Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What We Leave Behind

Outside of the social media world there is a lot of love. I have my community circles that I live in outside of the world of social media, and they are some of the best people that I have ever known. When you get to know people, really know them, you discover more than just a voice. You can get a sense of a person’s honor and personality that you cannot get static posts on social media. A lot of this has to do with live interaction.

I have a feeling that the biggest problem social media has is there is no live interaction. Everything you post it is like crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it into a wastebasket. Tweets and Facebook posts are literally left over interactions. They have already been said, and inherently they are a statement of fact more than they are a form of live speech. With live speech you must listen, and you must judge someone else’s mood. You’re constantly going back and forth, and you can get a sense of someone else just by the pauses in replies.

I am typically a quick wit when it comes to online chat and people know that about me. Nowhere on social media would you ever know that about me because nobody really interacts with me. All of my posts on social media are just left behind thoughts, never really meant to be engaged with again beyond a simple statement of fact of what I believe. I am beginning to think that non-interactive social media is a dead medium of conversation.

And if all your social media posts are left behind ideas, they are inherently more combative and defensive than live chat. Whenever I post on social media my first thought is, I need to layer this idea in several layers of armor in order to protect this spot and to justify it. Yes it makes me more careful, but it inherently makes my words a bit more combative and defensive in nature. You go to a medium of limited length conversation, like Twitter, and there’s no difference between that and a digital battleground where people are using words to snipe at each other, and posts en masse to assault each other like some sort of primitive World War I battlefield.

Without live interaction you never get to know anyone.

Most of my interaction these days is done on my Discord server, where I can post little funny things, tell people how my day is going, share how I feel, and generally get to know people beyond the cold dead static posts that I share on Facebook or Twitter. I feel much more in community on Discord then I do anywhere else on social media.

I’m beginning to wonder if social media in its current form can survive. Even when you get to image-based conversations, such as Vine or Instagram you take the words out of the equation and you are left with pictures. With text, and no speech, I wonder if the natural inclination towards interactions isn’t somehow inherently biased towards conflict and confrontation. You post something, and it is more an invitation for people to attack you that it is an invitation for people to engage with you.

Just because people can.

With live conversations, you can readily identify the troublemakers and rabble-rousers easily. They stand out in a medium where the back-and-forth is a living, real-time thing. They can be kicked from the chat, and their tolerance for being in a peaceful and tolerant place is very low. A troublemaker has a natural inclination towards troublemaking, and it is rare to see one with a patience to engage of the community for more than a couple weeks before that inclination manifests itself and the community sees this person for who they really are.

With just text, I like to assume everyone is a good person. That assumption is often very wrong.

It is something I do not see a lot of in discussions nowadays, because I guess this sort of talk about social media isn’t click bait enough to earn a lot of money through outrage. No one can really sit down and discuss anything without tossing a flaming bag of poop into the conversation. Although I do wonder why the big social media companies are really having this discussion with their users. Or are they so stuck in the past they will become another MySpace or AOL, and the medium they use for their users to communicate becomes obsolete.

I get a lot more engagement and satisfaction from a live chat window with a smaller amount of people, then I do with Facebook or Twitter with tens of thousands of followers. That one platform means more to my life than the platforms with billions of users.

I suppose I can boil it down to one common feeling, quality over quantity.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Price of Online

I probably play more games than I should, but these are my escape and where I choose to share my time is where all my online friends are. I only play one at a time, and I don’t have that much time during the week to settle in and make progression at any of these. I have given up playing the casino – like game of progression in these videogames these days, it just takes too long and too much effort to be worth the nothing you get out of it. It is a virtual good that will disappear when the company folds and you’ll be left with only memories. I logon to socialize and that is about it.

I did try and honest run at endgame content. I feel that calling it “content” is sort of meaningless these days, everything is “content” and cut up into tiny bits and pieces and sold you piecemeal. News is content, games are content, information is content, and anything we consume like gruel is content. The word has become as meaningless as connectivity and almost every other Internet buzzword thing it’s overused and eventually becomes a synonym for anything remotely connected to the concept.

In the last 24 hours I have had a fellow player I know pass away, and another I know well fall seriously ill. These all seem like blood pressure and heart conditions, and it highlights the danger of gaming and gaming culture. I sit here in a strange place and wonder if online gaming is as dangerous as some sports used to be, like the deaths in auto racing, where the traumatic life – changing injuries in football. Those sports have gotten a lot better today, while our brave new world of online gaming and E – sports seem strangely more dangerous than real sports, if you can call computer gaming a sport.

I pay for my time in my chair. My doctor told me to work out every other day a minimum of 30 minutes and I have been doing that for the last year. I watch my salt and my cholesterol. I am losing weight. I am very happy with my new body and love how I look, although I need to buy new clothes every couple months, so I don’t buy many when I do.

I can’t sit in a chair forever, and if I do, I probably will not be long for this earth. It is just a fact of life, and a recognition that the human body is a machine that is not meant to sit still. We have legs and arms, we have powerful muscles, and our body craves strenuous physical activity. We are designed and have evolved to be moving and dynamic creatures of this planet. We are meant to be outside and not tied to a screen like some sort of electronic slave wasting their life away for the want of changing pixels.

And I sit here and see the same diseases that struck my friend down at such an early age strike other friends down from lives of beautiful prosperity and generous companionship. I see us almost as humanity wasting away in chairs. It is almost as if humanity itself were confined to some sort of twisted retirement home where all the staff did was sit patience in chairs all day, fed them, and put them to bed at night. It is a gross feeling of mistreatment I cannot shake, what we do to ourselves as human beings in pursuit of flat screens with flashing colors, addictive subroutines, and experiences engineered to turn us into digital addicts.

Yes, I know I am here, I choose to spend my time here, and this sort of activity puts me at risk as well. I know there are some people who cannot choose the misfortunes which befall upon them, and some that do not have a choice in being forced to sit all day. I know how easy it is to become locked in this world, as my job forces me to sit all day and I must get up at times just walk around just to move. And then some nights I am sitting for more hours in a day, some days up to 16 hours in a chair. I know it is not healthy, and I tried mitigated through my workouts and exercise routines.

I am thankful that I see this, and I can lessen the impact of this behavior on my body by trying to do at least some good for it. But as I see friends pass away and fall ill I wonder. I wonder.

It is a vision of how sad and lonely our civilization has become.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Hate Pays

If it wasn’t so damn easy to stop, I would keep writing every day. So here I go again.

I have had visions of the next project I want to do floating around my head. They come to me at odd times, during a walk, late at night, when I’m sitting there eating my dinner alone, or just anytime I let my mind wander and float upon the ether of my imagination. There are flashes of this story that come and go, and I don’t even know where I want to take it only that the characters are there, and the setting is starting to take shape. I suppose this shall float around in my subconscious until a flash of inspiration strikes and I am ready to tell the story.

I’ve also had other dreams and other flashes of stories that I want to write echo through my thoughts. Some of these I will save for this medium, others I shall tell in other elsewhere. They are all just a misty haze at this point as things come together and the synthesis begins.

I do not want to do multipart series anymore. There too much of a commitment, and if life happens you lose track in a big way. I am much more apt to release a novel between 60,000 and 120,000 words in one big release then I am parsing it out like everyone used to do in the old days. I just want to write single books these days. I know I have things left undone, and those will be gotten to in time. I have reread my unfinished series and I’m letting those thoughts float around my head to with these others. But in order to do those series justice I need to get back on my feet again. I can’t go into them cold.

I find that exercise and watching my health has improved my mood greatly. I don’t think I could go back to the old way of life at all, and I am very happy with my new body and my health. In times like these, your health is your wealth. Think about that. The more junk you eat, the more the invisible force of poverty and misery will drag you down. It is very hard for me to change my life, but I have. I have seen the alternative and I do not want that to be me.

See? My thoughts are still all over the place and random.

I suppose I should get over this and eventually be able to stick to a coherent thought and single frame of mind but it is going to take time. It is why I am finding it difficult to review these days. I did not realize it until I started really to dive back into this and write. If I can’t keep a single thought consistent and enduring in my mind how my supposed to read a book and keep multiple concepts and tracks in my mind straight when I am considering a work? The randomness of my thoughts now is difficult to work through, and it is a strange invisible form of stress that is purely distraction and an inability to focus.

I am improving by taking time out of my life and learning how to play music. I find that doing something totally unlike me, a hobby I’ve always been scared of, is actually helping me get my focus back. It is a long-term process, but one I will faithfully keep up and have set aside time to do regardless of what life throws at me. I go through my silly little piano lessons and struggle through it as a neophyte would, but I am happy with every little improvement. It is something I know I need to do, and something I have always wanted to do. Before I cannot I might as well.

That is really the secret to life. There are always those clichés that tell you, live in the now, just do it. You always dismiss those in your mind is marketing hype and commercial tropes. Once you realize the time you spend doing things, either for other people, or just for yourself, is an investment in you. It may not pay off tomorrow, but if you keep it up eventually some day you will be in a happier place than you are now. If there is one truth in this life it is that happiness can never be instantly granted. Happiness is something that takes place after a long road of sacrifice.

This is why I shy away from most video games these days. The people that know how to make slot machines and gambling addictive have got their dirty hands all over gaming. This is all engineered to be addictive, to affect those parts of the brain that shoot dopamine into your nervous system, get you hooked on an adrenaline rush, plate exciting sounds and flash colors in your eyes, and get you addicted to a fake life that will never last and was never there in the first place.

Don’t get me started either on games for children that let them use assault weapons on each other for play. I am not anti-gun, but I do believe that if children learn that conflict resolution is settled by the side with the bigger guns I feel there is a problem. There are certain things in this world, like sex, like self-defense, like alcohol, like voting, like civic responsibility, that are clearly for minds that have developed past a certain age. The problem with this is entertainment corporations like to keep their audiences thinking like children until they are 40 years old. I talked a long time ago about the joys of being an adult and having responsibilities. The world we live in today wants to keep us in a juvenile mindset forever without care or consequence what that does to our psyches.

People have to grow up. I’m not saying that you can’t enjoy something silly and simple every now and then. It is just I feel way too much of our culture worships toys. We live in a world where we can only see everything as toys. From political figures to our movies to our entertainment to what we see on television, everything seems like a toy these days. Everything is made to be as appealing as possible, Photoshopped to hell, the eyes oversized in expression, a snarky smile, with this attitude smirk pasted on their face, and the studio audience and laugh track ready to go.

And we wonder why online culture today is so focused on fighting each other. It is like one side says their toys are cooler than the others, somebody broke my toy, somebody stole the toy from me, I lost my toy, your toy sucks, and I hate that kid because he has the coolest toys. We live in a playground mentality. It infects our online interactions and politics. The news is entirely toy based coverage, like some strange 1980s war toy advertisement, but the images on our screen are of real life war and consequence. Political figures are painted like cartoon villains, on either side don’t get me started, and the righteous “good guys” are the only ones you should be rooting for. The ones on your side, of course.

And what really makes me feel ill is the fact that this syndrome is well known and manipulated by everyone that plays this game with us. I click on a news story by accident and I can clearly see the manipulation going on. Certain words are used to make you angry. They paint things in a certain light, almost like those 1980s cartoons that are just meant to sell you a toy line, when what we are talking about here are real adult issues and real adult matters. I see these click bait articles, and they disgust me because they treat me as if I were an idiot. Or maybe they’re just treating me as a child, because that is the extent of how they wish to interact with me.

This is why I don’t interact all that much on social media these days. Too many people fall for this shit. The mainstream news, either side, is as bad as the conspiracy sites; if not worse because they pretend they aren't doing it. I am not stupid. I see what you are doing. You are making your viewers angry and exploiting them. Come back tomorrow so we can get more fractional pennies off your rage and insecurity! Click, click, click. Millions of you, please share! Get angry and share even more!!! Nobody is on the high ground here. And way too many people get into these playground pick-a-side games of, “no it is mine!”

And the advertising agencies that pay people “money for clicks” encourage this behavior. Because why? Because we fall for it every time. Back when we had real advertisements, where Mad Men sat smoke-filled rooms and came up with Burma-Shave billboards we never had this. We never had this rage based marketing feeding money into hate. It is not the average person’s fault, as people are stupid, and I feel this is the fault of the people passing the money around and encouraging immature behavior and causing animosity because, “hate pays."

With every click of the right mouse button or tap on the phone we fall farther down this hole.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Echoes

In order to get back to where I want to be, I have made a commitment. I must do a little each day. It is a tough thing to do because without my reviews is hard finding something to write about. It is almost like therapy or weight loss in a way, where you must force yourself to stick to a regiment and a schedule of writing even if there’s nothing to do. This is also like music and learning how to play an instrument, you need to make a commitment to learn and put time into it so you can get through the basics and move on to the more advanced (and fun) stuff.

The reason I’m not ready to review is that I need to be able to feel. I need to have empathy for the writer for my reviews to be heartfelt and honest. I fear that I may gloss over the little things that I normally pick up upon because I’m a very empathetic person. I don’t want to short people that rely on me for not necessarily a service but as a voice, as a second opinion they can trust. I need to be able to feel again in order to feel what is being communicated in a story.

Death does that to you. It numbs your ability to feel because suddenly, the world comes crashing down and you don’t understand much anymore. The person that was there is now gone. Those feelings are now gone. They are replaced with the world full of hollowness and emptiness where if you think of your life like a book, character deaths only happen that the end, right? That is the end of the book when a major character dies. And then you realize you were the major character, and your story must find purpose and meaning in order to continue to the end of the book. The book that is yours now, for better or for worse.

If this were fiction everything would work out in the end, but this is in fiction and life is what you make of it. Imagine a story where someone is left to survive a tragedy, and the entire second half of the book is them wallowing in depression and despair. Nothing happens. There is no story past the middle of the book. You could’ve stopped reading there and it would’ve made any difference in the world.

That was me for a year.

Now I tried coming back here and there, sputtering telling myself that everything was okay. I tried to get back on that horse again and again, trying to tell myself that this one was the time that I would roar back in be there for everybody, that things would take off and I would find inspiration to do the things I want to do and live my dreams. Yet each one of those times I realized that those feelings were more a desire to go back then a real acceptance of moving forward. I just wanted to go back to those days and that feeling that I used to have that I do anything, and he would be there. And that boundless and limitless energy would bubble forth in everything would be great, and even if the project didn’t take off that the energy would sustain it and make it succeed just off the excitement alone. You know how those projects are where the creator is so excited that you get excited too.

And every time I tried to come back I failed, and I regressed back into that feeling that this wasn’t the time. That somehow I had lied to myself again and believed that my feelings alone and may desire not to be this way would somehow heal those wounds. And I was wrong. I was wrong time and time again. I had just been hearing echoes of the past, again and again trying to capture those with a hand to my ear listening as each future echo became more and more faint.

Sooner or later I couldn’t hear the echoes of the past anymore and I was left in a place alone.

This is a deeply lonely feeling, but it is also a deeply free feeling. When you cease to hear the past, you cease to idolize it. Your feelings no longer try and re-create it, and in a way, you become free from the chains of lying to yourself again. That somehow everything will be as it was again. You do not hear those echoes anymore, and you start listening to yourself.

It comes out and whispers at first. You can never hear them, but you can feel them. You start speaking to yourself and discovering a new part. I don’t know if anybody will understand this feeling at all, maybe if you lost someone that was very special close to that you may understand it. It takes time though to get over those memories and those echoes, and that desire to walk back into the past live how you used to live. But after a while you start to hear yourself. You start to see things differently, like how you view the world entirely changes.

You tend to see people who lie, for good reasons or bad reasons, in a whole new light. Because in a way you have been living a lie, trying to return to the past and salve over those feelings by telling yourself things can be the same when they’re not. I have a lot less tolerance for people who try to manipulate me these days, because essentially, I’ve been trying to manipulate myself through this entire healing process and it is only held me back.

I’ve stopped watching the news, and even commenting on anything political where the stupid crap that goes on social media that is all worthless shouting. I feel empty for having bought into the circus, on either side, or even telling people that participating is pointless. It is all just a sham, engineered to take your attention away, which in some ways monetized by online advertisers that are making our lives worse. And one of the worst parts of this situation is, we don’t even know who these online advertisers are. This invisible money flows around and feeds hate and discord through click bait and rage articles written just to get attention. We don’t know how it works, there’s no one to complain to, and there’s no way to stop it because there is a system in place that rewards anger and there is no way as consumers that we can boycott or even speak to who the hell is doing all this.

I suppose ultimately in the end social media is responsible. They are the ones feeding anger these days and making everything worse. And they censor shamelessly, and it gets even worse. I must point at the people signing the checks and passing the links around. I don’t have anyone else to blame other than the people providing a vehicle to the forces tearing us apart.

I remember the days when social media was relatively innocent. That I could start a discussion group on a topic I love and have everyone join it, and there would be no politics in it, and you could advertise there your own little books and sell and get fans. If you wrote mature content you wouldn’t be censored or confined to an adult dungeon, your links wouldn’t be automatically censored, you wouldn’t be removed from advertiser programs, and you could do your own thing and have your own little place that was happy.

Those days are gone forever.

And I have ceased hearing the echoes of those days as well. And I have begun hearing myself, again, in regard to social media and how I want to interact with that place. The whispers of voices of who I want to be and what I want to do are becoming a little clearer now. Because in a way I never really accepted the death of social media either, at least my view of how social media is important to me has passed away. For the longest time I wanted to sit here and bring back the old days, so that’s how I operated and interacted with my feeds.

And I realize that things aren’t the same today as they were back then.

And I get a newly familiar feeling again.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Subscriptions

I have all but pared down my current subscription services. Gone is DirecTV and also surprisingly Netflix, as I just did not have enough time in the day for that much television. The DirecTV people called me and asked me why I canceled. I told them I just had too much television to watch. I get Hulu free with Spotify, and I barely even watch that. I have a Roku with a couple hundred channels on there and I can tune into most anything I want to watch within seconds. For movies I have Amazon Prime and my DVD collection.

I just have too much to watch too much television. I couldn’t fathom watching a couple hundred channels when all I am really interested in are one and two programs.

I also found a couple niche streaming services for silly movies and softcore adult fare. The Full Moon Streaming service and the sister channel Erotic Movie House give me as many silly low-budget, late-night couples and horror movies as I could ever want. They are also filming 10 new movies this year so I choose to support their efforts and lift up independent film makers. If I’m going to watch anything serious or big-budget Hollywood I am going to do that on Amazon or a DVD, rent or buy.

I’ve also pared down some of my other entertainment subscriptions to just what I use. It is a bit liberating to start shedding these off, I subscribed to and à la carte game service that I never used, so I canceled that. There was a MMO I rarely played, so I canceled that. I felt this overwhelming sense of freedom with each service canceled, and I took back a little bit more of my free time with every account I closed.

I used some of the money I saved to subscribe to those niche services I mentioned previously, and also to update my Office 365 subscription so I could have a modern version of Word to use with my voice type dictation. This is a big help and it also gets me back into writing a lot easier than having to stumble over keys and I can also dictate while I am doing other things. It is just a huge quality of life improvement for me, and I have my voice type dictation profile trained so well it will type any word that I can say, even the nasty ones if I wish.

There are things in my life I simply do not have time for anymore. Often with a subscription service you feel the need to sit there and justify the money you paid, and it ends up taking up time that you would love to have for doing things that you really want to do. I was in this strange state of subscription fatigue, where I had so many choices available to me at any one time that I did not want to do any of them. I find the same thing happens to me with social media networks, the more of them I am subscribed to and have to maintain the less I do on each of them. It is a question of quality interaction versus quantity of interaction.

I am cutting out a lot of things in my life and trying to make time for writing which is what I’m doing now. I have so many words that need to get out, and so many things to say. I have sat silent for way too long, and my voice is an important one.

My head, on the other hand, is not where I would like it to be for me to start doing reviews again. I fear I would miss things, skip over important points, miss important plot developments, or loss over character development and that would be a huge disservice to the writers who come to me for feedback. I am not ready yet to start reviewing, but I am ready to start telling people what I feel. I am this strange, rare person who does this both for the community and for myself. To me, reviewing is a process of self-discovery and self-improvement, and it also lifts our community up with independent thought and feedback in a constructive manner.

You don’t get that very much on the Internet these days.

I want to get back to my main thought. Subscription services. They are in a way like voluntary sacrifices of our wealth and time, and we are promised something in return. We are promised entertainment, enlightenment, a service, or some sort of value for the money we pay for these virtual things. We are paying for access. I was in a place where I would collect subscriptions like bread ties in a junk drawer, and I never used all of them, nor ever got my money’s worth out of one of them.

Today I am in a better place because I am being discretionary and selective about both my interests, and my time. I have cut out a lot from my life, the things that I would love to do but will never do. It is not a defeatist attitude telling myself that I’m not good at something, it is more an attitude where I am telling myself I want to be good at the things that I truly love. I do not want the things that I kind of love to get in the way of what I really want to do.

There is a difference between defeatism and distractions.

My life has improved considerably when I started seriously considering what things in my life were distractions. I have time to be with you again. I have time to write. I have time to share my thoughts. I have time to read. I have more time for writing, which is what I love.

In a way, I have chosen to subscribe to you.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Goodbye and Hello

https://www.nme.com/photos/the-silver-tongue-of-dave-grohl-35-best-quotes-1414760

“When Kurt died I was lost. I was numb. The music I had devoted my life to had now betrayed me. I had no voice. I turned off the radio. I put away my drums. I couldn’t bear to hear someone else’s voice singing about pain, or joy.” - Keynote Speech at SXSW 2013 in Austin

This is my story.

Darthaniel Black is no longer with us. He passed away a year ago, and I all but stopped writing. It was a stroke. I was with him in his hospital room when he left this world. With his family. It was both heart-wrenching and an incredible honor for me as a person, and a testament to our enduring friendship and closeness.

So here I am.

I don't know what I am going to do, review, read, or what. I lost my review site and brought back a smaller version, but that has been sitting around as I pondered. He was just as much as E-Read as I was, and you may have seen him in many of my reviews and stories as my comic foil and straightman.

He was someone I read each review to before I posted them. My second ear. My bounce-person. Someone with a good sense of style and judgment who always had a great idea, or gave me another perspective that I did not consider.

But here I am. Dust-covered and crawling out of a pile of rubble. Broken, battered, bleeding, and bruised like some superhero in an action movie who just survived the impossible.

I am not invincible. I am imperfect. I am human.

And our weaknesses and imperfections make us beautiful.

I know I am going to write. I need to. This is my life.

What, I don't know.

~Sylvie