Saturday, 25 October 2014

Alternative Title

Well, this is new.

In a 'you couldn't make this up because it's Real Life' coda to my last Blog Post, I discovered I'd been blocked late last night on Twitter, with Point 1 very much applying. Normally I'd have just walked away, but because of who this happened to be doing the forcible removal of me from their timeline, I decided that I wanted to know. So, I e-mailed them directly and asked.

I have to say I'm rather glad I did.

This is a reminder that sometimes, other people aren't like you. They may share the same interests as you and look as if they are able to identify with what you are, but they don't get it. Most importantly of all their desire to participate in life with the same degree of immersion of you is fundamentally different, to the point that if you find a point of contention and that other person can't reconcile your position, there WILL be conflict. Amazingly, some people have no desire to fight about issues, or ideas, they are just happy being what they are, especially if those issues appear to have no direct impact on the World in which they personally inhabit. Most importantly, if you drag unwanted conflict into their world when they're already trying to avoid drama, for whatever reason, you're doomed from the word go.

This is a salutatory reminder that how YOU see people is fundamentally different to how they see you on the Internets. Don't ever forget this, that unless you live with them day in, day out or at least have some realistic face-to-face contact with them, your mileage will vary. The reason why I've been blocked is quite relevant too, especially in reference to the current climate on social policy in gaming. I was removed because my presence has the possibility of pulling conflict into the life of a person who doesn't want it. I've not been removed because of what I am, but because of how I've interpreted what I see on the bombsite known as Gamergate. I have to say, that's a spin on things I'd never have seen coming in a million years, but I'll bet you it's not unusual.

I'm actually writing this now to highlight the fact that, like it or not, some people don't see the World in the same way you do, and they choose not to engage with you as a result. That's an angle I think probably needs covering more than it will ever receive, but because that's not having a side or pushing a point, it really isn't newsworthy and nobody is interested.

Nobody today that is except me.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Get Off

How many legs?

The first time someone I enjoyed reading unfollowed me on Twitter, I assumed it was a mistake, and so I publicly asked them why they'd done it. They said it was indeed a mistake, the Twitter 'unfollow' bug, and I was back on their Feed again. By the time they'd unfollowed me for a third time, I got the message, and finally learnt an important lesson about Social Media. 'Friends' are all well and good right up until the moment you become annoying/disappointing/irritating, when you cross a largely invisible threshold which is utterly unquantifiable to anyone except the person in question. When that happens, one of two things will directly result:

1. Person A will post a subtweet, which explains their ire towards you without actually naming you before you are ejected from their timeline by the virtual bouncers, and life goes on. 
2. You stop seeing them in your feed, realise this, and go get sucked into using an Unfollowers programme so you end up obsessively tracking who's decided to abandon you, therefore becoming a total slave to the whim of people you never knew properly to begin with and who stopped caring anyway.

On the flip side of the coin, if you choose to Unfollow someone and don't offer any explanation as to why, either 1 or 2 is equally likely to occur, because there is still this embarrassment in certain circles about asking why someone buggered off without a word. As a rule, if someone leaves and I actually enjoyed their company, I will ask them why, because... well, we've covered that previously. I like to know if there's stuff I can improve, because I am well aware how fallible I am as a human being. Some people however, have never laboured under any such pretensions.

However, if I chose to unfollow you, the rule of thumb is pretty simple. It's not me, it's you.

Basics. Learn your place.

I run a pretty large followers list, and unlike many people I do read it all. This is not 'normal' social media behaviour and I am aware most people either have very small groups of 'followers' or use Twitter's Lists feature to filter out noise and only concentrate on particular posts. I view my Twitter feed as a large room full of lots of different groups of people, and I try and drift from group to group across a day, taking in news across multiple timezones. It means I get a pretty decent range of opinion and outlook, and I'm actually fairly tolerant ( I hope) of a range of different outlooks. Ironically the most vocal and often toxic elements in my feed are my own sex, and I wonder if that's because people just don't bother trying to reason with women any more because if they do it could easily be construed as abuse.

To make me unfollow you, well... let's see, the last person I unfollowed decided to diss someone else on my feed with such arrogance and dismissiveness it took my breath away, before blocking them and carrying on as if nothing had happened. There was a short holiday period before they realised I'd removed them and then they inevitably returned the favour, and on reflection that's why I'm sitting here writing this post, because I've decided that, as of this line of text right now, if you piss me off enough to invoke my ire I'm going to stop being silent. I think I'm a reasonable woman with a decent level of tolerance but really, I'm not here for the numbers, or for my own sense of self-importance, I use Social Media as a way to learn and grow as well as communicate what I am. So, should you piss me off from this point onwards enough to get the bouncers to forcibly eject you, they'll hand you a note telling you exactly what it was that caused your untimely departure.

Maybe if more people actually listened on Twitter and stopped just talking at each other, we wouldn't be in the mess we are to begin with.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Somewhere in Between

Go to sleep little Earth...

I have mentioned my excitement in various places at being able to see Kate Bush in concert. Well, Friday was the day, and frankly nothing about the evening failed to deliver. It was an evening of considerable revelation. Some of it, all told, I actually found rather uncomfortable. But I don't want to get ahead of myself too soon.

I resisted the Selfie option ^^

Friday was gorgeous: hot, sunny and as a result I decided to walk from home to the station to catch a train and meet my husband for the trip into town. It's been a while since I've been to the Apollo (Vic Reeves Big Night Out, 1991) and it's not even known by that name any more, sponsored as it is now by Eventim. Hammersmith's pretty much completely changed too, except for the flyover. There was already a sizeable queue when we arrived 30 minutes before the doors opened, so we went and ate and then gained entry. Yes, I was asked for my passport to enter the building, which would have been interesting if you were trying to sell a ticket outside the gig. Once inside, I'm pleased to report that the complete refurbishment of the building is magnificent, it looks nothing short of stunning and I'm really pleased I'll be seeing Elbow here again in February.

Then we got inside, and stuff got really interesting.

Yes, I took a picture.

Kate got an unsurprising standing ovation as she took the stage, and began with range of songs that should have kept most people happy (including Hounds of Love and King of the Mountain.) Then everything went bang, literally and figuratively, and from a conventional setup above (and some absolutely unbelievable lighting effects) everything turned full-on on concept album. When the picture above of Kate in the water (which is actually a tank at Pinewood studios where live action sequences were filmed to slip into the theatrical experience) appeared, many people suggested we'd see the 1985 album sequence The Ninth Wave, and here it was, finally imagined after nearly thirty years.

Boy, was it ever immense.

I was in floods of tears by the denouement, which was a masterclass in how to use music and theatre to tell a story. The whole space came into play, with brilliance in both lighting, sound and visuals (the final sequence that accompanies 'Hello Earth' was staggering) sticking Bush very much at the centre, with a voice that sounds as good now as it does on that album. From someone who spent many, many evenings listening to this 'concept' and who was undoubtedly inspired by such works to experiment herself with words, it was everything I could have hoped for from a story I'd told in my own head. There are moments that stick in my mind even now: using the lighting rig to signify the rescue helicopter searching for Kate in the water, the way she used physical effects and projection to show white horses in the 'waves' on stage... an awful lot of thought and effort was placed into this production. There was a remarkable amount of love too, and Kate's son Albert (Bertie to her) was front and centre in the action. I wonder what it must have been like at the end of that half to see the entire theatre give a second standing ovation to his mother.

By the time the lights came up, I was exhausted.

Part Two however was quite a different affair.


The whole of the second half of the evening was taken over by A Sky of Honey, the nine song concept that forms part of the album Aerial from 2005. What was immediately apparent from the moment the curtain came back up was this was as important a production as Ninth Wave had been, perhaps more so, but it was a very different journey. This is Kate listening to sounds in a different way, her son being an important influence on her life. There is a lot less storytelling and a lot more reflection and personal importance in these songs, that they literally paint a picture in sound of a twenty-four hour period inside the mind of our 'narrator'. This is all well and good if you can grasp the picture that is being painted, but for me this album has sat pretty much unplayed since I bought it because... well, I always got the impression this was a piece that Kate Bush really wanted to make for herself. This isn't commercial or easy to grasp or often even what some people might consider as accessible, per se. This is the album you earn the right to make when you've been a massive influence on huge parts of the music industry since your late teens. This is the music you only get to make when you don't need to worry about paying the bills.

Part two of the evening was every much as visually stunning as the first. It was clever, and elegant and utterly compelling, and undoubtedly it meant just as much to many people there as the first half of the evening had. However, I was left cold. I could be impressed at watching the sun actually set on stage at the right moment, how an artist's brush flicked could paint stars onto the canvas of night. It is easy to be able to identify with the accomplishment of a production when it is so well done, as utterly brilliant as this was, but when music is involved there is a subtle difference in impact, how the individual mind processes the journey when the aural clues aren't immediately pointing towards a visual path. As we walked out of the theatre we caught a snatch of conversation from two younger fans behind us: the first half had been brilliant because there had been hits they identified with, but the second half went on too much about birds. I suspect the decision to stick Cloudbusting into the Encore was a deliberate move as a result, and this goes to prove that however good your concept might be in your mind, it isn't ever going to please everyone.

I can't take anything away from the evening however, because what was overridingly apparent was how much of a labour of love this clearly was for the singer. She looked relaxed, happy and genuinely amazed at the reactions she got. For 35 years there had been no way for fans to tell this woman how much they appreciated her work, and here she has it, in spades. Even if I may not enjoy her later works they need to be considered in the overall output, and (I believe) the mark of a good person is to not just see what they want from an experience and to take everything as a whole. This will make me go back and try Aerial again, because clearly the significance it has to the singer is considerable. It also makes me understand how easy it is to overlook what makes us uncomfortable sometimes for the sake of convenience. For me it will, I suspect, make me reconsider why it is I actually listen to music: is it simply pleasure, or entertainment, or is it theatre? Of course, it is all three, but it is at the borders where the concepts meet that the most interesting revelations are to be found. As a result, I'd like to thank Kate Bush for making me think WAY outside my comfort zone, and for providing the most profound piece of artistic entertainment I've seen for the best part of thirty years.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

White Knight

I tend to bang on a bit about how great I think Twitter is, and how people shouldn't treat it with the contempt so many have of late. It is a fantastic tool for communication, especially adept at making shared experiences even more intimate. You only need to have been in our house during the 2012 Olympics, for instance, to understand how it can make significant events even more vivid and engaging. Yes, it's full of trolls and wankers and misguided people who think it's just an exercise in being seen in the right lists by the correct people. What most fail to understand is that there are moments when the utter brilliance of the platform just comes into its own, if you grasp that most people in the world, even the famous ones, are pretty much just like you.

So it was this morning that I saw via Twitter that Mr David Arnold, the man who wrote that amazing piece of music up there at the start of this post, is going to do some concerts in April next year in Liverpool and Manchester. I saw him in July, at the Royal Festival Hall, and my mind was pretty much destroyed at the utter genius of a bloke who, I have to say was likeable, honest and incredibly normal. He has a singing voice that is beyond impressive and his musical CV aligns pretty much in tandom with most of my favourite movies since Stargate. Most importantly, he wrote the scores for four Bond Movies that are my undoubted personal favourites: Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Only Goldfinger and The Living Daylights rank higher or equally, and a great deal of that love is down to soundtracks that are utterly perfect, tip their hat to the classic John Barry scores of the Connery era and act as aural scenery in the best visual moments. I therefore had no qualms in posting the following:

It might read like hyperbole, but I was on a high for a week afterwards. When he started the second half of the concert with 'White Knight' (which is the background for the pre-title sequence in Tomorrow Never Dies) I did actually squee out loud and was given that disapproving look by my husband only reserved for the most serious of transgressions. That piece is on my most played iTunes compilation, and gets listened to at least weekly. It's not a lie, this was the best night I'd had out in 14 years. However, in three days I get to see Kate Bush at the Eventim Apollo, and if I believe half the hype I've read, David might have a serious challenger for his title. I mentioned this in a subsequent tweet and went back to my work, with a piece of Arnold playing in the background as accompaniment (Caviar Factory, for what its worth.)

Four minutes later, this happened:

I squealed, alone at the PC, in utter amazement. The fact that he'd GONE AND READ MY FEED and knew I'd mentioned Kate Bush before he came and responded was one thing to begin with, but the fact he'd done that at all just frankly blew my mind. Here's a guy I know will be up to his arse in alligators with the stage version of Made in Dagenham being prepped for a West End Run. But there he was, talking to a 47 year old mother of two in Essex. I had to try and make a conversation of it, because I'd kick myself if I didn't, and I was determined not to be all gushy. I know David likes to talk biscuits, it is even in his Twitter bio. This was common ground, however slim. So, I took a deep breath and made my pitch.

Three minutes later, it was over. One of the men I've respected for decades because he's done things to Bond music that utterly captivates me, had taken a moment and changed my entire day, fuck my whole week. He didn't need to, but he did, and I'm sitting here grinning like a loon even now at the thought I got to realise a dream I never realised I had. I told him how happy he'd made me, and he responded with all the grace and brilliance I was sure he was capable of giving.

The moral of this story? Sometimes, just stop and make the most of the moment, because you never know where that might take you, albeit briefly. David Arnold made my week in three and a bit minutes. Who knows what might happen to you if you stop and take the time.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Different People

I always die a little bit inside when people can't be honest with themselves and you about why they do things.

What inevitably makes this worse is that, in the world of instant communication where nothing is lost and 78% of all messages have an inbuilt subtext, you can normally work out what happened before you're told you screwed up. That makes many actions all the more ridiculous, and I realise I probably need a Social Networking Primer for how I do stuff, because I'm getting mightily fed up as being painted as the Bad Guy in situations where actually, there is no villain. I deliberately use the male pronoun too, because there's also been a lot of stupid this weekend about people taking offence at things that actually aren't offensive at all. This isn't about conceding rights to keep people happy, there are some fairly serious issues at play out in the World right now and people really do need to work out which bit you sit on and which bit gets dug into the ribs of the person who should have stopped talking three Tweets ago.

This means, Point One of my Primer is simple.

1. If you're going to write stuff, stand by it.

I get the people who use Twitter as a coffee table. I understand the conversational back-roads and the delicate strands that pull everyone into everyone else's sphere. The fact remains that the half a dozen people with the chairs they have their names on will rule that roost, often with a rod of iron. This is how life works: ringleaders, head honchos, mother hens. Don't mess with the chair placement and make sure you don't speak unless asked and woe betide you try and suggest they put half fat milk in that Pumpkin Spiced Latte for variety. [*]

Ultimately, many people aren't writing for the same reasons you are. Mostly it is about their lives with an occasional does of drama and intrigue. When you're strung together with a Game as a common theme, that can be a problem, especially if the Cool Kids decide that the people making that game aren't nearly as worthy as they should be in the current climate. Be ready to be made to feel like a pariah because you're clinging onto the rungs of an apparently sinking ship, but don't let the fact everyone else thinks you're too old for this shit stop you from saying what you want, when you want it. Just remember not to intentionally offend anyone, be polite, use decent grammar and most importantly be ready to defend every punctuation mark you place.

If you screw up, apologise and move on, because nobody likes a whiner.

2. Be prepared for inevitable disappointment.

If you throw yourself 110% into everything you do, you will get laughed at, and ridiculed (with most points inbetween) all the way to receiving levels of worship that may well border on psychotic. Most people however will stick around until you're either noise or annoying and then wander off to do something else. This is what limited attention spans does for the Human Race. There are those out to get something from you, or use you as a stepping stone, or simply throw rocks at you until you fall over. That's about 1% of your total audience: the rest are decent, hardworking and rarely get the chance to interact with you because they have a life away from the Internet. When they do therefore, treat those comments like the 24 carat solid gold that they are.

If you're lucky, you might make two or three REALLY good friends via Social Networking. I'd not push your luck on that point either, if you manage any more you are clearly some kind of Wizard and should be revered as the trailblazer that you are. The point here is simple: the people who you'd like to be friends with rarely end up being so. Inevitably you discover that the likes you share are superficial, normally when it becomes apparent that priorities don't extend to writing daily blog posts or getting excited about the latest online developments. It's not you, it's them, and it is for the best, because in the end you're not what they wanted to begin with. You make too much noise. Shush now.

3. If it stops being fun, WALK AWAY.

Don't hang around because of a misguided sense of responsibility to friends. Don't justify your existence via an increasingly untenable list of half-assed excuses. Seriously, if this crap hacks you off that much WHY THE HELL ARE YOU STILL HERE? Go find your own personal Nerdvana, because no-one else is going to do that for you, trust me. What many people who follow me clearly fail to grasp is that that's exactly what this is for me. I'm a pig in shit, rolling around having the time of my bloody life. I can talk to people across the World in a heartbeat, I have discussions with people on numerous continents. I don't care what you do, or what you look like, or what you do when you're not at your Computer.

Treat me with respect and consider me as valid, and that's really all you ever need to do, because people get out what they put into life, and never was this more accurately demonstrated than on the Internets.


I've upset a bunch of people in the past by not realising an item was named after a friend of theirs in-game and subsequently ridiculing said item in genuine ignorance. Then there's that guy who spends his life waiting for people like me to slip up, and when I did one night he spread me all over the walls. I can pretty much recall every flashpoint in my life since I started doing this, and the people behind it, because I've taken every single instance of failure and used it in an attempt to get better at doing the job of learning to exist in a Digital World. I'm passably average at this, no expert by any means, and every day really is a School Day. The trick, I find, is to try and get the truth as a starting point and except nothing less as an explanation when things go wrong.

Most of the time however, I'm pretty much fumbling in the dark.

[*] I love them, and they are also a wonderful metaphor to boot.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)

Yeah, there goes August...

Surprisingly, many things have gone exactly as planned this month. The writing has been one of them, though there'll be no more talk of novels until the kids return to school and I can get some clear air, because REALIST and ONLY SO MANY HOURS IN THE DAY (insert sanity break here.) Today, we return after an absence due to not being pissed off with anything enough in the Real World to want to rage about it on a Blog. That's how this seems to work. It's Therapy for my Brane when the gaming blogging won't cut it.

Surprisingly I'm not writing about the Death of Gamers either, before you ask.

Yesterday, Twitter released an analytical tool it has been playing with quietly for some time. Basically, it tells you who is looking at your tweets, and when, and what happens when they do. It is the equivalent of ignoring the frantic requests to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain and allowing people to understand just how important their words are IN REAL TIME. A great deal of the problems currently on the Internet, like it or not, are wrapped up in two intractable factors: how fast you can respond to a thing, and what you say in reaction to said thing. This is where it all counts, the reaction and the meaning. From the brief time I've been playing I can inform you immediately that if you're not getting your point across on Twitter using pictures (or indeed video) you really are doing it wrong. Even Twitter know this, and that's why Twitter Cards are big business for advertisers.

Images matter far more than words in the current climate, and yet I don't see anyone threatening female game designers with photo montages. Words have become the cheap and easy way of scaring, when that shouldn't be their job at all. Except it should, but not in this context, and here is my point.

The cheap and nasty threats that are being written about those who challenge the perceived status quo of the World around us come from the mouths of ignorant cowards. They are morons, incompetents who think the only way words can hurt is when they are blunt, when used as the most basic of weapons. No-one should be put in danger by words but still they have a way to destroy trust and mangle common sense. The truth, it seems, more and more is the damning pictorial evidence, even if it is neutered or often Photoshopped into a version of reality that simply doesn't exist in the Real World. People will only read, it seems, if there is a threat or a motivation. The picture becomes easier to digest, more palatable because it is often impossible to hide a deeper meaning and people are growing tired of the noise the words make around them. Others walk away,  and somehow feel that not taking part in life is easier or more preferable because it all becomes too much.

This is the legacy we are creating for our children, and although some of it is laudable, other parts are clearly dangerous. It is time to learn how to live in this new World of Words and Pictures, and not pretend neither of them actually exist. It is the moment to understand that if you allow words to drive your fears, there will be no space left to love them any more, they will lose some of their lustre. It is, more importantly, learning how you use them to fight back, to make as much noise as the people who seek to drown you out in ignorance. Ironically, it is tools such as Twitters analytics that will give people the ability to understand what they say and how it is heard in the Modern World. The future is in data management, of demographic surveillance. You only need to look at the experiments Facebook has undertaken on users to understand the significance this data already has on the world we live in.

I read the stupid about gaming. I see the women being driven from their homes. I watch people patently fail to think before they press 'Tweet.' Everyone is affected by the words, like it or not, and everyone has the power to deal with the consequences as they see fit, and they will. In the UK, people are already being prosecuted for trolling on Twitter. As the World changes, so will the punishments, and anyone who is stupid enough to believe that their actions are beyond the law is setting themselves up for a fall. Major corporations will not hide you. 'Anonymity' is a front for all but the most intelligent of individuals. Even then, don't think sticking yourself behind a facade is going to help you for long, because it won't if you piss off the wrong people. The problem is with the Internet, everyone's here, and often in forms they've long forgotten. If I believe what I read, that on-line presence in developing countries happens before they can even use a computer so don't think peoiple won't be looking up your entire life, embarrassing moments and all, because they can.

It is time to learn how to use your words well, and to pick the right pictures. It is the moment for you to control the analytics and not the other way around. Most importantly, it is really important you don't just worry about what's safe in your kitchen or in your house for your child. 

Time to do a Virtual Reality Check on all of your lives, not just those you consider as vulnerable.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Dirty Laundry

There will be a 'State of the Writing' post later today. For now, I am compelled by events in other online places to make some comments regarding being a dick.

I have some skeletons in my closet. I'm not proud of what I've done at certain points in my past: I hope I've learnt from those experiences, because that's all you can reasonably aspire to in the one hit you get at life. What I absolutely refuse to do is try and pretend these things never happened: I have no excuses, after all. The fact I walked away from parts of my life and deliberately left them as the past might be viewed by some as weak; this I can also accept. The fact remains, I understand what happened, and I have worked to consistently improve everything as a result. I am aware that I have left people hurt too, but in the end I believe, to the best of my knowledge, this has not negatively impacted their lives.

You see, you can be specific but deliberately vague and get away with it ^^

I use the phrase 'being a dick' quite a bit, as it happens, although I know some people may be disappointed at such a sexist turn of phrase. I use it to refer to myself as well, not because I feel I'm thinking with my ladyparts, but because it just encompasses for me a form of behaviour that screams 'stop it you selfish bastard.' It is the moment when someone turns off their brain and simply does what I used to do so often in my younger days: focus on my own basic needs and forget everyone else's part in the equation. Of course, there are moments when thinking about only what you need is relevant, and indeed significant, and I am not here to belittle such moments because they are important regardless.

However, there is such a thing as proportion, and there is also the understanding that however bad your individual situation may be, often you are more capable than you realise of affecting change. There are many people however who are completely trapped and helpless: often these people are children (Syria and Gaza spring immediately to mind) without any means of helping themselves.

These are the true victims of circumstance.

Go Sir Chris... :D

I have been asked on many occasions why I don't have a 'Donate' button on my Gaming Website. The answer is simple: I don't need the money. It is true, I don't work full time at anything, but I'm by no means poor, or needy, and if money was what really mattered in all of this I would be more than capable of dropping my writing desires and going for the cash. I am incredibly fortunate as a result to be able to pursue what I do with the support of people who care about me, and that means I don't believe I have the right to ask people to give me money to help pursue my goals. I don't need cash, I require someone in the right place to read my work and give me a break. In that respect, I just have to keep plugging away a this until the right set of circumstances combine.

I am aware just how damn fortunate I am in this regard, and I'm certainly not going to push my luck.

The future is yours to create and shape, if you are prepared to grasp the challenges it throws at you. There are terrible things in the world happening to many, many people, and I wish as a planet we could spend less time obsessing about land and borders and the various notions of 'freedom' and focus on some basic decency from person to person. That doesn't just mean being the good friend and helping out, it goes both ways. Don't take advantage of people's generosity, don't try and pretend you are something you are not. If you are truly in trouble and utterly incapable of looking after yourself there are ways and means with which the world around you can and will help, you just need to know where to look and who to ask. However, if you are trying to pretend you are one thing whilst in truth the past consistently demonstrates you are another, be ready to be found out, because there is nothing the people love more than dirty laundry, and the truth is increasingly difficult to hide in a World where EVERYTHING is saved and archived.

In short, if you want people to help you, don't be a dick.

If you want to give money that will help the World be a better place, go to UNICEF.

[EDIT: I'm not even making this up. Go Wil Wheaton :D]