Tag Archives: media

Reading Habits

Like a good little writer, I read a lot. You might say obsessively. All things considered, I guess I read between 2-4 hours a day. I read widely, across a lot of platforms and topics, but mostly in the sport, lifestyle, travel and paranormal areas. These are the areas I usually work in, so being knowledgeable helps me follow trends and keep my finger on the pulse.

Newspapers

Yeah, I know they are going out of style, but I’m keeping the dream alive. For me, The Times is the best newspaper out there. I don’t agree with all their politics. In fact, I usually skip those sections. But they have excellent writers and the articles are usually not only newsworthy but informative and often a bit quirky. There’s something quintessentially British about The Times, and I love how it treads the line between broadsheet and tabloid. My ‘happy place’ is a quiet pub on a rainy afternoon, with a pint of craft ale and a copy of The Times.

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If I can’t get a copy of The Times, the Guardian will do. Or the Observer on a Sunday. I never get The Sunday times because it’s like a metre-squared fucking Argos catalogue. My tabloid of choice is The Sun. It gets a lot of bad press (ho ho!) but it serves a purpose and the sports pages are outstanding. Wales on Sunday and the Western Mail are my regional newspapers when I’m in Wales but I rarely buy them these days. The quality of local journalism has nosedived. It’s largely due to less people reading newspapers and consequently their resources taking a hit, but you could argue that one reason less people are reading newspapers is because the quality of the product isn’t what it used to be. It’s the chicken or the egg scenario. My most hated newspapers would be the Metro, because it reads like it was written by a bunch of 6-year old’s, and the Daily Mail, because that’s why.

Magazines

Ten years ago, there were eight or more different magazines I bought religiously every week or month, depending on their frequency. Sadly, most of them are gone now. Of the few that remain, the only one I subscribe to (and I have done for twenty years or so) is Fortean Times. I like the crazy. I also buy Classic Rock almost every month, and either GQ or Esquire. Both are slightly pretentious, but they are the closest thing remaining to FHM and Loaded, and they make decent toilet reading. I also like going to large newsagents and impulse buying whatever catches my eye. I grab Kerrang! Empire, Fighters Only and Mojo semi-regularly, along with the occasional travel title or hobbyist writing magazine. One day I woke up hungover, fully-clothed in my bed, covered in about £35 worth of mags. What a glorious day that was. When in London, I make sure I pick up whichever free mag is being distributed that day, Sport and Shortlist being pick of the bunch, with Escapism and Red Bulletin third and fourth.

Websites

I spend a lot of time surfing the net, but there aren’t many websites I use on a regular basis apart from Facebook and WordPress. Does Wiki count? How about Bet 365? Otherwise, MMA Fighting, Louder Than War and BBC News are probably my most visited. I habitually used Wales Online a lot until recently. But this outlet is suffering in much the same way as the print products Media Wales oversees is. In an effort to maximise profits, the quality of reporting has declined to laughable levels and the site is literally clogged up with advertising. It often takes several minutes to load, and when it finally does you are inundated with pop-ups. Sometimes you have to participate in a survey before you can even read the article you clicked on. I understand they have to (try and) make a profit, but that’s just intrusive. Life’s too short.

Books

I try to read widely, both fiction and non-fiction. I love sports autobiographies, travelogues, and rock memoirs, along with a healthy dose of true crime and the occasional tale of survival-against-the-odds.

The fiction I read is almost exclusively in the horror genre (as broad as that is). If there are no ghosts or zombies, or at least a demented serial killer on the rampage, I get real bored real fast. I’ve never been the kind of person to read one book at a time, but only when I wrote this post did I realize how bad things have got. I really should show some more composure, but there are just so many books and so little time. At the moment, I have no less than seven on the go. For the interested, these are:

Physical copies:

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen

Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead, Neil Strauss

PDF’s on the PC:

DOA 3, various authors

Wild Talents, Charles Fort

And on the Kindle:

Sinister Scribblings, Matt Hickman

Unit 731, Craig Saunders

Battlefield, Amy Cross


Writer’s Block – Pros and Pretenders

For better or for worse (usually worse), I’m involved in a lot of groups on Facebook, Linked In and the like, where writers of varying descriptions flock together to discuss various aspects of ‘the craft.’ The one topic that crops up more than any other in these groups is writer’s block.

The thing is, and feel free to fight me on this if you want, but I don’t think writer’s block exists. It’s a myth perpetuated by hobbyists with delusions of grandeur. The kind of people who sit in the corners of cafes and coffee shops with expensive tablets and skinny lattes because ‘that’s where they do their best work.’

You’ll find these pretenders haunting most establishments. The trendier the better. They’ll sit quietly, smoothing their beards thoughtfully, adjusting their beanies, and making a single hot beverage last three-and-a-half hours. A smug half-smirk will be tugging at the corners of their mouths, and if you listen carefully, you might be able to hear their inner thought process.

I am a gifted individual. People envy me. I write, therefore I am. My words will change the world. But wait, no I don’t want to write any more. Right now I’d rather be checking the Ted Baker website to see if the new knitwear collection is available for pre-order yet. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Must be writer’s block. I’m a tortured artist! The angst! Oh, dear creative Gods, deliver me from this hell!

I recently remarked to one of the many ‘WRITER’S BLOCK. AAARGH!” comments that clog up my newsfeed most days that, in my opinion, writer’s block is something that separates the pros from the pretenders. It didn’t go down very well with the supposed victim. I wasn’t being pretentious. The point I was trying to make is when faced with adversity, pros will find a way over, around, or through the obstacle preventing them achieving their goals. Whereas hobbyists, who would just as happily be doing something else anyway, will just give up.

But here’s the rub. They don’t want to admit giving up so easily. That would show weakness, and a lack of integrity. So they pin the blame on something other than themselves instead. Something intangible and unquantifiable, some mysterious ailment that only the supremely gifted can suffer from. Writer’s block is a luxury professionals can’t afford. If they don’t write, they don’t eat and they get evicted. Simple. Have you ever heard of plumber’s block? Dentist’s block? Estate agent’s block? No? That’s because there’s no such thing. Sure, sometimes they have days where they don’t feel like going to work. Just like there are times when you don’t feel like doing the washing up, or changing the bed. That’s when you put your head down, grit your teeth, rise above it and get the job done.

Just to be clear, I have no problem with people writing as a hobby. Quite the opposite, in fact. Generally speaking, I think the human race in general could benefit from reading and writing more. Then maybe a higher percentage of people would be able to spell and punctuate properly and we wouldn’t be such a nation of fucktards.

One acquaintance of mine who complained of suffering from writer’s block said the only thing that alleviates the condition is playing video games, so he did that for three months. Three fucking months. Wait a minute, are you sure you wouldn’t just prefer playing video games? Because it sure seems that way. Incidentally, this writer was unpublished, and it’s easy to see why. I’m not knocking his ability. Who am I to judge? The guy might be a very good writer. Hell, he might even be the best writer who ever lived. The thing is we’ll probably never know, because when the chips are down, he boots up Halo. How many dentists out there do you think take three-month sabbaticals where they don’t work, they just play video games?

I understand that maintaining writer’s block doesn’t exist might be a controversial view.  Message boards and chat forums, even the odd serious article or academic paper, argue otherwise. But what’s really happening here is people misdiagnosing the condition. Writer’s block is an excuse to give up when things get tough. Or, in most cases, a convenient excuse to not do something you don’t even have to do in the first place. Some people just like to blame their inadequacies on things that are supposedly beyond their control. It makes them feel better about being crap at their job or just plain fucking lazy.

I want to leave you with this thought. Real writers write. They don’t sit around pissing and moaning about how hard it is. Those that do it on a regular basis know it’s hard. It’s not the exciting, romantic existence some people seem to think it is. If you’re not enjoying it, or you’re struggling with your latest case of writer’s block, the one that stops you from ever actually writing anything, go find something else to do. Don’t take to social media to bare your soul every ten minutes. It’s boring.

If you want to be a professional, or at least acknowledged as such, act like one. Grow a backbone. Learn about sacrifice, resilience and endeavour. I’m sure Stephen King, Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum would love to kick back and spend three months at a time playing computer games, or watching Friends, or whatever the hell else floats their respective boats. But they don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t have written all those books.

You see? Pros and pretenders.

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This article first appeared on the Deviant Dolls website.


A Royal Pain in the Backside

This post was originally published in the Huffington Post (UK).

Media Coverage of the royal birth

Media Coverage of the royal birth

I inadvertently started an international shitstorm on Facebook recently. The status update that sparked it all read, “When poor people who have never worked have a kid, they are called benefit cheats. When rich people who have never worked have a kid, they are called royalty.”

Justified, I thought. And topical. There has been a lot in the British press recently about benefits scroungers cheating the system. And, in case you missed it, Prince William and Kate Middleton have just had a baby. Like a lot of other people, I am tired of hearing about it. It’s on every TV channel, every news website, and when I get my morning newspaper, I have to flick past 18 pages of coverage and a 16-page ‘souvenir’ supplement just to get to the sports section.

Private Eye magazine got it right with their front-page headline, ‘WOMAN HAS BABY.’ Does anything more really need to be said? How much more can you say, really? Sure, tell us how big or heavy it was if you must. What time it arrived, maybe. Tell us what they are going to call it. But anything else is superfluous.

The status update got 29 ‘likes.’ But I managed to ruffle the feathers of a couple of people who were quick to jump to the Royal’s defence. They informed me that, apparently, most of the Royal family do have ‘real world jobs.’ These jobs include (or have included) admirals, helicopter pilots, and ‘working for Jaguar.’

Not ‘real world jobs,’ in my book. I don’t know any admirals or helicopter pilots. They are generally regarded as jobs for the privileged. Those from a certain stock. And if they do count as real jobs, which one would assume, come complete with a legitimate (as in, earned), and quite substantial salary, then why do the Royal family as a whole skim around £36 million in additional funds per year from the British taxpayer? And that’s not even including policing costs, which add another few million. I can’t imagine many of them ever putting their hands in their pocket to get the beers in, either.

So what’s my problem? I want to live in a fair society, that’s what. Is that so unreasonable? That is the crux of my argument. Why should a select group of people be entitled to the best quality of life our modern existence can offer, while the vast majority of others have to scrimp and save? These are times of austerity, as we are constantly being told; yet the Royal family and their legion of cohorts and hangers-on fly around in helicopters and dine at the most exclusive establishments at the nation’s expense. And now we have another mouth to feed.

It’s not accumulating wealth that I’m against, per se. If someone gets rich through hard work and endeavor, good for them. But the Royal family just sit back and live off the sweat, blood and tears of others. They have done for centuries. One reason the working classes in Britain struggle so much financially is because of the high taxes, which is where that £36 million-plus a year that keeps the Royals living in luxury comes from.

Many people claim that the Royals pay for themselves because they encourage tourism. Sorry, that argument doesn’t hold any water. Do you think people only come here specifically to see the Crown Jewels? At best, it would just be another thing to cross off a checklist. Britain is the 8th most popular tourist destination in the world, just ahead of Russia and far behind Turkey, China and the US. None of which have a Royal family. France is the number 1 tourist destination worldwide. They don’t have a Royal family, either.

I am from Wales, but I am lucky enough to have lived in several different countries and forged good relationships with people from all four corners of the globe (*I don’t know where that saying came from. Globes don’t even have corners). Interestingly, all the people who took issue with my comment shared the same demographic: white, middle class, university-educated English guys. In my experience, most middle class, V-neck wearing, Volvo-driving English people adore the Royal family. Other Europeans are indifferent, people from farther afield, like the US and China, are baffled by it all. One American friend recently summed up his impression of last year’s Royal wedding by saying, “All the hoo-hah is ridiculous, but fascinating!”

Welsh, Scots and Irish are usually hostile toward the Royal family. Or, more accurately, what it represents. Why? There are many reasons. A particularly pertinent one for us is that the current Prince of Wales is not Welsh. It’s a stolen title, used as a tool to force the will of the establishment upon the Welsh people. The last real Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr, went into hiding after leading a revolt against enforced English rule in the 15th century and was never seen again. Every ‘Prince of Wales’ since has been about as Welsh as Pol Pot. They visit Wales a couple of times a year, to open hospitals or ceramic factories, then swiftly leg it back across the border. And for that, we are supposed to be grateful.

Maybe this makes me anti-monarchist, I don’t know. Call me what you want, I don’t care. The irony of it all is that Britain is keen to market itself as a democracy, a jolly nice place where everyone is equal. But I sure as hell didn’t vote for the Royals. Did you? I say put them to work for a few weeks on minimum wage, let them get a taste of how the other half live.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/royal-baby-pain_b_3663059.html


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