I Summon Thee, Bullshitticus

I’ve been feeling a little bit short on inspiration lately, but I’m trying not to just shut off the page when I can’t think of the next sentence, so this is version three of today’s blog and I will fucking make a statement: I am considering rescinding my atheism. Don’t worry, I haven’t found God. I was approached by a couple of very polite Mormon recruiters in Southend the other day and equally-ish politely rebuffed their advances; I’m not fussed about my soul’s final resting place. In fact, I’m considering offering that up to the fates as well. It’s not capital-G God I’m looking, it’s the gods. Well, the nine Muses. Well, any of the Muses. Maybe not Euterpe, who was apparently muse of flutes and lyric poetry, but I’ll take the rest. Thalia, muse of comedy, will do. Or Melpomene, muse of tragedy. I’ll work with what I can get at this point. I will even pray to this guy:

Bullshiticus God of term papers by the sous chef on Tumblr
from thesouschef.tumblr.com

The artist accompanied their illustration with extra theology:

In this time of term papers I wanted to draw my patron deity, Bullshitticus, god of students and general last minute fudgery, sitting upon his Golden Futon, attended by the muses Caffeina and Thesaurae, whose powers of artificial energy and pretentious vocabulary can be invoked in case of the all-nighter.

I like to think he’s Dionysus’s second cousin or something.

I do not have a term paper due, but I do have two articles to finish, three or four postcards to design, some stories to complete and a week of social media posts to compose. I have lost my information book on the original Nine Muses and sources about Bullshitticus are scarce (I feel he is a last resort anyway, although I could do with a blessing from Thesaurae) but I will consult my mythology books for worship tips. Should I make a burnt offering? Construct a shrine? Do I need to find honeyed wine and sprinkle it on a brazier alongside words of thanks?

Muses, I am considering going back to fan fiction. I have wondered about trying poetry. I’m willing to forgo my daily surf of the popular page on Instagram. I will make you a shrine in my bedroom next to my MCR posters. I will buy scented candles and burn them while I read from classical texts. Please send help.

On the off chance the muses aren’t listening, do you guys have any ideas for rekindling inspiration?

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Behind the Scenes, Friday 13th Edition

So it was on this very day, sort of, that I released my Ghost Stories zines last year. If you haven’t read them – and you should – they’re full of short stories, advice columns, quirky advertisements and art all pertaining to death, the afterlife and magic. And I hadn’t even heard of Maggie Stiefvater then. Anyway, I don’t have a Volume IV to share with you all, but I have made even more ridiculous death/the afterlife/magic work since, so I thought I would take today to share a bit about how and why I ended up with so many macabre-ish, funny-ish arty-ish things in my portfolio.

Ghost Stories

A couple of years ago I wrote a (very) little story for The Story Shack about something that in retrospect sounds suspiciously like the church watch on St Mark’s Eve. It was sitting by itselfie on the internet and last January I noticed that 2015 contained three Friday 13ths. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and it’s useful to have solid deadlines, so I thought I could do a project to practise my Photoshop, actually write and maybe have a laugh. My friend Ruby, who proofread, had less of a laugh. By 13th November I had three relatively well-formed zines, a more thorough understanding of the YouTube playlist format and a healthy respect for the black and white filters on Photoshop. I kind of love Ghost Stories – I mean, I also hate it because I read it back and think ‘ew’ – but it’s the first thing I made after I finished school for the hell (ha) of it, and it reminded me why the term ‘black humour’ warms my soul. Now go warm your soul.

Ghost Stories Volume I by Francesca Burke

 

Hell’s Belles

You know that feeling when you’ve recently quit a job, rediscovered supernatural YA novels and decided to dye your hair pink and commit to being a full time eccentric? Last autumn I tried to supplement my income with waitressing, which to cut a long story short was not the career for me. When I rejiggled my freelancing so I could afford-ish to go back to marketing full time, I realised how much I valued being my own boss, muttering swearwords, blasting Fall Out Boy and making ridiculous things because I could. There’s a stall in Southend high street selling home accessories that say things like ‘eat glitter for breakfast and shine all day’, ‘life’s a journey’, etc.; I always wanted to paint them black and ad lib… so I did.

I even made stickers. Hell’s Belles – which was also influenced heavily by the pastel goth tag, 9 years of listening to My Chemical Romance and the exact colour I wanted my hair – is one of my favourite lines on my Etsy. It’s weird, either offensive or funny depending on your sense of humour and made of everything I’ve been interested in over the last couple of years: magic, cynicism, cursing, cynical cursing and inspirational Instagram posts.

I have a suspicion I’ll make more of one or more of the above. Look out around Halloween.

Review: ‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’, Benjamin Alire Sáenz

This is a spoiler-free review except for the bits you can guess from the title.

Oh look, something else I originally saw on Tumblr, probably courtesy of feistiest. You know how they say you should never judge a book by its cover, but we all do? With this, the cover – by  Chloë Foglia -made me want to get the book. Look at that typography and those colours and those illustrations this is going to be a beautiful novel.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe from Wikipedia.org
I couldn’t find a cover that wasn’t covered in award stickers. This is from Wikipedia. Look at that night sky.

It is a beautiful novel.

Like the best books, the action starts from the very first sentence, so I can’t tell you too much background information without spoiling the story, but the title pretty much implies the premise: a guy called Aristotle meets a guy called Dante and together they discover the secrets of the universe/survive their teenage years. Set in El Paso, Texas, across a couple of years in the 1980s, the novel is a lot like The Perks of Being a Wallflower in that it could have been set last week and will be devoured by teenage readers for decades to come (it was actually published in 2012).

I had never heard of Benjamin Alire Sáenz before I read this – and I am definitely pronouncing his name terribly wrong – but I think he is a writer I would like to read more of, because Aristotle and Dante, and Aristotle and Dante, are wonderfully written. Some topics are quite hard to cover without sounding like a textbook or news story – again, I can’t really tell you what they are without wrecking the plot – but it’s funny, occasionally irreverent and often slightly uncomfortable. The whole book is just like seeing inside someone’s head, which is so hard to achieve as a writer and so satisfying for the reader.

It also won a handful of awards, which is nice because it’s quite rare to find a critically acclaimed novel that’s also fun – I finished it in an evening. If you liked The Perks of Being a Wallflower, if you’re interested in what it was like to live in Texas in the 1980s (I wasn’t but now I am), if you’re interested in Mexican culture, if you like scruffy dogs (it is not a spoiler to tell you there is a scruffy dog), if you like boys with long names and books with pretty covers, go find a copy and curl up for an evening with Ari and Dante and watch them discover the secrets of the universe.

None of them are about the science of life on earth, by the way. I did originally wonder if it was a story about physicists.


My previous reviews are here; you can support my work on Patreon every time I review here.

Days Like These

You know those mornings when your dogs bark every time you start to concentrate on something, and you have to go out mid-afternoon so you’re reluctant to really get stuck into anything, but you can’t ignore the fact you really ought to get stuck into something, so you decide to pass the time writing a blog instead of pretending Tumblr browsing is market research?

Me too!

I try to be all behind-the-scenes-y on social media, especially Instagram, but if I showed you what my office space looks like right now, you’d all stop taking me seriously. (I’m aware that implies you already take me seriously, which is unlikely. My point is, the room looks like Royal Mail exploded.) There are two baking trays on my printer, tissue paper and open boxes sitting in places where other things should go, receipts stacked underneath the printer and a Pilates ball in the middle of the room to really set the ambience. I’m not moving any of it until tomorrow, when my mum is away and I can haul things up and down stairs without causing havoc… I’m thinking of changing my room around so I stop keeping shop supplies on the floor, but if past experience is an indication of ‘a quick tidy up’, I won’t just move some things around. I will deep clean, throw out shit I’d forgotten I owned, redecorate my desk and probably take several hours doing it.

But on Monday I will breeze downstairs and all will be right with the world… I’ll probably write four pages, finish a blog draft, do Pilates, enjoy a constant stream of Etsy orders and have a backer on Patreon. All because I spent the time re-organising, of course.

I wish I believed that.

I mean, everything is in place for all of those things to happen. I have pages of notes to turn into prose, a couple of blogs to craft into viral-article material, a free sticker scheme on Etsy until next Sunday and a Patreon full of excellent perks and reasons to support my work. But the biggest thing to happen on Monday will probably be my driving lesson. Maybe that is a bad example because driving is a huge thing for me and I often have to practice breathing before a lesson, but you know what I mean? Sometimes you can plan and organise and de-clutter and be as zen as you like and things still don’t fall into place. Is there a word for that? I feel like the Japanese or the French or the Greeks would have a word for that, while the English just vocalise it by making vowel sounds and flapping their hands. Like ‘mojo’ or ‘kefi’. What the hell did the English say before we learnt ‘mojo’?

I’m digressing. Perhaps I will decorate Indifferent Ignorance until it’s time to leave. If you have any ideas about how to describe ‘with the best will in the word, you’re running up a down escalator’ in less than 13 words, let me know.

Oh and if you follow me on the social media, I apologise for any spammy photos this evening of the O2. We’re seeing Top Gear Live That Isn’t Called Top Gear Live Since Clarkson Got Sacked. I am hoping for muscle cars and lots of this:

Top Gear complaints form dontkillthevibe.t
from dontkillthevibes.tumblr.com

GIF Watch

Happy morning snowflakes.

That’s definitely a figure of speech today… but ‘sleepy morning snowflakes, why don’t I take the day off and make a folder of Poldark GIFs?’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

There is lots of new and seriously cool Etsy news soon and I think I might wait until I’ve got a lot before I dedicate an entire post to new products (and something else I’ve been working on for far too bloody long). Makes for better gloating…

I keep stopping this post to go through the BBC One Twitter and collect more GIFs. I’m running low on new ones and trawling Tumblr for that exact image is tiring so it’s important to build up a bank. That being said, there are some I hope never to use…. I just saw a post full of Vladimir Putin memes and having seen that Reggie Yates documentary about extremism in Russia I’m not totally sure if I want to plaster ‘Putin riding on things’ all over here.

Maybe that’s why I should do it.

Monday has just cheered up a little!

NB: I just realised that when I started this post it was still Monday morning. Will leave everything as a nod to how much I’ve been finding excuses to sit outside instead of work.

A Quick Question About Racism

This time in a week, my office won’t be my bedroom but will be my balcony, or a local restaurant, or… my bedroom (I’m staying in a studio flat and would put money on having exactly the same set-up as I do now, except with a closer bathroom). I was going to write a post just gloating about that, but then I went on Tumblr…

I’ve been treating the site gingerly since Uncle Rick posted about Blood of Olympus spoilers, so I glanced down the page as edgy as Hermione when she realised the Basilisk was in the pipes and saw this:

Racism on Tumblr

It might have been just me and a couple of inspirational billboard writers who thought this, but I was aware from a pretty young age that racism is learnt. One is not born as racist any more than one is born believing in God or born thinking Saturday night TV is occasionally contrived. When we first spill out into the world, we have no concept of anything. Then we are taught things that the people raising us think. We learn theism or racism or TV opinions as we grow, either by believing other people or thinking about things then coming to our own conclusions. Then we say what we think to our sprogs or students or blog readers.

That’s probably how most ideals have survived. You know, Mr Caveman Sr. realised that fire is useful but hurts if touched, and he taught Mr Caveman Jr., who taught Miss Cavewoman. Over the street, Mr and Mrs Cave were learning the same thing and told Baby Cave Kid as well.

Haha, baby cavepeople. (Alternatively, as Jacki pointed out, Ms or Mrs or even Miss Cavewoman may have discovered fire. I bet it was Village Idiot Caveperson who twigged that it hurt. Unfortunately – or luckily for this analogy – we may never know.)

My point is, lots of us are taught racism. I was. Most of us are taught sexism as well (hey, I wrote about this last week!). My parents were raised disliking Germans because their parents sat through the Blitz. Back when slavery and colonialism was a thing, most white people were raised to consider all non-white people to be inferior. Most non-white people were then raised to think that all white people were racists, and back then they were almost definitely right.

But it’s 2014, snowflakes. We’ve all been raised in part by racist, sexist, homophobic people – and we’ve also been taught by intelligent people that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid. Some of us have weighed up the evidence and concluded, independently, that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid.

So is the above Tumblr post actually just as racist, narrow-minded and indifferently ignorant towards white people as some white people are towards non-white people? Does anyone else get really upset by any mention of new book spoilers? Should I just stop using social media completely if it continues to find new ways to piss me off?

Well, I know the answer to one of those questions at least!

Five-ish Ways to Celebrate Five Years of Blogging: MCR Poster & Magazine Giveaway

Despite the plethora of wonderful ideas you all had for how I could celebrate Indifferent Ignorance turning five, I have come up with my own celebration. It’s called Five-ish Ways to Celebrate Five Years of Blogging and is coming to an Internet-connected device near you between now and November!

I say five-ish things because I’m not completely sure if a couple of them will come to fruition or when, so check back regularly to see which number we’re on.

The first thing is on Tumblr now, because I thought it would be funny if my first blog celebration was held on my scrubbly little non-blog (I don’t get out much). Plus I need to post it before I go to Greece. It hurts my heart to part with MCR possessions, but it turns out that a couple of the magazines were spares anyway, and those posters deserve to be put up somewhere, hence the giveaway.

The next four or so things will be revealed in good time, ie when I’ve put them together. Right, I’m off to drink some coffee and celebrate entering my last year of teenage-dom. I’m kind of bummed that I’ve only got a year to change the lyrics of Teenagers to “we” instead of “they”, and only a year to use “I’m a teenager” as an excuse for being rude to people, but so far 19 is looking peaceful and productive.

Probably because I’ve done little but write copy for zoos and look at MCR merch.

Explaining the Internet Slowdown (and protesting so you might not be able to read it)

It’s not that often that a lot of the people who use the Internet agree on something, but it looks like the US government has given us all a common enemy (again. Didn’t this happen with SOPA and Prop 8?!). I don’t have a huge understanding of the technical aspects of it, but essentially the US Federal Communications Commission has proposed laws that mean Internet providers can charge money for websites to access their subscribers. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay would get slower Internet connections than those who could. It’s kind of like private healthcare versus the NHS; companies who can afford to pay for top healthcare plans (or Internet) would get seen to quickly and in top-notch conditions (quick page loading), and the rest of us would be put into an 18-month waiting list and spend a week in A&E (the buffer symbol for minutes or hours at a time).

A&E is slow at the moment, but imagine if NHS hospitals were purposely given rubbish equipment compared to private ones? People on the NHS would stay ill or get worse while private patients would be sorted in a jiffy. Now I think about it, that analogy is quite similar to the debacle of non-free-at-point-of-use-healthcare countries… like America. Now’s not the time.

To show what these new conditions would be like, lots of sites – including Tumblr, Etsy, Twitter and Automattic, which powers WP and therefore here – have enforced a slow Internet day, today. Pages, videos and music streams are loading at the speed at which they would load everyday if telecoms companies started charging for access. Many sites affected probably could pay for the quick connection, especially if they increased adverts – but users are likely to be put off by the ads and anyway, what about little online businesses who pay for their own connection? What about people who want to stream videos from sites who haven’t paid for quick access?

The buffer symbol. All the goddamn time.

What can we do to prevent this shit happening at all: head to this website, which is petitioning Congress to stop the proposal from becoming law. If you’re using a site that’s campaigning for ‘net neutrality’, as they call it, you can have a look to see that they’re doing in protest.

Most big Internet companies are a bit corrupt. Most people on the Internet are tossers. But none of us wants to put up with slow service, regardless of the sites we use or the people we abuse while on them.

PS (sort of) Since Etsy is protesting too, I’ve put a discount on my Etsy shop. I was going to anyway to celebrate Blood of Olympus coming out in October, and today seemed a good time to start it. Enter UNCLERICK2014 at the checkout for 30% off, although maybe wait until the protest’s over for a good long browse.