Generation Exchange

There comes a point I think, and I feel I am definitely close to that point, that you stop understanding new technology and just accept that it is possibly magic and maybe if it is either a good or a bad thing dependent on what it is and how it fits within your own warped world view. That does not mean that you do not use new technology; just that you do not really understand how it works any more. You kind of give up on trying to work it out and leave it to the young ones to do it for you. Certainly this is how I felt at the weekend as I was given an impromptu lesson in how to use my smartphone correctly (I thought I knew how to use the thing; I clearly was incorrect in my assumption) by a twelve year old. I was able to follow up to a point, but when he started talking about hacking into it to fundamentally change the settings I kind of gave up and began to have the same worries that lay behind ‘War Games’ in the 1980s. Hopefully the Defence super computers these days still play Tic Tac Toe.

For me, the eye opening thing is not that the kids understand this stuff, but the matter of fact way that they deal with it and the blank incomprehension that people like me do not get it. I think that it must have been the same when I was young, and certainly it was me who would program the video recorder and not my parents. What interests me is as the pace of technology development accelerates, which it certainly seems to do, is that being reflected in the way that we respond to it. Some twenty something friends of mine have confessed that even they cannot keep up with the pace of change for example. Which kind of makes me feel a little better I suppose and not quite as much of a Neanderthal; or at least that as one I am in good and numerous company.

I was able to exact some revenge, however, or since revenge is probably a little aggressive, recapture some credibility. Being able to have a detailed and informed discussion on the history of Batman and surrounding mythos proved to be a bridge across the thirty plus year gap between myself and my new IT consultant. Because simply put, I have had time to read and watch all that stuff over that lifetime and he is only just old enough to actually watch some of it. For once age wins. Or at least age gets to be on a level playing field. Because suddenly you can advise on which parts of Batman’s history to concentrate on (for example, Frank Miller) and warn the poor lad that, in the quest for more cinematic Bat fun he should, on no account, watch ‘Batman & Robin’ which I foolishly re-watched recently and was even worse than I remembered it (any movie where the best thing about it is Arnie’s terrible ice related one liners really needs to be consigned to the waste disposal; that said it is still not as bad as Highlander 2, the only movie I have ever seriously considered walking out of and which commits the dual sin of being both terrible and utterly pointless).

In the end, a happy conversation, where I get to learn something about the technology that seems to increasingly run parts of my life while discussing masked vigilantes. A proper adult/child exchanged I think.

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The Joys Of Spring?

Spring, apparently, has sprung. This is supposed to fill me with delight, although if I was honest I find this a time of trepidation in the garden as we see what has survived the winter and what has not, and the inevitable rigmarole of the mowing of the lawn; one of those things I have always been put off on doing since it was decreed that this chore particularly was mine as a child. One of those moments that you parents conspire against you as neither of them want to do it and walking the dog did not quite cut it as sufficient to earn pocket money. I hated doing it and still do, much as it is satisfying to look out on a nicely mown lawn as it makes the garden look neater no matter what else is going on in it. That is assuming that we can still call it a lawn; after some years of neglect – or I prefer letting nature take its course – the percentage of grass seems to have been reduced somewhat to a minority population among the mosses, wild flowers and various other invaders. Sometimes it is a shame to even mow it, and we do try and let the bees get at the clover flowers for at least a week so they are not totally wasted.

I am more delighted with the birds and the level of activity – a friend of mine complained when sleeping in our front room after a late night gaming session that the birds in hedge just outside the window were making a tremendous racket from very early in the morning (not something we notice as much as our bedroom is diagonally opposite). It was our local mob of sparrows, who we think might be nesting under the eaves of the house on the other side of the road but seem to spend a lot of time in our hedge during the day… and even more so since I have started a feeding station there. They are cheeky, lovely little birds, but they sure are noisy buggers. And this is from someone like me who is not at home in the house unless there is some noise in the background. I may have to take calls when working from home from a different room if they continue to generate the same level of noise.

But they make me smile, and goodness knows with the world as it is, sometimes you need to have that kind of thing, whether it is birds, small child antics, flowers, a good book, or in the last 24 hours Radio 2 presenters dancing to 1980s tunes for Comic Relief. It was an extraordinary silly thing and probably not on a par with swimming the channel or something, but I have to admit that every bit I saw made me grin and feel just a little happier with the universe; of course the 1980s are my formative music years too so that much of helped and at the time of writing it looks like 24 hours of endurance and nostalgia has generated the best part of a million pounds for good causes and I think that deserves a pat on the back for all concerned. Well done Sara Cox and if you wondering what I am going on about go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1Fqd8B8RcPCd3ZLL7CzFXDT/the-best-bits-from-sara-coxs-epic-danceathon  for some highlights (and if so possessed, consider donating).

Having A Laugh

Enjoying a smattering of snow (would not call it much else) here in Cincinnati, Ohio. Also enjoying being a mad Englishman wandering around in the cold dark early morning listening a recent birthday present, the BBC radio adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ and once more marvelling at how it is actually possible to make the Apocalypse genuinely funny.

 

Hells Angel:        “You’re Hell’s Angels, then? What chapter are you from?’
DEATH:                 ‘REVELATION. CHAPTER SIX.”

 

Well, it is isn’t really… It’s more the observations of people and things and how they might relate to such a thing being a very wise and sharply observed deconstruction of human nature at its best and worst. As Crowley the demon points out, nothing that the forces of Hell can come up with is a patch on the bad things we can do to each other.

I’m really looking forward to the new BBC TV adaptation after listening to Gaiman speak in London recently and talk about having written the scripts himself partly as tribute to Terry Pratchett, who died before he could give his approval; when you listen to someone talk that way, you can be fairly certain that whatever else, the script will be as good as it can be.

As with the likes of the ‘Life of Brian’ (for me the best thing the Pythons ever did) I am struck that sometimes the best way to think about some of the most serious subjects is humour. Yes, you can be offended, but it is a good thing to question and to take a step backwards from some subjects and actually use this amazing ability we have to actual think. Then if we step back or step further away from whatever ‘it’ is – and to be clear I am talking about anything someone might find a bit difficult, of which things I find many in the world – at least that movement is a conscious one. Humour provides a real gift here, and something I personally think is unique to us humans (although I have met plenty of cats who attitude seemed to drip with dry sarcasm). It is the sugar to coat the pill that we need to take if we want to be honest with ourselves, the sofa that we can hide behind to watch the monsters in a way that we would find difficult without its supposed protection. I know whenever I am embarrassed or unsure of myself I am most likely to try and hide behind some humour and I know I am not the only one. It is one of the least convincing part of many thrillers or horror movies for me is the lack of humour at the darkest points as that’s where I expect to find it if there was some kind of reality lurking there along with whatever ‘nasty is waiting patiently so it can have your heart’ (to quote Bucks Fizz. Incidentally, once you look at the lyrics of ‘Land of Make Believe’ in detail you realise just how dark and sinister that song is, and not just because you might hate that kind of eighties vocal pop).

I like my humour to have an edge and preferably a sharp one. But this kind of humour can easily cut and wound too, so I continue to admire those that can wield such a weapon with skill and panache and originality. They are to be treasured.

‘Look for the Code,’said Sir David

In a somewhat unusual moment for me last night – unusual due to the lucidity – Sir David Attenborough, dressed in trademark blue shirt and slacks, conspiratorially informed me to ‘look for the code’. He then, unfortunately for me – who would have much rather spent additional time with one of my greatest inspirations he then vanished in a bit of an Obi Wan fashion into the ether.

Obviously this was a dream. I do not usually remember dreams, unlike the Lovely Wife, and I have talked about them before because it is something I find endlessly fascinating, at the fictions our brains come up with while we sleep. In this case I can remember that what followed was what seemed like a long and convoluted mystery in some kind of secret research establishment/gothic mansion where a family was conducting mysterious – and almost certainly nefarious – experiments on something with something. The only detail was that some people were developing horrific lesions that at first I thought were some kind of disease but eventually realised were some kind of radiation burns. There must be a monster in there somewhere. I always love a good monster. I do not recall seeing it though, and they are the best and scariest kinds of monster.

Oh and I found the code, hidden away on a tiny sticker in mass of photos on a wall, a bit like the kind of sticker that you get on the back of a router with the password on it.

Annoyingly, I do not know why I needed the code or what I was supposed to/did with it, but if Sir David said it was important, then it must have been.

So I am going to make the assumption that I succeeded in my mission. After all, this is my brain’s story, it ends the way I want. Admittedly, this story was being ‘written’ unconsciously for an audience of one who largely forgets it later, but at least my brain is indulging in some creativity. I have not been able to translate that much in a conscious state recently.

I’ve been – and I appreciate what follows is a slightly strange thing to say – I’ve been reading about writing (mostly from people I admire very much and are far, far cleverer than I could ever be, such as Neil Gaiman). It is now a few years since I completed my Humanities degree and I have missed the creative writing that was a major part of it, knocking out one or two short stories a week at one point. I just have not seemed to be able to get back into the swing of things, which is sad for me as while hardly anyone read any of those stories, I found the act of creating them pretty satisfying in itself; like a picture you paint for your own pleasure or perhaps for you and a loved one, it is fun to create for the sake of creation, especially when you have the luxury of not having to rely on it being successful for a living and do it for your amusement. In particular I find going back to those stories in something of a state of surprise; aside form wincing at the naivety, poor turns of phrase and grammatical errors – proof reading, as any reader of these blog posts will know – is not my strong point – it was as though I was reading something someone else had written, not me. I suppose, being literal about it that is true. Some of these stories are now five years old, and the person who wrote them is five years older, and not quite the same. It reminds me of a comment someone made about a story I had struggled with finishing and where there had been a considerable gap before I knew where it was going. That comment was that it felt like two, different, half stories that had been sewn together (I have a sudden image of one of those Victorian fakes where a monkey’s body was sewn onto a fish’s tail to form an unlikely and ugly mermaid, although that could be because I am feeling a bit Gothic today or suddenly remembered the rather creepy short story about such a thing in my dog eared copy of ‘The Jon Pertwee Book of Monsters’ where of course the ugly looking thing… Well that would be telling). The comment was correct of course, if I was serious about it I should have gone back and revised the first part to fit in with the second.

I do not know if Sir David will appear in any future fiction (‘Animal Magic’ star Johnny Morris has appeared before, alongside one of my favourite heroines – the one that won’t take no for an answer and will be more than they say she will as a result – and a talking penguin that was a reincarnation of Jean Paul Sartre) but I wonder if I need to find the code that will allow me to unlock the current block and start having some more fun creating impossible lives.