Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Gender-al Ignorance

Very recently, as I hear it, Facebook changed one of its features. Nothing huge and it wasn't across the board either, but apparently, for these people with "Engish (US)" as their language, Facebook has changed the options for selecting your gender. These people can now identify themselves as Trans Man or Trans Woman; but that's not all, they can also identify as Agender, Androgyne, Bigender, Cisgender, Genderqueer, Intersex, Pangender, Transfeminine, Transmasculine, Trans Person, Transsexual, Two-Spirit & many More.

Now, I want to make my position clear here. I identify as an ally to LGBTI issues, and I most definitely still consider myself as such. But I'm also an absurd word nerd, and I feel like some of this gender stuff is getting out of hand; because, a lot of people - even those who are transgendered - are ignorant of the language used to describe them, and what it means when they refer to themselves in this way.
I'm not saying that I have a problem calling a transgendered person by their identity. In fact, according to multiple levels of research, if a transgendered person is born male and has gender dysphoria, then she thinks like a woman. It's upsetting enough to be trapped in the wrong body, never mind what other people think, so I totally support this stance and I even believe that some of these people can be quite beautiful.

But there are some misunderstandings that I hope to clear up here and a lot of this has to do with a recent phenomenon that I totally disapprove of. lately, there has been this new movement to eliminate the so-called "Gender Binary". that is, they believe there are more than two genders, and that we all need to re-evaluate our understanding of gender to fix this percieved inbalance.
That's all fine. But I have a semantic issue with this, and that is, there are two genders, as far as I can see. So, as far as I'm concerned, the idea of eliminating the ideal of "two genders" is really, fucking stupid. The Word of the Day is: 'CISGENDER'.

Cisgender /sisjendə/ adj. Identifying with or experiencing a gender the same as one's biological sex or that is affirmed by society; being both male-gendered and male-sexed.

Now, I am not a proponent of Gender Binarism, because I do believe that transgendered people deserve recognition, as do intersexed people. These are states of mind and body, defined by science and they are unquestionable. If you force transgendered people to act cisgendered, they react the same way as non-trans people do when you force them to act like an incongruent gender, as proven with Chloe Sevigny crying when she had to wear a prosthetic phallus for Boy's Don't Cry, or even Dustin Hoffman in his role as Tootsie being upset by how people treated him as a woman, it's distressing being told that you're something when you're not. This is fundamental, it doesn't matter how you feel about it, because this isn't a choice, it's a fact; and the fact is, when you misname or mistreat transgendered people, you cause more harm than good. So to people like Todd Kincannon who calls transgendered people "disgusting freaks", I think you deserve to die in a fire. I hate this kind of bullying, transsexuals are people too, I'm not saying otherwise.
What I am instead saying is that, if we broaden our minds, you can realize that two genders, "man" and "woman", can cover all of our bases.

My issue is that I believe we're defining a lot of this wrong. There was a big, dramatic to-do a while ago with Mike Khraulik of Penny Arcade, talking about his opinion of transgenderism. Basically, if you were born as a male, but identified as a woman, he considered you a man. Now, reading his words I have to say, I appreciate his attitude (he's not transphobic) but he's very wrong in his use of language and this event informed my own opinion of the whole issue of language, based on the meaning of the words involved.
See, according to the dictionary a male has a penis & a female has a vagina. It's pretty clear-cut there . . . this is the definition of sex, it is defined by genitals. However, according to the dictionary, the definition of man is more loosely defined as someone with male or masculine qualities, and a woman is someone with female or feminine qualities; this is what defines gender, it is more open to interpretation, as it doesn't involve body parts so much as values, attitudes & all of that. Now, the way I define cis-/trans-gender is:
If you are cisgendered, then you are either a man that is a male, or a woman that is female. If you are transgendered, then you are either a man that was born female, or a woman that was born male.

Using this mindset, if you are a transgendered woman, when you sign into Facebook, you would select "Woman" as your gender. And I believe that is preferable to "transwoman", "MtF" or "trans male". The issue that I have with this new Facebook thing and its 50 gender options is that, to me, it implies that transgendered women aren't as 'valid' as cisgendered women.
  "You're transgendered? Well, then you're not a woman, you're a trans-woman. We don't want you thinking you're a real one," it seems to say. As far as I'm concerned, you deserve the same rights as a woman, which includes being labelled "woman", without an addendum or an asterisk.
Now, I appreciate that some people like to advertise the particularities of their gender identity, but I don't think it's relevant, because being transgender, to me, isn't relevant to your gender. It may be relevant to your sexual identity or your self-expression, but if someone asks for my gender, I wouldn't say: "I'm a straight male" or "I'm a smart male" any more than I would say "I'm a cisgendered male", because that's not what I'm being asked. What we should be asking is for a "Sex" option, as well as gender, rather than this 50 options for Gender nonsense.

That said, I agree with the concept of seeing gender as more than: What is your Gender? Pick Either M or F;
With Man represented as "♂, blue, hard, patriarch, hunter, strength, dominant & sword"
& Woman represented as "♀, pink, soft, matron, gatherer, beauty,  submissive & chalice"
I don't disregard these notions completely, but I do believe that our understanding of masculinity & femininity are evolving. At one point we had the tomboy and nancygirl, now we have a more diverse understanding of gender that includes the idea of once masculine traits becoming more feminine. Leadership, dominance and aggression these days can be seen as feminine traits; whereas kindness, beauty & even the colour pink can just as easily be seen as masculine.
Speaking of pink (and gender) Robert "MovieBob" Chipman once did a video in his The Big Picture series called "Pink is not the Problem", about Gender Binary. I mention this because I agree with the notion, but this video offhandedly refutes the Gender Binary, because "these constructs are outdated".

But see, I believe that to be the reason why gender binary is still relevant, to me. Because our understanding of gender is expanding to include these concepts. To remove that identification of gender identity is to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We shouldn't be getting rid of these foundations, rather we should be doing is re-introducing ourselves to what "Man" and "Woman" mean, because they've changed a lot in the last decade.
So, I don't really understand the need for terms like "genderfluid", "bigender", "genderqueer" and "agender", because well . . . gender is evolving to include everyone - even those of us that have all or none of these originally defined "masculine" and "feminine" traits.
I know that right now, in this transition phase, it feels like we're taking a while to get there. But this will take time, and steps, so we can't rush it. But even in this decade, I know that a man can still be a man in a dress; I know that a woman born male that plays sports can still be a woman & I know that a man with a vagina can still be a man.

So, as far as I'm concerned, if you can't be happy being called a woman or a man because you think they don't represent you, then you're not Gender Fluid, Gender Nonconforming or Gender Questioning; you're just Gender Ignorant. I know there are some genuine intersexed people that might find that a bit harsh. If you have a problem with that, then remember - I'm not telling you what to do, I'm just telling you what I think.
And what I think is, no matter how much you may believe we need more than these two genders, at the end of the day we all have to pick a pronoun.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd and until next time, ladies and gentlemen, I'm gonna be manning up for my next writing assignment by researching lipstick and bullets.

Friday, 21 February 2014

A Bit Better with a Beta

Writing seems like such a lonely practice, doesn't it? You sit alone in a room and type away on your computer, with nought but the bright monitor before you to keep you company. Personally, I don't mind this. It's good to get away and put your thoughts on paper, to construct your own ideas into transmissible words, it's a wondrous gift for both writer and reader. Yet some people don't like it. Especially if you spend too long writing and not enough time out and about, or if you're working on a particularly nasty story and you don't want to risk spoiling it, it might seem like the loneliest thing in the world.

But writing doesn't have to be lonely. In fact, I find that your writing will get better if you get someone else to help. They can help you along the way, although they don't have to, but mostly they're there as a safety net and a guiding influence if you're having trouble writing.
I'm actually one myself for my Beloved, and she is one for me, but these people don't have to be someone so close to you. They could just be a good friend, someone that reads through your writing and helps to find those little mistakes that you missed due to familiarity.

These wonderful, magical people are known in writing circles as "beta readers", The Word of the Day is: 'BETA READER'

Beta reader /baytə reedə/ n. A person who reads a work of fiction with a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public. Also, betareader; beta.

If you write without a beta reader, that is perfectly fine. I did so for the first twelve years of my writing experience, and it works out very well. Especially if you are trying to find out who you are, it's a good idea to work on your own. However, if you are taking that next step and are a bit worried about striving ahead on your own, you should look into finding a beta reader.
In my experience, the best kind of beta reader is a writer, and a good friend. For two reasons, firstly, because writers understand what it's like to write, they have a better understanding of what you're trying to do, and as a friend they will be honest; Secondly, because if they're a writer then you could become their beta reader as well, making for a fair partnership.

However, today, I am not telling you how or why to get a beta reader. I mean, yes, I sort of already did, but that's not the point of today's blog post. No, today, I am going to tell you how to be a beta reader!
When I began beta reading for my Beloved, I took over for her other beta reader (they had an argument) and so I saw what he said about her reading from the notes he left on her drafts. I have to say, they were really crap. He didn't know what he was doing, and with the feedback I get from other people that have critiqued my work, I have an understanding of bad critics and beta readers.
That's right! Today, I am critiquing the critics, because everyone can have an opinion or find faults, and I'm going to tell you how to do it well, with a few tips. Here we go.

Don't Rewrite Their Words
Everyone has a different way of writing. Everyone has their own style and voice, and so if two writers were told to write the same thing, they would write it different. Even if they were told to emulate another author's style, they would still write differently, because everyone has a life, personality and history that feeds into how and what they write.
Famous writer E.B White once said - "Writing is Rewriting", and I find that it's very true, if you're a writer you will probably have proofread your own work. As a result, if you're a writer and a beta reader, when you proofread someone else's work there's a tendency to treat it like your own. Now, when you do this, their work will sound "wrong" and you'll feel this urge to write something they've written "better". This is because, when you proofread your own work, you often edit it to make it suit your own voice. But since your writing voice is different from theirs, to edit this down will mean editing out the original writer entirely. For instance, I often write around action and motions. "Someone did this, this and this, feeling like this while they did this". But my Beloved, often writes based more around poetry and emotion, something like: "Someone was feeling, like an element of the mysterious something". I think it's beautiful. But if I were to edit it down, all of that poetry, imagery and emotion would be lost, replaced with action.
So, as you beta read, don't look to write stuff for them unless there's simple grammatical error (and even then, make sure your writer knows, so that they can put their spin on it). This is like babysitting, you don't take over and start breastfeeding, you're just there to make sure the story is behaving itself. If you think something feels off, read it a few times to make sure it's not just editing it into your own voice, then if not adjust where necessary. I find that the best way to do this is to find out what your writer's voice is like. That way, you can reinforce their writing to sound more like them, and assist their blossoming talent and abilities, rather than forcing them to write like you.

Balance Critiquing and Reading
I have a lot of fun reading stories, and if your writer is a very good one (or just having a good day), then it's easy to get lost in their story. This is a good thing, don't think it's not. However, the purpose of beta reading is for the writer to test the waters of their audience. If you're not giving enough feedback, then you're not doing as well as you can, as a beta reader.
I have a rule, which you should follow: If you feel a strong emotion, comment.
You are a measuring stick, a test sample, of how an audience will react. So if your writer is doing a good job, they should be told, so they know their strengths and what they're doing right.
But also, when commenting, there's this habit to go overboard. I use Google Drive to critique, whereby you can leave comments/notations in the margins of the page. And if I'm having a lot of fun, sometimes I have this urge to comment after every sentence; this is just overdoing it. More worrisome is that, if I'm particularly flustered by something, I sometimes start ranting in the comment section out of frustration.
Keep all of this to a minimum. If you're annoyed, then that's worth mentioning, but don't spend a long time whining if a simple: "This is a plothole, I suggest you do this." will suffice. If you love it a simple: "great dialogue" or "I love this imagery" is all you need. As for negative comments, I find swearing helps to get your aggrevation across succinctly. For positive comments, it's a good idea to talk to the writer later, so if you want to gush about the parts you liked then that is the time to do it.
For this reason, I prefer to ask a question instead of make a statement in my comments, since that often helps the writer to think of the answer. It does depend on how you critique, but when I ask questions I often get unexpected answers, so it's a good way of sparking the imagination.

Be Cruel to be Kind
Why not start with another author quote, hey? Arthur Quiller-Couch famously said, in a lecture about writing: "Murder your Darlings". He was talking about your own writing, because you sometimes have to be brutal. Well, with other people's writing, you shouldn't be cruel, but you will have to be brutally honest. You might think you're being sweet going:
  "Oh, see, this dialogue. I'm not quite sure if it's as good as you're capable of."
But if you what you really want to say is:
  "I don't like any of this, it adds nothing to the story."
Just say so. Don't be mean, don't insult the writer because you don't like a piece of their work (that is what lead to the arguments between my Beloved and her last beta reader), but don't be afraid of expressing your opinion, unless you think you're in the minority, and even then, you should still share your criticisms, so long as you are fully honest. The fact of the matter is, you're not going to love every story. But if you're honest with your writer, then they will be honest with you, and you can work together to make better stories. Although, I must add one HUGE Addendum to this:
If you think the story needs a total rewrite, be gentle. Having to write a whole story again is rough after spending so much time and effort the first time, and even worse if your told by someone else that your work isn't good enough. So, if you honestly believe that a work needs a complete overhaul, be apologetic, nice, careful and honest about it. If possible, it's a good idea to offer help as well, since you're asking a lot of someone to start again from scratch.

Think About the Big Picture
When your working with someone else, in a small space, on a single story to fix the little pieces, it can seem like a fun little club. You and them, side by side, or working in the one document can be quite intimate. But you need to remember what you're working towards, and that is writing for the public. It might not be, if not, work towards that, but most writers are writing for some kind of audience.
So, for one thing, you need to remember that other people are going to read your Writer's work, so it needs to be clear. Especially if you're good friends with your writer and like to talk shop all the time, there might be back and forth trade secrets that you both know, so you may then forget to say it in the story. A few times, I've asked my writer a question, only for her to tell me the answer, and I will have to remind her: "You haven't told the reader that."
As well as that, you need to remember that this isn't all about you, just because you're the beta reader. As a major example, there is a story that my Beloved wrote which I do not like. It really bugs me and I don't understand the point of it, let alone the way the magic works or why . . . it bothers me. However, when she sent it into a magazine, it was accepted immediately. When she showed it to her friend, she also said it was amazing, just like a fairytale.
So, don't go losing sight of the fact that, as much as you may try not to be, you will be biased. Sometimes your criticisms are just opinions and you don't have all the answers, sometimes you won't like something because it's a genre you dislike, or it talks about something you disagree with. So, if you do dislike something, it's a good idea to find out why. That way, you will have a better understanding of whether or not your criticism has merit. If done properly, you can find yourself critiquing a story you don't like, and yet still manage to make it better for the audience that does.

In conclusion, beta reading can be a lot of fun and having a beta reader can work wonders on your fiction and writing endeavours. I honestly believe that writers have to be a little crazy to be writers, locking themselves away from society to live in a fantasy world. But a problem shared is a problem halved, and misery loves company. So if you can find someone else to share your madness with, you might just find not only a better story, but also a friend for life. And don't think this is some kind of amateurish trick to get into the big leagues, because it's not. Some of the most famous writers in the world had friends they worked with that wrote together and helped to make writing easier.
Writers like J.R.R. Tolkien; C.S. Lewis & Roger Lancelyn Green were all members of the Inklings literary discussion group. Agatha Christie; Dorothy L. Sayers; G.K. Chesterton & many more mystery writers formed The Detection Club [they even wrote a book together, I wrote a post that mentions it]. Even famous, modern writers like of Neil Gaiman; Diana Wynne Jones & George R. R. Martin have also taken part in the Milford SF Writer's Conference to critique and read the works over others. The list goes on. Just because you don't like working alone doesn't mean you're an amateur . . . because you don't have to be alone.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm off to have some fun with my mates this weekend. Because sometimes, the best thing to do when you're having trouble writing, is to have some fun and be social . . .

Monday, 17 February 2014

Crossing Over to Another World

A while ago, on Facebook, there was a funny comic that was shared by George Takei. It was a parody of the film Titanic, with penguins, I've even found the original, if you want to read it yourself. In the comments on this page, someone said "Still a better Romance than Twilight", which is apparently some kind of meme. Anyway, this comment made me consider, just idly, "I wonder if there's any Twilight/Titanic crossover fanfiction". Admittedly, this wasn't a very clever thought, but it just popped into my head and I was curious, so I looked it up on . . . I was disappointed. There weren't any good ones.
That's to be expected, I guess, most of the stuff on is terrible. But this disappointment was caused by two things. First of all, obvious one, there's a brilliant portmanteau - Twitanic, an opportunity there, lost and wasted. Secondly, all of these crossovers, they were terribly executed; a lot of them try to make Bella exist in the Titanic universe, which is just stupid. The Titanic sank almost 100 years before Bella was born. Why do they do that?

See, with Twilight, it is canon that Edward Cullen was alive during the time of Titanic. Admittedly, he would have been 11 years old, but it could still be done, what about Carlisle Cullen? He was born in England, perhaps that's how he planned on getting to America. But most people don't care about the continuity of the book, they're too busy trying to write their own story, and I think that's despicable. I wrote a post about this kind of thing ages ago, if you're playing with someone else's fictional world, then you should keep continuity and make everything canonical, otherwise you're being disrespectful and lazy. It's possible to do a canonical Titanic/Twilight crossover story if you want to and still have it make sense within the worlds of both stories.

Of course, I wouldn't, that story would be terrible. But that got me thinking about crossovers, and I started wondering: What movie universes could  you crossover, without any trouble? In fact, I thought, what if there were some crossovers that could make movies better?
The Word of the Day is: 'CROSSOVER'.

Crossover /'krosōvə/ n. 1. The act of crossing over 2. A bridge or other structure for crossing over a river, highway, etc. 3. Genetics. a. Also, Crossing overb. A genotype resulting from crossing over. 4. Popular Music. a. The act of crossing over in style, usually with the intention of broadening the commercial appeal to a wider audience. b. Music that crosses over in style, occasionally sharing attributes with several musical styles and therefore often appealing to a broader audience. 5. Also, Crossover network.

I'm quite fond of crossovers, never mind some of the crossover stories that I've written for this blog, but the major fiction that I'm writing for this blog, Duke Forever, although it seems as though it is mainly set in the Whoniverse (with hints towards other franchises), it has always been my plan that the "Duke Forever Continuum" would crossover with another major sci-fi series (which has, so far, been kept mostly under wraps with only a hint or two), I plan on revealing that crossover in the coming chapters, so you can look forward to that!

But for now, I've been looking at some interesting ideas for crossovers that don't have many inconsistencies; by that I mean movie crossovers that would make sense within their own set of rules. For instance, you couldn't crossover Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I mean, you could, but their magic systems are mutually exclusive. Not only are they set in different time periods and places, but in LotR, Wizards are god-like beings (of which there are only about four) that utilize magic implicitly, as they are eternally wise; whereas in the Potterverse magical ability is passed on through genes (there are probably a billion or so wizards) and you use magic words to cast spells. So that's my thought process. For the last week or so I've been looking for cool potential crossovers that not only integrate neatly but also overlap in certain ways to add something new to both universes.

And I have found five of them. That is to say 10 different movie franchises that not only could cross over logically, but also improve their respective movie franchises via their respective crossovers. Now a lot of these explanations assume prerequisite knowledge of the movies in question, so I recommend that you watch the movies before readign their specific entry. If that's unavoidable, then I hope you can keep up, because there's a lot to get through here, and I can't be explaining all of them. But before we get to the five main crossovers for this pot, I have two Honourable Mentions:

#BraveTangled How To Train Your Dragon
  (The Berk-Albion Triangle)
When I told Beloved about my idea for a crossover fic, she brought to my attention something that those in Fanfiction circles call "The Big Three", which is a term for fanfiction involving these three movies which were produced by the three main animation studios: PixarDisney & DreamWorks, respectively. This is an interesting crossover for a couple of reasons. First of all, not only are all of these movies computer generated, they're also drawn in artistic styles that gel well together. Secondly, all of these are set (more or less) in a realistic world, but with some kind of magical tidbit such as magic, witches or dragons. But thirdly, and most importantly, it is quite likely that all of these movies are set within the same, small worldspace. Brave is set in the Scottish Highlands; Tangled doesn't explain its setting, but the castles, knights and "ye olde pub" imply that it's set in England & Dragon is set on Berk, and while it's not explained where exactly Berk is, vikings are Norse, so it's fair to say they wouldn't be too far from Norway.
Now, if you fetch Google Maps, you might notice something about those three locations. They're all surrounding the North Sea. All three also have access to boats, and according to my Beloved, the Scots do mention defending from attacks by sea which may or may not be Vikings.
However, this isn't on my list. It gets a mention because the worlds would click together nicely and I like the idea of a crossover, but I must admit that Berk could be anywhere and although they can crossover, they don't so much overlap as they do "slot together nicely". I'm looking for something a little more tightknit than that.

#Pacific Rim & Half-Life
  (Pacific Portal)
Okay, the reason why this one isn't on the list is because Half-Life is a videogame franchise, so it's automatically void. It's a cool idea, but that's not what this list is about. Also, in order to make this universe work, we have to make quite a few assumptions.
So let's get the obvious links out of the way. Ellen McLain is the voice of the Jaeger A.I. in the film and GLaDOS from the Portal games, using the same voice in her Pacific Rim portrayal; the interdimensional tunnel from which the "kaiju" spawn (the Breach or the Portal) is reminiscent of the portal from end of Half-Life 2; both of these stories involve aliens trying to take over Earth & they both involve resolving these issues via Science.
The idea for this crossover is that these two universes take place in a divergent timeline from the Half-Life universe. whereby it wasn't Black Mesa that created Portal technology, but rather Aperture Science. The Resonance Cascade still occurred, but it crossed over into the Anteverse as opposed to Xen. As a result, Aperture science focussed on creating Jaegers instead of testing the Handheld Portal Device™. Cave Johnson used the mind-scanning technology for the "drifting" technology rather than immortalizing Caroline, and thus GLaDOS was used as a functional A.I. - all robot, no consciousness - and so never had the chance to go rogue which explains why she was used as the Jaeger operating system.
The problem with this crossover is that it's all hearsay. But it's a fun crossover idea, and definitely worth considering. Imagine a Jaeger controlled by Chell and Doctor Freeman. Or the potential for putting G-man in the Pacific Rim universe! I think I'd love any excuse to put that kind of character in any universe . . .

Anyway that's enough fun, now let's get serious. All of the crossovers I am about to propose make sense as far as I can see and I spent a long time reading through the Wild Mass Guessing pages of TV Tropes to find the best of these ideas. Although, just because this is serious, doesn't mean it can't be fun. If you write fanfiction, I heartily encourage you to explore these ideas in your stories, or just use these ideas as a jumping-off point for other ideas. After all, I don't claim these ideas as my own, I'm just putting together other peoples ideas to create something new. Now remember, some of these mention major spoilers for their respective films, you've been warned. So, here we go, this is . .

The A.W.N.'s Top 5 Movie Crossovers that Overlap in Awesome Ways

5\ Se7en & The Usual Suspects
  (The Se7enth Suspect)
Who was John Doe? After all, that's the name you give to someone whose name you don't know. So who is he? After all, most murderers are quite stupid. In real life serial killers are crazy and too obsessed with the outlet of killing to go planning them to any degree. So how is John Doe so good at what he's doing, insomuch as that he can plan these out for a year in advance? Not to mention, he's very good at evading the police, so much so that they only catch him when he walks into their police station, covered in blood.
Well, I'm suggesting that "John Doe" is actually Keyser Söze from The Usual Suspects. Never mind that they're both played by Kevin Spacey, let's look at the linking factors. The films came out in the same year, Suspects before Se7en. The characters are both famously psychopathic, they both like playing games with law enforcement, they're both lonesome, prolific killers and they're both played by Kevin Spacey (okay, I had to come back to it).
The underlying theory here, is that Keyser Söze doesn't want to be remembered, whereas John Doe does. Keyzer Söze's whole conceit is that he tricks the world into believing he doesn't exist, no one can catch him because it's as though he's never there. The events of The Usual Suspects was the first time anyone ever came close to catching him. Whereas John Doe commits these atrocities so that people will never forget him. So I believe that, after a successful career as a criminal, Keyser Söze wanted to go out with a bang. After all, if you'd been hiding all your life, wouldn't you want to be remembered? So he commits these murders with the intention of getting caught. This explains how he manages to evade police, how he acts so unlike a real serial killer and, of course, how he can so heartlessly force people into these horrific deaths (he did kill his own family, after all). So when the police fail to catch him - as they've failed to do so many times before - he gives up on the games and finally walks into the police station, covered in blood. Also, doesn't Doe tell Detective Mills that he "admires him" because he has a normal life and a family? Those comments take an even darker tone when you remember that Keyser Söze killed his own family . . .

4\ Indiana Jones & Stargate
  (Indiana Jones and the Doorway to Heaven)
Something that really pisses me off is when people that "claim" to be fans of movie franchises pretend that certain elements don't exist. Matrix "fans" claim that the sequels didn't happen; Star Wars "fans" pretend the prequel trilogy doen't exist & Indiana Jones "fans" claim that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn't canon, just because it involves aliens and not "gods". Well, if you were a real fan you'd realize that not only is that film irrefutable canon, but it might just explain the entirety of the film series . . .
As has already been pointed out, in Crystal Skull, the Mayans believe the aliens in that film to be gods. You know, it's weird, but that's kind of the premise of the Stargate Franchise. I mean, think about it, why would you store a Nazi-killing supercrate of death in the same facility as a dead, alien body? Well, my theory is, that this is the Area 51, just like the one from Stargate: SG-1. They store all alien technology for cataloguing, testing & reverse engineering. That leads onto my next point, all of these films deal with alien technology. The Ark of the Covenant - a self-contained weapon of mass destruction; The Sankara Stones - free energy generators; The Holy Grail - the sangraal already exists in the Stargate universe, as does a Fountain of Youth device, this must be some kind of composite of the two & The Crystal Skull - well, that's an alien already, there's no need for extra consideration. Just like so many other devices the Goa'uld left on Earth, these artefacts are just examples of alien influence which lead primitive cultures to worship them as gods. My favourite part of this is, in the Stargate Movie, they discover the stargate device itself in 1928, but they don't use it until 1994. Meanwhile, the Indiana Jones franchise takes place between 1936 and 1957, so this would explain the events between the discovery of the stargate and discovering its function. Of course, all of this happens before the events of the SG-1 television series. But for any potential crossover fiction, I would like to point out that, according to Stargate Canon, Earth possesses a "Beta Gate" that has been in Antarctica for quite a while. Come on people, these stories practically write themselves! This theory isn't bulletproof, but it does now explain who those "Top Men" from Ark of the Covenant were all along, Stargate Command.

3\ Matrix & Terminator
The Terminator franchise is concerned with the fight between humans and machines in the oncoming Judgement Day, and up until the fourth film, it's about humans slowly but surely losing the fight against the machines. The Matrix movies are about how we've already lost the fight against the machines, and are now trying to fight back using cyber-guerrilla tactics and/or organizing some kind of peace between man and machine. But there's more to it than that. Terminator androids, as time goes on, are becoming more advanced and are integrating more and more biological parts into their systems to fight humanity. If this crossover holds true, then by the time the Matrix movies happened, they had found ways to include those bodyplugs to integrate not just body but also mind into machinery. To me, it seems like a natural evolution of machine. Speaking of machine evolution, how long could it take to invent time travel? They've been doing this thing for quite some time now, who's to say that the terminators we send back aren't coming from the time of the Matrix movies? That would explain why we don't see them in the Matrix movies, the T-100s are actually some of the oldest models, they must be sending those back in the time-machines so that they can fight in the earliest days of the war.
Also, during Terminator Salvation, we see that the machines are already building themselves a city and slowly destroying what's left of human construction, it's only a matter of time before humans will have no place left on the surface. I just wonder when they decide to scorch the sky . . .
Not to mention, this explains why Morpheus has so much trouble explaining "who struck first", since the earliest days of the war involved time travel . . .

2\ Watchmen Back to the Future
  (Watchmen 2: the Future)
Now, at first glance, very little seems similar between these two franchises. One's about some young kid trying to make sure time remains linear, while the other is about deconstructing the concept of superheroes, from a realistic point of view. The only real similarity is that they both take place in 1985.
But if superheroes existed in 1985, then there would be heroes in Hill Valley, right? it's a ridiculous notion. Except, I'm not claiming that superheroes exist in Marty's 1985. rather, I'm suggesting that superheroes exist in the alternate timeline (from Back to the Future II) known as 1985A . . .
Watchmen is set in a universe identical to our own, with a point of divergence some time before the Vietnam War (since that war is canon in Watchmen). Now according to Biff, he recieved the Grays Sports Almanac from "a relative" on the 12th of November 1955, only a year before the Vietnam war (which explains why that war still happened). as we can see, Biff's influence causes the world to go to hell, with high crime rates and terrible living conditions for all but the rich. I believe that this high crime is what caused these otherwise ordinary people to start becoming costumed crime fighters. Remember, most of these "costumed heroes" don't really have amazing powers, although Nite Owl's gadgetry makes more sense if there's the precedent of a time-travelling Delorean. The only character with superpowers is Doctor Manhattan, and he was ordinary until his workplace accident on August 20, 1959, after Biff had recieved his almanac. Hell, with all that money, what is Biff Tannen if not a supervillain?
And of course, the most damning evidence. In both of these timelines, Richard Nixon was still the President of the United States during 1985. Although, I don't know what became of that timeline after Marty fixed it at the end of that film . . . did I mention that time travel is confusing? Because it is.

1\ Titanic Inception
  (Deep Deception)
I am suggesting with this crossover that Brock Lovett hires Cobb to infiltrate Rose's dreams (using the dream-sharing device) and find the Heart of the Ocean jewel. Cobb is younger here (we know that Miles recruits them young), so there's no Mal because this happened before that. Cobb and the researchers enter Rose's dream together, but things get complicated.
First dream-layer: Old-Rose aboard the Keldysh; the crew are grilling Rose for information, but that's not working, so instead they use that information to send Cobb into the next layer, where he plans on infiltrating much deeper, to find the necklace.
Second dream-layer: Titanic, 1912. Cobb fakes a lucky hand during a poker game (he "used his imagination") to win tickets. He then proceeds to go through the entirety of the film to learn what he can about the jewel, while also playing the part of "Jack Dawson" because he doesn't want her subconscious to attack him. However, he's not as professional as he is in Inception, resulting in all the nudity and nookie that occurs. Unfortunately, during the fateful sinking of the ship. Cobb ends up dying from hypothermia, waking him up.
He then re-enters the dream, talks to the crew and heads down another layer, but by the time he finds her in her second dream-layer (because of the dream-time acceleration thing) she's now much older in her dream, and is again aboard the Keldysh [this is why you need a dream totem, it can get confusing as to which layer you're in], but she's fallen asleep, so, he enters her final dream-layer.
Third dream-layer: Sunken, Ghost-Titanic. Cobb enters into the final dream, and realizes that Rose is totally devoted to Jack, so much so that even her subconscious loves him, which is why all of the people applaud when they finally get together and kiss; her subconscious is as happy as she is. So that final kiss, I believe, creates an accidental inception, such that when she resurfaces to the first dream-layer, this causes her to throw the Heart of the Ocean into the water at the end, since she wholeheartedly believes that it's worthless in comparison to that love.
At the end, Lovett throws away his victory cigar and talks about how he "never got it", but is that because he never got the diamond? I believe, he did find it, but because of his experiences within Rose's dream, he looks at what he's doing and is ashamed of himself. There are a few more links to be found here and questions to be answered, but you'll have to find them for yourself.

Anyway, those are my "Top 5 Movie Crossovers", but they're not the only cool movie crossovers, and these are based on the research I could do in a single week, there's bound to be truckloads more, if you just take the time to look. If you know of any wicked cool movie crossover ideas (or if you've written a cool movie cross-fic), then please let me know, perhaps even in the comments section - drop me a link! - and of course, feel free to share around these ideas, or write your own stories with them, if you so desire. As I said, they're not mine, I just though they were awesome and I wanted to share. Even if you're not into fanfiction, all of these ideas help to ignite the imagination and inspire creative thinking. So please, share, link, write, create & comment to your heart's desire.

And, until next time, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I've got some writing to do!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Lost Art of the Heart

Hello, beautiful people! Today is the 13th of February, and we're coming up on that most loved and lauded holiday, Valentine's Day - also known as Singles Awareness Day to some of us; so, I want to celebrate the occasion with something lovely. Last Valentine's Day, I did a post about romance movies, films which you can watch and enjoy with your significant other. This year, I want to do another helpful post.
But since last time, I was single and I was giving advice to couples. Well, this time I'm in a couple - here's looking at you, Beloved - so I figured I could give some advice to single people. They're so often left out on this day, so I'm going to give some advice, to the people that need it the most.

I recognize that there are some people that feel fine being single, or at least they're very good at pretending they're fine; pretending that they don't cry themselves to sleep every night when really they're slowly rotting away on the inside, screaming slowly and silently for true love to find them while outside they exist as the husk of a human being, a puppet that pulls its own strings like a möbius marionette, acting like a human being despite the missing pieces, outwardly displaying the affectations of happiness, while inside they're truly contemplating the benefits of buying a dozen cats and neglecting personal hygiene and . . . sorry, I lost my train of thought.
Anyway, I'm saying that today is all for you lonely singles, looking for love yet can't seem to find that special someone. And even if you're not single, I think this information is useful to everyone, because my advice ties directly into a word that has fallen into disuse in this modern era, and I feel like its loss is a detriment to the world of dating. The Word of the Day is: 'WOO'.

Woo /wū/ v.t. 1. To seek the favour, affection, or love of, especially with a view to marry; court; pursue; chase. 2. Cultivate; to seek to win: To woo fame. 3. To invite (consequences, whether good or bad) by one's own action; court: To woo one's own destruction. 4. To seek to persuade (a person, group, etc.), as to do something; solicit; importune; petition; sue; address; entreat; butter up. ♦v.i. 5. To try to win another's love, usually a woman; court: He was reminded of his youth when he went wooing. 6. To solicit favour or approval; entreat: Further attempts to woo proved useless.

The actual word I wanted for today was "COURT", but I might want to talk about law or the legal system one day, so I'd want to save that particular word for that occasion. However, the ways in which I use the word court are the same way that people use the word woo, so I hope you're not bothered if I use the two interchangeably.

Anyway, back on topic - So, how can I help out you singles? Well, dating is hard. Do you even know where to meet people?
That's not rhetorical, I mean that as a legitimate question (answer in the comment section, if you've got a good answer). Because I don't know anywhere good. Everywhere that is culturally acceptable as a place for single people to meet one another, is a venue that serves alcohol, and I don't think that's conducive to finding your true love. If you want to meet someone, inebriation and sensory deprivation is, at best, a hindrance. I've been known to say: You won't find your a spouse in a nightclub.
But, once you do meet someone, what do you do? Because from what I've seen, people just find a stranger and enter into a commitment after you fall for for this stranger, based on looks; then get to know them and you spend a few months of your life with them & if they're incompatible, you break up, get heartbroken, waste a month or so feeling sorry for yourself and then try again in this vicious cycle of:
Find Stranger > Date Stranger > Test Compatibility > Break-up > Heartbreak > . . . rinse, lather and repeat until you find true love. Some people like this method, since after a while, it does work, you just have to try long enough until you either settle for someone, get sick of it and stick with someone you despise or get horribly depressed.
This may seem like a laugh; "Isn't Dating Weird?" is akin to "What is the deal with airline food?", but this is serious business, and it's not unheard of for all that heartbreak and stress leads to depression, it's part of the reason I fell victim to depression. I couldn't much take all these games of the heart, it was exhausting. So, we've found our problem, what's the solution?

Well, allow me to introduce you to a new concept, or should I say old concept: Courting.
What I hate about dating, is that it's dancing on the edge of a knife. There's already enough pressure, since you're looking for someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, and it's ripe with risk, yet I keep seeing people become "girlfriend/boyfriend" before they even know one another. They don't get to know one another first because they're worried about falling into the Friend Zone, or just because that's how society tells us to date.
But how is that clever? Only ever dating people after you've made a commitment to them. Then there are so many games that people play and there's so much risk involved (and potential heartbreak).
Well, wooing them kind of cuts through all of this bullshit. Basically, you find someone that you're attracted to, I don't care who - male, female, cisgendered, otherwise and what have you - this works across the board, because there's no trick to it. My only suggestion is, this works best with mature people, especially if you've dated or felt love before, because then the two of you will understand why this method is preferable.
So, anyway, instead of saying "I fancy you, will you go out with me?", basically, if you know they're single and you find them attractive [and sexually compatible, like hetero-, homo-, what have you], you just let them know that you're single & that you find them attractive. I, personally, find that the best method is to flat-out tell them "I'd like to court you" or "You're a really beautiful/clever [person], and I'd like to know you better" but the ball's in your court, and this works best if you're being true to yourself and to them.

Okay, I should probably mention, this won't be easy. I've only had one proper girlfriend, and she turned out to be perfect, so I haven't had the opportunity to test out the many subtleties of courting; but, basically, you should tell this person that you're attracted to: "I fancy you and I'd like to get to know you (perhaps you can get to know me) without commitment; so that we can find out if a relationship would be a good idea. Would you mind?"
You don't have to phrase it like that, if you don't want to, but the key point is: Make your intentions clear. There's this thing people talk about, the Friend Zone, and that is basically when you fall for someone and they don't fall for you and so many people are scared of falling into that trap. But what do you expect, if they don't even know that you're keen on them? Subtlety is great when it comes to assassination and farting in a lift, but not romance.
Also, if you're like me (since I get quite nervous around beautiful women) you might find it stressful to approach someone that you fancy and solicit their company with the pressures of potential partnership over the horizon, and this solves a lot of that. This is just like you're testing the waters before diving in, it's smarter and safer. So, if you're keen on someone, let them know, and if you tell them you'd like to court and they don't find you attractive, well that's job done. Move on. Don't get caught up and turn into a stalker; I tried that, and it doesn't work.

But if they're cool with it, you can then start wooing the lovely lady, or gentleman as the case may be. Basically, the courting period is like flirting, but more informative. You figure out all the important questions that you'd otherwise have to find out after the fact:
Do/Have you take(n) drugs? Are you vegetarian? Do you want kids? Are you the member of a cult or religion? (Be honest now) Are you a serial killer? Have you ever been affiliated with the persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies? What kind of music do you like? What are your plans for the future?
You know, the usual stuff. But at the same time, it's not all business, because you still get to flirt, to tell her she's sweet and beautiful, or tell him that he's strong and tall or whatever. I consider wooing like a form of proto-dating, you're doing this stuff together, but there's an understanding that you know this might not work out. However, once you've spent a long enough time around one another and asked all the relevant questions, you should be able to figure out if you're right for one another. Because either you'll be arguing a lot and making a mess of things, or you'll be getting along swimmingly and you'll find yourselves agreeing and having fun together most of the time.
It's hard to explain, because details will vary from person to person and it's probably a lot harder than I'm making it out, I'm not saying this will solve the dating problem for everyone, but it certainly did for me.

When I first met my Beloved, we were only friends who'd met to talk about writing fiction; we were just buddies really, although I knew she was really intelligent (something I look for in a partner). Then, when we each learned what the other looked like, we were attracted; however, we were worried because we were both unsure about starting a relationship, so we courted instead.
I got to tell her she was beautiful, and when you're lonely, you sometimes forget how good it is to tell someone you fancy what you genuinely think of them. She would tell me I was clever and we'd also laugh together and have a lot of fun, with honesty and passionate discussions about film and literature. All the while, we were learning more about one another. As time went on, we just kind of fell in love with one another, naturally [this was over a period of about two months]. It wasn't a forced coupling of two people who had just met, the more we slowly learned more about one another and had fun together, the more I fell in love with her, and she with me.
Finally, I told her (in these words, more or less): "This courting period was fun and all, but I genuinely feel my heart-throbbing in my chest whenever we speak; I know that I want more and I'm hoping you do too. I love you, [Beloved]."
After a little while that felt like a whole lifetime, she said that she had feelings for me too. And the girl I call Beloved has been my girlfriend ever since.

I'm not going to lie, this "courting" thing isn't perfect (nothing is). There's still a bit of posturing and games, because you're allowed to be sweet on one another, and you're sort of advertising your own abilities within a relationship, but you can't be too forward and you should be doing what you can so that you don't get hurt, there are still social conventions involved (because they're not your girlfriend or boyfriend, yet). Also, it might not work out, as I said, this worked for me on the first time, really, so I don't know what's the best method for dealing with that; but so long as you're honest with one another, then I imagine that this will come as a natural separation, rather than a break-up.
This is the solution to the problem of "dating is too complicated" not a solution to the problem of "I'm lonely and single", I can't guarantee this will work for everyone. But I wanted to share it with everyone, because . . . well, it's almost Valentine's Day.
Perhaps you'll spend this Valentine's Day as a single person, but you needn't next year! After all, it's "Single's Awareness Day". So be aware of those other single people around you, and if you find someone else that's lonely on Valentine's Day, and you find them attractive, why don't you approach them? Strike up a conversation, talk about how you're single and feel lonely on Valentine's Day, and maybe you could even try wooing them, and suggest trying out this cool "courting" idea. Because you never know . . . you might just find a Beloved of your own.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, I love you all - I hope you have a great day tomorrow and until next time, I'm going to spend Valentine's Day with my girlfriend, because I love her more than anything in the world. ~~

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Winners Never Cheat

In doing research for today's blog post, I learned something quite shocking. There is a lot of literature that is about adultery (that alone is not so shocking, it's ripe for drama, of course there are stories about it). However, did you realize that more than 90% of the characters which are shown as adulterers and as sympathetic characters are female? In literature, if a man cheats then he's a monster, a bastard and a cretin, but if a woman cheats, she's much less likely to be seen as a harlot. That is, in literature anyway. In the real world, cheaters across the board are portrayed quite harshly.

In fact, it's because of that real world demonization of cheaters that has lead me to this research, because today I want to talk about infidelity. I've never cheated myself, but I do know people that have and I want to talk about what I know. However, many of these people I'm about to talk about are friends of mine, and I don't want to risk them getting in trouble. So, for their benefit, I've changed their names to those from classic literature and Greek mythology. See, I'm not here to tell you that cheaters are good people. Then again, I'm not here to tell you that cheaters are bad people, either. Today, I want to talk about those relational indiscretions. Because, in my own experience, when someone cheats, it's not always as simple as "Well, they cheated because they're bad people." In fact, sometimes, it's the cheater that's the victim. If you don't believe me, well, the Word of the Day is: 'ADULTERY'

Adultery /ə'dultəree/ n. Voluntary sexual relations between a married person and anyone other than his or her lawful partner.

Before we go too far, let's all remember, some people are arseholes. I know that there are people who cheat because they are selfish. They don't have enough respect for their partner, they're not empathetic & they just use people for sexual pleasure. These people are terrible people and they do exist. So while my goal today is to open your eyes to the plight of the adulterer and how they may be the real victim in some cases . . . this is not the whole story. Life and love are complicated, so there's no one answer. But next time you hear about someone who has been unfaithful, I want you to consider the following.

The other day, I was talking to a friend that I will call Circe. Now, Circe is a good girl, she's been hurt in love before and she's lonely, she really wanted to find that special someone. Now, the reason she was talking to me was because she had found a guy, that I'm calling Odysseus, they'd met online and they were really hitting it off. I thought it was great for her and I congratulated Circe, but she was still a bit worried and I asked why. She explained that the object of her affections, Odysseus, was actually living with his partner, whom I'm calling Penelope. Circe went on to say that she was in a bind because she didn't want to break them up, but Odysseus had told her that Penelope and he would argue all the time and they never did "boyfriend/girlfriend" stuff anymore, and that he wanted to break up and that he wanted to be in a good relationship. However, because of his financial situation, if he left her he'd be on the street, he was trapped. To Circe, this was a moral dilemma. She'd either be leaving him stuck in a horrible relationship, or she'd be the 'the other woman' and complicit in his infidelity.
So I told Circe what I'm going to tell you: If he is unhappy, that's not really a relationship. I mean, there are no broken hearts if Odysseus leaves Penelope, they hate one another. But Odysseus was falling for Circe, really hard. If he leaves her, then it'll break both of their hearts. I mean, be honest here, is Odysseus really a bad guy?
It's not like Circe is a "home-wrecker". This is a household that was already wrecked. Who really broke this relationship? Am I supposed to believe that this is a story of adultery and "sin" because Penelope was there first?

What about this. I know a guy from school whom I'm going to name Jay Gatsby. Now, in school, Jay loved this girl that I'm going to call Daisy. They were boyfriend/girlfriend for a while, but that didn't work out. I think Daisy cheated on Jay at school, but I also think he was on drugs pretty much every day, so nobody was the good guy, this was a bad thing. They were children, what do you expect? Kids are stupid. However, after school, I got to know these people a little better, starting with Daisy. I came to understand that she's a fun girl, she's a bit silly and flighty at times, but she's a good girl. And she fell for this guy, whom I'm going to call Tom Buchanan. Now, Tom is a prick. I gave this guy the nickname "Cockbite" because he is really an annoying bastard, I've heard stories of aggression, but that's irrelevant because I don't know if it's true. But even if it's not true, he is not a good person. He's self-centred, arrogant, egotistic & loud. Now, for reasons that I cannot comprehend, Daisy fell for Cockbite. Sorry, I mean Tom (I have to stick to the names I've made up for these people, sorry), and eventually, Tom proposed to Daisy, she said yes and they were engaged. However, before their wedding . . . Jay came back. He'd been doing his own thing for a while, he's a bit flighty like that, but he came back to see how his school-friends were doing. And, after getting to know Daisy again and catching up on old times, they slept together. I don't know the sordid details, but I don't have to, I know that they talked, the spark came back and they had sex. And not just once, a few times. Yet, she then left, Tom and Daisy got married, and she's Daisy Buchanan now.
Now, this sounds like it's not a great example, and the truth is that it's not. Daisy Buchanan and Jay are not "great" people, sleeping with married women and lying to their partner like that. But the thing is, this is human.
I know that Cockbi- . . . sorryTom is a bad guy. I also am sure, because Tom is so arrogant, if Daisy told Tom "I slept with Jay", I think he'd punch her in the face. I think he's that kind of guy, that kind of a horrible prick. I don't know if he's hit her, but from the way he acts I know that he doesn't treat her as well as a loving partner should.
Jay isn't really the guy for her either, because he was a drug addict and he's not much of an achiever, but he does love her dearly. Now, I'm not going to say that Daisy is completely in the right, because she's not. But . . . I can't blame them, because Daisy wanted that intimacy from Jay, which Tom couldn't give her and she wanted more than she had. These are all broken people, doing the best with what they have. I can't look at this story and go "Well, she shouldn't have done that and he shouldn't have slept with her" because it's just not true. In a perfect world, either Jay would get his act together and be the man Daisy needs, or Daisy would leave Tom and get a real man, and Tom would just . . . I don't care what happens to Tom, so long as it happens far away from me.

Or, a much harsher example. I know a man I'm going to call Zeus. Now, Zeus married a woman that I'm going to call Hera (no, it wasn't his sister, don't read too much into these allonyms). Now, these two had been married for a very long time, they even had a whole bunch of kids (Eris & Eileithyia, Hephaestus & Hebe). And they were a family. Now, Zeus, he cheated on Hera. He slept with a woman I'm going to call Io. He also slept with a woman I'm calling Gaia. In fact, I think he even slept with someone I'm going to call Lamia. Now, on the outside, it looks like Zeus was a terrible person. Who would cheat on his wife with so many people?! But that's the thing, as I've been trying to explain throughout this post, it's not that simple.
See, Zeus loved Hera dearly, he loved her with a passion. However . . . Hera was a bad person. Every second of every day that Zeus went home, Hera would abuse him. Mentally, emotionally & physically, she would blame him for everything wrong in their lives, she would control him & she would lie to him all the time. Zeus just wanted it to work, he tried to get them to go to counselling, but Hera refused, since she thought they'd call her crazy. He tried to make it work, he moved house twice and even changed jobs because Hera wanted him to make more money. He did everything he could to make her happy, yet she would constantly abuse him, and she even started taking it out on the kids.
Now, he wasn't cheating on Hera because he was a bad person, he wanted it to work. As far as I'm concerned, he was just craving that kind of emotional investment that he just wasn't receiving from his partner.

I'm hoping it's obvious by now, but just to be sure, let me spell it out:
Sometimes, people cheat on their partners because they're trying to get from other people what they should be getting from their partner.
Odysseus wanted love from Penelope, and didn't, so he found it in Circe; Daisy wanted Tom to care about her more than himself, he didn't, so she found that kind of devotion in Jay; Zeus just wanted to be happy with his wife, Hera, but all he got was abuse, so he looked for it (in other goddesses) and I'm happy to say that he is now divorcing Hera, because he's found true happiness with his new girlfriend, who I'm calling Europa.

See, the Beatles were Wrong. They have that famous song, with the line "Love is all you Need", well, that's bullshit.
All of these relationships? They started with Love. Once you've felt that flutter in your heart and deep desire for another person, you crave it. That's the reason we enter into relationships, because we want love and we need the love of another person. But it's a drug, we get hooked on it, even when we're with people that are bad for us, because we don't want to risk losing that love.
But relationships are about more than that. They're about chemistry, reliability, amenity, sexuality, joviality & equality - all of these and probably more. People crave love, but they need care, emotional support and happiness in their relationships as well. If they don't get what they're looking for in their partner, they will seek it out in other people.

This isn't just about sex. Occasionally it is (as I said these arseholes exist) and those people deserve your ire; if I wanted more sex from my partner, I'd tell my partner. So, most of the time, I'd wager that people are cheating because they feel like their partners are not giving them the emotional investment that they want in a relationship. Because as the title says "winners never cheat". If you're in a good relationship, your partner won't cheat on you.
Sometimes it's a bad relationship because the adulterer doesn't respect their partner, but sometimes it's because the adulterer feels like their partner doesn't respect them.
Just because a person cheats, it doesn't mean they are a bad person. Some adulterers cheat because they're looking for that missing piece of the puzzle hoping it will complete their relationship. Of course, if you've found yourself cheated on, I'm not saying that you need to give them a second chance and blame yourself; love and life are complicated and there's no one answer to every problem.

Some people think we need to blame the adulterer every time (especially if it's a man). Yet, if you look at the bigger picture, you'll start to see - as I do - that adultery is often just a symptom of a worse disease: unfulfillment.
Or, perhaps their just an unfaithful sack of shit . . .

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and this was kind of a heavy concept, especially since we're approaching Valentine's Day. So I'll try to lighten it up for my upcoming post, okay?
Until next time, I'm going to go tell my girlfriend how much she means to me.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Missing Link in the Chain

Are you excited about the upcoming Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia? Well, I'm not. I am going to avoid watch the Olympics this year. Why? Well, let me tell you a story.
My girlfriend once told me that, in school, she tried to sign up to do wrestling as the mandatory sport, because she wanted to know how to fight. She's quite petite and wanted to be strong and know how to defend herself; however, she wasn't allowed to join the team. It turns out that, despite the sign-up sheet asking for volunteers - come one come all - they forgot to nail up the banner that said "No Girls Allowed"; as they didn't offer the sport for girls.

Now, I sort of have mixed feelings about all of this. I know a lot of girls don't bother to consider wrestling a viable sport and I would never want to watch a mixed-sex wrestling match. However, this is an issue of representation. This wasn't "the boy's wrestling team", it was just "the wrestling team", promoting an outward visage of inclusivity, while in reality it was actually kind of sexist.
Why am I talking about all of this? Well, because I believe that this kind of thing is a microcosm of the real issue at the core of my own disgust towards the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

Allow me to explain. The Word of the Day is: 'WRESTLING'.

Wrestling /resling/ n. 1. An exercise or sport in which two people struggle hand to hand, each trying to throw or force the other to the ground. 2. The act of someone who wrestles.

Besides my Beloved's wrestling story, I chose the word "wrestling" because I think it's kind of ironic. In the Ancient Olympics, after a century or two of Olympics involving footraces, they included the sport of "Pále", now more commonly known as Greek Wrestling, where competitors, exclusively men, used to get naked, slather themselves in oil and grapple one another; and if they broke any of the rules, the disobedient party would be whipped by the referee. Although it was painful and competitive, it can be understood why I would call such an activity homoerotic. And considering that Ancient Greeks openly accepted the idea of a young man and an older man entering into a sexual relationship, it's fair to say that, originally, the olympics were not homophobic. That was in the year 708 B.C.

Yet, here In 2014 A.D. - More than two-and-a-half millennia later - Russia is refusing to acknowledge the rights of non-heteronormative persons in the lead-up to the Winter Olympic Games, which Sochi is hosting.
Yes, we're going there again. I am boycotting the Olympics because of Russia's Anti-Gay Laws.

Now, some of the people I have told about my "Boycott Sochi" plan have disagreed with my methods. Not because they are homophobic or anything like that, but rather because they are cynical of its potential, they say:
- "This is more likely to hurt the contestants than Russian politicians."
"This is political, not economic; You can't boycott a country."
- "Not watching the Olympics isn't going to reverse the laws."
To this I say . . . yeah, perhaps not. I am not going to tell anyone that this is a brilliant plan, because it's not. The only way this will work is if the majority of people also boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics and I know that's not going to happen, there are other elements at play here. Sports people will watch it anyway, and there are a lot of other countries involved here, it's hard to reach out to all of them.
However, that being said, I stand steadfastly by my boycotting decision, for a simple reason.

My views are unconditional. I will not cease being pro-love, or an ally of the LGBTI community just because my efforts are ineffective. And yeah, this probably won't work. But I'm not doing it "to change the laws" [although that would be lovely]. I'm doing this because I don't have to put up with Russia's bullshit. This is about principle and precedent.
If I don't stand for what I believe in now then why should I later? And I honestly believe that whether or not my inclusion in the Olympics affects anything, I do not believe that Russia deserves my attention. I don't believe that the Russian government deserves the revenue it will inevitably receive from tourism and international promotion. I don't believe Russia deserves my respect, while they salute their own greatness during the inevitable, self-congratulatory Opening Ceremony.
Not while they continue to oppress, suppress and disenfranchise innocent people.

[Now, keep in mind, I don't hate Russians. Do not dare consider this some excuse to be racist or anti-Russian. I am not promoting hatred towards Russia or its people; when I say "Russia" I really mean "The Russian Government", not "The Russian People. An awful lot of Russians are fighting the good fight as well, this isn't something that the people decided, it was their government. My goal is not to have anyone being prejudiced towards anyone else; I just want more people to be on the side of equal rights for everyone.]

The Olympics is supposed to be inclusive. Yes, once, only the Freemen of Greece could compete; but we've evolved passed that. We've progressed towards the future, and now everyone has the potential to compete. Not only is it now an international tournament that promotes global unity, but with the inclusion of the Paralympics & the Youth Olympics, it is more inclusive then ever. Yet, here we are and I can't help but feel that this is the same as my Beloved's wrestling story; it all seemed inclusive until she looked behind the curtain. Just as the Olympics say they include everyone, but so long as Sochi is hosting these games, that's just a façade. It is a mere veneer of inclusivity that hides the truth . . .

Ever since they have enacted these laws, Non-heterosexual Russians are not allowed to talk about their sexuality, promote activism and equal rights or display non-heteronormative affections in a public places.
While silence may not seem cruel, it is promoting a culture of homophobia and anti-gay violence, which some say has already increased the number of gay-bashings in Russia and instances of homophobic attacks, including torture [warning: linked article is disgusting]. But, violence aside, this is not the way a civilized society should treat innocent people.

Now, if you want to ignore all that and watch some professional athletes play around in the snow, go right ahead, I can't stop you. As I've said before, I'm a narrator, not a dictator.
But I personally, cannot ignore the fact that, at the end of the day, people are suffering. Unless and until they change their ways, I will boycott the Sochi Olympics; Russia & anyone else who, in this day and age, does not support equality in all its colours and creeds.

Do you know why the Olympics is represented by 5 interlocking rings
, colored blue, yellow, black, green, and red? It's because the six colours of the flag (including the white background) represent the colours of every flag; all of the countries that competed in the olympics at the time, all linked together.
  "the six colors thus combined reproduce the colors of all the nations, with no exception […] Here is truly an international symbol."
- Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the flag's designer.
But I feel like there's a missing link in the chain. There's one flag that feels left out . . . the Rainbow Flag. Sure, it has a few of its colours, but I think we need to remind people that this is supposed to be a symbol of unity. Not just for all countries, but all people.
I'm not suggesting we change the actual flag. But so long as this discrimination exists, I will salute a new symbol of international equality: OOOOOO
Until next time, I'm the Absurd Nerd, and I want to leave you with this quote we could, perhaps, all live by; from a famous pro wrestler and six-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion:
  "I fear no man, no beast or evil, brother."
- Terry Gene Bollea (Hulk Hogan)

Monday, 3 February 2014

Major Blockage

Readers, writers & followers alike, I'm back. Thank you for waiting a whole month for my latest post, chapter five of Duke Forever. I told everyone that I would be taking a break from writing then I'd come back after a Duke Forever Christmas Special and continue where I left off. However, the astute amongst you have probably realized by now that it's February, and I said that I wanted to write this before Christmas then return in the next month. So where have I been for the last Thirty Days? Well, I'm afraid that I've been waylaid by unforeseen circumstances. The Word of the Day is: 'BLOCK'.

Block /blok/ n. 1. A solid mass of wood, stone, metal, etc. 2. A child's building block. 3. a mould on which something is shaped, e.g.: a hat block. 4. Qld One of the wooden supports for a house built above ground. 5. A piece of wood used for engraving. 6. Printing A letterpress printing plate mounted on a base. 7. A (wooden) bench or board for chopping, beheading, etc. 8. Mechanics a. A device of one or more grooved pulleys mounted in the casing or shell to which a hook or the like is attached, used for transmitting power, changing the direction of motion, etc. b. A casing or shell holding a pulley. 9. Pathology An obstruction, as of a nerve. 10. Sport the stopping of an opponent's actions or course. 11. A quantity, portion, or section taken as unit: block of tickets. 12. Australian A section of land, often in a suburb, for building a house on, etc.: A block of land, a building block. 13. A group of city or town buildings enclosed by intersecting streets. 14. One large building, divided into offices, apartments, etc.: An office block, a block of flats. 15. Also, starting block. Athletics One of a pair of supports for feet, used by a sprinter to give more power from a crouching start. 16. writer's block. A temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work.
{Show/Hide - more meanings}

On Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 -  just one week into the new year - my grandmother had a heart attack. An occlusion of the major ventricle into the heart. See, 'occlusion' is a fancy word for blockage; my grandmother's heart was essentially choking on cholesterol, from 70+ years of eating cakes and not enough vegetables.
Now, please don't worry, my grandmother is alive. Of that I am truly thankful, I love my Nanna and I've even talked about her on this blog before; she's awesome and old school. But she's very old, so even after the block was removed and a stint was put in place to keep the weakened vessel working, the doctors had a lot of trouble getting her on the right track to healing. She spent a stressful two weeks in hospital, and throughout that time all of my aunts and uncles flew in to see her and a few stayed at my house.
Then, when she finally came out of hospital, Nanna came to stay with us and we took care of her for a week. She's doing well, but I was helping to cook "heart smart" meals, and I'd keep her company on occasion or make sure she was exercising.
That is, until a week ago, when my Aunt Meshell offered to care for her for a while, so although I'm still concerned, I feel as though a weight's been lifted off my shoulders.

So let me first say to all you people, try to stay healthy. My grandmother's diet was not atrocious - and she's not fat - but it just built up over time. When my mother called the ambulance they arrived in four minutes, but the doctor said that it was a close call and they saved her "just in time". And Nanna often says of the experience: It felt like I was dying.
I'd never wish that on anyone, so I'm just saying, try to be healthy.

But on another note, I want to talk to the writers. Because, you see, although my Nanna was in hospital I was still trying to write for this blog. It's not that I was ignoring family obligations or anything so harsh. When I got a spare hour or two to myself, often at the end of the day, I would sit down and try to write because writing tends to take my mind off of things, and I thought it would help to relieve some of the stress of this situation. However, every time I sat down to write, I found myself coming up empty. Drawing a blank. My mind was just "nope, not happening". It was a textbook case of Writer's Block.
For me, it was so frustrating. I just wanted to take my mind off of the stress of the day, but my mind was refusing. Thankfully, I could chat to my Beloved and we'd talk it out, so I wasn't broiling in anxiety and worry, but I still felt gutted that even my free time was spent feeling lost. All I wanted to do was to write a story, was that so much to ask?

Well, as it turns out, it was. See, I've done some research into Writer's Block recently, and I've come to learn something very important. See, although we come to see Writer's Block as some grand mysterious force, almost like a force of nature that we can never comprehend, I've learned recently that Writer's Block has a face. See, while we call it "writer's block", that's merely a nickname. It's real name is Fear.
Sometimes writer's block is when a writer runs out of ideas. But that's not real writer's block, that's just being silly. Why would you try to write something if you don't have any idea what to write?
However, when we sit before that quill & paper; that notebook & pen; that keyboard & monitor - and we have a story to tell, but it refuses to be written, it's most often due to fear, anxiety, worry or stress. Now, in general, this is caused by our fears about our own ability, or the calibre of the story:
  "Am I even capable of writing a romance story?"
  "I've only ever written fanfiction, can I even write something original?"

  "What if everyone hates it?"
  "How can I write a novel if I've only ever written short stories before?"
  "Is this a good idea, or am I just deluding myself?"
So while we sit there, with the story in mind. Even if we know what has to happen next, we draw a blank. Our mind doesn't take that next step and put it into words. Because we are scared of doing it wrong. I've mentioned some of this before in Perfect Page Paradox, but in that post, my solution was to a specific problem and I offered a few simple tricks to get over the problem.
However, Writer's Block is a slightly different beast. Sure, you can trick yourself into writing with tricks, but even though I write almost every day, I found myself afflicted by the condition during a moment of family-related stress. So I figure it should be tackled with a different approach.

You need to find what it is that is truly holding you back. What is the basis of your fear. For me, it was not just general anxiety caused by my Nanna, but it was that feeling of insecurity. I lost faith in myself, since someone so close to me had been hurt and I could do nothing about it. That reflected on my writing ability, since I no longer felt secure in my ability to take control of my own words. I also felt like I was writing a bad story, it seemed insignificant in the face of my real-world issues.
I overcame my fear by talking to my girlfriend. She helped me to regain my confidence and encouraged me to continue. This wasn't an immediate cure, I was still overcome by anxiety, but with her helped I went from writing nothing every day, to writing a sentence every day. Then three sentences. Then a paragraph & finally I managed to finish the story at the end of the month.

So those are the two things you need to keep in mind if you're fighting your own writer's block:
1. Find the Heart of the Matter: Look into your own situation, look at your abilities and find out what's really holding you back. More often than not for amateurs, it's insecurity due to inexperience. For older writers, it might be mental exhaustion or external stresses. Don't deal with surface details, go right to the centre of your fear and fight it head on.
2. Don't Rush, Wait it Out: There isn't a magic pill you can take to cure writer's block; the treatment isn't medication, it's meditation and it takes time. I found that I had to talk it out, calm down and regain my self-confidence; your treatment might be sleeping earlier, eating healthier or using your free time to relax. If your stress is caused by external forces - a break-up, depression, trouble at home or sickness - often the only solution is to wait for it to be dealt with before moving on.
If you rush into writing before you're ready, you will just tire yourself out and it will take longer to get back into writing. So just take the time your time, and remember: You will get over it, eventually.

If you've ever suffered - or are suffering - from writer's block, let someone know. Writing is so often solitary, so we feel like we have to deal with these problems on our own; But you don't. If I had tried to figure this out on my own, you'd be waiting another month for Chapter Five.
Granted, there are different solutions for different people, and I can't guarantee this will help you, so don't go talking to people unless you think it will help. But if you do think it's the right decision, I encourage you to talk to someone, especially a fellow writer if you know one, but you can also reach out to friends or family. Or, if you really want, you could talk to me, I do have a comments section, if you want to get in touch . . .
I guarantee that there is a way for you to get over whatever is holding you back, be patient and you will find it.

Until next time, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I'm back!