GSME #20 :: New Shoes

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The more astute amongst you will have noticed that this site has changed appearance. It’s not a seismic shift by any means but… the header image is now different, there’s some stuff organised behind the scenes and (by the time you read this) there will be an archive area for all the Books of the Month we will be trailing and then writing about, plus poetry associated with each month. As we discussed last week, this is all wrapped around my acceptance that if I want to ‘sell’ a Patreon that revolves around the cerebral world of poems and non fiction, I need to be targetting this to people other than those currently following me.

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In the revolving bird feeder that is Social media, I already know that keeping up with trends matters rather a lot. Unfortunately, making my content right now is taking up far more time than I’d like, which is leaving the brain less than optimal for self-promotion. Therefore, the plan is to try and improve the site little by little until the end of the Summer Holidays, and then when I’m on my own again in early September (and therefore able to dedicate a bit more time to the promotional side of things.)  Therefore during month I want to try and up the Patreon subscription count from existing followers before I start trying to hook them from other places. That leaves the rest of August to trying to optimise myself effectively.

#lifegoals It can be done ✅

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I think that will be eminently doable under current timescales.

Book of the Month :: The Ambiguity of Image

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The Trojan War is notable as one of the single most important events in Greek mythology, kicked off when Paris, King of Troy, stole Helen, wife to Menelaus of Sparta. In the ten years of hostility that followed the event most remembered was the night the Greeks left a giant wooden horse outside the heavily fortified Trojan capital. Taking this as a victory trophy, the structure was dragged into the city. Hidden within were a group of soldiers who promptly poured out, opened the gates and let the rest of their countrymen in.

What they assumed was one thing turned out to be something quite different.

Ambiguity in art could be traced back to the first cave painting, if one subscribes to the belief that the only person who truly understands meaning of any composition remains responsible for its creation. However, if you look for paradox in art purely in visual terms, trompe-l’œil (French for ‘deceive the eye’) has been popular since Roman times, creating paintings so lifelike as to be believed as real. With the Renaissance period in Italy a process was popularised known as di sotto in sù, meaning ‘from below, upward.’ Applied to the process of ceiling paintings, elements were presented as if viewed from the true ‘vanishing point’ perspective, creating the impression they were the true vista above the viewer.

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With more knowledge and time came the ability to better integrate orientation and numerical precision into works, leading to more complex approaches to creating an illusion. The most famous of the artists who popularised mathematical conceptualisation was M.C. Escher (1898-1972.) This Dutch graphic artist extended precision to infinite staircases and birds that turned into fish: his work is almost instantly recognisable even today. As the established art world began to question and reject traditional expression, photography became a new way to accurately represent the human image. This form however was not as pure and incorruptible as many early proponents would have its participants believe: trick photography soon became popular, and with the advent of cinema the potential for deceiving the eye via ‘realism’ was not far behind.

Cinema brought a whole new set of visual variables to the table: the film ‘L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat’ was said to appear so real when exhibited by the Lumière brothers in Paris during 1896, that observers ran to avoid the oncoming train, though this claim has subsequently been debunked as an urban myth. Once it became apparent what could be suggested by cinema, film-makers would seize on the possibility visual ambiguity: trompe-l’œil became an indispensable means by which movie sets could be painted, to give a sense of depth and false perspective. When one looks at the process of modern Computer Graphic Imagery (CGI) in films, and realises that in many cases the worlds we are presented with as real were in fact created inside a computer, it is clear only the sophistication of tools has changed in the process of deception.

It is becoming increasingly important for an audience to be capable of distinguishing CGI actors from the real thing. What then matters is a sense of belief that what their mind registers is unreal can also be acceptable as natural. Many cinema reviewers will refer to the concept of the uncanny valley: (noun) the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it. This has been most notably highlighted recently in the Star Wars stand-alone story Rogue One, where the late Peter Cushing was ‘resurrected’ (with the full permission of his estate) to appear as the Grand Moff Tarkin.

Tarkin’s requirement to the plot is sympathetically and (in this viewer’s mind at least) acceptably placed in the context of the narrative. This ability to bring actors virtually back from the dead moved Robin Williams to insert a clause into his will to restrict the use of his image until 25 years after his death, to prevent what happened to Audrey Hepburn (who now sells chocolate that never existed in her lifetime.) When it is possible to produce a hologram of a dead pop star to perform live on stage, who is to believe what they are being shown is real or not?

In the world of modern photography, a new set of rules dictates our belief of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. Photoshop, airbrushing and all manner of ‘sympathetic’ digital techniques can transform, remove thirty years or similarly age an individual. You may claim to #nofilter but everyone, at some point, will look at themselves in black and white and know it is a better way to hide their own personal fatigue than will ever be found with make-up or suitable lighting. In this digital age, your children understand and wield the power of visual ambiguity on a minute by minute basis: SnapChat makes you a bird, or a dog, has the power to transform in a moment.

This ability to instantly manipulate imagery can and does form a distorted view of what has become visually acceptable. We spoke at length last week about the tyranny of the nude, that body confidence can be irreparably damaged when every Instagram post shows a woman in a size eight dress. This image manipulation however is not restricted to the female form: an increasing number of men use vanity as an excuse to alter their physical appearances via surgery.

Transformation to order often moves away completely from notions of sexuality and gender to allow greater affinity to the widest possible audience. However, some advances remain almost depressingly predictable. The latest generation of sex robots are being made to look like women, because their major purchaser will be men. For every cosmetic procedure reducing the size and shape of nipples to create more androgyny, there remain those willing to increase breast size. Fashion may dictate some choices, but traditional stereotypes continue to win the day.

As consumers of image, we can become more discerning not simply in our understanding but also in the willingness to be deceived. When we take time to apply filters to our own images before posting them to social media but are critical of actors or sportspeople who do the same, there is a hypocrisy at play that transcends the public face we all wish to present. Only by accepting the faults and flaws we all carry, and often by embracing them can there truly be a peace with what is presented, plus the means to expose the ambiguity of imagery in general. Learning to live with conditions such as alopecia, body dysmorphia or simply becoming more acceptant of the variance and beauty that comes from randomness in all things is the path more should try and tread.

However, all of this self-acceptance can often be totally negated by the vicious nature of current social media. Revenge porn, slut shaming… these are terms that have been invented for a digital age. However, undoubtedly, such practices took place well before the terms were used to describe the practices. The only difference is how those images are now delivered. Speed, immediacy and reach mean a hacked filmstar’s photo library can be global in 12 hours, when 100 years ago the pictures taken might have taken months or years to become public domain. Scandal is not restricted to the digital age either, the only difference now is in the number of people able to watch a sex tape, or stare at infidelity simultaneously.

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When so much of what the modern world is about revolves around image, it can be hard to cope with ambiguity. One hopes for a clear, precise explanation behind every image, yet often what looks like one thing ends up as something quite different. Honesty should be the number one priority when it comes to imagery: if you’re trying to evoke the representation in a particular fashion, then be up front. Not being clear or accurate in description, using deception as a selling point… this is never really going to end well. If we return to our wineglass/female body image from the first essay, it is only with the business of optical illusion that ambiguity is a positive. In most other cases, it will only end in tears.

As has been the case in the last two weeks, I hope you can walk away from this essay with a clearer understanding of the duality of image in modern life. When reality TV is only presenting a version of the truth, it is up to us as discerning and intelligent individuals to try and make some sense of the complexities presented. At the same time, if we feel others are deceiving with their presentation, it is important to stand up and make our dissatisfaction heard, especially in relation to promoting body, race and sexual diversity.

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The image and the word together are what makes the Internet so powerful and compelling. I can stick 4 images and 140 characters into a digital message and potentially have millions of people see both. When a single individual is granted that ability without restriction, you cannot simply just keep pressing ‘send’ without due consideration of consequence. We all have our responsibilities to uphold in the Digital Age. The next time you manipulate an image, for whatever reason, consider the long term implications such power grants you, and how that could be used unscrupulously by others.

Beautiful Noise

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Welcome to what is now scheduled as a daily post on this site, in addition to the Patreon content being presented by the Internet of Words. For the last couple of months, every morning (or in bursts of creativity that are subsequently scheduled) I’ve been writing a daily haiku. Poetry has never been my strong point in all the years I’ve been crafting with words. However, as the weeks have passed, I find my brain beginning to think in a 5/7/5 manner as I wake. It is akin to remembering how to hold dumbbells for a certain exercise, or what my body has to recall when running so there is no additional stress on knees or back. Poetic muscle memory has become a thing of joy.

However, in the scheme of cerebral haiku I’m very much still swimming in the shallow end. Ideally two images/concepts should be separated by a kireji (“cutting word”) which also serves to join your disparate concepts together. Occasionally I’ve come close but it there needs to be more thought (and possibly caffeine) to make those neophyte efforts more acceptable. There should be more haiku when I’m awake, which means as of right now I’m going to try and write a week’s worth of content on a Sunday and then schedule it appropriately.

I’ve also started making a distinct effort to match appropriate GIF-age with both the daily haiku and the micropoetry, and starting on Monday if you’re following me on the IoW Twitter feed, you can suggest a GIF that will be used as inspiration for the following week’s offerings. In effect, you’ll be providing the pictures, and I’ll come up with the words, and this whole thing becomes a truly group effort. This has already proven quite productive based on the previous week’s output.

This is, however, only the beginning. I’ll be introducing the weekly ‘features’ starting next week, which is also when there’ll be a webpage established for all the Twitter poems, both from morning and evening. As they’re published in Tweet format I’ll be using that platform’s Moments feature to present them in an easily digestible form. I hope you’ll enjoy reading as much as I am writing.

Internet of Words :: Launch Week

In about 30 minutes or so, I’m going to throw open the Patreon doors for Twitter followers to become early adopters of my Great Writing Project. Today has been my most successful day of blogging in terms of audience for many, many months. Are the two connected? Probably not, but what I’ve proved is that certain types of content sell better than others, and that has given some pause for thought going forward. That’s a reflection for tomorrow, for now it is time to finally commit myself to a long term plan of attack.

If you’d like to get in early, go follow @InternetofWords on Twitter right now for your access credentials.

Otherwise I’ll see you all for Launch day via Patreon on the 15th.

Book of the Month

It is my intention, before the Internet of Words Patreon launches on June 15th, to give potential backers an opportunity to understand exactly what it is they will be throwing their money at. As a result, it is time to start explaining how this whole shebang is going to work.

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Each month, the Internet of Words will be using a work of published fiction or non fiction as the basis of a month’s worth of created and completely original content. This will include essays, humorous asides and at least one original piece of short-form fiction. On the official Twitter feed, all haiku and micro-poetry will be based on the subject matter of the book being ‘studied’, which means for the month of July our theme will be Pictures and Perception. I’ve chosen a seminal tome to kick off our endeavour, a piece of non-fiction that asks a lot of the reader. We’ve already mentioned the BBC TV show from the 1970’s which was based on this (and which will be referenced at certain points during the month.) Our opening inspiration is Ways of Seeing by John Berger.

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Click here to order this book on Amazon

I’ll be announcing the next month’s book in advance to allow Patreons and others to get a copy and read it (if they choose) so they can take a more active part in discussions. This also gives me a chance to plan the meat of the month’s output. Then, when we hit the first of the month, you can expect to see content presented, based around a number of the following umbrella topic headings:

War of the Words

The Internet began life as a text-based medium. Words are what matters more than anything else: for intent, to communicate and as education. Using our novel as a springboard, we’ll attempt to understand not simply the text in context to the subject matter, but its wider significance in the communication-rich world we now inhabit.

Books will be chosen which, in my opinion, straddle the worlds of traditional and modern, that embrace the concepts the Internet excels at and conversely fails to achieve.

Communications Breakdown

It is easy, without understanding extensive context, to make wild assumptions about everything and anything. In the modern world, therefore, understanding is probably more significant that initial knowledge. The IoW will attempt to give context to the novel, its historical significance and the circumstances in which it came to be written.

This will also include, where appropriate, documentary materials appertaining to a specific period of interest to the particular book being ‘studied.’

Alternative Internet

Anyone who has fallen down an Internet rabbit hole will know just how a subject matter can inspire people into amazing and often mind-boggling feats of self-discovery. In this strand, we’ll attempt to show what an understanding of the book’s wider themes can do to illuminate individuals’ own interpretation of the subject matter.

This strand might get a bit weird, I’m warning you now. Be prepared to be shocked, amazed and quite possibly challenged.

The Word is Not Enough

Any novel can be interpreted individually in potentially an infinite number of ways. An author will undoubtedly be amazed at what others see in their words, and often these are not enough when attempting to combine an individual experience with the written words presented to them.

We’ll consider how words are misinterpreted, how changes in societal attitudes can alter the words themselves, and that definition sometimes isn’t everything.

Fictional Narrative

I’ll be using the book as a springboard each month for both micro poetry and haiku via the @InternetofWords Twitter feed, but at the same time it will become the subject of short fiction, including 500 words micro-stories, and a 2000 word short story that covers one of the major themes of our monthly text.

There may be more or less, depending on how my real life goes. This is very much a ‘work in progress’ that will be reconsidered on a monthly basis.


So, there you have it. This is the initial concept going forward, and will be constantly reassessed, month by month, to ensure that all Patreons are getting value for money. By becoming a supporter, you’ll also be asked to help decide future novels for consideration, potential subjects for fiction and to take part in discussions that will happen exclusively for Patreon subscribers.

To say I’m excited is an understatement. I can’t wait to share with you what is in store for July, and I hope I’ll see you bright and early on July 1st as part of the Internet of Words ‘collective’ to begin discussing Berger’s work.

Things to Make and Do

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There’s a To Do list currently for IoW that’s quite long, but for now is not getting any larger. Tomorrow is my first major day for content deployment, but I’m now going to have to fit in both a Physio and Doctor visit to the timetable, so this afternoon is going to be an attempt to plan everything in advance (on paper) so I can just slot everything into the right position on site come the morning. Once this is done I can get to work on re-reading the first book I’ll be using as inspiration for our journey and preparing the various strands of content that will spring forth from it (I hope, there’s half the fear I already have, that this isn’t going to work and I’m about to make a fool out of myself.) The only way to find out if all this floats is to launch it. That’s T- 27 days now.

Yes, I might already be getting nervous.

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The Patreon rewards are sketched out, with physical elements themselves well on their way to being manufactured and delivered ahead of time. I’ve managed to slip in an extra reward for promotional use during June, too. Then it is all about extras: maybe getting some publicity shots done, designing some logos around books and computers, and for this I have half a mind next week when both kids are better and back at school to go visit the local library. It will all depend on the results of my Doctor’s visit tomorrow, one suspects, and whether I have any major medical issues to factor into the equation. Whatever happens, I think I’m ready to face it.

2017 Schedule

This graphic is my next thing to change because, starting tomorrow, is the real possibility of keeping 3 blogs running 24/7 which does in fact sound like lunacy considering what else I have on, but will be far more doable once the scheduling kicks in. So, we’re gonna give it a go, and see how long that works for. It means being brutal with the time I have, and organising myself better still than is already the case. Yeah, I’ll give it a go. I mean, honestly, what’s the worst that can happen?

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Right now, I’m confident all things are possible. After that, we’ll just take each day as it comes.

IW Update :: Patreon

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This week has been rather overshadowed by personal health issues, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my eye on the ball in terms of preparation, which should step into high gear starting on Monday. What that has meant in practical terms is preparing my Patreon space and finally pinning down what rewards will be available on ‘launch.’

Stage One Patreon Rewards have arrived 😀 #photographer #InternetofWords

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Right now I’ll be offering what I consider as a pretty decent set of physical incentives. On  order are Enamel Badges with the IW ‘logo’ plus special ‘Thank You’ cards, with these rather snazzy wristbands already in hand. On top of that there will be 10 ‘Founders Rewards’ which represent my top tier of participation, which are being routed in solid wood and which I will hand finish myself. Having read some stories about how there are those who unscrupulously pledge only for rewards and then leave, I’m hoping what I’m giving here is unique enough to simply appeal to those with a genuine interest. It has also been suggested I wait for a month’s pledges before anything goes out and that might also be a wise move on consideration.

The nuts and bolts of the tier rewards themselves are now sketched in a notebook, and I’ll exclusively reveal them to my Twitter feed this weekend, not simply as an early incentive but to check whether people think they’d be interested in what is being offered. To see what else is on offer apart from the physical rewards it is time to

where you can be actively involved in lots of cool stuff ahead of time.

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After that, next week will see my back end planning shift up a gear, and there’ll be areas appearing on the site to cover the body of work that will be produced under the Internet of Words ‘concept.’ I’ll be introducing each ‘strand’ as we go, and looking for feedback and interest at the same time. I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank everybody who has encouraged and supported me thus far. I’ve been literally gob-smacked that not only are there those of you willing to take a chance on my ideas, but that you’re already offering help and support for the journey.

Thank you so very much indeed.

The Big Sky

Now I’ve said in public that I’m launching a Patreon, there is of course no going back.

What that means in the larger scope of how I write however is still in a reasonable state of flux. I have ideas, of course, or else things will have never gotten this far, but right now they don’t include serious augmentation of either my personal site or indeed the Warcraft one. Those two now run fairly autonomously of each other and that’s not about to change any time soon. Most of the evolution is going to fall here, because here is the site that has the best domain for pimping, and well… this is where I should write.

There was a thought about launching a 4th portal but really, truthfully, it isn’t needed. However, I am giving fairly serious consideration to a site redesign, mostly because I’m not 100% convinced this layout is fit for purpose going forward. Therefore, over Easter (between bouts of cleaning) there will be some poking of the back end and an attempt to find a layout that is both cleaner still than this and more multi-media friendly. It also means that this site will be the first one to be updated to a business account so I can gain access to SEO facilities: not simply to continue the Social Media Experiment, but to get the domain up the top of the search listings.

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After that, the Devil is in the details, and I’ll be keeping a lot of that under my baseball cap for the weeks that follow. There’s already one project outside the scope of new planning that I’ve pitched to someone else which looks like could fly, and I’m going to be sending some DM’s this morning on that front. Mostly, the future is very much full of possibility, I just need to get organised enough to capitalise on them all. Because this is now business I’ll be making sure to keep you fully appraised of all the details, as and when it is necessary.

Trust me, you’re going to love every minute of it.