What a great name for a band! 

June 25, 2017

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the notion of cognitive dissonance, which is that melty brain feeling you get when you try and hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time. The example that is often bandied about is smoking cigarettes, we know they are extremely bad for us and yet people keep on doing it. There are a number of ways that human beings cope with this phenomenon, the first is to drop one of the ideas, in this case is would be to discount the weight of scientific proof telling you that cigarettes are bad for you and write it all off as so much scaremongering or to listen to that evidence and throw your cigarettes in the dustbin. Then there is the third option where we invent an explanation that deals with the problem in some other way like,  “well, something is going to kill you.”, “my auntie Ethel smoked thirty a day and lived til she was 100” or “I don’t want to get old and senile anyway!” There is always some way that people will cognatively reframe something if they want to keep doing something that they know deep down is bad for them. It’s easier to believe anything, no matter how bizarre or how convoluted than it is to try and hold two opposing thoughts in our heads. We are all guilty of it to a certain extent, we know something to be true and all the evidence points to it and yet we refuse to face it, sometimes we don’t want to rock the boat, sometimes through fear of change, sometimes the consequences that the truth might stir up, sometimes out of sentimentality and sometimes out of love. 

The lengths some people go to to not deal with a truth can be astounding, from people who ignore the abuse of their own children to hold on to a partner or parents who cover up the crimes of their children out of misplaced love. One way of rationalising a decision that causes cognitive dissonance is to normalise the problem thought by finding others who hold the same abnormal idea. From paedophile rings, hate groups to extremist political or religious groups, it’s easier to hold an idea of a bizarre nature when someone else is telling you that it’s ok. Sadly, in many cases it is an easier option than to sort your life out. 

One of the most common ways of managing cognitive dissonance is to constantly defer choosing what thought to go with ad infinitum as many smokers do. They will give up tomorrow, a tomorrow that never comes, it works for other things too but as we stretch out that process and avoid making that decision we often find it gets made for us. Options close down, things blow up in our face, the consequences of decisions not made catch up with us and make themselves known in the most unpleasant of ways. Although in most cases those consequences are never that dire, suffering daily from the weight of all that brain noise is a harsh enough punishment on its own.

Oh! And there was a metal band with that name, they were rubbish! 

Childlike not childish 

June 24, 2017

Well, happy birthday to me! I just came back from my birthday lunch and I’m stuffed! I actually got given a plant! I’m staring at it in mild bemusement and hoping I don’t kill the poor thing.  I took a photo of the rest of my presents earlier, all bought for me, by me and you could be forgiven for thinking that the haul of geekery was intended for someone half my age, possibly younger. I do wonder sometimes if there is a version of me in a parallel universe somewhere, one who wasn’t dragged about as an afterthought as a child who went into the family business as a plumber, all arsenal tattoos and Saturday afternoons full of beer and football. I wonder what he got for his birthday, pants and socks off the teenage children and maybe some grudging birthday sex from his wife. 

I wonder what that Chris would make of what I got myself? Probably not much. But then again, that’s exactly what I’d think of his gifts. Mind you, sex would be nice. A birthday is always nicer for having a bit of howsyerfather in it somewhere. It may not seem like it, but there is a logical explanation for everything I bought myself. T shirts are always handy and don’t need ironing, the Japanese model kits are like mindfulness colouring but much cooler and the murakami art book is excellent reference, plus it gives me something to aspire to. Although to be fair, I have no excuse for Mario Amiibo , although it has unlocked a rather snazzy new outfit for my Nintendo avatar. 

I feel that there is an important distinction between people who are childlike and people would are childish and I am always warey that when new people come into my world and see all the things with big eyes, the robots and brightly coloured stuff, that they make the distinction between the two.

Childish people are a nightmare, they are jealous, they tell lies and they do things with little concern for the consequences of their actions. They do things on the spur of the moment regardless of what will happen in the long run and they will happily tell numerous people exactly what they want to hear regardless of the damage it will cause because there is only that very moment and nothing beyond it. Childish people have a desperate need for attention and to be liked, they do anything they can to make themselves popular, all it achieves in the end is that you get liked by those you are useful to in the shallowest of terms and everyone else thinks that you are a bit of a saddo. Childish people leave a trail of chaos behind them as they try and juggle all the whims they have and all the promises that they have made. Eventually , all their nonsense catches up with them and everyone suffers. Childish people make no one happy, not even themselves.

Being childlike is totally different, you retain a sense of wonder in the world around you, be it rainbows, shapes in clouds,the way sunlight hits water or simply a cool breeze of a hot day. Childlike is endless fascination, wanting to know the reasons for things, an endless stream of whys and what ifs. Being childlike is being honest and having a defined sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is fair and unfair and the inabilty to accept any of the murky crap that comes with having to make compromises and tolerate shitty people. Childlike is a thing of the essential rightness of things whereas  childish is petty and nasty, sneaky and wrong.

So now I shall spend the rest of the anniversary of my forty seventh year on this wonderful planet watching Netflix, looking through my posh picture book and making one of my master grade gundam models while the world outside gets on with its nasty petty crap. 

Happy birthday to me! 

All aboard the titanic! 

June 21, 2017

I spend a lot of time of late wondering just why people go out of their way to shoot themselves in the foot, from the daft sods who on queuing up all night for the latest iPhone, manage to drop them on concrete on the first day, through people who get bad tattoos or take stupid risks with drugs to those daft buggers who go off on adventures with zero planning only for the rescue services to have to deal with it at insane cost. The world is a dangerous place, there is disease, accidents, natural disasters and crime but, as if that wasn’t bad enough, so many people go out of their way to ruin their own lives. Granted, you talk to people who have screwed up big time and they usually have an explanation. It might not seem even vaguely sane from your point of view but from their’s it is the most logical thing in the world. I walked past a man in his fifties today, he had two huge Chinese characters tattooed up his face, they had that blue’d out, shopping list fished from freshly washed jeans look which suggested they were done along time ago. I was temped to take a photo and run it through Google translate and see what it said, I expect it would be something like “stupid drunk white man” it usually is.

The world is full of human tradigies, George Bests and Amy Winehouses who had it and the spectacular lost it. Why do people do that? They finally get what they always wanted and then…Phht! Up it goes in smoke. I have a number of theories about why people do this, maybe they are right, maybe not. I think a lot of people get so used to things being shit that they can’t handle life any other way, they haven’t the reference points for being happy. It’s like watching a freed circus elephant pace five foot forward and five foot back, the distance the chains it no longer wears would allow it to go still etched into their very being.  Sometimes the chains stay on in our heads, no matter what we do. So many people sabotage their own happiness when they get it. There are so many tales of millionaire lottery winners who ended up in worst places than where they started as well as those who didn’t change a thing, still doing crappy jobs and leading narrow existences.

We are such strange creatures us humans, whilst we would like to believe we are the masters of our own unique  destinies, we have about as much free will as one of those rescued circus elephants, walking our few feet forward and back. Once we get to a certain point in childhood, our brains are set, we are who we are and it takes a gargantuan effort or incredible trauma to shake us from that hard wired setting. It can be done though… You just have to really want it.

The really surprising thing is that people can’t actually image a life outside of the one they have, they can’t imagine a world perceived different from the one the believe and, more importantly, are invested in believing exists. Whilst on a personal level we are all special butterflies whose individual rights to be who we want to be must be respected, blah, blah, blah, blah, it is the cumulative total of all that stuckness that makes the world such a disfunctional mess of stuck people going through the same counterproductive routines because we can’t imagine anything much different, myself included. 

Strangely enough, the sheep like quality of many humans is actually much more apparent in those trying to convince themselves and others that they are different, the clothes you wear, the hairstyle you grow, the piercings you have, the tattoos you sport and the drugs you take keep you as regimented and trapped as any suit. Be you, hipster, rockerbilly, goth, rasta, emo, hippie, whatever, you are all trapped regardless of what you chose to believe, you are a marketable and malleable commodity to someone. Perhaps even more so as your belief in your difference means you have let your guard down.

According to the marketing industry, I’m an ‘edge dweller’ and we are very rare and up until the age of Google and targeted ecommerce we were too much trouble to market to as we see straight through all the tricks, now we are just another software patch in a marketing algorithm.

So really, what is wrong with us all? Why do we do it? Why do we fuck it up even when we are handed exactly what we want? I honestly don’t know, but I would hazard a guess that it is because we are all stupid  barely evolved monkies, clever enough to fashion smarter and smarter tools but still too stupid to know what to do when we have fixed all our problems, except of course create a few more. 

Let’s face it, most of us are doomed, myself included, and quite rightly so, buying tickets to board the titanic, even though we already know it will sink.

An inspector fails to call.

June 15, 2017

I’ve just finished  watching a documentary about cultural signs and signifiers in Japanese culture, whilst it was mostly things that I already understood, gundam, gojira, yakusa, geisha and the like, it went into the notion of kannagara to a much deeper extent than I already understood. Kannagara is a philosophy linked to the Shinto religion, loosely translated it means something like community or social responsibility. In Japanese society  people are naturally respectful to one another and crime is virtually non-existent. From what I can gather, this situation exists for two main reasons, firstly because children are taught at school to respect and take care of everything they use, cleaning up after themselves and carefully folding and putting everything away, and secondly, shame and disgrace are seen as major no nos in Japanese culture and are things to be avoided at any cost. 

Shame seems to be an unknown sensation in the west nowadays, it seemed to disappear as an emotion with Monica Lewinkski’s presidential spunk splattered dress and Tony Bliar’s dodgy dossier and a slew of reality shows of the Jerry Springer, Jeremy Kyle, persuasion. In fact, the only time I’ve seen the word used lately is in the defending of those wrongly shamed for their weight or sexual proclivities. Some people really should feel ashamed though but it seems to have gone out if fashion along with self control, acting your age, knowing the difference between right and wrong and most importantly, knowing when and how to apologise.

I was sitting with a few local friends the other day and we were passing comment on how the attention various people draw to their own charity or community minded activities is directly proportionate to the size of their egos and inversely proportionate to the level of their actual talent. Did anyone actually do things for the right reasons? We didn’t think so.

I watched “an inspector calls” again recently and was wondering while I was watching it how it would stand up to today’s crop of the middle class, or indeed anyone. I saw a production in the eighties with Tom Baker playing the inspector, who was playing it for laughs. It was the strangest thing, being led through something that dark and chuckling your way through it and thinking about it now, that is probably what it would be like trying to get anyone to feel a shred of remorse now…. A sick joke.  By the way, if you haven’t seen the play or any of the movie versions I have included a link on the photo to the crib note version using playmobile toys for those with short attention spans. 

I can picture it now, the rakish fiancé would now be drugged up as well as drunk and the girl he knocked up whilst in his twenties would probably be fifteen and he would blame it all on a bad upbringing because his parents got divorced and wouldn’t buy him a scooter/pony/ back tattoo/whatever. The sister would claim to have some vague disorder that would prevent her from being civil to anyone, particularly lowly shop assistants and shrug her shoulders and proceed to snort another line of ketamine off the silver salver on the table with a rolled up twenty. The husband would chuckle at the thought of sacking the dead girl and wonder out loud if this would qualify him to be a bigger bastard than that bloke off the apprentice or those mouthy celebrity chefs and would it be possible for him to get on television. Then the wife would explain that her only interest in running the charity that wouldn’t help the girl who topped herself was that it was that she was only doing it so that she could network herself into some more paid work contracts and the girl’s situation wouldn’t have got her enough attention if she spent her precious socialising time trying to help.

The inspector would be sent away because someone had googled what to do and they would start quoting their rights at the poor spectre, then they would all drop an e and go out clubbing and then to a swingers party and shag a few strangers whilst pilled up before going out and doing something the next day that they are morally unfit to do, like look after vulnerable children or give advice to the unfortunate.

This may seem to be satire, but all I am doing is cobbling together various actual things that I’ve heard done by people who should behave better and changed the details slightly. In fact, I have toned things down somewhat. Sadly, I can’t help but feel that the world today has become a place where corruption and immorality are starting to become a baseline norm amongst certain circles and I can’t believe I am actually having to write this. I regard myself as pretty normal, not predudiced, not homophobic, I have no real religious beliefs to speak of, but I believe in right, wrong and having a conscience and I spend a lot of time right now being disgusted with people. When someone like me started being appalled at your behaviour, you know you are a bad person and heading for a fall.

All I really know right now is that I should have been born in Japan.

The moving on conundrum.

June 10, 2017

I hate that phrase ‘moving on’. There is an assumption of a forward direction being taken, where the reality is that you can just as easily be going backwards or simply standing still and stagnating. Moving on suggests progress to a better state of being. In reality ‘moving on’ rarely is to something better, just something different. Moving on from a cliff onto the rocks below isn’t progress, moving on from adulthood to old age and then death isn’t progress, moving on from a sense of happiness to one of sadness certainly isn’t. And yet, here I am… moving on… It’s certainly wasn’t through choice and I put everything I could into not moving on…. But here I am… What has put me off more than anything else is the thought of the other party moving on and just how far they have moved on already I shudder to think as I have a self imposed blackout on what they get up to, mostly because all it seems so bloody dismal and depressing to me. What I have been avoiding though is the idea that if I acknowledge that I have moved on, I will need to face the sad fact that they have too. The reality is even sadder than that though, they had mentally moved on when we were still together but didn’t have the guts to tell me. I think the hardest thing I have had to do was to separate my own self worth from someone else’s action. When all you can see is string pastimes chosen above you that could have been devised by one of lucifers minions as an especially cruel torture for really nasty sinners, and people that Roald Dahl would throw into the waste paper basket as characters too vile to be believable, it’s hard to comprehend what kind of dispicable creature you must be to make your way down to the bottom of the pile with that sort of competition But however hard it is for me to wrap my head around, that lowest of the low, bottom of the caste system is what I became to another human being and that really isn’t a good place to be.

It not easy realising you mean less that zero to someone you care for  but I have to remember that other people’s choices have no bearing on who I am as a person and that all we ever really are is responsible for ourselves and our own happiness. The truth is, everything I have ever achieved, I have achieved on my own and that having to portion off parts of my life to others has only ever slowed me down or ground my progress to a complete halt, I have never felt like someone has had my back and of late they were probably as likely to be sticking a knife in it. That said, a life for creative success alone is a bit of a poor do and is certainly no way to live a life. That, I guess, brings me back to the moving on business again, and here is where I am in danger of sounding really arrogant if I phrase it wrong but, being as idiosyncratic as I am, the chances of finding someone suitable drop massively compared to someone living a run of the mill life and it really doesn’t help that I don’t trawl around the pubs and clubs, or that I am not a joiner of things to meet people , be they evening classes, groups nor dating sites. It took many, many years to find what I thought to be that special person and many more before that to make sure that I was mentally and emotionally well enough to be in a relationship as I felt it would be irresponsible to be anything less. Like most clever dicks who think they have got every angle covered, I discovered that I hadn’t because while I was worrying about my own mental wellness, I failed to take into account that of everybody else. Whoops! 

Whilst only hiding under the duvet every third day might not seem much progress to everyone, to me it is a godsend. It is allowing me to slowly get my mojo back and throw my paint on canvas rather than words on the digital page. I am my own worst critic and given the chance I will put the boot in on myself at every opportunity. Every so often though I catch myself and have the strength to point out that I devised a way  of turning the drawings of people with learning disabilities into marketable soft toys that can be ethically manufactured just a couple of months back and produced reams of artwork and am working on another show, I achieved more tangible good in six month than some do in a lifetime. If that sounds arrogant then fear not, because in a couple of minutes I will have forgot all that again and be back to kicking myself up the arse. The point is though, that I always manage to acheive, despite the self loathing, despite the illness and exhaustion, I always seem to pull a rabbit out of the hat from somewhere, and sometimes the very things that slow me down become the emotional rocket fuel to power the next thing I do. Is this me moving on? Or is this just me being me? I guess it’s all just a question of me making a choice where there frankly isn’t one. It this the future for myself I chose? No! Is this the future for myself I wanted? No! Can I take this future and make it my own? Probably. I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see.

One way conversations in my head.

June 8, 2017

For a while now, I’ve been exhausted in my head before I even managed to roll out of bed most days. I keep having imaginary conversations or more accurately imaginary arguments in my head. Am I the only person who does this? I know I’m not the most stable person, I will happily admit, but I’m not sure just how far on the weird spectrum this goes. It’s not like the devil is telling me to do something or that I think I am being bombarded by a thought control machine and am in desperate need of a tin foil hat. This is more like the version of my father that I carry around with me, the odd little comment or look I can remember, usually when I’m getting a bit big for my boots and I catch myself spouting some ludicrous explanation for whatever I happen to be doing at the time. The really weird thing is that this person is still alive.

One of my siblings has said precisely one wise thing in their life and it was this. “when someone you love dies, they have no choice, when someone you love leaves you they do.” Being abandoned by a loved one is the dog shit cupcake of berievment with and added rabbit poo cherry on top, and when you are left for things that seem utterly insane and self destructive to you it is the same but with added diarrhoea icing for good measure.

So there is this voice that pipes up in my head and as I am cursed with a ridiculously good memory and a really good imagination it is really no fun at all. I can be cheerfully minding my own business and off it goes and there I am trying to get answers to things I will never get a straight answer to, particularly when it is me basically talking to myself. It’s like Frost / Nixon, Paxman / Howard, Blair and, well, everyone. Squirming and sliding and half truths and misdirection… Exactly like in real life basically, except without the nice moments to break it up.

There are distraction techniques that are useful, the new Zelda game has been a godsend as is the act of painting, reading is a total pain though as all that passive intake of words just allows things to creep in… There are far more ruthless techniques to forcibly eject some from your psyche but that would just seem cruel, swapping out someone’s image for something grotesque or giving them the voice of something unpleasant in your head.  It seems so cruel though, and I don’t do cruel, I leave that up to…. Other people…

Well hopefully, in time, this will fade and it will be as easy to ignore as the tinnitus in my right ear, but until then I’ll have to put up with my brain lodger and try not to start another argument.

The elephant in the room

June 4, 2017

Sometimes it’s bloody annoying being right. In this case what I was right about was a negative emotion that seemed to perpetually seep out of someone’s every pore and coloured their perspective on everything for years and years. Yet all the while I knew them, they were completely in denial of this screamingly obvious situation to the point where they were so adamant that none of it was happening that I was constantly doubting my own sanity, probably one of the most spiteful things to do to someone who has suffered from mental health problems. I don’t think that the deception was ever intentional, I would like to think that it was because they were embarrassed about feeling something so petty and mean spirited that they never wanted to talk about it with me. They talked about it with other people though, people they valued far too highly who have since blurted every sad little detail to anyone they could and then it’s got back to me.

 Oh did they talk about it, to anyone they could and constantly poisoning people’s view of me with an unending stream of bile. You can’t fight a thing like that, all the seeds of hate spread far and wide like a negative Johny Applseed and the more you do, the more is seems like you are guilty of something other than trying to make something work under difficult circumstances.

It was such a relief to have all my intuitions confirmed and I have felt much more myself again now I realise how little of what transpired was my fault. When any form of relationship, be it friendship, romance, working, whatever is built on lies and mistrust and wrong assumptions, and everything else that goes with irrational jealousy,  it is impossible for anything good to come from it in the long term no matter how hard you work and bloody hell did I have to work hard.

 I still find it so hard to comprehend, why it is so hard just to open your mouth and let some honesty out, (mind you I do it far too often)  to face a situation so that it can be discussed and all the wrong assumptions confronted between the people that matter  rather than stoked up into forest fires of idle gossip. Instead, the elephant in the room just got bigger and bigger until there was no room for anything else. 

It is perhaps fitting that the lies on top of lies have degraded matters to the point where I am pretty much talking to myself here and it is impossible to talk sense to people who no longer recognise the concept, but really, I guess that is all I have really done in any form, be it art, writing, whatever. My life seems to consist of throwing the modern equivalent of messages in a bottle out there into a sea of data and humanity in the vain hope that my necessarily vague thoughts will make some difference to someone, anyone, no matter how small, and perhaps all this pain and suffering won’t have been a total waste of time. And on those bad days when the weight of the world crushes me, at least I know that about that one thing at least I was completely right.

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