Seeing Things

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t like doing things by halves. Most definitely, I am an all or nothing girl. I totally grasp the notion of devotion too: the number of times I’ve fallen in love with people/ideas/inanimate objects and never had it reciprocated? Too many to count. When you play fast and loose with emotional favours, after a while you begin to grasp this sort of odd objectivity at how the process works. Allowing yourself to totally embrace someone or something is great, as long as you can see the entire thing being presented. In the case of rock star devotion (as a decent example) it is very easy just to be seduced by the onstage presence of your idol and not understand anything about the person behind the ‘image.’ If that person’s a total twat in reality? It is probably wise you don’t know a lot of the other stuff, but being blinded by almost total devotion to the person won’t ever end well.

Undoubtedly you’ll end up with your heart broken.

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I’m writing a set of essays for the fiction site, and as I try and get the first one completed, the subject of the inaugural letter keeps taunting me, not unlike his GIF above. You see, my idea of ‘devotion’ has altered quite a lot since my teens, and I can’t help but think that I’ve done myself a massive disservice in the last few years in how I subconsciously ‘attach’ myself to the idea of certain people’s personas. Having written two pieces of fiction with Bond at their centre, I’ve now come to the conclusion I fell in love with the character first. It has been the ability of the leading actors to maintain that attraction over the years that matters far more than the individuals themselves, and that revelation came as something of a surprise. I understand now that the visuals presented and the character portrayed are very different constructs, when it comes to forming the notion of devotion with both. Daniel Craig’s the first Bond I’ve actually considered as an actor BEFORE the character, and I think it is a measure to his ability and application to profession that there’s a redefinition in my mind of how this entire process works.

That’s no mean feat, and grants considerable kudos in my mind to the man himself.

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When you start subconsciously associating actors with roles, it does the individual a massive disservice, it occurs to me. That means that however varied and brilliant a career that person has, all anyone ever remembers on their passing is the most popular role. Even if this is at odds with what they really were away from the cameras, that becomes their epitaph. ‘They were probably best known as X in the production of Y’ might be great for your five minutes of fame in the blip of Human existence, but in the end living the life they had well should probably matter more, plus not just what happened in front of the camera. Here’s where things get really interesting from a writing point of view, that so many of the familiar faces and names of the last 100 years weren’t paragons of virtue, bore little or no resemblance to the characters that they became synonymous with. Yet still people don’t see past the image in their own minds. These people remain heroes, despite that being a long way from the truth.

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Then you get wildcards: the ex-addicts, reformed alcoholics and those who struggle with mental illness. Everybody loves a second chance, can use the lessons of their own lives and apply them to heroes they see on screen. The actress who yo-yos between fat and thin. The Woman who divorces her husband with grace, or strings him by the balls for being unfaithful. Magazines are full of gossip and salacious titbits from the rich and famous to allow us as mere mortal a chance to compare and contrast. All of this devotion to other’s fallibility teaches us the merit of thought and application in our own lives. Forgiveness matters too, yet few people grasp the significance of the emotion. How long is appropriate penance for the lover scorned? If you fall off the wagon, was it simply inevitable? If you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur does the birth of a daughter really alter your entire world view?

Sometimes, questions will never be answered when your heroes need to remain just that.

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The one thing I’ve learnt, and that is consistently apparent in whatever sphere I happen to be hanging in at any given point? People have very short memories. If something’s hugely popular, you’ll be back on the bandwagon whilst conveniently forgetting the reason why you jumped off. That’s fine, and as long as you’re lining the pockets of the people making the product, they don’t care either, whether that be movies, TV or gaming. Except eventually comes a realisation that if you want to make product with the widest possible scope and remit, you can’t have narrow minded, sexist and diversity-unfriendly heroes as your spokespeople. The way forward is with those who are prepared to embrace the fact they’re not actually the heroes either, that this is just a part being played and a job to be done. What you need isn’t personalities, but an ethos, and if you cannot change with the times? You’re in trouble. I suspect that’s why there won’t be a Bond 25 announcement this year because Eon Productions realise just how important Daniel Craig has become to the franchise’s evolution. Without a clear successor on the table either, maybe there’s more than just a male lead character to worry about going forward.

Devotion sometimes is the last thing you need to inspire in your fan base.

The Test

I had a lovely day out yesterday, in which a lot of truths were revealed about my progress in the last year. It seems largely appropriate therefore to list these for future reference.

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The biggest single obstacle to Progress is yourself.

If you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. I had a cracking argument about this on social media a while back, with someone who stated because they were too tall for something, I was just talking bollocks. Sometimes, you can’t argue with individual logic. Their way is the only path, like it or not. That is, undoubtedly, because the person has decided that there is no other way but this. There are those I know like this who can get away with it too, because their reasoning undoubtedly is a damn sight more sound than mine has ever been. For me, however, I’d been talking bollocks for decades and enough was enough. This was my biggest single problem, up until about (almost) a year ago when I scared myself shitless riding a bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. Suddenly, the World concertinaed out in front of me and I realised there was a choice: pretend for the rest of my life I couldn’t, or actually shut the fuck up and scare myself into progress, before I lost the chance. Most people don’t worry about shit like this, they’re out there doing it.

Now, I am one of them.

Yesterday I felt useful. I could contribute to a relationship, and be helpful. I wasn’t a mother, but a friend, and the moment mattered in a way that I don’t remember happening for many years. In fact, if I’m honest, this is the first time that, in the Real World, I think I’ve grasped everything that has to happen at once. Normally I’d panic about one thing or another but yesterday, I just was.

That’s a big step forwards.



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If it Hurts, don’t Stop.

Pain is normally an indicator it is time to stop. It’s your body’s very wise way of making you think twice and not do more damage. Except sometimes, your body lies, and with an overactive imagination? The World is going to end. A great deal of my physical progress recently has hinged on knowing that when it hurts, sometimes, you don’t stop. That’s the moment to go and dig deep, and move past the panic. Mostly, as an asthmatic, it is now grasping what’s an attack and what’s strengthening my lungs. That’s why yesterday I came out of the station, looked at the hill I’d normally slowly work my way up and thought ‘fuck it.’ Then I put on this piece of music, and I almost ran.

As I passed people struggling upwards, I pushed faster, and when I hit the top I didn’t slow down, but kept going. Before I’d only test myself in the Gym but now, I’m confident enough to extend the remit. Given the choice I’d far rather be outside anyway, and as the weather deteriorates I will do my utmost to keep walking to and from the Gym, to make the miles count on pavements and not treadmills. The mental clarity this process is affording is not to be overlooked either. I’m in a different place than I was, and I love the focus this process is affording. Now it’s becoming less about knowing what to write, but more around finding the time to do so.

I can live with that.


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Just Be Happy.

There have been, in the last couple of months, a lot of things that have vexed me. Many of these are completely beyond my control, but those that are not are being addressed. I no longer just sit by and let shit happen without consequence. I am confident fighting my own battles in a way I cannot ever remember being before, and as it happens, I think I’m quite good at it. No, it’s not perfect and yes, there is definitely room for improvement, but that comes from the continual process of refining and reassessing how I deal with the World, and sometimes asking politely it do the same for me. I’m not looking for validation nearly as much either, I just turn up and get on with shit. Giving things the finger has definitely, positively, absolutely helped with this progression.

Happy now is not needing the cake until such time as I can eat it without doing damage. It’s looking at work I wrote a year ago and knowing it’s good. It is understanding my judgement on things is never going to be 100% accurate but frankly, I don’t care is I’m still able to maintain a level of objectivity and comfort. Most of all it is sitting here, sharing this with the World, and being confident that is the right thing to do, because this has the potential to help someone else. I can’t tell you what’s wrong with your life, but I can use my life as an example of how things have changed, and will keep doing so for the foreseeable future. If you really want a different life? It could be possible, even in the dark place you currently inhabit.

The only person with the answers, ultimately, is you.

Games without Frontiers

I made the effort this morning to walk to town. I’ll grant you, there may have been some Pokemon-related activities on the way, but the main reason why I went was to get a haircut. The last time anybody did anything to my hair was eighteen months ago. That’s probably going to send shock waves of terror into the hearts and minds of some of my readers, but I’ll be honest. I’m not bothered. The last time I wore makeup was probably in my early 30’s, but I never did the job well in my teens and just stopped. Many people have tried to politely suggest that it would be an idea to make me feel more comfortable and confident, but I just don’t see the point. I had thought that maybe I’d need to do this for my daughter’s benefit but she, in no uncertain terms, has no desire to wear it either.

If I were in a high profile job I might think differently, but as I’m not?

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I expect my best friend to read this post and make some comment on it when I see her tomorrow, as I’m off into London to pay her a visit. I totally and utterly ‘get’ why the rest of the world does this, why so much money gets thrown at the cosmetic industry. It just never, ever factored in what I’d wear, or how I’d act. I never relied on it or used it to cover flaws. Somewhere along the way I dispensed with the need for it. I’m not sure as I grow older I even want to hide what I am any more, or pretend I’m younger than I am by slapping some concealer on and pretending this is the right thing to do. What matters more than anything else is the health from within, confidence I can gain from other things and in different ways.

My hair needs a trim. I’m getting it coloured because it seems like a good idea. However, that’s where it ends. I think maybe I’m a failure in the beauty thing, but I really have better things to do with both money and time. I lift heavy shit now and write words.

Yup, that works just fine for me.

White Punks on Dope

I was having a chat with someone about this Amazon advert yesterday on Twitter, and a cursory look on Google reveals that it has upset quite a few people, including my husband. His argument was quite simple: if this had been a woman, with a guy wanting to buy a meat thermometer, this 30 seconds of film would probably never have made it to air. Somehow making this a bloke allows this to be socially acceptable? That’s not true either, as that article by Ragen Chastain points out. Using shortcomings as humour might have been how silent films made the world laugh a century ago, but a lot has changed. Certain forms of humour have always been a dangerous game, especially now as social media allows the visually viral to sweep around the planet in days.

Then I went to my own reaction to this, when I first saw it in the Gym, to understand where I now exist in Western society when it comes to humour. Yes, it made me laugh the first time I saw it, but it wasn’t in surprise that this happened, but in shock. It’s that moment when you’re in a conversation with somebody else and you realise they have no idea that their joke just offended you, or their attitude is making you feel uncomfortable. It is the sad truth that sometimes, trying to be funny just makes things worse, and not better. No more so is this true with jokes that attack weight, disability and sexuality, although many people will tell you they really don’t care whether your routine is in good taste or not, it is if you laugh or not that matters. I think the best humour make you think, or can be told without the need to use the physical at all.

Eddie Izzard is a brilliant comedian for many reasons, but that sequence isn’t funny because of the humour, I’m laughing mostly in embarrassment at the way my country used to turn up and appropriate territory without a thought for hundreds of years. He was front and centre last week on Question Time when told to ‘shut up’ over his argument with Nigel Farage. There’s another blog post in that subject too, and that again focuses on the power of imagery to make a point (and often to be altered in able to do so.) But I digress: Izzard’s done stand up in three languages, and I listened to him explain how this works: you have to remove the specifics from your comedy. You can’t make a joke about Curly Wurly’s in Germany, because they won’t know what that is, you need to use the phrase ‘chocolate bar’ and base your humour around that. That’s what using the fat bloke does, it allows this humour to be ‘relevant’ across Europe for Amazon. Except as time goes on, that’s not good enough.

We need better metaphors than laughing at each other’s failings to sell shit.

We need people like Dove. Oh, and Always:

It is incredible to think that the same company who can take the piss out of a lone guy having the balls to do yoga in a class full of women also made this:

Times are changing. One can only hope advertisers keep getting the memos about how it’s not about the stupid any more, but the truth. You can’t lie any more to people, not with the way the World now operates, because in the end they’ll see right through you. The irony is, of course, however good you think you are, there’s always room for improvement, and no more is that true than when you talk to someone else.

Silence is Easy

When it became apparent in the week that Twitter wasn’t doing an about face on algorithmic timelines, another news story popped up that’s probably more significant in the long run than the order you read your news in. The Independent reports that ‘tailored filtering’ is already a reality for a number of Verified users: that is, the ability to ‘turn off’ tweets that aren’t relevant to the user, and effectively silence the noise that the platform generates. By noise, of course, I mean the trolls and the haters and the pornbots and the random crap that is produced by a small but significant number of users. This development comes as a result of a much publicised memo leaked from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo where he admits ‘we suck at dealing with abuse and trolls.’ Anybody who deals with the platform on a daily basis can attest and agree with the sentiment: however, is this really the way forward?

Is the means to deal with abuse simply to pretend it doesn’t exist?

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I’d like to bring Lindy West to the stand, as a witness in the defence for actually confronting abuse and not simply blanking it out. Lindy has a lot of experience of the brutal, cruel side of internet ‘life’ and how anonymity is pretty much always a curse and never a blessing:

Being harassed on the internet is such a normal, common part of my life that I’m always surprised when other people find it surprising. You’re telling me you don’t have hundreds of men popping into your cubicle in the accounting department of your mid-sized, regional dry-goods distributor to inform you that – hmm – you’re too fat to rape, but perhaps they’ll saw you up with an electric knife? No? Just me? People who don’t spend much time on the internet are invariably shocked to discover the barbarism – the eager abandonment of the social contract – that so many of us face simply for doing our jobs.

You really need to take time to digest this article on how West confronted a particular troll who decided to take on the identity of her deceased father in order to abuse her, and how she decided to deal with the consequences. If this story were the exception, then I’d not have an issue with simply cutting the noise completely, but it is anything but. I’m well aware of the people on my feed who suffer all manner of abuse, from casual posts on their blogs to full on psychopathic stalkers. The problem, of course, is that there is no consequence for these obsessives, and as long as police/law enforcement isn’t going to take the vast majority of these issues seriously because there’s not enough evidence to build a reliable case? It’s open season for the Troll population.

Twitter’s solution is, in effect, a fucking huge spam filter. It just takes the noise away, making no effort to solve the problem at source. However, the company could reasonably argue (with some measure of success) that, as a communications medium, that’s not their job anyway. All they do is give you a platform, after all, how you choose to use it isn’t their issue… until you get high profile cases where Twitter is clearly used as a weapon. Take the case of John Nimmo and Isabella Sorley, who threatened journalist Caroline Criado-Perez and were bought to court. I picked the Mail headline for a reason: the two perpetrators are described as ‘a binge-drinking college graduate’ and  ‘a jobless recluse living on benefits’ as if this somehow justifies their actions (which it absolutely doesn’t.) The thing is, perfectly normal people can be and are abusers. Just because you can turn their ‘low-quality’ tweets off doesn’t make them go away, nor does it provide any means to trace them or action them if their abuse is long-term. This is Twitter dodging a bullet that has real potential to kill many people, and only when that happens is there likely to be change. By then, however, it will be too late.

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The biggest single issue, it seems to me, for anyone under attack from an abuser is the accumulation of prosecutable evidence. Unless you can build a workable case, there’s nothing to be done, and that’s before you then have to come up with the legal muscle to prosecute… and all that costs money that many people simply won’t have. It is a sad and depressing incitement of modern life that the default for most people does become ‘well, just ignore it and hopefully they’ll go away’ which is so wrong on so many levels it beggars belief. For anyone vulnerable, and I’m looking at kids and adults alike here, by the time you realise what’s been happening with online abuse, it can often be too late. Sticking your hands over ears and just pretending that nothing’s happening might work for some things, but it won’t for others. This isn’t an answer, it is a dangerous development where Twitter practices a blanket censorship of material under the belief that all of this material is basically harmless. That might work for 95% of cases, but the 5% it doesn’t?

Pretending a problem does not exist is not the way to solve it.

The Way You make Me Feel

Yesterday, I ended up having a conversation with someone where it became obvious that two people I could see and communicate with freely weren’t affording each other the same pleasure. Twitter doesn’t tell you who’s blocking who (probably with good reason) but after a while you get to know the people who are problematic. See, I could have called you difficult or prickly, but as those are both adjectives that get thrown at me from time to time? That expression that states ‘it takes one to know one’ is particularly apposite in situations like this. It’s that moment when I see a media star in a pose with a fan, or on a red carpet they really don’t want to be on. Their eyes give away the real truth, they’re as bored as fuck and just want a drink in their hand.

Twitter does that too, but you have to pay attention to pick it up.

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Possibly my favourite .GIF ever FOR MANY REASONS

For a lot of you, the process is transparent. You won’t even realise its happening over time, but if you spend enough hours reading people’s text, you begin to pick up the sense of the individual writing. It is akin to your favourite author’s ‘style’, a way of using your words in a particular order. Just as some people take their cues from the visual, mine come from the minutiae of the words. What is often forgotten by many of you is when you’re talking to someone else in my feed and I’m not CC-d in with my name. By virtue of following you both I’ll get those conversations, often if I want them or not. That’s when, more often than not, I’ll see the real truths behind the username. Because you may well treat me a certain way to keep me involved, but when you think I’m not looking? BOOM, off you go on your sexist rants or opening your mouth without thinking.

However, the bigger problem for me right now is people using their feeds as impromptu soapboxes. You get a bee in your bonnet about X: could be your soon to be ex-spouse, could be the traffic downtown, or maybe the fact that work colleagues treat you like dirt. Because this is your feed you can quite happily go on and on and on and on about this for as long as you like but, in the end, you’re going to imbalance your personal signal to noise ratio. For me, if all I’m hearing is you grumpy, angry or whiny? After a while I’ll just turn down the volume. If it persists, I’ll simply just let you go. Don’t expect me to pass judgement on your life either, because ultimately it is not my job to tell you how to live. I unfollowed someone recently and they tweeted me asking what they’d done wrong. The answer was simple: nothing at all. If they wanted to talk to me we didn’t need to follow each other, the fact was they didn’t do that at all. In this case I sensed I was there simply as a number, part of a ‘fanbase’ of people who would listen, comfort and reassure this person but ultimately have nothing to show for the relationship. Because for some people, you just need to have them there. They’re a badge of honour, someone everyone else is talking to and somehow you need to ‘collect’ to make your social media feed complete.

I’m not a badge of honour or a personality. I’m a person. With feelings.

So, I stand with body in many places simultaneously, on any given day. Those people I overlap have their reasons for interacting, and often they actively diverge from my own. That’s no biggie, I can talk to most, but after a while you just know who to avoid. Often, it isn’t because they offend you either. Many of my blockees actually don’t bother me that much, but that status is imposed because I upset them. I shoved them out of comfort zones, I poured scorn on their perfectly organised worlds, and it became that I was the difficult and prickly person they wanted to avoid. I’d like to think that in at least one case my complete refusal to budge on a point of principle was enough to make a certain person have the mother of all hissy fits and strop off into the sunset. No, it isn’t about right sometimes, it’s more to do with because. If you choose to live you life on principles you truly believe matter, then occasionally you should be standing and falling by those ideals, however mundane the situation.

Sometimes, you just know that you can’t hide the boredom. Those are the days you should not go out, not talk, and certainly not get involved in a fight on social media.

The Next Day

So, I woke up this morning and walked into the kitchen, and everything just feels different. It is odd, looking back on the last 24 hours, on just how amazing a day it was, not just for the bad feelings. I learnt an awful lot about how my online ‘friends’ dealt with grief, because most of them are not my age or indeed as immersed in music as I am. There was the inevitable ‘how can you grieve the loss of a stranger’ crap from certain quarters but that’s going to be inevitable from anyone without a soul who doesn’t grasp the significance Dave Bowie had on an entire generation of souls who never fitted in to begin with. For those of us who lived and breathed his work? This is gonna be a tough couple of weeks, but there’s a path to follow.

Mostly, a lot of people will be living in the past without any real desire to leave.

Losing someone you care about inevitably brings up memories that you shared, even if the person you’re grieving never actually met you. That’s why people end up as affected as they clearly are over Bowie’s passing: he touched millions upon millions of people’s lives with his music, his art, just by being a metaphor for rebellion. As a result many people will remember the first time they heard Album X or Song Y because it associates with a crucial part of their own evolutionary process. As a result, you become indivisible not simply from the man, but the music too. As friends to sad sacks grievers like me the trick is to listen to the stories and then nudge me past it. Because you don’t live in the past any more, it is dead and gone and to survive and flourish? You need to move forward.

To do that, it’s probably time to distract myself more than usual.

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I made this. Well, mostly.

I am reminded of Bond this morning; the modern incarnation’s life is wrapped quite significantly around death, and returns to original canon with the loss of his parents as a child as an indicator of 007’s modus operandi. Because bereavement is such a significant and unavoidable part of existence’s due process, it is amazing to think how so many people aren’t really prepared to deal with mortality better, but part of the point of living is not to concern yourself with anything but that process itself. One of Bowie’s undeniable strengths, right up until the moment he passed away, was understanding what he was, how everything worked around him, and that to be a great artist all you ever needed to do was embrace yourself, both good and bad. There were mutterings yesterday, disapproving noises from those who would argue that a habitual drug taker and bisexual performer will never be a role model. Yeah, we all got that, and we weren’t in love with him because we knew that was right. This man represented all the glorious that was possible when you were bad and wrong sometimes: even he, in the end, could not cheat death. He lived enough for a thousand lifetimes though, and what this just goes to prove is that if you want to taste the real highs, sometimes you have to sink very low to find the true path to redemption.

In that regard, the number of lives he touched is amazing and significant, and should never be underestimated as a result.

Mostly, today I get my house back in order, both physically and metaphorically. Once that’s done I’m going to try my hand at at least one new thing, and make sure that my step count stays as high as it has been to maintain the health momentum for the month. After that? Who knows. We’ll see how things pan out. Things aren’t worse today than they were yesterday, far from it, and the future’s different, interesting without a true innovator within it. Let’s see if anyone is man/woman enough to step up and fill the breach, though I guarantee they won’t ever be an exact fit. It might sound like hyperbole, but to say we’ll never see the like of Bowie again? Perfectly acceptable. They don’t make performers like him any more, because the world in which he was fashioned is dead and gone.

In the future, the challenge is different, and undeniably exciting to anticipate.