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Monday, 27 July 2020

LeCraft: Species - Elf

INTRODUCTION
The Elf is the species that has come to depict what fantasy (certainly post-Tolkien 20th century fantasy) represents in the popular imagination. You might consider more monstrous but intelligent species as more representative of fantasy, but I would argue that this is an older fairy-tale depiction of the genre (dragons and goblins). That, instead, the angelic meta-human elf has come to represent all the various dreams and hopes of various fantasy writers and creators from Tolkien onwards. Indeed, that in contemporary fiction the elf is likely to be removed (such as in GOT) in an attempt at 'realism' or 'grittiness' shows the impact these creatures have had in the genre. Throughout the development of 20th century fantasy the figure of the elf has constantly been developed, subverted or ignored, but has always represented what is perfect or admirable by us. Something that in itself is often shown as impossible or actually undesirable (f.e. the Vulcan's lack of emotions depicted as a flaw and yes, Vulcan's are elves).
The Elves then are depicted as tall slim good-looking white people with pointy ears. Occasionally, they are white people with purple or jet black skin and white hair. They are feminine and perfect, beloved by many and detested by others. Frankly, I'm sick of the super-model saviours of the fantasy world. Time for something more otherworldly. If elves are an ancient long-lived race, why are they so often the willing stooges of imperial humans in fantasy? That's not too smart.
My dislike of European cultural stereotypes in fantasy fiction hopefully does not lead to my introducing equally woeful Native American stereotypes or something similar, something that I've observed in a great deal of 90s RPG settings. I'd like a species that was sufficiently 'other' and not merely a pastiche of a historical culture (from a romanticised viewpoint, i.e. simplified).
The elf in my world is an attempt to get past this Tolkien created narrative and bring back the elf as a more sinister fairy-like being, which is in itself not original. However, I do not wish to simply introduce a species of Western folk tale fairies (Sidhe) into a supposedly non-specific and alien setting. Thus, this is merely a starting point for their description, that point being 'other-worldly oddness' and inherent danger.


PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, in order of newest to oldest;
Exoskeleton with a 'human' shape
They are considered attractive and they have pointed 'ears'
Part evil fae, 'the gentleman with thistledown hair'
Part praying mantis
Part cat (chesire)
Part china doll
Part Manga 'big eyes' (cephalopod 'universe eyes')
Hard 'porcelain' or 'ceramic' skin/exoskeleton
Their 'carapace' (exoskeleton) is intially translucent, allowing them to 'glow', but thickens and colours as they age.
They have an insectoid evolution.
Height ranges between five and seven foot tall (1.5 to 2.1 metres) with the average on the slower scale, typically under 5' 6" (1.67m).
Their 'skin' colouration is typically a pale yellowish like ancient porcelain, complete with irregular mottled multi-coloured blotches, most of which are too small to be seen, i.e. minute freckles of odd colours.
The huge mop of fluffy 'hair' of the elf is in various bright colours such as; candy floss pink, electric blue, neon green etc.
Their eyes are large and black without visible iris or pupil. Two sets of eyelids to protect them.
Large wide mouths with small sharp needle-like teeth and long pointed tongues.
The elvish physique, slender and curving, whether male or female leads to humans uncousciously refereing to elves as 'her'. Likewise dwarves are 'him' and orcs and goblins 'it'.
They are incredibly strong considering their small frames.
Although there are two sexes there is less male/female difference than humans, leading to a certain adrogyny but there are some size and weight differences unlike, for example, the dwarves.
Elven blood is blue and this has been theorised as being due to their closeness to magickal forces. The reason is, in truth, much more straight-forward, but highlights the view that most humans have of elves as being akin to magickal beings and almost semi-divine in nature.
Elves are physically seemingly quite fragile, they have scrawny spindly limbs that are made to look even smaller by their large heads, long fingered hands, and (commonly) a large unruly mop of wild hair.
All elves have exceptionally large almond-shaped golden eyes similar to a feline (complete with a third eyelid) that shimmer slightly and glow gently in low-light or fiercely when using magick. They have very small fine noses, with long thin nasal bridges and small slightly upturned stubby nose 'tips'. Elves have quite wide mouths for their size, but very thin lips and small teeth (similar to human children), their tongues are, however, especially long and pointed. Their most famous feature however is certainly their pointed ears, which are both very long and large, their ears typically point upwardsjust passing above the top of the head, they are also partially movable and able to point towards a sound source.


SPECIES DESCRIPTION, as before newest to oldest;
They have long-life, actually connected unconcious, but are not immortal and certainly not angelic.
They are, or can be; Cruel, Death-obsessed, Suicidal, Hollow, Petulant, and Morose...
The elf's metaphorical origins story: In the post-apocalypse (how they think of this world) there are those that remember the before, and those born after who simply accept the world as it is and don't feel any loss for what they have... lost. The elf then thinks of themsleves as those that know the before and this causes them stress.
Elves have a connection between each other, not as direct or definite as a Borg hive mind, but something more than a mere abstracted collective unconscious or a world-soul.
Heightened sensitivity to the vibrations of magick, to the connections between sapient lives.
The soulfulness of the elf as a damaging connection that needs to be managed by solitude and natural balance, or else, the elf falls into a resentful negativity with violent outbursts of self-destructive anger.
Power is a weakness, the harder they push back the worse they are broken. Only calm reflective acceptance and balance is the answer to the constant feedback they feel.
Elves and Orcs, perhaps because of their 'histories of violence' have the possibility to become steadfast friends (as individuals/characters, as pecies everyone remains reasonably neutral, although their is some distrust everywhere) but they also have the possiblity of forming dreadfully hate fueled vendettas.
Their anger (extreme aggression and depression) is a genetic disease also called the 'weight of ages' and it is a primitive instictual self desctruction in the face of ultimate horror. This contrasts with the righteous orcish arrogance of their prideful rages.
Elves value aesthetic perfection above all else. This and other factors makes the elves rather detached from 'normal' society and interactions. An elf might react with great joy to some ancient carving or obscure object, but yet seem utterly unmoved by something otherwise hideous or tragic. Elves do not value friendship in the same way that other species do, although they are very loyal to their own people and those they have come to trust, they seem somewhat cold and aloof in their dealings with others, but this is just another manner in which the elf attempts both to attain aesthetic purity (a key concept for elves) and to atone for the past sins of the elven people.
As such a long-lived species (most elves live at least 1000 years) an elf is never in a hurry to act or make a judgement, they prefer to consider things at length. However, this does not stop elves from violent or rash actions, indeed, they are an aggressive people prone to seemingly meaningless cruelty.
Part of their origin myth is that the elves were once servants of the “Vile Mysteries”, the chosen ones whom these dark powers formed in their image to please and serve them. Some elves came to see the actions of their masters and creators as wrong and in a great war, broke the power of the Vile Mysteries, overthrew them and freed the other species from their control. Such rebellion came at a price however and the once great elven people were now cursed and thrown out of their former paradise. Abandoned into a cold and empty world, the once mighty people are now struggling with the guilt of their past and their apathy towards the future. There are still rumours that their more powerful uncursed brethren (the “High Elves”) are elsewhere hidden in mighty fortresses and biding their time for the return of the Vile Mysteries. (Note: Whatever truth lies in the myth has been obscured by elven ego and their desire for martyrdom).


PSYCHOLOGICAL KEY
Highest: Calm
Component: Nature (connected)
Lowest: Overwhelming sadness
Elements: Solitary, reflective, sharp


ADDITIONAL
Reproduction: asexual, external pod laying and fertilising
Slang name: Dolls
"Stares into space like a dead china doll." Elliot Smith, Waltz #2










Tuesday, 21 July 2020

LeCraft: Species - Goblin

(As with all of the forthcoming Species posts, these are mostly compilations of notes made over the last few years and are therefore mostly a gathering exercise, rather than anything final or definite)


INTRODUCTION
Goblins here are the 'little' species that has been variously portrayed as; hobbits, gnomes, halflings, goblins themselves, but also, gremlins, gretchin, snotlings, tengu, bogies, and etc. However, in the 'literature' goblins have always been portrayed as a low-level enemy, typically the first encounter with a player group is against goblins, who are not much of a threat unless in larger groups. They are typically malevolent, chaotic and mischevious. The altering of many of these classic tropes in the 90s saw Goblins become somewhat like the Ferengi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, comically greedy and more than a little annoying. Similarly in World of Warcraft, the Goblin's key attribute was their obsession with 'tinkering' and (as in Warhammer) for making things that go BOOM!
Rather then than unnecessarily splitting the 'good' little people from the 'bad' instead I want to depict a species that is not merely a cipher for our own guilt at the portrayal of actual little people (people of restricted height) in our media.
Goblins, like Orcs, are not 'monsters' meant only to be a (minor) challenge to the players, but are a species of the same depth and complexity as every other.
That said, I'm therefore combining a lot of the very human species signifiers that all the listed 'creatures' have been described by. So, my Goblins are; as homely as hobbits, as inquisitive as gnomes, as mischevious as the classic goblin, with a love of nature and technology (often at odds), and as capable as being a solitary intellectual recluse as they are a social reckless troublemaker.
Also in the back of my mind are stories of; little green men, wildmen of the woods, Homo habilis, and generally folk tales of fairy people from all over the world.
Why Goblins and not Halflings? (the D&D non-copyright infringing hobbit)? Well, I am not overly fond of Tolkien's description of his hobbits. Although, I suppose that goblins fulfill much the same function for myself as they do for him. For Tolkien, the hobbit represents something 'we' as modern people have lost in our world, that is, a practical connection with the earth, a decent truthful friendliness and playfulness. This manifests itself, for Tolkien, as West Country farming folk with the occasional academic hero (Bagginses). The olde England we've lost with progress (i.e. the evil of Saruman) and so the hobbits are pecularily English (something even Peter Jackson can't lose) and Victorian. I have in mind a similar sort of metaphor for everything modern humanity tends to destroy without thinking; from the Amazon to Australian Aboriginies, the Sami, the Picts, the Ainu, all the lost peoples of Earth. Their connection to the land is not magick but comes from a practical intuition, a natural people but not perfect either.
Disclaimer: (I will write in greater detail about this, possibly after I've also posted the species of 'Dwarves') The goblin is meant as a culturally complete (non-Eurocentric) alien race, something non-human and not an analogue for any actual or existing people or culture.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, in order of newest to oldest;
Shaggy green fur
Long lithe limbs, multi-jointed, with 4 articulated hands and one prehensile tail/tentacle with three 'nubs'
Barrel or sack like body/torso/central section
Large head, swivel neck that is long and retracting
Beaked muzzle
Three central eyes, with the third eye being a literal magickal eye (hidden?)
Part Sloth
Part Monkey
Part Parrot
Part ugly cute
Part Hobbit
Part Jerrawerra, the hairy man of the woods
Dense oily sweet-smelling fur
Stooped, bow-legged stance but fast and agile
Never wears clothing but wears accessories
Green fur, tail, 3 eyes, narrow mouth
Goblins are small hairy green people.
Rather, mostly green, a dark forest green compared to the lighter Orcish green, but some are instead red, some mottled.
They have a smell that while not distracting is distinctive, although it is true that Dwarves find the smell "annoying." A patchouli-like smell, or something floral, vegetable or herbal without being easy to place. To some, i.e. the Dwarf, they smell more like rotten vegetation.
Oily slick short fur that covers almost the entire body except for; face, hands/feet and midrift.


SPECIES DESCRIPTION, as before newest to oldest;
Magickal symbiotic creatures live inside them, moths in the fur like a sloth.
Society is built around trust of communication. Typically in the fantasy genre, talking (an excess of), as well as singing and laughing are all seen as child-like in relation to the dark and brooding silent masculine hero of the gritty new fantasy. Therefore this small 'weak' creature whose strength is in words, in articulating, in listening (sometimes), in dreaming, could be seen as a female-other.
Lies are not taboo or unknown, just pointless. "You can't lie to a Goblin, they just know."
Goblins as the arboreal freedom loving rhetoricians that define traditional 'cute' or 'small' species of fantasy literature; hobbits, wow goblins, dragonlance kender, various monkey-folk and so forth. Even the chaotic spirit of the gnome from d&d and wow.
They love technology, family, and mischief.
Goblins don't wear clothes.
Goblins avoid armour.
Goblins avoid physical contact.
As a species that base 'victory' on verbal dexterity rather than physical prowess, they are entirely sexually equal society.
Although they see sex as an enjoyable recreation, more so than most other species, they have no hang-ups about gender or orientation.
Goblins are agile; mentally, verbally and physically, even to the point that they tie themselves in knots, but they also love peace, quiet and a good feast.
Related to dwarves? No. All species should be unique.
Also, less like the Star Trek Ferengi; species specific character; greedy, selfish, short-sighted.
Arboreal ancestors, something mischevious and monkey-like.
A focus and love of rhetoric, persuation, rule-making, but also freedom, with a love of heights and climbing, but a lack of concern about private property, they are group orientated.


PSYCHOLOGICAL KEY
Highest: Joy
Component: Communication (food)
Lowest: Greed
Elements: Open, Curious, Playful
Goblins admire human endeavour but are jealous of Dwarven skill. They are cowed by the Elves reckless self-destruction, but are amused by the Orc's prideful rage.


ADDITIONAL
Reproduction: Sexual, hermaphrodite species, although with 5 'grades' of gender but without male and female designation. Mostly 'male', mostly 'female', somewhat 'male', somewhat 'female', both. This is also something that can change of the course of the Goblin's life.
Slang name: Grease-monkeys, oil-bears

Some images that most closely resembles the image of the Goblin in my mind. The first are from an artist and puppeteer operating as 'Handsome Devil Puppets' and this was taken from her Instagram account. It is of a puppet of the West Virginian Mothman cryptid that was a work in progress, the final version is trimmed and appropriately mothlike with antennae and wings, but I especially liked the 'sloth-like' fur.










Saturday, 18 July 2020

Quotes Worth Saving (32): Paul Valéry

The ABYSS OF HISTORY is deep enough to hold us all.

Paul Valéry, 1919.



Quoted in the below article by Pankaj Mishra in LRB, which is recommended reading

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

LeCraft: Species - On Variety

I'm going to start publishing my design notes for the different sapient species, but rather than have the appearance of each creature be definite, instead I want to keep a variety of imaginative descriptions that allow each player or games runner to effectively create the species as they see fit.

This is because I don't want to limit other's creative visions and instead tie them to how I think everyone should see each creature. Not least because I also think this helps develop the idea that magick has permeated through all things, such that each evolutionary channel for a species exists simultaneously.

So each species can have as many of the descriptive 'extras' that I will use, but they will always have certain core components that should probably be kept as this explains their species psychology. Note that I'm suggesting that appearance can and should be customised but that I feel the 'role' that each species psychology plays in the elucidation of the world view should be left as I have attempted to describe it. This is because, for me, each species is an aspect of abnormal psychology that greater describes the 'puzzle' of the story world, in that it is a mirror of human creativity, frustration and loss.

Let the player choose their own interpretation, some will want it to be defined for them and others will want to set their description wider. Give all approaches a chance. For the games runner their choices can affect the entire species or merely change individuals, as mentioned, both can be allowed. Ultimately what goes is left in the hands of the story teller and should be used to better develop their story/word.

D&D 'variety'


Friday, 12 June 2020

Foodie Fridays: Jamie's Clandestine Fish Pie

Jamie Oliver's Clandestine Fish Pie Recipe

Deleted from his own website and replaced by an inferior version, this is the original and best fish pie recipe.

1 kg potatoes (mashed)
1 x Carrot (grated)
2 x Celery sticks (finely diced)
1 x Red chilli (finely chopped)
Parsley (1 x 30g packet)
150g cheddar cheese (grated)
1 lemon juice and zest
Handful of spinach
2 x plum tomatoes
Fish pie pack, defrosted
King prawns, ditto
Olive oil, glug!
Seasoning, the usual suspects

In a big oven dish; grate the carrot and cheese, add the chopped celery, chilli, spinach, parsely and tomatoes, add the fish and prawns, zest the lemon and squeeze the juice, big glug of olive oil, season AND mix!
Top with mashed potato.
Bang into a pre-heated oven at 180c (fan) or 200c for 40-50 minutes.
Done.
Serve with (nice) bread and butter.



Monday, 1 June 2020

Quotes Worth Saving (31): Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure Kikigaki

Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai (meaning 'Hidden Leaves')
Translated by William Scott Wilson



Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day, when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead.

There is a saying of the elder's that goes, "step from under the eaves and you're a dead man. Leave the gate and the enemy is waiting." It is not a matter of being careful. It is to consider oneself dead beforehand.
p.164

I found this in an old notebook of mine, which had a selection of quotes showing that I've always been a cataloguer at heart. This must date from around 2004.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Melancholy Mondays: Archives of Pain

We are all the children of murderers, rapists and war criminals. To think any different is to ignore the guilt of the past.

We are also the children of altruists, iconoclasts and serene kind-hearted peace-lovers. To believe any different is to lose the hope for the future.

Any fool can regret yesterday, as the Manic Street Preacher correctly says.

The potential for pain is infinite.

The capacity of the sufferer is finite.

Thus, there will always be pain in the world.

An individual's ability to suffer is limited.

While there is being there is pain.

Only in death is there freedom from pain.

Death is the endless 'experience' of nothing.

Existence is the constant suffering of pain by degree.

Pain is infinite.

The sufferer is finite.

Alleviation can therefore only be partial or temporary.

The can be no final escape unless one believes in rebirth or existence post-death.

Pain is being within the world. It is an excess of contact.

Managing pain is control of the circumstances of the world.

Something that can never be total. Although it is the dream of every dictator.

Pain is the outcome of existence. It is the proof of the passage of time.

© Jenny Saville

Friday, 1 May 2020

Quotes Worth Saving (30): Slavoj Žižek, "all we have is our activity"

Slavoj Žižek
Trouble in Paradise
2015

And connected to earlier thoughts and usage of a quote from the same book.



Perhaps the Left should learn fully to assume the basic 'alienation' of the historical process: we cannot control the consequences of our acts - not because we are just puppets in the hands of some secret Master of Fate which pulls the strings, but for precisely the opposite reason: there is no big Other, no agent of total accountability that can take into account the consequences of our own acts. This acceptance of 'alienation' in no way entails a cynical distance; it implies a fully engaged position aware of the risks involved - there is no higher historical Necessity whose instruments we are and which guarantees the final outcome of our interventions. From this standpoint, our despair at the present deadlock appears in a new light: we have to renounce the very eschatological scheme which underlies our despair. There will never be a Left that magically transforms confused revolts and protests into one consistent Projection of Salvation; all we have is our activity, open to all the risks of contingent history.

P.129

Monday, 13 April 2020

Magickal Melancholy Mondays: Are you a person that needs people?

This isn't quite Melancholy but it isn't quite Magickal either.

It's an old piece written by a previous self sometime in 2009. I wonder if that self would be pleased to find himself where I now am? I'd hope so, but I've found myself worrying about my past selves in a fatherly manner. Perhaps as some sort of practice for dealing with my own son and his future problems etc. More 'What Ifs' again.

Are you a person that needs people?


I certainly am.

For a long time I believed that the paradigmatic existence was one away from people, living like a Nietzschean hermit, standing above those that would 'destroy' me. I now see this as youthful cowardice, an attempt to deny what made me by distancing myself into a cold distant realm of dream-like thoughts.

An obvious fantasy of the sort of life that is very attractive to the quiet withdrawn boy I once was, but still its attraction is no mistake or flaw although I called it cowardice a moment ago. It might be seen as a necessary step for the type of person that I am.

I've come to the realisation now that what I desire is not the absence of all people, but the inclusion of the right people. I both want and need a small friendly community in which to live, a dedicated group of close friends with whom I can share, and, perhaps most of all, someone to love completely, to wake alongside, and with whom I can share everything, or perhaps this is simply my new fantasy.

The dream of the ideal partner and the ideal life. If it is (and it might be) it is still a greater more detailed and richer outlook than the dream of the hermit.

Of course, the last clause need not be realised. I think I could manage to live alone as long as I did not live alone. Aristotle once called friendship one of the most important aspects of human existence. Who am I to disagree?

Lascaux cave painting, an example of community co-operation

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Quotes Worth Saving (29): Cormac McCarthy, "Borrowed Time"



Cormac McCarthy
The Road
2006


He walked out in the grey light and stood and saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like groundfoxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.
P.138

Friday, 13 March 2020

Narrative - Fantasy of Realness (Hayden White)

Real events do not offer themselves as stories
Hayden White

I. Introduction

In the depths of academia there is a dispute over the reality of narrative, particularly as used in historical description. When historian Hayden White (1928-2018) made the claim that narrative is a fundamentally imaginative creation, this was in order to counter the pervasive view in the study of academic history that historical narrative reports were as accurate as scientific evidence. However, this argument also has wider implications for the later conception of the narrative-self, a creation of postmodern philosophy, that defines identity as being an individual's integration of their own internalised and evolving story into a structured sense of unity. In that there can be no connection drawn between fictions and real-lives. Thus, the conception of the narrative-self will be shown to be making a category error or, at best, to be a vague and banal method of self-description.

In this regard, certain unkind persons (who weren't even defending the position of narrative-self) have written of White's dismissal of all history, all narrative, as being solely fictional and therefore totally unreal. Characterising White's position as being describing all narrative as; a falsehood, a propaganda, a delusion if we believe it to reports anything 'true'. These persons then disregard the basis of White's claim as being in contradiction to the equally preposterous claim that certain (historical) narratives can be taken as objective fact, a literally absolute description of events as they really happened. However, perhaps these certain persons were only using the argument of White's to prove another point in a larger scale analysis of narrative as utilised by historians, psychologists, sociologists, linguists, and philosophers. Then, in this case, perhaps we should give these certain persons a break and instead look to fully realise the arguments of White and what they would actually have to say about narrative such as we story-tellers would wish it to say about life if we gave it the air and space to breathe as a theory (and the decency to interrogate it fairly when not otherwise occupied with writing an MA thesis).

II. White's conception of Narrative meta-codes
(from 'Being & Narrative', University of York MA dissertation by CGM)

White's formulation is concerned with historical writing as being interpretive and that this explication takes its form primarily as narrative. Narrative is by definition an imaginative construction in that the historian approaching historical events imposes an ideological perspective in trying to create an ordered plot. Narrative has this vital stance because it is what White (1987) calls a “meta-code, a human universal on the basis of which transcultural messages about the nature of a shared reality can be transmitted.” (p.1) Our desire to impose narrative upon a report of events is so natural, so instinctive, that it is only the absence (or refusal) of narrative that creates problems.

White's characterisation of narrative as a kind of 'meta-code', that is, as the empirical grounding for all communication could be seen as an attempt to equate the apparent ubiquity of narrative with an innate human condition. The formulation of which is the basis for White's argument that narrative is a solution to the problem of fashioning human experience into a form of meaning that is fundamentally human rather than culturally dependent. White also echoes Barthes' dictum here that narrative: “is simply there like life itself... international, transhistorical, transcultural,” (Quoted in White 1987) narrative is, for White, the fundamental human experience of meaning.

However, it is an imposed meaning. Problems begin when the historian, for example, tries to give real events the form of a story. “It is because real events do not offer themselves as stories that their narrativization is so difficult.” (White 1987, p.4) That is, this attempt at creating a narrative coherence; one with 'closure', a defined start, and a coherent form, imposes a structure on the historical past that was not there before and as such is similar to the novelist's act of creation. For White history as it is lived, i.e. the present and our ongoing existence is merely an unrelated sequence of occurrences. Some things, for sure, do happen as a result of earlier actions, but more regularly the sense of our lives is currently 'hidden' from us. The activity of the narrative historian is no different from that of the literary fabulists. It is this that prompts White (1989) to say that, “the notion of a 'true' story is virtually a contradiction in terms. All stories are fictional.” (p.27) Historians may aspire to reproducing the reality of events but this absolute view is impossible, history must, in an attempt at communicable coherence, involve selection and therefore distortion and fictionalisation.

Historians, then, are naïve in their belief that their narratives could be 'copies' of real events past, White considers this to be a distortion as it involves selecting and filling in, a deviation from the perfect replica. The distinction between real and imaginary events presupposes this notion of reality that there is 'the true', i.e. something that only 'real' narratives can be said to possess. We might refer to this as being 'correct to the facts or events themselves' but such a perfect record could not be possible. Consider the historical recording of a famous battle, for example, for it to be factually true in regard of the event itself it would have to involve either an almost endless detailing of every perspective of all the participants or else it would have to involve an objectively true account that gave a complete view of the battle within a historical framework.

White's claim is based on the view of a perfect replica of events as being ultimately flawed, and yet this still seems to be his unobtainable goal. For if all stories fall into fictions as White contends, then this presumes that what the historian wants to do is give an exact mirror-image of events as they happened, that is, the perfect objective view. However, correct as this might be in describing the failings of absolute objectivity, this does not discount the work of serious historians who want to represent what historical events mean to our present day lives, that is, what the 'stories' of the past have to say about views of modern morality, politics and so forth.

III. Everyday storytelling and narrative

Indeed, although we could follow this line more and see where it leads, it is, I would suggest, dealing with a conception of narrative that is too 'specialist', too academic for the general audience. Now perhaps certain persons held a distinct form of narrativity that they wished to elucidate, but for today and for now what we are interested in are the snapshot real-life stories that people wish to share with others. Not least because the idea of Digital Storytelling has started to gain traction as community project in the minds of local government, charitable organisations, and (my point of interaction) public libraries. These various projects are all about supporting people to create stories of their life experiences to share with others, stories that are intended to "engage participants who were not digitally-confident, introducing them to online culture in a way that built skills and emphasised personal relevance." (Ainsley 2019)

At this point we might wish to note that our 'concerns' are those that are purely academic, as generally most people have very little regard for the 'truth' of any particular narrative, which is one of the reasons that I would suggest people are so susceptible to fake news. Still, I will leave this particular analysis for another day. They should be concerned nonetheless as it is evident that not interrogating the truthfulness (or otherwise) of a statement (be it political propaganda or otherwise) is not merely for the academics but that logical thinking should be a skill that all have. Another reason for philosophy to be taught at school and the earlier the better. Anyway.

What of the truth of our personal narratives? Might it be more likely that in the action of making a intimate story into a performative utterance that we find previously hidden aspects to this account that we had not investigated ourselves previously? I think that this is more likely the case (and bares out reports from various workers) than the possibility that someone might create a Walter Mitty fiction. And even if they were to do so then surely then this would be more 'harmful' to themselves than any public listener.

These individual anecdotes might well be a fictional as any story, but like other larger scale stories we as a society tell ourselves, there is also a 'truth' within them. The story of Love for example, and I say story here because although scientists will attempt to 'prove' the basis of love as a chemical reaction, this is not what it means to the sufferer. The sight of a loved one can be accurately (scientifically at any rate) described as electromagnetic radiation reflecting onto the cornea and this activating a recognition memory which in turn fires sex hormones and other neurochemicals, but this hardly even touches upon the human feelings that this means or rather this does not even come close to describing something understandable to another human being, it is a very remote representation that is almost alien to hear. The experience of life is not like a scientific process and although it may not be truly said to be in reality much like a story either (being in fact more chaotic and less definite) but it is graspable as a story and communicable also.

When we crave 'realness' in stories, what we mean is, I want this to be relatable to me, to engage with my impressions of whatever. The real in 'real life stories' isn't objective perhaps, but it was never meant to be and yet it is still real enough.

There are different sorts of stories of course, we've covered two here, personal-public narratives and 'intercultural' stories about human experience (the 'story' of Love) and there are many others to be investigated.

Next time: Social narrative as social control. When stories are used to instil an attitude or belief in the many (those who serve) by the few (those with power), thinking especially of the heroic romanticisation of war being used to drive those unwilling (by the thought of killing and potentially being killed) into fighting for their country.

Bibliography.

Ainsley, M. What’s the story? An independent evaluation of the Digital Storytelling Residences, (Scottish Book Trust, 2019) Published Online.
White, H., Content of the Form, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1987).
White, H., 'Figuring the nature of times deceased', in Future Literary Theory, Ed. by R. Cohen, (New York: Routledge, 1989).

Friday, 6 March 2020

Film on Friday: Films of the Year... 2019

Despite many things, last year was a good year for film.

That is, regardless of the preponderance of superhero and rebooted franchise films, there was still some unique and creative films being made.

Also, despite being films of 2019 I've only just seen them and due to festival and UK release dates some of them are counted as 2018 or 2020 films.

Anyway, it turns out that I was just in the mood for Horror/Comedy recently. Some of these are more of one than the other, but there's definitely both in the spirit there or thereabouts.

All these films are sequels in a manner of speaking though, in that I have enjoyed the film maker's previous efforts and was looking forward to their new offerings. Although the people behind the remake of Suspiria were new to me, the original film made by Dario Argento is one of my favourites. Indeed, seeing Goblin play the soundtrack live in accompaniment to the film at the Summerhall in 2018's Edinburgh Festival was one of the musical highlights of my existence!

Here then are four films that I think you should watch. They are in the order that I watched them and if pushed I'm not even sure which I would say is my favourite... they all have good points. 🧜‍♀️

Midsommar
Ari Aster (writer and director)
July 2019 (UK release)


Ari Aster's first film Hereditary belongs to a possibly new sub-genre of Horror,  'Domestic Horror', in that it makes family life seem horrific. It's far from a 'normal' family life it has to be said, but there are enough recognisable aspects in the day-to-day portrayals of familial conflict that reverberate within the viewer (this viewer at any rate). So, I was expecting a similarly believable representation of 'the banality of horror' in his new film Midsommar. As before the central character(s) are dealing with a traumatic grief, which is compounded by a difficult relationship with family/partner. Obviously parallels to 1973's The Wicker Man also abound, but despite touching on similar themes of 'Folk Horror' there are plenty of different ideas at play in this film, such that it never feels like a pastiche of Robin Hardy's film. Ari Aster has a certain style in depicting injury and violence that in its exactness and realism makes it seem more horrifying than anything that Saw or similar 'Torture Porn' films could depict. The images that he creates linger long in the memory.

Suspiria
Luca Guadagnino (director)
David Kajganich (writer)
November 2018 (UK release)


Dario Argento's 1977 classic is one of my favourite films (see above), but it is more a triumph of style than a particularly memorable story. Indeed, the original film succeeds despite it's lack of plot or character depth. I was curious therefore how any remake might approach this aesthetic masterpiece. Luca Guagagnino's response is to effectively invert many of the tropes of the original whilst staying with a lot of the central themes of Argento's work. With the writing of David Kajganich the characters and the setting itself (a divided Berlin before the Wall fell) are given a whole new lease of life, the internal politics of the witches are detailed from the first. There is no hokey 'Scooby-Doo' style investigation into whether there are witches in the dance school, we are pretty much told from the start what they are and what is happening. The wider world is more detailed as is the dance school itself, for example in a change from  the original, the main thrust of the action is to do with dancers dancing rather than as a spooky girl's school. The cinematography, provided by Uncle Boonmee's Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, is also worth mentioning in that they use the same sort of 35mm film stock that was used in the original, but they make it less of a technicolor nightmare and more of a moody and bleak winter of discontent. Remake? More like re-imagining. Superb on all fronts and topped by a magisterial Tilda Swinton(s).

The Lighthouse
Robert Eggers (director)
Robert & Max Eggers (writers)
January 2020 (UK release)


Another sophomore directorial effort that like Midsommar does not fall into the fêted 'difficult second album' problem. Indeed, although I thoroughly enjoyed The VVitch, Eggers' first film, that was only after a second viewing. On first viewing, in the cinema, I was not at all impressed, but this was mainly due to effusive over-praising by film critic Mark Kermode. However I did come to really like it and have watched the film several more times. This film I liked straight away and much as with the first film calling it 'Horror' doesn't really do it justice (indeed, none of these films are typical Horror films). Before I discovered that the inspiration behind the story was an Edgar Allen Poe story, I had described the film to a friend as 'Samuel Beckett does HP Lovecraft'. However, these are only a few names in what could be a myriad of potential influences at play in this film, as it seems the brothers Eggers are enjoying diving into the vast array of different nautical mythologies and folk stories of lighthouse keepers that they could find. As a dream-like depiction of losing sense of oneself, or in other words the struggle against going mad, this film does a remarkably unsettling job in achieving this. It's greatest achievement is the feeling of isolation and of being stuck with someone who might be an enemy, while living in personal and literal desolation is incredibly well portrayed. Both actors are incredible, as they would need to be, with only a handful of brief cameos representing other characters.

In Fabric
Peter Strickland (writer and director)
June 2019 (UK release)


Much more on the side of comedy than horror now. Although I liked Strickland's first feature film Berberian Sound Studio, I was somewhat let down by bad/missing subtitles that made the film far arcane than it needed to be. At any rate I'd heard good things about this film and was pleased to have discovered it. I'm surprised that it has gone over so well outside of the UK as it's style and humour seems utterly British to me and can't imagine how this would be received elsewhere. At first blush you might think that this is going to be a cynical critique of our love of shopping and the perils thereof, but instead there doesn't seem to be anything as straightforward going on in Strickland's script. Instead it seems to conjure up more of a 'feeling' (and a very tactile one) of Dario Argento's most colourful and flamboyant horror films (Suspiria definitely) and as I said of the earlier work this film is also a vision of style over story. There are everyday life snapshots here certainly, but centrally the film is mostly of a certain 1980s glamour aesthetic and some very particular female imagery more so than developing a plot of intrigue or suspense. Unlike the three previous films mentioned, there is a certain relishing of the cruel here, that I would normally find off-putting, but the humour in the film is such that it leads me to ignore this and indeed find the unfortunate sufferings of the various characters amusing. Entertainingly provocative.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

LeCraft: New page, a LeCraft archive (and a comment on comments)

Added to my list of pages (on the right side if viewing on a desktop/laptop PC, or available from drop-down list if viewing on a mobile device) is 'How did I learn to stop worrying and love LeCraft?'



This is mainly a method for myself of keeping track of what I've written up so far and what I have yet to do. It also makes finding specific files somewhat easier than trawling through the 'find by tag' function.

Answer: When I realised that I never had to finish it.

***

Also, you might have noticed that I've removed all comments, which might seem an odd move on my part but it is more motivated by my dislike of comments on social media than anything particular about this blog. Although it has to be said, I spend more time removing spam than I do responding to comments and even tend to miss the real comments that I do get when they are posted in the first place.

So, I was very pleased to discover the web browser extension called 'Shut Up' which hides all comment forms on all web pages, with the absolute best example of this being YouTube a site that was becoming almost unbearable due to the hideous comments that people would leave.

Anyway, as you've probably seen I've added a comment form to the sidebar of the main page and a separate page for comments too. This removes the public show procedure of comment leaving that might dissuade some people from commenting at all. As I say on the page, if you are moved to comment by anything that I've written then please use the form to message me.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Games Day: Star Wars, West End Games, & What If


West End Games are know for two things. Going bankrupt during what was meant to be the Golden Age of Role-Playing Games* and for the Star Wars Role-Playing Game, which they alone had a LucasArts approved license** for.

*I mean, that's debatable, you'd probably say that the late 1990s (and West End Games went bankrupt in 1998) marked the end of the 'Golden Age' as computer games had gone from niche interest to mainstream (although not totally acceptable yet). And more than a few companies proved that they had not an idea how to change their approach in the wake of such a major shift in gamer's interests.

**Now this might seem massive, but I can't really remember any 'fandom menace,' such as there is nowadays for the various different IP franchises, at the time for anything Star Wars or not. Trekkies notwithstanding, but their devotion was at the time seen as risible and ridiculous, whereas similar behaviour today is seemingly encouraged.

I'm thinking about this old game from my youth because I'm having another burst of enthusiasm about running a game. As mentioned before, I've been thinking 'What If' about the sequel trilogy of Star Wars films. I'd love to be able to make something as great as the following three videos by the excellent Belated Media (Michael Barryte), but I'm not going to be able to knock-up three quality videos any time soon, if ever (videos at the end and highly recommended).

So, why the West Games version of Star Wars? After all there have been several licensed versions of the game, Fantasy Flight Games' current table-top version, and a Wizards of the Coast version that resembles the D&D d20 system that came out after West End Games. However, as I've said before there was a certain punk DIY spirit that I like about these older games, in that you are given a basic set of rules that you can reapply to whatever else you create in your game. Whereas, even without looking at the FF version of the game, I know that their setup will be a totally modular product. You want the new rebel trooper? You have to buy the miniature and the character card, RRP $20.99. The benefit of the older West End Games version is that most of these old books now exist only as PDFs online, as the copyright has lapsed, and even if you don't want all of these (I'll maybe get one or two but don't need much more than the full rules) the game is developed in a way that creating your own worlds, aliens and stories is positively encouraged with only the basic rules. Further to this (possibly, most importantly) is the simplicity of the basic rules such that most ideas could be accommodated in straight-forward fashion. As opposed to overly complex rules and a reliance on 'special kit' (i.e. dice with fancy colours and icons) rather than simple six sided dice and easy to follow rules.

My 'What If' and the impetus for (potentially) running a game is [STAR WARS SPOILERS] because at a point in Rian Johnson's otherwise crushingly mediocre 'Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi' there is setup the possibility that the status quo will be destroyed and the rather closed world of Star Wars will be torn open and irrevocably changed. This possibility was in itself thrilling and by far my favourite scene in any of the SW films, however, the capitulation of this and the subsequent total failure to really follow through and achieve anything of note in terms of character development or world building (albeit this might be a bit harsh) ended up making me dislike this film more than any of the others in the 'Sequel Trilogy' (and I'm really not a fan of Jar Jar Abrams either, so this is quite an achievement by Rian Johnson).

In the original scene having tricked his former master Snoke and subsequently bisected him with Rey's lightsaber, Kylo Ren and Rey then fight Snoke's praetorian guard in an excellent action scene. At the end of the scene Kylo Ren offers Rey his hand in a parallel to Darth Vader offering Luke Skywalker his hand in ESB, both are offers to "rule the galaxy together." However, as the throne room scene in Last Jedi was instead setup similarly to the throne room scene in ROTJ in which Darth Vader betrays and kills Emperor Palpatine to save his son Luke, so I had hoped that this was Ben Solo overthrowing the Dark side influence of Snoke to save the woman he loved, Rey, but instead it becomes some point about not believing in the survival of an ideology (or something).

In the Last Jedi both Luke and Kylo Ren talk about "killing the past" but ultimately it is the past that kills The Last Jedi, in that the attempt to free the plot from the choke hold narrative of Jedi v. Sith, or Light v. Dark, or indeed the childishly simple Good v. Evil, is shown to be inescapable. The film ends with the status quo totally restored and the attempted 'rebellions' of Kylo/Ben and Luke have been shown to fail. In the end Luke realises that the Jedi were great goodies after all and Kylo thinks that being super evil is instead a brilliant idea (until the next film when something lesser makes him finally kick the 'evil habit' for good).

The film could have been The Last War, which rather than resulting in the actual end of war would have resulted in something more realistic with the fracturing of various parties along differing ideological perspectives. Then the black and white division of the galaxy would be replaced with a much more messy and believable situation, were someone cannot be said to be 'good' or 'evil' simply by their uniform. In my 'What If' then when Kylo Ren makes his offer to Rey, rather than losing her voice and power that she has held up until that point, then mutely resisting, causing the lightsaber to explode and allowing her to escape from the First Order's capital ship somehow. Instead, Rey makes Ben a counter offer, she states that she would take his hand if offered by Ben and not Kylo. She then goes on to explain that Kylo Ren is already dead, he died when he rightly betrayed Snoke knowing that he was evil and that his way was foolish. Indeed, that perpetuating this endless cycle of Jedi/Sith conflict will do nothing but damage the galaxy and that they can instead show the potential of another way.

With Kylo, now Ben Solo, joining Rey we could imagine some on both sides (both the First Order and the Resistance) wanting to join these new figureheads and others wanting to oppose them. For example, some would see Kylo Ren's murder of his father as unforgivable, whether he was being influenced by Snoke or not. Those enslaved by the First Order would see this as an opportunity for freedom and might not all agree on how they will exercise this freedom. The fallen New Republic might attempt to reform, with some opposed to retrying a twice failed system of government and etc. Mostly I see General Armitage Hux futilely attempting to hold control of the crumbling First Order, much like the squabbling of Alexander's generals in the aftermath of his death.

We'll see...







http://www.starwarstimeline.net/Westendgames.htm

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Words on Wednesday: Ways of seeing science fiction, Aldiss and Le Guin



I read Brian Aldiss' Greybeard (1964) and Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven (1971) soon after each other towards the beginning of last year (2019) and their similarities and differences have been something that has continued to play on my mind long after I finished the two novels.

Ostensibly both novels have very little in common apart from both being part of the excellent SF Masterworks series, however, although plot, characters and style may differ there is a background theme as setting that places and inhabits both novels, it is the formation of their world's as 'gone astray'. I won't say dystopian quite yet, although one certainly could start as strong as this, but in both novels the world that the characters inhabit have fallen apart in some way and it is how the author's have their characters relate to this world and how the character's actions effect (or not) the world that is of interest to me. It's interest is in how the author's own perspective and belief's about human nature and social order soak into their fictional worlds. As always, I suppose, art is merely a reflection of the artist and a good artist tries their best to hide this, if they are even aware of this bleeding of their 'real world' opinions into the fictional creations.

You might think you're telling a story, but really you are telling us how you see the world.

Thus, what we have here are two different attempts at an abstraction from present concerns aka a speculative fiction, to call them sci-fi is to try and lessen or 'genre-place' the work into insignificance. To side-step into personal complaint again, I find that the comment "I like fiction, I just don't like fantasy/sci-fi, I like my stories real," is actually a case of mistaken identity. People are welcome to have certain likes and dislikes of 'style' in writing, but to call one fiction realer than the other is simply foolish. It is a category error, both fictions are fictional after all, but one is clothed in the veneer of realism and the other demands a certain use of imagination. Perhaps it is this demand that people dislike.

Anyway, returning to the point. It seems to me that the two different story-worlds (of Aldiss and Le Guin) are defined by their personal politics (as we all often are). These perspectives shape their reaction to their worlds and their intuitive understanding of how (they believe) human beings function and act (and why). To categorise Aldiss as 'right-wing' and Le Guin as 'left-wing' is simplistic, but still manages to shine a light of these differing approaches even if, personally, this distinction would be more difficult. Indeed, individual statements (or artistic endeavours) can be called left or right (politically) in that they can be isolated from context to give a definite answer, but taken within an individual's own personal history and belief system this basic categorising is dangerously simplistic and typically only used to label and distance.

Aldiss: In Greybeard the world and the character's are all literally in decline. No children have been born for years and the world's inhabitants are all creeping towards senility and decrepitude. The focus is on the violent and insular world that has risen up now that the world is 'without purpose'. The exacting reasons for society collapsing (worldwide one assumes, although the focus is purely on England) is not really detailed, it is instead taken as a given that these very male power structures would immediately come to pass. That culture is forever walking along this tightrope of potential aggression and that it's only the distraction of raising children and having a 'purpose' that keeps most men (except the level-headed protagonist) from starting militias and trying to take over small towns in the Midlands to rule as a tin-pot Caesar.

The protaganist represents (in some respect) the reader, he is an intelligent assured man whose plans have nonetheless always seemingly failed due to the idiocy of the masses. Whether meant or not, there is a significant description of people along the lines of class, with our lead characters (Greybeard and wife) being middle-class and having had relatively cosmopolitan lives, whereas their counterparts in the story are working-class and therefore seemingly more likely to give in to their aminalistic impulses. Despite that there is also a negative portrayal of academia as weak and easily overthrown by the aggression of thugs.

Throughout the story all the efforts of Greybeard are shown to essentially come to nothing, the characters end up simply floating along and when the story seems to be just petering out they happen to meet the reality behind the 'folk myth' and discover that there are indeed children in the world and that they've been living wild in the woods.

Le Guin: The setting of The Lathe of Heaven starts in a dehumanised future. However, although this novel is also about the self-destructive capacities of humanity it's focus is more internal and psychological. Our main character, George Orr, has the power to alter reality based upon his dreams. His court-assigned psychiatrist Dr Haber, discovers this and attempts to harness George by way of his 'Augmentor'. The road to hell is clearly paved with good intentions.

Rather than wallow in the misery of our failings, as it could, Le Guin's novel instead sets us many difficult and ultimately unanswered (and potentially unanswerable) questions about agency and control. Although I apparently have less to say directly about this novel it think that this is because the story's message is more ambiguous.

Although ultimately there is also a sudden reversal at the end, albeit one that is optimistic is a true sense rather than the straightforward reversal at play in Greybeard.

To conclude, I probably shouldn't have left this so long before writing as I might have managed something more detailed and nuanced this time last year, but as both stories have still stayed with me it seemed worthwhile. Science Fiction really is just another fiction, it is a style, one wherein the author can engage in thought experiments more freely. A story of ideas rather than just about (imagined) human interactions and how that particular writer believes people will act (although it's that too).

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Thoughts on Thursday: The UK election fallout

So, I had planned to respond immediately after the election result last year. However, I only really had fury for the majority that had been either convinced by misinformation (and therefore failed at self-knowledge) or were otherwise complicit in a Tory majority (and therefore failed at self-analysis). News outlets were keen to portray this as a 'Brexit election' and this sentiment seemed to rule the day, whether it was true or not. I had been fairly convinced of a hung parliament being the result, with the possibility of a left-leaning coalition, but that was not to be. A single majority was the most surprising result that one could have envisaged really, as elsewhere across the globe (albeit, only where voting for more than one or two parties is possible) there seems to be a movement towards a centralising or collective type approach in politics with countries being run by an awkward 'federation' of competing parties. Indeed, I was starting to be convinced that this wasn't such a bad thing, as it stops one party with one leader making whatever they want law and directing the entire country towards whatever they wish. Sadly that is exactly the way we are going again in the UK.

Link to the Wiki election result page here

I suppose that instead of strengthening support for parties outside of the 'Big Two' and marking a move towards this collation government approach, that instead we found ourselves being focused on a presidential leadership race again. Something positively heralded by the Tories, awkwardly mismanaged by Labour, and destructively embraced by the Lib Dems. This thought and approach comes, I suggest, from the American handlers of the Tory party and their wish for a state-run propaganda channel like Fox News.

Also helping the Tories were the "other racist parties," namely Farage's Brexit party, UKIP, and smaller factions. Farage did not stand, proving once again that despite all his talk his ultimate goal is political destabilisation and thus he is a 'useful idiot'. Farage also ruled that the Brexit party would not stand against the Tories in key seats in an effort to help "get Brexit done." If by that, he meant, get the Tories a majority then they were indeed successful. Another help was the final and hilarious destruction of UKIP from within. The interim leader Pat Mountain giving once of the worst political interviews recorded in history, which if you watch the video you will see is no exaggeration. This fundamentally undermined; her own leadership, her party, and the value of the continuing existence of said party. So, something that many others have been trying to do for some time, but in only 8 minutes. The key line was Pat Mountain describing UKIP and the Brexit party as "other racist parties." Comedy gold.

Catherine Tate's 'Nan' character       UKIP interim leader Pat Mountain
Final helper for the Tories was probably the most vital. I said "being focused" a moment ago and this work was done by the media. It's slightly odd that public opinion is still so swayed by that of billionaire press barons, but evidently this is still the case. Possibly because public engagement with politics is flat lining, this means that simply adopting the opinion of 'everyone else' (as you are told) is easier than investigating and coming up with your own political opinion? But how can this be? Because surely we were told of the 'rising up' of the youth, that because of the internet that young people were being re-engaged into politics and talking more of an interest?

Well, although I might now start sounding like a broken record. I do not think that social media does anything positive to increase political awareness. Indeed, quite the opposite, it makes people 'gamify' this otherwise important part of their life into an 'App'. As if sending a few likes or comments is the same as engaging directly with another of the opposite opinion. I hear political conversations much less now in public as, I suggest, people are made overly concerned with the possibility of stoking division (as the press call it) and the last thing most people want is an active conflict. Certainly not one that they have to actually deal with. Now making a fuss online where there are no repercussions for what anyone might say is another matter. Consequence-free name calling is the bread and butter of online 'discourse' and puts a stop to any real debate from happening.

Thus in the build up to the general election you might have wondered, as I did, why is it so quiet online? That instead of passionate but respectful discussion happening online between friends, colleagues and family there was less of any sort of dialogue than at any time before.

Why is that?

Apologies for what follows, but it was mostly written in the previously mentioned fury and therefore the language is rather 'beyond'.

Section 1: People are cunts online.

You may not know this, but you're a cunt online. Really, you are. You may not mean to be, but that only makes it worse. It's your lack of introspection that makes it worse, your lack of nuance, your lack of physicality. What do you mean it's not your fault? You're online aren't you?

Let's try this out, think of something you care deeply about, a core principle if you'll allow the phrase. Now let's picture this idea getting shat all over by some prick that you thought were a friend. The very indignity of it all! Better get that shitebag telt.

Wait, I got ahead of myself there and this isn't a fair depiction. After all you've thought this through haven't you? And, indeed, you welcome the friendly cut-and-thrust of debate especially as you feel confidant in your knowledge of your subject area, as it's an opinion that you've researched thoroughly.

One small problem though.

Section 2.1: Your opinion is wrong.

Think you've been over all the oppositional arguments and considered every angle? No you fucking haven't you liar. You've briefly entertained the idea that you might be wrong and have then filled your craw with endless 'well done' arguments. If you really challenged your own point of view you'd be in such a dizzying state of indecision that you wouldn't know if you were coming or going.

Section 2.2: Your opinion isn't an argument.

Arguments are a detailed deconstruction of a particular point of view intended to prove the validity or otherwise of a particular position, whether that be contrary or partisan in nature. Your meme or your 'aphorism' is not that. If anything is being referenced it's normally a 'dog-whistle' to some objectionable political perspective, whether you know that or not. Retweets might not be endorsements, but they help mainstream an idea that would not otherwise get oxygen.

Section 2.3: Your opinion isn't yours.

Have you thought about were the latest viral meme has come from? Who created it and for what reason? Just so you know, "only joking" probably isn't the real reason and is normally the answer given by fucking liars anyway. Further to that, being a joke does not free one from being criticised for untruthful or hurtful allegations whether clouded by ignorance or stupidity or not.

Section 3: The end is the beginning.

So, apologies for the swearing, but there's not much to be hopeful about politically in my opinion. At least not until the culture shifts to a less awful place, most likely this will require us becoming less addicted to social media and believing obvious lies rather than willing to engage in the potentially painful process of self-examination. However, this activity takes work and time, something that could be an 'allowance' of sorts by a government that wishes their populace to engage rather be willing servants, which is instead what we've had mostly throughout history it seems.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Melancholy Mondays: What If?

I often wonder of a film, "what if the writer or director had decided to go this way instead?" It's something that has been most prompted by the recent Star Wars sequel trilogy, a collection of films so disjointed and mismanaged that you can't help but think 'What if?' However, I'm not going to talk any more about Star Wars today (maybe another time), but instead the similar sort of thoughts that one directs toward their own life.

There's a sort of constant longing for the life one could be living and this anxiety is preyed upon by Capitalism, or at least those that want to keep power in the current Capitalistic system. Perhaps it would not be any better under another system, but again what we are doing here is speculating in an abstract and unchallengeable manner.

Perhaps it is an aspect of an anxious personality, combined with an over active imagination, and tied together with a (narcissistic) narritivising of one's own 'life story' that leads to this worry.

What do I mean that this is "preyed upon"? Well, it makes one more amenable to sustaining an unsustainable situation in the hope/belief that you are due a positive change of circumstances based on; hard work, what you are due, good fortune, or any other of the countless things we tell ourselves are 'coming our way'.

But this is just a general 'What if' my life was better than it was. Something that is based more in what might be, looking to the future with (unrealistic or naive) hope.

What I am thinking of is more of a 'what if I had decided to go this way instead?' That is, rewriting the past and imagining what could have been.

What if... I had had the piano lessons that I asked for when I was 10? Would I be a musician?

What if... I didn't go to University at the age of 27 to study philosophy? Where would I be now?

What if... instead of engineering, I tried to get into art school right after secondary? Would I be an artist?

Many thoughts like that.

Recently, I passed the anniversary of a dear friend's death, which meant that I have now lived eight years since he died having only known him for seven years (2005-2012). Now you might think this an unnecessary obsession with statistics that are otherwise meaningless and I would agree that you are probably right, except for the meaningless part because this passage of time-with and time-without is [I think] an important descriptor. I am not making this point in order to lessen or distance my relationship, but instead it shows to me the depth that can grow in a short time and that can last, outlast, even the passing of that relationship. As I've said before it is now a 'frozen moment' that I hold, one that I in my changing state (developing, be that evolving or devolving) also changes with me, but it is entirely one-sided and unfalsifiable. Memories without other witnesses cannot be checked for correctness after all.

What if... I had never met him, or we met differently? How different would I be? Would I now be in a long-term loving relationship and a father?

What if... My story were otherwise 'written' differently? Would I still be 'me'? If I met this other 'me' would they be recognisable to me as me?

However, we cannot live in the past or the future, but nor can we live totally in the moment. We have to be able to take the lessons of our past and apply them pragmatically and truthfully to our present in a way that will positively effect our future.

This said, there is still the desire to be free of pain. The pain of grief. So, we think about never being in the situation that gave us the grief in the first place. All of these are an attempt to run away from something that is hurting us. Pain cannot be imagined away, but it can be ignored. However, some injuries will not fade unless they are dealt with. This is not like distracting yourself from a paper cut.

What if... the pain is greater than one can bear? Is emptiness an acceptable alternative?

"Cessation of suffering is possible by relinquishing attachment, not to deny but to be liberated from." Says the Buddhist.
"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something." Says Westley...

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Songs on Sunday: Little Drum v Nothing Ever Happens

There has been plenty that I could have said recently about many things, but there didn't seem to be much point. I have often been filled with the desire to be heard, as many of us do, but this is meaningless without connection and that seems to be significantly lacking. I've been feeling more aggrieved with social media during the last wee while, seeing movements with good motivations starting well and then quickly becoming subsumed by the seemingly monolithic forces of misery and hate that dominate online and offline presently. Politically, we might want to make capital out of this if it favours 'our side' but the internet, particularly social media, is a system and not a smart one at that. If it is currently favouring you (or your side) then that is because you are participating in a dehumanising process that strips you of your agency. A small price to pay to be continuously winning some might think, but those that originate these sentiments are usually very far from being truly damaged by them.

Anyway, here are two slices of Scottish misery for you.

Personally, I think that in retrospect it was a blessing to feel like nothing much was happening. There's a sense of freedom along with the ennui. The difference now is the constant screaming process of 'events' doesn't motivate the people, it instead gets treated as an entertainment, something to create memes about rather than something to engage with. For all the talk of 'engagement' on social media, really what's happening is a distancing and isolating, more so now than ever before.



"Little Drum" Frightened Rabbit

I was mothered like an orchid
Tethered to paternal sides
I hurried home in orbit
Close to where I know I’m fine
No edge of the seat
No arms ever broken, you see

I waited for
the crash to come
Too many days with
Too little to do
I waited but
Nothing came at all
So many days spent
In empty rooms

The little drum inside
behaves itself until you turn twenty five
And then it strikes us all
We’ve lived this long but only ever half alive

I waited for
the crash to come
Too many days with
Too little to do
I waited but
Nothing came at all
So many days spent
In empty rooms
It’s too late for
A wasted youth
All quiet on the eastern front
We dare not move
It’s too late
To wage a war
So quiet on the eastern front
We are all bored



"Nothing Ever Happens" Del Amitri

Post office clerks put up signs saying 'position closed'
And secretaries turn off typewriters and put on their coats
And janitors padlock the gates
For security guards to patrol
And bachelors phone up their friends for a drink
While the married ones turn on a chat show

And they'll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow

Gentlemen time please, you know we can't serve anymore
Now the traffic lights change to stop, when there's nothing to go
And by five o'clock everything's dead
And every third car is a cab
And ignorant people sleep in their beds
Like the doped white mice in the college lab

And nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before

And we'll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow

Telephone exchanges click while there's nobody there
The Martians could land in the car park and no one would care
Closed-circuit cameras in department stores
Shoot the same movie every day
And the stars of these films neither die nor get killed
Just survive constant action replay

And nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before

And we'll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow

And bill hoardings advertise products that nobody needs
While "Angry from Manchester" writes to complain about
All the repeats on TV
Computer terminals report some gains in the values of copper and tin
While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs
For the price of a hospital wing

And nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before

And nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
They'll burn down the synagogues at six o'clock
And we'll all go along like before

And we'll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow