Personal Update #5

I… am not very much right now. I am at a particularly low ebb. I find myself wracked by a melancholy and lassitude which is nestled in my pores like scratchy iron filings. Discomforting me, irking me. And each little pocket of it doesn’t seem like much excess weight by itself, but it sure adds up when there are dozens or even hundreds of them dotted all over my body, making my skin sit too heavy on my bones. It’s proving quite the hardy affliction. Showers definitely can’t wash it away. Rare blessings of an endorphin spike where things briefly don’t seem so bad can’t wash it away. The compassionate acts of others cannot wash it away either. It’s just there. And it’s not just present in the background, I’m actively thinking about it a lot. Resenting it. Wishing it gone. I dearly want to go back to how it was before this took hold of me. I just don’t feel like the full version of myself. I feel like an old laptop operating on low-power mode where only some of the features are still available and the charge light is insistently blinking to tell you it needs to be reconnected to the juice fairly fucking urgently. Only, when I go to plug myself in to the usual power sockets for at least a little trickle of salvation, I find them inexplicably dead. And so I just sit back down with a huff and try to use the little reserve I still have left sparingly. This is the state I’m trapped in. I am emotionally fragile. I am bleak and listless. And I am greatly, greatly struggling to find a way to climb out of this half-person funk, to bounce back. I just can’t seem to do it.

I don’t doubt that what I’m going through is partly the cumulative product of the last… let’s say… eighteen months or so, which has made an undeniably spirited attempt to be the hardest, worst period of my life so far. There are times where fate decides to be kind to you and times where fate decides to be emphatically unkind instead, and I have been dealing with quite a long largely-unbroken streak of the latter treatment. I think I’ve had some of the lowest moments of my life during this time, to be perfectly candid. I won’t go into the entire laundry list of stuff, because I can assure you it is various and I imagine it will be quite tedious and unavailing to try to catalogue it all. But I will say there was one point in particular where this gratuitous cruelty from the universe really peaked, and I found myself simply… well, dumbstruck, I suppose…. by the sheer sadism of the thing. My childhood dog had to be put down and then just a few days later my grandfather passed away, and I didn’t get the chance to see either of them before they died. That rather speaks for itself, I would think. As one-two punches go, it’s… quite the doozy. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt simultaneously so devastated and so shellshocked-numb as I did in the weeks following that. I didn’t really have much experience dealing with grief as an adult and, yeah, it’s quite the learning process. Grief is a bare and frigid cell, where one is imprisoned alone. Even if positioned in a row of cells just like it — occupied by other cellmates well known to you, to boot — one can barely feel the salve of shared circumstance or solidarity. And, let me tell you, living so far away from my family only exacerbates this effect further.

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Personal Update & Various Reviews #4

Book stuff

A significant portion of the first half of this year has been spent on both my novel and my girlfriend Samantha’s novel.

All the stuff to do with my own novel I’m going to save for a separate piece, which I intend to set about writing in the near future, because I’ll need to get… reasonably long and in-depth. (Which is also what I’m wont to say in the boudoir. I find it’s always good to preface coital promises with ‘reasonably’, to manage expectations. I’m twenty-seven now, for christ’s sake; these bones are old and brittle, these muscles are tired and atrophied: my days of Olympic-level fucking are most definitely in the rear-view. But I’ll always look at that bronze medal framed on the wall with great fondness. Though in all honesty I technically had to share it with that year’s Lithuanian competitor, whose virility let’s just say even the editors of Fornicator Monthly strongly suspected to be synthetically enhanced, due to a tie for third place…)

I edited Samantha’s really very excellent and remarkable novel, an experience I’ll just say a little bit about. Obviously I would have been more than happy to do it in any case, but there was a certain pleasing element of reciprocity here, in that she was kind enough to suggest edits to mine a while back. Indeed, we laugh about the fact that we each restrained the… shall we say… less sound writerly instincts of the other, in very specific ways. I had to endure what will forever be known as the ‘Infamous Italics Massacre’, which she — no doubt in all sagacity — inflicted upon my novel. I tried to accept this corrective with grace. By which I mean just a bare minimum of petulant, melodramatic protests. For example, standing on a cliff-edge in the pouring rain, clutching the pried-loose ‘CTRL’ and ‘I’ keys and screaming that she’ll have to rip the italics from my cold dead hands. Like I said, I did no more of that kind of thing than ABSOLUTELY necessary. (I’m still a little bitter though. I really like italicising words and phrases for effect, okay?! I mean, give me a break, let’s not get absurd: I’m hardly a monster!)

And then I repaid the favour. I benevolently subjected her novel to what literary historians have, I believe, already begun to term the ‘Merciless Culling of the Commas’. Seriously, it was a bloodbath. You’d have thought that some wayward comma, perhaps a decidedly unrehabilitated scoundrel just released from maximum-security grammar-prison, kicked my dog when I was a kid or something.

Having never done anything like this before, I foolishly underestimated (by orders of magnitude, really) the amount of time that the editing was going to require. This is my fault and my fault alone. I suppose I had too high an opinion of my own powers of speediness. But, yes, I was very surprised by how long it ended up taking. I should specify that in terms of the level of thoroughness being applied, I was really exhaustively line-editing the prose. Samantha freely admits that she struggles with some of the more elusive minutiae of grammar and whatnot, and I was glad to help her out with that boring nuts-and-bolts stuff. And it goes without saying that when you’re going through a book with a fine-tooth comb and a magnifying glass, you’re in for a pretty time-consuming project, to put it mildly. Still, not at all without its compensations, obviously: although it’s not quite the ideal way to do so, it’s always a damn fine pleasure to read her writing. I trust you’ll believe me when I say that I would aver the exact same thing even if she wasn’t the woman I love. She is dizzyingly fearless in her honesty and she crafts gorgeous, sumptuous prose. Truly, she does things with language that I can only gape at.

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Personal Update & Various Reviews #3

Okay, I’ll tell you this up-front: I expect this one is gonna be fairly light on what’s been happening in my life (mostly I’ll be discussing what I’ve been playing/reading). Not because it’s been an uneventful stretch though. Quite the opposite in fact. There’s been some fucking intense, emotionally trying shit going down: holding my lover’s hand and maintaining umbilical eye-contact and trying to keep up a steady stream of sweet, distracting babble as a very long needle infiltrates her spine, riding in an ambulance for the first time in my life, and so on. But, interesting though they (and all distressing experiences) are, I don’t know that they’re really my stories to tell.

And, anyhow, I’m probably still too caught up in subconsciously processing it all to have any chance of articulating it halfway well. There are some things which one ought to await a certain amount of emotional and temporal distance from, before one dares to put pen to paper with them in mind. Otherwise, you’re probably going to just be unwittingly writing about the side-effects of shock, which tend to cloud everything else for their duration. And — alas! — the longer one is willing to wait, the better. Three-months hindsight is a magnifying glass; three-years hindsight is a microscope. (I am rarely so patient as to avail myself of the latter, however.) Definitively past-tensing it is the price of genuinely figuring out how it affected you, what your thoughts on it are. A price worth paying, I’d say. That is, if one hopes to avoid cramming these moments into a meat-grinder of fractured, incipient understanding and doing them little justice. Which is a prospect I find… unpalatable. To flippantly bungle conveying the gravity of grave things seems, to my mind, somehow disrespectful.

And, to get back to the point at hand, my brevity — I mean, relatively speaking; I’m still me, after all — of navel-gazing is also not because I don’t have me-things to ramble about. ‘Cause I always have me-things to ramble about, as befits/necessitates this type of post. (The narcissist’s quiver is never quite empty, rest assured.) I just happen to find myself, in this moment, with only enough… whatever the fuck… energy or willpower or capacity to stomach my own rambling… to touch on one or two of them. Lucky you, huh?

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Personal Update & Various Reviews #2

To be candid, the past couple of months have been… somewhat of an emotionally-trying whirlwind. For various reasons. Some I care to disclose, some I do not. At any rate, I was not at all in a place where I felt like writing, which is why this blog went sadly neglected.

But, yes, I am back now. I know I had you deathly worried. I’ve no doubt you wept and wept until — having reached a perilous state of dehydration — only a sort of moist-ish dust seeped out of your tear ducts. Which is, I suppose, touching. And also upsettingly gross. Still, all that’s behind us now. So call off your search parties. Take my photo off the side of milk cartons. (Weirdly, that practice has long been cemented in my mind as a tiny, morbid facet of Americana. But was that ever actually a thing? Or did movies just make it up? I truly do not know.) Stop forcing bloodhounds to sniff my watch strap to learn my scent. Rescind that eight-figure reward for any information leading to my safe return.

I even have some thoughts on what to do with those freed-up funds. I say divvy them up to create a bunch of interpretive dance and flower arranging scholarships in my name. After all, when I do finally leave this mortal plane for good, I want to know that I’ve left an imposing legacy in my wake. Because charitable donations are all well and good, in theory, but we all know beyond a shadow of a doubt that 99.99997% of that money gets wasted on ‘overhead’ or embezzled to buy gold-plated bidets and diamond-encrusted pet tigers and whatnot. That’s just cold, hard fact. Whereas all those artful bouquets and profound shimmies at my funeral will be indisputable proof of both a good deed and money well spent. My gravestone will read: ‘Ryan J. Finch, 1993-2149 (ed note — conservative estimate; I come from hardy Irish peasant stock, i.e. inexplicable Methuselah-genes), BELOVED PATRON OF THE FINE ARTS’. From time to time, well-wishers will visit it and leave one of those tacky electronic dancing-flower toys as a kind of wry two-in-one acknowledgement of the fields which owe their continued vitality to me. And thus all will be as it should be.

Ah, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s all to come in the distant future. In the meantime though, let’s talk about my more recent doings.

What it’s like trying to find a Literary Agent (a.k.a. feeling honest, may delete later)

So, I wrote a novel. (If you’d care to read about that whole process, you can find the transcript of S02E08 of the unfilmed, untelevised one-man TV show I’ve been, uh, living for a long time now, called ‘Making Art to Prove I Exist’, by clicking here.) And then a little while ago it came time to put up or shut up. That is, try to find a way to publish it.

I went into this stage not really knowing what it would specifically entail. (I had sought to insulate myself from that intimidating/preoccupying knowledge whilst I was writing the book.) After some initial research, I learned that the place to start is submitting your work to literary agencies and praying they’ll agree to represent you. Then they try to sell your work to the publishing houses themselves, who are reportedly much more likely to lend serious consideration to agent-backed authors.

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Personal Update & Various Reviews #1

I have to say, something does really tickle me about the idea of having a separate category of journal-y posts on a website already dedicated to me and my thoughts. What shameless micro-divisions of narcissism.

But on to the matter at hand.

How have I been feeling?


Or rather, depressed AF, as the kids would say. Wait, do they actually say that? Shit, in all honesty I didn’t even really know ‘what the kids are saying’ when I was a fucking kid. So I definitely shouldn’t count on doing any better now that I’m peering in from the outside.

The cool new slang — even saying that makes me sound like your mom ineptly trying to work the words ‘tight’ or ‘sick’ into a conversation all faux easy-breezy like — is, uh, not really my thing. Not least because by the time it reaches someone like me, it’s probably already at the very end of its coolness life-cycle. I’m talking withered body, audible death-throes here. (At which point, fast-food brands, via the millennial interns who work for their PR departments, will just be starting to use it in their adverts. To superficially seem edgy and relevant. E.g. ‘Burger King™ wants to slide into the DMs of your hungry tummy with these thicc Whoppers™!’)

Allow me to sketch for you that life-cycle. First of all, the jargon takes a while to emerge out of the formative womb of the internet. By which I of course mean the insular, arcane, utmost molten core of Twitter. This is a realm of frenetic hyper-activity and kinetic urgency. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but I envision it as being like a gargantuan spherical fish-tank filled with liquid fire. Wherein swim and skitter about absurdly agile, absurdly fast metallic spider-bots, which occasionally bump into each other and emit a screechy, distorted facsimile-recording of laughter.

You know, on second thought, maybe I should talk to my doctor about lowering the dose of this new medication…

Anyway, I’m sure you know the well-revered young, cool layer of Twitter I’m referring to. I’m more or less as ignorant an outsider as could be, but here are my general impressions of it nonetheless. (Look, this is my site. And I’m not here to not talk to you, you know?) It’s a place where capitalizing the start of sentences or using even semi-adequate punctuation is seen as a heinous faux pas which reveals that at birth you must have somehow ended up with an old-fogey soul trapped inside you, like coming across a fancy new laptop inexplicably running Windows 95. It’s a place where strategically left-in typos are seen as a marker of ultimate carefree authenticity. (The amount of time and effort one can sometimes sense has been put into finessing the off-the-cuffness of a purportedly hastily written off-the-cuff tweet is insane. Doing that must require having a very low opinion of the reader’s basic perceptiveness.) It’s a place largely peopled by those who strangely, unabashedly treat Twitter like a full-time job, and one they’re desperately, desperately trying to seem ‘good’ at. Who they’re hoping to win some kind of attaboy from I do not know; I wonder whether they do either. It’s a place where you can simultaneously bemoan the dumbing down of mainstream entertainment whilst happily bandying around an endless stream of low-effort memes which just recycle the same three or four kinds of tired, excruciatingly unfunny jokes.

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The New Self-Appointed Gatekeepers of Sexuality

I just read an op-ed on The Guardian scolding a british celebrity. (I know nothing about them, to be honest. Plus, I’ve gotta say, I never thought I’d be writing about something to do with a former Spice Girl. Even at the third remove…) Now, this by itself is not noteworthy. Anyone who has ever flicked an errant glance at their op-ed section knows this is frequently par for the course. It’s a way of pretending to be above the vapidness and indignity of celebrity-worshipping, whilst really just putting on a different mask and serving up yet another form of obsessing over celebrities. (‘No-one Cares What Rich-White-Man George Clooney Thinks About Child Poverty!‘ blares the typical headline. And with a ‘witty’, equally dismissive subtitle for good measure. But what is it then followed by? Four thousand words meticulously dissecting what George Clooney thinks about child poverty. This is an age-old sleight of hand. Just a shameless workaround for having it both ways. Keep an eye out for it and you’ll start seeing it everywhere.)

However, in this particular case, there was an added peculiarity which caught my attention. This article is upbraiding the performer in question for discussing her past experiences having sex with another woman. Because she said it on television. The implication is that she’s therefore doing “lesbianism” — a term it’s refreshing to hear someone besides your out-of-date conservative grandparents using — very wrong. Yeah. I’m not fucking with you, I promise. That link above is real. I haven’t somehow spoofed the website and forged a phony article. This was on The Guardian. (And, as it turns out, it’s not the only one on there with this exact take either.) Damn, isn’t it funny how the world turns?

No, wait, you don’t understand! It’s, like, done in a vaguely semi-jokey way or whatever! Well… despite the ultra-petty, caustic jabs about this performer’s supposed lack of cultural relevance. And despite the earnest attempts to shame someone for discussing their sexuality in a supposedly-distasteful context. And despite the exhortations for this performer to keep their mouth shut about such things in future, lest they incur the, uh, high-minded ire of ‘cultural critics’ in the commentariat.

I mean, hey, tell me if this sounds crazy… but I think that if you’re essentially saying ‘no, no, no, STOP THAT! you’re doing xyz sexuality WRONG!’ you should step back and re-evaluate your own attitude. Because you sound bigoted. In the most literal definition of the word. And in this case the writer also kinda seems high on some childish power-trip. One which has made them erroneously believe that they can ridicule (and silence) other people’s choices about discussing their sexuality, because they’re commenting as an LGBTQ+ person. Well, I’m an LGBTQ+ person too — though one certainly needn’t be to validly make this point — and I can tell you that that’s rank stupidity whoever it comes from.

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The annoying similarity between the Theranos and Fyre festival documentaries

A little while back I watched two documentaries (released by Netflix and Hulu) about the Fyre festival bait-and-switch debacle. And just a few days ago I watched a documentary (released by HBO) about the implosion of Theranos. It was very glaring that they all share the same central flaw.

First, a word on quality. (Because, funnily enough, this has been much discussed online.) I’d say the Netflix-released Fyre documentary is clearly superior to the Hulu one. Not that the former is spectacular or anything. It’s just a decent, watchable documentary. Whereas the latter is frankly not even worth your time.

It commits one of the cardinal sins, which is an overreliance on pointless stock footage and flashy motion graphics. Best I can tell, this is done in pursuit of three aims. 1) To have filler content during narrator-heavy sections. 2) To pad out the runtime. 3) To lend the film some semblance of being ultra-modern and visually interesting. This trend in documentary filmmaking is fast becoming a pet peeve of mine. It really is just a lazy way of trying to artificially keep the viewer’s attention. And, in that sense, there’s an aspect of condescension in it. “The facts surely won’t be enough to keep you ADD-era simpletons engaged for ninety minutes, so here’s some eye-candy footage of… uhh, I don’t know… the skyline of some metropolis to keep you entertained while we dole them out.” Even under normal circumstances this is irritating. But when your documentary is about an event attended by vloggers obsessed with filming themselves — who would no doubt love to let you use their videos and display their Youtube name — you really don’t have any excuse for not showing us the thing itself as much as possible. Viewers want to glimpse the chaos as it unfolds. Not hear you describe how paying to go viral on Instagram works.

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Getting your kicks from mocking ‘Bad Writing’ is a shitty thing to do

Maybe I’m just a pedantic stickler — hey now, you don’t all have to pipe up in a heartfelt chorus of ‘fuck yes you are’ — but when people try to redefine a word or phrase to let themselves off the hook for something, it bugs me. It really does. Maybe it’s because I have a degree in ‘English Literature and Creative Writing’. (For the low, low price of fifty thousand pounds in student loans, you could have this lucrative-opportunity-flypaper too! *jazz hands* Be careful you don’t trip over sprinting to your local university’s enrollment office! Please! Form an orderly line!) Now, I know most people wouldn’t trot out an undergraduate degree, let alone in the dreaded… humanities, as a justification for anything at all. I must admit, I see the self-aware wisdom in that reluctance. But bear with me for a second here. Because I want to tell you that getting that diploma was kinda like going to a seminary for three years. Where instead of worshipping some absentee-dad in the sky, you learn to worship meaning-laden squiggles on a page or screen. And one of the tenets of that reverence concerns the permissible and impermissible ways in which one may abuse the words themselves. Maybe you previously looked at that line in the sand askance. Well, no longer. You’ll gain a quaint sort of squeamishness when it comes to any flagrant disregard for it.

With all this in mind, let me start by saying that a ‘guilty pleasure’ ought to be essentially innocuous. Here are some examples which fit the bill:

  • Waking up in the middle of the night and blearily traipsing over to the kitchen to snarf down chocolate whilst half-naked, half-asleep and bathed in that harsh refrigerator light. (I can cop to this one. Hard.)
  • Rewatching Friends on Netflix for the 78th time. You now not only know it word-for-word — such that you could nearly stage a one-man table reading of any given episode’s script from memory — but you also know the notable mannerisms each actor performs in each scene. (My girlfriend has to raise her hand for this one.)
  • Begrudgingly listening to pop songs you don’t even like, because they’re so precisely and expertly engineered to be earworms that you just can’t help but give into the craving to hear them again. (Unless a species-wide firmware patch is someday applied, fixing this exploitable bug in human psychology, I think everyone is unfortunately stuck with this one…)

You’ll notice that in these cases, and all other applicable ones, ‘guilty pleasure’ is really somewhat of an exaggeration. You don’t really need to feel bad about doing these things. They’re not ideal, perhaps. And you may wish that you made smarter or healthier or more productive choices in their place. But they’re still not anything which reflects poorly on you as a person.

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