I have been meaning to write about this subject pretty much since I started blogging, but the fact I have held off has given me some more thought for pause.
Since the day SIr Tim-Berners Lee invented or, more accurately, discovered the internet and launched it into the ether like a tiny sparkling firefly, it has set the world ablaze with the exchange of ideas and knowledge. It is no cliche to argue that it has become one of the greatest revolutions mankind has ever seen, certainly the greatest I have seen and will probably see in my lifetime. His subsequent plaudits and knighthood would be no surprise to us sitting smack bang within this digital revolution, but could he have ever envisaged the huge impact this free gift would have on mankind and ,moreover, just what the world would do with it?
Kranzberg’s First Law of Technology states: “Technology is neither good nor bad, but nor is it neutral.” Therefore, the internet, being no exception to this is merely a conduit of whatever the user wants it to be. Since mankind can fall within a wide range of spectrums from magnanimous saints to dangerous psychopaths, inevitable then that with all the cute pictures of cats and babies and reams and reams of helpful information littering the net, a deeply more sinister side has evolved within its digital walls.
I first heard of the darknet while reading about the phenomenon known as bitcoins. This untraceable crypto currency was first created for some long outmoded game. a news article had reported that someone had cashed in on a small holding they had bought years ago and had become a multi millionaire through their sale on the darknet and the fact that their value had inflated at an incomparable rate. It then went on to say that due to their untraceable nature, it was the favoured currency on the darknet for criminals, terrorists and paedophiles.
This was news to me, as while I knew there were dark corners of the net where illegal or taboo subjects were discussed or even encouraged, up to then I did not there was a specific area with its very own currency. The darknet though is a very guarded area of the net, with invite by invitation only websites of people who are aware their activity is at best immoral and more often than not completely criminal. It is by its very nature secretive, but you don’t need to delve into the dark reaches of the darknet to stumble upon the darker aspects of the net.
A lot of times the tone of the written word can be misinterpreted. Social media is certainly no exception this. The trouble is human beings don’t just communicate with words; body language and tone of speech are also key factors in reading what someone actually means behind what they are actually saying. Sometimes that misinterpretation is just that- no offence intended, which goes back to the point that not everyone ticks the same way. But there are times when it is quite clear that offence is the sole intention intended- Trolling.
Simply put, trolling is the act of eliciting a negative emotion by searching the net or social media and saying or posting something so outrageous that it raises a negative response in the vast majority of reasonable people which the troll can then capitalise on for their own and other troll’s amusement. The troll will very often state that they are a bastion for free speech, but the troll will shift stances on any issue to the one that will cause the most outrage. Most of you will have come across a troll somewhere on line. Trolling can amount to anything from stalking online, visiting grieving family websites and posting distasteful or offensive comments, or even setting up sites themselves. Queen of the trolls in the UK is Katie Hopkins, a woman who has forged a career in being a celebrity troll, but she deserves a whole blog post of her own and I wont delve too much on here.
Recently the phrase “It’s only banter!” has come into popular phraseology. This seems to be a blanket term for any comment or post designed to cause offence, but not enough offence to elicit some form of legal action again the source of the comment. But those that bandy it around very often are not the best judge of what banter actually is. As I write, there was news yesterday that 6 members of HSBC bank were sacked due to re-enacting an ISIS inspired execution on a team building course. Banter? Harmless fun? They clearly thought so at the time, even posting it online before getting cold feet and removing it, but not before someone who did not find it in the least bit funny, saw and it ended up on the front page of a national paper.
These guys were probably not terrorists and were probably not have even been terrorist sympathisers, but their banter was a very cliquey one that not a lot of people would find funny. It’s like when you watch the apprentice around about week four and some of the business brains suddenly think they can make a comedy video or advertising reel that will rival the Farley brothers in terms of humour and originality. Swept along by each other, and their growing bond, they seem unable to take a step backwards to see that what they are making is usually drivel. Very often the first they know is when they show it to the prospective clients who sit stony faced while the team sniggers.Even then sometimes its only in the boardroom when Sir Alan fires the wanabee filmmaker that they realise they’ve made a huge error in judgement.
Simply put, in the anniversary of 7/7 and a few weeks after a massacre in Tunisia it was never going to end well for these HSBC staff. Their biggest mistake was in thinking that something like that online would not cause a backlash at the best of times let alone when emotions are running high and 30 british holidaymakers are coming home in coffins instead of return flights. Sometimes, we all need to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and lay our banter down for the sake of not causing offence. Then maybe the internet, at least the non dark part, would be a nicer place for all.
Okay, a view disclosures before we get underway. If you haven’t seen the last episode of season five, there are going to be spoilers here so look away now. Also, I am writing as an avid show fan, who has not read the books at present but has watched the show since its commencement. If that in anyway invalidates my opinion to any book readers out there then you too are free to leave my musings.
Have they gone? Good. Here we go.
There can be no question that Game of thrones or GOT as It’s also known as is one of the biggest television successes of recent years. Aired on HBO originally and in UK on Sky Atlantic, I and many other people I know have been avid fans of the series since its commencement.
One of the most anticipated plot lines of season Five was the Sand Snakes of Dorne- the 3 beautiful and feisty warrior daughters of Oberyn and Elliara Sand. Oberyn was a big hit with fans in the short period he had in the show and every time I see that final scene in which he fights the Mountain, I find myself resisting the futile urge to shout for him to get out of harm’s way. There was a lot of chatter online and much anticipation of the debut of his daughters. However, when the sandsnakes made their eventual appearance audiences were left cold. First of, there was the long, drawn out speech in generic foreign accents before one of them threw a spear into the head of the poor chump captain of the ship who took Jamie Lannister to Dorne. Then, there was the fight with Jamie and Sir Brone of the Blackwater. The same show that brought us the battle of Castle Black misfired with this power rangers inspired mêlée. The final clip of the big bloke with the axe taking about a week to swing it into Jamie’s face, before saying, “It would have been a good fight when you were whole,” was also much parodied.
So what went wrong? Well, in this case casting seems to be an issue. The three girls are all lovely looking additions to the landscape, but it almost seems like a different show when you compare their acting skills with those of Leana Headey as Cersie who can drip hatred through her teeth and the scene in which she simply flicks her eyes to see the entrance of her cousin accusing her of an illicit affair before the High Sparrow is breath-taking in its simplicity.
But there is another issue. Just before season five, there was an announcement that the timeline for the book and the show were going to diverge somewhat. Whilst I welcomed the idea, the reception to many of these departures has been decidedly mixed.
It’s clear to see why this is. For a start the show is nipping on the heels of the books like a marauding gang of white walkers. We are now at the same point in the timeline as the books, albeit with some characters dead who are not yet dead, and some still alive who should be dead. There’s another reason though. Thronecast, hosted surprisingly well this season by Sue Perkins and the ousted former host, reduced to sifting through e-mails, Jamie East had the actor Ian McElhinney who played Sir Barristen was decidedly miffed as he had read the books and knew his character lived on beyond the point when the show called time on him. This, of course, keeps the book readers on their toes.
some people who have religiously devoured the books, felt it was their duty to go on website forums and drop key plotline spoilers about the forthcoming plotlines. For example. I knew that Rob Stark was going to die, that Oberin Martell was going to lose his battle with the Mountain and that Jon Snow was going to be killed by his own kinsmen. Although to be fair this last spoiler was down to some numpty on my local network firing a comment off about the Night’s Watch murdering Jon when someone asked why was the police helicopter out in our local area. This was doubly annoying as I had been avoiding looking at any GOT info on any websites all that day.
So maybe this is a way to combat the spoilers. However, there could be a fatal error in the quality of the show in departing too far from the books plotline. A lot of people were doubly upset at the rape of Sansa by the fiendishly evil Ramsey Bolton nee Snow. Not just because it was a shocking scene, but because it doesn’t take place at all in the books. Likewise, the burning of Stannis’ daughter to garner the Lord of Light’s favour seems to have gone down like a lead balloon with said Lord of Light and the viewing public alike. Maybe book reader’s cant spoil it for the rest of us, but is it a price worth paying if they take such major detours from George’s original vision?
There is some chatter online that Mr Martin is not best pleased with some of the departures, but is having to keep quiet due to the clause of his contract. That may be true, or it may not and only the author himself would be able to answer that.
However, what is clear is that show may be becoming somewhat self aware. One example of this could be when Stannis corrected the grammar of his hand Davos Seaworth. Some people liked it. Some thought it was a nod to the grammar police who troll the net looking for too, to, two misuses. Then there was the incident in which Melisdandre turned to Jon Snow after his rather stoic, but probably wise, rebuff of her advances and uttered the immortal chat up line.: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” If the show wasn’t jumping the shark at that moment, it certainly was stepping over the dragon. Though it made me laugh, which was probably the intention, it did leave me thinking that next season we might hear Cersei utter the phrase, “Hodor, Hodor Hodor!” Hopefully when her brother is nowhere near the vicinity though.
All in all, GOT season five was a mixed back, possessing some of the most shocking scenes and twists, with one of the best episodes of any television series ever in Hardhome, with maybe one of the worst episodes of the show so far immediately after, Dance of Dragons.
I personally think that now the show and the books are at the same point, there will be few divergences and show will grow stronger. Perhaps cut free from the restraints of the book, the writers lost their way at times, but there was certainly a lot of promise in season five. And lets be honest, a bad episode of Game of Thrones is far better than the best episode of a lot of other television programmes.
In my last (first ever) blog, I mainly was testing out the format,finding my feet and waxing lyrical about nothing in particular apart from the fact that I had got round to writing a blog. Nothing wrong with that and to be honest if you’ve read the first one and thought yeah I’ll give the second one a bash, first of all thank you for showing an interest, and second expect more of the same in the future.
However, tonight as I sit here with the last remnants of a birthday cake emblazoned with the Man U football club logo ( a club I neither endorse or support) I find myself in quite a reflective mood and thought I would write a little bit about that. It was my son’s tenth birthday today. Obviously that is a bit milestone in his burgeoning life. I was telling him it’s the first time he gets to add another digit onto his age and that he’ll have to wait another 90 years for the next one (I’ve only got 59 to mine!). He is also on the cusp of the looming teenage years which help shape the adult he is about to become.
I know that full well as my eldest child, my daughter Emma is slap bang in the midst of this and boy do we all know it at times. it doesn’t take much to set her off. “Please clean your room,” can be met with an unfettered outburst of “I’ll do it later, Dad!” that could set off a sharp spike on the Richter scale. I blame myself. Or rather my fiery Celtic genes. I have to really. Her mother is the only person I’ve ever had to ask to speak up in argument. Anyway, I’m digressing from my main theme and to be fair on Emma she shows signs of settling back into a more assertive older version of her younger self. So it’s all good.
The point I am heading for is, and I know this sounds a bit obvious, was Thomas’s birthday is actually quite a landmark for me too. You see, I was at uni when Thomas was born. In fact, I was at uni when we decided to have a second child in the first place. I remember the conversations we had about it. I went to uni just before I was thirty to chase the dream I had of being a writer. My wife Wendy was a nurse at that time working on the district. We already had Emma. She was a toddler at this point, and to me it seemed a bit crazy to have another child then. My argument was it wasn’t the best timing financially-wise. However, a woman’s biological clock isn’t always. And so we agreed to try at least and much to our mutual surprise Thomas was born slap bang in the midst of my second term.
While uni does involve intensive periods of studying, it is nowhere near as time-consuming as having a full-time job. I was happy to juggle looking after him and study at the same time while Wendy was working part-time. In fact, as a father it was actually a good time to have a baby then as it gave me more time with him than I would have had had I been working during that period. I would often take him to our workshops in my friend’s Sarah’s house, or for a quick hello to my friends in the student bar. My female pals all wanted a cuddle of him, while my bloke mates wanted a hold to evoke to the passing ladies their nurturing potential fatherly sides. My grades dipped a little, but not too much. I remember too talking to one of my lecturers with Thomas in his pram and talking about writing and finding time with having kids and him saying maybe once they have gotten a bit older I would find more time.
So while my first thoughts of Thomas are as his father and I love him dearly, his life is almost indelibly linked to the extent of my writing career. He was conceived, born and nurtured as a baby while I was at uni pursuing that course and now a full decade later, he is on the cusp of being a young man and I am still “trying to find time.” Not that I haven’t been writing in all that time. I have written nearly 50k words of a novel, completed one screenplay (though in hindsight it’s quite a naff story) and am working on another. But in ten years Barbara Cartland could have probably written a hundred novels. Fair enough, she didn’t write her own stuff and she’s dead now, so it would be ghost written in more ways than one, so she might not be the best example. But somehow I have this sense of frustration. It isn’t from lack of ideas. I have them spilling out of me sometimes. They jostle for prime position. It’s just that little thing called time which is precious commodity.
There was a film on a few months back with Justin Timberlake and it was about people literally buying time. It wasn’t particularly good, but it was an interesting hook that would resonate with a lot of people. A lot of things have happened in those ten years for us as a family. For instance, in the space of a six month period both my father and Wend’s father died and her mum had a severe stroke. It was intensely heartbreaking, time-consuming period that changed my outlook, and maybe even my personality, forever. But ironically, it brought us together like never before. Not in an immediately tactile way as she was living at her mum’s house, but we found we needed to rely on each other more than we had ever done, even just for raising the children. We realised afresh what it was we saw in each other again. And we started to understand how each other ticked, which is no mean feat. At that point, writing had been on the back-burner for a while, but when brief pockets of time started to become available, that’s when I felt the need to just write something. I wasn’t overly worried about the quality, and that wasn’t always a bad thing as worrying about the quality stops you from writing anything or gets you hung up over where you should put your next and for 3 hours!
Maybe, in all this I am missing the point anyway. Writing isn’t necessarily all about getting published, though that is the end-game of most, if not all, writers. As I am beginning to find out writing can be its own cathartic experience. So now, as I eat the last slice of Thomas’s Man U football cake he had for his tenth birthday, trying to stop the metaphoric crumbs of time from slipping through my fingers, I type, something, anything, with a slight smile on my face.