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Firstly a footnote on my rant concerning On Writing by Stephen King. I felt that I was being rather unfair, perhaps taking too much to heart regarding the writing process because I have had aspirations of being an author. I burnt chapter 4 and 5 off for my girlfriend, who has read more than I ever will, and whose grammar it perfect, I got her to proofread my first novel, A Hero called Tim, due to her aptitude for such things. She came back to me with the following comment. ‘And Stephen King! Ignore him, he’s a fucking wanker!’ Apparently the discs annoyed her so much that she almost ejected them and threw them out of the car as she drove home that night.

I however, felt that there is something more going on here. Listening to On Writing felt like unraveling a huge clump of entwined cables, knowing that in there somewhere is a single thread of gold, amidst the grease stained, twisting copper and iron.

So, I thought I’d add this little pseudo review after On Writing, because, while On Writing left me with a variety of feelings, listening to Dance Macabre, had a more definable set of emotional considerations.

The audio version being voiced in a constant Comic Sans-serif by William Dufris, which I firmly believe is far from as satisfying as if King had narrated it himself.

Despite Kings reassurance that writers are made, which reminded me of On Writings undermining elements, I must say I really enjoyed it. King was a teacher at one point, and after listening to this entertaining and insightful journey through all that is horror and fantasy fiction, I envy anyone who was lucky enough to have attended his lessons.

King strikes me as both arrogant and self-opinionated, but maybe this irks me because so do I.

However Dance Macabre is highly entertaining despite occasional reminders of On Writing, which was not. I also liked the level of research into the chosen subject and the in-depth section on The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting film was a joy, with it being one of my favourite films of the genre, while the repeated mention of Lovecraft and its pivotal role in his personal direction was also enjoyable. As noted I listen to Lovecraft repeatedly, and while King is less than enamored by The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, which is one of my favourites, I find it comforting that he recognises the sheer literary weight that Lovecraft left as a legacy for the genre.

I could go on, but there is little need to be honest. While On Writing will be filed away and probably never listened to again, I look forward to revisiting Dance Macabre because despite the overly comical narration, the information and study involved shows that the subject is a passion to King which is enjoyable. Passion like talent, is fundamental to creation. If I disagree with his personal analysis of being a writer, I wholeheartedly agree with the simple fact that the subject is worthy of such passion and indeed love.

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Recently, as I’m in full swing of a painting at the moment, with one completed and framed, another a good quarter of the way through, I’ve been listening to some audio books, letting my Led Zep and Beck discography’s slip to the wayside for a while.

I got hold of IT, by Stephen King, as I enjoyed the film, with its tour de force performance by Tim Curry as the stories truly disturbing protagonist. I got to the second from last chapter and thought I’d save the climatic ending and listen to Stephen Kings audio version of On Writing, as to be honest, despite liking some of the adaptations of his books, Salem’s Lot, (both the Rob Lowe and David Soul versions) being one of my favourites, I haven’t ever actually read any of his books. But I was interested to see what such a successful author thought about writing itself. I have self published two novels, 145,000 words on average each, and while not considering myself a prodigy at the art of writing, I do consider myself to have an exceptional imagination. That may seem like a boast, or just out and out ego, but it’s true. However, I am not so in awe of myself to think that simply having ideas automatically makes you a good writer.

It does not.

If you cannot communicate those ideas to another, they are simply self indulgence, personal wank fantasies that relieve only yourself. But the books I have produced, though ultimately flawed, were good attempts, and have received nothing but good responses or supportive and helpful criticism from those who have read them. In a couple of cases, they even appealed to people who both didn’t know me personally and people who had never read fantasy before in their lives, which I took as a compliment.

However, listening to Stephen Kings On Writing (I prefer audio books simply because I can paint at the same time) has been a bit of a roller-coaster for me. Emotionally I have been drawn along, from the screaming heights inspiration, to the twists and turns of interest, all the way down to stomach churning gulfs of frustration and uncontrollable rebuttal.   

Pretty good for such a modest sized book, and probably more emotive than one of his novels might be to me. You see, I like to write. The stuff I’ve done has been fairly effective in terms of narrative and character development, not to mention creatively and descriptively interesting.

But listening to On Writing at points made me very aware of my blood pressure increasing to a point that I could feel wisps of steam escaping from my ears at some of Mr Kings opinions on the writing process. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s lots I agree with, more than most of the points he raises in fact. But some seem to come from such a privileged position, that they seem to be coming from someone else, someone other than King himself.

The section on grammar I found uncomfortable. I personally, couldn’t tell you what most of the terms used in formal grammar are. I wouldn’t know what a adverbial clause, or a bare infinitive, or even the genitive case were if they ran me over on a well lit street. Hell, I had to type into Google ‘terms used in grammar’, just to include them in this blog entry! So does that make me unable to write?

Personally I didn’t do much schooling back in the day. I left school, in body at least, around the third year of high school, preferring to spend my time talking on the CB radio, smoking dope and listening to heavy metal. My vocab was ultimately a result of spending a record amount of time in school detentions where the teacher would randomly pick a page of the English dictionary and tell us to copy out everything from there on until we were allowed to leave an hour or two later. I also played a lot of RPG’s back then and so learnt to write stories and narrate them to the other players. I turned up to school for one exam, English. I wrote three essays, each six to seven pages long, in the hour and a half we were given, and then noticed that the object of the exam was to choose one of three topics. I had written one for each. I never got a grade at the end. Well, I might have, but I never went back again to find out so who knows.

I can’t recall writing lots as a child, though I must have, tending to spend long periods in my bedroom. It couldn’t have all been checking my balls for traces of hair and listening to The Wombles!

I must have certainly drawn a lot because art has always been with me ever since, but at the age of 11 or 12, my step mother decided that I spent way too much time in the house, where she didn’t want me to be, so gave all my toys away and any writing or artwork had ended up in the trash. So unlike so many writers of note, I don’t still have those early signs of creativity, no indications of childhood artistic promise.

My life has remained that way, with a tendency to give my work away, rather than keep it for posterity. Somewhere out there I know there are hundreds of pictures and paintings of mine, in cupboards and attics, gathering dust. I have a handful from around my mid twenties that I can put my hands on personally, but otherwise that period in my creative life is an undiscovered country. Keeping things has never been important to me. Creating things is.

So Mr Kings musings on grammar just…well…infuriated me. I got my A levels at age 26, with grades of B, which I considered, after over a decade of total absence from any form of academic practice, was pretty good. The sad thing was at such an advanced age, I was too old to get onto any of the courses I wanted, film making and animation.

My career as a psychiatric nurse is predominantly word and language based. I have helped many people by listening and supporting them with words, while in written form, I have contributed to the swaying of professional tribunals to allow patients who had been restrained and restricted by the British Mental Health Act for literally decades, to be free of it and have a chance at some element of freedom and autonomy. Fair enough it was frowned upon, but the outcome was good for the patient, if not for my reputation as a nurse.

All this without any basic understanding of formal grammar. If I have it, it is something I have learned in the process of living.stephen_king_web

Another gripe regarding On Writing is issues relating to where to write, of having your own space. If you have read the book, you will remember the section. This I see as the attitude of a privileged few, and in Kings case, something containing a notable lack of personal recall. As the story goes, when he got his break with Carrie, he was living in a shit hole of an apartment, with a wife, kids and struggling to get by as a teacher. But he managed to write something that ended up getting him $200.000 when the paperback rights were sold. A massive sum for the time, and for a first successful novel. You cannot tell me he had a nice setup somewhere with a cozy chair, a good desk and the time to read and write to his heart’s content, so telling others this is a necessity is simply not fair. Who the hell has that luxury except a successful author who is worth a million and can afford such things?

People seeking this book out for inspiration at the beginning of a hopeful career in writing will simply think they don’t stand a chance. I feel that if an individual really has talent, and really wants to write, they will, because that is their gift, and they will get it done, even if they are living in a cardboard box and writing on the back of torn down advertising posters with a stolen pencil. The words are out there and you don’t have to be secure and privileged to let them use you to come out.

It’s the same with art.

I did some of my best drawings in recent years, backpacking around India, moving from hostel to hostel, restaurant to restaurant, with no real security. I have never, ever had an environment that was permanent. By nature I’m a bit of a nomad and have always lived in one rented place or another, with few possessions and a willingness to embrace the temporary. Don’t get me wrong, I would love such a thing, a perfect studio environment with good light, and the few things about me that I need to engage in the act of creating things. It would be bliss.

But its absence has never stopped me and this demonstrates how truly unnecessary such things really are in the act of creating something. The process goes on regardless.

His section on reading also caused me some discomfort.

I don’t read…much. Like I mentioned, I listen to audio books simply because I then have my hands free. My preferred method of falling asleep, when I’m alone, is to listen to HP Lovecraft stories on my MP3 player.

I read on the bog, because, well, there’s not much else to do there really and of all the places I have drawn, the toilet isn’t one I feel comfortable with, but reading is fine. The last book I absorbed in such an environment was Heart of Darkness, but I tend to leave the book there once the toilet paper ritual is over, so my reading is episodic at best. If I am in the process of serious writing, I never read, because as King points out, some people have a tendency to write like what they read. This I don’t want. I feel that reading a book while writing pollutes what I’m writing. My first book was exactly that. I had been reading Mervyn Peake’s beautiful Gormenghast trilogy, plus a favorite of the time, a book called Phantasia by the artist Alan Aldridge, and so A Hero Called Tim, came out in a combination of those two influences. Baroque might be a good description. A charming story too heavy with long words and use of a thesaurus. Something that King would read a couple of pages of before throwing across the room and then heading off in search of something suitably heavy to finish it off with.

I can understand the idea of reading as important, I just think there’s a time and a place, and don’t want it to influence the way I write, because it does, for good or ill. Yes, you can only understand writing by reading the writing of others, but Kings idea seems to be a mixture of both a love of reading and a lack of having something else to do. I doubt he reads to learn how to write, because, from listening to On Writing, he already has an established canon of what he feels is important in the art. Shit, its worked for him for decades, so what’s left to learn right?

At this point however, I’d just like to sing his praises though for the Dark Tower books. I haven’t listened to them yet, I’ve got Robert Jordan lined up, but I have nothing but admiration for a successful author, known for a certain type of book, who says fuck it all, and heads off in a different direction. Screw the critics!

As I say, theres lots I don’t like about Kings opinion of the writing process, and lots that I do.

Obviously On Writing is one mans opinion of course. But this is a man who has sold possibly billions of books, to billions of people. He is successful and has been so for decades. So, purely on those grounds his opinion on the process of writing is valid.

The one question I would like to ask other successful authors, Kings peer group so to speak is this…

‘Do you feel that you conform to the outlines that King lays out in On writing. Or is it just him, his idea of how it should be done and given that you (the other successful authors) are also popular, does this mean that there isnt just Kings way of doing things?

Stephen King

Anyone who might have read my previous blogrants on MMO’s will understand that I tend to feel the genre has become as stale and slow to develop as practically every corporate controlled venture in the world, with inevitable pitfalls seemingly embraced and ignored by the majority of MMO’s. Even The Secret World, which embraces not only a new theme and idea and is in fact really enjoyable to play in its early stages, tends in the end to fall back on many of the same issues that its competitors do, though certainly not as bad. World of Warcraft has taken a novel approach to the failings of the genre by seemingly adopting them as a default and steadily making the gaming experience something so dumbed down that you really don’t need to invest your brain at all. There have been are are originals out there, with Eve Online remaining vastly superior when it comes to scope, but lacking a personal feel, the Star Wars MMO looked good but became an empty promise (environmentally this was quite literal) while the ever stumbling project Divergence looks like something so utterly new and groundbreaking that if it isnt snapped up by a major corporation and shelved like the steam powered car, I fear that it will be purposely ignored by major funder’s due to the risk it presents to the MMO industry as a whole. Divergences only hope, besides Kickstarter, is to become a indie created and supported game, but this relies on people (including individuals with superior knowledge, skills and tech) donating their services free for a long term goal of creating something unique, which in a financially biased culture like ours, is a hope, not a certainty.

It was the concept of Divergence that inspired this blog. Divergence, for those who don’t know, and I was one of those people until about 5pm yesterday, is a sandbox MMO, whose environment is almost limitless, where things like resource collection require the player, and hopefully ‘players’, to locate resources and rather than simply clicking on a node, have to build and refine and do the stuff that that mining actually entails, albeit with tech support.

BUT, the problems with big, as the Star Wars MMO showed, is that big quite often actually means empty. No game with such a huge scope will ever have enough players over the first few years to avoid that kinda feeling you get playing Minecraft on your own. So, a an idea…

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CAN’T STOP THE SIGNAL…

I thought of this idea long ago but it seems useful when discussing an MMO with such a huge scale environmentally like Divergence. Its what I called The Feed. This was a permanent radio station, which shifts from zone to zone in the gaming world, with music (that can be muted or filtered, as with all radio content on the channel, defined by the player or ‘user’ from here on), news, real user updates, and also newsflashes of what I called Events or Incidents. These were random game generated events that The Feed would announce to the user populating in that area. A bandit raid for instance, or a chemical leak, of nuclear meltdown, evacuation order by the local government, meteorite approach, forest fire, flood warning, flash event, rave party, official ceremony…in fact anything that will lead the user to make a choice, or have to make a choice to be involved with or avoid. In the case of combat incidents, the game would generate the event with friendly fire off, so the user would have the choice to get involved, say, defend a local mining operation, depending on their faction ratings etc, or get the hell out of the way, or risk getting cut down in the cross fire. Environmental incidents would obviously be best to avoid, as would industrial accidents, such incidents resulting in areas of the zone being hazardous to enter for a given time, and for those with resources inside (or in fact in charge of the resources that caused the incident), the need to clean up the mess and allow zone access again. Obviously, having a game generated event cause the resources of a number of users go toxic without any reason would not be fair, and industry owners would receive updates and warnings of maintenance etc prior to any event happening.

Combat events likewise would not be generated with prior risks being raised. A region know to have an active bandit community or a coastal region prone to sea raiders would be made known, and so users making claims or settlements in the region will have been warned and adjust their strategy accordingly, including defense systems.

This latter aspect would also lead to users being urged to stick together and form groups, for their mutual benefit and safety, each investing to make it all happen and stay under their control or in existence.

The Feed would become an essential part of game life and play, with both negative and positive events being broadcast and letting the play get involved or not. I also loved the idea of a newsflash telling of a mining colony being wiped out or abandoned due to some event, and regional players rushing in their to claim the resources, or linking up with nearby groups and heading in to claim and merge the site into their own.

On the flip side, The Feed would also hail the achievements of users, or let people find a place to socialize and meet other like minded souls, or announce the arrival of traveling traders or arms and tech fairs, available for a brief time only before moving on to another zone. In urban situations it could be robberies or muggings, which the user could have a choice about getting involved in.

In this way, even a game world with a minimal population would feel alive with these approaches, something not stagnant. It would also address one of my favorite MMO niggles….those regions with hostile mobs dotted about at intervals all over the place, just standing there, or ambling about without purpose. Sure some regions will have a permanent population of fauna, but come on, this approach to world encounters is so stale its presence in even new MMO’s is a joke. Random encounters like random events will obviously have a level of warning. Users entering regions not explored by others could have the choice to post their encounters on The Feed, or permanent bulletin boards to warning others aiming to go their. This would promote active exploration, for the purpose of highlighting these warnings, posters might even be rewarded for it, but only if its supported by other explorers, or the return of evidence, like skins etc. The world is a random place at times, why can’t the gaming world be just as random. This could even be expanded to include cartography and mapping regions, again for a reward, if supported and proved accurate.

If your gunna have a huge environment, make it discoverable, explorable and a risk, as it was in human history. This would lead users to form exploration groups, pooling their resources and heading out into regions unknown. What a true adventure.

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I’ve been painting and drawing since I was about five, initially rather badly!

I recall actually buying pictures of dinosaurs off my friend Derek for two pence or so each, because he had advanced dimensionally, let us say and had learn’t a trick to draw dinosaurs mouths that had three dimensions, something that at the time I couldn’t do.

My first exhibition was in Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, thanks to the teacher of my O level night classes in art at the age of about 18, whose name escapes me, while the recollection of her encouragement remains. My only issue with that experience was that I had done a picture of a hot air balloon, its crew a motley collection of animals, like something out of Wind in the Willows. She displayed it on the stairs, something that caused problems because the detail of the painting caused people to stop and examine it closely, thus blocking the stairs for other viewers.

My first encounter with the conservative, so called ‘community’ exhibitions was when I lived in Folkestone some three years later. A hotel on the seafront proposed an exhibition of art by local artists, which I obviously saw myself as at the time. Back then, I was painting in oils and acrylics, and profoundly inspired by the writing of Mervyn Peake. My paintings were dark and had a brooding quality, four of which I delivered to the gallery, naively optimistic that they would see them as worthy of viewing. I collected the four, which I found hidden behind a pile of chairs a week later, finding that none had been accepted. I received a letter a week after that asking for £10 for viewing the pictures. I ignored it!

I encountered a similar issue with my artwork in A level art at Colchester Institute in my late twenties. My art teacher there was of the stoic traditional type and looked upon my fondness for fantasy art as something akin to childish scribbling and not ‘proper’ art in any shape or form. Her opinion of me and my art was further tainted when I declared my opinion that Jackson Pollock’s artwork would make good wrapping paper. She loathed me from then on. I got an F in A Level art. As a postscript on this experience, years later I purchased several poster sized Pollock prints and preceded to wrap a number of boxes with them. I was right, they looked wonderful, and to this day, wonder why no one has come up with this idea, wrapping paper in general being so terribly dull.

Recently, some twenty eight years after my first exhibition, I applied to a local gallery in Colchester to have an exhibition. I had visited the place beforehand and wasn’t encouraged, but went for it anyway. My response was that my proposal was a little ‘out of the ordinary’. I submitted some of my black and white pencil drawings, which remained so out of the ordinary that like back in Folkestone, they had to be put before the galleries committee, which decided that they didn’t have space for the exhibition but I could send one or two pictures to a shared exhibition and dependent on the curators decision, they might show one. I was half tempted to send in some pictures just to see if a week later I would find them behind a stack of chairs.

I remain of the opinion that provincial galleries and exhibition spaces are so eager to retain their conservatism, and not actually offend anyone, that they continue to only display art that looks like the wall of an art block at any college in the country, or the type of art you might find on the walls of residential homes. Oh, of course there are exceptions and thank goodness for that, but generally, as I tend to think, having followed a professional career as a psychiatric nurse, art in the provinces is depressed, when it should be bipolar!

Art in any form that promotes an ‘ahh that’s nice.’ from its viewers sullies the very reason for art in the first place, as a legitimate form of creation and expression, and is about as far from what art should be as chalk is from the cheese of your choice. Art should promote something emotive, a gasp, disgust, awe, inspiration, a profound feeling that someone somewhere has created something that they invested a piece of their soul in. Not a photograph on canvas, there are companies that can do that for you, they can even put it on a mug if you would prefer. But it should still retain the essence of the creators skill in his chosen medium. Half a sheep suspended in a tank of formaldehyde is not art, its gaudy commercialism. There is no art in it, unless the artist was directly responsible for the sheep, which obviously he is not unless he is also responsible for evolution. True art takes nothing and creates something through inspiration and the utilization of a given medium. Before the artist can create, there was be nothing, a void, a vacuum, which they populate from their imagination. This is the reason for the steady decline of art over the centuries to the position of hobby. We live in a world where the default cultural state is that of the consumer. People only value something if you’re making money from it and its purpose is to sell, the art itself or another product. I don’t want to sell my art, it is part of me. If I’m going to sell the artistic equivalent of a kidney, I’m going to make it worth my while and so I put a ridiculous price on it, daring someone to be stupid enough to pay that much for it.

Once art held a different position, something worthy of appreciation and above all, love.

This is why I don’t really value digital or computer generated art. Because it is primarily used in commercialism and so as an artist lubricant for selling something else, as the advertising industry has demonstrated. I discovered this piece of enlightenment while in Madrid looking at an exhibition of Raphael’s work. Even after almost five hundred years, with obvious care shown to it, I had never seen such colours, such textures, such sheer glory in a painting, and often a very, very big painting at that! Because they are cherished as pieces of art, they will no doubt continue to be so for maybe another five hundred years, while all it takes is a power cut and your computer art is lost. It is as temporary as the commercial reasons for making it. Without electricity, there would be no computer art. Without the need to sell and consume, there would be no need for commercial art. It is distinctly discardable despite the ingenuity that can go into it, while a well prepared and cared for canvas can last for centuries. It is created in the purist sense and so deserves to remain so. It’s a physical reality, not something reliant on something else to exist. True art is creation, as shown by the definition of the word itself, ‘The action or process of bringing something into existence.’ But I will add to that. ‘The action or process of bringing something into physical and emotional existence.’

The aim behind the exhibition of any of my artwork is to hit people in the face, metaphorically of course, but to let them react, and above all, think. My art is obvious, lacking subtly in many respects, the messages likewise can also be obvious, though I aim to ask the question, are things as obvious as they seem? Is there more going on, that by looking, coupled with thinking, the viewer might realize?

My next step is simply to paint. Get a few good paintings done and then approach a local pub in Colchester, where during my college days I spent most of my time, and have them exhibit them, advertising the showing as ‘Art that no one else will display!’

Even if they cause abject consternation in the viewing public, the pub will sell a few pints so I will feel alright about the venture.

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OK…..in my previous post of what could turn into a 15 part blog entry, I was suffering from psychological stress at Lara being killed in what I felt was one of numerously unnecessarily realistic ways.

Well, I really wanted to continue and Hurrah!, I managed to get past the whole bullet in the eye incident (after another 10 times and a handful of diazepam) and continue on. Now of course I’m in exactly the same situation with a wolf in a cave, but I’m guessing this is the way the game is going to be.

But I have at long last and after a bit of research into game creation jargon, I have discovered the reason.

QTE…thats quick time event (QTE)  which is a method of context-sensitive gameplay in which the player performs actions on the control device shortly after the appearance of an on-screen prompt.

For those of you not sporting a long beard and grey hair, its first great success in the computer games world was a game called Dragons Lair, dragonslairtrilogywiiannouncewhich was seen in games arcades around the turn of the century, usually surrounded by a gangs of strapping men in top hats and red uniforms with shiny brass buttons shouting left, right, left, LEFT, RIGHT! Oh damned shame old chap.’

It wasn’t really a computer game par se, but an interactive movie that by pressing the right buttons at the right time when prompted, and injecting a suitable amount of coinage into the slot, you progressed through a disney-like movie following the intrepid main character on his quest to…well…you know…to…oh, I don’t know, it took me so long that by the time I had reached half way through I’d actually grown too old for games arcades, and besides home PC’s had come along so really getting stoned and playing ELITE all night was infinitely more enjoyable and a damned sight cheaper.

The general aim and technique of QTE’s hasn’t really progressed from those days to be honest, except that the graphics have got better. Its a way of sucking you into the gaming world, whether its a movie or an animation. People even tried to do it with porn with the obvious outcome. The main outcome, as it was, and as it is, is what I ended up feeling in my first post, besides nauseous at times. Frustrated! (Probably the starting point and ultimate outcome of the porn QTE version too)

You see, if you don’t hit the button at the right time, you’re fucked. Likewise, if your computer or console doesn’t register the key stroke or button press, you’re fucked. Personally the latter is more annoying, because not pressing the button at the right time is the players fault, while the latter depends totally on the machine, which I’m sure in the history of computer gaming has resulted in both broken keyboards and controllers, either from repeated pounding, (“mashing”), or the player ending up so pissed off that they throw the offending machine out of the window or across the room.

Its a fatal flaw in gaming.

Now TR has been criticized for being too much QTE, and removing control (known as “playing”) from the player, and this is fair enough though I spent my pocket money for at least 4 years on Dragons Den, so I guess I’m not really bothered. But the real bug bear is as noted in my previous blog, the life or death sequences being down purely to QTE. OK, it could be said that the whole franchise has been reliant on moment initiated keyboard strokes to a certain extent, and was followed by numerous other bastard offspring of this original idea (Prince of Persia I’m looking at you here.) But they had a certain player role and often weren’t fatal. In TR2013, its endgame-reload screen stuff, which can be summed up in one word – SIGH!

That wolf has killed me today now 21 times. I decided to count them when I came home from work. I thought I’d persevere, but inevitably got to the point that I thought ‘I’ve been whacking the hell out of my keyboard for ages now, when I could be doing something more productive.’ So I had a nap for a few hours.

I get this feeling from GTA’s games because in the end you always come up against a mission that is a bloody nightmare and requires you to remap your keyboard until you might get it right, which for me is about 5 mins after I’ve uninstalled the game! In the 21 times I tried without success to kick a wolf in the leg today, I remapped my keyboard 5 times.

A computer game shouldn’t make you do this. The challenge should be in the game itself, not the setup.

Which is sad for a game with such a enthralling narrative, emotive level of characterization and sheer rugged graphic beauty like Tomb Raider.

Its like an American coming home with a beautiful new pistol, all shiny, clean and nickel plated with an oiled wooden grip, the wood grain itself a piece of art, and shooting himself in the foot the first time he loads it.

Tragic.

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OK, let me say before I get into the reasons why I just can’t go on with this game, like the depiction of Lara in the game itself, its beautiful. The puzzle solving is not tedious and in many cases ingenious and intuitive, with a great use of body weight and flammability in some cases that I was very impressed by. The scenery is spectacular and conveys truly that sense of being stranded in a wilderness of both stunning, but also perilous splendor.
It did remind me a little too much of Far Cry 3 in a bad way, because the idea of being stranded alone somewhere where the inhabitants are brutal and your life is worth nothing to them, is horrific, and something that no doubt exists, but in my travels there has always been a sense of humanity somewhere. Tomb Raider and Far Cry’s antagonists are devoid of that feeling. Now this is good for portraying to the player a sense of the need to survive against the odds, but in general, its not a pleasant experience, and leaves you with a tabloid headline feeling of that the world is a truly horrible place, which lingers after the game is paused.

The portrayal of Lara is exceptional…and that’s the problem.

In the past, she was Lara, but the line between computer character and something real was comfortably blurred. When she died, it worked because of that.lara17
And this leads me to why I can’t play the game.
Lara is too real. So when you screw up, and believe me you will screw up, some of her death scenes become something verging on watching a snuff movie.

Some are OK, the wolves…pah, falling off things, fair enough, but I went through a succession of these incidents up to a sequence with a fight, a scrabble for a pistol and then Lara getting her brains blown out, the bullet appearing to enter her eye!. And it seems that even though I pressed every button I could when prompted, mashing like a mad person, it happened over and over and over and over again. I finally quit the game after the sixth time because I was feeling the strange compulsion to vomit. It was like I was watching something I shouldn’t be watching.

It was horrible.

I can only imagine these grisly deaths occurring throughout the game and I just don’t think I can take it. Its like witnessing one of Ted Bundy’s wank fantasies. A beauty and vulnerable  young girl, being killed in an endless parade of horrific ways. Made ever worse by the realism that Lara is defined by during the story. And here is the thing that confused me. To develop a purely fictional character to such an absorbing extent is an achievement in the computer games world. To make her vulnerable, agonized by self doubt, yet an independent and resourceful female character, to make her even more worthy of the iconic status she already held in the games industry is something equally worthy of note and applause. But I personally feel that to gain all this and then taint it with depicting some of her player initiated demises with such almost misogynistic way, may be cinematic and very much like anything you might see in movies, but is it actually necessary? I think it undermines so much that the character development achieved.

Now I am in no way a conservative, but I play games to escape, not be comforted by something you might read in Take a Break. Yes, I played very little of the content, and maybe my experience is a singular lapse in game play, but it put me off. I’m guessing this wasn’t the aim. In the instance noted above, it is notable for the human interaction. In the past, as far as I am aware, Lara’s deaths lacked cinematic presentation as in this game and that’s the difference. To a player, there is a big difference from Lara struggling for breath and then drowning, or being spiked by a trap…even being chewed up by a T Rex. But close up and personal being strangled to death, or shot at point blank range by a male antagonist during a struggle is way too much for my tastes. Obviously I’m sure this is not case in most people, who can happily go through all this without issue. In which case I worry for the human race, but that’s another issue.

I guess from trailers that this is the ultimate origins story and it is here that Lara discovered what an awesome woman she is, but as a bystander to this, I just don’t think I could personally make it out at the end without serious psychological issues or an desensitized attitude to violence towards women.
Would it have harmed the game to have the deaths blanked out, leaving only sound effects? That would surely have been equally cinematic…well, in films other than horror flicks from the 70’s.
Now, these opinions are hard to express because I know the games lead scriptwriter and was of the opinion that she was very good at her job. I now think she is incredibly good at her job, to the point that she created a beloved character more realistic in the hour or so I played the game than any computer game character I’ve played before. The sad side effect of this being as I’ve noted, making it increasingly uncomfortable to play the game to the point that I can’t. So job well done Rhianna, while I question the people who thought, ‘Hey, this character has been brought to life…lets make her die as realistically as possible too.’

I would have loved to take the journey with Lara, but I think I’ll wait and watch the walkthrough’s on YouTube. My sanity and sense of well being will be safer that way.

Or maybe I will just have to wait until I can emotionally afford the bigboy pants and sense of detachment required to continue with the game, though chances are I will end up living that reoccurring nightmare, kick, bite, scrabble scrabble….bang, all over again.

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Untitled-1

In a country with withering civil liberties, increasingly astounding levels of corruption, police state mentality, insane levels of imprisonment, a foreign policy that makes the Nazi expansionist movement prior to World War 2 look clumsy by comparison, millions and millions in poverty, gun crime running unchecked and a vastly growing population of people who couldn’t even watch the Oscars, even if they wanted to because finding money for food is more important, could I just point out my personal view of some of the nominations.

Argo, a film about rescuing U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Highly noteworthy given Irans relationship with the US at this moment in time.

Zero Dark Thirty, a dramatization of the United States operation that found and ahem… ‘killed’ Osama bin Laden. I believe the scenes juxtapositioning bin Ladens death with the farcically Photoshopped birth certificate of Barrack Obama released at about the same time, unfortunately were cut from the final release.

Django Unchained, a film seemingly about the long suffering quest of a former slave to have the word Nigger be as widely used as possible in a grueling 2 hrs and 45 mins.

And ironically, Lincoln. A film about the 16th President of the United States covering the final four months of Lincoln’s life, focusing on the President’s efforts in January 1865 to have the thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For those that don’t know what the Thirteenth Amendment is, and can control the urge to vomit when thinking about how subsequent US governments have tried their best and with differing levels of success to rape this piece of legislation and leave it bleeding in a pool of its own blood and bile.

It is

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The only thing I can say to that is Guantanamo bay!

My question is this.

Do the Americans really need a hug. And does the agenda-ridden US film industry think that despite all the problems that America faces today, (that’s real problems that for the most part, don’t effect the glamorous and wealthy minority) does Hollywood think a few half arsed films about how great America has been (in the past), is really going to make jack squat of a difference. Or is this simply patriotism gone banana’s. It stands to reason, and at least to the rest of the world, is an accepted fact, that the American media is simply a propaganda machine for the corporate and political powers in the US. So its not a giant leap to assume the same of Hollywood. So, to end this rant, what is the message from the above films?

In the order that I’ve noted them, it could be as follows.

‘We rescued US citizens from those Iranians and so we’re not afraid of them. We hunted down a terrorist and killed him, so we’re not afraid of terrorists either. Its OK to say the word Nigger. And we had a president once who was a great man, though obviously what he fought and died for is no longer relevant, because of things like terrorists…and Iranians in fact!’

 

 

 

 

Recently I started painting again, the first major effort in this medium for a decade. Up until now I’ve concentrated on my pencil work, which given my nomadic nature has proved appropriate, purely because traveling with paints and sheets of prepared hardboard is not conjunctive  to traveling about India etc. And I have to say over the last decade or so, on and off from nursing, my style and ability to leap into creative areas I hadn’t attempted before, has come on more than I could have ever imagined.

But paint!?

(pause while I roll a cigarette)

You know fuck it!

I was going to go into tedious waffle about my aims and urges, but you know, all I want to do it paint.

I used to construct things, and refine and define, as I used to say, not photo realistically cos I don’t stray in the oft pompous realm of simply showing off my technical ability like Dali, but there was always a plan, something to focus on. But of late, since once more dipping my toe in the turbulence ocean of colour again, I have found that all I want to do it the act of painting. Sod the detail at first, that can come later once the primal stuff is there in front of me. I just want to be doing it. Its a heady feeling of just letting the brush and its resulting shapes and hues lead me on. I get an idea and just want to spread it all over the board, whether there’s detail or not. As I say,  the detail can come if I call for it, but for now, its the idea and the action.

It also supports my essential core belief about art.

We do not create art.

We are the medium, not the message.

Back in my youth, on my first trip out of the country, in the hills of Eastern Zimbabwe I had got into rock carving, which in Zimbabwe is still a thing of rare beauty. I was traveling and wanted to buy some stone, and stopped at a roadside carving site. Off the the side, there was a group of about three or four locals, squatting in the dirt around a lump of half carved rock. I joined them and watched for a moment as they turned it, hitting it occasionally with a chisel, the act seeming to be almost a joint effort and appearing chaotic in a calm type of way. I eventually asked how they decided what the carving was going to be. They simply told me that they didn’t decide anything. The image or shape was in the stone, all they did was let it out. It was there, hidden, waiting to be freed by the blows of the chisel, the rub of sand paper and the polish of cheap floor wax.

That hit me profoundly. Art is out there, it exists everywhere and within everything and as an artist, as a human being, we are the way it is revealed. It has life already, but needs us to be seen and revealed. We are the way it can become.

And to be honest, since that revelation, the art that I have forced into life, has always left me with a spiritually bitter taste in my heart. Its as if I created things that shouldn’t be, or weren’t ready to be created. But the things that I have just let shaped themselves, starting with my moment of inspiration, have always been my favourites. Its as if that moment of inspiration is a call from somewhere in the aether from something ready to be born, with me as its creative midwife. And through me, they come. Screaming or happily gurgling into life. I stand by the statement that I don’t create things. They already exist. I just let them out, for good or ill, such is the nature of art and creativity. If you force something into being, you are delivering an abortion. If you surrender to that little voice saying, ‘hi, can you hear me. I’m ready…’ then you’re ready to play your part in bringing something into reality that never existed before, something unique and precious. Something maybe that only you could bring out. They are out there waiting for you to hear them.

It feels pure.

I watched a Cranberries video tonight, that had a cross in it, a Crucifixion cross I mean, and I recall thinking, ‘that’s a bloody nice cross!’ I have been recently painting a crucifixion scene with a nurse instead of Christ, with two plague doctors at the base, dismissing the figures suffering. But this simple image made me think of something else, the creative standing on the shoulders of giants, so to speak. I visualized a cross, its ropes recently untied and hanging, in almost the foreground, a fiery almost magma like sky beyond spitefully jagged mountains in the background, and the figure of Christ standing at its base, his back to the viewer, tossing aside the crown of thorns. And the title of the piece was simply…’Fuck em!’

I started at about 9pm, and Im off to sleep now at 1am. But I feel an almost palpable sense of excitement about throwing more paint onto the board tomorrow. I have felt this before, but not in such a vivid way. It was all so clinical in the past. Ok, I produced some nice stuff, but there was nothing visceral about it. Now I feel it.

It feels good.

I will use this post to update its progress. Its delivery you might say.

Enjoy.

The other night, after some soul searching I realised that the above picture was…well….crap!   So it was thrown to the corner of the room and I started from stratch, resulting in this after 2 days work, which I will now focus with cos it has infinately more promise that the previous one.

utuitir

16th March…..ever onward….Ive been playing with skin tones and the visible signs of injury and abuse. The photo above is a poor one for which I apologise but it gives the idea of where I am at present. I’ve been paintings and repainting, mixed with a little sanding for over a week, and the figure I think is about half done. It could change, but who knows. I have an idea of something akin to the classical art of the old masters, something lacking too much detail but that leaves the mind to fill in the image, but something poignant, thoughtful in earthy tones. If it works, a classical almost gothic frame will surround it.

The final framed pics are as follows

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The ‘truth‘ is out there, they say.

Something more and more people are both seeking, and feeling that they have found. Truth about the world about us, how it really works. The truth about the people in positions of power and the reality of their agenda’s and reasoning. It includes everything from the financial system, to religion, royalty, foreign aid, the environment, corporate domination, the food we eat, energy, politics, the law, immigration, even pedophilia and abuse.

This growing movement in the world, and it’s not a new thing, has its roots in the early sixties, and certainly in the dark side of 1970’s with its bleak economic shroud and the loss of the optimism that prevailed throughout the previous decade.

In the 60’s everything was possible, in the 70’s nothing was possible and it was this shift that I believe sparked the growing consciousness that things really weren’t going as well as politicians told us. Hopelessness grew, and as always, and I have to say thankfully, an urge to change grew with it.

The movement we see today is the offspring of that initial spark. A direct and inevitable result of  the establishments knee jerk reaction to squash anything that might upset the status quo of the West.

The term ‘Truther’ or ‘Truth Movement’, I have to say I don’t like.

Let’s face it, truth is profoundly subjective.

I prefer terms like awakening, or being woken up, which, besides their Matrix connotations,  implies personal understanding.

After all, no one wakes up from sleep but you. People can wake  you up, but that generally pisses you off, and I feel that people who throw themselves into this endeavor, of preaching the truth about anything, do end up being people who piss people off.

In the end if you’re going to wake up yourself, it should be a natural process, not due to the actions of the walking talking human equivalent of a 6am alarm clock.

There’s also the problem that anyone who feels strongly about a theory or idea, must acknowledge and that is that there’s is a thin line between being passionate about change, wanting people to at least look at the alternatives to the world we live in today, and becoming an evangelist. Cross that line and before you know it you’re burning witches again.

I recently watched a vlog from a member of a group related to the whole consciousness expansion, truth type thing, lamenting that he had witness YouTube vid’s from self anointed ‘truthers’ where they simply screamed abuse at the Bilderberg group and other like minded elitist organizations and feeling distressed that these individuals were what the movement towards change was becoming, or at least being portrayed as.

Sadly, people get distressed and angry so are led to expressing themselves in desperate ways. Every movement has them, and such individuals have simply missed the point. They see such organizations are the enemy, as focal points for their venom and frustration. The reality is that if the Illuminati exist, if the Bilderberg group are some powerful manipulator of global affairs, they are just as screwed as the rest of us, they simply can afford to be screwed in a more privileged way. The problem is not the rotten core of humanity who thrive off the control of others, who horde wealth and power. They’re just doing what all of us have the capacity of doing when placed in a privileged position…namely, of being corrupt. But the joke is that they’re are just as consumed, just as addicted, and just as powerless as we are. After all, if this were not the case, they could give up what has brought them to such a position.

They’re not the problem in my eyes, money is the problem. After all, without the financial system, they would be the same as everyone else.

I had a discussion with a like minded friend of mind about this and he revealed an important fact, which I hadn’t considered serious beforehand. Humans all have the capability of being corrupt, of turning on their fellow man, of playing the advantage. That’s a sad but inevitable aspect of being human in the modern age. But they have to have a reason.

Money on the other hand, now, as I write this in 2012, has almost taken on a life of its own. It’s all invasive, it influences everything and everyone, often into behaviors that are only justified by financial gain. No one really controls money, while money controls everyone.

Just ponder that for a moment.

Now consider all those members of humanities top 1%, the ones who have all that power, all that wealth, all the moral fiber of a chicken McNugget. They are all going to die. The one thing that they have invested so much of their lives in and all the pain they may have caused in its accumulation, will all be lost. They will inevitably have spent their lives investing in something that will ultimately slip behind their grasp. They’re like the pharaohs, wasting their time building pyramids to glorify their lives and deaths, being buried with their wealth and servants. But for what…..to become dry bone and papyrus, their organs, dusty remains in earthen jars.

Money is not transferable to the afterlife, even if you get one.

They are as addicted to money as we are.

Now I’ve felt the anger and frustration about the so called ‘truth’. I’ve made videos that could be seen as just as reactionary, because when you see something that changes you, you want to share it. You want your friends and loved ones to see what you see. It’s natural. But the one thing, at this stage in human evolution, that you get when talking about such things is apathy. Or blank or incredulous expressions from those you speak to. Most people either aren’t ready for this kind of thing, or simply don’t want to know. You may think this is crazy, but its logical really.

Ok, the world isn’t a good place, everyone will agree that it could be better. But….most people can cope with it all. They don’t want their bubble broken, because on the whole, things work for them on a personal level.

Back to the conversation with my friend.

He pointed out that people think that their own problems will be solved with enough money. that’s why people do the lottery or gamble. All it will take is that one big win and everything will be better. So if people thing about that from a personal point of view, that it is the solution for them, then they ultimately believe it must be the same with the world as a whole. All it takes is enough money and all the world’s problems will be solved.

Sadly it is the complete opposite if you really think about it.

But we as humans see things from our own personal point of view. The trick is not to. The trick is to see yourself as the whole human race, manifest in one place, in one moment of thought. Only then can you see that money only causes problems, only causes greed and suffering and corruption.

But as I said, the majority of people are happy the way things work out, because on the whole, its working out ok for them personally. You work, you get paid, you get to spend that money on stuff that makes you feel happy for a while, then you need to work more and on and on the process goes. This is normal life, and those who have seen the possibility of something better, need to acknowledge this.

Yes, the reality is that we could change it, we could make it better, it could be better, if money wasn’t such an issue. But at this precise moment…that’s not going to change.

And most people are happy with this.

It’s really rather odd if you think about it. As I said, I firmly believe that practically everyone feels that the world could be better, that there are things that should and could change. But you have to accept that most people really don’t want to do anything about it. They may feel powerless or frightened of change, cause accept it, change it scary. Most people will not be the movers and shakers in any change in our society. They will simply change when they have the option and when it is possible. They will not be instigators of change. Most people never are, if you look at history.

But some have to be.

The important thing in all this is that change happens, not that the overall majority are involved in it. Because, most of the time, this is simply not the case.

I have opened up about the ‘truth’, the financial system, turning on to stuff like Taking Liberties, civil rights, the resourced based economy, the Zeitgeist Movement, films like Fierce Light etc, to several people since I finally clicked about my own personal interpretation of ‘truth‘ about 4 yrs back now and some have taken it on board and run with it, but I do feel sorry for them at times. The whole concept is so big that it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed at times, not to feel that you can’t do anything about the bigger issues, cos they’re…well…so big and they have suffered for what I helped them see. Now after a lot of personal introspection, whenever I talk or write about it I also add something to things like the above. It is roughly as follows,

“You and I will never see this happen, not in our lifetimes. The world just isn’t in a situation fluid enough to support it. But that’s not important. Change happens either spontaneously, without warning, violently as a result of crisis, or slowly over time. If you feel you have a role after taking this stuff on board, the most important thing is to simply keep the process going…but not to be an Evangelist…you’re not converting the heathens. Simply give people another side of the story and step back…let them evolve themselves. If they don’t, then so be it…if they do…repeat to them what I have just told you.
In the end change will come…but not yet. The important thing is to keep the idea of an alternative alive. That change is possible, no matter who you are.”

The important word in that statement is evolve, because I feel that’s what this is all about. Money evolved, to become the entity it is now. Humanity must evolve to remove it and find something better. And likewise, humanity must evolve to move past the prejudices and limitations that money has imposed upon us, to the day when we finally accept that we are all one race, all related, all just the same. While money exists, this is impossible. Because there will always be a dividing line between people. Take that away and we will have reached a point in our evolution when we can flourish and have the opportunity of being all that we can be. And I firmly believe that we are capable of things that would make science fiction seem like a weekly shopping list.

For now, we who believe, can only hope to keep the momentum going, in the knowledge that one day, long after we have gone, it will manifest and our pain and frustration and passion will have been worthwhile. We are creating and sustaining a legacy so that when we breathe our last breath and move on, we can be happy that we kept something so precious, so important alive.

Been working on this for a while in my head, but put it down over the last few days.

Enjoy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQd_jPThnIQ&list=UUEGr71aHq9jW9V4kzxHY3kA&index=1&feature=plcp