The Same Old Song

I made my first visit to the USA in 1994. It was arranged, I will happily admit now, using the X Files USENET group. This involved a round trip from a town near Boston to New York, via State College to Washington DC. What happened in 10 days is a story I will save for another day because it involved trusting people that, looking back on the journey, I’d have never in a million years been involved with were I planning to do this today. They were undoubtedly simpler times back then and I was naive enough in my 20’s to believe people might just want to meet me as a friend. The truth, on reflection, was anything but.

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The last seven days, for those of us who have lived online since USENET in the 1990’s, has been pretty much par for the course, all told. However, there is a whole new group of people who are discovering that if they thought modern politics was a swamp worth draining, then the Internet right now’s a nightmare they may not really be prepared to even adequately grasp.

Watching ‘normal people’ grasp 4chan, Reddit or even the depths that Twitter can sink to has only come about because the President of the United States speaks more to his elected populous here than anywhere else. Twitter has effectively become the ‘free speech’ platform used by Government (and not just the US version) in an attempt to lie, discredit and derail anyone who decides that its not doing the right thing. As a tool for good however, it is undoubtedly a massive boost to anyone who needs their message heard. This jungle may be a step up from the swamp, but remains fraught with potential pitfalls. As the adage goes, ‘what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet,’ often for decades after the fact. That means, if I so desired, I could go pull up my lame-assed attempts at early fiction, affiliation to a number of other fandoms, failed relationships with several people I hope never to see ever again… and so on.

When you live your life ‘online’ there are consequences. I’ve done a lot whilst existing here since those early days and so, I suppose, I accept that if you live a certain way, there’s just things you don’t do. Last week a friend (you’ll see his tweet a bit later) pointed out that George Takei (you know, that bloke from Star Trek) broke one of these cardinal rules last weekend and swiftly paid the price. If you ask a question and you don’t get the answer you wanted, the last thing to do is try and pretend it never happened. In fact a sane person will grasp that perhaps their view of the World isn’t as black and white as it at first appeared. In this case however, someone famous online made a mistake and instead of standing up and admitting that, they simply chose to pretend it never happened, and that’s just asking for trouble in a social network that never sleeps.

It was a tiny storm in a massive teacup, but made me stop and think. Almost 69,000 votes and in the sphere of Twitter that Takei functions within (I imagine social media as tons of overlapping circles, like a mahoosive Venn diagram with multiple points of overlap) the split was 49/51. If he wanted a landslide to confirm his opinion it wasn’t going to happen, because there’s an awful lot of very disenfranchised people online right now. Clearly expecting a different result, the poll was deleted, and that’s NEVER what you do online. Even I know that rule, but I didn’t realise there are others that not only exist, but are being handed out quite early on that you’re never going to find in any number of guides to the Internet given out by schools or even parents.

Thanks to @IrishBites, I now have a better understanding of how the Internet is altering to accommodate differing groups of people. I’m also aware that a subset of this group (who are referred to in the original article above as ‘The Deplorables’) were responsible for mobilising social media and, at least in part, can be considered a significant force behind allowing That Man to be elected as President. It occurs to me that a different subset was probably instrumental in Brexit, and when you grasp the influence Social media now has on daily lives and big decisions, it is time to sit up and take notice of the power it wields. For those wishing to cause trouble, rules should not be of significance, but amazingly they are. In fact, once you grasp how this game is played it becomes incredibly simple to grasp how those who don’t think before they act can not only be tripped up but ensnared by their own good intentions:

Remember that press conference after the Presidential Inauguration where Mr S. Spicer used pictures to prove that there were more people attending than the ‘popular’ press suggested was true? That incident could almost have been an Anonymous ‘shitpost’ following every single guideline listed here. The suggestion that arguing with trolls is pointless to begin with is the ultimate win state, of course, because you were the one stupid enough not to think of that before you posted. The true Troll knows when to pick up on weakness and to avoid the fight they will never win. That’s why you’ll see people try to attack certain figures but soon give up, because if you know your own failings and won’t allow others to exploit them, they have no power over you and never will. Ultimately, trolls win when you give them the ammo.

‘Roasting’ has become the new social benchmark for who wields real power, the ‘Thread!’ cry a means by which any idea can find an instant audience without the need to own either domain or website, and Twitter itself has somehow evolved away from what it would clearly like to be in the eyes of the business people who created it, namely Facebook only more profitable. However, I’m betting Zuckerberg would happily sell the remaining portion of his soul to have That Man using his social media platform as a means to practice Government, seemingly unrestricted on a world stage. It is no wonder that 1984’s getting a showing in US cinemas when you have a man effectively dictating what will happen in a country, via a platform with a worldwide audience.

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Except, true reality is not just online, or the ‘version’ of events you choose to consume. Reality is hard work, takes a lot of thought, and understanding that most individuals simply don’t possess. It’s not an insult, but might be if you’re easily offended by truths. The real story behind your 140 characters is a little of the shitpost, a dash of personal need, the slightest sprinkling of conspiracy theory. To understand what really goes on requires concentration and consideration, not confirmation bias. You are not right every time, and your beliefs might matter to you but not for others. In all of this, there is a space to find for each person that allows reality to present what are intractable truths, and it is those that should shape any movement forward. The Clown in the White House is like the Bad Magician in Downing Street: all smoke and mirrors, simply distraction from inescapable facts. This planet cannot sustain us at our current selfish rates of consumption. EVERYONE is equal: not under anybody’s God, but at a basic level of DNA. Race, sex and birth are irrelevant. 

Greed in all forms condemns everyone’s existence to ruin unless change happens NOW.

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I tell you what you do, Jen. Think before you post. Realise that ‘truth’ means more than a set of points on a graph. Be nicer to people, and stop assuming it is all about you, me, or anybody else. Accept fate, and let go of anger. Let nothing surprise you, and be willing to accept everything as ‘normal’ for at least somebody. In effect, that shitty set of internet rules are, like it or not, a decent way to conduct your existence, and having everyone follow a basic set that doesn’t mean that one group can profit off anybody else is, like it or not, a pretty sound way forward. Yeah, we need to make money to survive, but how about if you have more you give it to those who don’t once in a while, just to see how that goes. This is not difficult or complicated, yet it has become the hardest thing to do. Stop having an ego, and allowing it to be bruised, and just live your life as if each day were your last because you know what? At the current rate of stupidity we’re all experiencing, that might yet turn out to be the case.

I can’t change the world, but I can change myself. If we all did even a bit of that, what might that be able to achieve long term?

Your Game

I like to spend time on treadmills and walking, imagining ideas for novels not yet written. One of them this week involved a celebrity couple becoming an item, and wanting to not tell the Press. It wouldn’t be because they were doing anything wrong or bad, simply that they wanted to have a relationship away from the glare of publicity. How long, I wondered, could you go in the modern world without anyone becoming aware you were together?

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So, the guy and the girl decide they want privacy. They don’t move in with each other and continue living separate lives. Friends aren’t let in on the secret, and most importantly their agents are none the wiser. Neither go out in public together and if they do, leaving and arriving at places alone becomes de rigeur. After six months of this the couple decide they want to go on holiday: not to a hotel, but a privately booked apartment. The vendor only deals with the guy, and several hours after he arrives his partner (who was in the country, somewhere else) arrives and they spend the next two weeks in bed. Then, the night before the apartment’s due to be re-let? The girl quietly leaves. So, it goes on, and after three years of this someone sees them together and finally joins the dots. The press then decide they’re an item, and then the couple laugh and admit they got married six months previously.

The press, perhaps understandably, go ballistic. It is up to celebrities to play the game. You ‘tip off’ the press, they help promote stuff. They sell this life, and in turn stories shift many, MANY units and create thousands of shares and retweets. That’s how this branch of ‘journalism’ works. Except, it only ever matters if anybody cares to begin with, and that begins with a long and tortuous process of hawking yourself to the highest bidder, prostituting everything you ever do and becoming a soulless, empty husk. After years and years of this it becomes habit, a drug, fix you cannot ignore and that fills every waking thought.

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Please don’t feel sorry for people when they have lived their lives in front of a camera. If you’re prepared to sell your wedding pictures to a magazine? Frankly, everything is fair game. If you go out of your way to avoid being in the public eye and people drag you into it? Then, I think, you probably earn more respect, but that’s no excuse for stupidity. If you stick your dick in someone else’s wife and expect an easy ride? It should be no different than the woman who cuckolded their husband. Sometimes, actions have consequences. The fact remains, millions of people feed on other people’s broken and battered personal lives. It’s been this way for HUNDREDS OF YEARS. The only difference now is that more people get to know faster. Salacious gossip was around for Jane Austin, and well before.

If you don’t want to be ‘news’, don’t make it.

If you don’t want people commenting on your personal life, stop fucking publishing it in public.

Voodoo People

Today, I live streamed a video game to Facebook. As this is a sentence I never thought I would ever type in my adult lifetime, it probably deserves some explanation.

My PC is not old, but it’s hardly bleeding edge technology. It also refuses point blank to play with Windows 10, which I suspect may have something to do with the rather Heath Robinson manner of its construction. I’ve tried and failed on so many occasions to get Twitch to operate with it, and recording to video and editing is a process that I have neither time or patience to entertain. When Facebook Live was announced to work with World of Warcraft, I determined this was probably my best bet for giving streaming a try, because it did not involve real money to upgrade anything or any more technical knowledge than simply a few clicks of a mouse. However, the main reason I’m using a platform I detest is that, like it or not, I can ultimately control EXACTLY who watches, and that’s not possible anywhere else on the Internet.

This is my project, and my rules.
 

 
It’s not an attempt to be popular or special, or become an Internet celebrity (at peak, EIGHT PEOPLE WATCHED ME) it is just a way to chat for an hour a week to people and add content to my arsenal. It works well in lieu of Podcasting. It allows people to see how I play in game and what matters to me. Mostly, I can fuck about and enjoy myself and record this to become a history of what I’ve done. If it works with this platform I can use Facebook Live to do video diaries for other stuff. In the end, it shows willing to give a bit more of myself than I have before.

Mostly, it is rather enjoyable.

If I keep getting people interested? I’ll keep doing it.

Seeing Things

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

Undoubtedly you’ll end up with your heart broken.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fever

Today is a day for just shutting the fuck up and getting shit done. It hurt on the treadmill, painful when doing press ups and pull downs, and I had to drag myself home today, despite the brilliance of a late Summer afternoon. Everything is hard, has been difficult since I woke, three minutes before my alarm from an anxiety dream I have from time to time. It was my brain’s salutatory warning, that if I push physically, there are going to be consequences. Except I’ve had enough of being dictated to by a part of my body that is already fit, and appears not to want me to control my own destiny a lot of the time.

Our minds are the worst enemies we have.

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Yesterday an acquaintance on Twitter posted a set of pictures, stating he thought they showed a set of emotions in himself that I didn’t see at all. In fact, all I saw was someone working hard to get better at digital art. I made a thing yesterday for the Writing Site (more on that tomorrow) and thought it was great, but just because nobody else agreed with me? I don’t care. I produced the graphic to make me happy, not to appease anyone else, the same way I’m pushing hard to attain the various physical goals I’ve set. Yeah, if my husband finds me more attractive and I live longer then I can say these were unintentional consequences, but they were never the point. When your worst critic’s in your head? Life can get a bit pointless, so there comes a point where you either ignore the demons and move on, or they consume you.

Having done the latter far too often, it is time for sustained and continued change.

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It is also time to make some space between me and those who seem to think I am their personal saviour. Despite the fact I’d love to be able to help everyone, it isn’t practical or sensible to try and do so, especially if some of those people have no intention to listen to you or the advice you give, and seem hell bent on their own version of self-destruction. I get why people love to do this, that life needs to be about them complaining to have any meaning, but there is a point to draw the line and move on. I don’t want to sound like that person either but I need to be going forward or this won’t work. So, there are harsh choices to make, and if you do it wrong? You live and learn.

In the end, the first and last person you have to report to is… well, you. This is your immortal soul we’re talking about, after all. Mine’s already on notice that if it fucks me about any more I’m gonna start withholding other privileges. I’ve earned a new Fitbit badge today, and I’m sure as fuck not about to give up on this journey now. Body and brain need to work it out and get it on with all speed.

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That’s the GREAT WALL OF FUCKING CHINA, people. I’m not stopping now. I got many, MANY points to prove.

Running Scared

Those of you paying attention will notice a new page has appeared in my menu bar, and that there’s two new writing projects on the table under ‘Non Fiction’ in the Work in Progress area. I’ve never really considered working on projects outside the comfort zone of gaming before, and whilst you’ll see everyone and his bro opening up their gaming portal or starting a You Tube channel dedicated to some aspect of gaming or geek culture? I realised over the summer my underlying strength is the words, not the pixels. I may really love playing this stuff, but I now enjoy writing more, and that’s what is guiding my thinking going forward.

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‘Learning to Breathe’ will, I hope, help anyone who’s looked at the road to physical fitness and been unable to feel confident they can make it. It won’t just detail where I am with my own journey but is now going to cover the process I’ve begun, to learn to run successfully as an asthmatic. I know that a lot of my issues have nothing to do with my own level of fitness and everything to do with the voice in my head that says I’m not capable. I make no bones over the intensely personal nature of the journey either, but what I am now, like it or not, is tied into my level of physical fitness. I hope to make strides everywhere (no pun intended) and all the relevant posts will be stuck in a dedicated area for your perusing pleasure.

‘Letters to My Heroes’ isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, and you’ll find that on the dedicated writing site. I have, in my head, at least a basic list of those people, living and dead, who I’d like to ‘talk’ to as time goes on, to explain why they ended up positively impacting my life over the last 50 years. I’m sure some of you can guess the identities of a few of the early recipients, but when I start thinking about the business of heroism… well, there’s a lot here to cover and not simply the initial planned first set of twelve letters. I’m not trying to sound mysterious, but there are reasons, and they will be revealed as time goes on.

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I still want to spend a bit of time documenting my t-shirt collection, and that’s gonna appear under the ‘Favourite Shirts’ banner as I get around to pulling together pictures. At some point I’d also like to review all 24 Bond films too… and as I sense there may be a Bond 25 announcement on the cards sooner rather than later? It’s all content for the future. 

For now, there’s plenty planned, and I hope I can cover it all.

Pray

Now I have committed myself to a path where writing is more important than it has been before, I have to find a way to fit that into my life. Right now that’s simple, because the kids are on holiday and nobody else really needs to stress about organisation, stuff just happens eventually. A week today the youngest returns to school, son the following Monday, and after that I will have a schedule to fit around. That will start with a 7.45 am commute to school and a 3.30pm pickup, meaning I will lose a significant portion of my day to roads. I’m already half thinking about parking my car at the youngest’s school at least twice a week and walking to and from there to give me exercise. It’s a six mile one way trip, which is more than possible on my current level of fitness: 12 miles a day is equivalent to about 24k steps, which is easily manageable.

I’ll still have PT once a week, plus two additional Gym trips, and shoving an extra 24 miles into that should really not be a push. The killer, of course, will be time ‘wasted’ whilst walking, and so I’ll need to put that to good use. My husband’s been pushing me for a long time to listen to more than music on my iPod, and so I will be investing in some audio books plus podcasts to listen to on the journey. I’ve also wanted to start appreciating Ian McMillan’s ‘The Verb’ Series on Radio Three, and hope that the BBC iPlayer App will allow this to happen. What it will mean is more planning to maintain a seamless transition from one schedule to another, but if I can spend time walking and keeping fit whilst avoiding the amount of time I spend in a car? So much the better.

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That means, all things being equal, it will work like this:

MON: PT
TUE: Walk
WED: GYM
THU: Walk
FRI: Rest
SAT: GYM
SUN: Rest

I will need to factor in more rest, too, especially as there’ll be earlier starts and I do NOT function well under limited sleep. I’ve already filled a Moleskine notebook across the Summer with ideas and plans, and I’m genuinely exited going forward as to what I can and will be able to achieve. What I want to avoid, more than anything else, is just sitting for hours and losing momentum. As a friend pointed out, the exercise is granting a clarity and focus I need to not only grasp but use as fuel. On that front, once I’ve done here there’s chores and then I’ll walk to Town to get the kids a set of keys each for the house, just in case all the grand planning goes awry.

However good you think you are, the unexpected just happens.

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This however does not tell me when the writing can happen, but that it will around the framework I’ve created. I’ve been amazingly productive on gym walks in the last few days, watching existing ideas morph in differing directions, and I may well start taking my tablet in my Gym bag to edit and write whilst I eat lunch. I’m still toying with the idea of a laptop, but it is early days and the iPad plus keyboard is actually surprisingly robust once you look past the shortcomings. I’d rather not spend money when there’s a perfectly acceptable alternative available. Until it becomes a massive inconvenience? There’s more than enough space for a tablet and boxing gloves in the same bag.

Getting fit really was the best thing I ever did for my entire life.