Category Archives: history

It is so hard being a pacifist

When all around you, the world is burning. When you lose friends over suggesting that violence does not beget violence you do start to question your stance on such things.

You see, for the longest time, I was so far from a pacifist. I would have whole heartedly say that punching a White Supremacist is warranted and exactly  the right reaction. That actually, they should all get a taste of their own medicine and on and on. However, I would also suggest that a better world view is to treat people the way that you would want/like/expect to be treated.

BEFORE you try suggesting that that moto is exactly what was happening in the incident I am alluding to. No. No it isn’t. Because the person doing the punching, that is the person who has forgotten. He is punching someone. He can now only expect the same treatment. Do you see how it works? It is an honour system. We all buy into it because we are all wanting the same treatment and by even one stepping out, it has a knock on effect.

The problem is, oh who am I kidding, where do I start? In my last post I alluded to the current situation in American and have waxed lyrical over the last 24 hours over a bunch of people’s status updates and lost friends. I don’t believe that W.S should be refered to as Nazi’s and that I feel I covered in the last blog post. However, there is a question of the culture that helped create this situation.

Nearly 100 years ago, there was a perfect stop of post war reparations and wound licking in Europe that allowed the Nazi party to not only form, but to become popular, gain power and eventually parliament. This was not something that happened over night. It was not a ‘blink and you miss it’ situation that left everyone shocked and surprised.

My argument is that, look America has a fraught relationship with racism. It is a country based on slavery of indigenous people people being shipped in as labour. But this is not really what I wanted to discuss and honestly I don’t know enough on the subject. However, racism is not a new issue, it is not something that is even hidden. AS SUCH I mean we all know it, we see it, we know that WS are prevalent in America (I couldn’t say if less or more so than other countries per capita) but I guess the problem is that it has never been something that you are proud of. Or something you proudly display? Or … FLY FUCKING FLAGS ABOUT. Am I making sense? As I write this I just watched a video where a woman approached her neighbour who is flying a Nazi flag and he couldn’t explain why. I mean if you are going to be open about your inclinations, then you should be able to back it up? 

So what I am trying to say, in a round about way – racism is not something that has recently sprung up in America but like Germany, it has been simmering away for a long, long time and it was just wanting for the perfect series of events to burst into the forefront. 

One thing that does bear remembering. Trump is racist. We can all agree on this. But is is not politically or otherwise, aligned to any WS groups. He is an idiot but he doesn’t legitimise his bigotry in such a way. The WS groups which are not even splinter, they exist independently and just happen to have similar views/values…. they are not political and not aligned with any political parties. I think it is important to remember that technically they are not legitimised in any way. RIGHT UP UNTIL Trump refuses to condemn what happened. Trump who goes into a melt down over a chain store no longer selling his daughters handbags? Among other things. This president who cries foul over the smallest indiscretion, real or imagined. Cannot muster the letters to condemn the march, the murder or the intent. 

And we have Confederate statutes being removed under the over of darkness with a police escort in case of any trouble? This is the America the rest of the world just watches in a stunned silence. Because we are a little stunned that it is a shock, that no one saw this coming. But you know what is really hard? Seeing someone getting punched, and suggesting that this is not the right reaction. And being told that at best by suggesting two wrongs don’t make a right, you are either complicit or at worst, a nazi sympathiser? I mean… 

IT IS HARD TO BE A PACIFIST you get what I mean? Hell yeah, I bet it would feel great to punch someone in the face for sharing abhorrent views. That everything they stand for disgusts you to the point that you have the energy, passion and desire to knock them out. Yep. Honestly, hand on cold, dead, heart. I do understand it. BUT IT IS NOT THE ANSWER because that guy? The one you punched? It was unprovoked wasn’t it? Did he say anything to you? Provoke you? Did he make a move to physically harm you? Nope, he didn’t and there we go, that is the problem. Because you really do need to take the high ground. If we all just resort to violence you are no better than them, sure violence is their language, it is one that they use, that they are fluent in. We need to talk, we need to be loud, we need to show that we are now cowed by them. But you know what we don’t need to do? Lower ourselves to their level. They have experience and will use it to beat us. Being a pacifist is not a bad thing, it can be hard, damned hard. But I stand by it.

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The trouble with the …

National Socialist German Workers Party…. no wait… bit of a mouthful… let us try again … Nazi’s … no wait… still not right….. White Supremacists?

Still a bit of a mouthful isn’t it ? And the other problem is that, white supremacists are not one and the same. Overall they may share similar ideology but generally speaking their modus operandi can vary wildly as can their reason for existence. There is no nazi party. It was disbanded in October 1945. It was a socialist party formed after a perfect storm, politically, socially and economically, in Germany in 1920. It didn’t even last 30 years but it has had a lasting and resounding impact globally.

There has been recent reports of tourists in Germany being caught doing the HH ( nazi) salute at prominent sites. It is illegal, but I guess you could argue that no everyone would be aware that it is illegal. But surely, anyone with an ounce of common sense would know that doing such a thing is a bad idea? No??

We are all aware of the legacy of the Nazi party, of the war time atrocities, there were still members of the party being tried for crimes in the last decade or so. I am writing this without doing research. It is all there to check out if you don’t know this already. Germany has spent over 70 years distancing itself from those years under the party and the crimes that were committed.

Now the U.S.A has a long history of racism which I will plead a degree of ignorance on. But we all know and have heard of the K.K.K so it isn’t as if there isn’t a history of white supremacy parties in the country. But they always acted with a degree of anonymity. They always wore hoods, they were covered by layers of secrecy which ensured that you wouldn’t know that you were dealing with a member of the group. A group that was linked to a degree accross American and has led walks, and protests. White Supremacy is not a new idea in America, neither are splinter and anarchist groups that use anti government rhetoric. Some of these parties are disenfranchised men and women who find themselves in prison and need to align themselves with a group for safety (pop culture, I have no real experience of prison life)  or there are gangs which pop up in certain social/economic climates and they find similar morals, values or are young enough to get sucked into it. Or are they fighting against what they see around them, their friends, family, neighbourhood.

However, none of these groups, anywhere, not just America, are Nazi’s because sorry, as easy as it is to use a short and simple moniker for them…. it isn’t true or the case. It is an umbrella term for the most part with each individual group having a separate identify and name for themselves.

But just lately, nazi seems to be a term used more and more, and not just by the media. It seems to be the go to term for white supremacists who have little or no understanding of the Nazi party. But this is not a history lesson. It is a request. Stop using nazi as an umbrella term for white supremacists. It is incredibly disrespectful to Germany, to the memory of what happened (living memory at that) and it is suggesting some sort of wider agency with these groups. Don’t give them the legitimacy, to suggest they are more organised or powerful. And frankly don’t throw them at another countries doorstep. America, you were racisit because the Nazi party were even an inkling of an idea in Germany. You cannot blame another another countries political party, directly or indirectly, for the high levels of racism. This is not something you can foist on anyone else. This is your problem and one you should have dealt with long ago and maybe, just maybe, you wouldn’t have white supremacists marching proudly and without fear.

Please, stop using the word nazi. It is not a kind word, a pretty work. It is a work that just brings to mind, fear and hatred.

The Parallel Doctor

Are we all clutching our pearls…… got the smelling salts at the ready? And emails open to be directed at various institutions including the venerable B.B.C?

The new incarnation of the Doctor has been announced and …. SHOCK. ABJECT HORROR. It appears that they have chosen to pick a woman? What on earth are they thinking with this monstrosity? 

The memes (littered through this article for your amusement) have been interesting, tongue in cheek, downright silly. There has been a massive backlash against men about this casting. In the same way we saw a massive backlash against men when the new Ghostbusters movie was announced, leaked, promoted, and eventually, released. Looking back on it, this might have been why Wonder Woman was released with a whimper and not a fanfare.

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I am questioning a lot of the complaints levied at the new Doctor. Personally, not heard of the actor and honestly in a role like this – that is a good thing. Hands off Americans with your wanting well known actors to carry everything. It isn’t always about how well known an actor is. 

Now, before we go on, I best just say this. I have not really watched the ‘new’ Dr Who. And by that I mean anything really after McCoy. And boy, do I remember the geek baying for blood at the idea that there would be a further regeneration… there is a CANNON PEOPLE! A CANNON! Artistic license is not allowed! You see, we have had an entire fandom rise up in disgust… the very same fandom, over changes to something they love. 

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But what I found interesting, from my own news feed is that … well thankfully no one was bitching about the new Doctor. But they were railing against detractors. And that it was mentioned a few times, how disgusting it is that women were complaining about the new Doctor is female. I mean we are all a sorority, a sisterhood, we should be raising each up… right? 

But if I am able to just look at the Ghostbusters analogy that I cobbled together rather briefly, yes, it comes down to gender. But in so much as the detractors, of the detractors are focusing on this rather than the actual issue. The issue is rarely clear cut. With Ghostbusters, there were legitimate concerns over casting, about the story, the direction, Ghostbusters to many of us is a movie that we grew up with, and still love to this day. So it is hard to see it potentially butchered. I have to say potentially, I haven’t watched it. I don’t plan to. None of the trailers appealed to me. But it was and to a degree, is okay for me to say, because I am female. But a guy saying the same will be accused of hating women, being anti feminist, I won’t go on.

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Now, the same can be said about the new Doctor, in so much that the arguments against her being picked are not, in fact, anything to do with her gender. There were 2 very strong candidates. One was a leak from a BBC source, Kris Marshall was a hotly tipped contender with some even suggesting that he has won the role. For some reason, I am not sure where this came from, Tilda Swinton. I really don’t care for the first (My Family should have quit while it was ahead and ditto the BT adverts… see, a pattern!) and the second, I just couldn’t see being a good fit. But, what I am trying to say, in a particularly round about way,  is that it isn’t personal, it isn’t about gender, it is upset over a favourite not winning the race. These are fans that have been debating this for quit some time, debated, weighed, considered many options and but all their hope behind a particular actor. That all comes crashing down with the announcement of someone who wasn’t even on the radar for most (if not all) interested parties. 

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So, I am going to express an unpopular opinion. THIS IS NOT A FEMINIST ISSUE you are beating the wrong horse with this one. We don’t have to agree someone or something is a good thing based on gender. We are allowed to reserve judgement on how suitable someone is until they actually show us their chops, acting or otherwise. We, feminist, non feminist, person with no real agenda, is allowed to say… y’know … not really thrilled by this announcement… and not be beaten down for disrespecting the new Doctor based on her gender. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BRAS IN THE TARDIS! 

Now, just to switch up the conversation a little, I am actually excited for the Christmas special! Like I said earlier, I haven’t really been watching the recent incarnations of Dr Who, I have seen enough but certainly not a fan. I am also blissfully ignorant of this actress. But I am curious to see how the writers play this, especially considering we saw the release of Wonder Woman this summer. And what I loved about Wonder Woman is her heart. She cared, about people, all people, humanity, she loved, and felt. It gave depth to a movie that easily could have just been a bunch of people fighting each other for supermacy. But is this what the writers are planning for the Doctor? The Doctor is an alien, who does not have the same agency as a normal human. We have foils in the guise of the Doctors companions to give human agency and emotion. 

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I am not trying to suggest that the detractors who genuinely have concerns based on the gender of the new Doctor. I am actually really, honestly, looking forward to this new Doctor. Because I really want to see what she brings to the role, what the writers do. I am not alone, and I am going to suggest that the Doctor Who franchise has won over as many disenfranchised fans as it may have lost. 

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Revising Childhood

So it is that time of year, we are over the last year and all the trauma, we have either completely ignored or already forgotten our resolutions. We are realising the fresh new year is already nearing the end of it’s first month.

Have you noticed the nostalgic posts gathering steam? First FB photo versus current profile, memories, anniversaries of albums or lists of albums? I will freely admit I did a round of albums that meant something to me as a teenager. Which lead me to the following conclusion. I have really great taste in music. And I am old.

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You see, I totally understand looking back at what was, what might have been, could have been. And we are now far enough removed from 2016, but still close enough that we are reflective. We look at where we are, what we have managed to do, what have we changed in the last 12 months. Did you do anything we meant to do?

In our show this week (17th Jan) we were looking at age, and the question on what you would tell your teenage self. And what is age?

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One question that was asked on the show – perfect age. I mean you can totally over think this, look at your experiences at different ages or project where you wish or expect to be at a certain age. Me? 25 – I always default to being 25, I know, I know – you are all shocked to hear I am even that old. But why do I default to that age? Well to be perfectly fair it used to be 21, but I realised that I really couldn’t pull that off any more. I mean is there an age where you can honestly, hand on heart state that everything, EVERYTHING – and I mean the fucking planets aligned and angels sang a chorus, was perfect? Guessing the answer is no. But it isn’t really the question Audrey was asking. It wasn’t directed at our own experiences, but rather at the perceived age that we need to or want to be to gain what we need/want. So yes, I still stand by 25. Because it is long enough to get an education, and have experience. Although when I reflect at being back in a minimum wage job, I wonder at my life choices.

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Now when we look at what we would have liked to have known as a teenager, what life, experience, wisdom, age and reflection has taught us? Well.. nope. I wouldn’t. I may well be in the minority in this. But as much as there are several missed opportunities in my life, both work and love. I have moments, I am sure we all do, where we think about what might have been. But that is a fantasy and not reality. Because… and my not so inner hippy coming out now – life if a journey. The person we are today is a product of everything we have been through up to this point. So to change even one thing, will have a massive consequence. It sounds simple enough to say ‘be more confident’ ‘you will do the thing’ ‘don’t go out drinking instead of studying’ but actually… that all leads you to the person you are today. And by dwelling on what might have been, or what you should have done, you are missing a very important point. You are the only person who is responsible for your journey. And you need to realise, accept and understand this.

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Now something that I want to round this out with, perceived age, what you needed to or should have done, and actually dating. For me to say I will date someone younger than me. at my age? Not an issue. I have got to an age now that I would say that there are much more important things than age when looking at a partner. When you are say, 20 the issue is slightly more … obvious. So while we could white wash age, and state it is just a number, I think the point that we miss is that we need to have LIVED to be able to do that, and no amount of soul search, reflection or wishful thinking will help that. With age comes wisdom. We are able to make informed choices, we are basing them on experience not just our own, but experiences our peers have gone through and that we are able to critically analyse.

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What I am slowly getting at, in a way so round about you probably didn’t see it coming is that we need to stop assigning such importance to age. Age, like maturity, is not something easily assigned. There is no right time, no end time, no cut off point.Equally there is no point in looking back and wishing. All we can do is be flexible in our approach to all things and know that we are the architect of our destiny and journey. Blame can be placed no where else.

With that in mind – be at peace with what has been. It is in the past and has become part of the person you are today. But you can do nothing to change the past. You are though, in control of your future – ENJOY!

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A carnival of clowns

It is that beautiful time of year again, you know, the time of year where leaves change colour and start to cover the pavement in warm colours, when there is a tinge of frost on your breath as you rust to the bus stop in the morning, when you start hearing reports of clowns terrorising your local….

Oh wait, what?

This is a fairly new phenomenon that I really didn’t realise was even… well a phenomenon until very recently. In late August reports started coming out of America that people dressed as clowns were trying to lure children away into forests. This quickly escalated into the clowns coming up to residences and appearing at windows, banding on doors, being a nuisance. I wasn’t alone in wondering at the logic of this, in a country where guns, to a degree are fairly commonplace. I assumed, that this would just be something isolated to America… or maybe I hoped. But no, it wasn’t long before they turned up in the UK. Now, living in Northampton, we had the Northampton Clown a couple of years ago (I am now informed that this was in correlation with the release of either the book or film, IT) who has since been unmasked. In all fairness, he was fairly laid back, and would leave cryptic messages on his FB page, giving clues as to where he would next turn up. He would always just appear standing in the middle of a car park, street corner. Always quiet, never interacting. 

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But since then, things certainly seem to have escalated. It is hard to pin down exactly when clowns started becoming synonymous with Halloween, or when they started terrorising locals – I mean until the Northampton Clown, it was not something I had come accross. And given to urban legend, second hand stories and various differences around the country, you will get told either they haven’t until this year, or that it just something that happens every autumn. Although this year is slightly different in that this escalated quickly and the police have since had to put their foot down and stated that anyone dressing as a clown will run the risk of being arrested on sight. 

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But is dressing as a clown any different from other festivities that come along with this time of year? This is the last hurrah, the party before we all buckle down for potentially a hard winter. I mean traditionally… historically if you will. Halloween has always been a time for scares, pranks, for the veil between the living and the dead to be that little thinner. All Hallows… Eve? and The art of carnival! both explore the history behind our need to let loose. I mean even looking at the football season, especially when it is an international tournament. The fact is that, we are tuned into needing days to let off steam. We are lucky that now we have, as a basic standard, a 5 day working week and 4 weeks holiday, bank holidays. 

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And while I am meandering to my point, bank holidays, to a greater extent have taken over from festival days, although I don’t wish to repeat myself if you have clicked the links to my previous blogs. Not, actually, all that long ago, we didn’t have the luxury of time off, and relied on festival days to blow off steam. Halloween is a time of year that we are slowly taking back. It has always been a time of celebrate, but we have slowly moved it over to a child’s holiday, not something for adults to concern themselves with. Why would we want to dress up and pretend to be someone else? Why would we want to put on a mask for an evening? Why indeed! 

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I don’t condone the idea of people dressing up as clowns to terrorise people, frankly, outside halloween it is kinda.. creepy whether you like clowns or not. And it really does give people the excuse to cause trouble. That is really why there were traditional feast days, and carnival days. So that everyone understood that is was a ‘day off’ from roles, responsibilities, that everyone was on the same level. A sort of, wholesale ‘what happens in Vegas’ situation. 

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So dressing up as a clown at will, from late summer, approaching children, tapping on windows, and hell, even attacking people? This is really not acceptable, there is a reason while, as a society, a global one at that, we are all feeling rather uneasy. It really doesn’t matter what your intention is.. although sorry if you are going to dress up as a clown, you must realise that you have a 70/30% chance of terrorising or upsetting people. Just stick to Halloween weekend/night. And stay either in a club/nightspot, or home. Don’t think it is big or clever to scare innocent people. We have Fright Nights, we have movies, we have enough ‘safe places’ to get scared where we will also be guaranteed comfort and support should anything untoward happen.

I am sorry to sound like such a downer, I love clowns, I love clown makeup, and I adore halloween. But everyone has a right to be safe (even dressed as a clown) and to enjoy themselves! 

HAPPY HAUNTING!

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Geek before it was mainstream

So, this weeks show is all about box sets and I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle the question from my gaze. What am I going to watch maybe, or cosplaying from popular shows (like GoT) but with a modern twist. Which I did respond to my co-presented with a rather over enthusiastic essay about cosplay which I don’t think was deserved and would probably would have served better as a blog. Then I got thinking about how both Marvel and DC are releasing films and television series which are very much mainstream.

I came up with the second idea this morning, but having given it some thought over the day, I think I can combine both topic ideas.

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My love of cosplay is well documented and so it is obvious for me to look at this side of things. However, when looking at updating a character like Dany from GoT, it really depends on where you fall in cosplay. There are those that will copy a costume exactly, those who will cross play, do casual looks based on a favourite character, armoured Disney princesses are popular at the moment, and to stay with a theme for a moment, apparel like Twisted Disney. But the one thing that remains constant in these is that you are instantly able to recognise the character. It is very much a visible acknowledgement of the character you are portraying. We work in visuals when we cosplay, often we are sharing on social media, or building portfolios, modelling our handiwork. So the costume we design needs to be visually identifiable.

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Which leads me to the observation (that I am not alone in making) that I am winding my way around to slowly. That pre millennium, every show was cleanly costumed. Let us take a quick look at the X Men – leading the way for comic to film cross over. If you didn’t ever pick up a comic, you may have come accross the X Men as a cartoon. And remember all those individual and interesting costume designs ? Each one designed for the personality of the wearer. This goes back to what I was saying about a visual representation of the character. Because comics are primarily a visual medium in the same way films are, with dialogue being secondary (and that is an argument we can have on another day). But if you put the X Men films alongside either comic or cartoon that you remember, there is a marked difference.

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The costume is identical for each member, the individuality is left at school. Once you become a full member of the team you dress, like a member of the team. If you look at shows like Agents of Shield, even shows like The Flash, Arrow, hell let’s throw Super Girl and Jessica Jones in there. The body of the story, the content for the majority of the episode is conducted out of costume. The segments of the show that see our hero, or anti hero in costume (if in fact there is one) is very small and tends to be there to underpin rather than highlight the entire show.

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It is easy to point out that tastes change, and that what was fashionable in the 70/80 and early 90’s certainly isn’t what is attractive to people any more. That we like things to have a sleeker design, just look at our phones, our cars, our lives. I could talk about how the uniformity indicates an end of childhood, and that even while different you are part of a controlled group. But again, a topic for another group. The fact is that superheroes have always worn a uniform but recently the uniforms have changed direction.

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And that, that is what makes these shows more accessible. The fact that we are not made uncomfortable by people dressing up, making fools of themselves, that for the most part they dress like ‘normal’ people. Even in films like The Avengers, they spend as much time in ‘civvies’ as they do ‘in costume’. If you look at shows like Batman (yes, I mean the one with Adam Weston) then you notice that there is a distinct flip between the amount of time that was spent in costume and the amount of time in say, the more recent spate of Batman movies.

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It is about accessibility, you can relate and understand and it makes the shows, and films more palatable to a wider audience. It means that the shows will be watched by people who have no interest or understanding of the background of the film of show – as can be seen by the popularity of the films spawns by the Marvel Universe. This is a genre that has bought the Geek culture into the mainstream. super heros previously resigned to only serious collectors or fans, banished to childhood are now being enjoyed by entirely new audiences because now, being interested in Geek Culture isn’t seen as bad as it once was.And let us not forget, the Avenger that most people want to laugh at Aquaman …. he is had a total make over, and I really cannot wait for that movie 😉

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As for box sets that you might want to check out – Netflix has an abundance, there is my personal favourite – Gotham, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Daredevil. Available on Sky – we have The Flash, Arrow, Agent Carter and Agents of Shield with more being planned.

 

A fresh Undead

Oh … right… that doesn’t sound right does it ? Well, I make no secret one most of my social media platforms that I have a deep love for zombies. They are fantastic. Kinda like, Vampires but without the snobbery. And glitter. I love glitter but the genre is far to … ‘glittery’ now. So of course, pretty much everyone has seen The Walking Dead. It is back in October. I am surprised by the timing as if they had left it another week it would be out for Halloween. But then I guess we are working with American Autumn schedules which are a little quirky.

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But believe it or not, this is not about TWD as much as I could talk your ear off about the show. And the show has been very influential. For a still relatively new show, it has spawned a great deal of interest in the genre, with new films, games, tv shows all cropping up. Hey I am not complaining!

The only thing that get to me, is I adore reading, and of course, zombies are a great subject. But TWD have infected (see what I did there) the genre to the extent that I would suggest that whole sections of dialogue were written while the author was watching the show. It isn’t always a bad thing. Some authors has used a degree of imagination in pushing through what the writers of TWD may have ignored, or glossed over. Going into more details of the hows, and whys. There are of course we have a variety of different types of zombies, some fast, some slow. Some remember, some are selective in their dinner – and there was one book that used cats in a really disturbing way.

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I would also hesitantly suggest that it is cultural, most of these authors are American. There is a sense of wanting to look at society, the breakdown thereof, what people must or chose to do to survive. British authors tend to be a little bleaker in this respect and not as hesitant to just kill people off, and do it in rather inventive ways. But there has always been something missing, I don’t always quite grasp the motivation of the character, or care. So, what I am trying to say, is that the Zombie genre is muddy at best as everyone fights to get a piece of TWD action.

So, when a friend suggested I read Tide of Souls by Simon Bestwick, I really was not sure what to expect. You see, zombie novels are comforting to me. I know what to expect, there is almost a formula to the story, drag it out over as many books as you like. I have to be honest, I didn’t read the synopsis, I just dove directly into the book. I figured it would be a tale as old as time, with a new finish.

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And boy was I wrong. I am at the edge of my seat reading this book. I won’t spoil it, I am not finished yet. But it is a rare thing for me to be so effected by a book. The language used is refreshing. It feels, real, there are colloquial terms thrown in and you feel as if you are transported. And don’t get me started on the descriptive narrative. I can still hear the flesh tearing from bone, much like our protagonist still does. The book just won’t let you relax. Often, when reading, I find myself skipping through pages as there seems to be filler. Unnecessary paragraphs thrown in, to help us better understand characters. Or as I cynically assume, to help with the word count. It does little or nothing for the word count, and in a book that falls somewhere between action and horror, you really shouldn’t need filler.

Tide of Souls doesn’t give you this option, there isn’t a simple or easy place to put the book down, stop reading … or … dare I say it… turn off the lights. Although I do suggest taking regular breaks because you may do yourself an injury! Somehow, the characters, as small as their part might seem, are so … real? So well written, that you get a feel for them. You can understand them. Maybe you see reflections of people you know, or can empathise with them. Simon shows a confidence in his writing, that he doesn’t need to spend a page or 5 describing a character’s background, upbringing or failed relationship. He is confident enough that he has used fairly recognisable archetypes in his book, while still maintaining their individual uniqueness. And as much as I want to shout from the roof tops (read the book, you will HATE me) he has also managed to tap into several fears, both real and imagined and weave them into a genre that, honestly I thought was over saturated. It isn’t since I read Girl with all the Gifts (seriously if you haven’t read this, do it … like after Tide of Souls, but do it) have I been so impressed with a genre book.

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Edit: since writing  this blog have finished the book, the pace does not let up, in the third part when you think thinks might settle down, be a little more subdued? Not at all, you are just waiting, you know something is going to happen. There is no breathing room. The idea behind it is pretty stark, it is bleak and sad. It is a very, very sad book. There is really little in the way of bright moments, there isn’t what I would call a happy ending .. this is all so very difficult to write without spoiling the book for you and I really do not want to do that. This book keeps you guessing, wondering, it keeps your adrenaline going. It is bleak, but in a way that takes away any distractions from the story, and the story telling. Please, please – go buy this book!

I thoroughly recommend this book, and author and hope you buy and enjoy his book(s) – please let me know if you have already read his books, or if you go on to read this book – let me know what you thought!

CLICK HERE for handy Amazon link to the book 😉

Football Festivities

This is yet again, probably not the blog you are expecting. As you may or may not be aware, the UEFA European Championships are once again upon us. I found out via Facebook. First FB kindly asked if I would like to share scores, or some such. Then there was the influx of complaints about the football. I guess I am lucky, I can mostly avoid football in my ..’real life’ feels wrong.. my physical life? Non Cyber life? Okay that term is something I will need to work on.

Now I went on to see an interesting debate on a friend’s page following on from the question of football and why football tends to garner a certain reaction from fans, which isn’t present in other sports, an example used most often is Rugby, but you could through things like Tennis, Basketball, Hockey and if feeling facetious you could (and someone did) suggest Chess.

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My conclusion at the time was thus : Could it also be the type of person that the game itself attracts, for example those who follow sports also to a degree play the sport. Football non violent so there is always a degree of frustration both on and off the pitch whereas rugby is a violent game, where issues are resolved. Chess is an intellectual game, and so any arguments would be resolved with coherent debate, so I would suggest this would be the case in a perceived slight either as competitor or audience member? I would extrapolate that it might have something with the amount of testosterone that either participating or watching causes to be released, and how it is channeled, effectively or not.

But this hasn’t left me, as clearly, the football won’t be either, going by the signs of patriotism I saw on my way into town this morning (flags, houses and cars, festooned.. each to their own, I have Halloween decorations outside my home) and so I have continued to ponder this. If you are wondering why this has taken on so much of my time, I compartmentalise and so I am generally thinking on a number of topics or subject. But I have since drawn comparisons to the idea of ‘carnival’ which I did a blog post on last year The art of carnival! which was a brief exposition on what carnival once was and meant.

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You see, things always happen for a reason. I don’t mean, you missed your bus and ended up in a coffee shop and met your one true love. I am talking about timing. We still have festivals at certain times of year, the timetables have not changed, since before Christ. We have celebrations at certain times of year. For example, you could suggest that we have football tournaments at this time of year because the weather is at its more temperate. Which is a lie. It is an international game now, so the weather will be different depending what hemisphere you are standing on at the time. And we should… well.. the idea is that it should be relatively warm. It isn’t. It is because we have kept to the festival days in rough approximation for … well as far back as we care to go.

Is football a legitimised ‘carnival’ of sorts – well, yes, actually i would say it is. There is the idea that anything go’s, that it doesn’t count, there is a holiday atmosphere and to an extent it is encouraged. Why our fans (among others, England fans are not alone!) are so … extreme in their behavior may have something to do with the long hours that are put in, the lack of money for entertainment. From the moment you commit to becoming an adult, you are expected to provide, either yourself, or later your family. You become responsible and you can’t just go off for a weekend and leave your troubles behind. You have a wife, children, a job. When you go on holiday you are with your family. You are with other families, you have to keep some of that veneer of responsibility alive.

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But going away with the ‘lads’ is reminiscent of holidays that have to a degree, become a right of passage for many young people, going to Spain and other, far but still close, destinations that are hot, and cheap. That you can just get away from your real life, let your hair down, drink too much, spend too much time in the sun, and get a tattoo or 3 that you instantly regret. You are young, possibly singe (but who will tell) you have just finished school, college or in a break at uni. This is all very natural and part of human nature, and again comes into the idea of carnival. One of the themes is hiding your true self, either by mask or by becoming something you are not. For some people it is becoming promiscuous, or a heavy drinker, someone who has tattoos. I am not for a moment trying to become judgemental but this is my attempt at understanding the phenomenon! This is great when you are either just heading toward your Twenties, or mid twenties, but the older you get the more responsible, you have to adult.

And so, it reaches a point where you need a natural release. For families, local councils still offer ‘opiate for the masses’ by offering fun fairs, markets, entertainment that is relatively inexpensive and accessible by all. But it isn’t letting your hair down. It isn’t the type of letting down of hair and general debauchery that we are more likely to think as Roman. So while it is good at helping the towns citizens feel a little better about living there, and spaced throughout the year so that it not only makes everyone feel good, it allows for exchange of coin, people coming into the town and people having a good reason to visit other towns, thereby promoting tourism albeit on a small scale.

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But this is like I said, not really enough, if you work 40+ hours a week, you live with several other people of varying sex and age, with familial dynamics, where you have to be constantly aware of what others needs and wants are and often putting them in front of your own. But when you get to go away on to see a football tournament, you are encouraged to a degree to get lairy, to cheer, to promote your own team winning over others, you get competitive. You drink. A lot. Often you are in the sun for hours at a time and there is a feeling, generally, of festivities. We are pack animals, we are often effected by moods of those around us. So when there is a lot of goading, celebration, attitude of ‘them versus us’ it is infectious. It is spur of the moment, holiday mood, you are being validated because you are supporting your team either locally or nationally and you need to defend your team and your own honour. 

So, during the course of writing this, England were knocked out, and unfortunately, so were Germany. Which I am very upset about. Don’t talk to me about it. Still fresh. See, even someone who has zero interest in the sport, gets upset when her home team gets knocked out! But I can’t condone the violence, but I think I can now, understand it to an extent.

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