The Great Big IoW Survey

IoW Feedback

I promised, back at the end of October, that I’d be giving everyone who reads my blog (i.e., THE ENTIRE INTERNET) a chance to offer feedback on the Internet of Words content thus far. As I am a woman of my word, there’s now a lovely Survey available (via the wonders of Google Forms) which I’d like to invite y’all to have a gander at. It should take no more than 15 minutes of your life to complete, and will help me considerably in working out what happens next for my ‘brand/franchise’

You can find the form here:
https://goo.gl/forms/KbtYbxwQvfnkPGYd2

Thank you in advance.

Book of the Month :: When Steven met Stephen…

Book of the Month
It is the summer of 2003
. Europe is sweltering under the worst heatwave for 500 years as Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland all vote to join the European Union. In the US, it is less than six months since US forces invaded Iraq and liberated Baghdad, as intellectual fights rage as to the validity of this action. In the midst of all this, writer and journalist Stephen J. Dubner is asked by the New York Times to go and interview a man who is causing quite a stir in the world of Economics. So, he goes to Chicago, and for the first time meets Steven D. Levitt.

These were the days when social media meant MySpace and Friendster plus very little else: Skype had only just launched and no-one had even heard of Twitter or Facebook. Podcasting only began in this year: if you had an original idea to expound, there was literally nowhere to go other than magazines or newspapers for any radical thinker to find an audience who might be interested. In the case of Levitt, he’d already made a name for himself proposing fairly unconventional theories in a very conventional discipline.

His latest work, ‘The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime’ had aroused interest after publication in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. Levitt argued that a crime wave that had swept the US in the 1990’s had not been arrested by any of the means by which politicians, commentators or indeed sociologists had stated were responsible. In fact, the rapid drop in teenage perpetrators was a direct result of the landmark Roe v Wade legal case in 1971 which legalised abortion and effectively prevented a very specific demographic of potential criminals from ever existing.

This assertion was, understandably, met with a fair deal of academic scepticism (which continued for many years after publication) but Levitt’s work was based not only in fact, but considerable background research. Here was a man who looked at Economics not simply as a series of empirical concepts, but was acutely aware of the interconnectivity of other World events in relation to basic economic theory. Dubner, very much the epitome of the street-smart New Yorker, saw potential for the two of them, but it was his literary agent who can be credited with the inspired notion of getting the pair to write a book.

Freakonomics was published in 2005, the same year as a blog of the same name was launched. The latter tapped into an important, emerging means to capitalise on a new and previously unexplored group of critical thinkers riding a wave of Internet freedom. William Morrow and Company, who distributed the book in the US, sent 100 ‘preview’ copies to specialist bloggers in the hope they’d give favourable reviews. Many people subsequently credit the initial success of publication to the influence of the ‘blogosphere’: as of late 2009 (according to Wikipedia) the book had sold over 4 million copies worldwide. Then came a number of (probably inevitable) challenges to the original concepts covered in the book, a 2006 defamation case, which forced a revised version of the original manuscript to be published in the same year.

The success of the Freakonomics brand wasn’t just in the hands of independent internet writers or thanks to publicity over legal challenges: 2007 saw the blog become so popular it was absorbed by the New York Times, who continued to host it until 2011. By then there’d been a second book, documentary film made about the concept and the establishment of a podcast, Freakonomics Radio. However, more significant was the foundation in 2009 of the Freakonomics Consulting Group, soon changed to The Greater Good or TGG. With a number of Nobel laureates, this rapidly emerging commercial juggernaut attempting to maintain largely ethical status made perfect sense.

In a decade plus, Freakonomics has become big business, the epitome of Internet Brand Awareness. There’s now four books, a bi-weekly podcast and, if you have the cash, the original instigators of the lifestyle are available to come speak at your event. Their publicity blurb joyfully celebrates 600k followers on Twitter and a now fully independent blog that receives two million hits a month. This duo effecively and smartly rode the wave of emerging social networks and established the concept of out of the box thinking as a buzz-phrase for a generation.

However, there are critics, especially when it comes to their assessment of certain subjects (climate change most notably) combined with this peculiar deconstruction of what an American academic can do with enough disparate data to work from. Their joint success has generated the kind of grumpy annoyance that inevitable follows anyone who’s able to be hugely successful at the task in hand: there are imitators of Levitt and Dubner’s partnership all over the World, inevitably including those who resent not having had the ‘idea’ first.

However, this pair have effectively redefined an area of academia, giving the -onomics suffix an entirely new lease of life, and allowing people like me to believe that there is more to explaining why the World works as it does than simply spouting statistics and claiming academic superiority. In fact, I’d not be here today with a Patreon were it not for the belief that acceptable explanations do not simply have to involve one discipline’s set of particulars and no others. Allowing disciplines to overlap and merge, reading data from multiple (and often unexpected) sources means that literature has much to thank science for, history can look to economics to help explain actions… it may be considered by some as homogenisation, but it is a logical reaction to the means by which we now both absorb and react to the vast amount of (often contrary) stimuli available.

Looking for the unexpected answer to a question often allows us the ability to grasp the larger, more fundamental principles at play. In the introduction to Freakonomics, the perfect example of this is the US ‘real estate’ agent who you’d like to sell your house… but does she have your best interests at heart? Not according to the data, say Levitt and Dubner. If you look at the behaviour of Real Estate agents when selling their own houses, they’ll always try and angle for more money themselves, whilst looking for clients to take the first good deal that comes along.

What this pair are asking their readers to do is not necessarily agree with their principles, or indeed subscribe to this way of thinking. They are providing a valid alternative to what is presented as ‘conventional’ thinking. The definition of our individual truth, undoubtedly, is a complex combination of many factors. Sometimes, it is apparent that groups of people aren’t necessarily interested in the scientific facts presented. What they crave is their own, personal comfort away from actual reality.

If you want a perfect example of this in action, spend a moment reading around the subject of clean eating which has rapidly and significantly altered both what we consume and what is considered as healthy in the last decade. This movement owes more than a little to internet evangelicals: often women who have sought to transform themselves, creating a particular lifestyle of foods and detoxes before selling the concept to others via platforms such as Instagram. In many cases, conventional wisdom and scientific fact has been completely ignored in preference to ‘feeling good’ regardless of how this actually takes place.

However, in the last few years, academics and others have been at pains to debunk the transformative properties of certain foods, and that in many cases prolonged exposure can cause long term harm. Many cite this as yet another example of a ‘post truth’ environment many people now choose to inhabit. They would rather be wrong and happy than right and miserable. With the current state of world news right now, it really is not difficult to grasp the appeal.

The truth for most of us should be a combination of acquired knowledge, influence and personal consideration: looking outside what has been your accepted norm and thinking differently is never a bad thing. Challenging what is presented as fact is, after all, never a bad thing. What is increasingly apparent is that the real truth can not only be painful, but potentially damaging to people who refuse to accept that science and mathematics can only be ignored for so long.

Freakonomics challenges us to look at the World in a different way. It uses often disparate facts and examples to present a reality where everything truly is interconnected with everything else. Science’s constant reassessment of the Universe is now showing this to true on a molecular level, with rapid advances pointing the way towards a number of major re-examinations of matter, existence and even the history of mankind itself. As our very perception of reality is both reassessed and altered, it is time to look to the ordinary in order to find answers we can grasp on a personal level.

Now you appreciate the concept, it is time to examine evidence…

A Blank Page :: Haiku and Micropoetry

A Blank Page (1).png

This week’s poetry was a really fun thing to write, for several reasons. A lot of this has to do with the fact that as each seven days passes, I get better at doing this. I’m not going to start making assertions of expertise or competence however: there’s an awfully long way to go. The adage however that practice makes perfect is not only true for the exercise portion of my lifestyle: every new poem makes that portion of my brain a little more supple and flexible, and opens new possibilities. Picking a subject on a Sunday gives the opportunity for thoughts to percolate, and I think long term that doing that in advance and not inventing ideas on the fly will be the less stressful option, and may well produce the better rewards.

I’ll now let you decide whether the change in creation timescales produces a better result or not.


A Blank Page ::

Haiku Sequence

A blank page beckons:
Consider; possibilities
Tumble forth at will.

Will I write at once?
Perhaps: a break, moment to
Sit with pencil primed.

No, quickly write, or
Else momentum fades, let not
A moment be lost.

Exploding, I grasp
Ideas: concepts flying from
This mind ready, set.

Go and fill your page:
Let words become foundation
For story, now told.


A Blank Page ::

Micropoetry Sequence

Start with nothing:
Then, sit and wait.
Inspiration;
Out of the gate.

A sudden burst
To fill the page:
Intuition;
That comes with age.

My words will flow,
Fingers to screen:
Cerebration,
Conclusion seen.

From empty space,
An idea forms:
Fantastic thoughts,
Whilst brain still storms.

The final word,
My digits rest;
From nothing sprang
Story, progressed.


 

Change :: Micropoetry & Haiku

changeandgrow.png

Last week, I used one subject to act as the basis for both my scheduled morning and evening poetry Tweets on the Internet of Words account. The exercise worked pretty well, all told, and as a result I’ll be doing the same thing for next week’s sequences (subject matter to be decided over a cuppa and a low-fat brownie shortly.) What I’m finding most useful, in terms of writing, is having my mind in the same place in terms of the language I use. Knowing there is a subject matter allows me to make lists of words that act as starting points, metaphors and similes that can then be used either to build the basis of the work, or as means to act as ‘filler’ until the correct words appear.

This week, I think, is a new benchmark in terms of what I am capable of producing. These poems came off the back of a pretty fruitful period of work in both fiction and non-fiction too, and it is true what they say about productivity fuelling more of the same.

I hope you enjoy these two sequences presented complete.


Change and Growth :: Haiku Sequence

This seed inside, small
Start, so strong: germinating,
Life springs from within.

Spark explodes, massive
Detonation, point blossoms
Expanding ripples.

Self doubt evolving
Evaporates, forming vast
Mists of fertile thought.

Condensing clouds drift
Across mental plains, waiting
Ready to hold change.

I am growth, reborn:
Cycle of Fertility
Goddess of Renewal.


Change and Growth :: Micropoetry Sequence

Despite fatigue, I push
Understanding to change
Requires a mental strength
That transcends weight of life.

Whatever in my way
Tries to derail, there must
Be pause to think at length.
Grow; seek another path.

I am capable, of
Wondrous things: look beyond
Restrictions understood,
Then quietly cast aside.

My evolution, here
With pencil, pen, pixel
Transcends existing fear:
I can do this, and will.

The only limit, time
My imagination:
Catalyst, creating
Glorious change and growth.


 

August’s Book of the Month

This Month's Content

August’s featured text is ‘Consider Her Ways and Others’ by John Wyndham.
You can buy it here.

Each month, the Internet of Words presents a selection of content: fiction, essays, poetry and non-fiction, inspired and directly influenced by our Book of the Month.

To learn more about what you can expect, please read this.



Available Next Month:

2nd August

Understanding Wyndham: Described by Stephen King as ‘perhaps the best writer of science fiction England has ever produced’ we explain who Wyndham was and how his craft was influenced by the two World Wars he lived through…

Click here for the full essay.

9th August

Consider the Future: Consider Her Ways quite literately changed my life when I first read it in my early teens. Over thirty years on, the story of ‘a world without men’ is still relevant, funny and ultimately believable…

Click here for the full essay.

16th August

A Master of Storytelling: The remaining fives stories that make up this anthology are all miniature classics in their own rights. We discuss them all, and how they are indicative of Wyndham’s larger body of work…

Click here for the full essay.

23rd August

Soft Reboot: In a future where men are grown yet women are created, a fledgling AI makes a tentative pact with a disabled girl to advance the human race…

Click here for the short story.


patreoncontent

All the exclusive Patreon content this month will be poetry-based, with subject matter inspired by themes from four of the six short stories in the collection:

Odd

Stitch in Time

Random Quest

A Long Spoon

Pledges for the site begin at only $2, which grants you full access to all exclusive material.

Click here to become a Patreon

Adventures in Micropoetry [TWO]

Gorillas in the Wild.png

This is probably the hardest set of poems I’ve produced since I began with the daily workload. It also made me cry, after a week of arguing this household needs to radically reduce its carbon footprint and not make it any larger. I’ve paid cash to Friends of the Earth since my teens, and it will never be enough to save the Planet properly. Ecology matters, and the pictures on which this prompt was based are truly remarkable.

Thank you Brandy, yet again, for making me work hard.



Gorillas in the Wild

Nature’s brilliance:
Gorilla caught in
Photographer’s lens;
Pure simplicity.

We are both the same:
Primates, separate
Branches: dividing
Intertwined wonder.

What is lost to time:
Our innocence stripped,
Yours simply brighter:
Marvel captured whole.

So much to be learnt
Observing wisdom
Taking vital breath
Rethink perception.

Species together,
A planet stronger.
Both evolving, to
Live jointly in peace.


 

Adventures in Haiku [THREE]

5 haiku.png

There was a temptation this week, as was the case last time around, to simply post my produced Haiku and poetry for the week and crawl away into a hole, sucking my thumb. When I began my journey with the Patreon, I singularly failed to grasp the complexity of task presented. This isn’t hard physical work, but takes a significant mental toll. I have nothing but admiration for those who are lucky enough to consider themselves ‘professional’ poets because finding rhymes, or appropriate structures without repetition, hesitation or deviation can often be a really big ask.

This week’s Haiku sequence wasn’t written in one sitting: I was often desperately re-writing or drafting better versions of each part minutes before my 5pm deadline, to see if this ‘seat of the pants’ approach is workable. Some weeks I can, others need me to do it all beforehand (next week’s pairings are a case in point.) Here, and in the case of the Micropoetry I’ll publish tomorrow, I believe you can’t see I was drafting on the fly. If you read this as a whole and can tell I was in five differing places for each segment, please let me know.

Needless to say, this is a brilliant prompt, and I cannot thank Rob enough for his generosity in continuing to provide them.


Two Sides : Five Haiku

 

Two sides of the coin:
Stand straddling this space,
Facing each other

Holding all the cards:
High stakes never an issue,
Always food to eat.

I understand why
Taking away these comforts
Will smack of control.

Your privilege, just
that, when detached: unfair to
shift a fortune.

Look beyond this greed:
Embrace love, help those with less,
True equality.


 

Kill Me

Origins

The past is often a difficult place to return to, especially if you’ve done a good job of removing a lot of the memories from certain periods of time. I have school pictures, sure, and old physical copies of stuff I took in my early years of experimenting with film cameras. These memories have helped create the basis of a novel that I hope to finish soon, but in the main those times are not ones I enjoy returning too, or indeed like to remain within for long.

Back in my early 20’s, I wrote a Murder Mystery from scratch, to be performed as an ‘event’ at our first Housewarming. It was a significant undertaking, as memory serves: 1930’s themed, people in costume, modelled after the ‘Mystery in a Box’ games that were quite popular at the time. There were pictures of that, but they went in a skip during one of my darker periods of self-reflection followed by a redemptive clearout. Needless to say, I was big hair all over the 1980’s. There’s also perilously few pictures of me that remain, which should come as a relief to just about everybody concerned.

us_1

I surface again as photogenic in the late 1990’s, but between this period a lot of writing work did go on. There’s a separate post next week on my legacy to the early Internet, but I have script ideas and fully-planned novel overviews that have survived from this time, which remain nothing more than hand-written, fanciful affairs. In fact, if you wanted to categorise how it worked back then, the process can be fairly succinctly summarised as follows: get a great idea, work on it, then get told I’m a waste of space at work and trash the whole thing. It was only when I left my job to have my son that the toxic influences finally vanished, and creativity finally surfaced. That’s fifteen years, give or take, of wasted opportunity I still regret even now.

TV was also a significant influence on how my future endeavours would work, in fact without fan fiction, I doubt I would have ever found the confidence to attempt my own long-term narratives. The earliest surviving example of that in my own timeline is dated sometime around 1995, a decade after the first tentative pushes into my own fiction. That’s also part of next week’s Internet legacy, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Needless to say, this is a part of my life I wish never existed in part, and that I’m really very loathed to go back to at any great length. When the autobiography is written, this is four paragraphs in a chapter and nothing more: important as reminder but not significant as celebration.

Time to move on to more important things.

The Friday Prompt :: July 14th 2017

Prompt Time.png

Want to tell me what to write for the next seven days worth of MicroPoetry and Haiku?

Here’s your chance: reply to this post with a prompt: it can be anything at all. A picture, a video or a song, even a .GIF is acceptable, or perhaps some poetry or a snippet of dialogue. Post it in the comments, and if I like it enough, I’ll use it as a prompt for my Sunday afternoon writing session.

If your suggestion is chosen, I’ll make sure you get credited for the inspiration.

Submissions close at 12.05 pm, Sunday July 16th.

AWAY YOU GO.

Adventures in Micropoetry [ONE]

This is also the first week that I’ve taken a prompt for the Micropoetry (which will happen again) and it was a piece of video, provided by @rjdeducation:

From this sequence came the following five pieces:

POINTS OF VIEW.png

Now, see both sides
Understanding
Both good and bad;
Consequences.

Your point of view
Dependent on
Too much, at once
To guess at will.

An upshot, not
Ever certain
Dictated by
So many things.

This simple act,
Outcome clouded:
The final path
To journey’s end.

Open your mind:
Accepting truth
Each choice is more
Than what is known.