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Goodbyes; the whys and wherefores.

Goodbyes are not easy. It's not easy for me to sit here, typing into that old, familiar LJ typespace, wondering which userpic to use; and yet, as much as I love LJ, I simply feel it's time to move on.

There aren't many readers of my quaint, random little piece of the internet, but to those who do read/comment etc, I hope you've enjoyed the fruits of my idle brain. This blog has been somewhere to kick start my writing, fanfiction etc and LJ in general is somewhere I can come and chill, read in amazement or rant as necessary. We all need a soapbox to stand on and shout from occasionally, and I've certainly made the most of my li'l soapbox ;). This blog will still stay open, but will be for my own archiving purposes at the moment - this may be subject to change in the future, depending on what I decide to do with it.

However, that being said, it's time to move onto something a bit more 'serious', and possibly somewhere where there are fewer Russian spammers. In light of this, I have started a new blog at Blogger - http://relentlesswriteruk.blogspot.com

The point of this move is really to take a more focussed approach to blogging, using it as a motivational tool for my writing; the point of The Relentless Writer is to write at least 200 words per day, every day, starting Monday 4th July 2011. If all goes well, I'll have 73,000 words of original fiction by this time next year, which is 73,000 more than what I've got at the moment ;)

So, if you're interested, I'd love to see you over at Blogspot to offer your views, tips, tricks and sagely advice - or, if you'd prefer, I like silly randomness just as much. So long, and thanks for all the fish :)

Roz Turner, aka madascheese19 :D x

Still Alive: A Portal 2 Review

So, I did promise to review Portal 2 as soon as it came out...and that hasn't happened. I've found myself being ridiculously busy all of a sudden - thanks in huge part to the fact that I've got a new job (still at the same company) and my head's been mostly occupied trying to understand what exactly I need to be doing ;) However, I have finally got round to finishing/posting this - I may be slightly late to the party, but here y'are

Read full review under the cut :)Collapse )


Moving onwards, I'll have a couple more blogs to post probably over the next couple of weeks on various topics - the next one concerning British radio breakfast shows and their severe lack of diversity, my own muddled musings on the recent UK SlutWalks (I still can't quite decide whether I'm for or against...), a review of the latest Lady Gaga album 'Born This Way' and general befuddled commentary on whatever else happens in the next few weeks. I'm also back into the writing-type game and will hopefully have the next chapter of Endgame up this month, though I might take a hiatus on that and focus on producing some new work in the meantime. We'll see ;)

Anyway, that's enough babbling from me. Stay classy, San Diego Internets :)

How To Lose Fans and Alienate People

Many of you lovely people will have seen Lady Gaga’s album cover for her latest album, Born This Way. I’m sure many of you will agree that it looks like a crappy attempt at photoshopping an amusing picture, with a horrible, chrome-esque typeface that seems to have crawled out of the mid-eighties, but I put this to you: the problem with Gaga at the moment is not necessarily her declining sense of style, but her rapidly rising sense of self-importance.
 
Let’s go back to the beginning, shall we? Gaga first exploded onto the scene in 2008 with ‘Just Dance’, an awesome yet radio-friendly tune combining a precise, clever combination of club-compatible beats and pop sensibilities. She came without hype or a preceding reputation, and went on to be a global force in music. Her first album, The Fame was also a huge success, gaining critical approval and millions of fans worldwide. When The Fame Monster was released, again she was rewarded with a great amount of approval (mostly aimed, quite rightly, at first single ‘Bad Romance’), showing no signs of creative waning; but since then, public and media opinion of her work seems to have taken a slight downturn.
 
I’ve been a fan of Gaga since ‘Poker Face’ was released – and still consider myself a little monster – but what has troubled me of late is her insistence on being the spokeswoman for the entire LGBT community. To be clear: I have nothing but the utmost respect for her tireless work on repealing DADT in America, and was very proud to see such a huge celebrity use her influence to benefit others, but somehow the flagship song from her soon to be released album seems too much like a step backwards. The song itself isn’t that great, definitely nowhere near as strong and insightful as previous hits like ‘Paparazzi’ (my personal favourite of hers), and is, frankly, filled with unfounded arrogance. Thanks for confirming that “It doesn’t matter if you love him…” or whatever, but a) we kinda knew that already and b) we don’t need you to tell the world about it via a lacklustre pop song (I don’t mind the song, but it’s definitely not one of her best). What we really need is politicians and society itself to say that out loud, not some grandstanding pop star trying to be the voice of a generation – it’s as if her work on DADT automatically makes her the best outspoken celebrity on gay rights ever. You don’t get to decide that, Mother Monster.
 
So, since when did Lady G become Queen of LGBT? Well, probably since she garnered a hell of a lot of support from the gay and transgender community from her work on Prop 8 and DADT, but the crucial mistake she has made is by essentially promoting herself to Official Spokeswoman for the entire community – extolling one’s own virtues by promoting a single as ‘the new gay anthem’ on Twitter is not the best way to ingratiate oneself as an acceptable representative for a whole group of people. Comparing her to other famous outspoken celebrities supporting LGBT-ers and other gay-centric issues in general, a good example being the late, great Elizabeth Taylor, she comes off as slightly contrived. Elizabeth Taylor never advocated herself as an actual representative of the gay community – the gay men she had helped by increasing awareness of AIDS sufferers in particular put her there themselves.
 
This isn’t a democratic election; the LGBT community doesn’t get to vote who speaks loudest and truest about the terrible discrimination we still face in modern society, but gay activists and icons aren’t made in the wake of a hitherto successful career in bouncy, modern pop music. They are decided later, by a general tide of consensus, and after long consideration of their overall contribution when they get further into her career. Advocating gay rights cannot just be a gimmick, and you don’t become an LGBT icon overnight after campaigning against only one or two issues – find another focus, Lady G, or just stick to what you’re good at. Charity and representation of a marginalised community require sincerity and humility, not arrogance, hype and a song written in 10 minutes.
 
Better luck next time.

The Credibility of the Female Voice

It was with a mix of horror and shame that I read today’s article on The Guardian website with regards the experiences of a remarkable young woman named ‘Katya’, a Moldovan national who was kidnapped, forced into prostitution and trafficked across Europe for many years. The horror was all reserved for the disgraceful, abhorrent way in which she was treated by her captors; the shame was reading that the UK authorities had sent her back to Moldova (where she was recaptured) after she was first discovered here, with the oft-quoted official line that she ‘would face no real danger’ if she was sent back.
 
Thankfully, her case has finally been fought and won, with the Home Office paying a sizable sum of compensation to her for the hell she’s been through (though, of course, no amount of money can repair a broken childhood) and her being granted refugee status, but what this whole thing brought to mind for me was the nature of the female voice crying out to authority, and the authority’s wilful ignorance of it.
 
We’ve all heard news stories about women who ‘cry rape’ – women who are irresponsibly drunk, beg a man to have sex with them and then report them for rape in the hungover daze of the morning after. A quick Google search brings up several statistics, including claims that between 40 – 80% of rape claims taken to court are falsified or recanted. In actual fact, a recent study by the American Prosecutors Research Institute states that false rape accounts for just 2 – 8% of all cases, which to me perfectly highlights the hysterical and unfounded societal belief that more claims of rape are false than true.
 
Katya’s case brings up a lot of issues that need to be addressed, such as the willingness of the UK immigration authorities to deport people in mortal danger on their return to home, but the fact that her story, so shocking and saddening to me (and, I would wager, any reader with an actual heart and brain) could be construed as untrue or exaggerated is a true reflection of the authorities’ insistence upon disregarding the stories of women in similar circumstances also. There’s a perception that women, even when forced into the servitude of men, are consenting to whatever their lot in life is, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s time for women’s allegations and experiences to be taken seriously, and not judged by the prejudiced, narrow-minded expectations of the ruling patriarchs. Women have voices too.

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Nuggets

Trying to write is, for me, a funny thing. I’ve got a project I’ve been working on for years nestled in various versions on my PC at home, work and Google Docs (so many versions, in fact, that I’m not 100% sure which one is the best/up to date version…) as well as innumerable little tidbits I’ve worked on here and there – from fully-fledged story/plot/character outlines to chapters or short stories that seem to have lost steam along the way.
 
The thing is, when I eventually comb through aforementioned PCs and undercover these little snippets, some of it seems actually quite good – and that’s coming from me, being My Own Worst Critic. It’s funny how an idea pops into my head, prompts me into a furious flurry of writing and then bores me to tears within hours, proving beyond reasonable doubt that I have the attention span and gumption of a particularly restless gnat.
 
So, what now then? I think I need to focus more on writing short stories along with my long-term novel project, if only to keep myself spritely and agile as far as the old brain muscles are concerned. Sometimes I think about something too much and it gets a bit like navel-gazing, I’ll freely admit, so perhaps keeping it short, sweet and snappy is the right way to go for the moment at least.
 
Either that, or I sit at my desk at home with concrete shoes on, which could prove uncomfortable and ever so slightly impractical. Like I said: trying to write is a funny thing.

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Kiss and Tell

First dates are notoriously nervous ground – there are expectations to be aware of, appearances, conversation starting and concentrating on not appearing as jittery and flustered as a dormouse on speed, as well as bearing in mind the hue of your cheeks; all of this is more than enough to send me spiralling into a horrendous sphere of self-consciousness, and I thank my lucky stars that I’m now happily hitched ;)

So imagine, if you will, the pressure of the first date, only to find someone you really get on with, and easily too. You’ve both enjoyed each other’s company and had a nice evening out, stopping off at a small, quiet pub for a civilised sip of cider before bidding each other goodnight. Imagine if, after a romantic, organic first kiss, you were belittled and expelled by the owners of the pub for being ‘obscene’.

Such is the situation that London’s Jonathan Williams and James Bull found themselves in after what sounded like a promising and enjoyable first date. After sharing a couple of kisses in the John Snow pub in Soho, a gentleman (read: idiot) purporting to be the landlord complained of their ‘obscenity’, and they were promptly asked to leave by a woman who was supposedly the landlady of the pub. This blatant homophobia (in Soho, of all places…) is an absolute disgrace, and cannot be tolerated. The great news is that, in typical internets fashion, a Facebook campaign for numerous ‘Kiss-ins’ at the pub and others in the same brewery chain has been organised, and so far has garnered around 200 confirmed guests (last reported by The Guardian at around 10am this morning) – let’s hope this really hammers it home that homophobia should not, and will not, be tolerated in this country.

It brings to mind the case of civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who brought their case for equality against Christian hoteliers Mr and Mrs Bull, who refused to allow them to share a double room as they were not married, the owners in question holding the belief that sex before marriage is immoral. Thankfully, after a battle in the courts, the civil partners won their case for discrimination, with Judge Andrew Rutherford stating that this was an important “intervention by the state to protect the rights of others.” This case in particular gave me a wonderful lift on an otherwise dreary day.

The question remains: how long will people think they can get away with overt homophobia? There is no room for discrimination in a modern society and I’m happy to say that, barring a few occasionally questioning looks when I hold hands with my partner in public, I think we’re living in one of the most accepting times of modern society, though it’s obvious that more needs to be done to secure this for future generations. Despite this general feeling of comfortable safety, still the threat of violence and exclusion hangs heavy in the air – news outlets airing this sort of story can only further our cause, and the closer to equality we get, the safer the LGBT community will feel. This kind of outrage is a huge step in the right direction, and although the origins of this kind of exposure are less than happy, at least the support Mr Williams and Mr Bull have had from all walks of life is more than encouraging.

Quick note: As I’m posting this from LJ mobile, it’s not easy to hyperlink the references I’ve got for this post! Will update this when I get home this evening so y’all can see the original article that prompted me to write this :)

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

The Ban Begins

As of today, Nicolas Sarkozy’s government are banning anyone from covering their faces whilst out in public. In a move aimed squarely at those of strong Muslim faith and upbringing, the French government are now punishing a minority who, in a land of Republican ideals and, from a minority growing steadily louder, racist rhetoric, are already being punished for being different.

To be perfectly clear: I personally think that indoctrinating women to make them believe they should wear a burqa, hijab or niqab is entirely wrong. It goes against everything I believe in, and only reaffirms my current, less than favourable opinions on religion and women’s oppression as a result of it. But this in itself is the issue I have with the ban – these are my beliefs. As abhorrent as I may find the idea of covering oneself completely to maintain ‘modesty’, that does not give me the right to tell someone else what they can, should or can’t wear, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

France, and the other European countries proposing similar measures, are atop a slippery slope; these are the trappings of national oppression, of forcing those with differing beliefs to your own to conform to an idealised norm – of imposing an acceptable image of citizenship on an infinitely more acute, more personal scale. A ruling like this could lead to further oppression, and examples of this (though, admittedly, the opposite way round in reason and execution) can already be seen in many Middle Eastern countries, where women are forced to wear veils that cover them completely and should be seen and not heard. I’m not saying that France and other EU countries proposing the same would take the same approach, merely that allowing this kind of legislation to be passed in government without opposition would suggest that further actions could be taken. How far they go now, in their mission to secularise the country, is up to them.

Sarkozy attributes this ban to further consolidating the separation of church and state, but undermining religious freedom is the direct opposite of this sentiment. If you separate church and state, you recognise that religion has no bearing upon the laws of the land – you don’t allow religion to dictate what is and what is not permitted.

However, even I can see there are issues with this. Many of our laws, morals and customs are deep-rooted in the faith-inspired doctrines of our country’s founders. The long-standing debate as to the role of faith in forming said morals is one that has baffled and infuriated atheists everywhere in equal measure; how can you decry religion when many fundamental, humanistic principles of modern society are rooted in the teachings of many world religions? The simple declaration of ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is one such principle which stands out in such a rebuttal and, whilst you may say that killing other human beings is immoral and unnatural (emotionally speaking) to all people, those feelings have to start somewhere, and religion is a likely and reasonable way to explain this.

So where does this leave us? Religious texts and teachings are full of the good and the bad, and are always open to interpretation. We choose the ideals that suit us, and improve upon those that don’t, twisting them for our own ends. In essence, you could say that all our modern morals are rooted in religion, but whether they hold the same values or intent in mind nowadays as they did then is something different altogether. Maybe church and state owe their existence to one another, but enforcing removal of religious symbols or items of clothing is not conducive to secularisation; enforcing individual freedoms, and the right to follow whichever faith we choose, in whatever way we choose to express it – providing, of course, that it does not cause undue harm to others – is the route to true separation of church from state. Political oppression comes from the same mindset as religious oppression; they are exactly the same thing. You cannot oppose one whilst supporting the other, Mr Sarkozy.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Okay, so I might be exaggerating slightly with the above title, but I've recently finished playing this epic, EPIC game and am amazed to still think it more than lives up to the hype from gaming websites and other gamers. It really, honestly, is one of the best games ever made - never a dull moment, never a level I didn't want to play or a level with a new 'gimmick' to make you play it differently. Everything seems so integrated and considered, packaged with a lot of love and talent.

So, what's so good about it? Several things, actually! From a purely technical standpoint, the controls are superb - smooth, easy to operate and accurate, unlike a few other FPS titles I've played (I'm looking at you, Medal of Honour: European Assualt >.<). The graphics are gorgeous, even though my Mac is not completely top of the range, and loading times are minimal. The sound effects are life-like and harrowing, wherever appropriate, and the general lack of music leaves a haunting silence that surrounds you, ramping up the tension in a way I've never felt by playing a game - particularly obvious during the Ravenholm level. As soon as the game tried to scare me, I didn't play again for about a week...probably not best to play it on my own with the lights out, but there you go. Clearly the designers achieved their objective to scare the living shit out of me, at least ;)

But where this game really stands out is down to how utterly encapsulating it is for the player - right from the very beginning, where you're thrust into a dystopian future, confronted by the mysterious and omnipresent 'Gman', you want to play so you find out what happens, which is where the game succeeds. It drags you in, keeping you wanting to find out more and playing with your emotions as you go through it, making it more like an incredibly creative, well thought out movie rather than a video game. You're encouraged to live through the new world, rather than experience a narration explaining everything; things explain themselves as you shoot your way through headcrabs and creepy, gas-masked Combine soldiers, with only one or two things remaining a mystery at the very end. There are no cut-scenes, no lengthy explanations (apart from a couple of conversations with various NPCs, but it's more illustrative than explanatory, and you're very quickly sent on your way afterwards) and, most importantly, no gaps - everything is so well considered that there is nothing that does not go intentionally unexplained, at least nothing I've noticed anyway.

It's a game I can see myself playing over and over again, for years to come, if only to experience it all again - from shooting down pesky, living gunships with my faithful RPG to commanding the antlions that were once my mortal enemies, directing them into battle with the fiendish screams that used to send a chill down my spine; all the moaning zombies, the ferocious, relentless headcrabs, the hoards of Combine with their uniform, low male voices crackling over radios, and the whine of their heart monitor as they're killed to ensure my survival - I love every last thing about it.

The only game I have ever played that nearly matches the experience I felt during HL2 would have to be Portal - the sequel for which I am buying via Steam as soon as it comes out (thank you, mid-month payday!!). I'll let you know the verdict on what looks to be a mind-bending sequel as soon as I get through it, which may be a good few months judging by the demos :-/...

Why, Kanye? WHY?

I'm not Katy Perry's biggest fan. I barely suppressed an irritated groan when she kissed a girl and liked it, didn't bat an eyelid when she woke up in Vegas, and found myself neither offended nor excited at the prospect of California girls (strangely).

However, I have to admit I absolutely love E.T. (though I still can't figure out why...) which she has now decided to release as her latest single. That being said, there is one huge problem with the single version as opposed to the album version, and that problem rests squarely with Kanye 'Ultimate Douchebag' West. He has single-handedly ruined what was a benign, nay, stomping pop song (from the depths of an album made of 'meh') with ridiculously awful rap sections that leave me cringing every time I have the misfortune of catching it on the radio.

I don't for one second believe that Mr West knows any bars on Mars, apart from the tasty chocolate bar - known as, for the record, a 'Mars Bar' and not a 'Bar of Mars' or any other incarnation. Nor do I remember Prada making space suits or Kanye West being made a Reverend. Also, what the hell does 'Pockets on Shrek' mean?? Seriously! I NEED TO KNOW.

Okay, so I know it's all lyrical and stuff, and I'm always up for a little creativity, but has he actually forgotten how to write a decent verse? It's always the same from him - his "I'm awesome, I'm rich, even though this doesn't have anything to do with this song" lyrics (see also: Run This Town with Rihanna and Jay-Z for his ruination of that song with similar lyrics) are incredibly tiresome, and I wish he'd return to his glory days of Late Registration already.

Enough with the crap, Kanye. Get back to work!
Seriously. I feel lucky that I actually got chapter two of Endgame finished and posted today, considering the ridiculous day I've had.

Anyway, shameless fic promotion grumbles aside, today has been one of those days I'd prefer to consign to the wastelands of memory. Instead, looking towards the weekend, I have the following to look forward to:

1. Chemistry lessons from my lovely wife. Not for me, but for her (but also to make me feel like I'm actually nearing her intelligence level)
2. LADIES NIGHT TOMORROW! It's going to be amazing, if only for the sheer number of Just Dance fails likely to be involved. I will keep a tally.
3. Gettin' back on the writing bandwagon. Yes, I did fall off and into the dust for a little while, but I finally seem to have caught up with myself and have decided I simply must give myself time for this.

So, in short, this means that the next fic upload is likely to be a while off if I manage to get myself back into working on Asylum Diaries...or it might mean that the new chapter is up sooner than expected when I decide that everything original I've ever written is rubbish. Either way, I guess it gets me back into the swing of things fiction-wise, which is never a bad thing. If anyone out there has ever had an idea, or a thought, that's niggled them for ages, imagine having an entire parallel dystopian universe, filled with characters of your imagination, running around your mind for over four years.
 
I know I'm weird, but if I wasn't I wouldn't be half as mental interesting. Promise.

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