic when engaging in Social media discourse. However, sometimes it needs to be stated, for the record, that you people don’t get the whole irony/sarcasm thing. It has happened a lot of late, and therefore probably requires a measure of explanation.


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happens a lot more than was ever the case before the Orange Twat became President or my country decided to fuck itself over Europe… or in many people’s minds, far less than makes them either feel comfortable or safe. The whole irony/sarcasm threshold as humour ‘thing’ has become almost impossible to use safely of late because somebody is inevitably going to take offence. Let’s face facts, you don’t need an excuse to explode at someone else right now, and there are people out there actively looking for reasons to do just that.

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In one part of my online existence, I’ve made the conscious decision to just take away the possibility of Drama to begin with, especially when it is becoming apparent that some people enjoy fucking with your brain for entertainment. Gaming is full of people whose sole task appears to be the organisation of their life in order to wind other people up in theirs. I suppose, on reflection, this is no different than pranking a work colleague and then laughing, before the reminder ‘well I found this funny, what’s your problem?’ The key advantage of doing this online is that you can laugh as much as you like afterwards, safe in the knowledge that no-one will notice.

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Except, after a while, laughing just with yourself stops being enough, and you have to make a larger point, and lo the subtweet was born. This is not revolution, but a way for stupid people to make everybody else think you’re talking about them and instil a sense of guilt and shame to individual actions. These things float so close to the irony/sarcasm border as to be an instant provocation to a) anyone with even a scintilla of a guilty conscience and b) anybody who’s looking for a fight at that moment. However, you can tell more about a person by their subtweets than is ever possible (sometimes) from months of interaction. If you pay attention, it is amazing what gets revealed… and yes, I’d absolutely count myself in that number. That’s why subtweeting has become a thing of the past.

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Blogging is now my tool of revolution. If you can be bothered to read, all you need to know is here, sometimes wrapped up with the bare minimum of effort. There doesn’t need to be hand-wringing and wailing via Twitter: if I want to change the world, this is the best place to begin. If you refuse to provide the fuel for roasting and instead produce fireproof arguments, then everybody wins. I become a better writer plus the people who choose to follow me on Social media get 100% less Drama per day. In a world where there is quite enough of that, to begin with, I should definitely not be adding any more.

Words matter, and should be chosen with care.

Rise

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Playtime is officially over.

Once breakfast (and written obligations for the AM) are dealt with, its off to the Gym (Push Day) and then back to knock off some backstage gubbins. Tomorrow is another bike ride. Monday’s a Bank Holiday here and so will involve getting my daughter’s school uniform sorted, and more stuff chucked out of the house: there’s a rapidly increasing pile of crap outside which shows that finally, everybody else is on the same page as I am in terms of regeneration and improvement.

Then, I have the task of trying to pull in more Patreons. I’d hoped to hit 30 by the end of August, which may yet still be doable. It involves selling myself quite hard, but I think that’s a task I’m up to, and so starting today there will be a series of posts on the Writing site to act as a sales pitch, in the hope I can get people involved. These will then be used as articles that form the content for promoted Twitter tweets starting in September. There’s a plan to everything, it is just extracting the digit to make it work.

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Leaves on trees are already starting the transformation from green to gold, red and yellow. This is the earliest Autumn I can recall for a while, but it is perhaps unsurprising on the back of what was a really warm winter. If I needed reminding of how much the Earth is changing, it will remind me on the walk to the Gym and back, in the forest tomorrow when we ride. I know I can’t change decades of systematic abuse by other people, but I can make sure I’m prepared with my family to cope with what may be to come. Once upon a time I would have shirked at responsibility, but not any more.

On the day my son’s GCSE results were published (A’s to C’s, he was unbelievably happy and that’s frankly all that matters) I was eating breakfast when I heard a cry from next door. Our elderly neighbour had fallen, and could not get up, and so the family mounted a rescue mission (via a lifted fence panel) to get her up and about. Last night her daughter knocked on our door to thank us for our thought and care, and to state she’ll be getting her mother to a doctor to check that everything is okay. Once upon a time I’d have not put two and two together and grasped there was a problem to begin with. I like being this aware, and long may that continue.

Here’s to a future full of positive action.

Ariel

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Whilst on holiday, we had breakfast in the ‘family pub/restaurant’ next to our budget hotel. The deal was very simple: £X for each person, pick a table, then effectively all you can eat until mealtime was over. This concept is brilliant for large families, and clearly relies on at least some people paying for breakfast via their hotel stay and not taking it. However, this restaurant also allowed anyone not at the Hotel to eat as they wished, and that meant on Monday that there was total and utter chaos for the entire time we were there. An awful lot of people ‘played’ this system, as I watched from our spot next to the food.

I spied one young girl, from the large family who’d walked in and taken over two tables, manage to get four separate serving staff to provide her with the same combination of packet breakfasts and juice boxes, which were all then squirrelled away with efficiency. To the two who were generous and provided double I am impressed, because under those circumstances there is no obligation to offer anything extra at all. From the napkins full of patisserie to the mum telling everyone that they won’t eat again until dinner, everybody had a reason for making the most of what was on offer.

It gave considerable pause for thought.

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Nobody should go without a decent meal, ever. Feeding everyone is a contentious topic in this Western country of ours, and it shouldn’t be, but the fact remains that both adults and kids current go hungry in the UK thanks to the belief that money matters more than humanity. It’s why I’ve felt chastened since Monday, that I can’t change the world, and that I shudder at what other people left uneaten on plates, that portion control is something only a few seem to grasp or adhere to. It has made me determined to think harder about the actual problems the World faces going forward and not bury my head in the sand. Food is a basic right, and yet many people simply don’t consider it as anything other than a consumable.

How this plays out for me is simple: less waste, more thought on choices, less impulse buying. The local supermarket runs a Food bank scheme which I’m going to make sure I contribute to every month. No, I’m hardly going to change the world with my actions but if everybody stopped and thought about the food on their plate, things might. It is tough to change yourself, but this is as important as helping other people or considering positive action to help improve the World around you. It is no different than picking up rubbish or looking out for neighbours.

We should stop assuming that everything is somebody else’s problem and not ours.

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There is a lot to think about going forward, and a belief that if I am truly going to reinvent myself, learning to write better is only part of that equation. It is as much about becoming a more useful member of society than any measure of personal attainment.

The future should not be me, but us.