Googling myself

Come, we’ve all done it from time to time haven’t we?

I’ve been looking for work and so entered my own name into Google to see what might meet the gaze of a prospective employer. There’s nothing particularly exciting that emerges, but something did catch my eye and actually surprise me: it seems that I have a sub-category all to myself of Wikipedia and that they’ve taken a definition that I put forward in a book chapter written a few years ago on the subject of ‘Social Advertising‘.

Now this doesn’t mean that I’ve reached the heights of academic excellence (I don’t even remember writing it), but it was nice to think that someone somewhere might reference it one day in an essay or a dissertation. Or perhaps not…

Wikipedia was something that we were told to avoid for references when I was working toward both my degrees. Despite the fact that studies have shown that it is as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica. And, I have to say that I kind of agree with the academic recommendations, just from the point of view of authority. Knowing that someone well qualified can add to Wikipedia doesn’t mean that all entries are of equal value. But perhaps this view has altered in the intervening years – I don’t know.

Underpinning this is of course my deeply held suspicion that if I’ve contributed anything to the enterprise then it can’t be all that good in the first place. I don’t do too well at blowing my own trumpet.

 

Buzzword Bingo

Other than reading, writing and music, my other big passion is video games. So I was quite excited last week to watch the press conference announcing the new PS4 from Sony.

The industry does this sort of thing all the time, but I’d never taken the time to watch one of these presentations until now and the orgy of marketing speak was staggering. Gamespot even tried to take a count of the nonsense being spouted in this amusing video.

Watch it and weep for the abuse of the English language!

 

For those who didn’t understand a word of that, some bright spark has put the whole thing into plain English:

Bad grammar…

Despite never having been taught anything but the rudiments of grammar at school, I’ve managed to get by over the years with the aid of a writer’s dictionary and a handy little Oxford guide. As a result, I’m fascinated by any discourse on the subject that might increase my profiency (especially in the book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, as the author shares my surname!). So it was interesting to stumble across an article on the Smithsonian website entitled: Most of What You Think You Know About Grammar is Wrong.

Now I’ve edited dozens of book chapters and journal articles and have castigated people for their split infinitives or for starting a sentence with a conjunction (despite regularly doing it in my own prose). But, it seems that most of what we think of as hard an fast rules are nothing of the sort. Instead they are merely throw-backs to the attempts of Latin grammarians to impose Roman rule on the English language:

In Latin, sentences don’t end in prepositions, and an infinitive is one word that can’t be divided. But in a Germanic language like English, as linguists have pointed out, it’s perfectly normal to end a sentence with a preposition and has been since Anglo-Saxon times. And in English, an infinitive is also one word. The “to” is merely a prepositional marker. That’s why it’s so natural to let English adverbs fall where they may, sometimes between “to” and a verb.

The article also refers to the excellent blog at Grammarphobia.com which has a more in-depth page on ‘Language Myths‘.

I will now make it my mission in future writing to trample upon as many of these archaic rules as possible!

Cracking Batman Grommit!

The sublime io9 blog has a collection of amazing images from the recent New York Toy Fair. Needless to say that I want to own all of them, but the one that really caught my eye was the Aardmanized collection of Batman-related figures:

Aardman Batman figures.

I’m not sure that Catwoman is quite female enough, but I love that Robin looks like a cross between Beaker from The Muppet Show and Rodney from Only Fools and Horses. The Joker is slightly too much like Krusty the Clown (or perhaps even The Violator from Todd McFarlane’s Spawn comics?), but I still like the overall treatment.

Get the full article here.

Gis a job!

I’ve had over a year off work now. Primarily it was to see my son through his two big spinal operations, but also, I’ve had the time to write two manuscripts – one of which will be published soon. But now, with funds running low I’m having to look around in order to contribute to the household income again.

This is my third spell of being ‘unemployed’ and I’d forgotten how dispiriting it is. The endless polling of job sites, tweaking the old CV and writing cover letters is wearing and to put a tin hat on it, I’ve got to go to the job centre this week in order to have an interview for job seekers allowance.

Ironically, the first chapter in my upcoming novel was inspired by a visit to the same government office the last time I was out of work. Perhaps it’s all changed and I’ll be pleasantly surprised by what’s in store. but my memories of the experience are so depressing that I’m not feeling good at the prospect. Ideally I’ll be able to land something where I can work from home – perhaps editing or copywriting – but I can see myself having to do the old dreaded commute again if nothing comes of that.

Most depressing of all are the amount of jobs out there that either just sound tedious beyond belief or that want applicants to be the best in the world at something but then only want to pay peanuts for your efforts. Either that, or the positions a bit further up the salary scale are wrapped up in such cheesy recruitment jargon that they put me off trying as well. I have now come to hate the word ‘proactive’ and refuse to countenance any advert with this in the person specification!

The problem is that having a year of setting my own agenda and primarily writing for big chunks of time, I’m now spoiled. ‘Til recently, my working day has involved spilling my imagination onto the page (or the screen) and having the satisfaction that comes with creativity. Unfortunately none of this has resulted in a penny earned yet and so I’m having to be realistic about what I’m going to do for the time-being.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not expecting anyone to shed any tears for me when they read of my plight – and I’m not in dire financial straits by any means. It’s just that Mrs A is working full time as a teacher and I don’t want to be carried by her while I indulge my fantasies of being an author.

Still no publication date yet from my publishers, but at least it’s there on the horizon to look forward to…

Overdue…

Continuing the theme of parturition from my previous post, I’m feeling like an expectant father now; with a baby that’s long overdue.

My novel has been with the beta readers for about a month now and the silence is getting a bit uncomfortable. My publishers are understandably not willing to commit to a firm publication date until this process has finished, but this has left me in limbo somewhat.

Oh, I’m writing other things with a view to trying to get interest from an agent, but none of it is quite ready yet, and in the meantime I’m probably going to have to find a ‘real’ job to do as my severance funds start to run low.

Not that I’m expecting a best-seller or anything, but I’m hoping that having one published book under my belt might open a few doors and present a few more opportunities to cement my idea of writing for a living. Maybe that’s naive, but then we writers are in the business of dreams are we not?

Stephen King on writing

No, not the book, but a great clip I found of him speaking at a UMass Lowell:

Despite being a long-time reader of his books, I’d never seen him speak as himself until watching this.

I did take particular delight in noting the many things that we have in common, such as: not plotting out a story before writing it; swearing like a trooper at every opportunity and…erm…well, that was about it.

He also comes across as not in the least bit pretentious (although the guy with him is a bit annoying!). And he does a nice line in gently mocking those in the audience who seem to be disdainful of anything that isn’t ‘high culture’.

A good way to waste an hour of your time…