Subtlety and Fuckery.

So, I – like countless others it seems – was drawn in by the pithy title of Mark Manson’s recent literary offering and found myself working through ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F@*k’. Now up front I must admit that I have exactly no previous or other contemporaneous experiences with Manson’s blog or other works – so my broader contextual knowledge of the author is lacking. The intent of this piece is to be somewhat of a ‘hot take’ on how I experienced the book, because I have mentioned it to several friends and co-workers who have all asked me for my opinion as they: ‘Keep hearing that that one is good’ and ‘Should get around to reading it someday’. So, I thought hey – I have a blog and a semi-review, semi ramble through my experience of the book, in a mostly spoiler free manner, definitely fits my style and tone. So why not save myself some time giving this opinion out on repeat to all my different circles of friends over the next few weeks and commit it to binary.

Like many of the books I ingest I took Manson’s text in through my ears – god bless Audible and saving me from literally hours of monotonous driving a week. A quick completely non-spon aside here, if somehow you still haven’t trued audiobooks, or at least podcasts, just do. They will change how you view downtime and chores forever. Anyway; Manson didn’t narrate his own book in this instance, which I found a strange choice…. Many bigger, presumably busier author’s do these days – I have found it to be the standard, rather than the exception, so the fact that I was left with an, admittedly excellent, interpretation rather than the complete experience of the author’s intent and definitive tone, was a touch saddening. But that is a risk of the format and apart from leaving me with several unanswered ‘why’ questions, this didn’t impact my ‘reading’ at all. As I have suggested the narrator (Roger Wayne) was fantastic, I found his dry tome to be wholly suited to the text.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@*k can be broadly split into 2 halves. The first is filled with punchy almost syllogistic ‘subtleties’ and the second is more fully fleshed out and so invariably contains far less sexy arguments from personal experience on the part of Manson.  I must admit I have a vivid recollection from the initial chapters of the book. I was sitting at a set of lights (on Toombul road of all places) listening to Manson (Wayne) wax lyrical about how we should divest ourselves of all fucks and there is nothing that is really worthy of our completely disparate supply of these precious little fuckers…. “NIHILIST” the accusation burst forth from me. Dirty filthy good for nothing Nihilist! Peddling his dreary, melancholy philosophy as self-help and getting paid to do it. My guard was raised – this man was trying to corrupt my beautiful existentialism with his honeyed words of darkness – I was sure of it. But given that I had spent this month’s Audible credit on this book (and that I am a completionist and also far too lazy to swap books with any degree of regularity) I pressed on.

As the book progressed and Manson fleshed out his personal story and how he came to develop his subtle position, I began to once again relax my intellectual guard. This book was the work of a man who had known failure and betrayal first hand – who was lazy, self-piteous and self-indulgent in all the ways that I find loathsome in myself. When I have the introspective energy to spot the beasts lounging around in my psyche and putrefying the place. As I delved deeper into the world according to Mike Manson, I found myself not only seeing the subtle differentiation of Mark’s position from that of those stinking Nihilists I had been so quick to throw him in with earlier in the text. But I was also thoroughly taken with the particularly accessible and earthy manner in which Manson had constructed not only his book, but also his thought. To be just a touch more specific; Manson’s bruises can be seen in every ‘page’ of this book. The hard-won nature of his wisdom can actually be felt. There is conviction, passion and sometimes even vitriol in his words and that cannot be faked – at least not to someone who writes a nothing blog in the middle of nowhere on the internet to rid himself of surplus conviction, passion and sometimes vitriol. That was what drew me to the end of The Subtle Art – not so much a desire to fully flesh out Mark’s particular little slice of dark existentialism – but rather a feeling of kinship with someone who wanted his life and his pain to be something more than what they might otherwise be if left unexamined and untold.

The greatest strength of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@*k is that it and its author have honestly seen enough of the rougher side of life and don’t feel like watching you beat your head on the same old rocks. Despite having a start that might require some readers to steel themselves in order to get to the better meatier centre of the book – the journey is thoroughly worth taking – The Subtle Art is a charming and deeply relatable book that does deserves your time and one or two of your most precious resource -your fucks.




Retributive justice and its discontents.

So, disclaimer; this was written as a hot take at about 3 in the afternoon on International Women’s Day. I am aware that at the time of publishing – it is not, in fact, still IWD. 


Today is a great day, today is International Women’s Day. Today is a celebration of the continued movement for the equalisation of the playing field between the sexes around the world. At least that is what today is supposed to be. Unfortunately, there are elements within professional well-intentioned organisations that subvert and destroy this outcome. These elements, through a continued misunderstanding of what it is to be a feminist, fight for a retributive system of justice to be enforced upon the patriarchy that has held them back for so long. I ran into this in my own professional sphere this week and it so deeply disquieted me that I was moved to putting this piece together – oh well, I’ll get around to talking about Residual Self Image next week it seems.

In any case, I was putting together a guest list for a high level IWD event to be held in Brisbane earlier this week and canvasing my workplace for attendees – I approached one of the members of my team and we exchanged the obligatory jokes about the touchy nature of the event for some and I relayed that I had been brutally shot down by my boss last year when I tried to organise a similar event for International Men’s Day. The response I got from this person honestly shocked me “It’s what you deserve after being blessed by the patriarchy for so long”. I was stunned – surely this was a joke this person was intelligent, funny and charming, surely, they couldn’t hold such a troglodytic view of the world? “Surely you can’t honestly believe that retributive justice will solve the equality issues that we are facing?”  I asked. “Men need to be brought down a few pegs in order for Women to achieve equality”. At this point I politely made some noncommittal sounds and prefabricated phrases to extricate myself from the conversation before I got fired up and made an ass of myself in the workplace, particularly to someone who was more senior than myself.

This isn’t the first time I have run across this opinion in Australian popular culture or even within my own organisation and I can’t sit back and say nothing anymore. Now very explicitly, I am not trying to take a single thing away from IWD or the associated feminist/ egalitarian movement. I am trying to draw attention to fringe elements of the movement that have the potential to significantly hinder the continued progress of gender equality through poison and malice.

With that in mind – Broadly speaking as a society we expect that our laws mirror the values of the society that has constituted them. In Australia, we have a preventative / rehabilitative view on justice, the intent of punishment enforced by law is to prevent harm to the broader social group and try to rehabilitate members of our society that have lost their way, wherever and whenever we can manage it. The intent is not actually to punish unnecessarily, so it shocks me to find that on social issues such as gender equality there are elements that seem to ignore this broad social contract and attempt to bring about equality in this ‘zero-sum’ fashion. Now I am not so naive as to think that there aren’t elements within both the left and right spheres of political and cultural discourse that would implement retributive justice into law if they could (bring back the death penalty for instance – the ultimate expression of such justice). However, I am certainly convinced that the so called ‘feminists’ who push for retributive justice to be enacted upon men in order to level the playing field would cry out with a vengeance if such systems of justice became the social and legal norm.

My key point of contention with retributive justice is that it brings about a new injury for someone with every implementation. Every time someone is punished in kind for a slight it breeds a new source of resentment and suffering. We see this, not only in domestic laws but also in international humanitarian laws and the laws of armed conflict. Globally we agree that ‘an eye for and eye’ – does, in fact, leave the whole world blind. We simply cannot continue to allow fringe elements within the push for gender equality to continue to undermine the whole movement trough such narrow minded and destructive means as retributive justice. Not only are they hurting others, these people are hurting themselves by holding on to outdated and outmoded ideas that can only result in a cycle of dominance and suppression between the genders maintained rather than eliminated.

Instead of pushing the ‘mighty’ off their thrones, we ought to build new thrones for ourselves. The arguments that continue to rage about equality of opportunity vs equality of outcome aren’t going to go away any time soon – there is still far too much hurt left in people’s hearts, globally, for that. All I can do is ask you, my readers, to follow the golden rule – Do unto others… It honestly is the only way we will ever see true equality and true intellectual, spiritual and emotional peace between the genders in this world. One of the best ways I have ever seen this put forward was by The Doctor. The key is to forgive people, to forgive and let people know that they can build a future with you, together. That is what I ask of you all – the next time you catch yourself or a friend/loved one decrying ‘The Patriarchy’ or admonishing ‘Feminazis’ stop, and remember that in the ideological space that gender inhabits, words are bullets and they are continuing to fuel the cycle of ‘violence’ raging across the globe. Don’t let yourself be an unwitting solider in a war that you don’t want to fight.

In Defence of Games.

Recently I picked up a new Nintendo Switch for my Birthday and with it The Legend of Zelda; Breath of the Wild.  Now Zelda is a franchise that I go way back with – it is a franchise that will sell me a platform, I have bought 2 separate Nintendo portables in my years to play just 1 Zelda title. So, needless to say I have wanted to pump a great many hours into the experience. It brought up a discussion between my partner and I that pops up from time to time. My partner has playfully teased me on several occasions – almost always when a new Hearthstone expansion is released and/or when I get a title I have been waiting months for (I’m looking at you Complete Edition of Horizon; Zero Dawn) – about being ‘Addicted’ to this title or that and it has always stung just a little. This is an issue I have dealt with at several points throughout my life and I wanted to take the time to look at my own experiences with the darker side of game addiction and why it isn’t all bad.

Now up front – by in large I have a complex relationship with the terminology ‘game addiction’. It is not so much that I think it does not exist, I have spent enough time logged into World of Warcraft in my life for that argument to hold exactly no water with anyone who knows me. Rather the majority of my issues with the term arise from it’s over use and incorrect usage by people, generally not gamers themselves, to describe the specific type of fascination that is displayed by people engaged in gaming.

Games have always striven to be ‘immersive’, it is a term that has existed as the gold standard within the industry for decades. Little by little games, broadly, have achieved this goal. It used to be that only the truly extraordinary games could achieve immersion through a suspension of disbelief in the player. But now as technology has advanced the bar has dropped in terms of the technical prowess required to create a truly engaging simulation. On top of this the industry has matured and developed its own internal lexicon of systems and shorthand and the general gaming public become more and more ‘literate’ in these systems thus it takes less time to convince a player to ‘buy-in’ to these systems. All of these factors combine and create an environment where the median game is capable of being enthralling if only a limited capacity and the best the media can offer are truly inspiring masterpieces. It is this that I am referring to when I describe a ‘specific type of fascination displayed by people engaged in gaming’ the product of decades of research and development in order to grab a player’s attention resulting in an experience that demands total attention.

A number of years ago now I saw this amazing video from James Portnow; one of the lead forces behind the excellent YouTube Chanel Extra Credits – definitely go check them out when you are done here. The video was the end to a multi part episode on Game Addiction and it is an absolutely heart wrenching 25 minutes for anyone who has ever gone through similar experiences but it is 100% worth the watch.  The moist poignant point that Portnow raises in the piece, at least in my estimation, is that “The world will always welcome you back [from game addiction] – It will reward you for applying the types of behaviours that games train into you”. This is the thing that I am not sure many people see or can understand just yet, video games are still such a young media by compassion to even film, let alone the other visual arts. The type of focus, analysis and understanding of systems, and more importantly systems of systems, that games can engender in players is truly and remarkably invaluable in today’s society.

As our organisations become increasingly managed and complex it is important that we employ people who can navigate the layers of guidance and policy and understand how key systems of management and leadership interact to create corporate direction. Games are amazing teachers of exactly this. Understanding that the weather simulation system in a game directly effects a number of other key systems such as travel, combat and crafting teaches people to look for systems that interact with one another. In addition to this the type of patience that ‘grinding’ takes is an excellent way to render oneself rather immune to boredom from conducting repetitive tasks; or at the very least a key demonstration of just how willing one might be to conduct such tasks if the outcome is desirable enough.

In addition to this there is the type of ‘head fake’ learning that Randy Pausch talks about in his famous last lecture. Learning when you don’t think you are. Developers use common elements of history and myth and religion to form the basis for many of their settings and this type of information can spark interest in people. One doesn’t need to look far at all to see this exact phenomenon in the Assassin’s creed franchise, whose recreations of locales like Rome and Venice are so good you can actually navigate the modern day by having played the games.

Now I am not suggesting that going through an addictive phase with a game is required in order to reap these benefits, certainly I would urge everyone to live a balanced lifestyle after years of imbalance in my own. However; I am saying that the type of engagement that games ask of their players does not go unrewarded –  the peripheral learning opportunities are vast. Despite asking a fairly totalised for of attention during play, games give back in many forms not just entertaining but training and educating all at once.

Human-ness is next to Godliness.

Earlier this week a particularly wily friend of mine sent me a link to a short story by Andy Wier titled ‘The Egg’. Now I swear to you that the story is:

  • Eminently worth reading
  • Insanely short
  • Entirely necessary to understand the rest of this post.

So I want to spend the rest of this post semi-reviewing semi discussing The Egg.

First up – I absolutely adore this story. I am awed by how well it carries itself – it constructs an entire universe of possibility through a few scant lines of dialogue. Not merely in the fashion of the two-sentence creepy pasta but rather through a quick-witted back and forth between the man and God. Weir manages to build what could basically serve as the foundation for an entirely new subset of Christianity (if it doesn’t already exist). The story opens a mental door and then…poof. Done. Finito. The Egg knows 100% what it is about and once it has fulfilled its role – it strolls off over the horizon to awaken another person.

And awakening is exactly what the story does to those who read it. I was gobsmacked by how well those few unassuming lines fit into the far grander and universal narrative that philosophy and mythology have been constructing in my head for the last 2 years.  Firstly, The Egg gels with the fundamental Christian creation story. In Genesis when Adam eats the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge he becomes aware, not only of everything there is in the world – but of himself. He literally becomes self-aware, or self-conscious for the first time. Now for those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with their Christian mythology God doesn’t actually notice Adam and Eve eating the fruit in real time (or maybe he does and chooses not to act on it – but that is a debate for later). God only ‘finds out’ about Adam’s transgression when he enters Eden for his evening stroll with Adam, and finds Adam hiding from him in a bush – claiming he is not worthy to walk beside god in his state of nakedness. Soren Kierkegaard calls this ‘the birth of anxiety’.

Kierkegaard says that anxiety is created from the knowledge that the self is capable of an infinite number of possibilities. It is this anxiety we see Wier capture so perfectly in The Egg – man even when confronted with the entire possibility of time and existence and the knowledge he is fundamentally a God in his own right – balks, cannot accept his true nature – he must pay his penance and repeat his cycle. Depending on how positively or negatively you choose to read The Egg it is entirely possible to see this as an endless and inescapable loop – Man will never achieve his full potential, this being the curse of ‘The Fall’ to see the future, to see possibility and endlessly work and pay penance on the way to achieving that future – as Jehovah decreed in Geneses. The idea that ‘man’ is tied inexorably to the unwinnable battle to return to the state of grace – to return to innocence is one that has been explored countless times. The fact that Weir can so subtly imply it in this story with the mere line referencing living all of human history ever – surely a feat taking all of time itself – is genius.

It is also equally possible to read The Egg 180 degrees the other way and see the possibility that God is describing the inevitability of ascension to deific status.  Equally intriguing is the possibility implied by the story that this ascension is contingent on realising and accepting the universality of humanity under the model described in The Egg. If all men are really a mere manifestation of the single God-Foetus spun out endlessly across history interacting and living their lives towards ascension then the fundamental punishment of Adam in the fall is entirely fruitless. Self-consciousness and anxiety require an outside source of observation – Adam is only ashamed when he understands himself to observed either by Eve or by God. If, as Weir postulates in The Egg, there is no ‘other’ to observe the ‘God-Foetus’ anxiety is unnecessary, a figment of the illusion of multiplicity and the realisation of this fact may be the unstated key to solving Weirs puzzle.  As Nietzche said; “What is the seal of liberation? To no longer be ashamed in front of oneself”.

I adore this later reading – though I must admit the former darker reading does also strike a fancy with me – this concept that by overcoming that singular fear, the unstated darkness at the heart of each of us, self-doubt we might achieve something akin to deification is truly inspiring. It accords so closely with the best works of Camus, de Beauvoir and DeBotton in the call to action for each of us – to look inward and conquer the real challenges we face. The understanding that it is only ourselves holding us back. We are each our own egg, do not let self-doubt, self-consciousness and anxiety stop you from hatching.

Problems in a Galaxy Far Far Away… Gallifrey!

Toxic masculinity is a concept that has been gaining increasing attention over the last few years in pop culture analysis and political commentary. With the rise in global illiberalism reaching record highs in the form of BREXIT and President Trump, the issue of Toxic masculinity seems rather central to understanding the current state of things.

Our world is currently suffering under the weight of too many men and boys having been raised to strictly follow the Apollonian virtues, and consequently an Apollonian model of masculinity. We have raised these men to seek might, and conquer every challenge that stands before them through strength, grit and determination. These ideals leave no room for men to express their emotions, no room for men to quietly contemplate how they might develop themselves more fully.  Conversely, we have routinely mocked the Dionysian man. More specifically, mocked him as a role model for the masses. We accept that some fringe, artistic and dangerous men that transgress social and gender norms bring us fantastic art and music. But we do not allow them into positions of power or true authority in our cultures. These men are too weak, too effeminate in their connection with the ‘softer’ virtues to be trusted to do what is right and ‘necessary’ should the time come. We can see this worrying trend reflected in much of our modern pop culture. We have far too few silver screen mainstays that express anything resembling a balance between these two virtue sets. We have not allowed any semblance of synthesis in these models of masculinity to be included in the collective consciousness of generations of boys and men. This is where Poe Dameron and The Doctor come in as representatives on this issue in the current pop culture zeitgeist.

The fan backlash at the most recent Star Wars film should not be news to the majority of you. At the time of writing there is a 40 per cent gulf in review scores (90 – 50 per cent) between critics and fans respectively. Similarly, when Jodie Whittaker was revealed as the 13th Doctor there was significant backlash from elements of the Doctor Who fan base. This unrest over The Doctor’s new-found femininity has reared its head once more following the recent Christmas Special. In both instances gender and diversity issues were key talking points on both sides of the debate. This isn’t the work of those much maligned MRAs or regressive men needing to hold onto patriarchal dominance of the media (ok well it might be in some cases – but here is one argument from a different perspective). It is a symptom of a much larger and much more sympathetic issue about men and masculinity in contemporary media.

One of the key features of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ that ‘right wing’ fans have condemned is the ‘continual’ humiliation of Poe Dameron. Every time Poe tries to take action, he is shown not only to be wrong, but often he makes matters worse through his attempts to ‘go in half-cocked’. Now fans have said that this represents a gender equality conspiracy, one set to destroy the traditional male ‘action-hero’ archetype and render him useless. Further, the same fans argue that destroying this particular vision of the male empowerment fantasy betrays the Star Wars brand. However, I would contend that it is a valiant attempt by director Rian Johnson to highlight the need for his Apollonian poster boy to learn the softer and more deferent virtues of the Dionysian man. It is worth noting that by the end of the film Poe has begun to see this himself. Towards the end of the third act, Poe is offered an opportunity to seize a decisive victory by a true male hero, another character similarly rounded through experience and defeat, if he is willing to recognise what he needs to do and to act against his ‘guns blazing’ instinct. This is an important step forward in our portrayals of masculinity as Star Wars is not only a mega-blockbuster film that acknowledges the value of the Dionysian virtues, but also a film that demonstrates that these virtues are best utilised in harmonious conjunction with the Apollonian virtues.

All of this however, has been learned before by another Sci-fi legend, The Doctor. Since the return of Doctor Who to television in 2005, the character has grown an enormous amount. We have borne witness to the Doctor in his most heroic Apollonian moments (think Burning Galifrey to save time) and we have seen the character come to personify charm, creativity and heart (think setting up an alternate universe version of himself just to love Rose). All of this, and a wonderful rainbow of shades in between, have blessed the successive series of The Doctor’s modern run. This is why it stings so much to see young boys lose such an important touchstone in their development. This is not to say people cannot have role models outside their own, race, gender, or religion – it merely acknowledges the well accepted fact that we identify far better with people who more closely resemble ourselves across all of these axes.  We have only just begun to see Hollywood accept the need to show more balanced male role models. To then lose The Doctor, the best example of this from within our contemporary pop culture, is most certainly a blow to the movement that calls not for additional male role models for men and boys, but rather cries out for better quality male role models is certainly a significant blow.

In 1994 the Australian Psychologist Stephen Biddulph published a book simply called ‘Manhood’.  This book was largely aimed at translating the works of Robert Bly into an Australian bloke’s context through Biddulph’s own work and experience as a psychologist. In ‘Manhood’, Biddulph talks extensively about fathering, and more explicitly the increasing phenomenon of under-fathering in young men and boys, focusing on the impact that this has on their development throughout their lives.  One of the key messages raised by Biddulph, is that young men and boys need ‘strong well-rounded male role models’ in order to flourish as complete and whole human beings. Biddulph acknowledges the integral role of mothers and female role models (teachers, aunts E.T.C.) in shaping and influencing male children, but ascribes the central role in the development of these male children to father figure/s.  In the terms of this argument it seems evident to me that Biddulph is calling for balance between the Apollonian and Dionysian elements in raising young boys and men. This is as true now as it was when he originally published ‘Manhood’, perhaps even more so.

The reactions held by the right-wing fan base to both the Star Wars and Doctor Who franchises contribute significantly to the destructive way in which we view male role models. If we do not take significant and immediate steps to rectify this imbalance we risk irreparably damaging another generation of young men through reckless and one-dimensional portrayals of masculinity in pop culture. This argument is not always articulated well, or even articulated at all, however when it is, and when it is expressed properly with respect and thought it can be the spark that lights the fire of change.


So, over the course of the last year, whilst I have not been writing, I have not let my mind sit and go to mush. I have been devouring books. In multiple formats; both traditional, bound, fare and also audiobooks. Between the two media I have racked up in excess of 40 titles during 2017.

I’m a little proud of myself – my goal for the year was half that number.

These titles have ranged from Game of Thrones novels through to Guy DeBord and Stephan Molynuex and I am incredibly pleased with the intellectual results of this meandering. It has allowed me to develop in ways that I would not have thought possible 12 months ago. To critically analyse ideas and arguments in a manner in which I had not previously in my life.

When I was younger I was a prolific reader – primarily of pulp and high fantasy, Eddings, King, Jordan etc. This habit seemed to drop off during university as my reading became thoroughly directed towards my study – video games seemed a far more appealing abnegation activity after hours of reading heavy history textbooks. This is the first year since I started my very first tertiary qualification that I have found reading for fun to truly call to me again.

It is from this vantage that I have spied a particularly troubling phenomenon. Now I certainly will not claim to be alone or even early in this observation.  However, it has troubled me in increasing amounts as the year has progressed to see that those who I would consider intellectual peers are far less interested in diversifying their scholastic intake as they are with shoring up their ideological holdfasts’.

To expand – Earlier this year I mentioned to a work colleague – who until this time I had thought very highly of. This colleague had certainly impressed me with their ability to hold a conversation on just about every progressive subject matter – up to and including some of the more far out nutbaggy global conspiracy trains of thought – Rothschild dominance and all that. I was shocked, however, when I mentioned to this colleague that I was ½ way through Milo Yiannopoluos’ ‘Dangerous’ to be immediately inundated with pressure to explain why I had helped finance a hate campaign.

I tried to explain that rather than react to media pundit interpretations of Milo’s writings I was keen to interrogate the subject first hand in order to circumvent bias. Having been thoroughly convinced of the media bias in my country by the shameful reaction we have had to Cassie Jaye’s ‘The Red Pill’. This colleague waxed lyrical for nearly a full 10 minutes about the various logical fallacies in Milo’s work and the many ways in which he was entirely unworthy of my patronage of his literary endeavours. When I pushed this colleague as to how they were so knowledgeable about Milo’s positions and writings they began to reference several 2nd and 3rrd hand sources of response to the material.

This was the moment that my internal alarm bells kicked into high gear.

I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident across this year. Sadly it was not. Several members of my intellectual exchange communities have taken great pains to ignore and implore others to ignore large swathes of the emerging fields of argument, particularly in the conservative cultural analysis space. It seems that the echo chamber effect that has been oft discussed has begun to migrate from being solely the province of the anti-intellectual class within this country and take disturbing and fascinating route within the intellectual class as well.

I cannot begin to express how scared this makes me.

Whilst I cannot claim to be well and proper OG in my antipathy for this particular issue – having spent far too many hours of the last decade blissfully connected to the hypereality of the MMORPG sphere to feel at all secure or legitimate in such a position. I can certainly say that this last year has done a very great deal to convince me that I was right to make the swap from comfortable and safe intellectual wandering to ‘transgressive’ and ‘problematic’ inquiry.

We as a society need to spend more time focusing on ideas and arguments that challenge us in real and meaningful ways. Rather than allowing ourselves to apathetically seek out news sources and public intellectuals that reflect and shape our opinions and perceptions along lines we have already set for ourselves.

We don’t all need to – by virtue of literary patronage – finance right wing nutbags touring our country and inciting civil unrest – but certainly we do need to spend time engaging personally and legitimately with all of the legitimate arguments that are being presented to us. Failure to do so will leave us as out of touch with the reality of the intellectual space that we inhabit as the Tsars of Russia in 1913.

We need to allow ourselves to be made uncomfortable by the ideas and premises of those who we wish to debate and convince. We need to allow space in our personal echo chambers for dissent and synthesis through this dissent into a greater intellectual understating of the true reality that we all inhabit.

So this is my challenge to the few of you that are still here after all of that. Go out and read, read widely and read politically. Read left and read right. Engage honestly and completely with both sides of this space. Because we are living at the edge of history in this country, things are changing in ways and through means that we have never experienced as a society or as a race. It is at this critical juncture that we have  people of robust and thorough intellectual grounding to help round out the public discourse that we are exposing the masses to.

Do not be cowed by the dissenting voices and remember always the famous Aquinian quote, “Hominem Unius Libri Timed” …..

“I fear the man of a single book”

Breaking Pt.1

Hey team – long time no see. I have been rather snowed under in my personal and professional life of late and so haven’t had a bunch of spare time to sit down and really go through my thoughts on a bunch of stuff – but I have been taking notes in my ‘ideas pad’ so there is a lot of content that I have stored up for when I get back to steadier seas. 

Anyway what follows is something I’ve been thinking about for about a year now – so I hope you enjoy. 

The Brave Bothan.

The lights swirled around me and the decadent scents of the carnival filled my nostrils almost to bursting. The melodic thrumming and crooning of the entertainment blocked out almost every other sound below a moderately powerful shout. The occasional whoop or excited scream broke through the haze of sound and pulled me back to reality. I sat, motionless, gazing out over the festivities; letting the charged atmosphere wash over and engulf me. But despite that sense of immersion a part of me maintains its distance. Part of me knows that these mortal delights are fleeting, temporary – only here to distract the narrow minded and I cannot allow myself to fall prey to such petty distractions; not whilst on such an important hunt.
That all too human urge to hunt had been welling in me for days, weeks even to the point where it was overwhelming, unbearable. I knew that I must satiate this urge tonight lest I fall into a melancholic pity. I scanned the the crowd below. It had an almost intelligible rhythm like a single organism, breathing and pulsing to a heartbeat that could be neither heard nor felt, but intuited if one had the mind or the stomach for such insights. 
At this point I considered the welling sense of disquiet gnawing incessantly and the back of my consciousness – that growing anxiety that could quickly dull my senses if I let it and ruin the hunt. I pushed it back, locking it behind the barrier of the task at hand, forcing myself to renew my appraisal of the crowd, to focus on finding a point that I could meaningfully engage. 
Across that undulating sea of base pleasure, noise and light that held the crowd enthralled I finally sighted my mark. Short cropped hair, dark as roasted almond flowed from her head bouncing and jostling as she followed the rhythm filling the arena. She disappeared below the surface of crowd momentarily, not being of particularly notable height, only to reappear and – despite the considerable odds against it – turned to face the stand that I was perched in. Knowing better than to give myself away by averting allowing myself to flinch I held her gaze, knowing full well that the darkness of the stand would likely mask my eyeline. Still; the anxiety in the back of my mind latched on to this moment and swelled with renewed vigour – what If she had seen me? 
My hunter’s sense forcibly culled the anxious question as my mark turned her face back to the stage – preventing further detriment to the mission. I moved, not wanting to waste time or risk my mark glancing back once more. 


I pressed my way thought the throng weaving and dancing to avoid covering myself in the stench of their collective perspiration and intoxication. My purpose was clear – my mind set, my mark sighted. Down at ground level the sensations of the carnival were amplified and a part of me acknowledged why so many people found these events entertaining. I noted this for use later and pressed on. As I round a ‘corner’ in the crowd I once again found my mark. Her dancing clear and distinct from those surrounding her and pressing each other inward towards the stage.

….. More to follow. 

I like the Dickensian and Lovecraftian model of serialised releases of a short story chapters. I don’t expect that this will be every post I make for the next little bit but I want to pepper the rest of this story out over the next couple of months, so I hope you all enjoy the GOT style wait. 

Until next time, thanks for reading. 

The Good Side of Bad

So I was flicking through the rather extensive selection of film analysis channels I subscribe to on YouTube the other day – when a previously unnoticed commonality occurred to me. The proprietors of all these channels were horror movie fans. This seemed strange to me –I have certainly always felt that there were not a great many people passionate about Horror as a genre. My experience has always been that it was a struggle to find people to enjoy a good scary movie with. However my selection of YouTube channels seemed to suggest differently. Now at this stage I must stress I have never searched YouTube for horror specific content – not trailers not analysis nothing. All of my film analysis channels had been found on the back of their intellectual rigor – not on common interests at a genre level.

 Now I don’t mean to create unnecessary sectarian thought in the world – but I don’t think it to be a particularly contentious thesis to forward the notion Horror is a largely underappreciated genre or at the very least still considered ‘niche’.
I wanted to spend some time today expounding upon my take on reasons you might like to try a Horror film if you have yet to do so.

1) They come from a moral history – Now despite appearances the history of the modern horror film actually is ne of teaching moral lessons. Much like the darker Grimm Fairy Tales of yore the re-emergent horror boom of the 70’s and 80’s, which began with the success of Halloween, was founded on traditionally Christian principles. In fact, within the Horror subculture rather a great deal of fun is poked at the fact that the sure-fire way to know who will die in a film of this era is to see who engages in recreational drug use or premarital sex. This tradition stretches as far forward as the 2013 remake of ‘The Evil Dead’ where the main character’s drug use is used to both literally and allegorically mask her possession by the devil. In traditional film and story telling we are expected to identify with the protagonist and inherit his/ her moral code. In Horror – we are meant to see the actions of the victims as cautionary tales of morals not to enact or inherit. This level of moral story telling is largely absent from modern film making – which is rather a shame given the rich history that cautionary tales have within the wider human culture. From The Little Mermaid’s feet feeling like walking on glass – to Santa beating you with a cane if you were naughty story telling in the modern era would lose a great deal if we sacrificed the horrific.

2) They are a test bed for new directors – Horror has survived into the modern era because it is very cost effective. I cannot overstate how cheap horror films can be to make by compassion to the goliath budgets of the summer blockbusters of The MCU. As a result of this directors that get brought on by studios with little experience are often given these smaller projects to helm and cut their teeth on. A perfect modern example of this is James Wan. Do you like the riveting return to form of Furious 7? Thanks James Wan’s excellent directorial skills for that. James started his studio film making career with the first three instalments of the Saw franchise. He continues with Insidious, Sinister and The Conjuring. All of these films were financial smash hits. So he was given the reigns of a much larger and weighty project – Furious 7. This is not an uncommon career trajectory. Sam Raimi made his name on the original Evil Dead franchise and was given the Toby Maguire Spider-Man run as a result of his successes. If you want to see great directors given the opportunity to shine – support the horror genre. Film is becoming increasingly expensive and studios are not willing to back unknown quantities. Increasingly consumers need to vote with their wallets and horror films provide us a way to taste test a director’s skill at low risk to the studios. If we start supporting this under-loved genre we may see a commensurate rise in great directors as we allow them more chances to show off their creative flair.

3) They help develop a health relationship with fear – Horror films are primarily about making the audience feel as disempowered as the victim characters. Their success relies, largely, on the audience buying in to the narrative stakes of the script enough to feel genuine fear for these characters on screen – or even – fear at the possibility that the reality they are seeing might be one with that which they are living. This sits in stark contrast with the norm within the modern film industry. All too commonly films are about creating false fantasies of empowerment within the audience. Without sometimes being reminded of the stark contrast between these empowerment fantasies and how genuinely disempowering reality can be it is easy to understand where anxiety and fear can creep into one’s psyche. The horrifying truth of modern life is largely one of disempowerment. We continually interact with corporations far larger than ourselves for most of the basic amenities of life and as anyone who has ever come afoul of such a corporate entity can tell you – being held to ransom for water or power by an uncaring unflinching corporation is genuinely disempowering. Horror helps us normalise these fear in the same way the ancient Greeks normalised failure through the tragic play. This historic tradition is again one we should seek in large part to preserve as it helps to normalise the more frightful and precarious parts of our existence.

These are just a small smattering of the reasons I think that horror should be given far more credit than it currently receives. I have been in love with the genre for the large majority of my life and I hope that if you haven’t that this piece has helped shed some light onto why some people choose to explore the darker side of things.


Our Inner Child

So recently I have found myself happily involved with rather a remarkable human. This person challenges me emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. They are in a great many way my equal or better and I have spent the last period of my life being rather enthralled by the everyday challenge of rising to this new level of potential they have helped define.

I still remember our first outing – a 6 hour stroll through the cultural district of my city. Exchanging banter and intellectual observations on arts from all eras. This has been rather the tone of the relationship thus far – one of intellectual curiosity and exchange.  It would be in all this – incredibly easier to lose touch with what I consider to be my more joyous side. Not that intellectualism doesn’t bring me joy in it’s own way (or else why would I write this blog for fun) but I do acknowledge that intellectualism can be quite dry at times – and those overly disposed to it’s use equally so. One of the things that I have most enjoyed about the company I have recently kept is the ability to lapse at will back and forth through both the joyously childish self and the more reserved intellectual self.

This has caused me to ponder on the importance of childish joy in the everyday.

I have pondered at length differences in people and particularly how we see them reflected in media. One of the key divisions this pondering ass fixed upon is the emergence of ‘gritty’ media as synonymous with adult media. This can be most easily seen in the tonal differences between ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Torchwood’ and ‘The Flash’ and ‘Arrow’. In both cases the former is the more childishly joyous franchise and the latter the grittier franchise.

All 4 series continually deal with themes of heroism and sacrifice – they all cover off on an extensive range of human emotions; many of which are thoroughly within the negative range. All 4 shows seek to take their audiences on an emotional journey with the characters.

I have always found this to be accomplishable with Doctor Who and The Flash – but rarely so with Torchwood and Arrow. Despite many similarities in production values and target audiences the latter two franchise lack a critical element for me – the heart that childish joy brings to the more successful franchises.

It is in our most dire moments – when the stakes are the highest ( as they frequently are in all 4 series) that joy is the most useful and integral to my personal image of humanity. The fresh joy of our inner child – the dawning curiosity and inner laughter it finds in almost every new situation is what pulls us through our most trying times and helps bring light to even our bleakest moments.

Both the Flash and The Doctor manage to showcase this – in the case of The Doctor sometimes literally as a child – both series show us wisecracking heroes and casts who use humor to lighten the mood when everything else seems dire. Arrow and Torchwood, by comparison, feature an excess of brooding and melancholy.

This same dichotomy is more than likely behind the failure of the DCEU vs the Marvel EU. The former once again feeling like a largely humorless and gritty place whilst the latter manages to capture the elusive but very real and very very necessary childish inner joy that grounds our reality.

So next time you are facing a situation that seems a little more than you are capable of handling just remember the abiding value of joy –  you don’t need to laugh at your circumstances but I guarantee you that in no situation has all light gone from the world – you can always find something to laugh at, something to inspire a fresh sense of wonder in your heart. celebrate-954784_960_720



Rogue Thoughts

So heads up this piece is definitely about Rogue One; If you haven’t yet seen it turn away for here there be spoilers. Of course feel free to come back and engage with this after you’ve seen it but the discussion I want to have requires a working understanding of the film. 

So before I went and saw Rogue One I had seen this piece by one of my favourite YouTube content creators. I enjoyed the analysis that the video put forward and the evidence seemed to support the thesis. So I was super pumped for this film to be a gritty Blade Runner-esque New Space Opera. What I feel I got however was worlds different to what I was expecting – but it was just as good.

For me at least Rogue One feels like the best elements of the traditional fantasy adventure – particularly the type of narrative I am used to seeing in the pulp fantasy novels in the D&D canon I.E Dragonlance or the R.A Salvatore novels. There is a deeply personal narrative that creates a through line for the protagonist and the audience but also political level sideplots and tie-ins to make the stakes high enough to be interesting. 

The thing I’d really like to draw attention to is the wonderful feeling Rogue One manages to elicit in the way it presents both the build up and eventual diminishing of ‘The Party’. This for me iOS the strongest element of the film. For the first half of the film we see the rebels pulling together the rag tag and unlikely bunch of heroes. The standard assortment of Prisoners, criminals, spies and holy men that typify the pulp fantasy genre. These characters are given scope to bounce off one another for comedic banter and development which is always heartwarming in it’s execution. It feels natural and easy much like the banter around a D&D table does and this helps draw you into the world the film presents. 

At the halfway point of the film we get a shift into the more emotionaly and politically complex subject matter of the film concerning both the protagonist and the political parties within the film. A traditional complication in the three act structure – this serves to round out the characters and show us slightly different and human sides of them – even those that aren’t human. 

The final act is where things take on their most tropey tones for me- I must stress here that this isn’t a criticism, Star Wars as a franchise is responsible for so many cinematic tropes and this film subverts some of the most famous ones that it is very rewarding to see Director Gareth Edwards embrace the full value of the tropes he utilises in this final act. 

With the heroic last stands and sacrifices of every member of the team getting loving attention and individual scoring it is hard not to be sucked in by the majesty and honour of their endeavour. As the team members lay their lives on the line and sacrifice themselves one at a time to ensure the success of the mission and the greater good it is hard not to bring to bear the collective experience of every similar sacrifice we have ever seen committed to film. This is the value of embracing the tropes ion this final sequence, allowing this film to so explicitly reference the traditions of the pulp[ genre that gave rise to it allows these short sequences to be so so much more than what their running time might allow. It really is an ingenious move by Edwards. 

The final great strength of the film I’d like to put forward is the villain. It is not very often that we get as compelling a beaurocratic villain as what we are treated to by Rogue One. Krennic is a wonderfully menacing character that doesn’t fail when asked to stand shoulder to shoulder with cinematic titan Darth Vader. The inclusion of Vader, who is a far more traditionally impelling villainous archetype, would have sunk a lessor villain – he would have been completely overshadowed by the two cameos that Vader makes. Krennic’s insidiousness is so palpable that he still remains compelling despite inclusion of not only Vader but also Grand Moff Tarkin. 

If I have one critique of the movie – it is that whilst it is incredibly structurally pleasing and refreshing to see new ground covered within the Srtar Wars universe Rogue One fails to have anything new or challenging to add to it’s own tradition. Again this is part of why the film is so so good to watch – but it does feel like it won’t quite hold up to the type of analysis that other franchise films like A New Hope are subjected to. Not a huge flaw and certainly not one that impedes repeated viewings. 

All in all the point remains Rogue One manages to be both original and referential in equal parts to incredibly great effect. Whilst watching it I felt the film drawing one he sum of my experience not only in the Star Wars universe but also in fantasy and SciFi more broadly. We finally have an anthology Star Wars film and it has stuck the landing – Bring on the Bobba Fett film!!