NORTH OR SOUTH?

It does seem that in the world at the moment that there is a growth of ideas and personalities which are polarising to the extreme. It’s not that this as an idea is totally new, think of the way Marmite is advertised and you can see that looking at things as an either or is nothing new but day by day I see the dichotomy being the growing way to go.

I see so many more examples of there being an either or choice rather than there be any kind of nuance. On TV, in the press and in conversations in the real world, there seems to be an increase of ‘with me or against me’. It seems that we’re seeing worldwide, the polarising of opinion to either end of the spectrums and this seems to be very clearly shown thanks to the hurricane of with or against that is Donald Trump.

Now rather than just make comment of the clear issues that exist in the way he’s going about things, instead I’m highlighting the need for the shades of grey in the choices we make and our ability to have independent thoughts on every topic.

The whole world has been looking on over the last few weeks as Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have been having something of  spat over the size and power of their various, well, everythings, but both exist in worlds where they expect everyone around them to agree with everything they say. The world has been treated to the show of two men who expect, indeed, demand that their opinion is correct and should anyone disagree, well, don’t even bother. Now imagine we all watch on as these two rattle their sabres and shout about their ideas being correct and then all of a sudden, Kim Jong-un , out of nowhere, makes a well reasoned and thoughtfully responsible point about the wider political situation throughout all of Asia. He may be seen in a negative light but what happens if all those people who had been berating him suddenly found themselves having to admit they agree. What very often happens is an attempt to belittle everything around him, highlighting any and all mistakes and make everyone focus on the negative. The positive idea gets buried because he can’t really mean it. Arguing facts is one thing but people so often equate their opinions with facts.

But it’s not just the highest national leaders who indulge. Very often I’ve seen that if there’s any disagreement at all, it can quickly descend into the ‘with or against’. Any talk of differing opinions are seen as a personal attack and therefore must be squashed. Think about the world you inhabit and think if there has been an example which comes to mind. There may not be a massive one but they’ll be more common than you may expect.

Now disagreements are a good thing when they’re managed correctly. Wars have a habit of starting following disagreements but only because there wasn’t a coming together and shared compromise. At no point am I trying to extol the virtues of either of the two political leaders or their ideas, rather it’s an attempt to examine just how we all look at ideas and how we deal with disagreements.

For all of us, that ability to move our opinions and react to different ideas in a positive way is what can make sure that we all grow in a positive way. Life is so very much more than just black and white.

I’ve recently been working on a collection of short stories, ready for another collection book to be released some time next year, and I’ve been continuing my attempts to always look at things in as many new ways as I can. I’m doing my best to always add some white to my black and black to white when creating characters as it’s that grey that can make us all more interesting.

Just sticking to the dichotomy of one end of the scale or the other will mean that we miss out on so many great ideas just because we didn’t want to move towards the centre.

Advertisements

FOR THE BEST

When you’re under a huge amount of stress and everything is going wrong around you, are you able to turn all of the negative things that you’re facing into anything even vaguely positive? When you have the crap flying at you, do you feel the need to to start swinging in return?

It’s a method that gets rolled out very often in story telling whereby the characters actions are explained, and often justified, by the external forces that they experience.

Anakin Skywalker is nudged, rather than shoved.

Each and every one of us will be the result of the experiences which make up our lives. A deep rooted fear of spiders may come from that time when you were a kid and the creepy little beasts ran all over you in bed. I’ve been a terrible passenger in cars after I was badly injured in a crash.

But when a great many of the worst type of events line up one after another it could become really easy to let the feeling of ‘why me?’ build up to the point where you would lash out. You snap and do something which is out of the norm just as a way to exert the very barest shred of control. From there you can continue to tumble as the pressure remains and soon, you’ve been behaving in a very antisocial fashion and have been pushing people away left, right and centre.

So could you be smashed down by the worst that life has to throw at you and not turn to the dark side? Could you take all of the horror and turn it to something which is much stronger and lighter?

On the most part, everyone sees themselves as being the good guy. Looking again to Anakin Skywalker, as each of the nudges bumped him, he reacted. He pushed back in the only way he could at the time until, without him even realising, he was clad in black and slaughtering people. Now this isn’t to say that anyone going through bad times will be just one problem away from going on a murderous rampage but rather than they want to have some ability to face the world and push back. So when everything conspires to grind you down, could you turn all of the hurt into an act of kindness rather than violence? Could you still do the good rather than just lash out?

I guess that none of us will ever know until we’re forced to face that choice.

I know that I’m doing my best to stay positive at the moment despite everything and I can feel the benefits. I’m still under the attack that all of the family are under but I’m trying to hold as much positivity as I can rather than just turning to the anger.

We just have to keep on swinging.

COOL?

I myself, am not cool.

I can happily admit that I’ve never been cool. Well, I can happily admit it now, as a middle aged old duffer anyway.

Cool is a concept far beyond the nature of a description of temperature. It’s a way of being. It represents to so many that which is the nebulous goal we should all be struggling for. Have a watch at the way Xander Harris in Buffy the Vampire Slayer debates the question.

To be cool is to be hot in some ways but not in others. But cool is also seen in cases of being very much not hot. But that doesn’t mean cold. And as cool doesn’t last, it also doesn’t mean you’ve become hot if you’re no longer cool. You don’t warm up or cool down.

Clear?

Cool as a relative state changes and grows every day but no-one can truly know what is cool until ‘it’ lands. If you could go back in time and suggest that the term ‘on fleek’ was going to be something which sweeps the world, entering our cultural lexicon as a marker of somethings relative coolness, I’m sure that whoever you spoke with would question your sanity. But nonetheless, here we are with that ridiculous phrase.

Maybe it’s because I don’t understand it that it makes no sense in terms of it’s cool? So if that’s the case, who needs to understand a thing to allow it to be considered for cool?

Cool is very often the focus of the younger of our population and there are armies of people working day and night to give them their fix for cool. But is it? Even as I write, I consider ‘proper’ grown-ups of my age or older and am forced to admit that the cool is there as well, just about different things. Parents seem to perpetually be comparing children. Their abilities, their achievements, anything. Not only will they be showing off that they are better than everyone else but there is that level of prestige which comes from going on the ‘right’ holidays, sending the kids to the ‘right’ schools, and the classic, driving the ‘right’ car. Don’t believe me? Watch the mighty Bruce Campbell and see what you think.

So does this mean that cool is nothing more than a manufactured construct which can be guided by the power brokers of the world by making sure that the right messages are being seen and repeated by the right people?

Yes and no.

Yes, the armies of people working on the next One Direction are following a plan of how to create this commodity and the members of the group themselves are a tool as well but on the reverse, aren’t they all labouring under the huge risk that their product isn’t deemed cool? No matter the amount of time and effort which goes into a project, ticking all the right boxes to make a big splash, there will always be the risk that it just fizzles out. That would leave huge numbers of people at risk, livelihoods crushed, business going under, families at risk.

I write the stories I write, not in an attempt to be cool, to be ‘on fleek’, but to be a writer of those stories. I wanted to read them so I wrote them. I’ve given up hunting down the elusive cool because it just doesn’t make sense.

Shouldn’t we do things because they make us happy rather than just because it’s cool?

ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY?

I understand the need for comfort when settling in for some time reading and can see clearly that the importance of comfort for anyone being read a story is equally as vital. I’m sure we can all imagine the sheer delight of a fidgety child while we’re trying to keep them still to listen to what is being said.

But should we always be comfortable when we read a story?

Horror stories are the first port of call and it’s easy to see that they need to be unsettling and scary but is that the only place that we get to unveil the really uncomfortable things?

I’ve come to this consideration thanks to the radio.

Recently, on a very mundane journey home from work, Something Inside So Strong by Labi Siffri started playing. A good song from 1987 which, thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia, I can tell you, peaked at number four in the UK charts. Now that doesn’t really make anyone think anything. Those facts are nothing more than nuggets of information and you can nod your head as you register the facts, and then you’re on with the rest of your day.

But there is a great deal more to the song.

Labi Siffri penned the song after watching a TV documentary on Apartheid in South Africa where white soldiers were seen shooting at black civilians. The lyrics he wrote conveyed a message of steadfast resistance to the horrors of the inequality in South Africa but that resistance would come in a non-violent form of just being more than those looking to grind people down.

The song was an easily accessible route for the world to be exposed to what was happening in another country and for the world to take notice. The song, as with any and all others, formed a plank which a wider understanding was then built upon. People were then able to make their voices heard about a brutalising topic which seems to be very much at odds with the usually relaxed and cheerful lands of the popular music charts. By using a medium not usually associated with such things, a message was passed on.

Now this isn’t the only example of the music industry making comment on social issues. Band Aid being possibly the greatest example but there have been many more examples where a serious topic is used as a focus for a narrative. Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 was aimed at the Troubles from Northern Ireland, Bruce Springsteen never ducked away from a controversial topic but music wasn’t alone.

Sport had the international boycott of teams playing in South Africa and everyone is familiar with the raised, gloved fist salute of Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 Olympics.

In each of these examples, an uncomfortable point is made directly within the belly of a situation where it isn’t expected. The viewer / listener will be caught off guard by the subject matter and suddenly they are forced to acknowledge a truth they may not be happy to. After their gloved protest in Mexico, the two US sprinters received death threats and the IOC were more concerned with the potential breach of it’s rules on political statements rather than the racism it was highlighting.

Those kind of statements should be kept away from sport / music / film etc. This isn’t the forum for your political views. After an event  of statement like the above the world is regularly then treated to all kind of talking heads pointing out that someone had gone too far or that sporting events or music shouldn’t be used in this way.

If it happens all of the time, the effect is watered down, everyone knows what’s coming. By making people uncomfortable, by shining a stark light on an issue without any kind of warning, you can shock the reality into the eyes of so very many more people. Yes you’re going to make people angry in some cases and there will be more than a little chance that fingers will get pointed at you as being irresponsible or callous but that is often the best way to cross the lines a great many people refuse to cross on their own.

In the best way imaginable, long live the discomfort.

HAVING A CHAT

Friday last week saw another first for me.

I was interviewed as part of the Speculative Fiction Cantina on BlogTalk Radio by S Evan Townsend. A relaxing chat about my books and why I write was shared with another author, Aran Jane, and all in all, I had a blast just chewing the fat.

I encourage everyone to have a listen and enjoy.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/writestream/2017/02/10/the-speculative-fiction-cantina-with-owen-elgie-and-aran-jane

th

AND FINALLY

Bad news everyone, I’m not giving up on this blogging malarky, instead the title for this week refers more to the bygone tradition of the final news story which brought the audience back from the pits of despair.

I’m sure we can all remember the times when, at end of the evening news broadcast, seemingly just to fill a relative shortfall in the running time of the program, the comforting words of this post’s title would ring out.

“And finally……….” signaled with the addition of a more upbeat tone of voice as well as the words, brought us a story to act as an almost palette cleansing refresher after the darker and more unpleasant ‘real’ news. Tales of a lost cat making it’s way home or a bizarrely shaped marrow winning first prize at a local fete used to be there to make us smile slightly. Those funny additions to the list of stories which swirled around the world just made you stop and smile, maybe even laugh.

It wouldn’t be unheard of to come across things like “and the clown spent a comfortable night” or “he admitted that he’d never seen one as large as that before.” Those stories of almost mundane nonsense always felt to me to be placed at the very end of the program to help remind anyone watching that the world wasn’t just all doom and gloom.

Amidst all of the darkness of the world, the tales of woe from home and abroad, there was always that spark of hope to remind everyone that maybe things weren’t all that bad. Maybe, just maybe, there was more than just the death and war and cheating which made up the bulk of the news and somewhere out there, good things were still happening.

So to everyone out there, no matter where you’re reading this, there are good things going on at the moment despite what it can sometimes feel like when you see or hear the news. So here goes my attempt to raise a smile.

And finally ………….

My wife and I ‘christened’ our new attic space over the weekend by watching Iron Man through our new projector and with the new surround sound system. We’re going to do all of the Marvel films in order. Sausage the cat was less certain of the whole state of affairs though. Anyone who thought I was going to admit to something else when I spoke about christening a room needs to get their mind out of the gutter.

My dad celebrated his birthday on Friday just gone and we had a very silly time discussing the gremlins my mum thought were in the house who keep moving her phone about so it’s never where she left it.

And my year old niece seems to spend all of her time giggling and appears to enjoy being whooshed about as only kids can.

All of those things made me smile over the weekend.

You see? Life isn’t so bad after all.