Confusion the Waitress

Monday, it must be said, seems a very long way away.

It didn’t help this week that I’ve not had a regular PT session, that my son spent Monday and Tuesday at home, that I spoke to a Therapist on Wednesday and yesterday went outside for longer on my own than I have been for a while. This morning, therefore, I inserted 45 minutes of ashtanga yoga into my day and frankly, the benefits make me wish I’d done this again sooner. The biggest problem I’m having right now, without a doubt, is making sure what I want to do actually gets accomplished. My brain would rather stop thinking, especially with some of the frightening stories I’m reading from across the Globe. I have to remember that there’s only one thing I can control, and that’s myself, so above all else that needs to work ahead of anything.

I am now considering Mindfulness as a way forward in my personal development.

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There is an online course which costs a paltry £30 to access, and I can’t honestly see why I shouldn’t be doing it, especially as my therapist suggested I’m probably going to get at least some kind of benefit from just listening through to the concepts once. Having a willing and open mind can often be a hindrance, because everything gets taken in, good and bad, and then it is up to me to filter and find a level for it all. These are techniques that have fascinated a curious mind for years anyway: rooted in Buddhism, the desire to eliminate noise and to learn to focus on things that really matter whilst elimination the stuff that doesn’t. With a world that is full of stuff I cannot influence, there needs to be a means by which I separate the possible from the damaging.

This, to be honest, seems a great way forward.

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I’m tired of accepting there’s no better way. This is an alternative that I’m prepared to grasp, and willing to learn. If it helps me sleep better and feel more confident, it will have been worth the effort alone, and for the price of a meal out? It’s hardly going to impact on my finances. I’ll take the first part on Monday before my PT, and we’ll see where we are from there. I’ll keep you updated on how things go, but I’m already cautiously optimistic that this could be a significant breakthrough, and if it is I will be falling over myself to share. What I really need right now is a continued and clear path forward, but without anybody else’s agenda to worry about but my own.

I think, on consideration, I have absolutely nothing to lose.

The Dawning of a New Day

Honesty in my life is becoming a rather big deal.

As you’ll see in an unscheduled Writing post on the other site, finding trustworthy people in this great big pile of social media shit can be, on any given day, a rather fraught affair. Everybody it seems is out to make their own fortune in the World without a care to helping anybody except themselves: however, that’s been the way of things for as long as I can remember. That whole ‘if your face doesn’t fit’ saying is true, too, except on a Global stage that doesn’t really matter if you possess enough determination and the right tools of your trade. There comes a point however when even the most cynical and jaded of us are forced to compromise to move forward. I arrived there at the back end of last week, and now comes the moment to make my choice.

In this case, I will hang onto my integrity for all that it is worth, but accept that if I want to take the next step forward, some kind of assistance will be required.

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I’ve drawn some lines for myself as indicators to progress; the main one is whether anyone is prepared to fund my long term endeavours. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve encouraged me thus far by offering to donate to my costs, and in eight years nobody ever has. I know full well why this is: I’m seen as volatile and unpredictable, and a number of projects begun with high ideals were never completed. Based on that experience I’d not fund me either, and this was one of the reasons why, at the start of this year, I determined to cut back on workload and try and concentrate on specific projects and not throw myself at everything simultaneously. I’d say at present I’m at 60% success rate: when I can maintain 100% for at least a three month period, that will be the time to take another step forward.

Therefore, all things being equal, if I’m able to get to and maintain a 100% return on promises for work produced by September, I will launch my own Patreon. Primarily this will be to cover the costs of maintaining three websites on WordPress, with a long term view to optimising at least one for SEO (which requires me to upgrade to a Business plan.) Because I’m on my own and without the ability to run my own server (and to be honest that’s not something I want to even think about) it will initially be no more fancy than that. This is not about World Domination when it’s taken nearly a decade to learn to run again, so we’ll be taking it slow to begin with.

In effect, this will be me taking the first step forward to becoming an independent writer.

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Using Patreon, of course, allows me to exchange concrete evidence of effort for your hard earned cash, and as the months go on I’ll do just that, with interesting and challenging  incentives for both time and continued support. I’m also aware of the current cynicism in at least the Warcraft community over how crowdfunding can used for less than worthwhile endeavours by those who could be considered as exploiting the concept. I’m not here to take holidays or do nothing with your money, I grasp that if you give something there should always be a balance in return. An aversion to commercialism is also the reason why I’ve refused to use either Adwords or any kind of overt advertising on my sites since the practice became almost essential for writers. That’s not changing any time soon either.

What I’m here and doing today is asking for people to consider an opportunity to prove my work is worthwhile and has merit. I’m hoping that the last few years (often harsh) lessons in learning how to deal with a difficult and confrontational Community has taught me well enough that I can now move forward. I believe I am capable of making a decent job of this, or else I wouldn’t be committing myself to the cause in the first place. This is why I’ve withdrawn from previous commitments around streaming and podcasting. However, it should be said that if things move forward both may yet be useful tools for expression, and I will consider using them both to augment the websites.

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I’m going to leave at the bottom of this post a link to my Paypal account. I am serious and committed to this path, and by the time I’m 51 I will do for myself what I should have done when I was 25. I doubt it will be any easier now than it would have been then, but I want to at least have tried to make something worthwhile of my life in the time I remain on the planet. I am well aware that this could all fail, and that fact scares me every moment of each day, but unless I try, I will never know. You won’t find me shouting about this from rooftops either, or shoving requests for help down your throat. I’m here just to work hard, do my best and try and produce something I can look back at and be proud of.

I’m not going to use another person’s game, or a genre or fandom to sell myself, just me. I will stand and fall on my own words, until my last breath.

If you wish to join me on the journey? It’s time to get ready to roll.

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Funny Girl

As another actor of a certain age passes away, I have pause for thought. British comedy, since at least the 1950’s, has been a product of the era it represented. That means Hancock in the 50’s, That was the Week that Was in the 60’s and Python in the 70’s. Fawlty Towers, which played between ’76 and ’79, was even more a product of that time period, because it combined the anarchy of the Flying Circus with a comedy trope that had been established with programmes such as Love Thy Neighbour.

This was how the English dealt with people who weren’t English.

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You could argue it was a colonial hangover, that portraying people not born and bred here was always going to have this element of distrust and sometimes abuse. It would take quite some time before it wasn’t about making fun of people because of where they came from was considered acceptable… except, hang on, no. That’s still happening. TV shows might no longer use race, sex and place of birth as means to make fun of other people, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping politicians. I’d post that clip of the Orange Man mocking disability as an example but fuck that for a game of soldiers.

Sometimes, you don’t focus on what is funny and instead look for a bigger meaning.

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Language can be funny, yet the best bits of Fawlty Towers were physical, to the point where you could argue a clip round the ear solves nothing. However, there were clever pieces of interplay, using Spanish and misunderstanding thereof as humour. Nobody will ever fault that Andrew Sachs was a superb actor, and I’m not here to say anything else about that. Bernard Manning was a comedian, but now is often considered a liability. Rolf Harris was an entertainer, but won’t now ever be remembered as that. All of this is seen with hindsight, and that colours certain sections of history with a far less flattering light.

What worries me more is that people have short memories, and forget how shit it is to treat ANYONE badly. I don’t want to go back to the 1940’s, the 60’s or the 70’s please. In fact, the further we pull ourselves away from the Dark Ages, the better it will be for EVERYBODY. So, remember this. At the time it was funny and, for many people who like to indulge in a level of nostalgia as a means to deal with current issues, it still is. That doesn’t make it free of criticism, and it certainly shouldn’t be used as an example of how comedy is universal.

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This country looks inward more than it really should, and still has an awful lot to learn about foreign relations.

Rip It Up

Okay, that challenge was really optimistic. I couldn’t even walk yesterday, and this morning I own antibiotics as thick as my little finger. As a result of this, for the first time since May, I’m had to cancel a PT Session, and to say I am gutted is an understatement. I have the energy, just not a working set of lungs. Once I’ve fixed that (and removed all the other issues with my throat) we’ll restart the #50Ksin50Days thing because that’s a really cool thing to do and I’d like to complete it.

For now, this is me back to a measure of normality, off to start the re-write of my first 50k OF WERDS as I was going to do on Saturday, and returning you to regularly scheduled faffing.

Blue Monday

This week is a Deadlines week, and normally this would be accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth, except today? Not so much of anything. In fact, if I get any more relaxed I think I’m gonna pass out. This is even after the start to the last two days when I have watched other people’s stupid do their best to derail me. I’ll tell you when all this started: I did a 5 minute meditation in the Gym. I just cleared my mind of everything, focused on the beat of the music, and switched off. It was incredibly simple, and I understand I’m now at a stage where I don’t have time to get annoyed about all this fucking pointless shit, because there are better things to be doing with my time.

You know, like living.

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I pretty much beat PB’s on everything yesterday. I have committed to run a Kilometre, at least three times a week, and possibly more if I can cope with the exercise. My arms are now totally unrecognisable from where I started in May. I have the beginnings of a notion of complete change, that didn’t exist before. I even have a favourite exercise, when the fuck did that happen?

The fact I couldn’t even manage four of these a couple of months ago and now I can knock off a set of twelve is fantastic news for the top half of my body which was sorely lacking in confidence. In fact, I’ll be found nipping off to the stairs when I get frustrated, between bouts of writing, to do a set of these when the urge takes me. The confidence this then gives elsewhere should absolutely not be underestimated or belittled. Amazing really, that if you do something long enough for it to become habit forming, it can be helpful. All that detrimental shit I used to rely on? Slowly falling away, but it does take willpower. An incredible amount of it, and the understanding that sometimes being hard on yourself is not the answer to everything. Yup, it works for some stuff, but not everything.

Do what you have to do, people, that’s how this gets better for you.

For Your Eyes Only

It doesn’t seem like a year since Spectre was released: to be honest, it’s more like several years. 2016, as many people will attest, has not been kind. Losing Bowie at the start for me was only the start of a series of body blows, which culminated in the fucking travesty of Brexit in June. However, four months on, the shift of my country and the US towards a worrying variety of ‘conservatism’ could already be having some interesting ramifications, most notably in reference to Mr Craig’s (potential) ex-employment. [*] When I suggested writing this blog post a while ago it generated a fair bit of interest, and the more I consider the possibilities the stronger becomes the belief I could actually end up thanking THAT potential US presidential candidate for what he’s done to the World in the last ten months.

Could Donald Trump be responsible for redefining the Bond franchise?

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When Eon rebooted Bond in 2006 with Casino Royale a new narrative was born: fresh from gaining his License to Kill, 007 falls in love and watches first as that woman is revealed as a double agent before she dies, in a situation where Bond is unable to save her. This defines all his actions in Quantum of Solace and, to a lesser extent Skyfall. Only when he gets to fall in love again and disappear off into the sunset in SPECTRE is some completion bought to the story, but there’s still a cost. It’s not really Craig’s fault that he inherited shoes that had been discarded under so many beds, that Bond’s misogynistic and arrogant past was based in a decade where men could get away with being like this because that’s the way it had always been. Except that ‘attitude’ is still making news, as was demonstrated when the Washington Post got hold of a tape of Mr Trump treating woman as objects. I’ll admit that when I first saw the footage, realised that this behaviour’s really no different to early iterations of Bond doing what was needed to get the job done.

He gets away with it however for several reasons: mostly because fiction gets a far better deal than reality, but probably because an English accent and being fantastic in bed still allows you to get away with murder, plus believing in truth really helps. ‘How can I compare Trump to Bond,’ I hear you ask, ‘it’s like apples and oranges’: however, both come from trees, and require seeds to grow. Bond’s enduring appeal for a certain generation is that you get what you want as a secret agent, and in that regard as Trump seeing himself as a celebrity, the same remains true. Except once the misogyny is obvious it becomes both all-consuming and inescapable in a world where your main competitor for President is a woman. Once I’d considered the similarity I was forced to go back to SPECTRE in a new light, to see if I could redeem ‘new’ Bond in light of the revelation. This 007 is different to his predecessors, has undoubtedly ‘evolved,’ but the way the franchise is left knowing his history gives Eon a real problem moving forward.

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Bond’s relationship with Moneypenny becomes a metaphor of sorts in his redemptive process: she almost kills him, yet she remains his best friend, but that doesn’t stop him looking down her top in Skyfall or showing concern she has a boyfriend in SPECTRE. He’ll still try his arm, and hope she’ll be there for him, but when the first decent female fit in terms of compatability comes along with Madeline Swann he drops everything, steals his company car and buggers off, presumably to spend the next year furiously fucking and not answering his mobile when the office calls. If you ascribe the theory that Bond has changed, he’ll already have handed in his notice and never comes back. They can’t kill Swann again in the narrative as motivation because then it’s just Vesper Lynd all over again. Time might be a flat circle for some franchises, but with what Trump has now done to the popular consciousness in terms of highlighting casual sexism and control? It will be pretty hard to make this Bond’s modus operandi stand up as acceptable. Ironically, if the next 007 movie has to include Craig’s version of the agent, I’d suggest he marries Swann and they team them up in a Mr and Mrs Smith stylee, but already long term fans will cry fowl, because Bond works alone.

Except that doesn’t work in the modern world either. Only in the movies.

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Here’s the bigger issue: Bond’s ‘ethos’ only works if you don’t scratch the surface too hard. Craig made a big deal in interviews for SPECTRE that he’s aware of the limitations at play, that there’s only so much to be done if your central protagonist thinks as part of his job it’s acceptable just to sleep with someone to get what you want. Ironially when Mata Hari did that no-one considered it a sutable job for a woman, and yet female spies really are the better choice in so many situations when most of the people in power are men. However, this franchise; watch, car, suits are all selling to a group of people who really don’t need to be told this is the right way to live your life. ‘Men want to be Bond, woman want to sleep with him’ might be true for my generation (except for me, I’d be him and bed him) but the belief that you teach people this is acceptable human behaviour… it won’t work any more. The outcry in the press worldwide should be ample demonstration of the realisation that this is not the same World we live in. Times are changing. This is not just about a hetrosexual bloke with a gun, and that is the bigger significance. The white man’s importance matters only in relation to bigger societal shifts: claiming nothing can be changed, because canon says is no longer acceptable behaviour.

Like it or not, Trump’s actions may have finally forced time to be called on Bond’s progress.

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Women can be secret agents, and better than their male counterparts. It is no longer about pandering to a certain generation’s desire to live out fantasies that simply do not mesh in the modern world. I’m still of the opinion that the best way the franchise has to survive is to go back to Dr No and start again, refilming the stories with ‘modern’ sensibilities. Killing off Judi Dench at the end of Skyfall really was the beginning of the end, as was putting Moneypenny back behind a desk because we’re back to the 1960’s and it is as if the last fifty years never happened.

It’s no wonder we won’t get an announcement on Bond 25 until next year. In the current climate, I’m not sure there’s a future for him at all.

[*] He might still take it, but part of me really hopes he walks away and never looks back.

Faith

I caved, and weighed myself this morning. I’ve put on half a pound. I know all the speeches about weight in my sleep now, I’m just hoping that this will be the start of the great leap forwards. All I can do is sit tight and not waver. Having taken the honey out of my diet yesterday, there was an unexpected late day response with what I’m well aware was a low blood sugar migraine. Ironically I got all of the lights and none of the pain until much later, and even when the headache came, it was far less traumatic than expected. I’d not still be treading this route were it not for the fact that I woke this morning after a full and largely uninterrupted night’s sleep and felt absolutely fantastic.

Really, this is the best I have felt for quite some while.

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I feel so good that I threw away the writing plan for the morning and have been re-branding websites. I’ll spend this afternoon getting back up to date with projects and the housework. Then tomorrow it will be early Gym and a real push to try and start working on my trunk, which is where all the fat is now residing. I’m actually looking forward to it too, none of the trepidation or concern I’ve had in previous weeks. I am having trouble with my grip, which a friend suggests could be over-training, but I want to check that poor circulation during cold weather isn’t a contributing factor. My arms are now pretty much fat free, legs rapidly getting that way and I can both see and feel the fat breaking down in the tops of my legs.

This was always going to be a long journey, and more than ever I am determined to complete it.

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Thanks for sticking with me, guys. I appreciate the support and understanding more than you will ever know.