Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 19/06/2012

The Rewrite.

I feel ‘dun dun dun‘ should follow that title – but then again I think that may be too dramatic! So, naturally, I shall do it here:

Dun-dun Dun!

Tehe. Okay, I shall procrastinate no more. First, here is the original page. Page 189 of Assassin’s Creed: Secret Crusade by Oliver Bowden:

‘Yes, yes. Of course.’

  Jubair smiled. A cruel smile. ‘Then join them.’
  Planting both hands on the scholar’s chest, Jubair shoved him backwards, hard. For a second the scholar was mid-topple, his eyes wide open in surprise and his arms flapping madly, as though he hoped to fly clear of the greedy fire. Then he was claimed by the impetus of the shove, falling into the flames, writhing on a bed of searing heat. he screamed and kicked. His robe caught. For a moment he seemed to be trying to beat out the flames, the sleeves of his tunic already alight. Then his shrieks stopped. And contained in the smoke rising to Altair was the nauseating scent of roasting human flesh. He covered his nose. In the courtyard below, the scholars did the same.
  Jubair addressed them: ‘Any man who speaks as he did is just as much a threat. Does any other among you wish to challenge me?’
There was no reply, fearful eyes looked over hands held to noses. ‘Good,’ said Jubair. ‘Your orders are simple enough. Go out into the city. Collect any remaining writings and add them to the piles in the streets. When you’re done we’ll send a cart to collect them that they may be destroyed.’
  The scholars left. And now the courtyard was empty. A beautiful marbled area for ever tarnished by the obscenity of the fire. Jubair paced around it, gazing into the fire. Every so often he cast a nervous [continued on next page] glance around him, and appeared to be listening carefully. But if he heard anything it was the crackle of the fire and the sound of his own breathing. He relaxed a little, which made Altair smile. Jubair knew the Assassins were coming for him. Thinking himself cleverer than his executioners he’d sent decoys into the city streets – decoys with his most trusted bodyguards, so that the deception should be complete. Altair moved silently around the rooftop until he stood directly above the book burner. Jubair thought he was safe here, locked in his madrasah.
  But he wasn’t. And he had executed his last underling, burned his last book.
  Snick.

***************************************************************************
And here is my version. Hope you like it! It is tempting to include things from previous parts in the book in order to make mine look good, so I studiously avoided that, and included things which weren’t mentioned anywhere else in the book:

  ‘Yes, yes. Of course.’ said the scholar testily, waving a hand in dismissal at the absurdity of the obvious question. It was obvious to Altair, as he watched from from the balcony above, that he dearly loved his books. His eyes were filled with sorrow as he cast a glance over his shoulder to watch all his books and scrolls being burned, and he flinched as embers jetted out from the fire as another tomb caught alight, as if it was he himself who was burning, his own flesh that was being blackened. Jubair watched the old man closely, searching his face for the same thoughts, and sneered. ‘Then join them.’ he growled hoarsely, and darted forward to shove the old man onto the pyre.
  The scholar yelped in surprise, and then in agony as the fire quickly caught ahold of his red and black robes, tongues of flame lashed his body, scorching his arms and legs, blackening the bare skin. Altair tensed, desperately wanting to sink his blade into Jubair, again and again, but he resisted. He was there to provide justice, not revenge. So he relaxed, pulled himself away from the edge and breathed deep in an attempt to calm himself. An act that was defeated when the air became filled with the stench of burned flesh. His stomach rebelled at the smell, and he fought hard to quell it, lest it give his presence away before the moment of action.
  The scholar tried to stand, to escape the fire, the heat, the pain, but his legs were nothing more than red and black twigs, incapable of moving. He tried to pull himself away, but his arms had no strength. He tried to speak, to call for his god to help, for his mother to take him, but in the end only incoherent cries left his lips, before they receded back, his face set in an eternal grimace as the old man finally succumbed to death.
  The other scholars in the courtyard had recoiled in horror at the spectacle. Grief and fear etched their faces. Fear that they might be next. Yet one brave soul stepped toward the body – probably to administer the Talqeen, thought Altair, the death rite given to those who are unable to say the Shahaadah, the declaration of their faith in Islam, and in Allah.
  But when Jubair turned his attention on the scholar, the younger man quivered and wilted visibly, his courage leaving him quickly. Jubair placed a hand on the hilt of his sabre and snarled at the other scholars, ‘Any man who speaks as he did is just as much a threat.’ He stared hard at the once-brave young scholar, his face contorted in rage. ‘Does any other among you wish to challenge me?’
  The scholar shook his head, his mouth working, like a fish gulping for air, trying to form his response, but no sound came. The others behind him had no such will to risk their lives by even speaking, and merely shook their heads, not looking at the Chief Scholar, for fear that that would incur his wrath, too. They stood in their own college, any other time masters of the madrasah, yet at that moment they were nothing more than children, powerless to change their fate.
  Jubair pulled himself up to his full height and puffed out his chest. ‘Good,’ he growled, smiling, satisfied by the display of his dominance. He waved at his guards to form up at the entrance, before delivering his orders to the scholars. They were to retrieve any errant texts from the city and caste them into pyres dotted throughout the Quarter, or add them to the piles for later destruction. They nodded their understanding and left, accompanied by the guards – Jubair’s personal guard, Altair noted. He found that puzzling, but as he watched the Chief Scholar, Jubair, he felt that he could guess why. He was jumpy, looking over his shoulder every few minutes towards the entrance, eyes scanning the crowd, his surroundings, as if he was waiting for someone. He knew Altair was coming for him. Good, he thought. He wanted him scared.
  His hand itched, echoing his desire to use the hidden blade that that replaced his ring finger, to sink it into Jubair’s neck. Yet, as he looked around the madrasah, he felt the moment settle upon him. His pulse quickened, cold sweat formed on his brow. His gaze fell to the blackened corpse of the elderly scholar, and his anger rose within him, drove him onto the ledge, made him extend his sheathed hidden blade with a steely whisper.
 
Snick that in your pipe and smoke it, Oliver Bowden!
Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 19/06/2012

Cold Reading

Morning, one and all! Firstly I must apologise for not posting my rewriting (see the last post for further details) as immediately as possible. I’ve been procrastinating over the final paragraph. Eventually I said sod it and deleted it! But before I do post it (I shall do so almost immediately after I post this), I did want to share my thoughts on another subject. I belong to a website/forum called edenfantasys.com. On that site, the topic of whether or not you can ‘judge a book by its cover’ – in the metaphoric sense – is possible. I stated that it is possible, and that we can actually do it. It is called ‘cold reading’. Now, someone wanted me to expand on my original post (it was pretty sparse of information), and so I did. And I liked my answer so much that I decided to blog it! Now, asking me a question I know the answer to is sometimes not a good idea. If I research a subject, am knowledgeable about it, then I feel pretty confident in giving a well-thought out reply. Except all the thoughts want to come out at once. Which makes me feel like my head is exploding. And I can’t settle for a half-arsed answer, because I like to sound smart. So, basically, I’m blogging this to sound smart! And to smartefy you, of course!
Q: I’d like to know more about this cold reading, and how you can ‘judge a book by its cover’. I don’t always judge people like that but there are times when I just sorta feel it. I know how people like psychics and stuff use it, but to do that, you have to actually TALK to the person first, so I’m interested in your ideas on the visual cues (question restructured and abridged for clarity).
A: Cold reading consists of several practices: 1 – that of looking upon a person and noting several (minor) details about them, upon which you make an educated guess about a larger aspect of their life. 2 – You look to their mannerisms, ticks and behaviour, and their clothes and personal hygene. 3 – you make large, general assumptions, statements which will most likely be true for the majority of people, and then expound upon that, refine the assumption, by using either the first two practices, and by asking questions – again, in a general, non-committal way.
The third practice, while considered a part of cold reading, is not what I was referring to in my previous post, as it’s not based on any form of cum-dialogue information mining. That is to say, information gleaned before a conversation is started. As such it can’t be considered a practice of judgement – of judging a book by its cover. It’s more akin to seeing a shelf of books and making a general assumption of what will happen in one of those books.
Practices one and two are conscious acts that we perform, but there are unconscious acts of this same thing, and I’ll explain that later. Now, as to these conscious acts, and what to look for. They can be anything, from a wedding ring, to crumbs on their jacket or shirt, to unkempt hair – or tidy hair, hair style, dress style. The state of their clothes. Tans. Facial features. Nails. Facial expressions. Social ticks and behaviour etc. The list of details that can be used to gain information on a person just by looking at them is nearly limitless. The real trick, the real difficulty, is in taking those details and forming an accurate assessment of a person – of such things like personal habits, health and personal disposition.
Some examples: If their clothes are unkempt that can mean that they’re either having a bad day, had a rough night, or are generally uncaring towards their outward appearance, or the desire to make a statement of how uncaring you are. Neat, tidy clothing can be indicative of vanity – to whatever degree, the need (or desire) to be well-dressed for work or other occasions (or a fastidious nature). A wedding ring can tell you how long a person’s been married, and how well that marriage is doing (polished vs. polished yet weathered or unpolished). Tan lines can denote whether or not someone has been on holiday, of it they simply work outdoors, spend a lot of time outdoors, or use a tanning bed. These things alone can indicate behavioural patterns which in turn can give us glimpses into their disposition as a whole. However, while you can weigh the probability of whichever is most likely (for instance, if the tan looks natural then you can rule out fake tan), most of the time you need to combine several details and general observations in order to gain a clear picture. For instance, if there has been poor weather in the area, yet the tan looks to be new (or at least not faded), then you can guess that they either used a tanning salon or went on holiday. The appearance of tan line around the neck and arms means they’ve been on holiday (who wears a shirt in a tanning booth, after all?). Or, if it has been sunny recently, they could simply have spent a lot of time outside. This can be further refined by their clothes. Are they worn, rough? That could mean that they’re used to being outdoors in all weathers. These things can, as I’ve said, indicate what kind of personality they have, but for a more definitive answer, you need to observe their facial expressions and mannerisms.
Do they have laughter lines? Frown lines? It’s these simple things that we often see and note – yet often don’t think about too closely – that are great indicators of a person’s character. Something so simple as having ‘shifty looking eyes’ can be a great hint. However, reading these expressions – specifically micro expressions (if I may, I’d like to recommend Dr Paul Ekmen’s books on this subject, as he speaks far better than I on this subject. Well, he should; he discovered them!) – can be very difficult, and again while you can see it and identify which emotion, translating that into a grander picture is difficult, but with experience accurate assumptions can be made. The same with bearing and mannerisms – but also, in a way, rather different. Facial expressions are fleeting, descriptive of the emotions people feel in the moment. Mannerisms are more long term. Show more character. You may have heard the thing about, when shaking hands, politicians then put their other hand on top of the other person’s, as well, in a display of power. We can infer from that several things – that they feel insecure about their position, or have a more dominating personality. However, people who shake hands and pat your upper arm lightly shows their pleasure – and have a more pleasant, happy disposition, and in general a more open, and possibly more caring (though not always), nature.
From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that we’ve developed these habits – both of showing expression and conveying personality through non-verbal means. Earlier in our evolution, we needed as many ways as possible to identify danger and determining whether something or someone is a friend or foe. So, too, did expressing that we have positive traits both helped us get allies and make ourselves look suitable as a potential mate. These skills, over time, became something that we did without conscious thought, became things we did unconsciously. So when you say that there are times where you ‘just sorta feel it’, that’s your unconscious mind assessing people for these traits and determining whether or not they’re friendly or not. However, to further complicate things, we have developed an ability that undermines this skill. That is, when we take a social stereotype, take our own beliefs of what is and what is not indicative of a decent human, and place them onto another person – sometimes people conform with the stereotype – in which case, our beliefs are reinforced, or we are pleasantly surprised to discover that big brute is actually a big softy, or unpleasantly surprised when we discover that the funny uncle is actually a paedophile, and that overrides what our natural, inborn ability is telling us.
Finally, you mention psychics. As I think I’ve mentioned, psychics do talk to people to gain information, but they do also perform such inspection of a person first. A lenient person could say that they do all this cold reading on an unconscious level, and so are not aware that those spirits they’re listening to is really their unconscious mind.
So, what do you reckon?
Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 15/05/2012

That Thing. And The Other Thing.

I’m a little bit embarrassed, to be honest. Recently I’ve decided to do this thing that should help with a certain other thing that I’ve been having a problem with, but the thing I’ve been trying to overcome has overcome the other thing that I’ve been doing to help with the thing. Know what I mean? It’s very annoying.

You see, I have a very bad memory. Really! I often have very good thoughts and ideas, ideas that I’m very proud of, strut about, pleased with myself, for about five minutes – and then I completely forget what it was I had figured out! All that’s left is a void in my brain, and the memory that I thought up something that’s hitting far above my average brain, and it leaves me feeling quite bereft. I have to make notes in my phone of what I’ve been doing throughout the day, just so that I can remember what happened, when talking to anyone the next day. So, I decided to use this memory aid, something called a thought palace, or memory palace. Though I prefer to call it a thought cage, as that’s really what I want to use it for. To keep thoughts and facts locked in, so that they can never escape. But I’ll stick to calling it a memory palace, as the term cage has me thinking up things which would lead me to distraction. So, what is a thought palace, I don’t hear you ask?

Well, it’s a place that you make up, designed to store memories, thoughts and information. In order to do so, you have to think of a place that you know better than the back of your hand. Oh, hello, Back-Of-My-Hand! How long have you had that mole? Gah! There’s two of them! They’re multiplying! How long have I had two hands? I’m pretty sure that left one is new. This place doesn’t necessarily have to be big, as you can always add on wings later (not like Hermes. Think West Wing wings. Mansion wings. Not bingo wings.), or you can do away with it completely and make up a completely new place. Though it is recommended that you start off with a place you know. So, it doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be detailed. Think of your home. Close your eyes and walk about your home. Can you imagine where you put your books? Where you keep your exercise equipment, sports equipment? Can you look around your mental home and tell that it’s an accurate approximation of the real place? It doesn’t have to have exact details like book names, or DVD titles, these things can merely be extrapolated on later, when you’re searching your thought palace for a specific book. When you have your palace, you then need to designate specific places for specific subjects. For example, I imagine starting in bed. I look up and hanging on my wall is the bust of Loki, the Norse god of mischief. He’s there to remind me to beware traps, and that the technical term for thought palaces is the Method of Loci. I get up from my bed, notice that James Spader is looking at a LEGO-ified picture of MC Escher’s Relativity, smoking a cigar and saying ‘ceci ne pas une pipe’ (‘this is not a pipe’, a reference to a Magritte painting) to remind me that my favourite artstyle is called surrealism – a fact that often escapes me. (Yes, I had to imagine that in my thought palace to remember the word ‘surrealism’.) I get up, walk about my room, look out the window to see Orlando Bloom building sand castles – an allegory to the fact that the Crusaders relied on castles to make up for their lack of manpower – and muttering ‘pilgrims, cruce signatus, not Crusader’ – a reference to the fact that Crusaders weren’t called that during the Crusades, but called themselves either Pilgrims or Cruce Signatus (one signed by the Cross) – after 1187 – rather than Crusaders. I go out of my room to see Sheldon and Penny from Big Bang Theory hovering over the toilet, Penny singing Soft Kitty to him, referencing the illnesses I’ve been plagued with this last month or two. I look around upstairs, then go downstairs, do various things, one of which is going to the downstairs toilet to see Tim Minchin reciting some Shakespeare. Which goes as thus:

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,

To throw a perfume on the violet,

To smooth the ice,

Or add another hue unto the rainbow, or with taper-light,

To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish

Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

- King John

I tell you this to demonstrate that you need to do two other things: that you need to actually physically put facts in there, and create them by thinking up weird acts or sights, the weirder the better, to help you remember. The other thing is that you need to follow a specific path, otherwise you can become confused.

And, the thing is, it actually works! I can remember these things!

That is, whenever I remember to put facts or thoughts into this, and whenever I remember to consult my thought palace. Which isn’t often. So. Yeah. Slightly self-defeating. But I wanted to talk to you about this, in case anyone else has a problem with their own memory (as well as pimping a useful link: Consider it pimped).

Oh! Oh! I also wanted to share with you a tiny, little short story. I wanted to make an attempt at writing a moody, emo story … so I did! And here it is for your perusal (note: it helps if you imagine Simon Baker is reading it in his Mentalist hypnotic voice):

Up in the air. In my hand. It’s a beautiful thing – this baseball that finds itself in my grasp. Fitting perfectly in my palm. Heavy. Cold. Lumpy – yet smooth. Soft. Firm, yet yielding. The white hide of its skin making it feel alive; the little ridges so familiar. The red stitching making it ripple like waves an a beach shore. I imagine summers that never passed, never happened. Where I was playing with my dad while my sisters frolic in the surf; splashing, laughing. My mother sitting on the beach towel, taking the frisbee from the jaws of the dog and throwing it idly, and the dog barking its merriment as it fetches it. The sun beating down on my back and shoulders – hot, yet not oppressive. Invigorating. The water roaring its inexorable waves to the shore, the tang of its smell in my nostrils. The warm, fine sand beneath my feet, between my toes. Kicking it away as my dad throws the ball – emulating the simple pleasures of the dog – just out of my reach, my arm extended, stretching almost painfully, and I tumble to the ground, the golden sand cushioning my fall. The wholesome life I’ve always desired, always sought. The one that lives in my dreams. The ball in my hand. In the air. In my hand, now the air. Throwing it up idly, unfocused, catching it reflexively. The repetition soothing, allowing my mind to wander. My fingers work the skin of the ball, feeling the imperfect bumps. Fingering the smudged pain I don’t see, yet know is there through countless iterations. Those bumps, that paint, providing testimony to its life. Scratched and dirty, nothing more than a toy. Yet the key to my memories. To a life lived, its and mine, and times enjoyed. Lifting it to my nose, the faint scent of tanned leather and rosewood. A toy that I return to, time and again. Just a ball, yet its weight comforting, soothing. Up in the air. Landing in my palm. The rhythmic motion like the waves beating against the shore. Up. Down. Up. The light gleans dully off of its worn surface as it twirls languidly. The light catches my eye. Down. The meaty thwack as it lands in my hand loud in the empty room, my fingers capturing it. Seeking that comfort. Pausing, looking into its surface, as if I can see into its very core, asking it unspoken questions and hoping it can provide answers. Yet it stays a toy, and shall always remain so. Up in the air ….

*Climbs out of my hiding space* So … what did you think?

Ooh! Ooh! (Yes, I added another O to provide continuity of thought) I also recently finished reading that book that I was quite excited to read, Assassin’s Creed: The Secret Crusade. It was … a disappointment. It turns out it’s a tie in to a game (so my advice is to simply play the game! :P), and while I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, this appears to be just a glorified walkthrough, very lean and not exactly accurate (I was quite annoyed every time the author wrote ‘fire’ when showing that someone shot an arrow. Arrows are shot, never fired!). A small egotistical bit of me thought that I could do better. So, I decided to get My SJ to pick a page at random, for me to write that page up, and then rewrite the page, the way I would write it, in order to prove that I could do better. But I think I’ll hold off on posting that, until she can read it and I can hear her thoughts on it (just in case I’m not all I think I’m cracked up to be. If it doesn’t get posted in a few days, you’ll know why!). Yes. I’m being quite sneaky, here!

Dum dee dum dum dum. Oh, you’re still here? Sorry, I never know how to sign off these things. I usually think people just give up on reading it half way through, and so I don’t really bother. If you’ve survived to read these words, congratulations! If you somehow managed to decipher my awkward writing style, well done! You’ve succeeded where I’ve failed! You deserve a treat.

Toodle-oo!

Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 20/02/2012

What’s In A Myth?

Hello, hello, and welcome!

There was something I wanted to talk about, and that something is the concept of myths and mythology. But first I just wanted to go out and explore some random thoughts (I’m told this randomocity of mine is quite appealing). Whether or not I actually get round to talking about myths, I have no idea. I may not even remember what I was going to talk about. I often forget what tense I’m talking in. Am I thinking to have done something? Going to be doing something now? It gets me all befuddled, and suddenly I’m pretending I’m a dinosaur, with my arms crooked up close to my chest and going ‘rawr!’. I did just do that. That was not pre-planned.

The first thing I wanted to talk about was that the movie was quite a success. We did have some trouble finding a parking space. A lot of trouble, actually. We were quite lucky to have found one after only ten minutes. I felt quite self-conscious, because I had the lightsabre, and I kept on turning to my sister, when she would say something about it, and said to her, ‘don’t mess with me. I am packing heat, after all.’ in a very serious, Sam Jackson-esque tone. Such a thing should not be attempted by a short guy with floppy hair. Although, on the subject of shortness, it’s interesting that Napoleon was actually quite tall, for that time period, at roughly 5 ft 6″. Average nowadays, but tallish back then. So, too, were several other tyrants and ne’er-do-wells. It’s funny, because Horatio Nelson was 5 ft 4″. I am, by less than an inch, taller than Britain’s greatest naval hero. Great things really do come in small packages! What’s also interesting is that one of our ancestors – Homo Erectus, I believe, but I can’t be sure – stood at 5 ft 10″-6 ft tall – roughly the same height as the Dutch, the tallest people of the modern world.

Where was I? Ah, yes. The film. It was good. I liked it. It was interesting, because this was the first time I got to see 3D properly, and the pre-show ads both enthralled me and worried me. First came an advert for Titanic 3D (looked good, but the trauma of that movie put me off it), then Ice Age 3D (looked great, and very funny), and then Street Dance 3D (looked very iffy. And somehow the woman’s body was in one depth range while her arse was in another). The effects during the movie were well done. One or two occasions when it seemed off, but otherwise I was pleased with it. Though dad nodded off once or twice, my sister and I were a tad ill, and never before have I been more acutely aware of the needs of my bladder. Anyhoo, moving on …

There have been recent developments at one site I frequent, the LustyLibrary, concerning copyright infringement and the stealing of stories. I could elaborate fully, but I believe it’s simply better if I direct you to the thread which details the event, and copyright law. It can be found here. Simply put, nearly all, if not all, content on the internet is protected by copyright laws, even if it’s not explicitly stated. And that if you wish to post someone else’s work then you should ask their permission first (though if you borrow a snippet then I suppose it’s acceptable to link the hell out of it, and make everyone aware that whatever you copy is not your own material, that it is fully someone else’s, and provide numerous links to where it can be found in its entirety (I believe this is covered under Fair Use)). So, basically, this blog is copyrighted, as is yours, if you have a blog.

And I’ve forgotten what I was going to talk about. Hot dickety! Okay, I sort of remember. I was merely going to observe and muse on the use of the word ‘mythology’. I was talking to a friend (talking to myself) how religion had no place in a mythological movie. That made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I hope you’ll forgive this drastic oversimplification, but I’m ill and my brain is refusing to do much thinking at this point, but religion is mythology. The Collins English Dictionary defines mythology as:

  1. a body of myths, esp. one associated with a particular culture, institution, person, etc
  2. a body of stories about a person, institution, etc

This rings true for perhaps all religions. At least, all the ones I can think of at the moment. So I did some theorising and hypothesising and self-aggrandising, and concluded that people maybe think that modern religions are different from older religions, and identify the modern one as a religion, and the older one as a mythology. I did a little research and came across an interesting phrase, while reading a discussion on wikipedia, and their use of these words (can’t find it now, though) is because one is extinct. Well, assuming that religion is right and that all gods, past gods and modern ones, are real, then that supposes that religions that aren’t practised any more aren’t extinct, since those gods still exist, it’s merely that no one prays to them. And then that got me thinking that there might be a symbiotic relationship between deity and worshipper, but dismissed that – for surely a god-like being wouldn’t need a lower being’s praise or worship to survive. They would merely go on existing. So why do people use this distinction? Why do they not apply it to modern religions? I think it’s because, when they think of the word ‘myth’, they think something that is patently false, and so calling a modern religion a mythology is to say that it’s false. That then supposes (I’m leaving out a few steps in my thought processes, at this point) that the people who think along these lines are particularly religious? But I’m not too sure about that. I’ve not done the legwork to assume one way or another, and so I won’t.

The COD defines myth as:

    1. a story about superhuman beings of an earlier age taken by preliterate society to be a true account, usually of how natural phenomena, social customs, etc, came into existence
    2. another word for http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/mythology”>mythology (sense 1) , http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/mythology”>mythology (sense 3)
  1. a person or thing whose existence is fictional or unproven

That kind of sounds like a lot of religions to me, too. All except, I think, Buddhism, where it doesn’t revolve around what happens in the afterlife, but focuses more on how you live, in the now. Again, I don’t know. It’s been a while since I’ve read up on Buddhism. Stupid brain is feeling quite fuzzy at the moment. And now I’ve forgotten my point. That’s a shame, because it was a doozy! Well, I hope my scattered thoughts make sense to you.

Toodle-oo!

Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 15/02/2012

Episode I: The Phantom Soulmate

Howdy!

If you know me, then you probably know I’m a bit of a geek. And if that is so, then you’re probably groaning inwardly right now, because I’m about to do a little talking about … how do I say this without making you run for the hills? Star Wars. Huzzah! It is said. Are you still here? Are you conscious?  Good! And I don’t mind if you’re unconscious, I’ll talk to you all the same. You see, I don’t really think of myself as a geek. I’ve generally been in the popular crowd. That is to say, I could converse with the popular people in any given setting, and be comfortable, and seemingly liked, yet also spend time with non-popular people. I just tend to think popularity and geekdom don’t generally go together. I may be wildly out of the loop with these things, so that may not hold true any more. But, still, that’s why I don’t think of myself as a geek. It also has to do with the fact that I’m not always interested in geeky things. I like certain things in a sci-fi setting, yes, but not everything.

But anyway: I like Star Wars. And that seems to garner varying reactions, mainly negative. You get the occasional ‘oh, I like those movies, they’re cool’. They’re great. Then things get iffy when you mention the prequels. I mean, if you don’t like them, that’s fine, but things tend to get skewed when reactions get taken to the extreme. As things often do when taken to extremes. For example, if you love them, more often than not you’re branded a Lucas Apologiser. If you hate them you’re branded a Lucas Hater. And then there’s Jar Jar. To be clear, I don’t like him. He’s an empty thing that’s used mainly for comedy effect, and is only given one task of importance to do, in the first film at least. If he were to be used more profoundly, and less in-your-face, then I’m sure people would have liked him more, or at least hated him less. But, seriously, if you still loathe him? Man up. You’ve had thirteen years to get over him!

Then there’s this whole thing with the expanded (never extended) universe – the SWEU – made up of books, comics, TV series and games that tie in to the universe. It’s again taken to extremes. You’re supposed to either love the books (and comics and games) and thus hate either the films, or their tweaked versions, or the new TV series – for which I even appeared on a podcast discussing an episode. I was utterly terrible on it! I had performance anxiety. I couldn’t talk it up. Or you’re supposed to love the films and the TV series and not the other stuff. Like I said, it’s taken to extremes, and people often forget the middle ground. I rock that middle ground. 

Anyhoo, I didn’t actually want to talk to you about that. I wanted to talk to you about an upcoming event. Tomorrow is my sister’s birthday. It’s also the day that we, my dad, the birthday hobgoblin and I shall be going to see Star Wars Episode I 3D. This is a cause for great thought, for me. Well, great would be stretching it, and thought is sometimes alien to me (though apparently I am known to have original thoughts quite often. That’s a new idea to me). Anyway, I’m not altogether interested in 3D – but it’s apparently quite well done. Understated and complimentary, rather than things popping out of the screen or people looking like cardboard cut-outs. And the thought of going to see one of these movies in the cinema doesn’t fill me with joy as it does, others. But it sounds like it’ll be a good time, and that has me excited. However, I have been urged to take something with me. I do not want to take this thing with me. But it was a recent gift, and these people are very insistent, so I just might have to bring my new toy lightsabre with me to the showing. Joy of joys.

So I have the option of having it hang from my belt, or hide it up my sleeve, or down my trousers. I’ll be getting odd looks whichever way, so I might as well go for the option that’s most complimentary. Three guesses as to which one. But it should be enjoyable. Despite the film’s faults, I’m okay with it, and I’ve just finished a book which has changed how many people, myself included, view the prequels. Speaking of viewing, I remember quite clearly the first time I saw this film. I saw the Original Trilogy first, years before, so was quite excited to see this one. I’d made my parents leave two hours early, because I expected there to be a long line outside the cinema. Well, there was a line, but we were the first ones, and if we had left only half an hour earlier we’d still have been in the first ten in line.

Oops.

Moving swiftly on (still awake? Still alive?), recently I was watching a drama, and the idea of soul-mates was brought up. I was only half paying attention to it, because it was about midwives in 1950′s Britain (which has since made me very interested in the cars of that era, and the fedora), but the use of that phrase made me look up from my book and pay attention. This was an entirely new concept to me. I literally had never thought in terms like that before. Yet what they were saying, I thought, I could apply to My SJ and I. This made me very happy. So happy that I had a goofy grin slapped across my face the whole night. People asked questions, which I shrugged off as saying I really like my book, yet inside I was thinking about bright, sunny days in parks, with SJ, and I became that sappy fool that I often mock. I was okay with it. We’re quite sappy when together. Saying very bad things that could be quotes from a Mills and Boon book. Surprisingly, I don’t think it could ever be said that we had that honeymoon period. That bit at the beginning when we’re all loved up and everything’s perfect, forgetting all the faults of the other. We have always known each other’s faults, yet we’re okay with them (personally I feel her faults are perfect, and make her perfect), and we’re still as sappy as ever, as if we were in a very logically grounded, everlasting honeymoon period. It seems I have a soul mate. Eeeee!

But what does that mean? That night, I was all set to text her at bed time, as is our custom, and tell her that she’s my soul mate. Yet I hesitated, because it was, like I’ve said, a new thing, and I wasn’t sure if I had such a firm grasp on the concept. So I waited. I waited for the next day, where I could discuss it with her. It turns out that there’s more to this than I’d first thought. Two points in particular.

1: There is no such thing as a single The One, or single soul-mate. We both agree that there are many soul-mates for any one person. It’s merely that those people we would do anything for. To quote one geeky thing: If somewhere in this world there is someone who understands you, it feels like that person is right beside you, even if you’re as far apart as the end of the land and the top of the sky.

2: A soul-mate need not be a romantic connection. I hadn’t actually thought of this, yet as SJ talked about it, it was like a light bulb turned on in my mind (there might as well be a light bulb in my head, I’m not using that space). It could be that there are two people in a working relationship, who share a perfect symbiotic relationship, where they both compliment each other, balance each other. To be honest, the examples of this that immediately came to my mind were set in stories, novels, and not real world – but that doesn’t mean there’s no such thing in the real world, merely that I inhabit the fictional world more so than the real one.

What do you reckon?

Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 04/02/2012

Pressuring (Never Pressurising)

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? So long that I couldn’t even remember the font colour number. Luckily, I remembered that it was 141, or something to that effect, and it came up my first try. To be upfront with you, I’m not going to apologise. There’s no real need, for the only one I should apologise to is myself, and even then it should be mixed in with plentiful curses. I’ve neglected this place, and I really have no idea why. I know that, when I’ve contemplated writing something on here in the past, I’ve shied away and made excuses not to, when, really, I have no excuse. Except that my brain hasn’t really thought up many good ideas. Except for that. Oh, and there’s been familial melodrama abound for the last year. And it’s freezing! But apart from that, no excuse. Oh! And there was this one thing that I – never mind.

I suppose it’s because I’ve put myself under pressure (note: it’s pressure, and never pressurise – unless you’re going deep-sea diving. I know it’s an accepted vernacular but that doesn’t make it right!) to write something, and because of it my brain has rebelled. Like I’ve held myself to ransom, as it were. I think, too, that it’s because I’ve been thinking along the lines that I should write ‘me me me’ posts, when I really don’t like to talk about myself. Yes, I’m aware of the irony that I’m bemoaning me me me posts, while making this a me me me post. It can’t be helped. I understand that a certain vanity must be explored and nurtured, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking that it’s … vulgar. Don’t get me wrong, you can talk about you until the Apocalypse*, and I shall listen intently, but for some reason I don’t think it appropriate to talk about myself. So I really need to think up topics that I can talk about, that I know of, yet not become one armchair general or politician.

*I know for a fact that the Apocalypse shall arrive in 2012. This is fact. But it shall not arrive on the 21st December, oh, no. It shall arrive much sooner. Because Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse by Troy Denning is set for release on the 29th March!

So what have I been up to? The usual. Not much to tell. Move along. Move along. However, it’s been one upheaval after another, with the rest of my family. Now, you may be aware that I don’t always like my family. That there’s often trouble. So you may be forgiven (I said may, not that you would!) for thinking that my gripes come from a biased standpoint. While that is a possibility, I hope that this isn’t the case. There’s a division, I perceive, in my family. Male and female. That’s not a sexist thing, that’s merely a shorthand I use. Dad is calm, level-headed – if a little too hesitant to get involved. I try my best to be like this. And then there’s the women of the family. Crude, loud, abrasive, arrogant and ignorant. They do not use, nor follow, logical lines of thought. I do my best to follow logic. So I find myself disagreeing with their actions and opinions quite a bit. To be honest, I could bemoan them all day long, and desperately want to, but I don’t want to waste time on them. So I’ll give you the news in brief: I’m an uncle again. Yay! I’ve a nephew! Then the mother, my sister, moved out. I may have covered that, already. Then she had problems with the neighbours, and other people. And more people. And social services. And the nursery. Then more problems with social services. And then us. And then the rest of the family, with her. And then my other sister had problems with me. And then the rest of the family, with me, for doing something about the things they moan about – if you could explain how they’re upset that I do the things they moan about wanting to do, please tell me, because it makes no sense to me.

And now back to me. I’ve decided to enter this year’s NaNoWriMo. That is National November Writing Month – despite it being called ‘national’, it’s actually an international thing. Or at least I bloody well hope so, otherwise I will be wasting my entire November. Basically, you sign up to the NaNoWriMo website, and then you strive to complete the task of writing a story of 50,000 words (minimum) within that month. It sounds daunting, but I figured it out mathematically (with the help of the lovely, beautiful woman who is My SJ). With mathematics. Yes, I’m saying that like a kid who’s just stumbled across the word, and the bigness of it is impressing the kid. I don’t like maths. I’m sure, if I’d bothered to attend maths classes in school, I would be good at it, but it just doesn’t hold any interest for me whatsoever. So I had to double-check my maths with (supercalifragilisticexpialidocious) SJ – don’t worry, I’m not an idiot, I got it right. I just needed to make sure. With an estimated writing speed of 4-5000 words per 8-10 hours, it could be finished in 10-14 days. That leaves two weeks to play around in, to write more – or even catch up if you have some off days, or re-write excerpts you don’t like. This would be vital, for me, because I often go blank on words that can be vital to the prose, and that ends my run of good form. With that much room to spare, I could just write something for the sake of writing, to fill the space, even if it’s not very good, and go back to re-do it. For those who complete this suddenly-not-so-mammoth task, they’re given gift coupons to get the story published.

So that just leaves what I’m going to write about. At first I thought about setting it on the Russian steppe, around roughly 1000AD. I’d be able to write about Norsemen going viking (that’s the actual verb, and over time it became the noun), and because of my pagan roots I’d be familiar enough with the lore that I’d not have to do too much by way of research (something I’m terrible at) to give it that liveliness that makes stories come off the page. But then I watched the film Ironclad, and suddenly I had my topic. The film itself is about the events that happened just after the signing of the Magna Carta. It was essentially a film-long battle, without much meat to it, but there was something about it that I liked, that made it more than just a normal action flick. But that’s not relevant. What is relevant is that it had Templars in it.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Templars. The Templars, themselves, I like. It’s the need for story-tellers everywhere to give them hidden agendas and put in secret societies that I hate. I absolutely loathe it. They may have had secret orders within the Order itself, it’s possible, I grant you, but there is not a single shred of evidence to suggest that there was so. The conspiracy theories started because they were taken down so swiftly, and left such a large hole across Europe, that people started to wonder, and it annoys me to no end. That authors have beaten the idea to death doesn’t help much.

The film itself got me thinking about one real-world battle in particular, but I can’t for the life of me remember when it occurred, where it occurred, or what it was called, so researching it is quite difficult. Afterwards, I had the thought that this battle – siege, actually – would make for a good story. And so I thought I could meld the two, the idea and the NaNoWriMo, together. It was those fucking Templars. Once they got in my mind, I was helpless to resist.

I call it the era of Outremer. It’s pronounced in the French fashion, for that’s its basis – outre mer means ‘beyond the sea’. Although it could also be pronounced out-reemer, but I’m iffy on it. Does sound cool, though. Out-reemer. Has an otherworldly quality to it. Technically Outremer was an area, what the Crusaders held in the Holy Land. But I extend that to the entirety of that area, even beyond what they held, because, well, because I can, really. And I also use the word for the name of the era because they never actually called themselves Crusaders. They didn’t say they went Crusading. It came a little while later. But for lack of a better term, I say it’s the era of Outremer. Because it makes me sound sophisticated, biatch.

It’s a period that fascinates me, for England, when the first Crusade was called for, was still being subdued by the Normans, France was nothing more than a small area around Paris (this expansion was, I believe, a mistake), and the Crusades themselves were called to get rid of youthful knights and their pent-up aggression (and wrapped up in the whole ‘Deus veult’ thing), for they couldn’t kill another Christian knight without severe punishment. It expanded into, well, such a huge thing that I don’t think I really need to explain further.

And, of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve a novel set in this period waiting in my book box to be read doesn’t help. It’s called Assassin’s Creed: Secret Crusade. I’ve not read up much about it, so I can’t tell you much. I can tell you it’s about a small sect called the Assassins. Duh. This, and its setting, is enough to sell itself to me. I’m sure the contents of the book are fictional, but the sect itself was real. The origin of that name is a little ambiguous itself. The original name for them was Hashashins, and some believed that this was derived by their use of hashash, for how else could someone cold-bloodedly murder another human being? Well, quite easily, it turns out. Then it was believed that they celebrated completed kills with hashash – but that’s very unlikely, given that they were very strict, and alcohol and drugs were banned from use, and one Assassin thrashed his own son half to death for partaking (and hashash is much like cannabis, and so they simply wouldn’t have been able to have some and then get up to relieve themselves, let alone kill someone). They weren’t even allowed to listen to music. Yes, they lived in the town that Footloose was made, or at least a twinned city of it. Then people believed that it was part of a ritual, when a trainee was inducted into the order. Supposedly they were drugged and then made to believe that they were dead and in the afterlife, in a lush garden and surrounded by pliant virgins. Again, that seems to be incorrect, because one modern-day assassin (yes, their sect has survived to this day, though I believe they no longer assassinate people. Nice assassins. Friendly assassins. Holy Hel, what’s that poking me?! *runs*) – I believe it was the current head of the order, though I can’t remember right now – said that no assassin would fall for such a trick. To be honest, that sounds a bit like he’s unwilling to admit that his ancestors were that gullible, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Because I like f my life.

Too, it’s believed that they were named after one of their leaders – another possibility – but it’s believed it’s most likely because ‘hashashin’, meaning ‘users of hashish’ was at the time a derogatory term, and meant that they were outcasts, rather than actual users. A bit like modern-day swear words: ‘Motherfucker’ can be taken literally, and might be factually correct, but it’s more a term of derogation than it is a factual description of the person it’s being said to.

However, there is another theory. Of course. Others believe the name derived from Rashid ad-Din Sinan, otherwise known as ‘The Old Man of the Mountain’ or Al Mualim (The Teacher), who used to call his students ‘Asasiyun’, meaning people who are faithful to Asas, meaning ‘foundation’ of the faith.

Al Mualim himself was an interesting man. There is a tale – there are two versions of it, actually. I’ll tell you the version I know, and for those who want to know the other version can wiki it) – of how he dissuaded Salah ad-Din (Saladin) from attacking Masyaf, an Assassin held fortified city. The story goes that Salah ad-Din was laying siege to Masyaf, and at night Al Mualim sneaked out of Masyaf, gained entry to the Ayyubid camp, gained entrance – in a stealthy manner, I doubt he simply asked the guards to enter – to Salah ad-Din’s tent (the most heavily guarded part of the camp) and left a dagger – the assassin’s weapon of choice – and a cake on Salah ad-Din’s chest, as he slept. The cake was later tested and was found to be poisoned. In this version, there was no note, but the message was clear, and that day Salah ad-Din took his forces and left, never to harry the assassins again.

Damn it. Now I want to write a story about the Assassins …

Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 12/09/2011

Just Like Buses.

I’ve been doing a bit of writing recently. With a handful of stories in my mind, all jockeying for position to be first written. Well, I know which one I’ll write first – because I’ve already started writing it, but beyond that I don’t know. So, despite my proclamation that my blogging will get back to normal, I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks. I was starting to worry about that, and consequently I was starting to worry that, because I couldn’t think up any decent subjects, I was losing my mojo, my imagination. To be honest, I still worry about that. But that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m not one who writes something out of a sense of obligation. No. Actually, I’ve had a good few ideas over the last day or so – much like buses. There’s never one when you need one, but when you don’t, three come along! Ah. I should perhaps say that this is going to be a ‘me, me me!’ post.

It all started when I watched a movie. This movie was called ‘The Social Network’. A good movie. Snappy dialogue. Not the best shot, and certainly not the best music score, and definitely not historically accurate, but I liked it. It reminded me of old times, back when I first got into the internet. Back when I was a prick. If you feel the need to defend me, don’t. I was a prick. Still am. But, I hope – no, not hope. I know - I’m less of one now. Why does this, and other sites, put a squiggly line under ‘movie’? It’s a correct word, as far as I recall. I first got the internet when I had left school. So, technically, I was too late to make proper use of it, though I made up for lost time. No, that’s not quite right. I liked the internet, but it was on the old dial-up connection, and so I didn’t spend much time on it. It was only until I started listening to music (16-year-old me was very busy, and had a lot of firsts. Music, sex, books, even a proper social life were the major ones) that I did so. You see, I wasn’t allowed to do much, as a teenager. I was told off a lot (not because I was bad, but just because), so I felt, and still do, that I had a wasted youth. But at 16 I took charge, though in this post I’ll stick to the internet side of my life. I bought my first album. It was by a singer called Katie Melua.

Online, I joined the official Katie Melua forum, though I completely forgot about it, as it was quickly shut down (it had nothing to do with me, I swear!). A few months later, filled with inactivity, I was contacted by a strange woman (sounds dodgy, I know, but it really wasn’t like that), who was setting up a fan forum, called melualand. It was a hoot! I can’t remember how long it went on for, though I have a feeling it only lasted for a year, before my interest waned, and I’d spend all day on it, making over a hundred posts a day. It was very good fun. In that time, I made friends (no idea why they liked me. I was, as was aforementioned, a prick) and joined MySpace. Where I made more friends! Again, no idea why. Pretty sure it was because I managed to hide it (the bad me) well. I even had an online girlfriend. Or something like that. Still not idea what that means. But we broke up before we met (it was a mutual decision for her to see someone else behind my back). I think that’s what turned me evil. Evil, I tell you! I turned on my friends, let my bad feelings fester and spew on innocents, like Batman with acne. (It should also be noted that, at this time, I had imposed on myself, in the real world, a vow of silence. Well, I couldn’t actually not-talk. That would be impossible. So I elected to talk as little as possible. I think most people just thought I was having my moody teenager phase late) But I can’t blame her, nor others. I let that happen to me. So I left the forum, left that group of friends, and wandered away from the internet. Left MySpace. Though I did try out this new-fangled website called ‘Facebook’. I wasn’t overly keen on it. I was still a MySpace fan. Too, I was smitten with a new girl (in real life), we became friends on this site, but beyond that I didn’t use it, and after a while I realised that it looked stalkerish, and we drifted apart, first online, then in real life. Actually, before I left the webworld, I’d like to point out, I got my first writing job. I became a mod on an education website, and did little pieces for it. Though, mainly, it was an underused site, and I doubt I was missed.

Sorry, where was I? I became engaged in this game: Find Waldo. We call him ‘Wally’ over here. No, not Wall-E. Now I’ve forgotten what I was talking about. Could you remind me? Seriously, I have forgotten.

This sort of thinking was brought about by that movie. The one I mentioned above. Have you forgotten, too? Don’t worry. It happens quite a bit, to me. You get used to it. Actually, I could prove how much of a prick I was, back then. Yesterday (as I write this) it was the anniversary of 9/11. When I’d first heard of it, I didn’t understand it, though I was roughly 10 back then, and should have known better. I saw it on the news, made some insensitive, off the cuff remark (sorry, but I can’t actually remember what I said), was rightly chastised by my dad, who was watching it over my shoulder, and then went about my business, more upset that I’d been told I was in the wrong than about what had happened over in New York. See? Prick. I learned, over time, that my words, my entire thought-process, was, plain and simple, bad. But that happened much, much later, after Year One of the internet in my life.

Nope. I had the thought that I was going to say why I was a prick, and said that in hopes of jogging my memory, but that wasn’t it. Maybe it was a 9/11 memorial post? No. I feel that it wasn’t my country under attack, so such a thing from me would be quite wrong in many ways, thus it wasn’t that. Maybe showing my growth? A big pat-myself-on-the-back blog? Probable, though I’m hoping not. Ah! Yes, I was simply reminiscing. 

I was googling the term ‘melualand’ earlier, and it came up with a thread detailing the evolution of Katie Melua forums. I was struck by the fact that I didn’t wince, or think badly of those times. Of wonder that I was a part of that. Indeed, a big part of that. I was quite fond of it all. But I wouldn’t want to go back, even if there was something to go back to. I’m a different person now. I’m not perfect – nowhere near it – but I am happy with than man I’ve become. I guess that’s why I’m writing this. So you can get to know a bit about me, and so I can get to know a bit about me, too.

I think I’m going to stop this blog post here, irrespective of the fact that I may or may not have accomplished the original goal of writing this. To quote one of my favourite shows, Firefly: Well … Here I am.

Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 12/08/2011

The Weavers Of Fate Make Great Tuxedos, Too.

Finally! I’m back!

Yes, if you’re a regular reader (or just someone who’s noticed a large difference in the dates between this post and the last) then you’d know I’ve not posted anything in a long while. This is because I put myself into self-exile. Not from the world, or people in particular – though I do think I am a slight misanthrope ( a word I’m convinced should be spelled with a Y) – but from writing. Though, again, eagle-eyed readers will notice that the Finger blog was still produced weekly. That’s because, while it’s always a pleasure to write a Finger blog, it is, after all, a job. An obligation (but, again, one I love and enjoy). So I have to continue, no matter what’s going on in my mind – writing-wise or otherwise. This is purely for pleasure. Sure, I’d like it to do well and be popular*(1), but that’s not the reason why I have it. It’s an outlet for writing and creativity and crap like that. So I made myself stop writing, because I’d been writing a story that was plagued time and again with writer’s block.

However, said story is finally finished! That is to say, I’ve written the main bulk, but I’m sure it needs to be proofread, edited, rewritten in (many) places, so to that effect I’ve asked SJ of SJ’s Journey to help me with it – because I simply cannot proofread myself. Though, having said that, it is quite long, so it’ll take a while. But, for all intents and purposes, it is done in my mind, so I can move on and post about whatever comes to me.

Which, recently, is about fate. There’ve been one or two posts about fate in my small circle, but it was a recent one by another  from the JK, Cornish TUSHIE Pasty’s The Real CTP. Before I elaborate on my own thoughts, I’ll include the passage that got me to thinking:

I used to be a big believer in Free Will, the power of our choice, the freedom we have in the world and that we are responsible for our choices because we chose them. After I had spoken with my mum and she had mentioned the word Destiny, I begun to think about it. Do I have those choices, was this all determined long before I took this job. I made the choice for the holiday, paid for my accommodation, travel weeks before the training was set. So maybe that decision was taken out of my hands, maybe it was destiny that decided I would not go on that training.

I suppose the best place to start off is to include my views on religious views on fate – though I shall keep it mercifully brief (though a lot of the detail may be lost or twisted in doing so, if that happens feel free to not correct me. I already know this), and only reference a few. I hope. I’m this crap up as I go along, I don’t know what I’ll write! I suppose I’ll focus on two to four different religions. The one which is local to my country, the Saxon religion, which is shared with the more popularly known Norse – which is called Heathenry. Which, really, is worth signing up to just because of its name. And also the Greeks, which shared their religion with the Romans. Though that one doesn’t have any fancy names, but they do have some pretty fantastic buildings. You should check them out. Not now, obviously. Because now you’re reading my blog.

These two (or four, depending on how you count them) share one thing in common: their view on Fate. Fate, for the Greeks, comes in the guise of three women, all blind, but share one eyeball between them. I hope they all use condoms. You know, eye condoms. These were called The Fates, or Moirae. They are described as thus:

  • Clotho (/ˈklθ/, Greek Κλωθώ [klɔːˈtʰɔː] – “spinner”) spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle. Her Roman equivalent was Nona, (the ‘Ninth’), who was originally a goddess called upon in the ninth month of pregnancy.
  • Lachesis (/ˈlækɨsɪs/, Greek Λάχεσις [ˈlakʰesis] – “allotter” or drawer of lots) measured the thread of life allotted to each person with her measuring rod. Her Roman equivalent was Decima (the ‘Tenth’).
  • Atropos (/ˈætrəpɒs/, Greek Ἄτροπος [ˈatropos] – “inexorable” or “inevitable”, literally “unturning”, sometimes called Aisa) was the cutter of the thread of life. She chose the manner of each person’s death; and when their time was come, she cut their life-thread with “her abhorred shears”. Her Roman equivalent was Morta (‘Death’). – source: wikipedia. Because I couldn’t be bothered to write it all out.

Essentially, one, if you look at them as an adult, is the past, one is the present, and the other is the future. This is also shown in the Wyrds, the Saxon version of The Fates, and otherwise known as Norns in the Norse religion. Again, there are three*(2): Urdr, Verdandi and Skuld. Urdr (also Wyrd) means, quite simply, Fate. That’s nice, isn’t it? A goddess so important that they couldn’t be bothered to make up a better name for her. Verdandi means ‘happening’ or ‘present’, and Skuld means ‘debt’ or ‘future’. Again, we have the common thread of past, present and future. Now, some believe that this is due to the assimilation of Greek and Roman religions. That very well may be true, as I believe all religions simply borrow things from everywhere else – so, really, I should just be saying that I’m referencing just one old religion! However, I’m not so certain about this. The Wyrds were around in Saxon culture, during the invasion of what is now known as England, which pre-dates the naming of the Norns (which occurred in the time of the Old Norse language, approximately 11th Century). And I’ve forgotten what I was talking about. Ah, yes. I was pointing out the similarity. Speaking of which, do any of you see a similarity between these three women, and the Three Witches of Macbeth fame? Granted, it happened in Scotland, where there are numerous old hags, who have been known to congregate in small groups. But enough about politics, on to fate.

As to what they believed fate to be, itself, that varies, though they do have enough similarities to make some broad descriptions. They believed in, what I call, traditional fate. The fate, the destiny, that we know and understand. That everything is already predetermined and that we have no say in the matter. It (they) also has (have) another peculiarity, which you may or may not be aware of. These Fates, Norns, Wyrds or what have you actually determined what would happen in the future – in essence, fate – or destiny – has a consciousness. Even the gods could not escape their destiny. Even the gods feared them. They decided how you would live, what would happen to you and, most importantly, how you would die. The Fates would, quite literally (at least, literally in the Greek mythology) cut the thread of your life – for they, it was said, would weave a sort of tapestry of your life, and when it came to the time for you to die, they would cut the gold thread – your lifeline. The Norns, too, were known as weavers of fate. I wonder if they’re good at weaving anything else. Like clothes. I could do with a nice tuxedo. All in all, one of the phrases you’re most likely to hear when talking about destiny is something I haven’t mentioned, so I’ll go right ahead and mention it: if there is such a thing as destiny, then we are not to be held accountable for our actions. More on that in a minute.

You’ve probably noticed, by now, that I’ve not touched upon the Christian views on Fate. That’s simply because I don’t know what they are, and nor do I care to look it up. However, if it’s something like this new-fangled ‘free will’, people keep on talking about, then keep reading.

The blog I quoted in the beginning of this post was one that discussed ‘Destiny vs. Free Will’. You’ll note that the antithesis of the phrase I have just mentioned was mentioned in that quote. Would it blow your mind if I told you that I had completely forgotten about that phrase? And that I had only included mine at the end of the paragraph because I had, just now, came upon it while researching this subject? Was that destiny? Serendipity? Am I using the question mark too much?

Perhaps. It could be destiny, or Free Will (I’ll stick to using the capital letters for this phrase, to save possible confusion), or it could be that I’d read it, forgot it, but kept the thought in the dark recesses of my mind, and when I saw my phrase on another page, it made something go click, but I was unable to connect the two until I went back to see what TCP had written. Anyhoozelbees*(3), Free Will is the simple act of doing things for yourself, with absolutely no higher power or wisdom involved, no determination beyond your own. I’ll leave it at that, as I’m sure you all know what Free Will means.

Which do you believe in? For a good few of us, this is an either/or situation. However, I hold the belief of the middle road. I hold the belief of Compatibilism. Yes, it’s a real word. Go google it, if you don’t believe me. to be honest, I had only come across this phrase within the last 10 minutes, so I cannot comment in-depth as to my thoughts on it – though I will say this: while, on the whole, I agree with the concept of compatibility, I do disagree on some parts. But not enough to not identify with it.

Compatibilism is: the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define ‘free will’ in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism (in the same way that Libertarians define ‘free will’ such that it cannot). They may understand free will to refer to something like liberty (e.g., a freedom to act according to one’s determined motives). In contrast, the incompatibilist positions are concerned with a sort of “metaphysically free will,” which Compatibilists claim has never been coherently defined. source: wikipedia.

Now, the discovery of this page has quite robbed me of my thunder. There’s, now, no need for an elaborate explanation of my belief, as you can now just click on the link. I should have known that some bastard  - from Ancient Greece, no less – would steal my thunder! Have they no manners?! Mind you, I suppose I could give a brief account of my own theory. It is my belief that, yes, we do have Free Will. We can make our own choices and be held accountable. That is the basis. Destiny comes in to play in several ways. Scientists theorise that, were you to know the exact placement of every atom in the known universe at any one time, know its speed and direction, then you would be able to correctly determine future events – possibly indefinitely. So it seems that you could read fate simply by having all the knowledge. Or perhaps god-like beings could do so, given enough knowledge. That does seem to be at odds with the thought that these Fates actually controlled fate. However, if there is, or was, such a thing, I could just as easily see it as those old hags ‘pulling a fast one’. That is to say – they lied! That they, themselves, were mere chroniclers, not determiners. That they were subject to the same haplessness and helplessness as we sapient, mortal beings.

To paraphrase a one of my favourite fictional characters, Jagged Fel: ‘Destiny is the faithful development and inborn abilities and adherence to the duty at hand.’

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed my little meandering thought!

*(1) I hold the belief that all writers, to some extent, want their work to do well, and be popular – otherwise we would not be blogging, or getting ourselves published.

*(2) It should be noted that in all one/two/four examples I’ve listed, it’s been said that there are numerous beings that are of the Fate variety. The Fate variety are deemed as goddesses in these mythologies, though the beings that read fate seem to be a sub-sect (which I call ‘clan’) within the god pantheon.

*(3) I have included this word for no other reason than to have this addendum. Today, as I post this, is My SJ’s birthday. I wanted to include this so that she’d (hopefully) get a little thrill at reading these words, for her to know that I am, as always, thinking of her. Happy Birthday!

Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 28/06/2011

Networking Makes The Net Work

Good morning, my confederates in mischief and mayhem!

I find myself in a curious position. I wish to write, and write a lot. I find myself alone during the daytime – while that sounds like a good thing, I simply cannot call it such, for a special woman in my life is on holiday, so it is as if a light has gone. But I will not dwell on this. Instead, I have concentrated on my writing – though, as is so often the case, my mind lacks focus. I was writing my sex story again, but then I realised I have yet to round off my series of brief posts detailing blogging advice.

Networking


Want your blog to be seen? Don’t be shy–put your blog out there! Make sure that you have a bunch of quality posts before you start, though. If visitors go to your blog and find only one or two posts, they will be disappointed and uninterested. Make sure you have about 5-10 good posts before you start this step.

I agree with networking. It’s necessary if you want it to be popular, and as this piece of advice states to have quality posts before you start, I simply cannot agree – though my ears do perk and my eyebrow does raise at the term ‘uninterested’ if there’s just one post. I give my readers a bit more credit, and believe them, meaning you, to have a bit of brains about them, and realised, as I started out, that they’d be able to tell that my blog was new, by the terminology in the content, as well as the date at the top of the page. Also, while I basically agree that you should wait until you have a good handful of posts to your name, there’s no harm in promoting your site among friends, and on websites where you’re known. You have to start somewhere, of course. Pimping yourself out to a potential fan base where you’re known and, hopefully, liked, is a good first step.

Depending on the subject matter, and the readers you’re likely to pull in, it’ll vary as to whether or not you’ll get a lot of hits in the beginning. However, assuming you don’t, don’t be alarmed. It’s early days. The most important thing is to keep at it. Another, assuming you do get a lot of hits in the beginning, don’t be surprised if you experience a slump. That’s normal.

3 Tips for getting your blog’s name out there:


1. Create connections with other bloggers. Browse around other blogs and see what people are writing about. If someone talks about a topic that you have written about, post a comment addressing the topic with a link to your blog. Bloggers are, in general, nice people, and creating connections with other bloggers is half of the fun!

Except for those mean, nasty, tirading, venting bloggers that are out there, but generally we’re nice. We have to be. You can be reported by disgruntled readers if you’re rude, and then have it taken away from you. Besides, these things are made on a good-faith basis. So play nice all round! Another good tip, to expand on what’s written above, feel free to post comments on blogs that aren’t all that much like yours. Though do say more than ‘nice blog! I agree.’ Offer an opinion, make a good post. If it’s done well, then people who read it might want to follow a link (don’t say ‘come read my blog’ and then provide a link in the text. It’s crude. But most blogging sites allow you to include a link which is displayed by hyperlinking your name. People are smart. They’ll know this. No need to appear desperate.).


2.Don’t be afraid to talk to your readers. This mainly happens in the comments section of each blog post. If people ask questions or add something to your post, don’t be afraid to acknowledge them, especially if they are there to criticize you. Walk away from the computer and reflect on any criticism before responding professionally. Building relationships with your readers is a great way to create loyalty.

Offering chocolate is a good way, too.

3.Increase your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking. A great way to drive traffic to your site is to try to get your website a high SEO ranking. This means that your site will appear higher on search engines like Google or Bing when searched for. There are a lot of different things you can do to increase search engine ranking, but the most important are tagging your posts, pictures, and videos with relevant keywords and including links to other relevant sites.

Tag the hell out of each post! Bombard it with as many different phrases as possible, and you won’t go far wrong. I only have a few on here each post, but I include a lot on the Finger blog, and that’s got a good few thousand hits, and that’s before it’s reached its first birthday!

That’s it for today. The only other things I can think to add is the website www.alexa.com which provides internet rankings, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Take care, and good luck!

PS: To the fellow who provided the very good sub-header, thank you! Though I’m afraid I very sadly lost your email from events outside of my control. If you’d kindly resend it (or even if other readers want to send in an idea) then I’d be very grateful.

PPS: Another good trick, to make you seem very popular, is to invent fictional correspondence with fictional readers…*Chuckles*

Toodleloo!

Posted by: You Are What You Dare | 13/06/2011

Two Balls, Please.

I do love to be beside the seaside…which is why I go nowhere near it!

Yes, I am back with another going out story. But first, an observation: The blue whale ejaculates over 40 tonnes of sperm during mating, yet only 10% of that enters the female. And you wonder why the sea tastes so salty?

And now back to our regular programming! Now, I have two sisters, but because I try to keep this identity-less, they’re rarely called anything more than ‘sis’ on here, except for times when they’re both in the story, in which they’re called ‘big little’ and little big’. Just so as you know, this story features my other sister from the previous blog post.

And I should also point out that I have another sister, a half-sister, but I’ve never met her, so she’ll most likely never be mentioned here. Just so as you know.

So, yesterday, we were due to go to the cinema to watch the new Pirates movie – you know, the one without the annoying couple. This, itself, had proved quite difficult. Twice, my sister had rearranged it, because she has an annoying habit of changing her mind seemingly every five minutes, before eventually going out. Honestly, once, when we had decided to get back into bowling, she had changed her mind no less than eight times! But these past two weeks, she’s changed her mind, and we, I and my frequent side-kick in such capers, my dad, grew bored with playing these games and didn’t press her, so we didn’t go. However, that changed this week, as she put down a different pre-requisite for going out. If the other sis wasn’t here, then she would go. The other sis wasn’t here, so we decided to go. Except, the night before, I discovered that there were no showings at decent times. So we were defeated. Except we weren’t!

That is because, dear readers, we decided to go bowling instead! Readily she agreed to it, and come Sunday morning, dad and I disappeared for the morning, to avoid the drama of ‘I’m not going out! I am going out! I’m not going out! I am going out! I can’t get out of the bath!’ Don’t ask. We had gone out to buy miscellaneous objects to ensure the car will pass the MOT (a car test). Well, the things we bought didn’t work, so we’re stuffed, basically!

We departed almost without a hitch, and it was a pleasant ride to Havant, where the Bowlplex is situated. We entered to find the place in near darkness, with strange, multi-coloured lights flashing all over the place. It was quite dazzling, actually. The lane dividers had sweeping lights, and the pins were illuminated from above (most of them blue, but one was green which, if it was in the front and you hit a strike, you’d get a free game. We didn’t get a free game.) – all this was in aid of the kiddie birthday party that was being held in the alley-adjacent dining area. Having booked a lane, received our shoes, and then attempted to guess which lane was ours (the lights, I have said, were low, so I couldn’t quite see the identifying numbers. Our lane was number 13. My lucky number!), sis decided she wanted to input all the data into the scoring computer. This was not a good idea. I protested quite vehemently, and when the attendant came over to offer his assistance, he must have thought me crazy for the joy I displayed. Maybe he thought I was hitting on him. Oh dear.

Things went in their usual manner. Dad was consistent in his bowling action. High numbers, even a strike or two. I was more hit and miss, with my ball often leaning too far to the left to be of use, but I seek perfection, always, and so studied those about me for tips on better technique, so that, when I did hit the pins, I was able to get some decent scores. And my sister, well, she came to become a savant…at getting gutter balls.

The dynamics of our family are quite odd. We appreciate dad’s skill at throwing balls in a mature manner, but when it comes to my sis and I, things descend very quickly into childish one-upmanship. When I got a high score I would strut and saunter to my seat, when I got a low score she’d gloat; when she got a low score I’d cheer, and when she got a high score I’d trip her up as she made her way back to her seat. Good times. The game ended in the usual placing of dad first by a country mile, me second, and closely followed by sis in third.

Until the next game. I was on fire, Bebbie! I had figured out good walk up technique, so that I was having more hits than misses, and my dad was hitting more gutter balls – with him getting two in one frame, his first ever! – and sis, well, revelled in her suckiness. It was at about the half way point that I went ahead, a place I managed to hold on to – however, it was down to the last frame. Dad could still pull it back if he got even so much as a spare. He was first, as is custom, and got four pins down in the first try. Not bad. He only needed three to equal, but a spare would have won it, as I’ve said, because you get an extra go in the last frame if you do so. He lined up his second throw – and he missed! Gutter ball before it got half way! I had already won, before throwing my last frame! But, deftly, I did so, and got a good solid 8 for my time. Sis finished it, not with a bang, but with a whimper, and missed.

I won! It must have been the first time I had beaten both of them at bowling! I demanded a print out, something to immortalise the event. Later, when I have found a properly sized one, I shall frame it and hang it on the wall.

Beyond that, we had a quick play of the arcade – my sister does love to play these games, but I was flushed with success, and may have sucked the excitement out of her, so we left quickly. Next, we were to go to Portsmouth, or Pompey, as us locals call it. We were to go to the Portsmouth FC shop (Pompey shop, in the vernacular).

I love Pompey. Not just the football team, but the city. I’ve only lived there briefly, or in the orbiting towns, in the first ten months of my life, yet it feels like a second home. It is My City. Mine. Not yours. You can’t have it. There are plenty of great cities in the world, and you can have them. But this one? Is Mine.

So, naturally, I got lost in it. To be fair, it wasn’t my fault. I don’t drive, I’ve no need, when I live in a town of moderate size, I can walk everywhere. So dad drove. Except, the night before, I had been asked to look up the opening times for the Pompey shop. Now, there are three Pompey shops in Pompey. One, in Frogmore road right next to the club grounds, one is a megastore (dedicated solely to the club) near the club grounds, and the other is in Cascades, the multi-store (it has many shops of varying type, and only one shop in it is for the club) in town. I was asked, quite clearly, to look up the opening time for Cascades. Yet my dad, for some reason, decided to go to Frogmore road. Why? I have no idea. But on our way there, we realised we weren’t on the same page, and quickly got lost. We turned, left, right, forward, backwards, every way under the sun – but we couldn’t use the sun as a guide because it was raining quite heavily – until we realised we were in Southsea, one of the orbiting towns. Following the signs to Portsmouth city centre, we were back on track.

Except the city has been redeveloped over the years, so that none of us knew where we were, recognised none of the roads, and had no idea where to go. At one point, we had left the city altogether, without realising it. Back in we went and found a landmark that Dad knew – a cemetery. No idea why he knew that cemetery, but I won’t complain. On familiar soil, we followed on to another familiar landmark, and another, until we found Frogmore road. It’s very pretty, though we couldn’t really see much. A quick look told us that it was all closed up. Until we realised the shop was opposite, and what we were looking at was the ticket office. Back we went. Reversing all the way, for the place was packed with parked cars, only to see it, too, was closed. Forward again. Dead end. Reverse (at which point, upon seeing the back-end of Fratton Park, I said ‘even the arse end is beautiful’). Turn around. Back the way we came. Luckily, we found another landmark, one we knew well, for we walk by it every time we go to a match. It was a group of three buildings, garishly painted. Vivid blues and oranges (google ‘etap hotel, Portsmouth’ and then enter google street maps and hover over the roundabout nearest to it, you’ll see what I mean.), and so we made our way to the megastore. Which was closed. Back the way we had been.

Now, at this point, it wasn’t so bad. We were in the heart of the place we knew well, so it was just a case of connecting mental dots from one landmark to the other, so soon we were opposite Cascades. Except we couldn’t get to it. We were at a crossroads (not speaking figuratively here) and the Cascades shopping centre was directly opposite us, but because of the new road system, we couldn’t go straight ahead. We had to go left. To another crossroads. Now, in hindsight, I guess it was obvious. I even had suspicions about what was wrong at that point, but as a non-driver, I trusted to the one who was doing the driving. Big mistake. Let me explain things to you. The direction we had come from had only one road. There was another, to the right of us, and that was the one which we wanted to get at, so we went into the right hand land of our road, to signify we wanted to go right. It made sense because all the other roads had double lanes for entry and exit, so we thought our road was one way only. As we sat there, waiting for the traffic light to go green, we were sure all we had to do was go right.

Except, when the light went green, the bus that was opposite us didn’t go left, or right, but straight at us. We were not in a one way street, but a little, lonely, two-way street. And we were in the wrong lane. Hastily we backed up, though our progress was hampered by another bus coming up behind us that blocked any attempt we made to get into the right lane. Soon, though, it disappeared, and we got out of oncoming traffic. To find out that we weren’t allowed to go right. But straight ahead. Bastards!

As we watched the exit we so desired disappear from sight, the ludicrousness of our situation began to seep in, and we laughed at every wrong turn, every one way street, every roundabout. the concept of the roundabout is very simple, and I just don’t understand those from countries without a roundabout system who don’t get it, but it becomes problematic when the roundabout you know very well has another road added to it, and so you first try to go down an exit only road, and then down the wrong one entirely, so that you’re ejaculated out of the city itself!

But not to worry because, again, this was an underpass we knew well, yet still we managed to go into the wrong exit! Luckily we (and I use the word ‘we’ quite wrongly) realised our mistake quickly, doubled back, and went back to the roundabout. The one that has the birthplace of Darwin next to it. See, I know my city very well. Or was it Dickens? Maybe I don’t know my city that well, after all. It’s just the jokers who think one way systems are good who are evil and mess things up. This time, we managed get the right exit, which brought cheers from sis and I, and made our way to the parking lot of Cascades. Except it was another one way system! So we had to go round the roundabout and go back the way we came, except on the other side of the road divider, park, and arrive safely at Cascades.

It’s a very nice place, is Cascades, with all manner of shops housed, but I’ll not talk about them. The Pompey shop housed all our needs. It had Pompey rubber ducks, Pompey pillows, Pompey lamp shades, Pompey flags, Pompey I’m with stupid shirts, Pompey dog bowls, Pompey garden gnomes. Yep, garden gnomes. And it was only through my sister’s ailment of embarrassment that we didn’t get one. I bought nothing, as this was a trip which only my sister had wanted, though she did make me hold the Pompey flag, both to save her embarrassment, and because she was worried about poking someone in the eye.

We were about to leave when sis spotted Game, the electronic games store, and desired to have a perusal in there. It was in there that I found something that I just had to have. Not so much that it was an amazing product, but mainly because it would, and did, cause my sister such grand embarrassment to be seen in public with it. I waltzed up to the counter, a stupid grin plastered on my face, bought it, and I could tell the tillsman clearly thought there was something wrong with me. There probably is, though in this instance it may have just been because I was buying this sort of toy, or because I was taking inordinate pleasure from such a transaction, but whatever. I held it proudly in my hand, as we walked around Cascades, beside my sister, who tried and failed to walk several paces behind me. She was happy to get back to the car, but even then I held it up to the window, her anguish not quite finished, until finally we came to country roads, and there was no one to show my new purchase to.

Arriving home, I was very grateful to sit down to spaghetti Bolognese – though it took a while to finish, in which time Dad beat me quite soundly at darts. Payback’s a bitch, I tell you – and, while I’m not a drinker, I was grateful for the tipple of wine in the spaghetti sauce. So much so that I had to have seconds. Not of the pasta, you understand, or of the meat, but just of the sauce. You understand…right?

Oh. Yes. You may have wondered just what this toy was, that became the torture device that I wielded so effectively against my sister. Well, here it is:

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