Beard Syndrome

I write this having consumed, currently consuming and planning on consuming more wine. That is wine consumption in both the past present and future, which is quite a feat. I say this now so that my loose approach to grammar and inability to write a sentence that doesn’t meander on and go off on tangents is put down to the imbibing of alcohol, not lack of talent.

First and foremost, I love the fantasy genre. This needs to be said because it will seem like I’m throwing a lot of shit at this beloved section of literature. There was a time when fantasy was much maligned. I remember trying, as a young adult, to find an agent for my young adult fantasy series. Most websites for such and a few smaller publishers (that were still excited by the prospects of new authors) who accepted unsolicited manuscripts categorically did not accept fantasy. It was as if it was the literary world’s shameful secret. Like an obscure fetish that should be hidden at all costs. It was something to be sneered at.  Why this was is beyond me. LoTR is fantastic and it depresses me that I’ll never see The Shire. Star Wars is life. Yes. Star Wars is fantasy. Spaceships and laser guns is not the definition of sci-fi. If anything, Star Wars is LoTR in space… old wizard, young unsuspecting farm boy, destruction of an ultimate weapon.

Good fantasy is far superior to any other genre out there. That is fact.

Noticing the literary world’s apparent disdain for the genre, esteemed academic (me) wrote in his (or her) dissertation Is Fantasy Fiction Worthy of Academic Study? That: “Yes… yes, it is.” Although, he (she/I) went on to say that, “Whilst it is undoubtedly worthy, maybe it shouldn’t be.” Primarily because I feel the idea of reading a book with the purpose of ‘studying’ it is the most preposterous pursuit one could ever undertake. To steal and then paraphrase a quote, and use it entirely out of context (my method throughout my academic career) E.B. White once remarked “Analysing humour is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested, and the frog dies of it.” It works the same for analysing a book.

This prompted my tutor to ask why I chose to do an English Literature degree. My go-to response was ‘Because theatre has very few career prospects.’ She laughed, but in hindsight I know she was laughing at the irony of it all.

Now as a proper adult (26), having given up on the young adult series and concentrated on some literary fiction,  every bugger seems to be accepting fantasy. I put this down to all the money Game of Thrones is making. The fantasy section is packed full of books. The Kindle marketplace has even more to offer (though this is largely down to the fact that just about anyone can publish there). There’s so much choice. There’s fantasy in abundance. However, the last three attempts I have made at reading a fantasy book have not gone well, and I have started to realise why (historically) fantasy has struggled so to finally find acceptance in literary circles. It’s because so many people are shit at writing it.

Fantasy seems to attract a lot of people to it. I put it down to the fact that it’s packed full of excitement and imagination. It can cover the entire emotional spectrum, feature interesting characters who have to make hard choices. It ultimately holds a mirror up to reality and allows us to see reality from multiple perspectives all whilst being entertaining. With fantasy, anything can happen.

Which makes it all the stranger that the same thing keeps happening over and over again.

It takes me a long time to settle on a book when I’m choosing, primarily because I have to sort through the books that suffer from what I have called ‘beard syndrome’. Beard syndrome is a funnier way to say a cliched piece of shit. I am drawn to a book by its cover, which is apparently something we shouldn’t do, but then if that’s the case why don’t books just have blank covers and why do publishers spend so much money making fancy colourful ones? Well? Why? Of course, you can judge a book by its cover, even if you’re taking it metaphorically. See a man with a man bun, you can almost guarantee he’s a cunt. Sorry… that’s the wine.

Any fantasy book that features a photograph of a model holding a sword is instantly out. They usually look all dark and brooding. Book covers should never have photos… it just seems wrong.

If I like the cover I read the blurb, which is usually where most books are discarded. Here is a blurb:

Centuries ago, the Thru’ghar were defeated and their dark powers contained by the Sandstone Order. Peace and prosperity have reigned over the land and innocence have been allowed to flourish. Alas, all good things come to an end. Rosha, an orphaned thief plies her trade on the streets of Vericia. Each night she dreams strange dreams.  A shadow is rising in the south.

 The gates to the Sandstone Temple have opened once again.

That was the blurb for The Shadow’s Heir a fantasy novel that was just made up by me just now to illustrate a point. This is the general format of the blurb found on books with Beard Syndrome.  A dark age, followed by a golden age, interrupted by the coming of another dark age. There will be Dark Lord’s galore. Cloaks will billow. A sinister and world-changing threat will loom on the horizon and at some point, a bloke with a beard will turn up. It might be a big long beard or a short well kept one, but it will be there. He’ll know a lot about a lot and will generally be fairly two dimensional.

Anyway, I’ll save a deeper explanation of beard syndrome for when I’m less drunk

So, of the massive amount of fantasy novels that exist, many are discarded because of their covers and many more are discarded because of beard syndrome. Then what of those that remain. Well, some will appear to have an interesting premise or a certain flair, after all, even if their plots do seem cliched and worn out, it’s often about the journey, not the destination… and all that. So it’s about the way they’re written. And so, some books shall eventually be bought by me. Then I shall start reading them. And then my frustration mounts. Because of this small percentage of chosen books, a large portion of them are written by people who can’t write.  And I seem to be the only person who notices!

I say this fully aware that I am not a published writer, so therefore have no grounds to accuse successful novelists of being bad writers. But I will do just that damn it. Not outright, just in case they read this and decide to track me down and try to kill me.

The book I’m currently struggling with has an average of 4 – 4.5 stars on most sites. That’s almost the highest number of stars you can have. In theory, this should be good. In theory.

“___ chest tightened a little as he watched her. As the last few months had flown by, he’d faced plenty of fears about becoming a Shadow. It had been only recently, though, that he’d realized that never being able to see Asha again was far and away the worst of them.”

This is immediately after the first female character has been introduced. I did a few creative writing modules at uni and discovered they were terrible. However, the main thing they kept banging on about is show don’t tell. This is a clear case of the latter. Whilst I disagree with the notion as if well written, telling can be much better than showing, this is not well written. The character has literally just turned up and straight away it’s rammed home that there will be some form of romantic subplot. I hope that the character develops into something more than an object of desire, but such is the demand for romantic subplots, I very much doubt she’ll escape this particular shackle.

“Students were not supposed to speak to non-Gifted about their training, but he and Mistress ___ regularly flouted that rule. She had looked after him for years after he’d been left to the school’s care as an infant. She had the right to know at least a little of what was going on in his life.”

Originally, this seemed to be from the point of view of the main character. Now it seems to have shifted to omniscient. If so, it’s clunky exposition. If it is still from the position of the main character, then his thoughts are odd to say the least. The author is trying to give us context, introduce context and characters, and their relationships. This is a novel that spans close to 700 pages. Why are these points crammed into lifeless paragraphs?

Why?

It’s this that gives fantasy its bad name. It’s this struggle that leaves me grappling with a love/hate relationship. It leaves me worrying what’s going to happen in the remaining 575 pages I’ve yet to read, not because I’m caught up in the adventure, but because the writing is sub-par.

I suppose that’s why literary fiction gets such an easy ride. When the story is about nothing and everything that happens must be grounded in reality. Then the writing needs to be damned good. Otherwise, what’s the point? Who’d read about reality otherwise? Reality is boring. You can see reality by looking out the window, it won’t cost you £8.99 to do that.

Anyway, that’s the third glass down. I’ll stop there, because I realise this has lost its way and the point isn’t really worth making.

 

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Dine at Blank

Every person of note has dabbled in advertising. Salvador Dali did a commercial for Lanvin chocolates among other things. Al Pacino did a coffee advert as well as broadband. David Beckham has advertised just about everything that has ever existed and will ever exist. There is a product that has yet to be conceived that already has that beautiful man’s face attached.

Hubert J Watergipridget is undoubtedly better than all three of those men put together with an added pinch of Keira Knightly. He is better than them all, and yet even he has had to endure the weight of commercialism. Some cynics look upon his many ‘sponsored’ short stories as him ‘selling out.’ The author responded to such criticism. “Selling out? Heaven forbid it. No, I was selling in. Author’s need a roof over their heads to write, without that their manuscripts are likely to get wet when it rains. You see all the acclaimed writers in their illustrious homes and assume they were paid for by the page? Nonsense, half the population are barely literate, and the other half haven’t got time to read. Yes, I did adverts, did I enjoy them? No. I do like the mansion they paid for.”

The mansion in question was his third. He still owned his ancestral home of Pridget Manor and his second mansion was bought purely to store his collection of antique chairs.

Anyway, years since the great Watergipridget left this world to spread his genius throughout the afterlife, we have his many ‘sponsored’ short stories. Close to twelve restaurants at the time employed the writer’s pen. Known academic and Watergipridget scholar Henry Pretension has managed to edit all twelve together into a single narrative. For simplicities sake (and legal reasons) all restaurant names have been replaced with ‘BLANK’.

Enjoy.

Come one; come all. Dine. Dine here at BLANK. Where all are welcome from the purest of innocents to murderers and thieves. We judge not at BLANK.

Perhaps that is their only failing.

Sit yourself down upon a tall-backed chair and allow yourself to be tucked in tight by the waiter; the psychopath’s smile slashing a flesh coloured line across his face. Yes, there is no escape from the revelry. The lighting will be low and candles will be all a flicker. Time has no place at BLANK.

Come with friends, come with family, come with all who will follow. They will bring drinks, drinks aplenty. Ales to quaff and glasses of wine to sip, sourced from cellars from around the world with adequately exotic sounding names. Enough to fool the masses into thinking they are supping upon finery. At BLANK, you can pretend for one night that you are not slurping on peasants’ piss simply to addle the mind enough to find those around you tolerable.

They’ll bring a jug of water for the table. From that perspiring crystalline container, you shall cleanse your pallet ready for your meal. When each meal could be your last, let BLANK make it truly special. You shall unfold the menu to behold the delights they have to offer, whether you like it or not. The soup of the day, you will be informed, is a fleeting soup. Favoured today, cast aside tomorrow.

Slabs of meat dripping in BLANK’s Secret Sauce. Boxes of the Frenchest of fries dusted in their slightly mysterious spices. Then the incredibly obvious lasagne. Order this and you’re liable to be punched in the face.

Pork belly. Beef medallions. Lamb shank. Yes, any manner of dead animal you could conceive can be plated up for your pleasure. It is a dog eat dog world, but man will eat anything. If a human being was set before God himself, chances are, they’d take a bite out of him. In fact, as you peruse BLANK’s menu inscribed with endless flowery ways of describing a carcass, you will become aware of the music. Yes, you’ll notice how the ambient melodies get louder the longer you stare at the list of death. So loud in fact that it almost drowns out the screaming. The terrified bleating of sheep. The agonised squawk of the hen. The traumatic wailing of the cow. Whatever the hell kind of noise a fish makes. A veritable choir of slaughter. The music drowns it all out. It saves you having to wonder what the cries are really for. Is it fear of oblivion? Is it pain? Is it betrayal? The realisation that the dominant species were not feeding the weak out of a sense of responsibility, but to fill their stomachs?

This is yet another service provided by BLANK’s ever so conscientious staff. As is the dimmed lighting. Much of what lies beyond your table will be cast in an atmospheric gloom. A warm blanket of shadow, hiding the red seeping through the walls.

More wine sir? More beer madam? More? More?

Such is BLANK’s hospitality, their eagerness to please, that they will never let your glass remain empty. They want you to eat, drink and be merry. But mostly they want you to eat and drink.

They will sing songs of celebration should it be your day of birth. They’ll grin joyfully and bring along a cake adorned with the burning candle of youth, melting rapidly before your eyes. Come… celebrate with friends, for whilst you grow ever older, marching onwards towards debilitation, incontinence and an addled brain to the maddening beat of time, you can take in every line of their faces. You can live happily in the knowledge that, whilst your time will soon be at an end… so will there’s.

Take advantage of BLANK’s dessert menu. For no night of self-indulgence is complete without something sickeningly sweet.

More wine sir? More beer? An after-dinner liqueur? More?

More.

You will never be satisfied. So you may as well dine at BLANK.

Come.

Come dine with friends. Dine with family. Dine alone.

The world beyond BLANK is cruel and uncaring. Out there you are just a shell amongst a collection of other shells, many of which are far prettier. At BLANK, you are king.

So, dine at BLANK. Dine at blank now and forever. Dine on finery. Dine…. Dine.

Dine.

My Current Viewing Habits

I currently sit practically naked in my new flat drenched in sweat, my stretchy, wrinkled testicles stuck to my leg. As you struggle to get that image out of your head, wondering whether I am guilty of some sort of harassment for forcing the notion of my naked form into your head or you are guilty for oogling me with your mind’s eye without my permission or simply visualising the naked form is neither a sinister act or one to be celebrated as a body is a body and we all need to chill out about the whole thing, I am trying to decipher my own handwriting.

I haven’t updated this blog for some time, seeing as I have been trying to move from my mum’s sofa into a new flat. I successfully managed this some time ago and subsequently spent a week sitting on a deck chair drinking beer. Then, of course, my new flatmate had the audacity to move in, so now I must, at the very least, maintain an illusion that I am a functioning human being.

Some time ago I was on a train. On this train, I tried to distract myself from the depressing reality that I was on a train by writing out my next blog post. Sticking to the ‘write what you know’ method, this turned out to be about my TV viewing habits at the time. This may become a two-parter, because reviewing my notes I see there are numerous pages stuffed with over analysis and wandering thoughts.

One day I will develop a thing called focus, or at least try my hand at this editing business. Anyway, we shall see where I get to in this write-up. Are you sitting comfortably? No, of course, you’re not, it’s too hot for that, unless you’re that one reader in Iceland who regularly glances at my ramblings. I’ll begin anyway.

***

Whilst I have not quite given up on my dreams, I have started to realise that they may not come true. This creeping realisation – that I might not become a top-selling author and celebrated actor by the time I’m twenty-four – started to make itself known around my twenty-sixth birthday. It’s becoming more apparent that I might need to re-evaluate my life the more I sit in my mother’s flat watching whatever happens to be on TV.

As my ten-year-old sister also lives here (perhaps with a more valid excuse to be doing so), what happens to be on TV is often Cartoon Network. When she eventually grows bored and wanders off to watch some insufferable YouTuber (it saddens me that that is a thing), my mother chooses the channel. This is often Alibi or UKTV Food.

Alibi shows various episodes of yet more varied detective shows. UKTV Food shows various documentaries on the history of Russia.

As I have no right to influence what can and cannot be watched on this particular television, I have no choice but to get up and better myself. Despite this, I remain seated and watch and continue to watch until my brain has melted, and I experience what it is like to be dead.

Instead of setting out into the world and perhaps finding a loving partner, saving up for a house and starting a family as is generally done, I will give a needlessly detailed rundown of my current and bizarre viewing habits.

Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network was once a safe haven. It was a world that contained Dexter’s Lab, The Powerpuff Girls and that shit Cow and Chicken show. Like most things in life, it has moved on and is no longer for me. I accept this. The world turns and a new generation emerges to lay claim to what was once ours. Unlike the Star Wars fandom, I accept this. I do not get angry, nor sad, nor do I take to the internet to harass actresses. One thing that hasn’t changed is there is still a lot of shit on it.

But it also has some remarkable programming.

The Amazing World of Gumball

Some years ago, Adventure Time come along. Its whacky colourful world was as imaginative as it was funny, rich and well thought out. Unfortunately, stoners got hold of it and started shouting pretentious shit much like they did with the more recent and much more adult Rick and Morty.

In their insistence on saying how good it was,  how clever it was and how underneath the quirky characters and silly humour, was actually a very adult show with some serious and emotional stories to tell, which it does in unique and interesting ways, these fuckers allowed Adventure Time’s Ego to swell. In pushing boundaries and doubling down with the weirdness and trying to consistently tell interesting stories, it forgot about the quirky characters and the silly humour and well… how to be entertaining.

Rick and Morty suffered the same fate. There were two fantastic seasons with some of the sharpest comedy writing yet seen, interspersed with some subtle depressing moments that led people to declare it was the cleverest thing, it was so deep and blah blah blah. This eventually led to season 3 which was largely shit. The wit was gone, the characters became too inconsistent (unless we’re watching different Rick and Morty’s in various episodes, which is a theory), and all because they kept trying to prove how fucking clever they were. Some of the silly, sharp humour was simply replaced with smug, self-referential ‘meta’ humour. Meta humour is not clever, meta humour is easy and should be used in small doses. Done right it can add an extra element to a show. Otherwise, it simply becomes easy references or an excuse to use clichés (but it’s okay because they admit their clichés so it’s not a cliché).

What does this have to do with The Amazing World of Gumball?  Well, these shows were popular, and as such, spawned copycats. Every show became whacky and self-referential. Every show became ‘lol random!’ every show became ‘quite adult clever, avant-garde and  blah blah blah.’

At first, I assumed The Amazing World of Gumball was just another one of these. Weird animal families, a goldfish that evolved into a member of the family, a whacky world populated with insane characters (one is a piece of toast), but the more I watched, the more I realised its brilliance. With it’s ‘randomness’ it feels like a safe bet that fits in nicely with the millennial trend of said ‘randomness’. However, whereas with a lot of shows offer ‘randomness’ with no substance, The Amazing World of Gumball (in my humble opinion) simultaneously uses this self-aware randomness to its full effect (by which I mean not overdoing it) whilst also satirising shows that try and fail to do the same. It is incredibly juvenile (it’s a kids’ show), but certain elements will appeal to adults (Richard is my spirit animal). There are intelligent, well developed and fleshed out characters that whilst appear insane and ‘out there’ deliver lines of dialogue in an incredibly dry manner. It expertly balances the colourful and quirky with the down to earth and simple.

Most importantly, it doesn’t take itself seriously. It makes no claim to be unique. It does not attempt to be intelligent. It doesn’t try to appeal to both adults and children, it instead does its best to be entertaining, and it succeeds.

Teen Titans GO!

The phrase ‘childhood ruined’ or words to that effect come up a lot. Strangely, they are never said by children, who realistically are the only ones who can have their childhood ruined. It comes up a lot in reference to this children’s TV show. I work in marketing so I can tell you that a children’s show branded something that ruins childhood is not ideal.

The reason so many people have been lamented that their childhoods have been ruined is (fortunately) not due to some chilling realisation that uncle Barry wasn’t actually a doctor and… nope, can’t even finish a paedophile joke, they make me want to cry. Not to mention someone might dig it up in 10 years’ time, successfully getting me fired by Disney.

Note: yes I did add in that James Gunn joke to be topical. I’m trying to appeal to all manner of readers.

Rather, people feel that Teen Titans GO! Is responsible for their childhood being ruined, albeit retrospectively.

Teen Titans GO! Currently has a rating of 4.8 stars on IMDB, which isn’t good news as I view anything below a 6.5 to be unwatchable, and obviously, everyone goes by my technique. To quote the title for one 1 star review “If you loved the first time out for the Teen Titans, don’t watch this”, and the body of another equally negative review

“When I first saw the commercials for this show, I thought, “Oh, hey, they’re remaking one of my favorite childhood shows, I hope it’ll be good.” But I was severely disappointed, and insulted.”

I can see the beginnings of a pattern. The people that don’t like this show dislike it seemingly because it is not like a show they watched at some point in the past. I remember my friends telling me how good the original Teen Titans was and that I should watch it. I didn’t because I was obviously reading Ulysses and had no time for cartoons, titanic or otherwise. This was some time ago. A quick google tells me the final episode aired on the 16th of January 2006. Those who are number savvy will realise that was twelve and a half years ago.

This would mean that even if you were say, as young as eight when you watched the original Teen Titans that would make you currently twenty years of age. Following this line of logic, I can conclude that Teen Titans Go! IS NOT FOR YOU, YOU WHINING CHILDISH FUCK!

I briefly alluded to this current pandemic whilst referencing the Star Wars fandom. These are people that simply can’t let go of their childhood. These are fucking snivelling cowards who can’t accept that time is marching ever onwards and they are now of an age of responsibility, they must take charge of their own lives and make their own decisions. They’ve realised their parents were right when they told them, ‘these are the best years of your life, it’s all downhill from here.’ Rather than sucking it up and accepting their mortality before trudging boldly towards their demise, they turn on Cartoon Network and hope that the magic colour box will give them back their youth.

It won’t. Fucking grow up you creepy adult children.

I don’t see how a children’s cartoon can leave someone feeling insulted, unless a character turns to the camera and says, ‘Graham Smith of 21 Dryden Crescent, you’re a prick!’ (apologies if anyone reading is called such and lives at such, it is mere coincidence). From my limited knowledge, Teen Titans Go! Is actually very respectful of the original, not just due to the many subtle references, but by not trying to imitate the original series. The original series is done. It told a story. Doing the same would serve no purpose and ultimately tarnish a good thing.

So, in this superhero obsessed age of reboots and gritty superpowered punch-ups, where Marvel and DC desperately try and monetise as many of their properties as possible before the bubble bursts, why not reuse the Teen Titans? Except, instead of attempting a gritty, violent reboot like the live action appears to be (which seems very odd. Why market a thing called Teen Titans, which is clearly aimed at a younger audience, Teen is in the title, with gratuitous graphic violence? Unless they’re trying to appeal to the aforementioned fuckers, who will no doubt say that this is shit too before they hang themselves), why not just make it a light-hearted romp in which nothing matters? Wouldn’t it be funny if we took the characters of a show known for its serious story-telling and emotional climaxes and make them caricatures of themselves and put them in silly scenarios? That’s the premise of Teen Titans GO! The Titans are put into comical shorts in which they do surprisingly little superheroing. It’s like a flat share sitcom, starring the Titans.

Sure, the humour doesn’t always land, but at these points, I have to remind myself, I’m a 26-year-old loser watching  Cartoon Network.

Well… that got out of hand.

Tune in next post to read why British detective shows are probably racist and how I often can’t tell which version of Law and Order I’m watching.

Life of extremes

Life has got to the point where all I seem to do is speak to this guy about the most exciting way he could end his life to end the shame of his general lack of success. This is despite the fact that his blog is getting more views than mine recently. My money is on him launching himself from a trapeze and landing anus first on a metal spike.

I’ve often professed that the world is a dull place. If I haven’t I’ll do it now. The world is a dull place. It is an incredibly mundane planet we inhabit, but one we seem to treat purely in extremes. Things are either awesome or awful. It is as simple as that, there is very little occupying that vast chasm in between those two words. Everything is profound, or it is nothing.

People never have days where they feel a bit blue. People no longer feel sad. It is depression. That’s not to do people’s feelings down. Maybe we are all truly depressed. In outsourcing all our responsibilities to technology and living in a climate that allows us to live a life of plenty we have given ourselves time to feel the natural state of being.

If we have a few nights of poor sleep, we say we have insomnia. A party is amazing or it is a disaster.

Is our insistence upon extremes because of this dull world?

Even I am not exempt from this inclination towards exaggeration. I currently need a haircut. If I thought about it reasonably, I’d be able to say it’s fifteen minutes (in an ideal world) of someone snipping your hair, which is the most useless part of our biology. It doesn’t cover enough of our body in such away as to provide any reasonable protection against the elements, but keeps growing nonetheless.

But I don’t get my haircut because it’s awful. Getting a haircut, not my haircut, which is a matter of opinion. I hate getting a haircut so much that for a year I used a pair of clippers under the idea that it can’t be that difficult to trim some hair.

As it turns out I was misinformed and it’s incredibly difficult to trim hair, so naturally had to go bald for a time. I hate it so much, that I’d much rather someone break into my house whilst I slept and gave me a haircut. I wouldn’t even mind if they stole some stuff on their way out, or even let the door open, inviting more less haircut focussed people in to have their violent way with me. Maybe I’ll get lucky and wake up dead… I’ll never have to get another haircut. Unless that weird myth that your hair continues to grow after you’re dead (it doesn’t) turns out to be true, then I’ll have to employ the services of a dead barber.

I just can’t stand it. It’s the worst thing in the world. First you have to go to the hair cutting place which is packed with other people wanting to get their hair cut. Endless bodies topped with hair. Men with their hundreds of children who also need their child hair cutting. Your whole day wasted, sitting in silence as others get their hair removed.

Then you finally get called up and asked that most cryptic of questions, ‘what would you like?’

Obviously from context they mean with your hair. Not just, what would you like in general. They haven’t got the time for that. Even so, it’s a difficult one to answer. A haircut is what I’d like. If you ask for that though they look at you as though you’ve shat yourself.

It’s at this stage the realisation dawns that everyone’s watching you with great expectations. What do you want? Answer the question! WHAT DO YOU WANT!

I tend to panic and start throwing out strings of sentences that make barely a modicum of sense. ‘Shape it round the ears, then even it out?’

‘What?’

‘I want to be able to see my ears, then just, make everything match that.’

‘What do you usually do with your hair?’

‘Do with it? It’s hair I let it sit on my head!’

Eventually, they work their magic and you leave with an itchy shirt.

Then, the after a month or so, the ritual starts all over again.

I know… my heart just wasn’t in it tonight.

 

 

The Beard of Failure

It’s hot today and set to get hotter as the week goes on. I would talk about how this thoroughly displeases me, but I’ve done so in the past and no one seems to have done anything about it. Usually, I try to keep my blogs informative and offer an analysis of a particular aspect of modern life. If not that, I tend to offer newly found works of Hubert J Watergipridget. I try to refrain from talking about myself on a specific level. I do so for several reasons. One is that I’m not prone to vanity like everyone else on the interwebs, posting inane drivel about their trips to the shop or sticking up selfies of them walking through town, slurping a drink that’s far too colourful to be the drink of an adult.

What happened before smartphones? Were we more modest and more focused on the outside world? I honestly can’t remember. It could be that we all secretly harboured thoughts that we would love a platform to post the same picture of our heads over and over again, and it was the world’s loss that the technology for us to do so just didn’t exist.

Alas, we’re in an age of self-obsession. Some time ago, society fought for the noble cause of freedom of speech. Inevitably, this gave way to people thinking they had to speak their mind, not thinking for a second whether their mind had anything worthwhile to say. I can fight against this. Or I can give in.

As I decide this, I shall talk about my beard.

 

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This is my beard, there are many other beards like it…you know the rest.

 

I have a complicated relationship with facial hair. Having grown up reading books about wizards and watching Star Wars, I associated the beard with wise and complicated old men. In the many books I read, if a man with a beard turned up you could be damned sure that some exciting shit was going to kick off. Unless the exciting shit kicker offer was female, in which case she’d be stern and thin-lipped, but kindly and clever. The beard was the mark of wonder. It spoke of an experienced man who had seen much of the world and been on many adventures. He would never express such in simple words. He would allude to it. He would guide the younger generation on their own adventures, only ever stepping in when absolutely necessary (unless it’s Dumbledore, in which case he turns out to be a massive bellend).

Then, there were a number of years (quite recently) when everyone went mad for the beard. Beards of all ‘quirky’ styles adorned the faces of young, generally well-groomed men. Men who were not wise nor kindly, but vain and prickish. Men who had beards because apparently, that’s what men did. Men who thought a mass of facial hair was an adequate stand-in for a personality. The beard became another fad, another branded jacket that everyone must wear. The bigger the better.

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Like this man, sporting the timeless look that says ‘I don’t care what others think, as long as they think that I don’t care.’

Fortunately, that fad has died a death, like all fads. We’ve woken up from a mad and bewildering dream and returned to reality, where a beard is just hair sprouting from a face.

I currently have a beard… sort of.

The main reason for this beard is one of laziness. Just like the main reason for WWII was Hitler and his band of merry Nazis. But also, like WWII there are a number of other contributing factors that allowed Hitler and his merry band of Nazis to gain power in the first place.

Am I still talking about my beard? Yes, I believe so. Like the world-wide atrocity that was WWII, there are many contributing factors to my facial hair.

I have always been a somewhat ambitious person. I have always striven for greatness beyond measure yet have accrued nothing but failure. Since I was about 8 years of age, I have wanted to write a book. I would forever start things, but they would never take off distracted as I was by other things, like pigeons or small pieces of string. Then at the age of 11… ish. After forcing my imagination to work overdrive and instilling an iron discipline in myself, I sat down and typed. I typed and typed and then typed some more. I got type fingers and had to undergo a strenuous period of physiotherapy. Then I typed some more. After years of endless typing, I finished my first novel.

This turned out to be Lord of the Rings. Very soon after realising this, I remembered the Lord of the Rings already existed and was much better than my shameless knock off The Crystal of Doom. I still remember the adventures of the Chain Knights, Lord Syndus and Blakemere setting off with Martin, Keeper of the Dragon Pearls to acquire that damned crystal. So, I threw it aside – figuratively speaking of course, it was on the family desktop. Had I thrown that I would have been in serious trouble. But I had to accept I was a talentless hack. A plagiarist. A copycat, a smelly fat copycat!

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The original copycat, copying everything that cats had previously done. The uninspired hack!

I briefly had the idea that I could be an actor and got no further than an extra role in The Theory of Everything, which to this day I still have not watched. I assume Hawking has a theory regarding all things at one point.  At university, I got the delusion that maybe I could a comedian. After 5 fairly successful gigs and one disastrous one, I concluded that spending £24 on a railcard and then travelling 50+ minutes on various trains and getting lost in London for 5 minutes of stage time was probably not a good career choice.

But, throughout all of this, I have been writing. I have written a multitude of novels across numerous genres for various audiences. The one thing this diverse collection of works has in common is that they are all shit and remain unpublished. For my latest novel, I have thus far received 4 rejection letters from literary agents, the shrivelled leeches of the world of books. It’s their continued existence that makes me question these alarmist reports like this one that suggests that the publishing industry is dying. For starters that was written 2 years ago, and they are still going, so if they are it’s a laboured death Shakespeare would be proud of.  If these odd middlepeople earning their 10% on each author can afford to reject me, it either means the industry is alive and well, or I’m just a terrible terrible writer. I’ve invested far too much time to accept the latter.

book

For my next novel ‘The Big Book of Meaningless Shite’

Beards.

Yes. So, a friend of mine also harbours ambition. We regularly communicate electronically. We’re like the modern-day Tolkien and C.S Lewis, just minus the Christianity bollox… and the Oxford education and writing ability. In frustration of our lack of critical acclaim, we declared that neither of us would shave until we become successful. The logic being twisting and numerous, like the roots of an old oak. For starters, seeing our increasingly hairy faces in the mirror each morning will inspire us to work harder, or remove our mirrors. Secondly, all good writers have a writer beard. They can stroke it whilst looking stoic and thoughtful. Thirdly, shaving it off will come with such a relief when the event comes with hard-earned success. The faces lurking underneath will be renewed with a lust for life and the smiles of satisfied men.

beard 1

The Portrait of the Artist When Doing a Poo

My friend has already shaved. Not because he’s successful, but because he’s a fickle shit who wastes words like a rich man throwing pennies hard into the face of an old blind woman. Though his blog is getting more views than mine on a daily basis, so he has more right to shave than I do.

I, however, am a man of my word. If we do not do as we say, then words will start to lose all meaning and this blog will just be a handful of indecipherable shapes, typed out by someone with too much time on his hands. Despite the obvious bald patches and its ginger colouring, I will continue to sport my face fuzz in the hope that I soon may be rid of it. The alternative is I die with knee-length beard, moistened and matted by the bitter tears of failure.

But at least I’ll die looking a bit like this guy…

long beard

Which makes me think… maybe the bearded men of those old books weren’t that wise. Maybe they were all failures too.

 

Consistency is for Cowards; Hypocrisy for Heroes

It’s that time of the week again. I say time of the week well aware that my posting is as irregular as your mum’s bowel movements. I have previously posted several essays by the great Hubert J Watergipridget and, due to the massive interest in this esteemed wit, I have decided to bow to pressure and post his essay ‘Consistency is for Cowards, Hypocrisy for heroes’.

You’re welcome.

 

Like many men of my generation, I had the misfortune of fighting in what we now call World War II. Of course, dear reader, you are well aware of this. No doubt you have cast your eye over one of those slanderous articles, if indeed they could be called such. I’ve read more coherent pieces carved into stone tablets. Coward, they call me. Traitor. Opportunist. A man with no moral fibre.

There was a double page spread in last week’s Sunday Times. Two pages of drivel spat out by an uneducated cretin who wouldn’t know a comma if it fell on him. It referenced my role in the second global conflict, my time in the British Army, the Royal air force, the Luftwaffe and the Regia Marina. It said my literary work was typical of my character. It said I was a hypocrite, a man without consistency.

I tell you this: consistency is for cowards; hypocrisy for heroes.

Consistency is nothing but a great iron ball to which we willingly shackle ourselves. If I were a consistent man, I would have fought for the British the whole way through the war and learned nothing. Sun Tzu is often quoted:

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be put at risk even in a hundred battles.”

This has largely been reduced in the West to ‘know your enemy’. I fully grasp the meaning of his words. By switching sides, I knew my enemy and, by understanding their point of view, I became my enemy. As I was my enemy, they ceased to be my enemy and instead became my allies. By constantly switching sides, everyone became my ally and thus, I had removed my enemies, winning the war.  

The only reason other, more moral men did not think to give over (albeit temporarily) to fascism is because they feared they might enjoy it and thus, would feel odd about returning to fight it. I however, didn’t take to it. I found the Nazis to be dull little fellows. Goebbels was the worst. He constantly tried to get me to read his turgid little plays and practically begged me to help him find a publisher. I tell you, if it wasn’t for the angry little man – the one with the moustache – Goebbels would have been nothing.

Upon my return to Blighty I started to once again fight the good fight and command others do the same. I did not feel my brief stint as a fascist lessened my resolve or reduced my impact. If anything, my hypocrisy, if you want to call it that, meant I was in a better position to say who was right and who was wrong. I had seen both sides. I had taken part from both perspectives. I could speak with a sense of authority when I said the Germans must be stopped.

It is the same outside of war.

The priest who espouses celibacy and denounces sexual deviancy as a sin on a Sunday, before ploughing his way through hordes of prostitutes throughout the week is a priest I’m more likely to trust. Why would I trust the word of a celibate priest who has never known the touch of a woman? His conviction – his consistency of character – why, that just leaves him ignorant. I’d rather follow an immoral man than an ignorant one.

A man who has let no drug befoul his body warning me of the horrors of drug abuse is mere stuff and nonsense. A man who has consumed all drugs and devolved into a hunched and vulgar husk of a man telling me never to take drugs, in between his daily course of drugs, well… there is something to think about.

It works both ways. If said hunched drug addict stared up to me with glassy eyes and a toothless grimace before cackling ‘I’ve always taken drugs, from the moment I was wrenched from the womb. Not once have I been clean, you should join me.’ I would not give him the time of day.

Cowardice, that’s what consistency is. The man who has never taken drugs and denounces them, does so because he fears he might enjoy them, and by enjoying them, he might fall victim to them.

A man who says one thing and lives by his word, is a fool. A fool that will never know regret or guilt and will therefore die happily. But he will die ignorant. He will be half a man. A perpetual child steeped in what we might call innocence. Innocence is fine for a child, but something to be derided in adulthood, wouldn’t you agree?

To say one thing, but do the opposite is to allow yourself a sense of moral or intellectual purpose, but let your bodies feel the joy of the physical. In doing so, you can truly test your morals. A good man who has never punched a nun, or spat at a homeless man or harassed a widow, does not truly know he is a good man. A vile man who takes pleasure in it, knows he is awful. But a good man, who pushes a child into a lake or scalds a blind person and then feels bad about doing so, he is a good man.

He can go forth telling everyone how they must live. How we must choose peace and harmony. How we must treat everyone with a sense of mutual trust. He can do all of this whilst being racist or making inappropriate remarks to female co-workers. He lives life as a hypocrite, so you don’t have to. You must do as he says, not as he does.

For if you do as he does. Well… then you’re as bad as he is.

 

Like many of Watergipridget’s works. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense. He was often criticised of being xenophobic, sociopathic and generally a shit. To which he responded.

‘I am definitely two of the three, I’ll let you choose what two.’ 

The Sins of Our Fathers… and Also Our Mothers.

I have previously shared works from the great Hubert J Watergipridget. As it happens, I have a great deal more to share for Watergipridget is the single most prolific writer that has ever lived. In his time, he wrote 42 novels, 95.3 short stories and countless essays. Literally. People have tried counting but have either gone insane, died or got bored before finishing.

It is well known, like Samuel Johnson or Winston Churchill (and practically everyone post-2012), Watergipridget suffered from bouts of depression. Always keen on one-upmanship, he did not refer to his depression as a black dog, but rather a black bear. His reasoning was, not only would a bear be harder to tolerate, but there’s also the risk of being mauled. The following is perhaps my favourite essay by Watergipridget, taken from the collection ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ and is entitled:

The Sins of Our Father’s… and Also Our Mothers (Unless They’re Adoptive Parents, in This Instance They’re Exempt).

When a woman falls pregnant, people are quick to congratulate both her and he who provided the semen. Strange that we feel this is worthy of congratulation, or any sort of praise. It’s a process mammals have gone through once or twice a year since they emerged, and many of them give birth to far more than one at a time and their mating rituals are often far simpler.

There are many acts of cruelty that humanity naturally abhors. Violence against others, injustice, theft, mental and/or sexual abuse to name a few. The righteous majority will often rise up against these and condemn them for the sins that they are. And yet, the birth of a child is celebrated. The miracle of birth it is often referred to. And what is a miracle? By definition, it is an extraordinary and much welcome event, one that is inexplicable and beyond the power of nature or science, it can only be explained by divine intervention. As I’ve already said, mammals have been giving birth and producing offspring thousands if not millions of years and scientists feel confident in being able to explain it. Having studied the literature, I feel they’ve constructed a convincing argument at the very least. Childbirth then, is not a miracle.

If anything, it is the opposite of a miracle. A veritable elcarim if you will. Pure disaster. A couple with child should not reveal the news with excitement to a loving family, rather they should beg forgiveness at confession. They shouldn’t be congratulated but scolded for their selfishness.

We, having lived enough of life to see the truth of it, know the hardship it brings. We know the torment that comes with each new day. We know the pain of existence and the unbearable length of it all. We know what it is like to wade waist-deep through the trials of each day, struggling against the overwhelming pull of the destructive current. We know what it is like to lay awake at night despite our exhaustion, feeling the dull ache of loneliness. We know what it is like to be burdened by our failures, to feel the sting of loss and succumb to the grip of fear.

In short, we know the pain of existence. It is a state of being that would be considered barbaric to inflict upon a criminal. Yet, without first gaining their consent, we push it upon our children without a second’s thought. There is, of course, no way of gaining consent, seeing as nothing exists before it is created. Before two have come together to jumble up a random mixture of their genes, good or bad (often ugly), there is no life to gain consent from. In other situations, we would decide to leave well alone, for we have no right to interfere with others who have not permitted it.

Yet, we deliberately bring children into the world. They know they have nothing to look forward too and as such are dragged into being literally kicking and screaming. They howl in anguish at the torment you have inflicted upon them. From an early age, they are aware of their mortality and ultimately, the futility of any action they take whilst they live. They are innately aware that happiness is a fickle and fleeting thing.

To bring a child into existence is an act of cruelty. With each passing year it becomes all the crueller as the world they’re destined to inherit becomes harder and more unforgiving. Resources dwindle, disease runs rampant, the environment changes and sea levels rise. Wars loom over every horizon because of our actions. Yet we bring children into being, we raise them, and we cast an arm out gesturing over the scarred and ruined landscape, the concrete jungles populated by bureaucracy, financial strife and isolation. We sweep our fingers over the poverty-stricken scene showing them all the woe their tiny minds can hold, and we say, “all of this is yours”.

Whatever we feel in life. They shall have worse. There’s a reason old folk are known for reminiscing about their day. It was always slightly better. All the way back to our mindless ancestors, scrambling around in the dirt, blissfully unaware of how ashamed they should feel. It all went downhill from there.

We’re more evolved than they were. Wiser, more intelligent some might say. If that is the case, why have we not decided to call it a day?

 

Some may say that this goes some way to explain why Watergipridget never had children of his own. Though there is evidence to suggest that he had dozens of illegitimate children running around the four corners of the globe (except the Americas). This he touched upon briefly in the essay Consistency is for Cowards, Hypocrisy for Heroes.