Back, Back Again

 

Now, I know what you’re going to say. She’s come crawling back to the blogosphere, like a cheating husband to a scorned wife, when he’s run out of clean shirts, and his mistress has dumped him. She’s been absent for nearly a month. This, of course, is all true. I have come crawling back. Again. But, dear reader; my absence has been due to a trip to the USA, and general apathy towards writing.

I’ve been plodding on with a manuscript that is breaking my heart. Whenever I try to write, I end up wanting to bang my head against my desk. My protagonists seem to have taken on lives of their own, completely beyond my control. They’ve turned into irritable toddlers, with ideas completely outside of my own. I was warned of this, but like all major problems, you never really think that they’ll happen to you. Ah, sweet ignorance.

Anyway, I’m back to regular rambling about all kinds of things, all over again. As per usual, I’ve come back with more resolutions to be healthier, write more, work harder, and so on. I think I experience something of a New Year’s epiphany every six weeks or so. As I write this, I’m wondering whether I ought to take up yoga, or if it’d make me more relaxed. Or whether there might be something to become serene, and taking up meditation. Unfortunately though, I lack the patience to meditate. Thinking crates a bit of a distraction. Trying to sleep is turning into something I can only do between six am and eleven am. Nighttime is turning into a dark place, in which I try to name all of the states in the USA, or wonder what it would be like if alligators could fly.

Anyway, I’m sorry about my lengthy absence. I have lots of blogging, and reading to get done. There are awards to reciprocate, and books that I have read recently that I ought to review. That should give me enough material to resolve your insomnia, dear reader.

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On The Canvas

The subject of piercings is often a contentious one, especially when raised between parents and children. The same sort of thing goes for tattoos. Parents as a rule do not tend to agree with offspring putting holes in their eyebrows, lips, nipples, and so forth. I have managed to work my way around this by saying that I won’t ever get any tattoos, or facial piercings. Piercings below the neck are accepted with a degree of derision, repulsion and disapproval, however on the whole, tend to pass without being commented upon.

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In a professional sense, I think they ought not be on show to your boss. There are boundaries, however I think that as long as they’re covered, anyone ought to be allowed to alter their body in any way they might want to. It’s an artistic licensing issue. We all have one beautiful canvas given to us at birth, and by the age of eighteen, we are granted the ability to put whatever we so wish on and through our skin. It’s kind of beautiful, if you think about it. Anyone can look as they want to. Nobody has any real right to change the way you look, except you.

I like the idea of being an individual. It depends on you, I think. Everything is beautiful, as long as it’s yours, your idea.

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(1) http://www.amazingtattoo.info/data/media/11/tattoo_model_search.jpg

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Supporting Photographers!

Yesterday, my lovely flatmate, Sam, updated his blog with all of the work he’s put into his first year of BA Hons Press and Editorial Photography. His work is fantastic, and I’ve never seen anyone so committed to a particular course. It’s remarkable how myself and other flatmates moan around exam time about the complexities of our course, and Sam just gets on with making workbooks, and hanging out in the dark room. He put an awful lot of effort into work this year, even securing freelance work for companies such as Student Surf Tour.

So, please have a look at his blog, its brilliant!

http://samuelshrimpton.blogspot.co.uk/

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Where Post-Colonialism Takes A Nineteenth Century Stroll

A Short Introduction (1)

Post-colonialist criticism has won my favour today, because I’ve been revising all the theories that I haven’t written about in my essays. This presents a problem, because I didn’t realise at the beginning of the year that I couldn’t write about the same topic twice. This means I’m in the slightly tricky position of having to write about all the theories that quite frankly, well, I’m mediocre (at best) at. This means that a frantic revision of all the compulsory reading ensued, and now I’m feeling marginally calmer, I’ve  had an epiphany: I will not have to write about Jacques Derrida under exam conditions. Anyone familiar with Derrida’s work will realise what a completely beautiful blessing this is.

Anyway, I’ve been reading extensively around the subject of post-colonialist criticism today, which essentially considers the nature of literature in terms of its understanding of ‘the subaltern’, and how Britain perceives the world, whilst it perches on something of a pedestal due to its great imperial past. It was certainly a great past, if slightly ethically questionable. Some would argue that because our empire has disintegrated, that we are no longer great, and instead ride on the coat-tails of the reasonably new superpower, the United States of America. But that’s a whole other conversation.

Title page from the first edition of Jane Aust...

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I like the idea of the subaltern; the idea that we cannot communicate with the subaltern, as proposed by Edward Said is interesting, because it suggests we have no way of creating a common language with which to communicate. Structuralist theory, as dictated by Ferdinand Saussure, suggests that in order to communicate, we must have a culturally agreed code to fall back on, to determine the meaning of the sign. (In this case, words). Without this shared culture, it is seemingly impossible to communicate quite literally, across the world.

Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park is one of the best examples of literature that is concerned with empire. She discusses the role of Sir Thomas Bertram in Antigua, running a slave plantation. She personally was opposed to slavery, however in the novel, it is implicitly accepted as a commodity that is fundamental to the wealth of the Bertrams. Interestingly, when the financial difficulties of the plantation become apparent, no lifestyle changes occur, almost as if to suggest there is an innate wealth underpinning the lifestyles of the family.

Post-colonial critics have suggested any number of things about Jane Austen in relation to this novel, such as the idea that she supports slavery because of the nature of the Bertrams wealth. An interesting counter to this argument however is that Fanny Price, the novel’s protagonist, asks her uncle, Sir Thomas about the plantation, and he neglects to give a reply. This could be interpreted as showing an awareness of immorality, and therefore an unwillingness to discuss the situation with his niece.

Returning to the ideology itself however, I find it extremely compelling because of its entanglement with history, perhaps more so than other forms of literary criticism. The key critics behind post-colonialism, including Spivak and Said, present repeatedly reputable arguments that discuss the British attitudes towards empire, and towards this culture that we are unable to communicate with, due to our extreme cultural differences, and historic hegemony towards them.

For anyone with a particular interest in the British Empire, I’d suggest reading Orientalism by Edward Said; it presents some very interesting forward thinking on the subject of empire and dominance, and for anyone unfamiliar with the concept of hegemony, I’d suggest looking that up too. Antonio’s Gramsci’s marxist thoughts on hegemony provide a very interesting inside into the ways of imperialism in the modern world, a world that has long moved on from naval conquests, into a more political kind of empiricism.

Happy reading!

(:

(1) http://cultural.emulty.com/wp-content/uploads/wpid-41ecV3AnOOLSL500.jpg

(2) Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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Notes Backwards

We’ve all wondered what we’d say, if we could travel back in time, and tell ourselves what to do. I thought I’d blog about it today, on account of the weather being simply terrible, which is making me all reflective, and thoughtful.

Knowledge, and university courses. In the pursuit of knowledge, there are several things a person must know. The first, is that learning stuff, the big stuff, isn’t easy, and unless you’re bless with a photographic memory, something I dearly wish I had, you will spend an inordinate amount of time reading, rereading, and note-taking, before you can confidently declare to understand something. Moreover, somebody will always know more than you about something. This is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attempt to be absolutely the very best, at everything you try to do. You should take the university course you love, because otherwise you’ll be extremely resentful of it, and it’ll make it one thousand times more difficult to finish it.

Art. Art is important. It’s important because we like to build things, create things. We must remember to write, read, draw, and dance, throughout the exams, and throughout the long working weeks, because otherwise life becomes well, incredibly boring. It’s also never too late to be something you’ve dreamt of being, even if you find you’re just a little older than the others. That just means you’re more mature.

Body. You think you’re fat now, however hindsight suggests you were wonderfully slim. As Baz Luhrmann quite rightly says, “you are not as fat as you imagine”. Take care of the body. Get some exercise, even if you hate it, and remember not to eat too much rubbish. Some junk food however is good for the soul, and so eating some of it is strongly encouraged. As is the eating of broccoli.

Success. Being an awkward child, you don’t know what you want to be yet, however you do know that it’s going to be something incredibly high-flying, and difficult to manage. The aspiration will seem like it’s a really long way away when you get a reality check, and sadly have to check into the real world for a while, however you ought to just keep going, and find new ways to pursue things. Thinking outside the box is really very, very important.

Self Confidence. Another Baz Luhrmann quote. “Do not congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either.” I find these to be rather wise words, and he has a point. Remember not to get complacent, and don’t think that you know everything. When you get to university you will be humbled by everyone and everything, including your peers, how daunting the real world seems, and how little you really know about your degree. Just remember it’s only the beginning, work hard to understand more, and use the library often. Do not be disappointed if you don’t just sail through, straight away. There’s no reward, if it’s too easy.

I think that summarises my wise words of the day. I think it’s useful, sometimes, to remember what you’ve learnt. It makes you feel wise, and more mature than you were when you first started out, even if it was only really six months ago.  The video by Baz Luhrmann is something I find incredibly useful too, have a listen!

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Suits and Slippers

So I find myself writing this morning for the first time in some time, because I’ve been neglectful of many things recently. Not least of which is my blog. So for that I’m very sorry, however now I’m safely grounded back in my university bedroom, I shall be writing on a daily basis once again. My little vacations must start getting shorter, I suppose. But anyway, back to the topic of the day…

Being a ballet dancer hasn’t always appealed to me. In fact, I demanded to quit ballet when I was seven years old. I hated it, because I was clumsy and frankly, not very good. The video of my dance performance is diabolical. It’s so bad that I’ve hidden it, and I’m the only person on the planet who knows where it is hidden. But I have recently decided that contrary to by seven-year old conviction,  I’d very much like to learn to dance. My complete lack of grace and rhythm is an endless source of comedy in my household.

(1) And they're so cute.

There is, I suppose, a great element of sophistication and idealization around the art of ballet. It is romanticized, perhaps to the extent that it is misrepresented to the public. Anybody who watched Black Swan last year will know (or at least think that they know) about the dark side of the ballet. I suspect not all elements of ballet are quite as extreme as the film suggests, however, as with all professions, there’s bound to be something not quite right, something obscured under a facade of beauty and decadence, somewhere. I find it fascinating to look at all the facets of a particular profession to see where the flaws are, and how they can be resolved.

This is one of the reasons that I’ve been looking at consultancy as a career path; it can be integrated into wider interests too, and I like the problem solving and project managing. I’m fairly well organised, and I like to make huge, gorgeous projects happen. I like to take the idea of something conceptual and make it into something effective and useful in society as a whole. It’s like being a puppet master you get to put things together, and make them work with one another.

Back to the point of wanting to be a ballet dancer, however. I have a wish to have long, elegant leg lines, and a flat, toned stomach. The gym doesn’t really seem to be sufficient; it merely builds muscle, after a certain point which isn’t conducive to the rather elusive, slimline figure I covet. Genetically I’m not of a slim disposition, however I think there’s probably a balance to be struck. So I think I’m going to attempt to learn to dance, and people who know me well will be laughing their cotton socks off, reading this. I’m even laughing at myself a little bit.

So, a new thing I’m trying. Ballet. I’ll let you know how it does. I could be a ballet dancer. Admittedly I’m more likely to be a clown, however it’s a possibility. It might transpire that I’m more suited to hiking up mountains as opposed to dancing, but I suppose we’ll see. I really must remember to renew my gym membership, too…

(:

(1) http://www.sugarplumdancewear.co.uk/images/products_zoom/Diane_449_Retouch.jpg

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On Time

Time is fundamental to people. We use time to measure when we should sleep, how long for, and how our entire lives should function. We measure our days in terms of hours and minutes; appointments are scheduled in hours, or half hours. Nine am is the accepted beginning of the work day; this presumption emerges from the natural trend of sunlight and sunset, and broadly, sunlight is present, in the UK at least, from nine until five, for most of the year. There are some black winter days when it is dark by four pm, and not light until nine am, but that is a construct of the seasons.

I’m having a brilliant week, because of an abundance of time. I’m essentially finished for this year, and before exams and revision kick off, I am to enjoy a brief respite from university work. The weather is beautiful, and I have little to do except lie around, reading books, and going to the beach. Waking up in the morning with nothing to do is a fantastic feeling, if it is a rare one. It means you can spend an extra twenty minutes in the gym, and then go home, and conduct your day as you so wish.

Dali+Persistence+of+Time.jpg

Certainly one of the creepiest portrayals of time I've ever seen. (1)

Without any spare time, household, administrative type things cease to happen; the dust on the carpet reaches levels of visibility, the washing basket overflows, and the purse starts to expel receipts. You get too tired to care about doing menial things, and in my opinion at least, this is depressing. I like to have a day, every so often, dedicated to doing boring administrative tasks. Dusting, and laundry, and so forth. I can’t abide not having enough time.

I also have an extremely irritating tendency to develop viral, throat based complaints whenever I’m incredibly tired. If I work a number of extremely busy days at work, with only five hours sleep between the end of one shift, and the beginning of another, I get some form of cold, flu, or sore throat. This has been alleviated somewhat by a tonsillectomy, however I still get twinges of sore throat, and stabbing pain in my ears. I wish I could be one of those people who can function on only four hours sleep every day, but I’m not sure I could- I get very grumpy, past a certain point of exhaustion. To the point where even I don’t recognize the snarling, irritable, pale creature staring out of the mirror.

Anyway, so back to my point; I like having time. We all base everything we do on time constraints, balancing our lives between commitments. In the modern world especially, we’re busier than we’ve ever been. I suppose it’s important to recognise however, that we should always, always, make time to do the washing. Because everyone needs clean pants.

(:

(1) http://www.ideachampions.com/weblogs/Dali%2BPersistence%2Bof%2BTime.jpg

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Oh, What It Is to Be Excited…

I'd like a bed like this one day. (1)

So here we are again; another sunny Monday morning with the prospect of university essays, the gym, and the laundry to be doing. However, today is an exciting Monday, because today is the day of the Asda deliver. I promise that I’m not getting excited purely for the delivery of vegetables; I’m excited because I found a double duvet and pillowcase set, with pretty trees on it, for £2.77. And so obviously, I had to buy it. I love duvet covers. I especially like clean ones. So I’m really quite looking forwards to the changing of the duvet, later tonight. Which, as a I read that sentence back, I realise sounds a little bit sad. But nevertheless, I like pretty stuff. I especially like it when it is on sale. I think it’s a genetic programming issue.

Another upcoming event, with perhaps a tad more significance, is my impending birthday; I’ll reach the grand old age of nineteen, very soon, and therefore that’s an excuse for a party. Or in this case, a venture to a nice restaurant with ten of my oldest friends. The restaurant “Las Iguanas” is a place I’ve been desperate to try, however it is a little bit too expensive to justify it on an everyday basis. However, birthdays mean special things can happen, and therefore I feel the pressing urge to eat South American fare. I shall consider it a prelude to my visit to the continent in 2014. A necessary training exercise, one might say.

I really enjoy celebrations; not surprise parties, or massive community hall get-togethers, but I like a nice dinner, with all my favourite people. All I really want to do with my family for my birthday is snuggle up with my Mum and Dad on the sofa, and watch Swamp People, an ingenious television program about the alligator hunters of America. I wouldn’t mind eating a steak whilst I do it, maybe with some peppercorn sauce. I think celebrations ought to be as large or as small as one would like. Equally however, I’m excited to get dressed up in something pretty, and go out with all my friends.

But before this, I get to see one of my best friends, because she’s coming to visit me at university at the end of term. It’s going to be a mini-holiday, in lieu of going on a proper one; we’ll use my flat for a holiday house, and do holiday-type things; going to the beach, going out for cocktails, and watching DVDs. It’s going to be a wonderful few days, ended by the cross-country train journey back to reality, work, and home.

In conclusion then, I’m quite excited, about lots of things. My friend visiting, my Asda order, and my birthday plans, to name just a few. It’s going be amazing. Now, I just have to tackle that essay…

(:

(1) http://www.terrysfabrics.co.uk/images/P/Lottie-Duvet-Cover-Gold.jpg

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The Road Less Travelled

Last night, I sat down, and decided to read my novel for next week; the novel in question being Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The novel focuses on a destroyed America; a world in which commercial values and commodities have been completely destroyed, and the only living people left are either ‘the good guys’ or ‘the bad guys’. The two groups are defined; society has been reduced, in the wake of this destruction, to being composed of binary opposites; good and bad, dead or alive, starving or not.

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The world of binary opposites is something proposed in Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics. Binary opposites exist to define the world in relation to what it is not; something that is essential in McCarthy’s The Road. The child is a haunting reminder of the innocence of childhood, and the ways in which it can be affected by the nature vs. nurture environment, and is a striking example of how environment is paramount to the development of a person.

The way in which America, or the developed world is portrayed here takes us back to an almost prehistoric sense of existence. The scavenging and hiding that occurs is almost animalistic, and the country seems to reduce its inhabitants to little more than dogs, in the ways in which they try to survive. Hiding, and seeking refuge, is a part of human nature, or of the fight or flight response. This is not however limited to humans alone; animals often confront their attackers in the same way as the man in the novel, who shoots the person holding his little boy hostage.

The division between being a human and being an animal is made by way of the fact that the man remembers his wife, and the birth of his child; his ultimate role in the novel is to keep the boy safe, to protect him from harm. The harm that befalls him is primarily psychological, and represents how parents, with all the love in the world, cannot always protect their children from the world outside; this idea is not just limited to burned out pieces of America, or a world in which law has been removed; it is present throughout real life too, and the novel highlights rather acutely, how experiences befall people and how they cannot always be protected from these experiences.

The issue of paternal love then, is very prevalent throughout the novel; there is nothing the father won’t do for the child, and rather disturbingly, he has had to teach the child how to use the pistol, a symbol that runs through the novel, to commit suicide in an emergency. Self destruction is constantly debated through the novel, and the man himself often meditates on the benefits of suicide; his goal is to reach the coast, however the reasoning behind it isn’t made particularly clear; what lies ahead of them seems to be endless foraging, scavenging, seeking survival; however in such a desolate landscape, the reader simply wants to ask, “but why?”.

This term as far as novels go, has been far more rewarding than the last. I’m a huge fan of postmodern literature, and the development of modern literature often grabs my attention to a much greater extent than classical literature. The novel itself is terrifying and extremely sad; it makes a person question how they would survive under such a hostile environment. I recommend reading it, if you have an evening devoid of entertainment, especially because it’s thought-provoking, and asks questions that focus very much around the environmental crisis, and the nature of human survival in the wake of an apocalypse.

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(1) http://thewordofward.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/theroad.jpg

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Censorship versus. Twitter

Twitter is a social medium that most of us in the United Kingdom, and across Europe and America, take for granted. The instantaneous ability to share information, and pass on news, is an everyday occurrence in what we consider to be the developed world. Twitter flashes us tiny snippets of information, as soon as they happen; we can know exactly what our favourite television presenter or band ate for dinner, or bought from the shops.

This is a phenomenon that is vastly underappreciated by many. Many sigh in complete exasperation at this disregard for privacy, and for boundaries; there seems to be very little that cannot be shared with the World Wide Web, the great secret keeper of the ‘free’ world.  Having too much information, in the same way as having too little, can prove detrimental; our bosses can access every facet of our personal lives, if we are indiscreet, and people whom we have never met can access our lives, and invade them, even to the extent that they can injure us. We can feel like we are trapped inside the bubble of the all-knowing; we are constantly having information thrown at us, and we are in turn, constantly sharing information, and often, we are indiscreet, and unaware of the potential dangers of knowing far, far too much.

It's a cute bird, but sounds like a stalker. (1)

However, at this juncture, we can consider what it would be like to know nothing; to be forbidden to access the world, a world that continues to progress indiscriminately before our eyes. This is the case in China, and in nations such as North Korea. The ruling powers in these countries censor every element of their people’s lives; North Korea imposes a complete ban on the internet, for most of its inhabitants; only very senior members of the dictatorship are allowed access. North Korea however takes the concept of knowledge and subverts it in a way that Britain has never done, demonstrating how the manipulation of information is perhaps the most dangerous weapon on the planet.

Kim Jong-Il and his son present the nation with a highly emotive personality cult; many North Koreans believe that their leader had the magical ability to change the weather, and that he was a popular political and cultural figure across the globe. China has recently begun to censor social networking sites that were seen to be discussing banned topics; political censorship was also deemed to be rising in places where political unrest was rife. The inhabitants of these two nations are not exposed to the world in its pure and uncut form; one could ask whether they are more protected from the dangers of social networking and the internet as a result.

Map of North Korea (2)

Censorship across the world is not an automatic process; it is often ideologically driven and dangerous insofar as those that perpetrate the censorship have access to a potentially disastrous amount of information themselves, such as where the internet user lives, their employment status, their marital status. Those who deny others information have such an abundance of it that it is potentially cataclysmic, and enforces a fear culture among the general population. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

Here in the United Kingdom then, we are bombarded with information, all the time; via email, Twitter, Facebook; we are constantly asked to process information. However indiscreet and irrelevant some of this information is, we still have access to it; we still have the ability to discuss whatever it is we wish to, without fear of reprimands, fines, or even death. We are allowed to protest against the bills we don’t want passed, and we are allowed to petition for meetings with senior government officials. These changes have the potential to happen on the basis that we have the ability to access relevant services and legislations that will make change happen; censorship not only denies the discussion of change, but also denies the protestor access to the legislation that would help them.

Information can be tedious, it can be irritating; but this ‘irritating’ environment allows the world to progress; often too quickly, but it manages to progress regardless of whether the government approves of it or not. The significance of democracy is represented in the power of the Twitter network; the power of the pen is no longer the dominant, unquestionable source of power. Now the power of Twitter, and social networking generally, outweighs the power of the newspaper, of the letter, and of the written word altogether.

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Further Reading

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17313793

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/19/kim-jong-il

(1) http://tweepi.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/t12.jpg

(2) http://images.nationmaster.com/images/motw/middle_east_and_asia/north_korea.jpg

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