Sunday, 29 September 2013

My Style

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

That last post. It was criticised on reddit for being too long. TL,DR was the response, which means "too long, didn't read". There are 2 reasons for such a remark:

1. I don't read long posts. I don't have the time, patience, or interest.
2. I found the post too long-winded and wordy to warrant its length.

I'll keep this short and sweet. I am wordy. I write long posts. But I only ever repeat myself if I feel the emphasis is necessary. That's the beauty of a blog: you can post whatever you like, and people will either accept it or not, but they have no power to change you.

With all that in mind, decide for yourself if you want to come along on the ride.


X Viewer

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn.

I must write this while I'm still angry. I want every shred of hatred, rage, indignation, mouth-foaming fury, and sheer contempt to be apparent in this article. I won't take it down. I won't regret it. I will simply write the unfiltered thoughts that occur to me for the next half an hour or so.

For the past 6 or 7 years, since the year that Leona Lewis won, I've very begrudgingly watched the X Factor. I've never been impressed by the show. It has always very obviously seemed to me to be nothing like what it pretends to be. It's not a singing competition. They're not looking for someone who can go on to sell millions of albums or hit singles. It's little more than the TV equivalent of a farm. A farm to milk dry well-intentioned aspiring singers of their emotions, credibility, individuality, and yes, talent. All of this in the name of ratings and advertisement money. If they were really trying to find the next big singer, they'd be more successful. Because make no mistake: there is no lack of competence in what they do. Let me demonstrate that by analysing the latest gauntlet these creatures have devised for the singers to run.

There are 6 chairs. Each of the singers left in the singing competition must stand, in Wembley arena, in front of thousands of people and the 4 judges and sing for their right to sit in 1 of those chairs. The judge who is in charge of that singer's group (boys, girls, overs, and groups) must decide whether they get to sit or go. Right off the bat, this format is shamelessly ripped off from The Voice, it's just a lot faster. But it doesn't end there. Once all 6 chairs are filled, the remaining singers must also sing in front of the judges and Wembley, but if the judge really wants to keep 1 of them, that judge must ask 1 of the people sitting on the seat to go home. This after they have already been asked to take a seat and have gotten their hopes up about going through. I watched this format play out once. Nicole Scherzinger replaced 3 chair occupants during her group's performances. She was in a state, the contestants were in a state, one of them even had to stand outside because they were so upset about the fact that if she did well enough to go through, she would have to, essentially, force someone else out of their chair. I had to sit there, while everyone else was watching, and suppress the most powerful rage I've felt in a long while. It sickened me to the core to watch this. Yet I must, despite such feelings, concede the obvious competence with which this thing was devised.

This format brought out some of the most powerful emotions I've ever seen on the show. Most of the contestants on the chairs were trembling. Everyone who had to replace someone else on the chairs cried at some point before, during or after their audition. And, no doubt, what I felt, I won't be alone in feeling. When you're sickened, you're not bored. And let's face it, I'm writing this article. This will just give them more attention, and make them more popular. I will justify that decision later. What matters now is that this format is genius, in the same way that the contraptions from any of the Saw films are genius.

But let's not kid ourselves. This has no beneficial impact on any of the singers. This teaches them nothing that couldn't be taught infinitely more humanely and competently through some other means. I say this because people are bound to defend this format by saying something like "it's a dog-eat-dog industry", "it's tough, and they've got to show they can handle the pressure", or, my personal favourite, "they've got too many contestants, they've got to whittle it down somehow". As arguments these are up there with defending obvious novelty acts without any future in the business by saying "they're fun". Well guess what. In a couple of months, they won't be. These people will have to live their lives as an embarrassment of pop culture. The X Factor producers, judges, and audience, including myself for contributing with my viewer-ship, all contributed to that and let them believe they were something special, when really we just laughed at them. And as for the "dog-eat-dog" industry argument, the rest of the show already does more than enough to teach them that lesson. They spend their entire stint in the show competing with everyone else and only 1 of them can win, and you honestly want to tell me that's not enough? No, this format is a disgusting exercise in cruelty. Nothing more. Nothing less. It would be like punching someone in the face and justifying it by telling them that "life's not fair, sometimes people do these things to each other, so you may as well get used to it". This is the argument you make when you're trying to justify something to yourself. When you feel conflicted about what you're watching so you find a way to rationalise it. I've done this many times. The process almost never generates a rational argument, as you're not working from a place of reason, but of defensive admiration. And "they've got too many contestants"? Then they should've taught some of them a lesson about how "dog-eat-dog" the industry is by not putting some of them through in the first place! I thought the people sitting behind that desk in front of the stage were supposed to be judges! Oh wait, no I didn't, because it pretends to be a singing competition! Of course it would create pretences elsewhere!

But do I hate the judges? No. They're as much a victim of this as everyone else. I'm not, however, going to respect them, like we're clearly expected to do, for making those "really tough decisions". I only saw Nicole, and she didn't have the discipline to choose her 6 wisely. I sat there thinking about what I would do in their place. Very simply, I would walk. If I had absolutely no choice, I would at least make a promise to my group that everyone I asked to sit on those chairs would stay on those chairs. And, most importantly of all, I would keep that promise. It doesn't matter how hard it would be. And I wouldn't want my contestants to make it easy on me. But I would damn well keep my promise.

I have made the mistake of watching this show for 7 years. I did it only because everyone else in the house did. I sat there in silence watching that show insult my intelligence and any self-respecting musician with almost everything they did with their crap defences of acts that wouldn't realistically last a few months, or that had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, giving them false hope instead of doing the decent thing by saving them a lifetime of embarrassment by telling them that they wouldn't have a sustainable career and would be the joke of the country for the next few months. I sat there watching the judges decide to keep those novelty acts in the competition over people with an actual chance, purely because "they were entertaining". I sat there watching the judges break up bands and manufacture new ones out of an arbitrary group of soloists. I even sat through Jedward. But most importantly, I watched every final in which a singer, who may or may not have a chance at a decent future, sang a mind-bogglingly ill-fitting song, with the near-guarantee of getting the Christmas no.1 except mercifully the year we decided to stick Rage on them, and when the military wives took it from them fairly, and I watched most of those finalists fade into obscurity after 2 badly performing singles, gutted from their record deal for what is entirely the fault of the Syco record label themselves as they wrote the songs, after not being given any chance. But maybe I should be thanking them. Because finally, at long last, they have crossed my line. The line that means I can't, even begrudgingly, support them with their viewer-ship. I'm free. It's over.

I want to end this article with an apology. I'm sorry to everyone who feels like me and who I've betrayed by watching that show. I feel sorry for anyone who truly believes they have a shot at greatness by going through that ordeal, given the show's track record. And I wish that my past self could apologise to my current self for ever deciding to sit down on that sofa and turn that shit on.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Worst Form Of Writer's Block (And How To Defeat It)

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

I'm notorious for claiming that I like blogging and making videos but then going months without releasing anything. During my productive periods, the reason this happens is always the same: I can't think of any ideas. Or so it seems at the time. The truth is, I have no problem coming up with ideas. I just censor most of them. I have in my head a certain standard that I expect from my content and if the idea doesn't seem like it will generate that standard of content, I abandon it.

Let me make an educated guess about you, the person reading this blog right now. What probably drew you to it were the words "Writer's Block", but then the phrase in brackets: "And How To Defeat It". Chances are pretty good that you are in a similar situation to me: you have some form of recurring writer's block: be it with blogging, music, poetry, a novel, a film script, a painting, or any piece of art imaginable. You probably either can't motivate yourself to do it, or, when you try, you feel you have nothing worth producing, or both. If there's a magic bullet for beating it, which is what a lot of us probably want to see when clicking on an article that claims to defeat writer's block, but realistically probably only provides advice that some people might find moderately helpful, and others won't find helpful at all; that, to me, would be the following 3 word phrase: lower your standards.

I bet you anything that, like me, when you say you have no ideas, you have quite a few. You just have a self-censorship process in your mind that has become so adept, so automatic, as to barely be noticeable on a conscious level. Here's a quick experiment. Euthanasia. Now, upon seeing that word, what comes to mind? Think to yourself everything you know about euthanasia. Next, write it down either on paper or a Word document. What do you think of what you've written? If you have the kind of highly developed ability to censor yourself as I have, you might think "utter shit". "Ill-informed, simplistic, obvious garbage that no-one would want to read and it would be an embarrassment to post." Here's my challenge to you: copy it into a blog post and post it anyway. See what kind of reaction you get, if any. Apply this to all forms of art. Upload your dissonant, out-of-tune songs to Soundcloud. Paint that painting and don't be afraid to hurl the cans of paint at the canvas like Hal does in Malcolm In The Middle. Write that clich├ęd, pun-infested cesspit of a poem. Upload either of those to Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram.

Why? It's very simple. When you post nothing, you achieve nothing. You sit there for hours, desperately trying to think of that inspired idea that never comes. Want to know why it never comes? You have no practice committing ideas to a publishing, and you have nowhere to draw ideas from. When you post, you will get some feedback somewhere. That feedback could be a simple critique of your work, or it could be discussion about it. Both are good things, regardless of whether they are positive or negative comments: an audience of people will generate more criticisms in a small period of time than you can in a larger period of time allowing you to learn faster, and the discussion that your post generates, will give you more ideas than you can come up with on your own, as well as clues to better ideas. There is only 1 perspective where negative criticism causes you to lose out: where you have a reputation to maintain. Here, the internet saves the day.

Let's imagine a completely unrealistic scenario: in the not too distant future, Orygyn has 1 million viewers, subscribers, readers, whatever it may be. As such, I have a reputation that must be upheld so I can't produce sub-standard content. If I really didn't want to risk that reputation, I'd set up a second blog, completely unrelated and unconnected to Orygyn, to make that post. Out of the hellfire of trolling and abuse that comes from posting that ignorant post will come a refined product worthy of the blog. Of course, I could still post it on Orygyn, in which case, I could turn it around by admitting my stupidity and harvesting the more plentiful diamonds that would emerge from such an episode.

Maybe you think you'll never improve. I bet you something right now. If you take my advice, you won't even need to try to improve. You'll just subconsciously do it. You will automatically notice weaknesses and gradually weed them out, all without ever consciously being aware of the process. And after a significant amount of time, you will look back and notice the difference. And it'll feel amazing. I look at my videos from when I was 19 and cringe. I look at my earliest posts on this blog and cringe. I look at relatively RECENT posts on this blog and cringe! And I'm sure a few others do as well. And here I am, laughing about it as I type this post, which I may one day also look back on and cringe. And having that reaction will mean, inarguably, that I've improved.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had 6 rules which he said he lived by. The 3rd, the most relevant to this topic, is "don't be afraid to fail". I am facing that fear right now by shamelessly ripping off that idea to frame in the context of defeating writer's block. Experience tells me this might get 100 views on a VERY good day but likely no more than 10, and probably no comments either way. But those are views I wouldn't have gotten if I didn't have the courage to post. That is writing experience, the experience of seeing ideas on a page, which can generate more, the experience of thinking and writing, all of which will benefit me, none of which I would gain by being stubborn and wallowing in my Herculean standards of myself. And, on reflection right now, I feel very good. I've done something. Anything. Just not nothing.


Observations about Nuance

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

What I'm about to say, we all have some experience of if we've spent enough time on the internet. We hear things: comments so outrageous in their stupidity that we question whether they can possibly be serious. Many times we tell ourselves that these people are trolls, that no-one can possibly be this stupid. I think there's a simple explanation for this. Think about your knowledge: think about what you know a lot about, and then think about what you know very little about. Are you well-rounded? Or, are some areas vastly more developed than others? I can't imagine many people would identify with option 2, we all have our areas of expertise. On the other hand, we all have our areas of near total ignorance. When two people of dissimilar knowledge-bases meet, the ignorance in both will become clear. This happens on a much larger scale on the internet.

Now for a question. What makes something more stupid than another? If a comment displays total ignorance of, or inability to understand, the relevant subject matter, what could qualitatively trump such ineptitude? Finding ineptitude in a different place maybe. However, there's only so much ineptitude that can be displayed in YouTube comments or videos. I constantly hear about how something will be the stupidest thing I've ever heard. What we're really trying to do is relate to each other: create a temporary bond between and among OP and guests. Social entertainment. Like when people bitch about other people. Do they really spend a lot of time thinking about the people they're bitching about? Is it really as bad to them personally as they make it out to be? Doubtful. They will exaggerate and encourage each others exaggerations to feed off of each other and create that unique and powerful form of entertainment that we crave: attention. Not to mention, certain degrees of stupidity make us feel. How they make us feel will vary widely: amused (how could they be so stupid), bemused (how do I share DNA with them), befuddled (how do you say something like that and not realise how stupid it sounds), angry (that's it after all those years of school) etc. You can only ever truly understand a feeling when you're feeling it, so when it happens again, it will feel new and more powerful, even though, logically, that shouldn't be the case. It should be the same.

These are why one-liners and soundbites succeed as ideas over nuanced and well-thought out arguments. People need to bond over the issue to get a movement going. You can agree or disagree with an argument, but an enemy always gets emotions going more. An enemy, or a single, simple soundbite expressing an emotion, a state of being, or a desired outcome. Even something as vague or as simple as "Change". Or "Hope". Or, if you're from Scotland like me, "Better Together". Why associate yourself with the inherently negative idea of "No" when you could associate yourself with something positive, something that suggests community?

But so what? There's nothing particularly insightful about what I've said here. What matters is how we apply these ideas. The side that claims to have the more substantive argument will traditionally shy away from these tactics as being dishonest or insulting to their target audience's intelligence. But intelligence has little to do with it. If your job is centered around convincing people of things, you need to bear in mind that the people you're talking to don't have all the time in the world, or the desire to spend ages listening to a detailed, nuanced argument, however well thought out it would be. They need to care. You need to hook them fast. They're only going to bother with the details if you make them want to. That first step is essential. It has nothing to do with intelligence. It even has very little to do with attention span. It's simple time economy.

Here's an analogy. As a musician, suppose you hear 2 songs. One is like nothing you've heard before. It uses unique instruments, instruments uniquely, the vocalists have a unique style of singing with incredible ranges, but the song deviates far from the verse-chorus structure of pop music. The other consists of 4 chords repeating over and over again with a simple melodic hook probably in the intro of the song that appears here and there, but everything else is standard for the genre. A casual glance at any music chart will make it obvious which is more successful. Neither style nor substance need hinder the other but both are necessary. All substance will do little to inspire, merely gain fringe respect, and in today's society might be derided as "hipster rubbish". All style will hit hard and disappear fast. A mixture of both will become legend.

Therein lies the problem. I see both separately but very little mixing of the two in any aspect of society, be it art, politics, or even social situations. So here's a soundbite for you:

"Be style. Be substance. Be different. Be legend!"


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Catching Up: Issues Of Varying Importance

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

Once again, I have monumentally failed to produce Orygyn content on a consistent basis. I'm hoping the revival of my Twitter account, in response to YouTube doing away with video responses, will remedy that situation. I plan to be more engaged with what remains of the community I participated in. Maybe this was YouTube's master plan: do away with responses so that people mobilise to become more connected with their friends. Who knows.

In this post, I'll chime in on all sorts of things that have happened since I was last active, assigning an appropriate amount of weight to each issue.

Healthyaddict's assault:

I can say with total honesty that I've never been more disgusted with the majority response to anything we've talked about than I have over the response to this issue. I've seen numerous people in comments and videos attempt to prove to us and themselves that they are "skeptics" by openly telling her that they don't believe her because there's "no evidence". I don't see skepticism here, I see psychopathy: people showing a complete and total lack of empathy towards Ashley. Yes, we can't be ABSOLUTELY sure it happened, and, in a legal setting, it would be entirely appropriate for her to give as much evidence as she is able to give to rule out the possibility of her trying to get an innocent person incarcerated, but this isn't a court of law. What any non-psychopathic skeptic should do in that situation is either say nothing, or say something comforting, not coldly deny all of it and ask for "evidence". I have to ask, what kind of evidence could you possibly accept here? I can't think of anything that would pass for decent evidence here. The assault may not have caused any bruising (and no this wouldn't mean that it's not a serious assault), and even if it did, I would have bet money on people claiming that she either self-inflicted those bruises or got them through other means. Face it, there is NOTHING she could have done to prove to these "skeptics" that she was assaulted. I got this idea instead, and feel free to call me crazy, that thunderf00t fanboys, riled up from his constant attacks on feminists and opposition to conference policies aimed at reducing assaults reacted first, and hid behind the "skeptic" label when confronted. Choosing your side and then finding a defence for it is not good skepticism. But maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. I am, after all, a skeptic.


What I saw offended me. Kids watch this stuff. If I was a dad, I couldn't in good conscience let my kids sit in front of that TV watching those disgusting images and letting them think that was music. Couldn't they just have got 1 note in tune? Couldn't they just have a basic musical understanding of their own songs? But, unlike many others, I didn't spend the minute or so before the performance tumbling through a wormhole after having just fallen from the Mayflower.


This is by far the most important issue and I will treat it as such. First off, I have to cringe that for nearly 3 years, we've watched the country tear itself apart paying only lip service during that time while we helped out the Libyan rebels. But now, because a different kind of weapon has been used, "we cannot let these atrocities continue"! I admire your commitment to human decency, kind sirs! Torture during imprisonment, millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands dead, we can let that slide, but chemical attacks? That's too far! The argument is that this is to deter further use of chemical weapons. My advice: stick to that argument. Don't pretend to care now, it's too late. And no, I'm no better. I've never said anything about these conflicts. But my poker face isn't up to the task of saying something that enormously hypocritical.
But as for the burning question, should we act militarily, diplomatically, or not at all? That's not an easy one. There are tons of strong opinions that will probably attempt to persuade me otherwise, but it's not as simple as I've been seeing. I'm ambivalent to the response I've seen. Everyone has Iraq on the brain. "That must not happen again". Governments have surprised me with their sensitivity to public feeling on this matter. However, one thought crossed my mind recently and I haven't been able to shake it. Are we carefully weighing the situation here, or is this mostly a knee-jerk reaction to Iraq? Let's face it, Iraq was the extension of a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11. There should be more to it than "not Iraq again", and I hope there is.
Here's where I'm at, and it's not a place of being very informed, I should make that clear. First, how could this be diplomatically resolved? The Syrian people aren't going to give up, and I'd find it difficult to accept any argument otherwise given how much they've lost and that, nearly 3 years later, they're still going. The leadership has to change. Is there any way to persuade Assad out of power? I doubt it. Sanctions haven't worked as they weren't universally enforced. As far as Assad is concerned, this war was started by other countries: Syria's "enemies". Realistically, this war will only end with the government being overthrown. Should we help them? I don't know. I need to do more research. Yes, I did just say that. However, it needs to be said, and people who are also in my situation need to admit it. That's the take away message from this: don't just blindly react, think.

Let's see how long I last this time before I take the next months-long siesta from the blogosphere.


Monday, 16 September 2013

Egos vs Skepticism

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

In arguments, you win when you win, and you lose when you win. You win when you win because your argument remains the strongest. You win when you lose, because your inferior argument has been destroyed, and you've just been given a stronger one. However, if your ego tells you that you must be smarter than your opponent, losing isn't an option, because they were able to think up an argument you couldn't (maybe because they were smarter)? Regardless of the validity of that statement, it will play on your mind. Cutting your losses (bad arguments) is like admitting that you're not the smartest, except it's not. Focus on the most meaningful aspect of intelligence: what you can achieve. You will then be smarter with each tossed-aside dud instead of clinging for dear life to a flawed argument, impractical concept of intelligence, and harmful ego. You may not have the best argument at the moment, but all that means is that you're not perfect. What you are, is learning.