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 Last Time

Things Alt has Learnt This Week



Hangry
is most definitely a Thing.

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I’d like to apologise to my family, who undoubtedly faced the brunt of this last night.

In the end, I didn’t have that burger, I went for the Special, but if you want those details they’ll be saved to the fanzine later. However, before that point there was definitely some irritation at play. Having now embraced my hangry tendencies, it is time to ensure that they don’t end up irritating more than just the occasional family trip out. It is time to start shoving snacks in my handbag.


Consequences have Actions

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Everybody has a movie-mad friend who’ll use quotes from films as a means of sound-tracking their own lives. I’ve written characters like this in fiction, who mirror other such characters written in fiction, self-referencing themselves. It’s a reminder that your world, whatever shape it happens to be in, will undoubtedly end up as being a meta version of itself. This week has made a very salient point: it isn’t just your actions which present consequences. That works the other way around.

What happens as a result of what you do will, in turn, dictate action going forward.

That lesson has been learnt, with knobs on.


I am Good Enough.

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Trying to explain to other people why there is only so much self-help bollocks I can stomach in one sitting seems to be something of a theme in previous weeks. I can be kind, but sometimes everything, all at once is literally too much to cope with and there has to be a step back. This week, that’s begun on Social media.

Real life is now an overriding priority, and any aspirations must be tempered with the inescapable reality that sometimes, what you want is not as important. Therefore, once this is written I’ll be off out for the day, taking pictures, and catching up on everything else when there is time.

When the wake-up call comes, get up.


Goodbye

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The first time I saw an Apple Computer was the 1980’s: the new vinyl cutting machine that my mother had bought to start a home business was run by a IIe, so that makes it 1984 by the Internet’s unerring reckoning. Ever since, there’s been one in our house or in my handbag. I took a tablet for both US trips as my laptop and it was perfect for purpose. Mostly, I’ve used the brand in the last decade out of a sense of misguided loyalty, because it is simply easier not to worry about alternatives when everything works just fine.

Except, in the past few years, I’ve begun to get uncomfortable. It began with the Watch, which I suppose was an inevitable evolution from the Phone but for me is too invasive for my liking. There is no avoiding the reduction in tech size, and as it becomes increasingly easy to pay for stuff by just wafting potentially unsecured electronics about? Security is a big concern. I’ve never sat well with the idea of ‘offsite backups’ for personal pictures, never used the Cloud to keep anything of importance, and now that’s being forced on me by iTunes my discomfort’s become irritation that needs treatment.

Yesterday’s new iPhone launch was effectively the proverbial straw.

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Facial recognition is something I have a problem with, for a lot of reasons, some of which are quite complex and psychological. Honestly, if I don’t want to look at myself in the morning and that’s the only way of accessing my phone? Fuck you, not happening. The automatic assumption that this is a) cool and b) desirable simply confirms the future as being dictated by a group of narcissistic wannabees staring at screen and not each other and frankly, I want no part of that. I’m going to find a new way of living without this version of tech: Fitbit are about to launch a watch/health tracker with a contactless chip embedded within. When this watch wears out I’ll upgrade to their service, link just one personal bank account to it and enter the Future that way.

The other, more concerning issue is pricing, and how people are clearly prepared to pay increasingly large amounts of money for a status symbol that’s driving the Planet to self destruction. Okay, so I’m a tad melodramatic but seriously, $1000 for a phone is stupid. Spend the money on something worthwhile, or maybe give that money to someone who has nothing and would be forced to steal your phone as a result. I know I’m not allowed to tell people how to live, but that’s a food budget across a month, possibly two, for a normal family. If all you see is your life and not the consequences to everyone else… I’ve been writing about causality this week, and it’s been like clouds parting and a giant shaft of sunlight shining on truth.

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I’ve gotta make sure I don’t start being an evangelical about all of this, but when I think about priorities and what matters in my life? All I need is a hard drive for music and a phone to play an occasional game on that takes pictures. Everything else is covered in other ways, under my control and not a software company’s, and that’s the way I think I’d like it to stay going forward. The future, at least for me, is no longer praying at this corporate altar.

Audacity of Huge

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This morning I was reminded of how Twitter, like it or not, is just as manipulative as all other forms of social media. That’s not the fault of the platform, has very little if anything to do with the people who use it. What the above graphic reminds me is that how we as individuals perceive ourselves is often radically different to the view others hold. This ‘meme’ above doing the rounds right now is a case in point: you know how much I like a decent .GIF, but I’d NEVER ask other people to use one to describe me.

That’s because I understand that if I did, there’s the chance someone’s going to tell me the truth.

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The main reason why ‘abuse’ is categorised as such by people is the level of hurt it is able to inflict. If you’re Twitter, for instance, for every 1000 ‘shut up and fuck off’ account abuse reports received there’s probably one that will be considered as a credible threat. The difference between casual abuse and a potential court case will also depend on the type of person being threatened, and I suspect it will take a high profile Twitter stalking (plus fatality) of a ‘normal’ person for that to change, if it does at all. The issue is simple: what you will class as an insult someone else might regard as funny. If you’re stalked obsessively for months, only then is it likely anyone might care. However, if you want it to stop? Evidence will have to stand up in court, and that could take years.

What has all this got to do with a harmless meme, I hear you ask? It is potentially more damaging when someone you trust posts something you don’t understand, or more significantly doesn’t post anything at all to a participative event like the Meme Game. You hope someone will, and then if that response is not what you’d hoped or wanted then BOOM it all goes Pete Tong in short order. I realised quite quickly as this meme gained traction that I couldn’t get away with just posting the .GIFs I wanted without explaining them to people who I know, after extended periods of interaction, don’t think the same way I do. I’m very big on .GIF use, but also like the moral ambiguity an image can bring, subtlety involved in being able to ‘read’ the visual in different ways. As soon as I realised the images I wanted to use could end up being considered as less than flattering?

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Here is the inherent issue that has existed back since Usenet opened up the World to ‘group’ discussion: ambiguity. It will also have a lot to do with the intelligence of the person you’re posting to, their current mental status… and a ton of other stuff that you’ll never be able to understand until you’ve been a victim of abuse. That could be as simple as complimenting your breast size to threatening to set fire to your car. When those are the extremes of what is considered casual abuse on the Internet? You can see why a simple image suddenly gains a great deal of power. It is also undoubtedly true that however ‘good’ a friend on the Internet says they are, however close you might feel the connection, everybody has the potential to wake up and fundamentally change forever. Yes, this happens, people, and more often than you might believe.

Everybody has the potential to become a toxic maniac that stalks you.

There are an awful lot of assumptions about how you control what appears in Twitter, and many of them are not sound. This is not a place where you get to pick and choose what goes on unless there’s a lock on your account. The only means to ensure true privacy is by removing yourself from mainstream/public eye completely. Sure, you can choose to ignore people who don’t provide a phone number, but most victims know their attackers. Random is very rarely the problem. If you have to ask people to explain why they do things, it could well be that your actions also require assessment, and that’s a blog post for another day. In short, shit like this might start innocently enough, but in the end somebody always gets hurt.

If you really want people to describe what you are, just ask them up front.

Epilogue

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I have gallstones.

The sonographer seemed surprised I wasn’t yellow when I arrived, and that I was as healthy as was ascertained yesterday. He was also amazed that I was in absolutely no pain at any point during what was a pretty robust procedure, which seems odd: they wouldn’t show me the scans either and instead immediately referred me back to my GP. As my husband pointed out, presumably this is so I return to my Doctor and discuss the results and don’t hope everything will work out for the best. Needless to say, stomach, liver, spleen and kidneys were all looked at in detail. I’d sort of assumed it would just be where the pain was, but no.

Now, I have to wait until Tuesday.

The first thing I did when I got back was look at how you have a gallbladder removed. It’s done via keyhole, I get some cute scars to match my C Section, and ‘on average’ I’m back to normal in two weeks. The alternative, one assumes is that I cut out all the trigger shit in my diet and live with it. There’s no point second guessing anything, however, until I speak to someone paid to know this, so I’ll be spending the weekend doing what I’ve been doing since it happened and largely carrying on as normal.

It could be so much worse, and for that I am so very grateful.

The Best Thing

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That’s the best night’s sleep for weeks, right there. Three blocks of glorious, uninterrupted Deep sleep. Not waking up until 4.30am. No longer feeling thirsty when I did, but going to drink anyway, knowing I need to keep liver and kidneys dealing with the accumulated toxins in my body. Having my digestive system operating normally.

Realising, like it or not, that I dodged a massive bullet.

Of course, I still will take the blood tests and the scans to make sure the initial diagnosis was correct. I’m eating stupidly healthy for the foreseeable future, even if I crave the crap. Had I not been as healthy as I am now, if there hadn’t been the push to exercise that had happened, I would be waking up to a Saturday in hospital.

I’ll be taking plenty of time to grasp just how fucking lucky I am.