Book of the Month :: The Ambiguity of Image

horse2.jpg

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.

220px-Escaping_criticism-by_pere_borrel_del_caso

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.

scandal

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.

body(input); //spin off from maria judova on Vimeo.

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.

First Steps

Origins

A lot of my earliest memories are garbled affairs: I can remember the Moon Landing in 1969, fallout during Three Day Weeks and making up games based on Rentaghost during break times on the Primary school playground. However, there is clarity when it comes to learning the recorder (playing in front of the whole school once) and in an ability to make up stories on the spot. In fact, so good was I at doing this, I was asked to make up a spontaneous narrative in front of my Year Six class. It turned into a week long event, each ‘episode’ ending with a cliffhanger. I wish there were memory of exactly what it was that was told, but there’s no recollection of detail. What I can remember clearly however is the excitement each time the job was done.

Spinning tales has always made me happy.

Today, I’d like to share a piece that was written for the first ‘serious’ writing course I took part in, which required an autobiographical submission on my early experiences with words. It is as good a start to this feature as I could hope to present, and it covers the three main stages of my literary journey very well.

The book that began it all, by the way, was Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama.


 

One Small Step

 


1976
1976


This is the third time I’ve had bronchitis in the last four months.

On what is the hottest day of the year so far, again I am confined to bed. Every time there’s a cough, fear nibbles a little deeper, concern I will be trapped in this bright pink duvet forever. This is where it begins: anxiety that will, in time, become something far more dangerous than a chest infection. For now it is simply an accompaniment to ill health and ineffective medicines: reminder that I am fragile and mortal, perpetually frightened of ending up in hospital.

I am petrified of dying.

This panic pollutes my heart, unmistakable bitter saltiness even now: perpetual paranoia constantly bolstered by over-protective grown ups who believe I need to be sheltered from the World, who take care over everything. At nine I don’t yet grasp it is sadness binding me to these neuroses like thin cotton, digging into my chest, restricting the  breathing… that I am doomed to be a victim of my own over-active imagination and ill health for the next three decades. For now, listening to the radio, singing along to music and trying to fight boredom is all there is.

My father attempts to lift flagging spirits by bringing me a book. He urges me to read it, to lose myself in musty, damp-smelling pages. We talk about the man on the moon, my first real memory: Neil Armstrong on our ancient black and white television in a cramped upstairs flat, which seems a thousand years ago. He reassures me, this too is all about space, that I will enjoy the story. Science fiction is one of the few real connections we have, music is the other: the rest of the time he remains an unknown quantity. Never here, always working, my sense of him hazy and without affection. I sense his presence only in passing, influence far less less potent than my Grandparents or Mother. To be brought this therefore is significant: I must really be ill.

I read the book and am amazed how quickly I am sucked into a virtual world. The story is re-read countless times in the following days, as I latch onto the last sentence and its open-ended coda.

My teacher has already told me that good stories should always have a beginning, middle and end. Great Nanny loved to use the phrase ‘bad luck comes in threes’: she died because it was her time, this is not yet mine. The third bottle of sickly yellow medicine will be the last: I am going to get better and this imprisonment will finally come to an end.

One day, perhaps I could write a story as great as this.

I plant a seed, possibility of something to do well, and unaided.

That day was buried a desire to describe, tell what could be seen in my head so clearly. That hope, placed with a confidence I didn’t yet fully grasp, was quietly hidden away from layers of uncertainty and doubt: you can write like this if you want to. Your body may be faulty but your mind is capable of so much, if you will only allow it the opportunity to rise above the clouds, into space… and the unknown.

The only thing that prevents you from brilliance is your own fear.

Conquer that, and you are capable of anything.


they-live-1988-obey
1988


I have glandular fever, and am without a job.

I have fallen out of college, earnest dreams put on hold: not intentionally, but through circumstances which create their own wholly acceptable justification. I’ve met a boy, and for the first time in my life experience the breathless thrills of sexual passion… but practicalities inevitably intercede. I lack any financial ability to escape the parental home. Fear remains a constant companion, eroding rational decision making. When my recently-redundant mother begins her own business and asks me to join her, I see a way to escape but also a means to remain safe should anxiety threaten to dominate.

With hindsight this is one of the biggest mistakes I will ever make: I am not yet aware of just how caustic the consequences would become, or what might result from such a close extended association first with my mother and then my father, who joins the business shortly afterwards. Anxieties may briefly recede in my twenties but still hover unseen, constant companions increasingly inflamed by proximity to adults whose ideals became progressively more alien to my own. Expression is progressively stifled, silenced by responsibility. My perception slowly warps, slow curve inwards, away from the light of quality and towards parody and unoriginality. The distractions of reality serve only to compound the problem.

The seed inside remained shrouded in self-imposed darkness.

My father and I find a new topic of conversation: ‘Personal Computers’, machines that one day I hope posses the capacity to do things I could only currently experience as fiction. Here was my childhood future made real, breathless possibilities and access to the World itself. When he presented me with the offer to buy myself and my partner a brand new machine I didn’t consider any ulterior motive. Still thinking as a nine year old, I grasped a way to experience a larger Universe outside of personal gravity. It never occurred that he might be trying to buy back some of the time that was lost with me as a child.

Neither did I grasp that I was being slowly pulled away from what it was I’d planned for my life, weighed down by a duvet of both practicality and duty. The technology created an impression of freedom, that I was independent and empowered, but in the end it was simply a distraction from a truth brain remained unwilling to grasp. I may have felt this was growing up, but work and gifts simply acted as distraction, confining the sickly girl to bed a little longer. By the time I understood what had happened, the damage had already been done. Sadness became something far more dark and insidious, and threatened to consume me completely.


obama
2008


I haven’t had an asthma attack for nearly a year.

My daughter has just turned two. My eldest son is seven, and the nightmares of my twenties are receding. I have a new and utterly glorious set of distractions: work has become my husband’s worry. The irony of him taking control of my parents’ business via a management buyout is never lost on me, that ultimately their need to ensure I was safe has been fulfilled. I have travelled a long road to be here: loathing and self doubt, anger and disbelief, finally compounded with Post Natal Depression. There is finally a name for my sadness, and one man to thank for saving me. My husband’s devotion has been unwavering, his love a constant reminder, if it was needed, that my worth as a person is measured by my actions, and not mistakes.

Finally, with the right conditions, the long-dormant literary seed begins to germinate.

From the radio I learn that Arthur C. Clarke has died. Sitting as my daughter sleeps next to me, staring at a computer screen, I begin to cry uncontrollably. Somehow, between the first time his book was picked up and now, I truly lost my way. What mattered so much in those early days, that talking and telling is far more important than simply standing back and listening, was erroneously put aside. Allowing the demands of others to overtake what granted me the ability to overcome my anxieties was simply wrong. With my parents that resulted in resentment and bitterness, but with the birth of my own children I know the opportunity exists to start again. The impetus is simple: writing makes me happy. Without it, something is missing, has been for far too long.

I finally awaken to my own possibilities.

Twenty five years worth of scattered attempts, fragments on hard drives and archived on CD’s has never been fully realised. When I am able to move past the fear and the uncertainty of my own mortality, that constant fragility, I know what must be done. In this quiet moment without the distractions of work, family or briefly life itself, I make a promise. I will no longer allow the world to distract me from my task. I begin here and now, allowing confidence to find its own direction.

So many other things have evolved in the last thirty-two years, yet this transformation has just begun. I no longer need a publisher to make words appear around the world, all that is required is a computer and a grasp of technology. My father gave me these gifts: a love of words and the means to spread them with so that I can sit and create a web page: it is one small step to combine all that I have learnt.

I may yet forgive my parents for what has gone before.

Publishing my first blog entry, I take my giant leap into a larger Universe.


 

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.

The Final Countdown

logo_one_banner_small

I mentioned back on May 5th that I was going to have to go in for what turned out to be quite important surgery. My recovery, although fairly swift, is not as rapid as I had either hoped or planned for. As a result, my intention to go live with Patreon next week is, on reflection, somewhat optimistic. That means there will be some minor changes to project timings, to allow me a chance to get completely back to normal and present the level and depth of content that I think this entire project deserves.

With this in mind, amended timings are as follows:

patreon_black.png

Early Adoption Patreon will now go live on June 12th, with general access available on June 15th. This also allows me to finally complete the Top Tier rewards to be photographed, and have the enamel badge rewards in hand. I’m also considering some additional rewards that I’ll let readers of the IoW Twitter feed know about starting next week. If you want to be a part of my Early Access Team, please follow @InternetofWords on Twitter where there’s already a daily dose of Micropoetry and Haiku to keep you entertained.

wordywordy

I’ve decided to do a massive update of all of the various online presences ahead of the Patreon launch too, as an excuse to standardise everything across the board and organise better going forward. The physical changes for this are already in place, it will now simply be graphics and content that changes long term. Here’s a reminder of where you can find me, and that all of these places will be getting a freshen up starting tomorrow:

Main Graphic One.png

I’d love to tell you more, but honestly I’d like to keep some surprises under my belt… needless to say, it’ll be worth your time.

I look forward to seeing you bright and early tomorrow morning 😀

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.

chuckthumbsup

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.

Secret Agent Man

Dear Daniel,

Before I go anywhere else, it’s probably an idea to admit the following and then move on.

Considering you’re stupidly famous, it is possible you’re not aware that some husbands and wives often have conversations where it is implied that should circumstances allow, and the seemingly unattainable celebrity you lust/desire/dream about were ever available for a night of commitment-free passion, you’d be granted a free pass from your spouse with no questions asked. My List, such as it is, remains fairly short, and by now you’ve guessed what’s coming. For quite a while, you used to sit at the top. However, sometime between the filming of ‘Quantum of Solace’ and ‘Skyfall’ that all changed. On considered reflection I suspect the precise shift occurred about six to nine hours after I saw Bond 23 for the first time on DVD. I was unwell, and that afternoon was a turning point for a lot of personal expectation, including a half finished attempt at redefining the Bond genre in my own mind.

In summary? You were once an object of desire, but now have become something far more significant. With the embarrassing shit out of the way? Time to explain why I’m really writing.

skyfall_eve04

I’d wanted Julian McMahon as Bond when your predecessor was effectively removed from the frame at the start of the century. I’ll grant there were excessively selfish reasons for this choice, but when you look at who else was up for the job, I think giving it to an Australian would not have been too bad a shout. I’ve been a dedicated fan of Bond since ‘Goldfinger’, fell in love with Roger Moore in the 70’s and promptly concluded that Connery was never my type. There was, I’ll freely admit, a brief flirtation with Timothy Dalton, but like so many other people I considered Pierce Brosnan the logical and natural choice to bring everyone back to the right point, where men wanted to be 007 and women needed to sleep with him, no questions asked. The character, like it or not, remained the fictional owner of a guaranteed spot on the Spousal Pass card. That is until you came along, and changed Bond into something better.

It wasn’t just the reboot of the franchise that caused this to happen, or the change in narrative direction. What you gave the agent from ‘Casino Royale’ onwards was something that had not previously existed with any incarnation of the character: fallibility. I’ll grant you, I totally understand why Barbara Broccoli gave you the nod after ‘Layer Cake.’ When you emerged from the sea in Barbados as Ursula Andress did in ‘Dr No’… honestly, you’d have to be dead not to get that you were being presented as a Bond meant to attract both sexes, but for vastly different reasons, and it worked until this version of the plot arc was finally exhausted. Once you were seen to move past Vesper Lynd’s death in ‘SPECTRE’, there was nowhere else left to go, and shoving Bond off into the sunset with a woman half his age is probably the way a lot of men would ideally choose to retire.

In all the times between, you gave Bond a set of balls he’d never owned before.

bondandq

That’s no mean feat for a genre that made its name on a hero whose whole existence was inextricably bound with misogyny. It was a label I sense that never really sat well with your incarnation either, and that alone makes all the films you leave behind vastly superior to pretty much everything Moore did after ‘Live and Let Die’ and makes Connery’s efforts post ‘You only Live Twice’ look frankly a bit dodgy. It’s ironic therefore you have so much in common with the guy nobody ever remembers in the line-up: George Lazenby. There’s a 007 who gets the girl at the end and has her snatched from him in perhaps the cruellest way possible, and it is easy to see how echoes of Diana Rigg’s immensely strong and equal to Bond in all ways portrayal of the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo appears in Lynd and later Camille Montes.

There’s flashes of that strength in the 90’s Bond girls, undoubtedly, but honestly it takes a very long time after ‘Goldfinger’ before there is anybody who is credibly written as a genuine counter to Bond. Wei Lin in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ is probably the only time for me that a sense of female equality in terms of both physical and mental prowess is presented, and that’s yet to be bettered even by Eve Moneypenny in the current iteration… mostly because of that decision to stick her behind a desk at the end of ‘Skyfall.’ What your Bond has done, undoubtedly, is re-establish the canon, but equality’s still at the stage it was in the late 1990’s. We know the Chinese have agents in service, but not the Brits. Where’s the believable, confident and physically capable equal? Yeah, I know: if we had that, as one of my friends pointed out recently I’d be watching ‘Mission Impossible.’ You work alone, and it’s been that way since the late 1950’s.

Perhaps everybody could do with moving that agenda on as a matter of urgency.

8702d-skyfall_drink

If I were a betting woman, having seen the roles you’ve lined up post ‘SPECTRE’, I’d wager you’re pretty fed up of 007, and I really can’t say I blame you one iota. The last two minutes of that movie will become the epitaph to a role that, however diverse and well-acted, is likely to haunt you for the rest of your professional career, and if this were me I’d go all out to amend that. The concept of Bond is going to be extremely hard to reboot regardless: then you’ll need the right person up front to head it, and looking at the raft of ‘young’ talent on offer, honestly, nobody will do it as well as you did, because they’ll be living a lie you were the last person to successfully dispel. Maybe, after 50 years, it is finally time to call it a day for the lone wolf. It’s no wonder Eon don’t want to announce Bond 25 for a while yet.

I should point out at this juncture that I think I’m also probably done with 007 for good. Nobody’s gonna do the character the justice you’ve left as the benchmark, or equal that sense of underlying discomfort given to a character who was willing to give up everything and never allowed a chance to be happy. He just went back to the job, in the end realising that Mallory was right in ‘Skyfall’ and he should have stayed dead. The best way to leave, undoubtedly, was when Bond was on top. I’m really looking forward to seeing how you shape up in ‘Purity’ by the way: the book has a great deal of potential and in the post-Obama, internet leak/Russian hacked world we now inhabit, it could make a lot of people think. I’m also wishing I’d been in New York to see you play Iago, because I’m also fairly confident you’d have imbued that character with the true understated menace he deserves.

However, there is one other thing I should thank you for before I go, and it has nothing to do with your professional career. Without you, I would never have given Radiohead the time of day, but to know they were a band you loved was a subtle poke to my own brain to expand horizons and listen to new things. Without doubt, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is now one of my favourite albums of the last ten years. Then there’s the small matter of inspiring me to write two full-length fan fictions based around the best 007 that’s ever been stuck on celluloid… which in turn has opened a door to a much larger Universe. The confidence and abilities I’ve honed in those two pieces is serving me well as I produce a novel I’m both proud and pleased with. I’m well aware of how much both those things were influenced by a character I’m betting you’d rather I shut up about now, so I will.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I get that whole ‘fuck off, leave me alone, I’d like my privacy’ stuff more than I suspect most will. It’s not a fault, but a strength in character. Bond is the job, and it’s not you. The sooner more people realise this in the World, the better life will be for everybody, and maybe you can go have a drink from time to time in peace.

Thank you for making me a better person, regardless of the role.

Alt.

PS: I’m still jealous you got to park your arse on a DB10. There, I said it.

Here is the News :: January 14th, 2017

I have, for the last couple of weeks, been running a ‘news’ service on the Gaming Blog, and what this has come to make me realise is how important the context of reality is when you’re writing daily. It’s quite easy to get sucked in by the major issues that drive yourself, or your friends, and then forget that this isn’t the bigger picture. Therefore, starting this week, I want to keep a record of the ‘smaller’ news stories that catch my eye each week (and there are many of them) so that when I come to look back on a year, I hold a rolling reminder of what accompanied my life at that time. So, without further ado? Here are the stories that caught my eye this week, with my own take on the wider issues behind them.

hereisthenews_divider

Luxury Items and the Legacy of Consumption

salmon.png
Full story can be read here

I remember the first time I was given salmon, that my mother knew just how much of a rarity it was and that I would do well to make sure none of it remained on my plate. It was a gift from when my Dad worked for a US car company, and we ate it for weeks afterwards. Sushi is, without doubt, my favourite expensive dine out items of choice and to read that we could see salmon as a true rarity by the end of the year is a sobering thought, especially considering how organised farming of the fish has become in recent years. However, nature has a way of throwing such spanners into Humanity’s collective game plans (see below) and I wonder now if this is just the first of many such ‘evolutions’ the planet will undergo as demand continues to outstrip supply.

If you want a sobering reality check as to how dire food supply issues could become in the next thirty years, this is a good place to start. There’s also the persistent spectre of global warming (yes Donald, it does exist) doing things to large portions of the planet where food production is already precarious to begin with. Things like these lice have come out of left field, and may force us as a population, like it or not, to redefine how we eat and drink in the next decades. I should also award 10 extra points to the Guardian for that headline, which at least proves that someone on the writing staff isn’t as miserable as most of their compatriots seem to be of late and is willing to stick something clever into the header.

hereisthenews_divider

The Superbugs are Here

drugs.png
Full story can be read here

This story is the wake-up call everyone should read before they go to the doctor and plead for a course of drugs. Do you really need them? Does it really matter, if so many animals are fed antibiotics to compensate for the appalling conditions they exist within? Well, the apocalypse is already here, as a woman in the US finally succumbed to an illness which was literally untreatable by conventional medicine. Fortunately that does not seem to be airborne in nature, so you can all relax and stop assuming the Apocalypse isn’t just the Orange Guy being sworn in as President next week.

What this does make me consider however is what medicine will have to become alongside the issues of food production in the years that follow. Of course, vegetarians will tell you that were there not so much of a desire to eat meat, a lot of these issues would never have become significant to begin with. That’s undoubtedly true, but man did exist alongside beasts as transport and nutrition for a very long time before we came along with fast food and obesity. For me, the bigger picture is making sure that healthcare isn’t beholden to people experimenting with new stuff without due care and attention. This horror story from France is the stuff of a short story, or perhaps a future episode of Black Mirror.

hereisthenews_divider

The Disaster that Never Came

flooding

Thursday night was bizarre in the Weather Department: incredibly heavy rain all day that then turned into snow with surprising speed. What I wasn’t expecting (and indeed was anybody else by the way the news cycle diverted) were the Flood warnings that resulted in the Thames Barrier being raised and threats of flooding being posted all the way down the East Coast. My little bit of Essex (right at the bottom) fared as well as the rest of the coastline, which was very well thank you. In fact, as the last warnings fell away there was a sense of wondering what all the fuss had been about.

For some it might seem like crying ‘wolf’ but this kind of incident is going to become more and more prevalent as time goes on. All that water melting at the Polar icecaps has to go somewhere, kids. Low lying areas will suffer, and that means London may yet see a repeat of the incident last year when the Thames came perilously close to completely bursting its banks in a great many places. You think the map above looks colourful, that’s nothing compared with the London map I looked up earlier. There’s also a brilliant overhead picture of the Thames Barrier in action from yesterday I’ve seen on Facebook, that’s now appeared on Twitter:

hereisthenews_divider

There you have it: If you like this, share it around for me. Lord knows I could do with the views.

Still Alive

What, we made it through Week One unscathed?

yespossibly.gif

I realised as we zoomed through the first seven days of 2017 that this blog is the poor relation of my three virtual spaces and that really ought to change, considering how (potentially) important it could end up being. I spend a bit of time in another virtual space whittering about the World and my health, and the gaming blog covers my affair with that MMO, but there is often no desire to explain my thoughts on writing generally. I still maintain this is the cheapest and best therapy I’ve ever experienced. Pushing yourself into uncomfortable situations and making difficult choices is never something you want to do for pleasure. However, at least where I’m sitting currently, that process of forcing mental issues via words is having surprising additional benefits.

hiaustinpowers.gif

I’m a terrible writer. Words get repeated all the time. I fixate on certain adjectives. My grammar is often atrocious and I could typo for my country. Fortunately I have word processors and spell correction plus a lovely husband who’ll read stuff and a support network of friends with encouragement and support. These help fill the gap between inspiration and final result. Everything else is then a case of pushing myself and believing I’m capable enough, and some days I think I get by. It’s always a bonus when somebody reads something and comments positively, however I’d rather have someone be critical of what they’ve seen, any day of the week. Not being able to take criticism is an issue I watch play out every day in my virtual life, and the results are often not pretty.

sarcasmforeignlanguage.gif

I am by no means perfect, and undoubtedly am always too hard on myself. I’m ridiculously formal too, and maybe if I stopped being a tight-assed Brit and did more about the relaxation stuff, my writing would further benefit. As it transpires, if I just get on with shit and don’t find ways to avoid it, relaxation happens by default. Also, and this one’s a bigger surprise, when pushing myself to interact with people, I don’t implode. That old adage about attracting more flies with honey than vinegar is often spot on, but it’s only going to work if you genuinely believe your own hype, and that’s always been the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome. It is a thin line to tread between being comfortable and creating that illusion. I know that the exercise has played a major part in this transformation. Last night, sitting in bed relaxing with a new playlist? I caught a glimpse of myself in the full length mirror I never use and it was 20 years ago. I’ll take the body from that time, and leave the selfish and negative mind that inhabited well alone. This is really the best it has ever been.

coolconnery.gif

The Bond fiction last year has a lot to do with the writing confidence. You can find it at the top of the page, or you can start by clicking here. It’s not perfect, and I know it will unsettle many a purist’s sensibilities inside the canon, but I really don’t care. Someone else’s characters finally gave me the confidence that I could create my own and make them totally believable, and that the Universe they exist in would be as acceptable as the real one. Now, all I want to do is write and talk about how much this outlook has changed my life, because it has, but only in conjunction with a lot of other things, and that includes pushing myself to do the mundane above the enjoyable on certain days. Therefore, I need to go do chores for a while before I do a session of cardio at the Gym.

Routines really matter in progress.

Get a Job

Hello. I’m Alt. You might remember me from such websites as Alternative Chat and La Geek qui Rit. Currently, I’m looking for writing jobs. I’ve got a CV I can provide you should it be required, and can show a number of examples of my work in context should that also be needed. The thing is, I’d like to be paid for what I do if at all possible. However, if the right person came along, I would be prepared to donate my time, as I already do for the lovely people at the Warcraft Community Magazine.

Mostly, I love writing, and the only way I get better is to do more, so that’s what I’m attempting to do in 2017. This is me, telling you that I’m here and willing, and prepared to talk to people about possible positions. After all if you don’t know I’m looking for work, how do you offer me the stuff to do in the first place? Ideally if you’re looking for me to talk Warcraft I’d prefer a casual player/Hunter bias approach, but I could be persuaded to open my remit.

If you can help, laughinggeek (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can find me 😀

All or Nothing At All

Not the most rubbish of backdrops…

All told, not posting for three weeks isn’t as hopeless as I thought it might be.

Normally this means I just can’t be arsed with admitting I’m failing with real life and not coping with depression, but in both these cases that’s not actually the default state of late. It does also actually look as if I’m getting the hang of managing to finish an actual writing project. It appears that Delayed Exposure is pretty much done, insofar as I’ll finally have, for the first time, a novel with a beginning, middle AND end. That’s already a quantum leap forward from every other long-form project I’ve ever started. I know it’s not actually finished, because there’s a lot to be tweaked and a lot of descriptive depth to be added, but it is in its final plot wise state. That, I’ve NEVER managed. So, if we’re going to count this as significant, then we’re already ahead of the curve.

Then, I cycled ten miles a couple of weekends back (which is where the picture above comes from) for the first time ever on anything other than a static bike. This was very enjoyable experience, far more than I actually thought it would be. Plus, BEING OUTSIDE. I hope to be doing a whole lot more of this in the near future. That is, if the weather stops being crap and it’s not non-stop rain. I realise this may be the default stated here for many years to come (our own fault) but I keep thinking the day we bought a swing seat was the last decent weekend we’ve had. Sorry about that. Finally, we have tickets for David Arnold at the Royal Festival Hall. I am a terrible Arnold Fangirl, his soundtrack for Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough are never off my most played lists. This will be a good evening.

Then, there’s the last Playlist I owe you.

This is probably my favourite of the four I’ve done, to be honest. Inspired by this I’ll have a number of Playlists for Delayed Exposure once I’m done with the story, the main one as a fairly important accompaniment to the action. Part of my writing progress involves imagining difficult or problematic pieces of action as a mini ‘music video’ in my mind: how action would fit to lyrics, and then how I’d write that as a result. I’ve found this visualisation really helpful in working out some fairly difficult issues in narratives over the years, and now I have discovered with my Warcraft Fiction that ideas actually come from specific songs themselves. This was how my fiction series was born, after all.

Keep this for now, and I’ll try and be back later in the week because I do have a few things I think I ought to get off my chest.