Thinking About Me

Recently I’ve been thinking About Me.

No wait, I’ve been thinking about my “About Me”. You’d be surprised how similar the two statements are though, despite sounding different. Both require a certain understanding of myself.

I’ve known for ages how old my About Me section is outdated. Hell, the photo I was using on it was from when I was between 19 to 21. To put it into perspective, I’m 27 now and 28 in less than a month! Time for an update, right? Not to mention I didn’t even have a beard back then… I’m not me without my beard!

 So, with thanks to Suzie’s post How to Create a Successful About Page, I’ve refereshed mine!

I’ve added a more current interpretation about who I am, along with what I’m trying to achieve in both life and on the Clouds. I’ve also summarised my Posting Schedule, in case you find yourself so inclined.

You can find it by clicking here: About Me

Creating Coincidence

I don’t believe in fate. Simple as that. I’m not someone who believes in horoscopes, or destiny, or that the world owes me anything. I don’t believe in karma, I don’t believe in judgement, and I don’t believe the world is fair… I do believe in coincidences though, but I also believe we can create these coincidences for ourselves.

For those of you that have been following, I’ve been a bit down recently. I don’t have a lot to grumble about, I mean I probably find myself stuck at work too often, and the house is constantly needing work done, but overall I have a good life. What I’ve lacked though, is motivation. The worst thing about feeling unmotivated is it can snowball; by feeling unmotivated you end up doing nothing, and the more you do nothing the less inclined you are to do anything. It’s harder to fight the inertia of doing nothing and actually do something.

This is where coincidences come into play.

You see, I have a cycle. I have moments of pure, unadulterated enthusiasm, where the world is open to me and I am en route to achieving my dreams… then I have moments where I wallow, unimpressed with my previous efforts (or lack of) and let myself sink into an unmotivated state. It can take a while for me to break this cycle, heck it can take a while for me to realise the cycle is happening, despite the amount of practice I have dealing with it and despite how obvious the signs should be by now. Sometimes, though, life breaks the cycle for you.

You may know by now that I’m a Partner of Level Up Photography LLP, well, on Saturday, Greg and I shot our first Wedding of the year! It couldn’t have come at a better time. What a kick up the ass! What a way to fuel a dwindling passion! What a way to fight the inertia! What a coincidence that it came when I needed it most… but hold on, it’s not exactly a coincidence is it?

The timing, and my mind-set, were both a coincidence, I’ll grant you. The timing was perfect, I needed inspiration and here it was handed to me on a plate. The set up though? That’s a different matter entirely. The thing is, we’d been booked to do this Wedding for months. We’d done the legwork, we’d contacted the Bride, we’d provided the service; there was no coincidence there.

The point I’m making is we can create these opportunities, we create these coincidences. I may not believe in fate, or destiny, but I believe that if you put yourself out there you stand more chance of getting results. That’s just logic. When I lie around grumbling that I’m uninspired, unmotivated, unfulfilled, I am simply not putting myself into a place with opportunity… in fact, I’m slipping away into reclusion where talents go to waste. If it hadn’t been for our previous Photography work, Greg and I wouldn’t have been booked for that Wedding. Similarly, If I hadn’t written blogs previously, you wouldn’t be here reading today.

Saturday has been a fantastic motivator. It’s been a reminder of the end goal and proof of what can be achieved with a bit of time and effort. Do I wish it happened more often? That my life was spent more often in a creative pursuit than a 9-5 office role? I do, but when I wallow in that I close the doors to my preferred future. By taking the smaller steps and by keeping up the motivation these days of inspiration are more likely to occur. That, really, is today’s message.

Today’s message, both to readers and to myself, is simply: Put yourself out there. Opportunities will appear only when you open yourself up to them. You’re going to have days, weeks, months where your work feels unsatisfactory, where you feel it’s all for nothing, but as long as you keep creating, keep putting things out there, your own work might provide an opportunity and, coincidentally, it might arrive at just the right time. Keep creating your own coincidences. Keep yourself open to opportunity.

Have you had any moments like this? Where inspiration occurred at just the right time? What do you think, was it fate or was it self-made? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Simple Steps to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed and Feel Productive Instead!

Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed? As though there is simply so much to do and there’s literally no way you can achieve it all? As though you’re drowning under a sea of never-ending tasks?

 

Forgive the hyperbole title but this has been a source of stress and anxiety for me recently. I’ve felt like life was drowning me. I’ve felt like I have had so much to juggle but no arms to do so with. The more I get stressed, the more likely I am to put off a task, and the more I put off the task, the more stressful it seems later on. As I described in Fridays Post, LINK, it’s a vicious cycle that continues like a malevolent ouroboros. I’m on my way to combat this, so I thought I’d put it into a post to help others too. Please understand I’m not speaking the gospel, my methods are not for everybody and we all live life our own way, these are just the ramblings of one man trying to make sense of his world. That said, if my words are even the slightest bit of help for you, then that makes them 100% more worthwhile.

1. Make a Plan!

In my eyes, making a plan is one of the single best things you can do; I recommend it wholeheartedly. When you make a plan you aid yourself by making your tasks look more manageable. Just by listing down your tasks, you make the tasks look more approachable. Our minds have a way of overthinking and things seem scary when they’re left to the imagination. By writing things down you give it more solidarity. Suddenly, tasks can seem a lot more manageable and a lot less intimidating. By setting yourself realistic deadlines too, if your plan goes to that much detail, you can start working slowly towards it. Plus making a plan is productive in itself! That’s a win!

2. Stick to Something!

Going hand in hand with Making a Plan, I would also advise you stick to something. You may be asking “Stick to What?”, but the beauty is it can be anything. Perhaps you decide to take five minutes of mindfulness each day, perhaps you want to go for a walk every Tuesday, perhaps you just want to read a chapter of a book each morning with your cereal… It could honestly be anything at all. It could be something you want to do, something fun, or it could be something you need to do. By Sticking to Something we form discipline, and by doing what we set our minds to do, even if it’s the smallest of the small, it’s a success…

Wait, you don’t think it’s a success? Well maybe we need to…

3. Redefine Success!

This is important. Often we feel overwhelmed because we think we need to do everything; you feel you need to write a whole book, you need to decorate the whole house, you need to fix every little problem all at once. This often isn’t the case, and it is often more to do with our mindsets, or our definitions of success. Really, success is anything you specify and we should treat it as such. If you’ve been struggling to get out of bed each morning, then it’s a success when you do. If you get up five or ten minutes earlier one day, there’s a big success right there and you’ve only just started your day! Don’t let anyone else define success for you, don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams have to be achieved this way or that, success is a personal, intimate thing and you do whatever spurs you on to keep reaching those goals!

4. Exercise!

Wow, I can’t believe that I’m someone recommending this one. The thing is, exercise helps you out of a rut, and it helps you feel more motivated in other areas. By going home each night and sitting on your bum, watching TV, you are just encouraging your body to become lethargic and tired. Exercise is great for refreshing your body and your mind. I find that, as counterproductive as this sounds, this actually works best if you don’t want to exercise in the first place… Why? Because you’re showing you’re stronger than your base instincts. If every part of you is saying “Come on, let’s give in, let’s have a McDonalds and watch Netflix all night”, but instead you force yourself to the gym, then you are showing that you are in control! You’re showing that you can overcome even yourself! Now if that’s not success, I don’t know what is. Not to mention, if this is the thing you want to ‘Stick’ to, maybe it’s a Monday Gym Session you’d normally put off, then you’re nailing all areas of my advice!

Speaking of which, my biggest piece of advice?

5. Breaking the Cycle!

If you’re like me, putting stuff off because of stress, only to stress later because you’ve put it off and therefore put it off some more… You need to break the cycle. You might feel like you need to do something drastic to break the cycle. Maybe you’ve been putting off writing a book and feel you need to write an entire chapter just to fix that. Wrong! Whilst doing that would be a great way to break the cycle, remember that doing anything is actually a break! There’s no need to get yourself worked up writing something as daunting as a chapter; maybe you write a page, or even a paragraph… Well done! You’ve broke the cycle. You’ve gone from nothing, to something, and that is a brilliant start. What follows is often a feeling a well-being, especially if we’ve redefined our meaning of success, and I can assure you that by taking the tiniest of steps forward, you feel better about taking the bigger ones. My mantra is: small steps towards the future.

All in all, if you really need to get out from under a heap of things, just take a single small step! If I’ve realised anything, it’s how much things snowball. By taking a small step, you’re more likely to take bigger ones, by making a plan, you’re more likely to act upon it. The more we put stuff off, the more stressed, more anxious, and even the more lazy we become. If this is you, and it certainly is me, start small and just do something! You’ll get there if you keep moving forward!

I really hope this post was helpful in some way, it’s something I’ve been trying to combat myself and thought I’d share my findings. Does this kind of thing work for you? Or do you maybe have some tips to share yourself? Let me know in the comments below!

Breaking the Cycle

Due to the success of the post I wrote for Monday – When Problems are their own Solutions. – I’m writing again for Today!

The thing is, the more I write the better I feel, the better I feel the more productive I feel, and the more productive I feel the better I feel… It goes on and on like that. I thought I’d utilise a Friday Feeling to get it all out in the open.

Mondays post mentions I wasn’t feeling great, that I wasn’t writing much, and I wasn’t feeling in a ‘good place’ productively. Thing is, I don’t often realise these things are amiss until they’ve already become a problem, and at that point I can reflect back and think: Fuck.

As I wrote before in 3 Steps to Help Combat your Anxieties!, we need to not just treat the smoke, but understand where the fire came from and how we put it out; we need to realise what is causing our feelings and how we can stop it before it even begins. My feelings of stress recently? My feelings of anxiety? They’re caused by having so much to do, and from having done nothing of it. If you’re interested, then please read on!

Last Saturday, Kirsty and I had a lovely day appreciating the sun. We had a brunch out at the Deco Lounge in Shirley, and we went to visit my parents. There, we started talking about all the things we needed to do to the house. We moved in last year, it’s one of the best things that’s happened to me, but due to a lack of activity on our part its now also a cause of stress. As we started to list all the things we needed to do, I started to panic. There’s not a room in our house that doesn’t need something doing; it’s a major source of anxiety for me. I wanted to end the conversation there and then, avoid it, not talk about it, and let it slide for a few months. Would this help? It might cure my immediate upset, but it doesn’t treat the cause of the problems. Instead, that night Kirsty and I made a list of the things we needed to do.

Yes, the solution was we made an actual list, on actual paper; not just talking and letting imagination get carried away. It felt so much better to have it written down; where we knew what needed doing. From there we made plans to treat the areas we can do first, we set a date to go to B&Q, which we’ve followed through on, and we set a date to get the garden sorted. It felt more productive and it lightened my stress. There’s still a lot to do, but we’ve taken a small step forward, we’ve engaged in productivity and it’s made things more manageable.

So, the house was causing me stress. I’ve talked before how it should be a Sanctuary in Seeking Sanctuary: A Monday Blog, but this was the opposite. It became a topic I avoided talking about, which in turn made it harder to talk about when it came up. Not to mention it made Kirsty feel I was disinterested, when it’s not the case at all! The thing is, it wasn’t just the house getting to me, the rest stemmed from somewhere else.

The rest of my stress stemmed from, as it often does, the chasing of my goals. It stemmed from my writing and my photography, or lack there-of.  The thing is, the past few weeks I’ve been feeling rubbish with toothache and dental surgery, and it’s hampered my productivity no end. Before that I was working a lot, working thirteen days straight with some twelve hour shifts thrown in. Since, I’ve been trying to relax and enjoy doing nothing, which normally would be a welcome break, but when you add it all together it’s just a month of zero productivity when I actually have so much I want/need to do.

As I’ve learnt from the house, the more I do nothing the harder doing something becomes; it’s that inertia. The more I do nothing, the more stressful something becomes for me, and the more stressful it is the more likely I am to put it off; a vicious cycle that continues like a malevolent ouroboros. How do I go about solving this? By breaking the cycle. When I was writing a post in time for Monday, it occurred to me that simply by writing I was feeling better, simply by being ever so slightly productive I was feeling less stressed about my productivity as a whole. The more I write, and as I write now for Todays post, the better I feel. Breaking the cycle is liberating.

How are you feeling this Friday? Let me know in the comments below!

Ghost in the Shell: Review

Ghost in the Shell is a phenomenal film that’s made waves in all hemispheres. It was one of the first films to truly nail the themes surrounding a cyber-future and trans-humanism.  It’s a shame, then, that the 2017 remake is just really rather average – rather forgettable. The film is by no means a bad piece of cinema; there’s some fun action sequences, some beautiful effects. Sadly, the film is held back because it brings nothing new to the table, which is the opposite of its original namesake.

ghost in the shell

Ghost in the Shell follows a central character of ‘Major’, the first human brain transplanted into a Machine body (or a Shell). The plot follows her as she traces a criminal who is not only behind a series of killings close to home, but also hacking the brains of others to do his bidding. Along the way Major discovers some uncomfortable truths about herself and the world she lives in.

Along the journey there are some fun action sequences, some stunning visuals, and some fairly decent supporting cast members who don’t get nearly enough time to shine. Pilou Asbaek, in particular portrays an interesting Batou, but doesn’t get any screen time besides that he shares with Scarlett Johansson.

Ghost in the Shell, therefore, has all the makings of a summer action flick. It’s pretty, it’s enjoyable, and it has some stylish action scenes. Judged purely in a vacuum, it’s worthy of rating suitable to fairly brainless fun. However, no artwork exists in a vacuum, and by taking on the title of a world-renowned work of art you’re only going to be held up to its standard; a standard which forces this live action remake to simply pale in comparison.

*** Warning: Spoilers for both the Live Action and the Anime follow as I attempt to analyse what I felt was thematically wrong with the film  ***

The original film dealt with issues still fairly prevalent today; how do we define ourselves in a modern, techno-centric world, the growing prominence of AI, and how do we define self and sentience. You’d expect a remake of the same film to tackle the same issues, but besides the odd nod here and there it doesn’t seem to touch them. Naturally, as the times change so do a message, and an adaption doesn’t necessarily need to strictly follow its original intention, but this wouldn’t be such a crime if the themes were replaced with something as meaningful or thought-provoking. Really, all the Live-Action Ghost in the Shell gives us is hamfisted exposition and a power fantasy of just “being true to yourself”. There’s no introspective narrative here, nothing too thought-provoking.  In fact, I feel the Film does itself a disservice by simultaneously trying to tell the audience the past doesn’t matter, that only what you do matters, but then placing such a reliance on ‘the past’ as one of its key plot points. This version of Ghost in the Shell, along with its original, tries to deal with the reliability of memories and what they mean when moving forward. The antagonists of both films manipulate the memories of others to produce the results they require, showing that memory is easily manipulated, can’t be relied upon, and can completely change someone’s personality, but this adaptation also tries to show that a true memory will come to the surface and that through realising that truth do you give yourself power. There’s that running self-empowerment theme typical of bigger blockbusters.

ghostin the shell 2

This runs rampant in this remakes subplot, one of finding out who Major really is and where she came from. A topic left untouched by the original and better for it. It’s no lie that the original can be confusing for new viewers, and by giving Major this backstory perhaps they hope to give the audience some grounding, but instead it only serves to butcher the themes. This backstory also ties our protagonist and antagonist together, perhaps aiming to make for a more relatable opponent, but, by doing so, they completely remove the debates the original put in place; can Artificial Intelligence ever be true Intelligence? Can a robot truly be alive?

This change also impacts the ending of the film, our antagonist Kuze, gives Major the option of joining his network. In the original, as he was the first self aware AI, his offer to merge with Major reflected the birth of a next step and resulted in an almost literal child between the two of them. It was poignant. Now, where the original had a message of moving forward, of accepting AI and humanity as a next step, the new film shuns this step forward in favour of remaining the same. It seems as though this is again their message of ‘being yourself’, when really it seems more of being stuck in the past. How fitting that a film, that serves as a remake and struggles to adequately reflect its namesake, also seems to sell a message about clinging to the past.

*** Spoilers End ***

Ghost in the Shell is incredibly hard to review and perhaps a real example why many reviewers shy away from using a numerical scoring system. On its own, without ties to the original, Ghost in the Shell is an enjoyable watch that doesn’t really exceed any expectations, but provides a good distraction for its run-time. It is an action film, with Sci-Fi elements, that would probably be forgotten after a month or so if not for the scandal around the white-washing of its lead role and its famous heritage. It’s that namesake though, that it will forever be held up against, and when compared it simply cannot compete; it is all style, no substance, it is a Shell without its Ghost.

Score: 7/10

Seen the film? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Who am I?

As I write this I have two drafts open: the first is a Review of Ghost in the Shell (2017) and the second is an article entitled “5 Reasons Horizon: Zero Dawn should be Celebrated”. The latter I’ve been working on for some time, the former is simply because I watched Ghost in the Shell tonight and I’ve recently given myself the task of reviewing the films I go to see.

The reason they’re both still sitting at the ‘Draft’ stage is because I haven’t been able to post them. The reason I haven’t been able to post them is because I’m a little unsure of myself. This post is basically me trying to talk myself into doing so.

The thing is, both articles deal very heavily in ‘theme’ and ‘issues’, they deal with ‘opinion’ and ‘belief’. All blogging does, to an extent. Maybe you write a blog simply about your day, your opinions still bleed through, your belief systems are there. When it comes to a review though, or an article, I find that if I’m tackling themes within the medium I’m discussing I need to at least be knowledgeable. There are plenty of people out there who simply discuss whatever comes to mind, knowledgeable or not, I mean you only have to see the outcries on Facebook or Twitter anytime anyone does anything. As much as I love to hear my own opinion, it’s partly what fuels this blog after all, I am also very wary when commenting on something else. If I review Ghost in the Shell, as I intend to do, and I discuss it’s themes and what they do/don’t do well, I begin to ask myself “Who am I to judge?”. I begin to talk myself out of posting my opinion, or I try to make myself edit things to seem less… ‘know-it-all-y’. I suppose I’m cautious about posting something and sounding as though I’m dealing in hard fact, when really it’s opinion, and from there I’m concerned with voicing an opinion when it isn’t fully versed in the subject. After all, I wouldn’t post on here about Science, or Politics, that I know nothing about, why should I voice about Games and Films?

What I do know, though, is what I enjoy and what I take away from a piece of art. The subjectivity of art gives us free-reign to voice our opinions on it and not be necessarily wrong. Messages might be woven into the narrative of a game or film, but if we take something else away it’s not our fault, nor is it necessarily the fault of the creator. Maybe a certain message or theme could be executed better, or maybe it just wasn’t for us to pick up on. Art will always appeal to different people, nobody will like everything. I could write home about how absolutely incredible this, or that, is and you might have a completely opposite experience. I could write about how a theme within a game really resonates with me, and you might simply not see it.

I suppose the question I ask myself “Who am I to judge this piece of art?”, well “Who is anyone?”. When I review something, I am telling the world what I took away from it, rightly or wrongly. Nobody can be blamed for their opinion, they can perhaps be better educated in some things, but then that is the duty of the rest of us. Some of the best pieces of work out there are also the most decisive. A difference of opinion, when done tactfully, keeps things interesting. It would be boring if we all thought the same, wouldn’t it?

And there we have it, I’ve talked myself into posting my review. It’ll probably go up on Tuesday.

Lessons in Dedication from Meat Free Mondays

What is commitment without dedication?

I do something called ‘Meat Free Monday’, because you know me I love a good alliterative occasion.

Basically, on Monday I am, for all intents and purposes, Vegetarian. Now the point of this post isn’t to try and sell anyone on the idea of vegetarianism, nor is it’s point to boast and claim I am setting some form of example at all. Many people have their own reason for being Vegetarian/Vegan; be it the treatment of animals, the industry at large, simply not liking the taste, or all of the above. Personally, I completely agree that the Meat Industry is doing more harm than good to our world, but I’m a fussy eater who just happens to love the taste of meat… So, what am I going to do?

Well, ‘Meat Free Monday’ for a start. It’s a small window into the life of a Vegetarian. It makes it easier for me to imagine a future as a vegetarian, and it opens my eyes to the food options out there that I actually quite like (or, at the very least, could get used to). Stocking my fridge and freezer ready for a Monday actually means I have more options in during the week and, what at first was almost a punishment to me, has just become a way of life. I’ve also discovered I actually prefer Spaghetti Bolognaise made with Quorn Mince, rather than beef! Something I never thought I’d say. Not to mention it’s far healthier! All that said, one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt from this isn’t simply “How could I be vegetarian?”, it isn’t even  “What options are out there for me?“, it’s about dedication.

See, without being ‘fully’ vegetarian, ‘Meat Free Monday’ isn’t exactly set in stone. What’s to stop me, say, moving it to Tuesday. I’m still doing my one meat free day a week, even if it does upset my alliteration obsession. This cross-roads actually occurred the other Monday when Kirsty was going out to a gig and had very little time to eat. She wanted a McDonalds (a Non-Vegetarian option, no less) and so my mind began to consider putting off ‘Meat Free Monday’ and simply doing it Tuesday, or Wednesday. Then it kind of occurred to me that, I really am just a Vegetarianism Tourist, sampling a lifestyle that some people make as a truly moral choice and a great amount of effort into doing. What first started as an activity to simply cut down on meat, albeit one day at a time, now means a bit more to me. By flippantly moving the day about I am completely undermining my dedication. Vegetarians can’t move their days around, can’t have a little bit of meat here and there as they choose (well, they can, nothings stopping them, but you get the meaning…). I decided that, even with Kirsty going out (always a weakness for me when it comes to my eating habits), even when faced with a McDonalds (which smelt, SO good and I love Chicken Selects with that spicy BBQ dip), that I had to stick to my guns and eat a meal that my vegetarian friends (of which there are many – and it’s multiplying) would be proud of.

The true lesson here isn’t about eating meat; eat what you like. The lesson I’ve learnt here is about commitment and dedication; it’s about staying on a path you set yourself for. As soon as you skip one day of something, you’re likely to skip another, and another, and another; you undermine yourself and you show yourself that your goal can be put to one side when it becomes slightly hard or it doesn’t quite fit your plan.

You can apply this to anything you’re trying to do; if you’re trying to write every day, go to the gym three times a week, or trying to eat a little healthy. Of course, there are genuine reasons to put a hold on something, sometimes you’re required to give yourself a little leniency. Often though, we can talk ourselves into giving up for ‘just a day‘. That one day when you’re that bit too tired for the gym… when really it’s more that you can’t be arsed. That one day when you’re in a rush so might as well have a McDonalds, when really you could just as easily grab a salad or some soup. If you’re anything like me, you can talk yourself into giving up these things fairly easily. If you’re anything like me, all the best intentions in the world can be put off for an extra hour in bed, or an extra takeaway, or an extra box of chocolates. However, the more we set a good example to ourselves, the more we power through those moments when we really could stick to our goals, if only we pushed ourselves a little bit more, if only we didn’t give in to ourselves… the easier these goals are to maintain and take forward, and the harder they are to simply put off in the future.

How about you? Have you set yourself any goals you struggle to keep? How do you manage it? Let me know in the comments below!