Tuesday, 1 July 2014

How to avoid dates and stay single :)

Seeing as I'm obviously not an expert on relationships (see here and here) it's more appropriate that I should share my wisdom on avoiding the whole relationships scene. Like me, no matter how much social interaction or lack of interaction you have in life, you'll soon find that you're lost in uninterrupted solitude ;)

Firstly, if you have to go out, make sure you become part of the furniture. Even if you have pink hair and tattoos on your face, it's an easy mind-set to adopt. Act as if you're a walk-on part in someone else's movie, rather than the star or a scene-stealing supporting act. You're a prop. Start thinking movie extra thoughts, like nothing more important than getting from A to B, filling a space at a desk, or attending one of many hundreds of appointments that need to be fulfilled to keep someone else in their job.

Forget that the world supposedly revolves around any individual ego and personality, and remember that it revolves around its axis occupied by 9 billion souls, all of them only the walk-on background artists for the giant comet that my mum says is going to arrive and wipe them all out any minute now, leaving rainforests and rose-bushes standing.

Secondly, stay at home at every opportunity. Avoid interaction with the postman. If you must keep him busy, order lots of 99p stuff off ebay (always lots of birthdays to cover).

Limit conversations "Yes, I'm good thanks". It's not as if you have any gossip to share anyway, and nothing is that interesting that happens to you - and even if they always find a way, the next person to speak won't be able to upstage you with their news/disasters/jokes if you keep your mouth shut in the first place and out of their gun-sights.

Stop watching soap operas. They're all made up anyway, and no-one needs help imagining fake relationships or building exotic fantasies about strangers.

If someone asks you out, or to a social event, just say 'no'. It's a short word and over very quickly. You don't need to qualify or embellish it. If someone asks why, just say 'I'm not in the mood'. Let's face it, if your desire is to stay single, you're never going to be in the mood. So it's honest, as well as an excuse that pretty much no-one but the most hard-assed party-faced cheerleader will try and get you out of.

Hang out with a crowd of people who share your interests. There's nothing quite like joining a cult of identity-clones to help you become invisible in a crowd, through providing too much choice to those who are on the look-out for dates.

Work in a job involving a uniform. It's even easier to be part of the furniture that way, and even easier to be misjudged based on appearance. The uniform perverts are few and far between, most of them will be your colleagues anyway, and again they're faced with too much choice and too full of themselves to be likely to pick on you.

Give yourself an unrealistic goal if you consider ever giving up your singledom. Tell yourself if James Franco turned up with a bunch of flowers, you might bother to vacuum. Or if Madonna needed help starting a car, you might only insist on her buying you a beer. Don't scrub the bathroom on a daily basis on the offchance that one of the Jehovah's Witnesses might be caught short on your doorstep, and suddenly see the error of their ways and convert to Buddhism for you, thus restoring your faith in love and humanity.

Your house should NEVER be visitor-ready. Don't do what I did though, and break yourself in half doing sports. Only being able to manage the garden once every 2 months due to an injury might make people sorry for you, and you don't want that.

Never type an original post on Facebook or Twitter. Only reshare random links. Never add an opinion or comment of your own.

Invest any creative urges you have in writing reviews of things you've bought, or better still, writing books. With 50,000 new titles being published every week on Kindle, it's a perfectly acceptable way to kill time, not get noticed in the slightest, and to annoy and alienate the few friends and family who are still talking to you by asking them to buy, read and review them.

If anyone famous thanks you for re-sharing their status or tweet, do not immediately panic, run and scrub the bathroom. Just say 'you're welcome'. Luckily for you and your commitment to staying single, this will not be construed as an invitation to bed. James Franco has learned that lesson already. Madonna will only mistake it for that if accompanied by a selfie of your gym-honed abs, which would just be mean of you if you have no intention of leading her on further in your single-minded singleness or following her on Instagram.

Learn something clever but ultimately pointless, like how to knit a sweater which will cost you upwards of £25 when you could buy one on ebay for 99p. It kills much time, you can watch repeats of Top Gear on Dave at the same time once you get the hang of it, and you'll spend so much money on knitting wool that you won't be able to afford to go to the pub/gym/cinema or on holiday. Or you could make greetings cards and jewellery and set up a virtual online Etsy shop, competing with the ones who also have time to run 24-hour self-promotion pages in order to sell your crocheted corsages (hey, that's an awesome idea. But I can't crochet, only knit, so you can have that one).

Do not share anything online that might make you famous, such as a video of falling downstairs and landing in a wedding cake. If it's your cat landing in a wedding cake, then that's fine. The marriage proposals will all have to be turned down by the cat instead. Refer to 'How to say no' above if some poor misguided cat/wedding-cake lover does accidentally fall for you after watching your cat's cake debut.

Don't become pen-friends/online buddies with anyone who is likely to be released in your lifetime, or has the means to travel.

Don't ask for directions from men driving windowless vans. For some reason, they all want a longer conversation, which is a waste of your valuable me-time.

If you go to church, sit with the older folks and mime the words if your singing is truly terrible. They won't be able to hear that you can't sing if you do accidentally sing out loud, so no-one will be talking about you or offering you singing lessons over tea and coffee afterwards.

Don't bother to change out of your pyjamas/onesie when doing the school run. It will suppress the urge to get out of the car and interact with other parents or teachers.

Be as hygienic as you like (no fears of setting off anyone's hay-fever with your latest Marc Jacobs smell) and wear anything you like under your normal clothes. Only you get to enjoy it, and no-one gets to judge you on it or make comments like 'Aren't you a bit fat for red latex?' or 'Yuck, stockings, it's not the 1940s, you know' or 'How am I supposed to undo THAT?'

In the same theme, no-one gets to judge you on your tattoos or piercings.

Try hiding the remote control from yourself. Now imagine someone else doing that and never telling you where.

Experiment in the kitchen. I find that it's a great place to practise parkour vaults onto or over the worktops.

Best of all, never do anything right now or today that can be put off until tomorrow or never, whether it's pairing up the remaining socks or climbing Mount Rushmore.

You'll eventually find you're the most comfortable you've ever been in your own company, compared to all that time previously spent looking for dates and yet still being single. Maybe until you run out of matching socks, but no-one's going to know about that either :)

L xxxx

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Still listening to dating advice... :)

...This dating audiobook is going on forever. As I still haven't finished listening to it, I thought I might as well multi-task, and write another blog post at the same time.

Last time I was talking about my avoidance of relationships. Distractions. Some of those distractions are external, like parenting demands (I'm a holiday-romance mum, it turned out the dad didn't want anything to do with us, so I haven't seen him since) and work. Others are just means of killing time while I don't know what else to do with myself.

I have more hobbies than average. Writing books, knitting hoodies, sewing cosplay outfits for fancy dress conventions, drawing, painting, gymnastics training. I used to do martial arts (that's how I travelled, and met the dad of my teen-zombie) then got bored of paying to get bruises from being hit, and getting shut out socially after falling pregnant. And not the best way of imprinting my only form of human contact with other adults, I realised. It did help me to see that I'm not interested in competitive activity - which might explain why I don't like bars and clubs as part of the 'looking for a date' scene. I remember what it felt like to be dropped out of groups of friends for being unable to keep up with their life progress in terms of dating and then engagements - the only ones who kept me around wanted an enabler or counsellor, or an excuse to ogle single guys by hanging out with a single friend who was still looking (and two or three times, were still looking for themselves, and they then moved in on any interesting ones). So yeah - competition, even with friends, not my thing. Less stressful not having friends like those.

Shopping is another way of killing time. I don't mean stomping around malls or high street stores trying stuff on and flashing the cash. I have ebay open on another tab, and I'm watching a designer dress to see if I might get another last-minute 99p bargain. It's nice to think that if I do get a date I'll have something decent to wear, although I am a jeans-and-t-shirts girl most of the time.

I'm now listening to 'The Friendship Trap' part of the audiobook. I never saw friendship as a trap. Maybe I'm one of the few women (according to this guru) who doesn't make friends with guys I'm attracted to, or with an agenda attached. I wouldn't even try and get close to a guy's friends if I liked him, because I've seen it done and it looks sly and stalkery. Occasionally, when I've had male friends, they'd have had crushes on me, but because I didn't realise, and didn't see them in that way, nothing happened. (That taught me not to believe that guys twice my age wouldn't thinking about that sort of thing when talking to someone like me). So it happens both ways. But yeah, mostly guys who want a female friend only want relationship issue therapy from them, or introductions to your other friends... so that also happens both ways.

I've had a lot of time on my hands, never having had a relationship, so I've read a lot of dating books. The one thing that frustrates me about them so far is how much they go into relying on your previous experiences as a benchmark, to analyse your own failings and fears, to judge what you find attractive and what works for you. One book just repeatedly answered the question 'How do I know whether the man I'm attracted to is the real thing?' with 'Compare it to how you felt when meeting your first real boyfriend'. Is it just me, or is that not a good enough answer? In short, how do you know what something is, or if it's even being offered to you, if you've never had it? When none of the 'signals' seem to come your way, and every time one of those male friends shows an interest it comes as a total shock that you don't reciprocate? (Particularly when those friends happen to be unavailable themselves, and are hoping for a quick fling or affair). When guys you fancy don't even know you're alive? Supposing you don't speak the language of love at all? Is that valid advice to offer them?

Am I normal, for a forty-two-year-old who's never had a relationship (not even a bit of hand-holding back at school all those years ago), or am I bordering on autistic?

The only thing I do know, that I've always known as far back as I can remember, is that waiting for the right guy is the most important thing for me, and that I'm incapable of 'doing the chasing' because I'm not an aggressive or competitive personality. I wouldn't be able to keep up that opening act of being the instigator or motivator in the relationship. Okay, so it means I don't have an exciting romantic past, or a range of bedroom experience to refer back to. I've been on several first dates from dating sites over the last twelve years, which gradually built up a picture of scenarios which were wrong for me - and it's nothing to do with age or income or looks but a lot to do with more basic things such as whether or not the guys were genuine, seeing lots of women all at once, or had unrealistic expectations of what they were looking for themselves, and whether they were attracted to me or I found anything about them attractive (the most basic precursor for progress, particularly as I have nothing else to go on in terms of experience but a list of unrequited crushes).

When I was a bouncer I had a lot of practise saying 'no' to offers of dates from married drunks and possible drug-dealers. The great thing about the word 'no' is it's the shortest word there is and is over very quickly, it gives the man time to move on in the same minute (which is what usually happened). I've said yes to dates too - and for whatever reasons there are in the Universe, those didn't happen, the man never called, life was too short... one guy was killed in an RTA the day after asking me out, so the next time we were in the same room was at his funeral... or whatever.

I've got six younger brothers, who are all wildly different from one another and have different lives, different incomes and different tastes, and are all lovable. I don't have an imaginary mould that I'm expecting a man to fit into, as I know they're all different.

Maybe the women who have more rigid ideas and expectations are more successful in finding a man and settling down. I don't know. The successful ones in relationships don't seem to want any single friends around them... so they're not sharing any of their wisdom about the subject with me - or they're saying the same as the dating books 'What was your first love like?' - still waiting to find out, thanks. Or 'Are you too picky? You have to kiss a lot of frogs...' Well, I did meet plenty of frog princes. They all hopped onward immediately, in their unending online-dating search for Angelina Jolie or Britney Spears... :)

L xxx

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

What I'm listening to right now...

In my headphones at the moment, an audiobook by a flirting/relationships guru is attempting to teach me how to hold a conversation and to create 'sexual tension'.

This is the latest in a long list of pursuits and to-do lists that keeps me from the prospect of going out and looking for an actual relationship. Today I wrote three other blog posts, folded some clothes hoping to find many things ready to give away to the charity shop (none - must be too soon since the last visit), and even made a dental appointment by phone when I'm rubbish on the phone too. But I haven't left the house today. Yet again, I'm putting off the chance of meeting someone for another day. Another day when I might be feeling more confident, more successful, more attractive, more approachable, more healthy - you name it.

Ah - the audiobook has moved on to a new chapter, about making the move from a 'chat' to 'getting a date'. Already out of my depth. I don't think I've learned anything from the last one yet, and I've listened to it twice. I'm pretty sure he didn't even answer his own question...

For the last decade and a half, being a single parent was a pretty valid excuse. Plus, I spent half of that time meeting thousands of people, in my old job as full-time SIA nightclub security, so I wasn't avoiding social interaction at all. Although the interaction I did have was mostly telling drunk people to go home, and deflecting all sorts of suggestions on the basis that the proposers were married, trying to get into the venue for free, or were wanted by the police.

Other things distract me. Like, why does my mum keep having the same conversation with me that the best thing that could happen for planet Earth is a comet turning up and destroying it? Does she think I might offer to build a Giant Extraterrestrial Object Attractor and fulfil her wish for her?

When I was little, my mum wanted a boyfriend, so that was the conversation she always had with me, seeking my unqualified advice and opinions (still unqualified). Then, she wanted to inherit money, so that was the conversation she always had with me (fortunately, I didn't take that as a hint she wanted it to happen sooner rather than later). In the last few years, it's been the comet, and the annihilation of mankind for the best interests of the plants.

Yes, that's not a typo. Plants. She doesn't want the reinstatement of wild boar or wolves in Scotland. She doesn't want to Save the Badger. She just wants all the humans gone, so that the rainforest can grow back. Perhaps she should stop watching depressing TV programmes and write to the folk who are clearing the rainforest and tell them that she is arranging for a comet to arrive if they don't stop what they're doing. She could start her own petition about it.

She's always been a great advocator of 'positive thinking', 'thought bricks' and 'cosmic ordering'. I'm starting to realise that it's probably no surprise that the Lotto win she's always hoping for and Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet haven't materialised, when she's negating it all with her 'Comet Apocalypse Plan B.'

While waiting for the comet to arrive, she's already dropping heavy hints about wanting to be a great-grandmother to my own daughter, who's not legal age yet and couldn't be less interested in boys and procreating even if it did include evolving shiny Pokemon.

...I'm pretty certain that this part of the audiobook is endorsing text-stalking while pretending to be drunk so that you can deny it later if it goes tits-up...

What else distracts me from looking for a relationship, besides my mad mum, who wants my daughter to be a teenage mum instead of a student, and thinks that a planet-smashing comet is a kind of magic bomb that destroys human beings, but leaves runner beans and Japanese maples standing...?

Oh. I've started to worry about celebrities losing their power to draw attention to important things, when a petition spread on social media can beat them to it and get a million signatures before the Loose Women are even out of bed. Boris Johnson is becoming the people's hero in terms of responding to social media outcry, influencing our landscape and our social policies, but when Madonna donates to the Global Fund for Women to help the situation in Nigeria, nobody hears about it and she gets only 37 Facebook 'likes' on her own website for the article? (before I liked and shared it, there were only 34 likes - so my own tiny amount of influence is nearly 10% of hers!). What the hell? Madonna's got nearly 18m fans on Facebook! Where were they? Most likely, signing petitions and keeping the situation in the news themselves along with the rest of us, so that the world was aware of what was happening - while the only recent interest in Madonna was what she wore to the Kabbalah Centre with her kids, and how she called in sick for jury duty. Can't even get credit for doing a good deed in her own time... it used to be that celebrities provided the awareness, the leverage to keep human interest items newsworthy. Not so now. They've joined the 'last to know' brigade. Now they're just our live version of Where's Wally, where they're spotted, what they're wearing, who they're with. Oh, they do something charitable. This is what they wore while doing so. Latest gossip, fnar fnar.

Calling in sick. My latest distraction. I broke my sternum and fractured my neck a year ago in a gymnastics accident. Because I got back on my feet straight away, I didn't see a doctor for nearly a month, and it took six months to fully diagnose. I've only just taken myself off work (self employed IT, working for people who feel the need to Google themselves a lot by providing more matches), having been trying to be a superhero all that time. and now been told that physio can't do anything more for me without surgery. It turns out that desk work wasn't helping, and I've been on prescribed painkillers all this time too. But I like to act as though everything's fine and that my head doesn't feel as though it could drop off and roll away at any moment.

...This book is asking more questions than it's answering... a minute ago it was whether or not you are blonde, and now it's how to say a 'mysterious no' to a spontaneous proposition to get horizontal (or booty call). I always thought that saying no to something while pretending you might say yes at some point was called 'stringing them along' and wasn't a good thing to be doing? Aargh. How does anyone get past a first date? I haven't so far.

'The Myth of Playing Hard to Get' - okay, so I've listened to a long list of tricks and tactics that I've been assured do work, now he's saying 'tactics don't work because they're tactics'. Gah. I think he must have written this book off the top of his head and not read it through afterwards... I've had to edit a few of those.

Anyway, I've decided to write a story speculating on the aftermath of a comet impact. Initially, I don't think the plants come off that well. But that should distract me for another six months or so...

...Dealing with 'insecurity' is the subject in the audiobook now. I might need a whole other blog post to cover that one... :)

L xxx

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Voodoo View - Women in the Media (continued...)

Original vehicle signage, with instructions for use scrawled on by Inspector Helen Bourne Tagart, Aide de Camp for Commandant Mary Sophia Allen

Last blog on here, I had a good rant about the current spate of whining by pro-feminists complaining that women's voices aren't 'out there' in the mainstream media.

Above is an example of the mountain of stuff kept by former suffragette and Commandant of the Women's Auxiliary Police Force/vigilante/Hicks-botherer, Commandant Mary Sophia Allen. This mountain of stuff, packed none-too-neatly in a travelling trunk stamped HBT, for her second-in-command and long-term love interest Helen Tagart, contains news cuttings, letters, admins, booklets, posters, diaries, photographs, reports, autographs of various dictators she visited (with her usual shiny-boot-wearing uniformed buffoonery, to the general embarrassment of the British government), receipts, invoices and various other hoarder's guff that you would expect someone with minor OCD and a bit of professional narcissism to collate in their own lifetime.

This overload of insight has been entrusted to me to scan by her great-great-grand-nephews/nieces who have kept it stored away for the last half a century or more, and to consider using it for an authorised feature film project on their behalf about the well-meaning women's rights activist and anti-slavery awareness promoter, Miss Allen.

So far I'm about 25-30 hours into scanning and typing up anything handwritten, I'm up to 467 images, and only about a third of the way through it all.

What's clear so far is the sheer volume of women's monopoly over stories, writing and reviews in the media during the First and Second World War. Miss Allen subscribed to all the regional and international news clipping agencies, meaning that wherever her name was mentioned in the world, she was sent the original clipping - whether it was from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Italy or Brazil. She would appear in the UK press on a daily basis. I've just spent three hours scanning cuttings from the middle of 1934 alone.

The woman damn near invented 'Googling yourself' before such a thing was conceivable.

But it's not just her own publications, letters and articles that meant women were represented in the press. Here's a review from a Leicester newspaper of her book 'Women at the Crossroads'.

Leicester Daily Mercury, 29 June 1934, review by Anna Bell of Commandant Mary Allen's book

Notice anything? Yes. The reviewer was also a woman - Anna Bell. With her name in a big old font too.

It's not an isolated incident...

John O'London's Weekly, 9 June 1934, review by Sylvia Lynd of 'Women at the Crossroads' by Mary Sophia Allen

Again, note the prominence of the reviewer's name and font size in the article above.

Aha, I hear you say. But I expect the men still had the upper hand, yes? I bet their reviews were published with their names above the book title and author's name, in an even bigger font!

Okay. Let's have a look at the reverse of the above cutting, in the John O'London's Weekly reviews:

John O'London's Weekly, 9 June 1934, review by Horace Thorogood of 'Short Stories, Scraps and Shavings' by George Bernard Shaw

Well, guess what? This piddling single column review on the right, of the esteemed George Bernard Shaw's collection of short stories, doesn't even have a full title, or Mr Shaw's full author name mentioned. The photograph is of neither the author or reviewer - it's of G.K. Chesterton, rumoured to have been caricatured by Shaw in one of his tales. And the name of the reviewer himself, Mr Horace Thorogood, bless him, only appears at the very bottom of the piece - in a font that you could easily read with an electron microscope at your disposal.

Note the partial article on the left, alongside Horace Thorogood's trivial offering. Bigger heading, bigger fonts, more columns - only a pity that Mary Allen's collecting of clippings didn't run to full pages. It's a review of 'Valleys of the Assassins' by Freya Stark, who as you can see from this tantalising snippet was apparently a bit of a Lady Lara Croft-type. She was inspired in her childhood by reading 'The Thousand and One Nights'. On her travels, she learned of other inspiring women, such as "...the story of Qadam Kheir, a lady of the Kulivand of Tarhan, who fought against the government... She was a beautiful woman, and married to her cousin.* They used to go out together to fight, and she could shoot from horseback like a man."

*(NB: Marrying one's cousin is not a prerequisite for pro-feminism)

According to Wiki, Freya Stark died in 1993, aged 100 years old. I expect she was pleased that she hadn't sat knitting and baking cupcakes for the first half of her life...

But I'm digressing. Anyway, what I'm illustrating, by the examples above, is that women got all the big splashy stories and reviews and attention-grabbing headlines in the 1930s. Men, like the unworthy George Bernard Shaw and Horace Thorogood, got shoved into small fonts and margins.

Makes you wonder what the gender of the editors and typesetters were at the time too.

I expect the male editors and typesetters were all away, peeling turnips in the trenches and stuff, or pushing up the daisies after last time.

However, in her review, Sylvia Lynd quotes Mary Allen's writing at the time in 1934, who feared that women were taking their 'new opportunities' too lightly and for granted:

'They have made little, she thinks, of their opportunities since they became voters. Are they able, "with their superior bodily health and mental training" she asks, to accomplish anything that their grandmothers could not do?'

Sylvia Lynd retaliates and points out that women had plenty at the time in 1934 to take pride in, including the Women's Institute and other societies that promoted health, welfare, comradeship, and prevented 'mental anarchy' in British culture.

Not to mention the ability to shove George Bernard Shaw and poor Mr Horace Thorogood into a smaller column of the newspaper.

But like Mary Allen was saying in 1934, today in 2014, eighty years on, those things like the ability to vote, knit a Women's Institute flag, bake a non-anarchist Victoria Sponge, and belittle the menfolk, aren't enough to satisfy the alpha-females among us.

Today, women want to be back in the big fonts and the wider columns. But surely, the daily schedule-obsessives cry, if you're dedicated to journalism and pursuing the media, you don't have time to be doing all the world-travelling and Prime-Minister-bothering and research and advocacy and awareness, that the likes of Mary Allen and Freya Stark were getting up to?

Well, Mary Allen pursued the media to the extent that she could appear in ten British broadsheet newspapers in ONE DAY. She also wrote numerous books on her life and career as a self-appointed Women's Police Commandant, replied to every article about herself in the 'Letters' section of every newspaper (trust me, I've got them right here), had inappropriate crushes on fascist dictators (who gave her autographed and dedicated photographs of themselves left, right and centre, like members of a dodgy international underground boy-band), and she trained women police around the globe.

Freya Stark had twenty-five books published in her lifetime. And lived to be a hundred.

Imagine if you lived that long and only sat blogging about how little recognition women get instead of becoming passionate about something, maybe doing a little research, politely bothering a few individuals, and possibly going out and doing something about it...

A little PM-bothering of my own...

Maybe Mary Allen managed all of that because she wasn't raising children, you pipe up? No. Instead she recruited and helped to train tens of thousands of women in the UK and beyond, most of them educated, well-heeled, fashionable ladies, some who drove their own cars and flew their own planes. I wonder how many sickies she had to cover...

Junior attempts to throw a sicky. Think this is extreme? She's only home-schooled...

I'm led to believe that there are a couple of TV researchers out there at the minute who would love to get their hands on Mary Allen's hoarded stuff handed down through her family, which quite literally hasn't seen the light of day since the 1950s. I'd share more of it otherwise, but you get the general gist.

And there'd be no point posting it where any savvy researcher could nab it for free, while her descendants are still surviving on only the reduced salad dressings from Marks&Spencer on their Lidl's gravadlax and caviar, and I can't afford to give Junior pocket money to save up towards the impending parkour/zombie apocalypse.

Nothing makes a dangerous outdoor sport safer than doing it one-handed with a camera...

All I can say is, if you can get through half of what I've had to get through so far about Mary Allen and women's rights, glorified by early 20th Century women journalists in articles such as the ones above in REALLY BIG FONTS while the men get teeny tiny crappy ones, without turning the TV onto 'Dave' and mainlining Jeremy Clarkson and Sean Kelly to restore your sanity, you're a better pro-feminist than I am :)

Speaking of which, must be nearly time for Top Gear. And those fancy dress outfits don't sew themselves...

Happy Easter. Screw the media. Remember to get out more :) xxx

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Voodoo View: Women's voices in the media and where to find them - or when...

I'm curious about the avalanche of discussion going on suggesting that there are not enough women's voices gaining artistic recognition in the mainstream.media

It seems to me that most of the highly successful writers in the last 15 years have been women, and they continue to proliferate - JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Charlaine Harris, EL James, Sylvia Day, Suzanne Collins, Belle de Jour (aka Dr Brooke Magnanti), and now Sally Green to name a few - consumers' money is doing all the talking that's needed. Whatever artistic integrity and skill is on show here, you can't deny their success. We don't know how many of these successful women writers have been offered interviews, columns, journalistic or presenting jobs. Just because the rest of the exposure that the academics judge isn't there, doesn't mean it hasn't been sought.

Not everyone wants to be a 'media whore' or has the time in between writing their bestsellers to take on yet another job promoting themselves, or consulting on academic-level subjects, even though many of them do. But because a few commentators have pounced on the fact that 'women's voices' have been overlooked in this literary award or that, or this review column or that, apparently somehow we're back in the Middle Ages of a patriarchal Arts world, where women are an invisible minority.

So why is it that 8 out of 10 blogs I visit are written by women? Does the internet not count? So far as I can tell, the virtual world is seething with women's voices, quicker and keener to post their thoughts, responses and opinions than men. Women sharing, telling true-life experiences, penning stories, relating anecdotes, rallying charitable and political support for good causes, and even just trying to relate to the world. But because the few folk that still read a Sunday paper aren't looking in the right place, apparently there's a soapbox out there with my name on, which I should be standing on complaining that I haven't had my 1.5 column inches of fame/validation yet.

What, in tomorrow's chip wrapper or kitty litter tray liner? What's the big deal with that anyway?

Like I said, women writers are already bankable (see the list above). Nobody doubts that. Are these petitioners for equality in media storefront airtime just a tiny bit jealous? Do they want their turn? If they've written something that worthy, shouldn't they try selling it and let the public judge for itself?

Why do the complainers ignore the internet as a valid form of media exposure, and the freedom that women have to speak there? Why are they even wasting time and money on a Sunday paper that doesn't review their taste in writing, or by following and commenting on awards that don't either?

Withdraw the attention (and money) from those who irritate or who don't fulfil your needs, and they'll either be forced to change, or disappear. All the time you're throwing attention their way with your demands, you're keeping their profile high and in the public eye. Which, if you're right about their misogyny, isn't what they deserve.

Unsubscribe from any media that refuses to satisfy your wants, and look up blogs, vlogs and websites that do. If you can't find what you're looking for, nothing is stopping you from writing, filming and publishing your own online. And there you have instant, searchable, public exposure for the subjects and interests that you want covered.

In the first and second world wars, newspapers were full of women journalists and women writers, reviewing books by women on the work being done by women. The reason for this was that the men previously in those jobs were away fighting. Women had a monopoly over the media during those years. Agatha Christie and her contemporaries had little competition to hold them back or suppress their success.

But the women who succeed as authors and in media jobs today don't have that excuse. They've had the right combination of skills and good luck to achieve what they've done, in spite of the fact that men are in the same position and have the same opportunities.

If something isn't out there that you want to read, maybe it's the world telling you to write it. And if you aren't satisfied with the great success that women currently have in the arts and media, how would you improve on it? What areas specifically need attention? What do you want to see women gaining recognition for? Have you approached any of these women, or offered to interview them, and submitted any articles about them and their work to the mainstream Press?

One example - Google the name 'Sophie Neville' and you'll mostly find matches for the actress who played 'Titty' in the movie of Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows & Amazons' in 1974, her artwork, and her career to date.

Three years ago, none of those matches for that particular 'Sophie Neville' were there. She wanted an internet profile and online presence to support her current writing career, and had to make her presence known to the virtual world and the contemporary audience from scratch, which meant blogs, videos, online photo albums and social media - everything. In the last year, she's also appeared in the Telegraph, the Sunday Times, and the Daily Mail - more than once.

A second example: Recently I was invited to appear on two separate writing and arts blogs - one guest post about my sporting hobby, and one interview about my experience of releasing a book under a pen-name for the first time. Both invitations came from men. So I don't believe it's men that are keeping the door 'closed' on women's voices, as current perceptions would have us believe. Maybe it's just the case that women haven't been taking full advantage of the opportunities that are there.

The Writer's and Artists Yearbook lists all newspapers and magazines, literary agents and publishers. If you want your own voice out there in the old-school market, just get submitting. If you know artists and writers who you think should get that sort of recognition, instead of leaving a sour comment on the newspaper's online arts page, send them a glowing article about the object of your passion. If you have a new insight on Jane Austen's motivation, or have cooked up a dinner party menu worthy of one of Agatha Christie's famous murder scenes, find an academic journal or cookery magazine that might showcase your skills as a wordsmith.

Don't let bitterness about success (or lack of it) fester and undermine real opportunities that you could be working with, or encouraging others to work with. And don't blindly join in with the voices of negativity - look at the actual success stories in the real world, and listen to people who have real ideas in their heads - not ancient attention-deprived echoes.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Change.org - #endFGM

Join schoolgirl Fahma Mohamed's campaign for schools to teach the risks of cultural female mutilation practises - click here

To summarise what is being done to young British girls aged from a few weeks to young womanhood, picture it in the form of a criminal investigation:
  • The families of underage British girls enable a stranger to commit GBH/ABH/assault on their daughter.
  • The stranger is 'armed and dangerous'.
  • The stranger is either located in an unfamiliar country to which the girls are taken by family members to be assaulted - the 'accessories' to the crime - or the stranger has travelled to the U.K. with the specific intent of committing ABH/GBH/assault and the permanent mutilation of underage girls.
  • The lasting trauma impacted on these girls could be compared to having suffered an act of terrorism, where the intention by the assailant is to ingrain and impose a cultural form of repression on women.
With all the existing assault laws, anti-terrorism laws, abduction and human trafficking laws, laws governing surgical procedures, cosmetic procedures and body modification in the UK, and domestic violence awareness in the current political agenda, the outline protocols are already in place for reasonable and clear prosecution of such perpetrators.

What is needed is to reframe the perception of such incidents so that potential victims can identify them as crimes, and are empowered and enabled in turn to know that there are grounds to report what they see and hear for their own safety, in the same way we teach personal safety in schools already - whether part of the curriculum, or by charity organisations such as the NSPCC Childline Schools Service.

You can sign the petition on Change.org and spread the word further by sharing on social media using the hashtag: #endFGM

L xxxxx

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Voodoo Hoodoo - Who Do You View?

I didn't watch the Grammys - I haven't watched stuff like that for years.

I worked in nightclub security from 2004-2010, so I pretty much went off all mainstream music when hearing the same cheesy requests and chart dance or R'n'B night after night turned my brain to mush. I liked what the local DJs were doing in their own time much better, and the mashing-up of existing tunes to create new sounds, sometimes on the spur of the moment, never to be repeated. I go on Soundcloud nowadays and look for artists like Dominatrix Rmx and Reaps (Reaps/reaps007 on Youtube) mashing up my favourite old tunes by Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails. Daft Punk are one of the few current bands I like, and that's mainly because of their remixes and alternative versions (they also started out before the internet was a big wahoony too).

But when there was nothing on TV yesterday morning and I was trying to do my physio exercises, I switched over to the music channel and caught a few news clips of the Grammy awards ceremony. And I was really startled by how alienating it was.

This didn't appear to be the music industry as I recalled it. It was the money industry. Patting itself on the back and applauding its own adopted politics and talent. I've seen kids on Youtube with two sticks and a bucket who have more talent.

If you're passing him in an Australian mall and don't stop to listen, I would so swap places with you...

I found myself looking at all the 'industry' professionals in the Grammy awards audience, and wondering what place the fans have in all of it (you know, fans, those lowly lumpenproletariat currently waging war against gig ticket hidden charges). That show wasn't about the fans and what the youth masses are thinking about from day to day. It was about money and politics and the bling that Madonna wants to pimp out her kid's teeth with.

Maybe they brought the first-world politics into it because they're so far removed from the real world that they need some lifeline to claw a way back into the empathy of the viewers. But it didn't disguise the bizarre members-only club that the upper echelons of the music industry has so transparently become. Not helped along by all of these 'talent shows' where the money industry now openly stamps its brand on some hopeful in order to make a fast buck.

I have a teenager a bit younger than Madge's eldest, and she's never engaged with what's on the TV unless it's stand-up comedy or Top Gear. She gets all of her music from Youtube inspiration, watching manga fan videos made by children her age all around the world, and the music that they share which isn't shoved down their throats by today's chart-topping marketing moguls.

Over 34.5 million views and comments still being uploaded - that's a real-world fan-base...

Last week I retweeted a friend's Twitter post about his band getting mentioned in Kerrang! magazine, and suddenly my Twitter follows turned into a MySpace stampede. Instead of chirpy indie authors adding me with the tag line "Here's my author page on Amazon, please leave me a review" suddenly it was bands and artists deluging me with "Our new single is on Youtube!" and "Latest album out now on iTunes!" Don't get me wrong, I bloody love it (and their music!) but it makes me realise what a tiny little miniscule petty self-satisfied corner of the 'music business' the Grammys are, and they're only on TV because they've got most of our kids' pocket money.

The latest video for "Happy" by Pharrell Williams (LOVE it, in spite of my ranting!!) is a demonstration of money spent on something to fit in with what everyone in the real world is watching anyway. Fatboy Slim did the same as I recall, back in the day - who can remind me of that song? Moby is probably another one...

Pharrell's feelgood tune from 'Despicable Me' promo emulates Youtube home videos and fan videos

Meanwhile, the rest of the money industry seems to think achievement is all about strutting around dressing and behaving like an actual pimp, male or female. Which doesn't seem to fit very well with the first-world news and politics right now.

As an indie writer it made me think about the book publishing industry in the same way. Major publishers can't deliver books at the same rate and quality that the indies and self-publishers are uploading them (rapidly approaching 50,000 new titles per week at present onto Kindle, Smashwords and other platforms). What appears on the foremost shelves of Waterstones and other stores has been paid for, its prime positioning guaranteed by one of the Big Six publishing houses - the readers don't get a say in what they see first as they walk into the store, and neither do the store management.

But what writers have to face is that readers move on quickly from one book to the next. Yes, they may get 100 readers keen on their story and few knock-on recommendations, but once a book is put down, the reader wants another adventure. The writer can't (and shouldn't) expect that handful of readers to do their promotional work when the reader has his or her own life and interests to get on with once they've put the book away (although I know one or two individuals who can't move on from one book or another *snorts inappropriately*).

Good music is different. Those four minutes of heaven can trigger off an unlimited number of adventures in the listener's mind, so favourite songs are revisited and shared far more often than a book ever will be. And that's because the listener's imagination is in complete charge. They can plug in a set of headphones and get on with enjoying their life at the same time.

Also - the singer and songwriter isn't looking over their shoulder saying 'This is what I want you to be thinking about when you listen to my tune. Here are some discussion topics and questions to raise when you hear my song out in a nightclub with your friends, or with your 'listening group'. And I would appreciate it if you would leave me a review on Amazon...'

The best music doesn't have the musician's agenda attached. It just has a little bit of their soul. The rest is for the listener to interpret, and to go away and play with in their own imagination and inspire their own creativity.

But when I see first-world money-industry artists acting like entitled tits (Adele's early rant over her £4m tax bill comes to mind, thanks for all the NHS treatment by the way) they seem to have lost the joy of just sharing something now it's become their new branded lifestyle, and they're finally in that tiny little industry country club at the top of the TV mountain. I forget about their nice music because all I see and hear is their spoilt whining.

I wonder when any of them are going to experience being noticed for any skill, kind word, good deed, receive a spontaneous compliment, without a sense of political obligation or the media pointing at them first? And is that what any of them wanted when they started out? To be a puppet for the industry's marketing agendas?

And what's with the culture of wanting to be "known for something" whether it's a skill, an art or a job - what's wrong with just being known as yourself, as a person who does a few things? And why are we putting the ones who send out the most extreme mixed messages on pedestals, combining 'Dress Like Pimps & Hoes Day' with sexual equality politics? I'm sure this year's Grammys was the first time Madonna has put the bottom half of her suit on in about thirty years. No wonder she needed a stick, the unfamiliar chafing must have been insurmountable... *wanders off topic*

I remember Ye Olden Days when you could draw a picture or play a little guitar for yourself and feel like you'd achieved something. Now you can go online and see any number of youngsters with more talent than you can conceive of.


And the fact it's even there tells us that having talent of any kind is not that unusual. Not every talented child's parent is putting videos of them on Youtube. One of my brothers could find and change a spare wheel on a car aged six. That's a skill.

What is unusual is that a bunch of marketing experts and fashion sponsors exists with ways of convincing us it's so rare to have any talent whatsoever, the money and attention they suck up for it is justified. And they do this by only showing us the extremes next to one another on these talent shows.

Encourage your creative peers and your kids in their own right. Don't teach them that being the next double-standard, branded piece of merchandising is the future. Let them share what they want to share and find enthusiasm for it in ways they can appreciate as real people. Being creative is rewarding, but then so is doing a regular job that people respect you for. And that's without being asked to represent an entire sexual and political movement while being trolled by fake fan user accounts on social media.

Even big celebrities now want to get closer to these guys who are able to share their talents online with the world, or other passers-by discover them for us - the ones who just do something for fun, without a big management team taking 80-90% of their income. People doing what they love creatively, and others love them just for doing that...

The Darth Vader Unipiper is corralled onto TV, so they can check if he's really real...

I guess in summing up I just want to say, enjoy what you do creatively and artistically. Don't compare it to what the money industry, members-only club is doing. If you want to share, share. If you want to go out and perform in public, go for it. But do it for yourself first. Don't let the fun drain out of it in pursuit of what you imagine that other thing might turn out to be.

L xxxxx