The zombifying obligation to squint at screens forever

Our apparently civilised and developed 21st Century obligation to squint at a variety of screens for the majority of our waking lives is exhausting and horrible.  Whether it’s a television, cinema, PC, tiny laptop screen or mobile phone, the new media age has beckoned in and enforced a soul-sapping, practically permanent dependence on various assemblies of almost imperceptibly flickering pixels. 

But I don’t want to be another zombie.  Can I be something else please?

Occasionally I hanker for a romantic, completely alternative vocation far away which involves none of my existing skills – most of which involve looking at a computer screen.  As does the production of these very words.  I am a sucker for the fundamental romance of distance and instinctively envy those who travel frequently, so I imagine and apply fantastic tales of displacement for myself, which seem on the face of it to be entirely unrealistic; like something you might read in a book or watch in a film about a flawed but loveable dreamer. 

And the career.  I feel that I could easily cast it aside really.  I’m not very successful and am unlikely to ever achieve anything too significant.  I personally know a considerable amount about my particular space, a volume which, with a bit more luck or drive, might be valued more highly than it apparently is. 

But do I really care about it?  Not much.  In fact I’d be incredibly grateful to do away with the guilt which is pricked into you at every turn by the incessant flurry of media and messages.  Professional peers insanely shrieking through any number of electronic channels, I’M BUSY!!  REALLY BUSY DOING THIS IMPORTANT LOOKING THING!!  LOOK AT ME!!  IF YOU’RE NOT AS BUSY AS ME YOU MUST BE SHIT AND INSIGNIFICANT!! 

But if they have time to frantically communicate their busyness at every stroke, can they be that busy?

Even if you did care little about earning a meaty wage and just wanted enough to comfortably survive, would you fairly promptly find yourself on the bones of your arse leading a miserable existence?  Or moaning about basic home comforts you didn’t realise you valued?

An earlier age might have suited me better.  One which was less immediate, less aggressive, provided fewer tools for self promotion.  One where media wasn’t ubiquitous and constant, so was richer and more highly valued.

It’s irksome that my mind was swirling with these thoughts as I lay in bed, and the quickest way to free them was to consign them to yet another screen.  Fucking screens.  Perhaps it’s how humans will eventually be overcome or overtaken by Artificial Intelligence, or at least how the barrier between the two will become blurred.  I’ve worked with technical developers who are so constantly ‘in the zone’ and dosed up on caffeine, you might struggle to perceive humanity. 

Do I want to be chained to screens for another 40 odd years until my brain is turned to mush and I can’t see straight?  Or do I have the capacity to relinquish all of this?  Would I have the courage to make such a drastic move?  Go somewhere far away and not take an office job, a job which tied me to a screen?  Probably not.

Should probably just buy a new laptop with a bigger screen.

being bitter and professionally plastic

Today saw the completion of a professional event which was just over six months in gestation.  It was born of an idea which needed to be forced through after internal company meetings with nervous, careful colleagues unsure how much value organising an event would give our technical company.

It would give us exposure, I argued; exposure of our company, brand, our expertise and the services we offer – especially by having a chair of the event as well as a speaker who could present a session.  It wouldn’t take up too much of my time: I could arrange a couple of speakers, a secretary of the organisation would arrange logistics with the sponsors.   I assured them it was really no big deal.  They grudgingly, tentatively agreed. 

Or I accepted the outcome of the meetings as agreement, even if it was never given explicitly as such. It certainly wasn’t a no.

Then, about three months later they made me redundant. 

Thanks very much.

Because I retained my duties for the organisation, which weren’t dependent upon my employers, I saw the organisation of the event through.  Unfortunately I could hardly retract the offer of the Chair, or speaking slot at the event to my former colleagues.

The strangeness of professionally encountering the employers who made you redundant a couple of months before, yet still having reason to be amiable towards them, is one which could be compared to feeling obliged to hug an ex who cheated on you. 

Hello, you utter bastards, you feel lke greeting them. 

But you don’t, especially as there’s the faint, outside hope that they *might* provide you with some freelance work at some juncture. You smile, shake hands, ask how it’s all going, and continue the charade of being awfully professional. 

(You would do this anyway of course, even if there was no outside incentive.  Being starkly hostile is harder than being civilised.)  

Before my former line manager gave his presentation, I had taken pleasure in quietly cackling at his predictable clunkiness.  Similar in age and experience, we never shared the easiest professional relationship – possibly due to the level of testosterone between us, and he was likely instrumental in making me redundant. He was Old School within the company, having been there for almost as long as the company and practically his whole career.  I was comparatively new but had equal knowledge of the space, if not slightly more.  You could argue he felt threatened by this, which led to a tricky relationship.  So, looking forward to a clumsy, nervy talk from him wasn’t too hard.

During it though, I felt such a sense of empathy with the nature of his discomfort: uncertainty, constant errrrring, and the jagged nature of delivery – that it was actually sympathy I felt more.  I identified with his hesitance and self consciousness.  I would have been extremely similar.  What surprised me was my instinctive sympathy and encouragement to him afterwards, when he confessed that he thought he was rubbish.  Perhaps I’m not such a bitter twat after all. 

However, it does shame me to admit that I personally bottled addressing the 150-strong crowd. The opportunity was presented to me in an indirect fashion, left open.  I could have easily claimed just a few minutes to introduce the day and open the event.  It would have only been right as the day was my brainchild and much of its organisation and promotion was down to me.  It wouldn’t have needed much at all.

But I failed to grasp the nettle, grow bollocks, address my fear, and weakly allowed my colleague ahead.  I could try to justify it using a rationale that people who do what I do should never be the story, should always sit back and facilitate – but I know that essentially, I just bottled it.

You might not have been aware of this phobia and nervousness had you seen me on the periphery, orchestrating, arranging speakers, or in breaks, chatting and joking with the attendees.  I maintained a confident-seeming air one to one, or one to a handful, as well as in the potentially awkward face of my former colleagues.

Did I imagine slight embarrassed guilt behind their shiny smiley, unknowably plastic eyes?  Who can say?  But I like to think I carried off the whole performance a mite better than them as I flitted around during the breaks.  Shameless about my apparent uselessness to them.  Unbowed.  A delicately subtle waft of, And Fuck You Too.

Ah, no.  There’s that bitter twat.  Still there then..

musical happy clappy joy joy

After a day of meetings in town yesterday, I hung around.   The dinner time zone was spent working in a coffee shop, then I went to a small gig which had caught my eye on some listings.  The snippets of music I’d heard online sounded ok, the admission price was reasonable.

But it entirely failed to speak to me live.  It felt as if it could have ben transposed to some kind of evangelical religious congregation in the deep south of America.

It shrieked about the goodness of life, love and sex, in terms not bereft of musical ability, but exposed with such threadbare unweathered naivety, it made me want to vomit.  The frontgirl was a hippy, plaited hair, Irish, adorably open manner, slightly out there eyes, probably entirely middle class upbringing. 

Obviously I speculate wildly on the latter.  She evidently felt the earnestness of her music and lyrics.  As did her band, tight eyed, looking to the heavens, smiling blissfully, singing over and over:

“When we kissed, the world fell in love!” 

It wasn’t necessarily intended romantically, she’d explained before beginning the song.  It’s about that explosive feeling you get whenever anybody kisses you, even your little nephew or whatever. 

The sentiment made my stomach gurgle, as if it was considering ejecting bile. 

Expressing yourself in music through SUCH rose-tinted spectacles appeared to me, to be foolhardy.  Religion was never once mentioned, but the way in which it evoked praise and faith to a higher power was impossible to avoid and didn’t sit comfortably. The world isn’t perfect and ideal, life isn’t always a bed of roses.

A sad git like me will always find it difficult to always empathise with the brilliance of love and faith and other people and infinite heavenly sex and permanent hippy, happy bounceyness. I find it all rather facile. 

Unreasonable, almost.  Open to chiding.

Or maybe I’m excessively cynical. 

It wasn’t a musical experience I took nothing away from but one which, given the general audience reaction of reflected splendour and praise, made me feel alienated and disconnected. People do apparently believe other people are awesome and sex is forever religious.  And it doesn’t appear to do them any harm either, although they do look starry-eyed, spacey and stoned.  And maybe that’s not really all so bad.