Ruby Tuesday

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The first post that exists on this blog is from March 2015, but it’s a lie.

I blogged for a very long time out of a sense of misguided obligation. I know this now looking back on what I’ve done and how it panned out: as if you had to sometimes just say something to allow the World to know you existed. Talking into a larger space than your head is important, but not nearly as significant as what you then decide to say. Looking back on the posts that vanished I know this place was a foundation for what I am now becoming; a fully-fledged writer, who is not afraid to be what they are any more. I was scared for a VERY long time, and although I do still have the moments where I want to run away and hide in a corner, I understand that never helps anyone in the end.

The mundane is what you build your foundations upon.

The first real post on this blog happened back in 2011. There are images which exist from back then that undoubtedly associate with a time period where many things were indeed genuinely scary: on most days there remains absolutely no idea how I survived. In fact, looking back on those entries, it is very much like reading someone else’s words. That person no longer exists, for good or bad.

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I watch people summarily delete large portions of their existence digitally on a quite regular basis: a woman of my acquaintance who’s training to be a therapist, the artist trying to standardise her social media feeds, and the list goes on. I wonder if it would be a good idea to do that, then realise that if I do pretty much the only reliable timeline of my life up to this point would summarily vanish.

Maybe once I’ve gone through some counselling, that outlook might change, I dunno. It’s becoming increasingly important to acknowledge that there are major issues with memory and recall: not because there’s anything sinister or age-related in the mix. What’s at play is a lot more complicated, and I suspect will have something to do with a depth of guilt and anxiety that lay undisclosed for so long.

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Lots of things are becoming apparent as this year goes on which before had not really been disturbed for some time. Let’s be honest, an awful lot of the past doesn’t spark joy, which makes it easy to thank and then dismiss. I know a lot of people might find that approach to de-cluttering a little difficult to swallow, but it absolutely works for me. That’s why I’ve stopped listening to 6Music Breakfast today and switched to something that isn’t constantly pushing me to be worthy. Sometimes, you need to dictate your own pace.

Over the weekend it became apparent that lots of people don’t grasp subtlety. If you’re not full-throatedly 100% behind representation, you are an idiot was the message I was sent, in no uncertain terms. I’ve always advocated the best person for any job. You know, the one best qualified or most capable. It means that non-gay actors can play gay roles because, you know, they’re ACTORS and that’s their job. Women can have male heroes and that’s okay, because choice exists. Not everybody is well-defined.

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It is becoming increasingly obvious that I’m the one who’s been in the dark: emerging from this mental brain-fog provides an increasing number of revelations, mostly over the behaviour of others who clearly mean well, but are more desperate for some kind of large-scale validation. The more I listen to some commentators, the more apparent it becomes they’ve been standing stark naked for some time, whilst I’ve only just clocked them.

What matters most going forward is honesty. Do you say it because you think that’s the right thing, or because of who you know is watching? Is this all a stream of consciousness or are you an actor, with a very cleverly devised plan to use current indignation to grow your fanbase? Increasingly I’m really not bothered about people who are more concerned with saying what is perceived as the right thing rather than simply speaking their mind, for good or bad.

As the fog lifts, honesty is what suddenly matters most of all.

Think

Bonus second blog. Again, I could leave this until Monday, but actually it needs to be out of my brain so there’s a focus on written work that isn’t navel gazing.

If an individual thinks another person has the potential to render them obsolete, or gain more success than them, or eclipse their place in an established hierarchy, what should they do?

This kind of question comes up all the time in myriad forms all across social media: the person who’s soaking up all the oxygen in your friends circle. The new recruit on the forums who suddenly becomes flavour of the month. The colleague at work who’s just better than you are, and you can’t take it. It’s jealousy or greed in biblical terms. If you live in a world where success is measured on a follower count, this person is a problem. You need to be like them, but not help them as they do the same.

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I’ve seen the self-help blogs, means by which you support someone whilst simultaneously facilitating your own ends. Now, let’s change a few words in that sentence.

If a woman thinks a man has the potential to render them obsolete, or gain more success than them, or eclipse their place in an established hierarchy, what should she  do?

Look at the current British PM as an example of this. They’re doing the job nobody wants, and no-one can agree on. Everybody who doesn’t think she’s an abject failure’s just supporting her until she gets the blame and is (undoubtedly) summarily replaced. Is the fact she’s a woman relevant? Nope, not in the slightest… she’s just gets on with the job. It doesn’t matter how bad or otherwise that ends up, history will recall that our second British Female PM was as hated/loved as the first one, and for vastly different reasons. In this case, sex is not the issue.

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If you’re high enough up the hierarchy, your gender is largely irrelevant. Discuss.

Now, reverse the roles:

If a man thinks another woman has the potential to render them obsolete, or gain more success than them, or eclipse their place in an established hierarchy, what should he do?

This is why #MeToo exists. This is why there has to be an International Woman’s Day, despite what people like me think to the contrary. When the situation is as such that the dominant force in any society has unrestricted power over others, that’s just wrong. Toxic masculinity subjugates others, using them for their own ends. If the majority of sexual alignments are man/woman, everybody who doesn’t fit that alignment suffers. If only one in three people profess mental health issues, that means 33% of the population is broken but it’s not necessarily the task for the other 66% to care…

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Definitions are everything. The labels we use matter far more than most people ever truly grasp. Being Different has never been so fraught with danger or potential risk. Everybody has their ways to self-care, and society keeps telling us how important the self is in order to succeed, to live or to heal… but what it increasingly fails to grasp is that all the signals are wrong. We tell our children to dream big, that money is the true measure of success, that fame equals reward. It so utterly isn’t the case.

If anyone thinks anybody else has the potential to render them obsolete, or gain more success than them, or eclipse their place in an established hierarchy, what should they do?

They need to understand that the greatest joy you will ever find comes with satisfaction that you are enough. Everything else is a lie. All the money in the world does not equate to happiness. Those ten rules the Bible and other sacred texts laid down to help the emergent strands of humanity cope with their situations were there for a reason. Human beings need guidance, because without that we really all are chaotic, destructive beings without focus or direction.

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The truth, enlightenment, your epiphany is different for every person. Until money can buy you eternal life, it is useless and pointless, and that’s probably the hardest thing I ever had to grasp as an adult. Everybody gets one go, that’s it. Born, live, die. You don’t remember either end, so why waste any of the middle…? The only true means of living after death is to be remembered in the deeds you did, the love you generated and the lives you changed.

Maybe the problem right now is that we’re all being distracted by petty arguments when what matters most is rediscovering our true humanity.

Saturday

Ah, at last…

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An issue with my sciatic nerve made yesterday a bit of a trial, but (as was predicted) I’ve woken up this morning to being largely pain free. This is the benefit of letting properly trained professionals look after your body, and trusting that they will, with time and effort, bring everything to a state of acceptable harmony. Pain’s a tough subject to broach with many, and the realisation that if you’re prepared to suffer it to help yourself be free from it long term… often, that’s the ask most people aren’t willing to even begin.

Not all pain is bad, you know.

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Well now you put it like that… but seriously, when it comes to the process of pushing yourself to greater gains, there is a point where physical discomfort is pretty much a given. To build muscle mass you quite literally rip your body’s muscle fibres apart allowing them to reconstruct themselves as stronger. In my case, by doing so, my poor left hand side (which has always been problematic) yesterday had a portion of nerve fibre caught in said tissue.

The process of this continuous reconstruction also relies on you not just working the major muscle groups in arms and legs: your core (all the muscles that surround your torso with their connecting areas to your limbs) need to be as strong as everything else: if they’re not, you’ll inevitably suffer issues, and that’s where I’m at right now. Arms and legs can do the business, but unless you work on core strength, a lot of the potential is simply lost.

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After decades of sedentary activity, there are inevitably going to be stones in the road. If I couldn’t cope with pain, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. It isn’t just muscle aches, or physiotherapy, but the real physical issues that having a reduced lung capacity initially caused on building stamina, and the mental pain when things simply get too hard to overcome. That’s the moment where you increase your tolerance for discomfort, and simply push on through.

Random bruises appear and are summarily ignored. Footwear is a priority, and if it doesn’t properly support the right parts of my foot it has become effectively useless. The journey from casual participant to hardcore gym goer was largely seamless, and it now means that as soon as this and my archive posts are done, it’s off for a 45 minute HIIT run. It will get really hard (and quite possibly painful) at about the 35 minute mark but it doesn’t matter. We’ll push through today, because the leg is up for it.

The key is knowing when good pain becomes bad.

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If that’s a discussion that confuses you, and you’re of the mindset that pain is just bad… we need to have a chat over a beer or seven. Yes, there is good pain, and pushing past both that and preconceptions of what you are capable of is the first step into a far larger universe.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some exercise to do.

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I’m borrowing equipment this weekend to start making videos. You’ll see if I’m capable soon enough. Once upon a time that would have meant using video game footage. Not now. It is the moment to step everything up a gear. I am ready for this.

A podcast could also be forthcoming. We will see.

The Next Chapter Bar

Twitter is broken right now. There is speculation that instead of fixing the real problem (dealing with hate speech and extremism) the platform’s simply going to allow people to hide the stuff they don’t want other people to see:

Having these changes roll out ‘live’ without testing means, of course, everything will be broken until they can work out how to fix them. That’s no way to run a company. Imagine if that happened in medicine, or on aircraft. Why is it acceptable with communication, exactly?

World’s going to Hell in a Status Update, I tell yah.

The Next Chapter Bar

I’m going to have to turn the radio off in a minute. Seriously, every day should be about celebrating diversity, EVERY FUCKING DAY. Everybody being enthusiastic about an outmoded and frankly pointless construct might be considered empowering or useful to some, but I find a lot of it, quite frankly, insulting. Yup, my day, the one where people HAVE TO THINK ABOUT MY GENDER when honestly, this should happen every fucking day. If I swore less about it the message might stick… who am I kidding.

Equality remains a lifetime away when the world values material wealth above human life. Fix that, and we might get somewhere. Don’t hold your breath, mind.

For those of us who just want to get on improving the World regardless, welcome to Friday.

The Next Chapter Bar

This is a deal. However, the Blaze class isn’t really the set of stats we should be looking at, on reflection…

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This was the warm-up: more calories, less heart-rate, crucially the means by which I had enough energy to do Blaze. The grey bit at the end is when I stopped, and then hung around for the next class, but if I was going to min/max this experience that would simply be taken off, then put back on again. Instead, we will embrace the grey. Make numbers work for you, not the other way around.

I have a long letter to write at some point over the weekend, about how Blaze’s effectiveness could be improved, and that how the MyZone belt is being sorely underused. I have no idea if anybody will listen, but it’s worth a try. It’ll make me feel better writing it for one thing, which ought to at least be the point of the exercise.

Many things are about to change for the better.

Airbag

At the end of each week, I have a widget thingummy that gets fired up, which lets the obsessive in me know who’d jumped the Twitter ship in the last seven days. This is important to me for several reason, mostly because this isn’t about maintaining a healthy follower count. I am ready to interact with every single person followed: the reality, of course, is that most people don’t want that. They’re here for other, nebulously uncategorisable ends. For me however, interacting with people is what this is all about.

Social media, remember?

Once upon a time the people who’d left would be paid scant attention, unless of course we’d interacted and then suddenly, without warning, that person simply left, normally with me still following them. This is bad form. You want to keep me as a follower, but not listen to me talk. Mute is no longer enough for you, it is time to remove me from your sphere, but without having to sacrifice that vital +1 I provide. That’s why people who do this now (and it’s obvious as to why as it was today) are instantly blocked, because two can play at that game.

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It’s also increasingly apparent who is just using their Twitter for self promotion, that when you speak to them you are met with inevitable silence. The more you interact with real, honest individuals via the platform, the more obvious it becomes who really is listening, and that’s absolutely crucial going forward. There are changes already making waves in my timeline, curation and management approaches that will blow wide apart how it is that some exploit this medium whilst others attempt to nurture it.

The man behind the curtain might be fooling some of the people, but crucially not all of them, and the more that is opened to critical appraisal, the less likely it will be that you’ll be able to get away with anything for too long. I’ve counted three authors this week who have highlighted that other people are more than willing to duplicate their work without permission. This is neither big nor clever, and yet it keeps happening. I’ve had my work scraped at least once in current memory. Eventually, people will start calling you out.

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Eventually, the real people are very easy to spot, and those who only turn up to further their own ends… well, they become even more apparent. With over 200k’s worth of tweets, I’m absolutely here for the long haul. It won’t be long until someone starts dragging up stuff from years ago to prove what a twat I can be and guess what? I am sometimes, just like everybody else. However, if you are going to treat me just as a follower and not a friend? Yeah, you can expect short shrift when you decide to fuck it up.

Sometimes, you don’t just walk away.

Rise

A six week counselling window has increased to ten. It will probably increase further. That means I gotta stop hoping somebody else is gonna throw me a line and get started on addressing the issues. Being a functioning adult (most of the time) has its disadvantages, who knew? Stick the latest Prodigy album on loud: let’s see if we can’t set the world to rights…

When you’ve decided that your ‘job’ is to comment on other people’s output, or to make sense of the mass of entertainment on offer to consume, there will be moments when you don’t like what you’re given. How you then present that criticism is as important as the fact you’re able to do so in the first place. It is surprisingly easy to sound entitled and whiny one moment yet be the voice of reason the next. What defines that state of affairs isn’t just the content you pick to examine, but the mindset taken into that process.

However, more crucially, it is the material itself which is the foundation of the problem. The X men remake above, for that is what it is, is based on source material that remains inherently flawed. Yeah, the X Men concept is sound, but the building blocks used to construct it are not nearly as strong as perhaps some people might like to cling onto. If you keep recycling the same stories and they’re never really great, who’s to blame? If you keep telling audiences the same things, over and over, but that basic storytelling fails to engage, is it any wonder they aren’t interested?

More and more, I feel critics are asking the wrong questions of movies. It certainly seems to be that if your rabid female-hating patriarchy can negatively top-load the reviews for a movie that’s not even out yet (see: Captain Marvel) then anybody can condemn a concept on a trailer with the belief that well this is gonna be shit, obviously. It took poor Peter Parker a VERY long time to become an acceptably narrated superhero after all, and why was that, exactly? We had to have the origin story every time the reboot happened. When you rebooted and very intentionally diversified the origin story, that film won an Oscar. Well, look at that.

Was live action Peter’s shortcoming because nobody knew how to handle him but Marvel? Well, looking at the X Men, and the discomfort now being generated by this Dark Phoenix trailer, giving the material to a certain production company is no guarantee that it will ever actually become better. Mr Parker’s redemption doesn’t come from Tony Stark providing his suit either, it undoubtedly is embedded in the idea that origin stories, after a while, don’t need to be endlessly repeated. Stop treating your audience like idiots, and something amazing happens.

What critics and filmmakers continue to do is assume that the same questions always need to be asked, when more and more that is not the case. All those people who hate The Greatest Showman because it’s not very good fail to grasp the emotional, visceral reaction that the narrative has in its fan-base. The comic book geeks who keep lamenting that nobody can do their version of events justice continually fail to grasp that if you keep comparing other people’s output with the pictures in your head, nothing EVER looks as good.

Subjective opinions are everybody’s basic failing. Objectivity should always win the day, and it’s why when I see someone who’s shown a flair for just presenting facts get all ‘oh well this is crap’ in my feed that a small part of my heart dies. You’re asking the wrong questions, you’re simply reacting to capitalise on likes and retweets, whatever happened to thinking before you speak? Some stories should only ever have been told once, but Hollywood (quite rightly) assumes that if it made money once, it will again, or why else would we have umpty-two bazillion Star Wars things all happening at once?

Why is my life full of misfit superheroes all of a sudden? Oh yeah, because this is a bandwagon that everybody can ride. Why can’t you like them all and be grateful that suddenly, there’s stuff that has some self-depreciation and self-awareness? Sorry, you gotta choose a side and Marvel has to beat DC because everything is a contest. Newsflash, geek and nerds, this isn’t sportsball. You don’t need to take this massive artistic freedom on the table and stick it in old fashioned pigeonholes.

Honestly, you can let people enjoy stuff, even if you don’t. If you wanna be critical, how about you do it sensibly, objectively and without all the fucking hand-wringing and condescension that seems to inhabit far too much ‘criticism’ of late. People will respect you more for that, trust me. Everybody has an arsehole point of view, but the smart people know the best means to demonstrate this is not with the drive by condemnation. It’s a bad habit that a lot of us really need to start breaking.

Yes, that includes me too.

The World is Not Enough

The news today is full of BritBox: the collaboration between BBC and ITV which will undoubtedly see a ton of shows quietly withdrawn via other streaming platforms as the memo is read that TV’s future no longer lives in that box in the corner of your living room. Sure it’s the TV with Victoria’s face on it that dominates their splash screen currently, but acknowledging that phones, PC’s and tablets even exist as entertainment delivery devices is a massive, humongous step forward for terrestrial TV.

The world is changing too fast for these companies to ignore: if the customer surveys I increasingly get sent by Sky TV are any indicator, they absolutely see Amazon and Netflix as the only competition going forward. It’s not just TV either: behold the advert for a new team kit and ‘brand’ from, of all people, a county cricket team most people won’t even rate as decent. In fact, they got relegated to Division 2 of the County Championship last year, which presumably prompted this fairly radical change. Bricks as wickets, indeed.

Advertising is changing too. Once upon a time this would have been a poster or an advert in a newspaper, but nobody does that any more. It has to exist on a phone, in your hand on a train, and that means digital media. The choice of location for the ad is, I assume, Oxford, and could very well have been made using an iPhone: there is no need to employ sophisticated video editing like the Durham boys did. Anybody can be a star, and lots of people are. This is the future, where all that is needed to jump on a bandwagon is software and imagination.

It’s an amazing time for somebody like me, whose only restriction is the time available to make things come alive. It gives considerable pause for thought too: what might be possible on these platforms, what could be achieved with only the minimum amount of outlay. Undoubtedly the future is image as well as words, so how do you make the optimum use of both and still find the means to make a living…

Watch this Space…