Under the Sea

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Last night was the bottom of the hole. Now, it is a case of how long before body and brain decide to co-operate and mount an escape attempt. Brian, it must be said, is at least understanding the brief. However, I forgot how to do change at the Supermarket today and heard the woman next to me muttering under their breath ‘seriously could you be MORE stupid in holding up this queue?’ and so I did what any sensible person would do and burst into tears. As the eyes of the entire Supermarket checkouts were upon me I wiped a snotty nose on my sleeve, turned to the shitty person and told her that the next time someone’s struggling in her orbit, maybe she could stop being angry and find some sympathy.

Small victories, people. One idiot at a time.

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I’m also beginning to suspect that hormones are fucking about with my body. I’ve gone from sweating buckets to freezing cold today, and there are no flu symptoms at play. It would make a lot of sense as to how mind is working too. Either way, a public display of embarrassment did the trick: I still have fight in me.

This is better than it was.

Train in the Distance

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I’m tired today, despite having slept better than has happened for weeks. The level of mental fatigue will not be assuaged by sleep. I have to hold myself back from shouting at people’s willful ignorance, arrogance and general inertia. I’m struggling to cope with the simple stuff, all of a sudden, and I know it is because there’s just too much sensory input right now. I stopped reading social media about teatime yesterday, and catching up this morning I marvel at how rich people deal with trauma. Yeah, I’d love to ignore Twitter for a day, but without it, I don’t make money.

Today is one of those moments when I wonder if chasing dreams is simply disappointment.

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Strength, I have come to understand, is built in many ways by individuals. Sometimes it is forced upon you by circumstance, whilst other forms are simply there without understanding why. Compartmentalising life is all well and good until a point is reached where the depth of sensory overload renders action effectively useless. The part of me that understands the inevitability of certain parts of life is where the failure is occurring: I can’t make people like me, I can’t stop people dying, I can’t beat inertia and force others to act against the glaring injustice they decide simply to ignore and mute ‘for sanity’s sake.’

Today, I made time to meditate. My Mindfulness course suggests that a way to deal with an excess of thoughts is to distance yourself from them: they’re trains passing through a station, or scenes on a film screen. It’s a useful exercise, and today’s session has allowed an ability to at least sort my issues into better-defined spaces. Dealing with them all is not impossible, just takes thought that let’s be honest, I don’t have at the end of a busy week. The key here is knowing your limits. For me, that’s easily defined. I’m already at the end of the pier and have run out of land to run on.

Time to stop and not overload myself anymore.

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I can still think and exist in this state, make choices and improve the world around me. What has to happen now is what I personally do to deal with this situation. I’ve done both therapy and counselling, and the point comes where expecting somebody else to deal with the issues might be the attractive choice, but it is not the right one. I possess all the tools required to fix myself and have for some time, and now is the moment when I have to look past the fatigue and anger and do just that. The time for eating cake and pretending life doesn’t exist is passed, at least for me.

If I want to move forward, there has to be pain.

I’d love to take a day and complain at social media’s ineptitude, but until the people with money and influence (that’s you, particular subset of successful men and women) stop wanking into/with your piles of cash and start acting? Not happening. For the rest of us, out here in the fields, there is no opportunity to boycott, just the understanding that if we ever make it to your level of wealth we SURE AS FUCK are not making the same fucking stupid mistakes you do. Yes, I’m angry, but I know now how to use that emotion not to self-destruct but to drive me onwards and keep me sane.

Time to think more about exactly WHY all this shit happens in the first place and then get it changed.

Only Myself to Blame

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My daughter this morning was lamenting the fact that in Roblox, a game she used to love when younger, the ability to play as a guest has now been removed. Apparently, it was fun to ‘roast’ guests, who often had no clue of the way certain games worked.  I told her that this was probably the reason why the ability has been removed: is it really the right thing to do when someone is new to the game to give them a hard time? Shouldn’t you be helping them out and not abusing them? 

I read yesterday an article discussing a forum post that Jeff Kaplan wrote last week, lamenting what a tough crowd the Overwatch fanbase is to deal with. The gaming community has always been a particularly brutal audience, especially when it comes to changes to popular characters. Here’s a man who admits that the attitude of this group of players is having a direct effect on him and his team. It’s a fairly shocking revelation because for years the Warcraft community pretty much destroyed their developers without anyone batting an eyelid.

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Except last year an individual was convicted of sending death threats to Blizzard. The line between threat and joke has now blurred to a point where everything has to be potentially considered as dangerous. There needs to be the means of ensuring that gaming remains a safe place to play, but at the same time, there’s an increase in the competitive elements. Overwatch is about to launch its own worldwide league. Pretending to kill people for fun is about to become big business.

Game companies will tell you, time and again, that their output is purely entertainment and there is no direct link between video game violence and its real-life counterpart. It doesn’t matter that we allow our children to roast their ‘anonymous’ friends and do the same ourselves on Social media under made up names. Increasing social freedom is giving people free reign to simply say what they wish, often without any recourse because unless there’s a credible threat, it won’t ever be an issue. I keep being told not to try and understand why a wealthy, seemingly stable man massacred nearly 60 people, but keep coming back to the same conclusion.

Society doesn’t condemn this kind of behaviour anymore. We just accept it as normal.

Anybody can be a killer, or an abuser, and yet with each passing day, we allow and often encourage people to do the same. Instead of asking everybody to look within themselves and to alter their behaviour, there is an automatic assumption there are just ‘bad guys’ and that if we eliminate them, everything will be okay. Don’t let people be guests, and suddenly the problem’s dealt with is probably a simplistic solution: it would be better to be like Kaplan and explain why you’re hurting the game to begin with. The problem comes when your killer has no criminal record, lived an exemplary life and showed no potential to be a psychopath. Sometimes, however hard you try, there’s no way to avoid a disaster.

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The real truth is that thousands of people are dying every minute, around the world, of things we could easily prevent: malnutrition, via conflict, through systematic torture and subjugation. These stories never make the news because, yet again, we have become immune to our own inhumanity. In this respect, everybody has blame to share, especially those of us who publicly decide to ignore one side of a story to highlight the facet of most significance to ourselves. In that regard, news organisations, multinational corporations and governments are far more culpable than individuals, but perhaps if we stopped teaching our kids to shoot each other at an early age, there might be a change.

I wonder if it is truly possible to stop people wanting to hurt each other to begin with.

The Winner Takes it All

Apathy is the single biggest problem on the Internet. 

It isn’t trolls, toxicity, or the corporate giants who decide they’re going to algorithm us all to extinction. We, the vast majority of ‘normal’ users, are the ones with the potential to ruin it for everybody, and we do. Most of the time you won’t even realise this is happening either, until someone turns up on your feed suggesting a course of action you disagree with. If you’ve already got a beef with their actions, that’s pretty much a guarantee that something is going to kick off.

Life is hard in the affluent Western World right now. There’s an almost daily assault of terror incidents, natural disasters and threats to national security. My country’s trying (and largely failing) to successfuly leave a fourty year relationship. The American people are being governed (between rounds of golf) by a white supremacist (allegedly.) In all of this, people continue to pin their affinity and loyalty to a dizzying array of virtual saviours, or pray at the altar of corporate churches with the the belief their brand loyalty maintains a safe and trusted output, however much money that might cost.

It is no surprise therefore that compassion fatigue is becoming recognisable in larger sets of online communities with each passing day. The main upshot of all this trauma is individuals becoming less and less willing to consider a contrary set of beliefs to their own, being more likely to fly off the handle with the slightest provocation, and feeling that as long as they don’t name names or continue to hide behind a virtual persona, they can get away with being toxic because nobody cares enough to call them out.

So, what happens when a safe and trusted organisation does just that, shaming the nasty people for what others say they are? Overwatch is big news right now, and the level of ‘toxic’ game play is never out of my Twitter feed, reported third hand by person after person. So, when a company (that has never really been that keen on labelling anyone who pays for their games as anything other than a customer) takes the bull by the horns and starts calling out the bad people (and encourages players to do the same) what could possibly go wrong? Why would anyone complain about a company taking steps to eliminate the toxic element in a game that’s clearly full of just that?

Here’s where I stop one train of thought and ask you to pick up a second.

For as long as I can remember, there’s always been a jocks vs nerds fight happening somewhere in my earshot. Whether it is disdain for ‘sportsball’ or esports being a ‘joke,’ the two groups seem to have nothing in common, and continue to be pitted against each other whenever possible. The fact that so many sports fans play games is neither here nor there: they come to the table with a natural advantage, which is often overlooked. It is only by understanding the psychology of team games, the importance of playing as part of a whole, that individuals really begin to understand the need for co-operation and empathy.

The basement nerd, used to playing alone, has a hard time grasping the mechanics of team sports. She’s not been taught how to play well with others, and immediately becomes a disruptive, confrontational force. This has one of two results: people either attempt to help her understand how to play, or they reject her as a disruptive element. Then, it doesn’t matter whether what she says about others’ game play is right or not, whether she’s prepared to do as she’s told becomes irrelevant. You choose to play by the rules of the game, or you don’t. If the latter is your path, and there are rules in place that dictate these actions are against the spirit of this game?

Like it or not, you lose.

Overwatch’s decision to call out bad game play assumes that the majority of players just want to participate in a specific way. I wish them luck in making this stick, but when you are fighting ‘players’ who don’t understand what it means to be part of a team, or why that matters, you’re likely on a hiding to nothing. The internet is full of individuals who believe that their opinion, attitude and outlook are all that matters, that teams need them far more than the other way around. The concepts of loyalty, empathy and belonging are simple flimsy constructs for most; no real ‘friends’ just those who believe in a particular set of ideas, to a point, who refuse to allow reality to damage their persona. This is not just a white male preserve either, before you start giving me that look. I know countless women who perpetuate the shock/bitch persona. White men don’t get to die on that hill alone, oh no.

So what has apathy got to do with all this, the more astute of you will now be asking? This week came a powerful, personal revelation: sitting at a screen, being unwilling to name names when you see someone do something you don’t like because that just causes drama is slowly destroying everybody’s lives. It’s the lump on your arm that might be more than just a mole, but you’re unwilling to get it looked at and diagnosed in case the consequences end up as cancerous as you can’t handle the consequences to begin with. At some point, if you want to be a real human being, there has to be an acknowledgement of what matters most. I’ve realised I’ve had enough of reading social media where individuals aren’t prepared to call others out when there’s been something they disagree with. If you don’t have the balls to put conviction to a claim, then shut the fuck up.

If you won’t, don’t expect people to keep listening.

In effect, I have implemented my own response to toxicity. Watching somebody else complain at others but not rock the boat too much themselves, when multiplied up thousands of times, becomes apathy that destroys communities. If there is a genuine beef with someone, then go talk to them. If, after you talk to them, all that they’ll offer as explanation to your issue is glib platitudes and ‘well, I can hardly be expected to read my feed the whole time’ then it should be apparent your relationship is not as important as it appears was the case, and everybody should really move on. If you’re playing an online games where there are teams of people and you flatly refuse to play by the rules set down by the majority? Expect to get royally owned by those who do, even if you feel you are the one in the right.

If you really want to succeed in the future: be the team player who understands that the rules only work to a point. Play games as just that, and don’t live them as if they mattered more than life itself. Most importantly of all, when someone upsets you online, don’t say a fucking thing about it to anyone, deal with the problem internally or away from social media, and just move on. The real winners don’t need to prove they’re right, they know in their hearts that they’re doing the right thing, and everything else is irrelevant.

In a world where nerds have become their own enemies, the only way to win is not to play.

Who Are You?

You remember that post from the end of June when I said there was no chance of seeing a female Doctor Who in my lifetime?

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier about being wrong in my life. Waking up this morning, to the first day when Jodie Whittaker is Doctor Who is… well, part of me still doesn’t believe it. My Twitter feed yesterday summed a lot of it up quite well, but if I’m honest this tweet is the real reason I’m celebrating:

That’s been me since I pretended to be James Bond, because all the women in his world were simply afterthoughts. Then I discovered Emma Peel, and I’ve sought out my own female heroes ever since… but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still aspire to be the men. The ‘problem’ here is not the gender of the people involved. It really does not matter one iota whether these heroes are men or women. The bigger issue, by a long way, is their sexuality.  That’s what detonated all those bombs yesterday, will cause wailing and trauma for months to come. As Doctor Who becomes a woman, NOBODY should lose their minds. The problem with the individually focused, me-cultured Social media climate we live in is that lots of people can’t separate gender from desire.

I lost a fair number of followers yesterday on the back of my joyous ranting. I asked one of them why this appointment was so galling: she cited the trouble coping with the fact that the Doctor has a grand-daughter. How was it possible to reconcile this fact now the man is a woman? This is, of course, using established conventions that you need one of each sex to reproduce and create offspring. It is the same convention that will imprint on men that the Doctor was their hero… except now, she’s a heroine. The man they looked up to and aspired to become is now someone they could find sexually attractive. That is going to be difficult for many people to cope with.

There’s a flip side to this that’s made me especially angry, and it is watching certain women complain you can’t have a woman in the TARDIS. They enjoy the idea of a man being in control. Capaldi might not have been the most visually appealing of Doctors, but you could always go back to the days of Matt Smith and David Tennant and pretend you were one being rescued, or you were the favourite companion they’d turn to after a long day of saving the Universe. How can you write fanfic when the 13th Doctor’s forcing you to become a lesbian?

All of these issues are underpinned by conventional notions of sexuality. Once one dismisses these, it does not matter one iota who plays what role. What then comes into play is whether your canon will support the change. When a female Thor was announced by Marvel, already established wisdom backed up the decision by stating that Thor’s hammer would only imprint on someone worthy of wielding it, and that choice was not gender specific. The path to gender fluidity in the Time Lords has been laid well in advance, placed into canon as far back as the transformation of Tennant to Smith.

‘The Doctors Wife’ establishes, IN CANON, the Corsair who (according to 11) ‘didn’t feel like himself unless he had (a) tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times. Oooh, she was a bad girl.’ It is another thing to thank Mr Moffat for, I suppose, apart from breaking the whole show apart and putting it back together in a modern, progressive fashion. You can choose to forget all this for the sake of non-canon sensibilities, of course, but anyone who offers shock and surprise that this could happen has really not been paying the right amount of attention.

You can’t complain now, because that’s your fandom, and you should know better.

I want to quickly mention 007 here. This is a Universe that, as it stands, won’t support anything other than a white, hetrosexual Bond, if you look at canon for guidance. Sure, the franchise has tried to reinvent itself (see my mate Roger’s excellent dissection on License to Kill and how changing this male lead’s not as simple as writing in some historical precedent) but even now with Mr D. Craig, Esq in the lead roll, that reinvention has only gone so far. Unless something radical changes in terms of how the lead man is portrayed, it is unlikely we will ever see change on the scale that now exists in the TARDIS. Personally I’d want to pair him up with an equal female agent as we did in Tomorrow Never Dies, but I’m not sure even that is possible at this stage. Some ideas, like it or not, just have to be left to die.

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There has also been, quite understandably, some comments on how the kerfuffle in the TARDIS could have been avoided if an actor of colour or from a non-white background had been cast. That is another large can of worms: it might help the Bond franchise reboot, on reflection, but I suspect would have caused similar levels of outrage in the TARDIS, which is ridiculous. This is 2017 and honestly, anyone getting upset at a TV show employing anyone in a lead role who isn’t white and male is on a hiding to nothing.

There are more important things to get upset about, and really this is not one of them.

 

You’re the One

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Before I went for surgery, the night before as I recall, someone turned up on my Social media timeline with an agenda. They saw me talking to somebody else and hoped, by sticking their hugely arrogant arsehole into my business, to ride the coattails of that message for their own gain. This happens a lot, especially when it is apparent that someone completely and erroneously believes you have the ear of others whom they believe hold some kind of notional influence. The problem with people like this, inevitably, is that they don’t care about anyone but themselves. That’s all well and good when your interaction is brief, but as soon as a conversation breaks out with any sort of contentious content?

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This morning, I watched some random twat accuse someone else of being lewd in their own feed, and that because they chose to see it, that person was at fault. It is a microcosm for the indignation that that now accompanies anything that a certain type of complainant cannot stand. In fact, this week, there arose a situation where a woman made a clothing choice and offended hundreds of people on a prime time TV show. In fact, I reckon about 217 people will have taken offence when that woman showed some cleavage and it was apparent she forgot to put a sensible, supportive bra on before the dress.

You know what the problem is here? It isn’t Amanda Holden’s body. It’s not my friend who took a picture and put it in her own feed. None of the issues here have anything to do with the people involved. They’re all in the heads of those who now believe, for whatever reason, that they can’t be offended. Other people cannot offer anything contentious, you can’t possibly refuse to comment on something when there’s no fucking issue to begin with. With all the chaos and real, genuine threat in the World right now, the way some people choose to react isn’t with empathy or understanding, but with blind, ignorant stupidity. That’s always been the way but honestly, truthfully, I lost interest when random stupid entered my timeline

Today is not the day for you to be offended that you can’t control other people’s lives.

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I read yesterday about how I should consider other’s feelings before I go off on a rant. It is important to grasp that it is very easy to upset people without context, or first looking at a wider picture. That is all well and good, but makes a basic assumption that the person you’re talking to possesses either empathy or understanding to begin with. What is becoming increasingly apparent is that there are those for whom understanding has only ever been a one way street, and this will never change. Some people don’t change. However loving, caring and understanding you may be, it won’t matter. These are the people who are beyond help. These are the destructive, negative influences in society.

You won’t win.

It’s never going to happen.

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I was reading in the week that someone in my Twitter feed was celebrating the advantages of Discord as a networking tool. If you’re not aware, this is the programme designed for gamers which urges you to ditch Skype and TeamSpeak (both used as popular means of establishing voice communication in Warcraft, amongst other titles) and promotes ‘virtual’ communities centred around particular subjects, in game goals or even streaming ‘personalities.’ It can sit in your web browser, allowing instant communication using the Internet as a carrier. It sounds like a brilliant way of breaking barriers and encouraging friendship, and I suspect if you’re the type of person who enjoys sitting at a screen all day that would be a bonus… but for me, its the equivalent of a slow, debilitating form of poison.
If you really believe virtual voice networking is the future, I have some issues you may wish to consider first.

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I’ve spent many years online using various iterations of text based clients, and it is still a better format for me to work in than speech will ever be. Text gives a vital chance to think, to consider stuff before I dive into conversation. Voice has gotten me into so much trouble over the years, because I thought only after I spoke. It took a very long time to get comfortable with live podcasting as a result of this, but a lot of what I said would be in some way scripted to ensure I wouldn’t wander off topic, as knowing what to say really does matter rather a lot. When it’s you that’s the issue and not others, you tend to get rather adept at placing space between the question and any response, so there’s the much needed thinking time factored in. What any speech based client expects from an individual is permission to allow a large number of random people into your personal space, regardless of whether you know them or not. That’s where the real issues begin.

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A large part of my discomfort, as a woman, is that I know how certain scenarios play out when people ‘meet’ me for the first time. If I were eminently capable of dealing well with strangers in these places, of course, all of this would be unnecessary. There’s also the assumption by many people that, if they can easily and comfortably use such systems, I must be somehow at fault. That means that, if people are unprepared to be empathetic and meet me halfway, I’ll always feel on the back foot. After years of being told ‘well it is clearly you that’s the problem’ I’ve decided that really, it is just simpler not to take part. Nobody loses out, and the people who are genuinely caring and understanding will simply accept the limitation. If you want to initially communicate with me, then it starts on my terms and when I’m comfortable I’ll be far more capable of doing the same in return.

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I’m the gregarious and fearless person when she can edit before posting who can’t manage voice because of that time in a Warcraft Karazhan raid she forgot she was holding down the Push to talk button and trashed someone’s performance. She can’t escape each one of the runs she did with other Guilds whilst trying to set up alliances where she listened in other people’s voice channels and heard guys treating girls like dirt and passing it off as ‘just what happens online.’ She can’t let go of the player after player (of both sexes) who’d swear and abuse a GM for not letting them raid, or screamed in anger when they lost an item of gear. If I didn’t remember absolutely everything, it would be fine and maybe I’d move on, but I know what a rude, viscous and sanctimonious twat even the nicest person ends up when playing this particular MMO ruins their best laid plans.

When I then have to factor my own thoughts and actions on top of all this? If you know you’re mentally just not capable of the speed of reaction that others have as standard, and understand only too well the darkness that can sit in people’s hearts, you avoid situations where you’ll have a problem. If communication matters enough, people will make the effort and they’ll understand. What becomes increasingly apparent is that maybe all those people who said they meant well at the start weren’t all being totally honest. I’m not playing the game any more of just throwing myself into situations and hoping it all works out. If caution results in less drama, yes I’m completely going for that over being in everybody’s faces for popularity.

The trend of Discord for Everything might not be that popular in a years time however, especially in the US if this new law is as damning as I believe it will be. Information is becoming a more valuable currency than the dollar, personal details the key for advertisers to sell you everything online. I think maybe in the future I wouldn’t want to be spending my time chatting in places that I believe are safe but could end up as anything but, and that Virtual Private Networks will become far more significant as places to talk and play in the future. If it matters enough I can use these services: I have Slack open permanently for my current paid writing gig, after all. The fact that I’ll always choose text over voice chat, that I’d rather write a letter than take a phone call, is that I’m scared of fucking it up. Words at my speed allow the chance for the best form of communication I possess, that’s all.

I hope that never changes.