Mark Versus

Blurring the line between self improvement and self punishment

Weeknotes for 11/07/2011

Things at the moment feel much like a reconstruction. I am rebuilding habits and enthusiasms. I am trying to restore some old, best practices and create new ones. Most of all I am trying to work out what direction to go in and how best to do so.

The positive aspect of the week of this week is that all of the steps I have been taking (small as they may have been) have felt like they were in the right direction.  This, after recent weeks, is a substantial victory, for no less reason than it makes me want to move them forward.

There is still a lot of filtering and prioritising to be done, but a cloud is lifting.

What it does leave me thinking about is how long I can allow this process to take. There are pressures. Financial pressures. Pressures from the people who have also been involved in those projects. Personal pressure to see these things (and myself) succeed.

With these pressures (of their varying degrees) how much time do I allow myself this reconstructive process? I have always believed in preparation and doing things right first time out, but there is precedent of this not working. I need to maintain a momentum throughout this process. Hopefully the small repetitive tasks I am setting myself, including the increased activity on this site, will have the effect they are designed for. That being exercise for the work muscles that have lost their definition.

The end of a positive week though.


My biggest problem is…

A signpost with no names on it

Is it possible to say that my biggest problem right now is an excess of options without sounding like an arsehole? Not really. Why? Because in analysis this is a shallow and worthless understanding of the concept of a problem.

I have been saying this to myself and other people for sometime now and each time I have to attach a disclaimer, an apology for sounding like an arsehole. It has taken me this time to realise that I had stopped exploring my circumstance having struck upon a convenient response that I could reel off and which, in doing so, I could take no blame for. After all, I had provided myself with a condition the cause of which was all these other people’s belief in my abilities and potential. Very flattering stuff. No wonder I was dragging it around with me.

I need to go deeper. If I have a problem it is with decisions not options. We are presented with hundreds of options daily and we make calls on those options sometimes with little or no thought and sometimes it takes a bit longer. In each case the process is the same. We evaluate the potential outcome until we are happy we can move forward.

Here’s my problem.

Have I stopped evaluating the outcome? Or am I evaluating it ad infinitum? The decisions I need to make are big ones. They deserve a proper process. I don’t have that process yet (or anymore? I don’t remember it being an issue in the past). But when I do I need to run it in full and make a choice because right now I am boring myself to shit.

And I know I can tolerate my nonsense a hell of a lot longer than most others can so I should probably apologise or STFU.

Divergence – A (very) short story

I am sitting on a bench outside an office building. I am aware that something has changed. I am worried.

I am not sure why this one was different. It began exactly like the others, as curiosity, as a game. I am following someone and they don’t even know they are being followed. They don’t know me. I could be anyone. I could be a killer. They are oblivious.

It’s OK though because it’s just a game. My imagination walking away with me. It’s OK because as long as they are on my route then I am not really following them. Or they are not being followed. One or the other. I used to enjoy the distinction. I would debate myself over the reality of my actions when the impact on the subject was zero. Did anything actually happen to them? The followee. The philosophy was part of the game. As long as they were on my route.

At some point today there was a divergence and I did not even notice.

It was not when I chose her.  She was anyone, like they always were.  It was not when I passed the street that I work on and did not take it. It had already happened by the. It was somewhere in between and it happened without my knowing.

It is an hour after I first started following her and I know I am not going to go to work today. I am watching the revolving front door of a tall glass building.  It feels like I am waiting.

I stand up and walk away from the bench and from the building.  I look ahead.  I am not sure where I am.  I am looking for how I got here.  The way back.

I realise that I am crying. I don’t yet know what for.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead… Good

Rosencrantz and Guldenstern are DeadLast night I went with a friend to the theatre to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It is currently playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

This is not a review of that production. There are plenty of them around. Here, Let me Google that for you. This is a summary of how the production made me feel.

I enjoy going to the theatre a lot. It can be any kind of theatre. I am not fussy. Except one type. It cannot and must not be bad theatre. ‘Hang on’, I hear you say, ‘You have just said you like all types of theatre’. This is very true. However I know enough about most theatrical styles to spot something underwritten, overwritten, underrehearsed, overacted and generally not up to scratch. I do not mean theatre that does not match my taste, but theatre that does not meet the standard I expect for my money.

And there seems to be a lot of it about. So much so that I was beginning to think that perhaps my expectations are unrealistic. I feared that my standards were so high that it is actually impossible to meet them, and I might have believed this was the case except that would involve crediting myself with a vision beyond the bounds of all existing performing arts which I can not, no matter how much I  may claim to. That is until last night’s outing.

Who cares if you understand the play? Who cares if you like it? Not me. It was just reassuring to see people doing their jobs incredibly well.

I am fully aware that this makes me sound entirely c%$!y * but in the spirit of giving myself enough rope to hang myself I am currently doing the following things:-

  1. Directing a play. I will post details when it is on so I may be judged.
  2. Writing said play. This is a new one for me so a shitting on is anticipated.
  3. Setting up an acting school. Because I am not moaning about it all for the fun of moaning about it.

Plenty opportunity to crash and burn on all of those things.

Go and see the show if you get a chance and reasonably priced tickets. It is, as a matter of personal taste, a phenomenally well written play and it is given great life in this run. And if something has blown you away let me know in the comments. 

* it’s hiding the word cunty. The title of this post doesn’t even bother to hide it.





How do I feel about all of this newspaper business?

newspapersI want very much to reconcile my feelings about the various revelations and scandals that have become the basis of the news over the last couple of weeks. I attempted to do so in a post that may yet see the light of day but is, for now, shelved. It is not fit for Publish because while composing it I have had to accept that we are at the beginning of a process that may unravel news media and print journalism in this country to a point that it will be unrecognisable as a relative of its former self.

This will not be because of public outrage at the hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemail and it will not be because of the apocalyptic scope of the reach of Rupert Murdoch. It will certainly not be because the public are uncomfortable with how the politicians cosy up to the press and it will not be because policemen have taken bribes.

It will be because all of these things, deplorable, petrifying, inevitable and unacceptable as they are, exist as  part of the fabric of journalism in this country and across the world whether we like it or not. These current incidents are not outliers in the behavior of journalists and editors they are, as far as I can tell, the very norm. This is how they operate. But, to be honest, how without these methods can we really expect them to do the job to the standard that is required of them?

So far the accusations are directed very specifically in one direction, but I bet that it will not be long before details of similar occurrences across the other media outlets are made public. With the shit flinging that it likely to happen when all of these newspapers get backed into their corners I cannot imagine a single paper not looking like bogroll.

Does anyone think that the Independent has never paid a police officer for information? Has the Guardian never been courted by politicians for support? I could say that the price of freedom of the press is the odd hacked phone here and there but that would be crass and disrespectful to Milly Dowler’s family and to some of those others that have been victimised in this affair. What I would say is that a great deal of the product of this system, those broken stories by every paper that have upturned ignorance and unseated injustice, may not have been achieved without these methods, illegal or otherwise, and it has been the judgement of reporters and editors that such action is taken in the public interest that has made that possible.

And it is this issue of public interest that leaves me unable to reach a balance on the subject, because it is an incredible act of faith to leave this decision in the hands of those who stand to profit (in whatever fashion) from the story’s publication and it is clear that this judgement can often go askew. Journalists the world over have broken the law and done so with the highest moral standard and at great risk to their own lives. They have done so knowing that their actions are against the law. We have honoured them for it. In this case as we so far see it the law has been broken with no moral standard and with the sole goal of selling newspapers. People should be punished. But if we demonise the press and make it impossible for them to undertake, at risk and with courage, the pursuit of truth for the common good by forcing all papers to turn on each other in defense of their own skins we will have lost. And if the press is about to eat itself we should probably be worried that the media we are left with afterwards is fit for purpose.

Beyond these questions I am still mulling over, are the issues of corporate responsibilities and conflicts of interest and the screeching, hyperbolic, self-righteous mob that Twitter can become at times like these and how it can sometimes feel like the only sensible medium. I am myself guilty of it. On top of all of that there sits my own personal politics and opinions on the players involved to temper. Lots and lots of grey area. Like this page.

I continue to watch all of this unfold and hope to learn from it. Comments please, to speed the process.

Mark Versus Oscar Sweepstake 2011 UPDATE

Those who were following the Oscar Sweepstakes will know that I kicked all sorts of arse in predicting the winners, beating every single entry but one. The estimable @karenlanjal managed to match my score, thus entitling her to a prize plucked from the bosom of my home.

After a reasonable (short) search I selected a prize which I hope she will find useful if only as a doorstop.

See below Karen delighted as she takes ownership of my nearly new copy of The Complete Film Production Handbook. Congratulations.

Karen holding her prize

Weeknotes for 04/07/2011

Man in bed with a coldThis post will not contain details of all achievements since the last Weeknotes and today. That would be difficult and silly and force me to make up a large amount. However, in keeping with the intention of the earlier posts I will give a little context to the absence of any post Weeknotes or otherwise.

In the gap between the last summary and this one I have found myself subject to an occasional but potent lack of focus that has managed to undermine all attempts at productivity that I have made in the last few months. On many occasions I have tried to kick-start myself back into something (usually with the idea of starting by catching up on Weeknotes) but this has not lasted more than a few days, sometimes hours. I am not certain of the root of this but at the moment it feels something like a virus that I keep treating with medicine only for it to come back having developed a resistance to the treatment. Each time it does I look for another way do fend it off and the cycle repeats. From now on I shall give my virus a name – Failpox.

Were this not a metaphorical bug but a real one, how would I go about treating it? First things first I would try to keep myself healthy. Eat and sleep well and exercise regularly. This practice applies without amendment IRL. I can try to eat and sleep better and exercise some (because I do zero exercise at the moment). I am sure that this will improve my spirits. On top of this I can exercise within the scope of the analogy by creating a trivial and repetitive ‘work’ exercise that I carry out to put me back in a work zone. More on this as I refine it, but for now I am going to call it 250 words a day, every day, on this site. I will put a specific tab under the blog menu item for them. If isn’t effective I will see how I can improve upon it.

I am also back to keeping a work journal (part of the reason this Weeknotes has actually materialised) which has already proved effective. Not that there is a huge amount in there for the week, but I am at least aware of what I am occupying my time with and when. At the moment I am feeling at a loss for accountability. I am a terrible boss to myself and an even worse employee. This will allow me to be specific when I am kicking myself. Or rewarding myself.

The reason that these particular bouts of Failpox have been so punishing is that I am currently not without abundant opportunity to succeed.  I have a some really exciting projects that require my time and energy. I should be able to muster more than I have been on the ideas alone. For some reason, however, I have found myself doing the opposite. Watching the opportunities and the energies slip away. Making bad choices and knowing they are bad when I am making them and not caring. I don’t know why this and I don’t like it, but I cannot rely on anyone else to get me to sort myself the eff out.  It’s not their job. It’s up to me.

All that being said, when you are sick it’s sometimes nice to have a person look after you and bring you chicken soup and fluff your pillow. It’s also sometimes necessary to have a person pull the blanket off you, crack a window, say you are stinking up the place and start running the shower. I’m more in need of the second someone, so boss me hereby authorises anyone holding an interest to dish out some tough love to employee me.

Together we can beat Failpox.