Short: Samantha’s Conversation

“I mean, err, it’s not an easy choice.” Samantha realised her hand had moved from hovering over the enter key and was reaching up to scratch the back of her neck, a reflex for whenever she felt anxious. She otherwise remained motionless on the spinny-chair in front of her desk and after a brief scratch, she looked wearily out the window to find a distraction.
“Believe me, you were about to make the right one. I should know.” The replying voice bounced around the room and its similarity to Samantha’s still confused her.
“Yeah, well, I mean, how should you know, huh?” Samantha fixed her view on a particular branch that housed a bird’s nest, complete with bird, on a tree on the other side of the road.
“Well I am a demon, it comes with the territory.” Samantha turned around, her morbid curiosity getting the better of her. On her bed sat a mirror of herself twiddling with a doodad that was projecting different colours on the opposite wall, in this instance red, and bouncing some of it back onto her providing a faint glow. Her hair was different to what Samantha’s currently was, but Samantha quickly recalled it was in the style she had it during that summer holiday. Still, there that double sat, talking as if it didn’t care at all it had a lookalike in the same room.
“A, ummm, a demon?” She examined herself, or at least the herself that was on her bed and made it clear the red light wasn’t helping, to which the doodad was turned off and put to the side, prompting the double to stare intently at Samantha.
“You never heard of people having personal demons? Well, obviously you have, but it’s not just a phrase. Well It is, I suppose, but for a reason. Anyhow, this is that.” Her hands reached up to her head and felt the hair, nodding in appreciation as the hands traced the agreeable style. The bird from across the road raced off from the branch with a furious flap of its wings, the sound of which caught Samantha’s attention for a moment. As she turned back around to face the double, her head only got half-way as it encountered the double perched on the desk, kicking its legs against the shelves on its front, having moved to that position in an impossibly short time.
“Well shouldn’t there be an angel to watch over me, like, to balance you out?” Samantha didn’t seem too taken back by the double’s speed of movement. In that time there had been a subtle warmth passing through her body that calmed her in the presence of the double, not enough to be truly noticeable, just enough to make her feel comfortable.
“That really begs the question of us two, does there deserve to be one in this situation? Let’s be honest here, the choice is either something you know to be ‘bad’, hence me, or neutral. The mid-way point is you.” The kicking against the shelves was rhythmic and accompanied by a hum which prompted the realisation from Samantha that her double was performing a rendition of the Danse Macabre.
“That’s, ah, not exactly a subtle tune.” Samantha meant to say it with irritation behind the words, but it came out more jovial.
“I can’t really help it that that’s the tune I’m making, that’s on you.” The response came with a smile that helped put Samantha back at ease again, along with a stopping of the kicking and humming.
“So I need to argue with you until one of us wins and then, then I guess I go with that?” Samantha felt her hand reach up to the back of her neck again, but brought it back down before it got above her shoulder.
“It’s not so much an argument as points of reasoning against each other. You then pick the side you agree with. It’s all you, at the end of the day.”
“Okay. Well, point, err, point one is that…” Before Samantha could finish the double stared her down in a way that made her stop talking.
“Be honest now, you’ve already weighed it up. It’s the results you’re worried about, not the arguments for actually going through with it, or not. I’ll make it easy; you’ll probably get what you want from this, but of course you know that, it’s why I said you were making the right decision.” The double had now found a slinky on the desk and was tossing it between its hands.
“So you’re saying I should do it?” This time Samantha caught her hand before it had even left the rest of the chair. The double‘s response was simply a lack of expression and a still slinky. “Right, right, right, it’s up to me.” She lifted her hand, but this time to reach for the enter key once more.
“That said…” was all the double needed to say to stop Samantha from following through.
“That said of course you would say that, because that’s the part of me that wants to think it’ll be that easy…right?” Samantha’s plea was initially ignored. Within a few moments the only sound filling the room was the slinky that had been picked up again and was expanding and retracting.
“There’s an easy solution to this. I press the button.” The double broke the near silence, shrugged and opened her hands out in a nonchalant manner and then witnessing no response from Samantha, reached for the button.
“That doesn’t really, I mean, it doesn’t change me doing it, if I have this whole situation down right. Right?” Samantha twitched as she realised her hand was behind her neck scratching it. As the double’s finger got closer to the button, tantalisingly so, Samantha found herself unable or unwilling, to stop her. And then it was done.
“There, all done. How do you feel about that?” In the time of a blink, the double was lying on the bed playing with the doodad again, specifically pointing it at Samantha in a variety of colours.
“Err, good, I guess? Yeah, good. That was what I wanted.” Samantha smiled at the version of herself on her bed.
“Then there we go then. See you again sometime!” The double suddenly shone the doodad at Samantha’s eyes momentarily blinding her. As her eyes regained focus she realised she was finally alone in her room.

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Unfiction: The Best Of You

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Because of the broadcast agreements for showing the Formula 1 in the UK, the BBC doesn’t always have access to live coverage of the race weekend. Every few race weekends then I’ll be watching the race highlights on Sunday evenings. In theory the highlights will do just that, but even in a sport where there are people travelling along a road at 200mph it can still yield incredibly dull sessions that’ll send me to sleep. At the very least it paints an accurate picture of the race, even if it’s a boring one. Or maybe it’ll be a great race and I’ll miss all the boring parts to the extent that in my memory that entire race was just fun, exciting things and none of the tame parts ever happened.

Whilst we don’t all live life at 200mph, I think a good number of us are certainly presenting ourselves like this through a highlights reel of our life via our social media presence, a notion that isn’t exactly new (but let me have it, that was a good segue). Around a decade ago we began to embrace our digital presence without anonymity, a stark contrast from hiding behind avatars and display names we had on forums and games. Sure people on instant messenger would put up a profile picture of themselves, maybe actually use their real name too, the same maybe being said for MySpace even if that seemed intentionally a little off-beat, but it wasn’t really until Facebook gripped us providing a platform for a straight-faced information dump of your personality that the mask we wore when going on the internet, a mask of anonymity, really started to slip off our face.

Of course now it’s common-place to embrace social media in a significant portion of our lives. You could use Facebook to ask people for recommendations on somewhere to eat, go on Twitter to comment on a funny incident you saw travelling there, post a picture onto Instagram of what food you had whilst eating with the contact you found on Linked-In to go home and review the place on Yelp. You could do all of those things. I don’t believe many (any?) people do that, but they’re the options available to you, amongst many others. Even as an exaggerated example though, it serves to show just how many of our actions throughout a day can be showcased to the world if we chose to. And of course we chose to, everyone else does it.

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We’ve sort of all been whipped up into this vicious circle of having and maintaining a social media presence and like most times when we’re showing off who we are to other people, we want to show off our best bits. This means only putting up pictures of ourselves that we really, really like (and maybe untagging ourselves from any we don’t), liking our favourite media (and maybe not liking our guilty pleasures), restricting who can see certain bits of information and so on and so forth. Now none of this is inherently bad, it’s just that the combination of all of these things, well, paints a clear picture.

I would be remiss though in not saying that we cultivate how we want other people to regard us the rest of the time too, but that’s a naturally more limited to your physical presence rather than something you can just put up and forget about. For instance, you might dress up decently when meeting up with friends, or maybe what you’re doing is fairly low key and you put in a little less effort because they’re your friends and they know that if you need to, you can dress better, but who cares you’re just all there chatting away with a film on in the background. So there, that’s mentioned.

What it really comes down to is intention. Are you doing the thing because you want to or because you want to show it off to others? What if that’s one and the same for you? Again, this isn’t new or necessarily good or bad, it’s really just an extension of the idea of introverted and extroverted personality traits, but I think rather than a natural extension of who we are there’s a forced method in play. So an extroverted person might put up a ton of pictures and share everything they have ever liked, whilst a more introvert person won’t. A pic here and there, a like of something, maybe. This obviously assumes an audience (and the perception of what you put up by said audience), but that’s why there’s a news feed of what everyone else is doing to encourage you to put up more of yourself. I’m sure for more than a few people that’s turned a relationship into a passive-aggressive competition as to who can have more information presented up there.

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Of course all this information can be channelled in a specific way to attract specific attention masked as general interest. The obvious example really is the Facebook stalking we’ve invariably done (or if you’re a liar and won’t admit to that, thought about doing) that in some cases will be turned against a crush. Oh, they like this, that and that? Well, I’ll like this, that and that, or maybe make mention of listening/reading/verbing it and hope they respond. Maybe put up a particularly flattering picture as a profile pic. Again, this isn’t a new behaviour, when you’re around someone you want to impress, you do things you’ll think will impress them, but the information you show can be quickly changed and for those who thought otherwise of you, well they know that there’s stuff they haven’t put up there as a like, so why wouldn’t someone else?

I think my issue of this presentation ideal online over physical presence is that you can really easily, very quickly manipulate the idea of who you are. Change in the physical takes a bit of time, but online? Well, it’s already done. This, to me, seems really odd when you consider that you tend to behave slightly differently depending on who you’re around, despite the fact that this one cultivated persona is the one you show online to everyone at the same time.

Where’s the real you then online? Do you even know for sure? Hell, I haven’t even explored how language carries without the inflection that’s specific to us in person (although you’d hope that the people who know you and follow you on social media have a clue) or how older comments are saved and can impact your current situation despite not being the You presented right now. I suppose the real test will be the generation growing up with all of this well ingrained and integrating themselves into it as opposed to growing up and taking advantage of these new interesting things. Perhaps the end result will lead to some sort of weird dystopian future where we in a virtual world and who we are in the physical is meaningless and…

well. Huh. I, err, guess…see you in The Matrix, everyone!

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Unfiction: A Quick Note On Politics…

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I think it’s really important to acknowledge that no matter if you’re left-wing, right-wing or racist, there’s a democratic party that broadly represents your beliefs in government. That’s the core principle of a democracy, right? That there’s this wide variety of representatives to present the variety of views of the public. You, as a member of the public, are asked to find the belief that best represents you through a discourse of compromises, whilst the representative has to compromise with some of their own beliefs so that they can better represent the greater whole. And by now you’re bored of having to read the word ‘represent’. Democracy has some flaws, like any political structure, but it’s pretty good. It’s not bad. It could be worse.

What shapes the cycle of politics, a situational change affecting the individual or group that then pushes to have changes made in reaction that then impact the situation, on an immediate, personal level really depends on where you are in that cycle as well as your proximity to it. The issue that the Labour leadership election is highlighting at the moment is that your position can change in as little as a few months and in some cases barely changes at all. So yes, this is a reaction to the Labour leadership election and all that that would entail: mud-slinging, dredging up of old points to try and reduce a competitor’s standing and every so often some actual political beliefs that people champion because…well, and this is one of the two reasons I wrote this.

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It’s not that the general public is stupid about politics. Fact is most issues can be broken down so that even the most complicated can make a bit of sense, even if it skims some of the details. No, in reality the public doesn’t care, highlighted by the general election turn-outs. Between the bullshit in the press spouted from PR-trained ministers and staff that vocalise bullshit penned by people who know how to write their bullshit in a convincing way, why would you care when you’re not getting the truth? You can’t make politics sexy, it’s an inherently boring topic to many, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. So when the bullshit from any which way is largely the same, distance is created and that democratic compromise gets broken down.

This Labour leadership election has just been a demonstration of the purest irony in politics for a long time. The lack of a clear distinction in political leaning during the general election which pushed many away on the left away from Labour to elsewhere (the Scottish National Party, Green Party, etc.), parties that broadly speaking couldn’t afford to present too much bullshit and instead focus on the politics for the most part, is yet again reflected in the leadership election with the one person who was presented to us politics first then being chased in a race to see who could out-bullshit everyone else in order to grab that attention, completely missing the point that the attention was on the politics. It’s astonishing, really. All these people so locked into their PR structure and series of expected events that when something comes along that doesn’t fit into it, they sort of go into over-drive rather than adapt.

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The other issue is that of the ‘purge of voters’ happening. Namely, people who for whatever reason are now members of the Labour party and not able to vote in the leadership election. I’m obviously happy to dismiss the people who are intentionally signing up to cause havoc and be a general nuisance, such as members of the Conservatives signing up to try and push for one candidate for no reason that makes much sense. No, my problem is with the people who, say, demonstrated on social media that they didn’t like what Labour was in the run-up to the GE and suggested voting elsewhere.

That cycle of politics? Yeah, it can change for the individual at any point for a multitude of reasons. Maybe even in a few months. Maybe it’s been a gradual change that’s suddenly happened because you’ve found yourself galvanised. So what if I had signed up to vote, would I have been rejected? I mean, I don’t count myself as voting Labour in the GE even though I technically did because what actually happened was I vote swapped for Green. I didn’t make a big thing of it on social media, at least not that I remember, but god help someone if they have to trawl through the nonsense about games and writing workshops I put up on Twitter to try and find something incriminating.

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I don’t buy into being locked into a political belief, or vice-versa. I believe that I agree with a party that I share the majority of my most critical views with. Sometimes I have fewer immediate issues that I want addressing, other times it’s a sweeping movement of thought. But I’d have probably slipped through to be allowed to vote in this contest because I was quiet about my utter disdain at Labour. It’s simply nonsensical. And I can guarantee I won’t be the only one in a similar or exact-same situation.

Still, you’ve given people the opportunity to try and shape that representation. They’ve compromised what they held before, adapted it to the now and are being told “Nah.” Politics is malleable and should evolve with its populace, but instead we have a structure that’s just lagging behind and the people it should work for are just shrugging and waiting for something to happen to make them feel it’s really for them. So the bullshit comes out and that’s enough for some people to just go “Shut up, fine, I’ll vote. Eesh.” And that sucks. No-one is really happy with that.

I wonder where the public and I will be in the political cycle come the next general election, but I really hope that we’ve got things a little bit better.

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Unficition: A Snapshot of Nothing

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I’m sure you’ve heard of the idiom that too much of a good thing makes it bad. You can only eat so much chocolate before you feel sick, as ridiculous as that actually sounds. (Really, too much chocolate??) The reality though is that, like most idioms, its frequent usage is because it’s largely accurate. Doing something so much begins to devalue the purpose of doing it and will come with a negative consequence. Some of these are quite obvious, like feeling a bit queasy after the aforementioned chocolate binge, but plenty of others might be rather subtle.

Most people now have access to a device that allows them to take a photograph. In fact that’s been true for a while. Before smart phones and devices became so wildly possessed digital cameras weren’t exactly that expensive and came in so many different models that the distinction between a professional and amateur photographer was strictly the being-paid component and not really a signifier of a dramatic increase in quality that you might expect elsewhere. Even so, you were still restricted by needing to have the camera on you and really, you were unlikely to have it with you on your way round the corner to the supermarket. Sure you could chuck one in your bag and take it out if something amusing or interesting took your fancy, but they still mostly came out during big events, like a birthday party.

Even when camera phones (remember when that was a specific term?) came to be, the quality of the shots was usually so poor that in many cases it just wasn’t worth taking because you wouldn’t really be able to accurately capture what you wanted to. Of course this all changed when the megaton of the next wave of smart phone came along. Phone cameras had drastically improved and didn’t look poor and the connectivity of smart phones meant it was only a few clicks away from taking a shot to sending it out to the entire world, or at least that pocket of it you inhabited and could influence.

Now this is obviously common knowledge, but I think it’s worth remembering that it was a couple of steps from minimal camera coverage to seemingly everyone having access to a selfie-machine.

Where’s this all left us then and why haven’t you go to the point, you ask. Well, I’m getting to it, don’t push me!

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Just a look on Facebook once a day shows it littered with pictures and they just don’t mean anything to me. Even if you ignore all the other images that you get bombarded with, I feel like I’m inundated with stuff to look at that it just washes over me, I don’t take in any of the particular details. And the thing is, it’s been like this for a long while. There was a time when everyone was making fun of apparent idiots (read now: trend-setters) taking pics of their breakfast or their Converse shoes (and it was always Converse) because of how silly and inane it all seemed and then mockery became ironic usage became habit. That’s not to say that a lot of pics are inane in that way and certainly, I can see an argument for having food presentation that is interesting be worth taking a pic of (and if you were trying to describe the meal, having a visual representation would probably help your imagination work) it’s just that there’s only so many feet-up-with-plate-and-glass-in-front-of-bright-light/sun-set shots I can take in before they mush into one and that amount isn’t exactly too high in the first place.

By having the means to take pictures of anything and everything I actually think our observational skills have drastically declined. What we see now is immediate and looking to the side is a novel concept. The unusual becomes usual and uninteresting. There’s very little context to a lot of pictures I see now other than the obvious “I was here and needed to document that.”

I’m not going to say that before smart phones every picture taken was something of a definable high quality, but I think the noise to signal ratio was far more weighted to the latter. Hell, if you think back to film, you had to make every shot count because you had limited chances to get it right and you needed to save room for later. As a technological progression, I’m alright with the numerical limitation being removed, but it opens the flood gates and completely shifts that ratio to the former. We lose that critical eye and the need to ask “Is this the one?” for “So long as everyone is smiling this is a good picture.”

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It’s hard to entirely say though that everyone having access to high quality pictures is a strictly bad thing as it does mean more memories can be forged, but that doesn’t change the mass of noise that’s created. Nor do I want to have a snobbish attitude of “Why are you taking a selfie? It’s so pointless!” because something being fun is usually enough of a justification to do it, but in a lot of cases there doesn’t seem to be much consideration for the following step apart from what filter to apply and if it’s going to be shared on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram first.

And here’s the main thing I see, especially given the fact I work with children a fair amount of time; the people who grew up without knowing the limitation to taking a picture are capturing everything, but in doing so aren’t really capturing anything at all. That this then gets shared online without a real education for the impacts that carries means that so many people are putting out a lot of information about themselves into the world without really thinking that they’re doing it. As I joked with someone, “On the plus side, in the future it won’t really be scandal to have a silly photo of you from your past be brought up given that everyone will have one and it won’t be a big deal.”

Whenever I go to any sort of party I know that really, I don’t need my camera with me because almost everyone else will be able to take a picture and they can just share it. The likelihood I’ll want a picture of something someone else won’t is so small that I’m not too worried about missing anything and it allows me to enjoy and experience what it is first-hand. It can become so easy to view life through a screen that blurs out the noise around without realising that you’re just adding to the noise in a different way. We’re so engaged in documenting everything that we forget to actually experience it first. It’s the simulation of a lot of modern life.

So here’s my parting shot, no direct conclusion, but instead a challenge for you. Take one less picture a day. Let your mind waver for just a second before you decide to snap something. One a day, shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Right?

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Short: Summer in the Park

“Ha, I was clearly passing to you.” She waved with her racket at the friend whose incessant message checking was interrupted by a tennis ball that gently rolled up to and stopped by her sandled foot. She picked it up uncertainly with her left hand, her right still busy trying to key in a message to whoever. The ball limply cut through the air and bounced over the head of the other person on the other side of the court who was wrapped in appropriate garb and the only one taking it seriously. They flicked their racket and with seeming magic the ball made its way into the air ready to be served up. “Alright Suz, remember, you want to try and hit the ball this time like you actually want to!”

A grin came across his face as he saw the three of them in the court before his mind returned to matters at hand. There was a constant back-and-forth up there. He became aware once more of the sweat that seemed to be a layer of clothing; he couldn’t tell if it was the uncharacteristically generous sunshine or the ring in his pocket. He had put it in there so he didn’t have to go and retrieve it, but he didn’t know when during the day he’d ask him. So they sat there, enjoying each other’s company and the ice-cream they had until he realised that half of it had slipped onto the floor in the brief moments he’d been thinking.

“Wa-woof! Woo-oof!” His owner thought he needed water and granted he did, but he tried his best to articulate his barks as to say “Look, ice-cream, on the floor!!” Instead he was pat on his head and rubbed on his back. He wasn’t being led in the direction of the fallen ice-cream, but it was hard to argue with a good pat and a good rub. “Wuuurrrrrf.” He looked up at his loving owner and then carried on looking forward. “Woof!” Alert, owner, squirrel ahead! “Woof-woof!” Let me clear the way so our path out the park is clear. His owner didn’t understand, but the squirrel scampered away as quickly as it had appeared. “Woof!” You were lucky this time, squirrel! He quietened down soon after and happily followed his owner out the gates and onto the main road.

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Catching Up With…Twin Peaks

It’s quite obvious that Twin Peaks had a large cultural impact. From the characters to the setting, to the filming to the music, its ingredients insured that quality mostly aside, it was going to be remembered. So how on earth do you go about discussing something that has already been dissected and used to further more recent entertainment? The simple fact is I had no idea going into the show just how much or little I had been influenced by it indirectly. As such, the only way to enjoy and appreciate it was just to watch the damn thing. So I did. Thirty episodes and a film later I’m left with my complete thoughts. I largely don’t care about its behind-the-scenes activities simply because I tried to appreciate it for what I watched. With that in mind, let’s delve into it.

Twin Peaks is categorically flawed. What starts off as a stable, intentionally directed series of events and dialogues in the enjoyable first season (8 episodes) breaks down at the beginning of season two (22 episodes) before completely unravelling somewhere around its half-way mark. Whilst it does seemingly grudgingly pick up pace in the last few episodes, as well as a memorable finale, too much stupidity occupies them to make up for the tedium and similar levels of stupidity in the preceding episodes. The follow-up film, Fire Walk With Me, then adds little to the context of the show, with only a couple of note-worthy incidents adding anything of merit to the greater understanding of the narrative or to enjoyment.

What makes it so frustrating is just how enjoyable the first season really is. It’s extremely confident and openly embraces its own absurdities in a way that makes it relatively easy to follow whilst still keeping itself grounded. Its humour, both straight and twisted, compliments the intentional melodrama and farcical happenings that a wide cast of characters inhabit. It’s a shame that many characters have few really defining characteristics, but as a huge ensemble cast they fill out sufficiently to play back-up to the small handful of characters that are, in no uncertain terms, fantastic.

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The lead, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, is marvellous to watch early on. His unflappable personality is equal parts warm and professional and his appearance in a scene will easily dominate it, if not also occupied by Audrey Horne. Audrey is a mystical creature who sets herself apart from her perpetually dulled (and often utterly stupid) young peers by being both observant and then intelligent enough to mostly act on those observations in an appropriate manner. Cooper and Audrey are foils for each other insomuch as their characters are similar in terms of wanting to find out the truth, but differ in how they come about doing so. Scenes with them in together are perhaps the most powerful and it’s a joy to watch them.

Of course, even they fall foul as the show progresses with some odd characterisation and immensely stupid actions. Like the rest of the cast, they are liable to be twisted and forced to fit into the changing jig-saw puzzle that is whatever the plot thinks it is at the time. Nevertheless, there is a character for every circumstance and they easily fit into the small, quaint town aesthetic. Characters added later on though are much more open to direct negativity by making complicated plots needlessly more complicated, being love interests to characters who don’t need them and in one case, literally making every man in the room fall for her. That’s it. I suppose it’s possible to consider it a parody of similar characters elsewhere, but the joke runs for far too longer that it just ends up feeling absurd for absurd sake.

As the plot completely loses focus in season two though, so to do the characters. It’s not really their fault, they’re just getting caught in the wake. Whilst the early season two episodes just about hold it together, it eventually turns into what feels like them just making it up as it goes along. That this is actually what happened then doesn’t really come off as a surprise, but it’s a shame it was allowed to happen in the first place. What’s particularly frustrating about this all though is that there are some good ideas later on, but they’re either so badly explored or just continued off-screen that they were pointless to be included anyhow. The result is a Simpsons situation where there are more bad or mediocre episodes than good ones. It really makes it quite hard to recommend.

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Perhaps the worst part of the narrative is the focus later on of supernatural elements and whilst they’re necessary to set-up the moody, highly stylistic but ultimately unfulfilling finale (as well as several scenes throughout the show) they sometimes feel overbearing, uninteresting or unintentionally hilarious given how silly it all sounds. What starts off as a curious murder investigation soon becomes a hunt for the gates of hell/heaven, or things close to. What’s particularly amusing about this is the fact that it’s shown regularly how time aware the whole show is, so this all happens in what amounts to a few weeks. Sufficed to say, this is also a problem for other plot strands too.

On the up-swing, the presentational style is great! The entire screen is used to fill in details, be it of the gorgeous local environment, knick-knacks that line a house’s shelves or amusing background activities. It’s not just the size of the screen too as characters move about totally freely and not in the sense of a balloon deflating and flying around, but in ways that help to depict that character. A tick of the head, graceful walking, sharp turns or unflinching and repulsive proximity, it’s all there. Not everyone moves the same and it’s nice to be shown that these are people who have learnt to walk their own way. Considering how sparse dialogue can be in scenes, the movement alone can make for some fantastic viewing.

Combine that with the general direction, where scenes linger for what can feel like an eternity and action can be deeply unsettling and with the show at its best it is a visual treat. Distinctive colouring helps too making it very easy to read a character as well as the situation they’re in. The Red Room, an illusory locale, is striking and utterly memorable and the best example of this point in the show. If nothing else, when the show was at its most dull or inane, it was always pleasant to look at.

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Adding to this is a great audio presence. Sound effects were well done, but very much played second fiddle to the show’s score which was weird. But weird in a good way! Mostly, anyhow. There aren’t that many tracks that play over the scenes, so you start hearing the same ones over and over. At times it can feel a little bit of (self?) parody, but they are usually used well to help give a mood to a scene with their distinctive associated feelings. That most of them can segue into each other allows for a clear indication of what is going on tonally and help establish some of the best scenes in the show. They’re also damn memorable, part due to repetition and part due to them simply being effective and enjoyable to listen to. Regardless, all of the tracks felt just that little bit skewed that helps to give the show its identity.

Realistically, I’d be much more inclined to break down every facet of Twin Peaks and discuss them in significant detail, however I’m aware that’d be boring and take up a considerably larger word count than this one. Single pieces of dialogue have made me irate with how woefully they’ve handled their narrative, whilst simultaneously some sequences I’d love to pick apart and show how everything was working perfectly. It’s certainly the sign of an interesting show at the least.

But is it good? Well, I’ve already described it as ‘categorically flawed’, but that doesn’t necessarily mean something is bad, yet I find it difficult to call the show good either. It is very much its own show and little I have watched, TV or film, is comparable in a meaningful way. That said, I still find myself reflecting on the fact that I had to force myself to watch through season two and Fire Walk With Me, the latter of which I was constantly time checking. Even though season one was highly enjoyable and including season two’s best bits, I find it difficult to call it good, yet I also wouldn’t say “Don’t watch it.”

I think if you watched Twin Peaks and enjoyed it throughout, you’re a lucky person. If you watched it and gave up, I wouldn’t blame you and if you didn’t at all, I’d say you’re able to miss out on being disappointed by such initial promise.

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Short: Demy’s Game

[This is the third in the short series of Demy. You can read the first here.]

“Again, I apologise for not informing you sooner Mr. McSonny, but I only just found out about this myself. Ye…I know, I really wish I could change it, but that’s how it is. My offer still stands though. I don’t believe it should impact on his tutoring and there is no doubt that he’ll get his full hour. Well, if you’re happy to go with that? Thank you. I’m more than happy to accept payment when I next come and see him, although I don’t know how many more sessions he needs. He seems to be doing well. What, in my humble opinion? I think his standard of work is fine, but he’s still in turmoil and I don’t blame him. Uh huh. Okay, well, thanks again.”

Obviously you know me now as a jokey person. That said I don’t tend to mince my words when it comes to the truth. Sure, I exaggerate. Who doesn’t? I don’t feel that entitles me to not telling the truth. I told Charlie’s father the truth. Worse, I think I just confirmed what he already knew. It begs the question then why they got me in the first place, but I suppose when you don’t know what to do, you do everything that you know you can, maybe if it doesn’t strictly speaking help. Anyhow, I digress.

The part that I so casually removed from that conversation was the part about me explaining how I wasn’t going to be able to go to Charlie’s house, at least not at a suitable time. Janbor had a dentist’s appointment and someone had to be in to open the door to the people who are coming to fix the gas. Yes, yes, I know what you’re going to say. The thing is, when the streets do eventually get turned upside down for whatever aggravating maintenance has to be done next, they’re going to notice some sort of magic intervention. So we wait, like normal people. It really blows. Of course the timing just has to match up at the most inconvenient time possible, so sit I will in my house made out of Ikea flat-packs. Fortunately, by law of ridiculousness, the thing that’s about to happen can happen because of said ridiculousness. I can hear you now rolling your eyes.
“It must be nice to have the upper hand on me, for a change? It’s not raining, or even windy, but the fact that you can keep me outside of your house like I have done to you is just super satisfying, isn’t it?” I don’t like how savvy Charlie can be. It’s disconcerting.
“I’m merely appreciating the pleasant breeze!” I made an obvious intake of air through my nostrils, let it hang there for a bit and then exhaled. Charlie made a small “ha”, so at least I knew he wasn’t completely abject to some silliness. “Besides, we’re waiting for someone else.” I raised my right hand to my forehead, saluting the sun as I looked up and down my street. It would’ve been my left, but it was propping me up against the door post. An important detail, I hope you’ll realise.
“Oh? Urrm, you do know that I’m supposed to be being tutored, right?” He looked genuinely surprised. Although in his defence I may have ‘forgotten’ the important detail to his father that there was going to be someone else coming. I know by now that you’re beginning to put pieces together. If not, go re-read the previous entries I’ve made and come back to here. Done? Okay, good. So. There’s that.
“Umm, you’re Demy, right?” Oh god she’s so boring. I was never this boring when I was a teenager. I wasn’t exactly exciting, but I wasn’t “ummm” and “errrr” and “yeaaaaaaaaaaaah” and everything else. Anyhow, just imagine that surprise when Charlie turns around while saying “Karen?!” Well there was some. Just so you know. They then exchanged surprised, but appreciative smiles before I took them into my humble abode. I’m only telling you this because it’s necessary. I wish I could skip it. I really do.

I herded them into my living room and sat them down on my smaller sofa. Made for two. Look, she might be the most boring thing I’ve come across in months, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to play ball. She wasn’t exactly rude and I’m not a rude person either, so I’m going to be nice. God she’s so dull.
“I expected your place to be a bit more…I dunno, whimsical?” Charlie scouted out the room. It was a living room, nothing particularly special about it.
“It’s a living room. It has space to live in and it’s a room. I would say the whimsical stuff is in the office. All those ring binders and post-it notes.” Their continued blank looks suggested to me they had yet to enjoy the fun of being organised via the medium of post-it.
“Are we going to actually learn or do anything then?” Karen took her bag from the side of the sofa onto her lap, opened it up and started flicking through paper.
“Well, maybe.” I sat down on my large recliner of fantastic (hey, some things can only be achieved with magic to be magical, but sometimes you can get the same affect with great craftsmanship) and began the quizzing.
“Karen, has Janbor done a game with you yet?” I tried to sound enthusiastic, but her face was oozing mental tedium.
“No? “ High-pitch rise complete with squint. She had stopped fiddling with her bag now. All the while Charlie just sort of…looked.
“Mmmm. Well, that’s something we can do then.” I poured through my brain to think of which world I could drop them into, only to have Charlie interrupt me so.
“I actually had an idea.” Hmmmmm? “Why not a book?”

Oh.

“Let me put it to you this way. Could I create the book, follow the lines and punctuation within, to allow you to experience it first hand? Yes. Yes I could, rather easily. Therein lays the problem. The ‘I’ part of that sentence. If I create for you an environment it is based on my idea, my interpretations, my conclusions. Let’s see, a book you’ve read… I guess, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?” Nods all round. “Say I rigorously follow the plot, that I make it so you are incapable of movement, incapable of speaking, anything different from what your character is supposed to do and say.  Fine, all well and good, BUT! My specific idea of what Wonka looks like, in the absolutely microscopic detail that your imagination burrows to, the whole thing is wrong because you thought it different. What if my interpretation of a gobstopper is wrong? The vividness of what happens to each child is explicit, but not enough or too much? The experience is wrong and it can have damaging ramifications on that person’s mental well-being.” I know. That part usually throws people. It gets worse when you realise how.

“So you survive this book. It’s not the book that was written though; it was my rendition, a re-make if you will. Except your mind perceived it as though it were real, like the previous trips you’ve been on. Except you know they’re false because I’m there to remind you. The intensity of the event is burned into your memory so harshly that you begin questioning your own interpretation of things. Is it red or is it actually blue? The chair was there, not there! I know I drank more than what is left in the glass. Reality is forever warped because your mind cannot accept that something is different to the way your mind accepts is truth.

“Naturally, this is an extreme. It has no impact if you haven’t and never will read the book, but the draw is there, you need to know how close it is and upon the first detail, the first flicker of imagination, you’re gone. It’s like seeing the film before reading the source material. You know what everything looks like because you’ve seen it. Except, in a cinema or at home, your eyes are fixated on a window that feeds you this information. You can separate it from reality. What your mind makes is your own reality. If I show you something you’ve already designed, your mind cannot handle the overlap between the two realities. In the end the only person who can see their own book is, unsurprisingly, themselves. “ Imagine me doing a lot of gesticulations throughout that.

“Oh.” From both of them. At the same time.
“Indeed.”
“That’s, uhmmmm…” I’ll permit that one, Karen. “…a convincing argument.” Ain’t it just.
“So, no books!” I clapped my hands and snapped them out of the trance I had worked them into.
“Man, I wish I hadn’t’ve asked.” Well, you have to learn something in one of these sessions, right Charlie? I noticed though that Karen had gone a little bit white. Actually, Charlie had too. Don’t worry, they all get this at some point. When the realisation dawns on them, be it if pointed out or discovered on their own, that they have lived through falsehoods. That they have experienced real time that wasn’t, but was. All very science-fictiony, I know. It takes a few minutes for the mind to adjust to this. If anything it actually helps. Jumping into and out of the events becomes less of a shock to the system and the mind can start putting a window around it all.
“The imagination is actually a delicate thing though. You don’t realise it. Why would you? How could something so powerful be so brittle? Well, look hard enough into anything and you’ll find that one kink. The imagination’s is truth. If, somehow, the truth fails the imagination takes over and it is very hard, if not impossible, to regain the truth.”
“Well, what about other things? Why is it okay if it’s a film you take us into that we’ve already seen?” Charlie checking in with a good question.
“It goes back to the window. You’ll watch the film, but you’ll know it isn’t real. You might be suckered in, that your suspension of disbelief has incredible strength, but you ultimately know it isn’t real. Could the events happen? Is this a re-imagining of what happened? It doesn’t matter. That entity, that thing, it’s a reality. You don’t need your imagination to fight the detail because if you want to, you can just watch it again and your brain will confirm what is real.”
“This is giving me a massive headache. I never cared much for psychology.” Some colour had returned to Karen’s face at this point.
“I…this is more philosophy, right Demy?” Charlie’s face had regained some redness too. So that’s good.
“I prefer to think of it as psychological philosophy. It’s a field popular amongst us tutor types. Well, only us tutor types come to think of it.” It’s true. We tried to get it recognised as an official study, but academics are so damn fussy. ‘Do you have a textbook on it?’ ‘Yes, we’ve read all four papers on it, but there’s a reason each one has been declined in turn.’ ‘No, we won’t let you do a guest lecture on it.’ And so on and so forth.
“I was going to say, I’ve never heard of that before.” Oh Karen. Karen, Karen, Karen. I’m sure there are many things you haven’t heard of before. Like colourful metaphors!
“What actually is psychological philosophy then?” Charlie looked on confused, turned to Karen who had adopted a similar confusion, then both to me.
“It’s the field of studying the impacts on your head of learning about philosophy.” I felt like that was quite an obvious one, but evidently I’m seriously blowing minds here.
“Aha. Well, okay.” It’s with that response that I came to fully realise the power of Charlie’s nonchalant acceptance of things. Karen was still clearly struggling a little. Bless her little heart. And her little brain.
“Anyhow, let’s get on with things.” Present me is agreeing with past me now, so yes, let’s.

I whisked us away to a virtual white space. Now, before you picture just what’s in a white space (here’s a hint: whiteness) I want to inform you that for us that’s just the term we use. It’s actually not all white. Think more a pleasant field with vast, green rolling hills. A few trees dotted around. A stream. The chirp of birds. I know what you’re about to ask. It became evident, very quickly, that people were actually scared about being surrounded all in white. I don’t blame them. It’s just an endless…well, nothingness. I think what bothered people the most was that you could look down and you wouldn’t really be standing on white. Imagine transparent infinite whiteness because that’s exactly what it was. Anyhow, people got scared, some pants may have got wet due to unexpected means and we quickly realised all white is bad. So we changed it. The pleasant field is now our white space. That’s all in case you were wondering, naturally.
“I need guns. Lots of guns.”  Charlie grunted in agreement with his own joke.
“I too like that film.” To which Karen shot him an acknowledging smile.
“Me also. I guess films and games have taught you youngsters a few things after all.” I don’t usually call on people’s age, believing that everyone has something useful to say. From a four year-old to an eighty year-old, it’s worth hearing.
“Aren’t you, like, ten years older than us?” Charlie asked in the direction of the tree, as he continued visually exploring the environment. Also, that’s why I don’t call on people’s age.
“Moving swiftly on! This is your loading screen, if you will. I’ve tied in a tutorial before we jump in. From this point onwards you won’t be able to do anything unless you actively think about doing that action. There’s two apples on that nearby tree. I want you to collect both of them.” Another instance where I get to really love my job. It can be very amusing at times. For a few seconds I took in the expected silence before hitting a button in my mind.
“CHEESE AND BOXES AND SLARGIFINARYTORLORFORMOR…”
“BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH…” Sufficed to say, it doesn’t really matter who said what, standing there as they did motionless apart from their gaping jaws.
“Speaking isn’t quite enough. Remember, this is a game. You need to tell your brain, the controller, that you are going to speak and then what, exactly, you’re going to say. This includes accent, speed, tone, et cetera et cetera. I’ve, err, relaxed that one a little bit though. Despite the utmost joy I know I would get from a dual-player game with this, I’ll keep it easier on you guys.”
“Ok. Ah, that’s better. So to walk I need to tell my brain to walk and then where to, or for how many steps in what direction, or what?” I should add that at this point I was walking round and round Charlie whilst he still hadn’t worked out how to move his body or even his head.
“Well, give it a go.”
“Body, I command you, walk where I’m facing!” Ugh. It had to be Karen who took the lead, eh?
“You don’t actually need to say it out loud, y’know.” I made sure to say this under my breath. Truth is I love hearing their attempts, but I do feel obliged to say it, even if they can’t actually hear me.
“Oh, oh no, I’m about to walk into this treeeeeeeee!” Said the girl who had no control over her body.
“Have you tried commanding yourself to maybe turn your head?” I was desperately trying not to guffaw. Charlie, having not moved his body, was able to turn his face and was obviously picking up his learning pace. Still, by this point, Karen had reached the target tree…and then overtook it.
“What! Wait! No, stop! Body, stop!” And it did. About twenty seconds later she had got into a position to reach up and pick an apple. Now was Charlie’s turn. I looked towards him and saw his body lower itself to the ground before it sprang well clear of the ground and in a single leap land on top of the tree, reached down into the branches and grabbed the apple. He looked incredibly smug, but I think he earned it. Charlie sent a smile towards Karen, who in turn struggled creating one. Not because she couldn’t work out how, but because I think (hope?) she was jealous of his genius.
“Well done, Charlie. Both of you, really.” Ehhh, I’ll give it to her I suppose. “Remember though, different game worlds, even levels or areas within them, may have different rule sets. In the loading screen pretty much anything is possible.” Last kid I had summoned a jet-pack. It was pretty cool. “And like any good game the difficulty increases as you progress, but only in a manner at which befits what you’ve learnt before. There shouldn’t be anything completely obscure for you to do. The end point will always be obvious, but maybe not the way to get there. At the same time, do think outside of the box. Any questions?”
“What will we be doing?” Karen was examining the apple, as if it was this magical thing. Nope, just an apple.
“Whatever’s ahead of you.” Ambiguity ho!
“Really? That’s all you’re giving us?” Charlie had taken to floating above the tree now, for no real reason I’m sure.
“Well, yes, pretty much. Oh, fine. There’s a variety of things. From a variety of genres. Look, to tell you anything more would be to spoil it and I’m not in the habit of ruining spoilers. Especially when they’re so fun!” For me! Honestly, unless someone really gets into some of the other ‘lessons’, this is usually the most interesting for me. Besides, I know what’s coming up after this one. Some fun is definitely needed before that. “Ok, so are you both ready to go?” They nodded in unison. “Well okay then. Here we go. Press A to start.” A large blue circle with an A appeared in front of both of them. At the same time they reached out and pressed it.

The duo was now in a large grey box room which was divided into its two halves by a glass wall between them. The wall was thick enough that they wouldn’t be able to break it with what they had, which was themselves, but thin enough that they could hear each other and communicate a plan to proceed. They took in their blank locale. This, of course, only took a few seconds as the only details were at the end of the halls. There was one plinth in each hall, both propping up a large, red button. Above each plinth was a light currently off. I’d have thought it was startlingly obvious what was necessary and as it turned out so did they. Karen, trailed shortly by Charlie, walked up to the button, pushed it and lit up their respective light in turn. A moment after Charlie had pressed his they were transported back to their starting position in the same room.

They looked at each other wondering whether or not they had succeeded. “What if we try hitting them at the same time?” Charlie yelled. Karen nodded in agreement. They once more walked up to their plinths but, before pressing, called out if they were ready. On the count of 3 (that is, they pressed it when they said 3, not after. That would be 4) they pushed the buttons at the same time and were, once again, greeted by the lights coming alive. And, once again, were teleported back to their starting positions in the same room. Onlooker’s fill-in here; this is two completed tasks. The first was simply them hitting the buttons, the second hitting them together. The first is a sort of trick, I suppose, to make you think that you hadn’t actually completed it so that on the second task you’d try something different. The third, well, that’d prove to be a little trickier. By now they had worked out simple objective tracking and having to work together, but what if you play with that notion a little bit?

“Errrm, I’m not moving. I’m trying to move, but I can’t. Wait, why am I looking at the wall?” Karen stood still, apart from her head which had unhelpfully turned left to face the wall while her mundane jaw flapped open. While saying this, Charlie was looking around taking in the room.
“Okay, that’s weird. I just tried looking towards you, but instead I’m looking all over the place.”  Do you see now how I get massive amounts of fun out of this lesson? So utterly wonderful. “Actually, I think I’ve worked this out.”
“So have I!” And of course it was that simple. Mind-boggling and perhaps a little terrifying, but when you know you’re in good hands, challenging and fun! “Ok, I’m going to look ahead. Is that working for you?” Ah, the suspense is killing me!
“Yup, I’m staring at the plinth. I’ve tried the same, how’s it going?”
“It’s going great! Okay, I’m going to walk over there at a gentle pace, on 3?”
“On 3.” And then they both walked there with a steely determination. “Hit the button on 3?”
“On 3!”

3…2…1…thump.

Lights on.

Teleport.

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