Games People Play

ben_hur_041

Occasionally, there are days (like yesterday) when you have to accept loss. Like it or not, everybody screws up. Sitting crying in the Gym car park helps nobody: sure, it makes you feel better, but a logical mind can grasp that if you’re the one at least in part who started the fight, then you have a responsibility for the argument. As long as the days going backwards don’t exceed your forward momentum, everything is golden. That’s why I’m here to remind myself this morning, ahead of all the other stuff that has to happen, that how I conduct relationships is really important. This week, therefore, has been significant in terms of how that takes place online.

Everything I ever needed to know about life I learnt from James Bond.

bondhobby

Okay, hang on a minute there Bald Eagle, how does the sexist, misogynist 007 start handing me life lessons, exactly? Well, quite apart from ensuring I don’t end up living my life in the manner of a Bond movie (with the inevitable big red reset button at the end) I find myself thinking about what James is good at, and how (amazingly) that provides lessons for me. He’s the best poker player in the British Secret Service, for starters, and that’s because he never plays his own hand, but always that of the person opposite. He’s also taught me how to deal with being poisoned and betrayed, but that’s not important right now. Let’s apply the Poker metaphor in a slightly different fashion, shall we?

When you move into new online relationships, the temptation is often to go overboard in explaining yourself: motivation, ideas, goals… all this in the first flush of ‘getting to know each other.’ I realised this week that this is not the most sensible approach, because it can often isolate people who are not easily comfortable with coming forward or opening up to strangers. It can make you look pushy and domineering. What I ought to be doing is letting the other person come forward first. In effect, I have to become them. Instead of playing my own ‘hand’, if I play the person’s I’m speaking to and effectively imagine what it must be like to be them, there’s a chance of better understanding and empathy from the word go.

lechiffre.gif

This has worked at least once in practice since the revelation hit, and going forward seems like a really logical means of finding a middle ground with relative strangers. When someone asks you how you are, don’t spend 15 minutes explaining the details. Summarise quickly, effectively and then ask about them. This is probably common sense to large proportions of the rest of the world, I realise, but I’m coming to the world of interpersonal relationships with strangers quite late in the game. If nobody bothers to take the time to explain this shit to you and you have to work it out on your own… well, here’s how it pans out.

Start new relationships by looking at other people first and not yourself.

It is a fine line we all tread in the modern World when it comes to interactions, especially when kids are being taught social niceties via YouTube. I realise now that it is all well and good to believe you have all the tools required to be a decent human being, but that is never always the truth. Every part of your personality needs constant reassessment and balance: you don’t have to do it daily, not even weekly, but every so often sitting down and asking yourself ‘am I doing enough?’ should be a prerequisite for every human being. My son might laugh at my attempts to reduce food waste in the house and increase recycling, because he can see no discernable change in the issues via a wider stage. However, if everybody does these things, the World can and will change. Believing you have no direct influence on the environment around you is a lie.

If you desire change enough, you can and will make it happen.

allegedly3

My daughter will tell me that she hates my inspirational speeches, but I won’t stop giving them, because if even a scintilla of that belief gets through to her, it is progress. Nobody bothered with me, arrogance assuming that I’d just work it out for myself. Well, I didn’t, and after decades of nobody pointing this out finally, blissfully, people did. Only when other people cared enough to break the shell of my own ignorance, unwillingness and despair was I able to move forward. I entirely understand how horrendous and soul destroying depression remains, but in my case at least, it is my task to deal with and nobody else’s problem but mine. Learning to ask for help was the hardest thing of all, and it still is. However, now I get the formula that works. There’s understanding of what needs to be done. I stopped playing my own hand, and looked outside myself to move forward.

spectregif#1

Plus, any excuse for a bunch of Bond .GIFs is never a bad thing. Next time you start a conversation with a stranger? Ask them how they are, and be prepared to listen.

Learn about yourself by listening to others.

The Best Thing

header91

‘There will come a moment,’ my PT told me, quite early on in training, ‘when your body will start telling you things. Maybe it will be a pain that’s not normal, or a reaction to an exercise that you don’t like. When this happens, you need to learn to listen, and act appropriately.’

Yesterday afternoon I got back from picking up the youngest from School, came to sit down here to work and my body waved at me. The conversation then went something like this:

– Hi there! You remember that time when your PT told you I’d start talking to you?

– Yeah, I do as it happens…

– Well, this is the moment when I tell you that running 2k yesterday plus the anxiety of both going to the Dentist and your son’s school today has compounded to a situation where I’m forcibly shutting down higher brain functions for the evening. No more thinking for you, Missy!

– But, hang on, I planned to write tonight!

– Nope, if you do that you’ll get frustrated, angry and everybody will just go backwards and there is NO WAY that this is happening. Sorry. You have to believe the flesh on this one. Go play Warcraft all night, switch mind and body RIGHT OFF and we’ll come back to it tomorrow and you know what? You’ll not only feel better, but we’ll get more done. TRUST ME.

– I’m supposed to trust a body that wakes me up at 5am every morning with a hot flush???

– Look, M8, I can’t fight millions of years of evolutionary process, but how about I let you sleep through to 6am coz it’s Saturday… sound fair?

– Okay, dun. Someone needs to order me Chinese takeaway now…

– If you hang about I bet you can persuade Mr Alt to do that… ^^

251117

That, everybody, is what a decent night’s sleep and a lie in should look like and that’s not just my body talking. Also, the final iteration of my husband’s blog artwork has now become his logo, and I don’t thing he did it just to be nice. I feel it was used because it shows I understand what bike porn is and why my husband is so enamoured with it. Don’t look at me like that, fixating on inanimate objects is perfectly normal, or else consumerism wouldn’t be destroying society. So neurgh.

Logo_One.jpg

I suspect, as has been the case a lot of late, I’ll look back on this week and know it was when a piece of the puzzle finally fitted and made sense. No more need to push the point.

It just keeps getting better.

Question

catopenbox.gif

This popped up yesterday and has subsequently created something of a moral dilemma. The Original Poster (OP) is a game developer (according to their bio) and I don’t follow them, but this got Tweeted into my feed and therefore attracted attention.

Now, I know immediately what these people are referring to. There is sufficient explanation in each of the comments to support a logical conclusion: cats have done this for centuries. It is not a new phenomena. Therefore, a word already exists in language to support it:

This is the first time I’ve encountered the situation where more than one person has hoped the Internet can provide them with an answer, where that solution is a word they never have been taught. Part of my brain supposes that maybe these people never had a cat or were close to one growing up, or simply don’t realise that certain things that particular animals have specific language associated with them. After all, this level of literary sophistication is no longer required to live or exist, especially with the presence of the Internet itself, particularly AI such as Siri.

Imagine, if you will, asking your mobile phone: ‘Why is my cat vibrating?’

chinstroke2.gif

One assumes that if your phone ‘assistant’ can locate at least one other person who has asked this question, and it is ranked high enough in a search engine to be picked up by an AI, then suddenly vibrating cats gain a measure of legitimacy. What should happen with AI, of course, is that it/they look at this question and think ‘look, human, that’s not vibrating, it’s called purring, so let me provide you with the correct word and move on’ except the day artificial intelligence can do that one assumes that humanity will also have become surplus to requirements, and we’re into Terminator ‘no fate but what we make’ territory. Also, one assumes that synthetic brains wouldn’t have pedantry programmed in as standard, and would understand that ignorance can be easily addressed with education.

confused

Just so we are clear: people are not more stupid than they were. This cannot be solely blamed on educational failure, however ‘funny’ that might be. The key difference between twenty years ago and now is that individuals are exposed to far more information than was ever the case before, but have not yet fully grasped how to absorb it effectively. People are more willing to ask questions anonymously when they are confident their question will not be met with immediate ridicule or contempt. Most importantly of all however, you as a person are interacting with far more people than was ever the case for your ancestors.

Everybody has questions, but not everyone has the answers.

tina-fey-glasses-gif

The key here, it seems to me, is not to use other people’s ignorance for entertainment: however, when entities such as the Darwin Awards exist to do just that, curiosity may well be the bigger casualty. We all like to point and laugh at other people’s stupid, ad programmes like Jackass exist purely to prove that we, as a race, are often as dumb as rocks. In my ideal world, I’d now make a video explaining this blog post with some funny GIFs and a genuine earnest conclusion: sometimes, shouting your question into the void is not the answer. When the only things that might be listening are AI, this has the potential to turn a bright future into a place where ignorance is derided.

The future should be education and not entertainment at others expense.

[PS: Yes, I’m overthinking this. What of it? ^^]

Consider Her Ways

header62

Normally my blog posts are named after songs. Today, I’m taking a book, one that was particularly significant in my youth. I remember being astounded by the main story in John Wyndham’s anthology and it having a profound effect for weeks after reading: I can’t really tell you anything about it either, because by doing so ruins a narrative that really needs to be read unspoilt. However, what I can tell you is that birth forms a key component of the conceit.

I was reminded of the Wyndham after reading this Guardian article about how premature lambs are now ‘grown’ in artificial wombs and, I must admit there was a stab of horror at the pictures I saw. Initially my thought was more of a ‘Brave New World’ scenario but then the same feeling emerged that I remember after finishing ‘Consider her Ways’ for about the twelfth time: humanity mucking about with nature does not sit well in my head. Of course, without that evolution, I’d be dead by now. I’d have never made it out of hospital as a baby.

Science has always trodden a delicate path between interference and assistance.

I suspect this has a lot to do with current concerns over my own health, but there is discomfort in growing amounts over what counts as ‘good’ science and what feels ‘bad’: I’m not a religious person, but the possibility that people could pick the sex of their child or ensure it has certain characteristics does not sit well in my mind. The Universe works best with the full spectrum of both diversity and chaos: trying to counter that or effectively guide the course of Evolution feels wrong. I’ve read enough speculative fiction to understand that for every wonder discovery or great idea, there’s always a price to pay.

I knew my great grandmother only for a very short time. One of my earliest memories is of her using a cloth hankerchief to make a mouse as amusement, and it always worked. She passed away, I remember, as not as a result of gangrene but the surgery that was supposed to extend her life. She never regained consciousness after the operation to remove her infected lower leg. I’ve always held a fear of being sent into a medically-induced sleep not simply because of this, but an incident when I was 4 or 5 and because of bad dental hygiene I had to have teeth extracted, and was rendered unconscious to do so. I can still remember exactly how this felt, enough to make me shake as I type. It is another fear that needs to be dealt with, as I have with so many others in the last year.

Science has made things immeasurably better in the last 50 years, yet it is still regarded by so many with a sense of trepidation. It is on days like yesterday I can understand that feeling, but the rational part of my brain knows that to move forward, this is yet another fear that needs to be overcome. Without science, there would not be a legitimate cure for asthma on the cards in my lifetime. When people with no other form of potential cure take gene therapy and the result is remission of their cancer? Science is amazing, and without it we’d all be lesser beings. Sometimes, taking the risk with the consequence is the best way forward, especially if it allows you more time to live.

The flip side of Science’s wonder remains the financial cost to the recipient.

When my husband and I spoke about the possibility of surgery, his first response was brutal, yet damning: at least I have the provision to do this without having to make a financial decision first. I am well aware of friends in the US currently in a state of near-permanent dread over what will happen to Obamacare, who have had to set up GoFundMe accounts in order to pay for unexpected medical expenses. I understand only too well that medicine is nowhere close to universally accessible to the people who need it most, and that this is intrinsically unfair. It may seem we live in a world full of wonder and potential, but if this is only available to a select few, is it really so brilliant to begin with?

There’s a lot to think about over my morning porridge today.

Walkaway

It is important, as we mentioned last week, to be able to step back and be objective when living in any space whose rules are defined not just by us. Obsessing about anything can be both destructive and ultimately dangerous, and nowhere is that more true than in an environment where it is easy to shout into the void and never experience dissent. The ‘echo chamber’ concept of social media’s used as a stick to beat me with on an almost weekly basis, and I thought it bore more investigation after the latest incident where someone cited the concept as the reason why a relationship had failed.

Wikipedia considers a media echo chamber as ‘a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system,’ which in this case will be your own feed and blogs. Effectively an individual ignores basic points which are obvious to those outside the space as not being fairly represented within, if at all. It is a basic concept of curation but executed at the expense of truth: as you remove people from a space which you can and should control and organise, it can appear from certain angles to be censorship of those who disagree with points of view or who cause contention when doing so.

itsatrap

Since the US Election, I’ve made a point of being more politically active, and this has upset a significant portion of my existing readership, enough to cause many of them to leave of their own accord. It also happened in the run up last year, when it became apparent that being disparaging of Republican ideas and sentiments was going to get me into trouble, and yet I’ll still peddle this line regardless. The key here is that I’m not singling out anyone in my feed as an issue, but by being disparaging of a wider viewpoint, those who hold it as sacred will logically assume I’m attacking them. The same feeling is undoubtedly true when I won’t agree with people’s views on Warcraft, feminism, cosplay, breasts, chocolate… and the list goes on and on.

At no point do I ever single someone out as being unreasonable until the Unfollow button gets hit, and only then does it becomes personal. The very act of removal is confirmation to them that something has happened that I don’t like. That’s why Mute can often be considered the coward’s solution to a problematic follower: far easier just to remove them and kop the flack. In fact, it would be fair to assume that had I been more careful and considered my choices to begin with, then there wouldn’t be an issue, but it is often hard to form considered opinions of people when they’re not standing in front of you: that’s why Facebook’s friends of friends concept is such an addictive one. If person X knows you and two genuinely close friends, their choices will be people who mesh with you, right?

The-Dude.gif

The truth is, of course, utter bollocks. That’s why some of us refuse to allow Facebook to dictate terms, and will reassess ‘friends’ on an almost weekly basis. That’s even more true when there’s a contentious issue: I am more than happy to disagree with people, and that happens with predictable regularity. What I’m not prepared to entertain, at any point, is someone else deciding a) what I am thinking and b) what I should do as a result of this. We can not vote the same way, like the same music or even agree on anything at all. I am able to do civil and polite with the entire planet right up to the point where someone points a metaphorical finger at me and states what I have to do because this is what is wrong.

That is the moment when trust is lost, but not always for good.

and

I’ve disagreed with people before, but if when engaging them in dialogue I can believe that there is still a basis for communication, that’s how it works. Everybody can not see eye to eye from time to time, after all. If it becomes apparent that there’s no point in trying to communicate because what I believe isn’t considered either relevant or important, then it is time to reassess. Maybe it is not just my outlook exacerbating the situation: this same person isn’t listening to others either, apparent by the interactions with others I can read and see taking place around us. If their interest is unnecessarily obsessive, or inward facing, or they’re just a shitposting troublemaker? Time eventually shows up the flaws.

If you wait, everybody fucks up eventually, and it is how those moments are dealt with that becomes the real measure of their online persona.

alltheglasses.gif

Why do I do all this navel gazing, I hear some of you ask? I learn from it and it helps me understand how this part of the World works. It allows me to grasp how human beings react in certain situations. Many people, often without realising, reveal sides of themselves online I suspect they wish weren’t as public as are currently the case. It is a delicate balancing act, which most of the sane and sensible individuals deal with by not pressing Tweet or posting on Facebook to begin with, because their real lives are more important than the virtual one. As a writer I balance between disparate worlds on a daily basis, and sitting here trying to find the right sentences to use becomes another part of the understanding process. To communicate successfully to others is no mean feat, I am now discovering, and to make the best job takes far more effort than may people ever really grasp.

It is never an easy task to shout anywhere; to have confidence in a virtual space is not as simple as many would believe. What matters more is to find a voice, and once that is accomplished to learn the best means by which you can explain yourself to a wider audience than just yourself. It is a vital part of human development, and without that internal belief it can be a hard and painful journey to take alone. More importantly still, thinking why things happen and to understand you are as responsible for events that happen around you as anyone else is an important means by which one defines your overall significance (or otherwise) in the communities you are a part of.

The people that surround you are as much a measure of your personality as you are yourself, and knowing that means a constant reassessment of your aquaintances can never be a bad thing.

Freedom 90

From time to time indignation rises to a point where I decide that yes, I’ll let genuine annoyance consume me. This morning, it was a Guardian Red Carpet snapshot from the BAFTAs that did it. Yes, I KNOW mostly this is about frocks, but there are some of us who get a bit tired of the fashionisas deciding only the beautiful people get a showing, and often it is only about who wore the best dress according to the reporter. This is sexist, because in the main it precludes good looking men. Hang on, I hear some of you cry, what are you on about? We’re just looking at frocks, stop making it about bodies… but isn’t that EXACTLY what happens when a bunch of stick thin women are the only ones you decide to highlight? Where’s the body positivity? Where are the ‘normal’ women and the men in all this? Fair enough, Tom Ford gets a look in wearing a velvet tuxedo that I’d like to own, but it is hardly fair. Fashion makes me crazy, because what people choose as ‘interesting’ rarely includes diverse shapes, or a range of sexuality.

In fact, anyone with an extreme view that won’t grasp the significance of EVERYBODY needs a really good talking to at present. Take, for instance those I know who now push themselves as ‘active’ feminists in response to the Orange Twat and his influence in the US and beyond. This man may be a pariah, but only SOME men are: you can get as upset as you like about them, but in the end it won’t help. Your bigger threats come from a wider stage: ignorance, stupidity, plus a staggering lack of respect of anybody who does not agree with the feminist PoV. In shock news, everybody is allowed an opinion of their own, and just because that doesn’t mesh is not an excuse to start threatening and throwing around pronouncements of fear and ignorance. It’s like any kind of basic fundamentalism, and it is just wrong on so many levels that it defies belief. The only way anything changes is when EVERYBODY gets a fair shout.

tractordonuts.gif

There’s another Guardian article here about the lack of diversity in the acting craft but as is typical in the UK, it is class that is considered more important than whether an actor’s sexual or physical characteristics are put to the fore. I feel that maybe the obsession with money that many people’s lives revolves around is the greater issue still: after all, when you’re staring at Adele’s handfuls of Grammy awards, do you consider the working class roots she hails from or are you considering the state of her bank balance? When Daisy Ridley dazzles in what could be Victoria Beckham are you imagining you’d be there or just having the money to afford that? Mostly, you stare at the unattainable as an escape, a release, a way to forget how shitty your life is… but would you want that? Maybe that’s why I don’t need to stare or imagine, because I’m lucky enough to have a life that makes me happy. Mostly that happens because I refuse to let other people ruin the time I have trying to convince me their future’s the only version of reality that matters.

That’s why feminism really hacks me off. However, it isn’t just that cult at fault: there’s the hardcore religious, the blinkered gamers, the arrogant and selfish parents, the holier than thou foodies… the list is endless. All these people, trying to sell me a ‘version’ of a reality: the truth is less about aspiration and more wrapped around basic survival than I think any of us like to accept. If you choose to sign up for any one of these, and in many cases they end up being as insidious as veneration, the speed at which reality can desert you is quite staggering. That’s why you really shouldn’t get upset when your heroes get political, because those are the people who genuinely grasp what a potentially perilous situation current developments in the US and across Europe place the planet in. Don’t tell your musicians to stop making political statements and stick to singing, because the fact you’ve found high profile people who get that it isn’t just their brand that matters is something rare and precious.

bewareartists-620x958

I’ve decided that being angry about the world is now a waste of my time and effort, and instead I’m going to fight back in the only way I know: with words. That means if I read something that upsets me, I’m going to respond. I have a list of letters that are going to be sent this week, and a number of topics to address, and this should allow my indignant middle aged grumpiness full and unimpeded space to spread and grow in the weeks that follow. Mostly, it is an exercise in sanity, as I understand that the best way to deal with stupidity is to expose it as the hypocrisy it is. A lot of the time people decide their truth is that based on no real facts, and even less actual evidence. You just agree with the person you spoke to last, or the last piece of news that you had any empathy with. That’s not understanding, it’s simply meek acceptance of untruths force fed to us since childhood. Girls can wear blue. Men deserve red carpet space because women think they’re attractive, and don’t care they’re not in a dress.

It is time to grasp that the future is everybody’s to dictate, and not just a chosen few.