Today is Shit, so Here’s a Story. ‘How I Met Brooding YA Hero’

To be honest, we’ve all met him.

His eyes are the colour of the ocean, or midnight, or brilliant saffron, or blazing ruby. His skin is either chalky white, like the undead we suspect he might be, or the beautiful, ethnically ambiguous ‘heavily tanned’.

His grades are always top of the class, but we’ve never seen him study. He’d never be seen in a gym, but when you catch a glimpse of his stomach muscles, you have to sit down. He’s a punk street racer, a shy nerd, an outsider who just moved here. He’s softly spoken, but he’s angry, his eyes blaze.

He has a younger sister in our class, or a best friend we know from Biology. He owns a motorbike or sports car usually unavailable to financially-dependent seventeen-year-olds. He’s always seventeen. His parents are never around – in fact, he’s probably damaged from various childhood traumas. Not that you’d notice on a day to day level.

He had a girlfriend – also beautiful and sophisticated – but things ended when he met you. He’s got a past, and you’re getting dragged into it… but you can’t seem to back away. He’s charming, he’s brilliant, he’s in love with you.

Wait, not you.

He’s in love with the main character in the YA novel you’ve been reading. Or the YA novel you read a few years ago. Or the YA novel you haven’t picked up yet. He’s a pale imitation of Mr Darcy or Heathcliff, and he seems to have the same traits as the author’s husband or childhood crush. He’s a bundle of contradictions (or a bundle of whatever the author wants in a man, which is often the same thing). He’s the least-changing, most-perfectly-formed character in the book, and his hair usually smells wonderful.

He’s Brooding YA Hero, and he’s fucking boring.

Thankfully, there’s something out there to help you cope with this genre-wide plethora of unrealistic manliness, and it’s a Twitter page. I actually found it on Tumblr, where someone had screen-printed some highlights. Like these:

I could go on forever, but you should just have a look for yourself.

I’m telling you all this because I recently joined #BroodyBFF, the official street team for old Blazing Eyes Perfect Abs. Essentially it means I get to take the piss a bit more in challenges like this post, and I do it in the company of other readers and writers who’ve seen just enough of brooding YA heroes to know they absolutely cannot take any more.

Unless the main character looks like us, in which case we’re there.

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RIP.

This morning I was going to Tweet ‘it’s that time of year again when you wake up to spiders on your headboard and can’t make your bed when it moves under your mattress.’ I’m glad I didn’t, because later on this morning I  decided to grow up and make the bed, only to see said spider crawling over my pillow.

Mum and I attempted Spider Eviction via the window, which is usually fine. We are old hands at Spider Eviction, and although it was a big daddy long legs and thus required two people (especially since one of them was me), we went got to the window and threw the spider out… only for some of its legs to get caught on the glass and come off. Onto my pillow. While the rest of the spider tumbled to what I presume was its death, given that it had just lost several limbs and was probably in too much shock and pain to spin itself a web or crawl onto the house.

I only wanted it off my bed – I don’t mind them in the corners of ceilings, because they keep the flies and gnats away. But it was crawling over where I sleep and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was on a mission to meet the one that recently moved into the ceiling of the bathroom – what if they sojourned on my bed? While I was in it? – plus I’ve been hallucinating spiders since I read this article. So it needed to move out. Except now it’s at best legless and at worst a spider corpse, and I still haven’t made my bed because I need to change the pillow case because of the legs.

Thank god I didn’t live Tweet the whole thing.

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.

The Six O’Clock News: What It Takes to Re-Focus the Media (sort of)

Let’s address the obvious first and foremost and take a moment to appreciate what journalists are doing in certain parts of the world at the moment. While the tabloids are going crazy over Cara Delevigne’s holiday with Selena Gomez, there are people from across the globe who are quite literally the front line of communications in areas where for various reasons events can’t be broadcast to the world as easily as the weather bulletin. Not that the world seems to be listening most days anyway – James Foley is the tenth journalist to be killed in Syria so far this year and the 44th to be killed worldwide, yet the Syrian civil war isn’t even on the main news most days.

So since it’s taken the brutal beheading of a journalist to draw the West’s attention to the shithole that is current middle eastern politics, let’s have a look at how the West’s covered it so far.

Actual Broadcasters

Not long after the news of James Foley’s death broke, James Kirkup over at The Telegraph pointed out that people calling the murder an “execution” are linguistically wrong; execution occurs as a punishment and the only crime that’s been committed has been the murder of a journalist by a group of people who call themselves a state but actually have zero legitimacy. IS isn’t a geographical piece of land with boarders and a government. It does not have the consent of its citizens. It doesn’t actually have any citizens (has anyone actually come across somebody endorsing the things they do? So far every piece of commentary I’ve seen, from all areas of the political and religious spectrum, has condemned IS as a total piece of shit).

The BBC has a nice page dedicated to explaining all that’s going down in Iraq – I had a look at an article about what happened to al-Qaeda (they’re a bit old-fashioned according to modern, hip Islamists) and it has lots of links explaining all the different varieties of ‘violent Islamic extremists’ that are currently besmirching the good people of the Muslim faith.

Shit Broadcasters

The Mail did actually run a story in which there may be some actual reporting, but I couldn’t finish it because I got distracted by the sheer number of scantily dressed women in the sidebar. Well, I know what I’ll add to this site if I ever want to put you off a post…

Conspiracy Theorists

Yep, some people genuinely think the video was faked. The commentators on this mildly depressing Reddit thread cite “zero emotion”, “no blood” and the video’s “fade to black” as reasons why the CIA/IS/US government faked the entire thing. None of those things can have anything to do with the fact that Foley was an experienced journalist who knew he was going to die and had worked in enough war zones to accept the risks… or the probability that the IS guys know their way around iMovie, especially since many of them are from the West.

Social Media

I was quite surprised, both when his name was a trending topic and on a general search just now, that most Twitter commentary has been pretty decent; most people have expressed their disgust at the whole situation. That said, Twitter’s been getting better at preventing total pillocks from airing their ignorance, so maybe we just can’t see the bullshit.

All right, I’ve depressed myself enough for one day. I almost titled this What It Takes for the Media to Give a Shit About Syria but I thought it was a bit too Vice. Any thoughts on the whole rigmarole?

The Six O’Clock News: Keeping Up With Current Events

With the ever-changing nature of ‘current events’ and the complications of understanding it anyway, I thought the Israel-Palestine conflict (war? See, defining this shit is tough) would be a good topic to use to discuss ways to keep up with the news. All the cool kids are doing it, so listen up!

The Traditional Way: Newspapers and Magazines

Aw, print media. A declining medium and usually so full of editorially-biased bullshit that often it’s not worth going near anyway. We all know that tabloids aren’t worth even opening (I discovered a Daily Mail parody on Twitter the other day. It’s beautiful) but what about the broadsheets?

Well darlings, there are some good choices. The Guardian and Telegraph, traditionally a bit leftie and rightie respectively, have pretty decent articles which give a detailed explanation of a story, usually with some photos or maybe an infographic. I don’t usually get the Financial Times but I’ve heard it’s good too, as is The Times, if buying something owned by Rupert Murdoch doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies. Then there’s the Independent and its sister publication the i, which I loved to read at school because it’s really short and has super-duper-easy-to-digest articles. It’s also only 30p and available from Starbucks, so you can look smart while sipping a skinny mocha polkadot frappe. All the papers have websites too so you can read an article as many times as it takes for your blood pressure to return to normal!

That’s pretty much the extent of my paper knowledge and I encourage you to utilise your local library and have a read of whatever you can get your hands on – you’ll find your favourite style of writing pretty soon. One word of warning: even the news articles will contain bias. Not as much as a column – not as obviously much as a column, anyway – but differentiating between reported fact, the writer’s opinion and a senior management-based reference (like a journalist highly rating a film released on a company owned by the newspaper’s owner) is a fun and useful skill. One that Daily Mail readers are lacking above all others.

In terms of magazines, there is only one I read, though I read it more thoroughly than I do all papers: Private Eye. Edited by the dude who sits on the left in Have I Got News for You, it’s predominately satire but also has some serious reporting and its Street of Shame section calls out other newspapers’ crap. If I remember correctly, it was one of the few publications that picked up on Cyril Smith being a paedophile about 20 years before the Jimmy Savile scandal – I think they got sued over the allegations. They get sued a lot. The Economist is also useful if you want to get really intellectual – and the ads in the back are brilliant if you want to pretend you have a PhD.

The Family Debate Way: Television

Ah, the real Six O’Clock News. I love it. If you’re anything like me, couch-surfing wise, you start your channel-flicking marathons around the entertainment channels (Virgin Media 121) and go up to music (Kerrang! TV is 342) and maybe into films (avoid the porn channels just past them).

This is stupid.

Go straight to the good stuff: the plethora of news channels. BBC News 24 HD is 604 for me and it’s on all the time. So if you’re out at ten o’clock or eating at six you can keep in the loop! I’m assuming your family bought a huge massive mega TV broadband phone package deal, in which case you probably have access to CNN, Al Jazeera English, Euro News, BBC Parliament and if you’re unlucky FOX.

The good thing about TV news is that because they’re broadcasting to everybody, they have to explain everything. Hence why reporters go to whacky places or walk through green screened graphics – the information needs to be understandable to the average viewer. You’re not the average viewer because you’re a) reading this and b) you know that you can access CNN.

A downside to the TV is that because most non-24-hour slots are short, detail can be missed from a story, and some stories aren’t told at all. Syria is big news when there’s been a huge bombing or war crime, for example, but gets overtaken by the next big thing. The same thing happened in all areas of the mainstream media to #BringBackOurGirls and Flight MH370. Both are still missing, by the way.

 The Hands-Free Way: Radio

You know, the way they kept up with business in World War II. Radio is cool because you aren’t rendered immobile and you can listen while you’re in the car or doing boring stuff, like chores. BBC Radio 4 has a good broadcast in the morning, which I discovered completely accidentally when I was searching for a radio station without jingles or adverts for my morning alarm. I’ve also heard good things about the BBC World Service, which apparently has a worldwide following because it’s an alternative to propaganda-ridden state media.

The Hipster Way: Websites and Social Media

I should probably point out that I’m not entirely sure what a hipster is, although many of the people I’ve known who have declared themselves to be one have actually been twats. I’m not sure if that’s the point. Anyway, social media basically sparked the Arab Spring, because for the first time people had ways to communicate meet-ups and ideas quickly. So instead of using Twitter to hashtag how great your favourite band is to promote a crappy MTV contest, use it to keep up with a conflict or political situation as-it-happens. There was a Russian soldier who posted a picture of himself with Russian weapons inside Ukranian borders on Instagram, and Osama bin Laden’s house’s siege was posted about on Twitter as it occurred, which says it all. The people inside war zones are exactly the same as everyone else so you can see the actual stuff that’s going on. You don’t have to follow accounts if it bums you out, but searching a tag here and there makes you like well intelligent.

Word of warning: social media is the least moderated of all broadcasting platforms and there are just as many idiots posting political things as there are idiots posting pictures of themselves in their underwear or bitching about their boss. Take with a bucketful of salt and always use two sources to corroborate information, especially if it’s for a school thing. I once stumbled upon a Hammas-supporting website which bitched a lot about Israel and the stats I collected were totally the opposite to the ones we learnt in school. For quick info, use the BBC News app and for research, the CIA World Factbook has great profiles on each country – well, they would – and lists states numerically by how great their literacy rate or GDP is, amongst other things. The BBC also has great country profiles for getting a simple explanation and timeline of a country. This explains Kosovo perfectly, for example.

The Fun Way: Entertainment

Not going to lie, Tim Minchin taught me the background to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Then there’s Have I Got News for You, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Daily Show… the list  of programmes is endless. If you’re prepared to put up with some Hollywood gloss, films and books are useful. Some, like Shooting Dogs or books by Khaled Hosseini, don’t have gloss. They may make you cry noisy tears and expand your cynicism. But they’re actually really important because you’re more likely to empathise and understand the nuances of a situation through fiction than you are just by watching the news.

Documentaries are also excellent because it’s their job to make sense, tell the truth (again: apply salt) but keep hold of your attention. Plus your teachers will support the concept of watching them instead of doing a timed essay. Probably. Possibly.

Okay, I’m off to watch the diving at the Commonwealth Games and keep a tally of my parents’ homophobic comments regarding Tom Daley. Let me know if I’ve forgotten a supercool way to follow the news!

Quick Art Update

I usually just post these things in Twitter and/or Tumblr posts but they’ve all cropped up in the last couple of days so I thought I may as well do a proper post… Ahem.

I got an email earlier that most of my Etsy shop’s listings are expiring really soon, so if you’ve ever fancied any of what’s there head on over ASAP. Plus I am going on holiday for ten days on Friday so any physical orders after the 11th July won’t be shipped until the 23rd at the earliest, by which time most of those items will have gone. So get on it!

Society6 is having one of its free-shipping-on-most-items days if you follow this link and this link only. It’s weird and they don’t tell you how long the offer lasts, presumably to whip you up into a frenzy. It’s until the 13th according to that very link.

I’m currently taking story commissions on DeviantART (all the info is on the right hand side below the advert). Once again, when I’m away I will technically be on holiday so if you request anything then you won’t get a response for a few days.

I hate doing what are effectively sales pitch blogs but at least this way it’s one lone social media post, as opposed to eighty over the course of a day… plus this trails on nicely to what I really want to talk about, which is HOLIDAY READING.

You know the drill. I take more books than I can carry, I read most of them, set up blogs talking about them and always include one novel that is totally depressing and/or gross. The first year I did it I took Trainspotting, which I haven’t read since; last year was We Need to Talk About Kevin which I then chose to study for my A Level and never want to read again… the further I explored it, the more effed up it became. I think this year will be Goodnight Mister Tom, which I have never previously read because I saw the TV adaptation about ten years ago, got so distressed I cried and have refused to open the book ever since.

But I’ll probably take this fortnight’s Private Eye and The Son of Neptune so it’s okay! There will be laughs all round! I will also take a book of codewords because since I stopped going to school my vocabulary has been on the downturn, which is bad for everybody. If I’m not careful I’ll only be able to speak in dog chatter… “Don Don, why are you barking? No one cares. Shhh. Hello Fred. You look very handsome. Go away that was my flapjack. Snuggles time.”

I love snuggles time. Speaking of which.

From goldenstories.tumblr.com
From goldenstories.tumblr.com

The Six O’Clock News: Women in Sport, Trolls on the Internet and Everyday Horrible People

I haven’t been watching enough of the Winter Olympics, which should probably change because it sounds like the universe is about to take up curling. This week’s news is a little old but definitely relevant.

Beth Tweddle’s Twitter Q&A saga: Let’s judge women on their work, nothing else

 The Independent pointed out that when Beth Tweddle did a Twitter chat at the end of January, she got trolled by a group of shitheads who probably wouldn’t send a male athlete the same sort of abuse. I follow Tom Daley on Instagram and something he posted the other day got an abusive comment – I can’t actually remember what for, exactly, but I don’t think it was about his looks. That said, he’s had his own issues with Twitter trolls so should we look past gender and focus on the fact that people on the Internet use  the Internet as an excuse to be shitheads? Or are they shitheads anyway and do we need to continue to tackle everyday sexism and bullying? Or all of the above?

Beth Tweddle’s vile Twitter abuse: Women, it’s time to shout back at trolls

The Telegraph was a bit vague in its point but helpfully displays some of the Tweets for us all to enjoy. I suppose that by writing this I’m adding my voice to the people standing up against trolling – and sexism – but is it going to do anything? Not unless somebody read this and thinks “Oh yeah. Calling a woman a slut when a) I’ve never met her so have absolutely no right to call her anything including an insulting word and b) I wouldn’t say it to her face is stupid. I won’t do it anymore.” On the other hand, is a boycott of social media going to do anything to improve trolling matters? If you ignore someone they’re likely to get bored, but I must admit that I’d be tempted to research the user, find out some personal details, e.g. their address, and put up a sign on heir front door which details how shitty they are. Then I’d ignore them.

Or maybe I’d hide under a rock for the rest of my life.

Sky Sports presenter Charlie Webster speaks of sex assault

This is a bit different: a Sky Sports presenter about whom I knew nothing until she went on the radio discussing sexual abuse she received from a sports coach discussed what she went through and said that when she was being abused it was “one of these taboos, like domestic abuse is now”. Hopefully just by saying that she’s done something to alleviate both taboos –  and the fact that it was splashed all over the news should help even more. Course, just talking about abuse isn’t going to practically help anybody who’s suffering, but it’s a step… that said, I’m not entirely sure how to practically help somebody in that situation, because I’ve never known anybody in it.

I’ve also never been Twitter-trolled, which begs the question: how can people who know how to combat these issues teach the rest of us how to? Do we need online classes or school classes or TV shows covering the topics or bus posters…?

I dunno. Thoughts?!

Internet Stuff and Stuff

What is this ‘school day’?

I wish it would just go away.

Like Christmas has.

And Sherlock will.

Though Christmas will be back first.

With less death.

 Probably.

A few weeks ago I took part in a virtual panel discussion, aka an email, which has recently been published here. Some of my answers got cut, which is good because the published one has less sarcasm but bad because the sarcasm made the pretentious nature of interview slightly more bearable. Basically if you want my whole answers, let me know and I’ll post them.

In the mean time, the Shorty Awards are open for free-and-Twitter-based nomination. There are a variety of awards which are very fun to read through but one cannot nominate one’s own work, so I’m letting you know because an interview wasn’t enough to make me feel super duper about my very important life and work.

Haha, work.