The Anti-Social Paradox

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It’s always meme, meme, meme…

The decline of society, that’s what I want to discuss today.

Ok, that’s slightly dramatic. Perhaps not society as such, maybe just my immediate surroundings. And maybe not decline, but a steady persistent crumbling. And maybe not discuss so much as posture and pontificate wildly.

I’m acutely aware that I’m about to sound old, crotchety, reactionary and unfair. It’s also likely that most of my arguments will have more holes in them than a colander factory. I am a parent after all, and being exceptionally opinionated comes with the territory, as does being continually told that I’m wrong. Never the generational twain shall meet.

So first I’m going to briefly touch on the decline of the English language, or communication.

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Every time I browse social media, I am faced with some pre-populated sentiment haphazardly thrown into the public intermincer. A ground down fragment of homespun philosophy which has been ritually deconstructed into an insubstantial bastardised cyber burger. Fit for consumption, but lacking any real nutritional value.

People appear to be becoming more reliant on memes sporting pseudo-intellectual inspirational verse, inane catch phrases or buzz word morsels. Typically these are emblazoned over stunning sunsets, beautiful beach scenes or celebrities faces.

These are used uniformly in a bid to define the senders quirky personality and stamp their individuality, en masse. Incidentally, this must alarm the novelty t-shirt companies, as that’s been their gig for years.

No one can just write ‘I hate Mondays’ in their comment box and press send. That’s just way too much effort. We have become too lazy to write or express ourselves, now we’re content to trawl our newsfeeds in a frantic search to find a picture of a pissed off cat that’s just fallen head first into a toilet – overlayed with the message, I hate Mondays.

This might be overstating the obvious but, we all hate fucking Mondays, and we’ve all fallen into toilets.

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Disliking a weekday will never be an extension of who you are, or be a defining personality trait – it’s just a fact of life.

Imagine you actually believed that hating Mondays was the primary part of your psychological makeup, and it was your main criteria for dating – seeking likeminded person to share life with. Must hate Mondays. Anything else goes.

Mondays have been the skull festooned, blood-soaked, soul-sucking portal to the working week since the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. Get used to them. Mondays are here to stay until someone invents, and detonates, the uber-destructive Mondaybomb.

Just do what everyone else does as a coping mechanism; sit and scowl at everyone that passes your desk, toy menacingly with a letter opener and plot planet-wide genocide, or specifically targeted chaos.

At least up until lunchtime. A good sandwich experience can persuade you that everything isn’t quite so bad; and that Frank probably doesn’t need to be pushed down an open liftshaft, screaming in terror as he plummets.

I fear, in the not too distant future, we will all be communicating in farts, whistles and grunts.

We are destined to voluntarily evolve into mindless sharedrones; spewing out memes and animated gifs in an attempt to convey a message or sentiment that has long been forgotten.

After all: idle hands are social media’s bread and butter.

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…With You, You, YouTube

That brings me quite neatly to the whole YouTube phenomenon.

YouTube and its ease of access appeal is not a new concept, not by any stretch of the imagination. I have, of late, been witnessing, and attempting to understand, the disturbing trend and mystical allure of famous YouTubers and Tube Heroes.

On a daily basis, our children will dedicate a sizeable chunk of their day to watching other children, or ultra-enthusiastic teens, playing games and providing running commentary, opening blind bags, egging each other on in outlandish challenges, or producing jump cut visual fan fiction.

That might not sound strange, but this sub voyeuristic format has taken preference over budgeted, meticulously written, syndicated specifically designed entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong, my indie-screw-the-establishment nature is drawn like a moth towards the idealistic freeform candle of allowing uninhibited creativity expression to challenge the entire entertainment industry.

However, there is something sinister and a little speculative fiction about kids flopped on a couch watching other kids play – it’s like me watching some guy type numbers into a spreadsheet and sigh for 8 hours a day.

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I think the strangest trend is that we are now seeing action figures appear in pop culture gaming shops depicting famous YouTubers (Tube Heroes) who have risen to some baffling level of popularity and cult celebrity.

I dispute their claims to heroism. In medieval times a true hero was someone that could slay a dragon or stand up to a tyrannical king, in fact, to be more accurate, a true hero was someone that could challenge the mortality rate and  stay alive beyond the age of 30.

I’m going to lay even money that none of these so-called tube heroes would be able to slay a real dragon – not even close. They do however possess the ability to live to 60 and beyond due to advances in the field of medicine over the last few centuries.

Of course, silliness aside, their fame isn’t the issue.

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My main bone of contention is the companies that are adapting and evolving; finding ways to make money out of amateur documentary makers and the heroic Youtubers that can stick slugs up their nose. There’s a new insidious breed of rampant consumerism in town that is using children to advertise to other children.

My prediction is, that soon, we’ll see action figures of famous kids that open blind bags sitting on toy shop shelves beside the brand of blind bags that they open – all in some hideous snake eating its own tail, exploitative greedy advertiser eating shit paradox.

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Naturally I wonder how it all started, and where it will end.

Does the future hold being sneered at by our derisive despondent children, who can’t be bothered to get out of their hoverbeds?

And we’ll complain, as we often do – even though we bought the hoverbed. Well, they were touted as the pinnacle of human invention and ingenuity, and every home should have one. So how could we not?

Ironically, we are fuelling the hypocrisy by buying our little cherubs the latest devices – and then posting smarmy asides on social media bemoaning the fact that our kids aren’t outside whitewashing a neighbours fence, running away with hobos, and portraying a Huck Finn ideal.

The irony is that we’d be enraged if they did, as we’ve just spent $1,000,000.00 on their new hoverbed – so why aren’t they using it?

And anyway, being sullen, unhealthy, introverted and aspiring to be a Tube Hero is the new playing with worms in the dirt, learning valuable life lessons and enhancing your social skills through emotionally rewarding interaction, right?

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I Am A Cheese

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I don’t really have much to blog this week, so I have decided to pull a ridiculous parody of Dr Spencer Johnsons ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ from my personal archives.

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A Motivational and Inspirational Guide to Modern Business Ethics

 

Where Angels Fear to Treadmill

 

Imagine, for one second, that you are a tiny insignificant rodent in the feline world of the global economy.

The reality of the matter is, that’s exactly what you are. But, don’t be disheartened. With a pinch of positive thinking, a tablespoon of motivation and a soupcon of forward planning, you too could be licking your creamy paws while your colleagues are running the treadmill of obscurity on your behalf.

But, don’t be disheartened. With a pinch of positive thinking, a tablespoon of motivation and a soupcon of forward planning, you too could be licking your creamy paws while your colleagues are running the treadmill of obscurity on your behalf.

“How is this possible?” you ask.

So first, let me ask you:

Do you feel like a fish in wolves clothing; a sheep out of water, a snake in a china shop, an aardvark swimming amongst sharks, or any other animal/mammal that is ill-fitting in a situation?

If this is the case, you have already been beaten like a self-effacing egg pummeled into sorry submission by an enraged pastry chef.

So you want to know how to win?

Sure. I’ll tell you. The recipe for success is relatively simple. Think of it as a recipe for making a fine cheese.

 

To Brie or not to Brie?

 

You begin with the milk.

The milk signifies you, as an individual. You start this journey as a pure unspoiled fluid, untouched by human hand, unprocessed – effectively a dairy blank slate.

You start this journey as a pure unspoiled fluid, untouched by human hand, unprocessed – effectively a dairy blank slate.

Do not try to sell yourself to your superiors as yet.

In your current liquid state, you would simply run through any cracker of opportunity or dampen the bread of possibility.

In short, you are not yet prepared for the trials and tribulations ahead. You are a square peg attempting to fit into a round hole; a peg that is being banged repeatedly on the head by an amorphous hammer of indeterminate shape.

So now you can begin the next stage – Pasteurisation of your personality.

This can be achieved by bringing yourself to a metaphorical boil. This is not to be confused with a literal boil, as the human body is not designed to be heated at length in a giant pot. That might be fine for crustaceans, but this is all about cheese, so we’ll leave the shellfish out of it.

During this boiling process, you will begin to exude concepts, emit ideas and perspire inspiration. This will lead to damply developed plans; piquant proposals that you wish to implement once you reach the next stage: Fermentation.

 

The Grated Business Minds of our Time

 

By this point, you should have a clearer indication of the type of employee you are, and a working knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses.

Traditionally, within the cheese making cycle, you separate the curds from the whey. Just as in farming they separate the wheat from the chaff, and in business they separate free will from people.

So discard your weaker concepts of self, such as retaining individuality or identity, and embrace the remaining stronger amour propre. You are beginning to find your whey!

Beware.

You are still not in a position to march willy-nilly into the boardroom, waving your partially coagulated notions to the wind, and flaunting your semi-solid form.

You are too diffuse!

Although you can be spread, you are not yet a firm contender, and will not compliment the vintage claret of your immediate upper echelon.

 

Tasty – not hasty!

 

The final stage is fermentation.

You have reduced your previous regrettable form into half of its original mass, but at the same time you still need to mature.

You will be required to sit in a dark place for quite some time, and may even have to resort to covering yourself head to toe in wax. This will allow you to harden and for the formulation of your original thoughts to crystallize.

The perfect way to achieve this in the office environment is to offer to do some long overdue filing. Before you know it you will find yourself banished to a broom closet, furnished with a grubby filing cabinet, for an outrageously long period of time.

Your colleagues will thank you, but eye you suspiciously, as they know you are capable of so much more.

Little do they know that a chemical reaction is taking place within you. Your objectives are ripening; it is that ripening that will catapult you to the top and make you a cheese supreme!

 

3 Cheese – Chips, Dip, Hooray!

 

Once you have matured and hardened you are ready to present your essence for collective degustation.

Presentation, in this case, is everything. So be acutely aware of how you plate yourself up to the board.

I would suggest a modest rustic platter, with perhaps a sprig of parsley or thyme, a generous slice of your very being and a cheeky glass of mildly fruity Italian red to wash you down.

I guarantee that you will not fail to impress, your intended audience will find your innovative ways and fresh approach easy to digest, and will devour you with gusto.

Congratulations!

You have now entered the digestive tract of corporate life and are slowly moving towards the bowels of the business world.

 

The Versatile Blogger Award!

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I greatly appreciate Mliae from lifeexperimentblog for nominating me for the versatile blogger award!

I have not been on the blogging scene for very long, but am grateful for the support, and to know that someone out there may actually be reading some of this.

I am new to the whole being recognised thing, and will do my best to avoid thanking a variety of low-level deities and high-level family members that may, or may not, have contributed to my current unenviable level of obscurity. I’d definitely like to thank the academy, I’m not sure which academy, but I’ll thank them anyway.

*Sniff sniff*. Tissue, please.

But seriously, I like the idea of passing a simple token of recognition on and using it as an icebreaker of sorts. Appreciation is greatly overlooked at times, as is civility. So, whoever made my list, you deserve it.

This is about as inspirational, aspirational or motivational as I get today, now please move along.

But before you do, here’s your mission if you choose in your infinite grace to accept it:

The rules are simple:

  1. Thank the person that nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  2. Nominate at least 15 bloggers of your choice. When considering a fellow blogger for the Versatile Blogger Award, keep in mind the quality of their writing, the uniqueness of their subject matter and the level of love displayed on the virtual page.
  3. Link your nominees and let them know about their nomination.
  4. Share seven facts about yourself.

7 Facts about me:

  1. I am getting married on an island this year.
  2. My favourite author is Kurt Vonnegut
  3. I recently took my very first flying lesson.
  4. I am currently reading and enjoying ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline
  5. I am utterly terrified of the potential consequences that would befall humanity if marzipan and celery decided to have offspring.
  6. I don’t always write from the heart, sometimes I write from my feet.
  7. I have shaken the hand of Sean Connery, but didn’t stir it.

My versatile nominees!:

  1. Saudade Vampire
  2. The Caffeinated Writer
  3. Some Kind of Blog
  4. World of Horror
  5. scribblesofstageandscreen
  6. LordOfTheReeves
  7. yourdaughtersbookshelf
  8. The Drabble
  9. Unbolt
  10. globalbookmania
  11. The Brown Road Chronicles
  12. Lovecraftian Science
  13. Flash! Friday
  14. Brilliant Flash Fiction
  15. amusing2write’s Blog

I wish all of my nominees a happy Friday, and a productive weekend ahead.

Thanks for taking the time to take the time.

Alex.

Foods for Thoughts

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Towards the end of last year, in some minor lapse of sanity, I joined the burgeoning ranks of the sugar-free hordes.

Essentially, I sacrificed sugar in favour of spice and all things nice to appease the God of new age fad diets. This was mostly as the result of watching the documentary style ‘That Sugar Film‘ which led me to the inevitable conclusion that I should really stop watching documentaries.

I’m sure that during the course of this year I will somehow be convinced or coerced into the squirrel diet; a diet that will primarily consist of eating nuts that I’ve buried or hidden up a tree.  Or the NASA approved astronaut diet, where I only eat foods that weightlessly float around our kitchen waiting to be caught.

The point that I’m making, with no degree of subtlety, is that there is no lite (and easy) at the end of the dieting fad tunnel. Whether it’s the puritanical raw diet, or the archaeological Paleolithic (caveman) diet, I think it’ll all come to a natural dietary devolution that consists of starvation in a dark, dank cave while weeping in the general direction of a delicious looking chocolate cake.

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Personally, I embarked on the sugar-free path to better my eating habits, not as a weight loss regime. I decided to be kinder to my body by making my brain miserable, and the way that I believed that to be possible was by avoiding processed foods, well, as much as was bearable. Of course, trying to avoid processed foods is like trying to avoid breathing air.

I won’t say that it’s not difficult at times, of course it is. Occasionally the simple act of choosing from a menu in a restaurant is akin to a self-administered psychological evaluation; an evaluation that you will fail if your eyes accidentally stray to the dessert menu. And lord forbid that you actually order from it. The guilt, shame and remorse will make you rise from the table, apologise to everyone in the restaurant and voluntarily admit yourself to the closest mental institution before the waiter arrives with your sticky date pudding.

My other drawback with attempting to stay healthy is my Scottish heritage. I am a typical Scot from the very bottom of my greasy heart to the tip of my hedonistic appetite and poor eating habits.

Regrettably, I come from a culinary background that advocates the deep frying of absolutely everything.

I’m sure that most Scots wouldn’t jump on the fad diet bandwagon, but would prefer to deep fry it instead, including the horse that pulls it. Case in point: I used to eat deep fried pizza from our local fish and chip shop. I kid you not. Only the inventive Scots could take a semi-unhealthy foodstuff and, in a Machiavellian masterstroke, double its potential to completely destroy your internal organs. I presume that there were too many vitamins and minerals still present in the pizza, and any potential health benefits could only be rendered utterly ineffective by immersion in hot oil.

Even reminiscing about it now my arteries start to spasm in disgust, collapsing in upon themselves in violent protest or a defiant final act of self-defence.

I was amused recently to see that Black Pudding has been added to the illustrious and morally superior list of Superfoods. I can only assume that this terminology originated from a follower of Nietzsche as a sub-philosophical way of dividing the excessively delicious wheat from the inferior unpalatable chaff.

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Another thing that I want to touch on is the price of some of these Superfoods and specialised diets.

I do love Paleo foods, but I’ve no idea how the cavemen could have afforded it. Not on Fred Flintstones salary anyway, maybe if you were his boss, Mr Slate. Poor Fred would have been restricted to his cheap McCain Bronto burgers and other pre-packaged and processed delights. My other Paleo question is how did the European stone age society get their hands on so much coconut milk?

I love the fact that there is so much choice, but all of these strange grains, berries and vegetables have started to appear on our supermarket shelves. Quinoa, chia, acai and goji berries, to name a few. Prior to approximately 2 years ago, I had no idea what any of these foods were.

To have a good diet and eat well is becoming a more expensive pursuit, and recipes are becoming more elaborate and outlandish. Increasingly dishes are being made from exotic ingredients, found solely behind a mysterious wall of mist in your local supermarket, the one that fills you with an uneasy sense of foreboding and terrifies you to your very socks. The whole paradox is that processed food is by far the cheaper alternative, and can be found in freezers or on shelves that exist in this dimensional plane. They are without a doubt the more accessible, acceptable and less spooky option.

You know that you are the victim of food snobbery or kitchen elitism when your free-range French vanilla chicken storms off of your plate in abject horror, as it won’t be associated with simple carrots or humble cabbage, and will only return if it’s accompanied by a superfood such as kale, quinoa and perhaps some mashed raspberries on the side.

It all goes to show, we are what we eat: A handful of chemical compounds held together by an indomitable will to exist.

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Drabbles and babbles.

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As the shabby chic door of the past slams shut on 2015, yes I know, that was so last week – the newly painted doors of fresh opportunity open on 2016.

I have used the image of a typewriter to illustrate that I have been engaged in the noble pursuit of writing.

A more accurate account of the writing process would be a bedraggled partially pyjama’d miscreant slumped over a laptop weeping and pouring coffee into their ear. But unfortunately, I couldn’t find any pictures to represent that.

I have quite clearly not been very active on the blogging front, mostly due to the festive season and the inevitable distractions (damn that insidious duck), I have however turned my semi-idle hands to flash fiction: in particular, the 100-word long drabble.

Yes, I was equally shocked and surprised to learn that drabble is the correct term, it sounds like the collective noun for unruly drunk Scotsmen.

I am not sure how many of you have given this a try, but from my perspective, there is a certain allure to working within the restrictive confines of a strict 100-word format. It certainly gets you to conform to the brutality of a succinct writing style and, as a consequence forces clarity in conveying your message. At least, that’s the fun of it.

So what have I found out during this?

As of now I have joined two sites dedicated to the 100 word short story.

1. 100 Word Story

The whole is a part and the part is a whole. The 100-word format forces the writer to question each word, to reckon with Flaubert’s mot juste in a way that even most flash fiction doesn’t. At the same time the brevity of the form allows the writer “to keep a story free from explanation,” as Walter Benjamin wrote.

This is the first site that I found whilst searching specifically for anywhere that would showcase 100-word fiction.

There is a very useful photo prompt section where, on a monthly basis, a random photo is displayed as inspiration for narrative. This is the section that I have been making the most of as, lord knows, we all need a little inspiration at times.

You can freely submit your piece in the comments section at the bottom of the page, and there appears to be no restriction on the amount of content that you can submit (you must adhere to the 100-word format, however).

I have also noted with interest that, in the short period of time I have been a member, there appears to be quite a number of submissions which implies that there is an active audience.

100 Word Story also post some interesting articles celebrating and promoting the flash fiction genre, such as this article from Lit Hub: A Crash Course in Flash Fiction.

As an extra incentive, every month the best story is chosen to be featured in the next issue.

If this is of any interest to you I would strongly urge you to submit something. Who knows, it may even get featured on the site.

2. Drablr

Drablr is a real-time self-publishing platform connecting readers and authors.

At the heart of Drablr are works of flash-fiction called Drabbles. Each Drabble is exactly 100 words long, but don’t let the small size fool you, authors are clever folk and can express great ideas in just a few words.

To be honest, I have only joined the Drablr family today, and as such can’t really give it the attention that it deserves.

From first impressions, Drablr appears to be very simple and intuitive to use. Much like 100 Words – it is free to join and submit your work.

My initial step was to create a profile under the ME section. I knew some stuff about ME, so this was relatively simple to populate.

Once you have created your profile you can submit your first Drabble.

Again, Drablr appears to have an active community, and as such your hard work will be seen – and rated. The rating comes via a voting system to keep track of just how (un)popular you are becoming.

It looks as though the Discover section is Drablr’s bread and butter. As with most sites of this nature, participation is the key. The more participants that you follow, vote for and comment upon, the more likely they will be to reciprocate.

I have not had much of a chance to test this theory, as previously mentioned, this is my first day as a contributor.

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In closing, I would love to hear from anyone who may have advice, or who has any information on similar sites.

I am also extremely keen to hear of your trials and tribulations if you have, as a direct result of reading this blog, taken some positive action to submit a cheeky 100-word vignette to either of the aforementioned sites.

And as for me? I may, in future, branch out with my flash fiction and write something with 101 words – I know it’s a massive stretch of the imagination, but I am sure that I am equal to the task.