All Roads Lead to Home

The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ was originated by Ella Winter, and popularised by Tom Wolfe as the title of a novel. It’s a phrase that comes back to me regularly with regards to thoughts of moving away from my home town, moving house on an almost annual basis since, growing up and becoming a different person etc. I’m not always sure how ‘at home’ I feel, but maybe I’m just chasing a feeling that I can never recapture. It doesn’t matter what I do to recreate my old bedroom; amassing a new key ring collection, a new assortment of baseball caps I would never wear, or a new hockey trophy for a tournament I never played in. I was a weird kid.

In a very literal sense, I can never go back to my childhood bedroom, because my parents don’t live in that house anymore. Sure, I could knock on the front door, greet the confused inhabitants, and convince them that it’s worth letting a stranger into their house just so he can prove Ella Winter wrong. But even if I could, I’d go into that room, possibly still a child’s bedroom, and all I would feel is a gut-wrenching pang of lost time. Maybe I’d lament the missing Matrix Revolutions poster, (with the appropriate tag line, ‘everything that has a beginning has an end’) the lack of a tiny grey cathode ray television in the corner, and the absence of a singular smell of adolescence. But what I’d miss most is not the objects, or the geography of it, but the feeling of being a pedantic, insufferable sixteen-year-old, yet to decide whether to dedicate his life to any one thing in particular, aside from making sneering corrective remarks at every opportunity.

One reasoning for the direction in which we view time, past into present into future, is the gradual increase in entropy the universe undergoes. The past has already happened, it is set, we agree that these things cannot be changed. They have a lower entropy, a lower level of disorder than the future, in which a greater number of possible versions of reality exist. But there’s comfort in remembering the past. It’s safe. Just ask fans of Peter Kay’s stand up. We know what happened, we know who we were back then, but we can’t say the same about the future. You can never be who you were, and while we should be okay with that, and happy to grow and progress, it’s just another reminder of the inexorable march of time, just like sitting through Peter Kay’s stand up.

Would I really want to be the version of myself I was when I lived in that bedroom? Where I wrote a bucket-list in which I somehow expressed an equal desire to ‘fall in love’, ‘see the Mona Lisa up close’, ‘go to New York’ and ‘con McDonald’s into giving me a free meal’. Where I would paint my Warhammer figurines. Where I lost my virginity (those last two were necessarily many years apart). I want to go back to my old self and tell them that writing a list like that is bullshit. Pointless. What you want will change, and you shouldn’t feel beholden to a promise you made to yourself in the past. Plus McDonald’s really isn’t that expensive. I want to encourage myself to be more in the moment. I’d say not to look forward to the completion of a stupid list, only done so for its own sake. And maybe I’d give some tips regarding losing my virginity. Maybe I’d even get it right.

I used to fantasise about going back in time to my twelve-year-old body with the mind I have now, and being even more of a know-it-all irritant at school, but having the foresight to not worry about the little things. Also knowing which of my classmates would turn out to be followers of the BNP on Facebook, making me feel a touch less rueful of their lack of approval. But what would that do? Realising that nothing I did mattered until I turned eighteen? I’d become a tiny nihilist, accosting teachers and classmates for the tiniest of transgressions, using my knowledge of the future for personal gain and generally being a fucking nuisance. I’d be Biff from Back to the Future.

What’s the point in looking back unless it’s to learn something? I know I was a little shit. I also know that what I wanted then doesn’t matter. I’ve been in love, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa up close (if you want to know what that was like, just Google ‘Mona Lisa’) and I’m going to New York soon. Not because my sixteen-year-do self told me to. Frankly I’d rather not do what that idiot told me to, he had a fucking Matrix Revolutions poster on his wall. Don’t worry McDonald’s, you’re safe.

Next time on the Bandwagon, I’ll be discussing my new fad diet, wherein I eat what I want for a week, then eat nothing for three weeks, fake my death, move to Italy and gradually work back up to my ideal weight using pasta and wine.

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On the Originality of the Species

Brief disclaimer, in the following entry, I may well refer to myself as a ‘creative’ or ‘creative person’. If this comes across as pretentious, I apologise. It is merely intended to come across as fiercely accurate and self-aggrandising.

People who work in some sort of creative capacity are usually seeking one or more of the following; recognition, an increase in proficiency of their creativity/skill, the opportunity to explain their creativity/skill in a patronising manner to a non-creative lay-person (referred to in creative circles as ‘social furniture’), and of course, originality.

Some of these can be achieved by attempting another; a talent for originality can encourage the practise required to reach greater proficiency, which means it becomes a bigger part of your life and you talk about it to people, leading to recognition as an insufferable, self-absorbed bore.

But isn’t originality a myth? Hasn’t everything been done? I mean Christ, I’m only writing about originality because I just finished reading a book about it. If I were really being original, I’d write about a totally new subject, such as the aerodynamics of salad tongs when fired through crepe paper, or whether candles are basically chips if you’re a Madame Tussaud display. Not interesting topics, but original I’d wager. And is originality a worthy enough end alone? Would it be unoriginal to communicate a familiar feeling to an audience as a way to vindicate that feeling? Or is originality important only as the vessel?

What if I were to expound the well-worn subject of the inferiority of aeroplane food in a totally new and unrecognisable way? Perhaps by suggesting that we have no other high-altitude food to compare it to so maybe we should be grateful. If we found that things tasted amazing on a hang-glider, then we’ll talk. Is that necessarily parody, or is there always a new way of studying any subject in a way that makes it appear new? And is there any point if you end up reaching the same conclusion?

As an exercise for how difficult it is to be totally original, I thought I would try to come up with a brief idea for 5 stories that I don’t think have ever existed before. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. A giraffe is spontaneously transported to the centre of an alien planet and learns to control it from within via the use of Jenga.
  2. Time and Space realise their relationship is disintegrating and hope that having a child will rekindle things. The child is called Stephen and he becomes a groundskeeper for a golf course.
  3. The year is 1782, but everyone is convinced it is 1783 already. Hilarity ensues.
  4. A series of time lapse photographs of grazing cattle becomes sentient and runs for president.
  5. Sweden unveils a new national anthem that tacitly ostracises cheese-lovers. People who claim to be addicted to cheese have to face the reality that they simply have no personality.

I’d like to think that some of these seem pretty original, if unworkable as premises for stories. And certainly I can trace the lineage of some of these ideas to my own influences. In hindsight, number 3 is similar to a fake documentary short I wrote about an 8-year-old girl who thinks she’s 9 and subsequently requires surgery. And number 5 is probably just me thinking cheese is overrated.

A lot of stories we know owe at least something to a previous iteration, and I don’t just mean the idea of there being ‘only seven stories’ or as the ending to The Amazing Spider-Man posits, only one story: ‘who am I?’ which seems rather apt for a film that itself had trouble reconciling its own identity. I mean that I can’t get my head around the creativity of the first person, for example, to use time-travel as a story conceit, as it inevitably leads to the exploration of ideas of free will and determinism, as well as the idea that more people than you’d expect seem to be up for murdering their own grandfather just to prove a point.

It feels so familiar a device now, but the originality required to be able to describe something as weird as moving through time in the wrong direction astounds me. I thought a good analogy for that is a story I heard about how Native Americans were apparently unable to see Columbus’ huge ships approaching them due to having no precedent for structures of that size or shape. I liked how that seemed to illustrate the reticence with which people can react to new ideas. However, upon further reading, I discovered that story to be a load of horseshit popularised by a pseudo-science documentary, misinterpreted from a cherry-picking of John Banks’ journal of Cook’s expedition to Australia, in which the natives can very clearly see the ships. Maybe that’s the key then. Take an original idea, twist and misinterpret it beyond recognition from its source, and present it as something new.

I’ve always wondered if it’s possible still to come up with such an original and multi-purpose idea as time travel for use in fiction. I just don’t like the thought that we’ve reached a point where nothing new can exist. What about teleporting limbs as a sci-fi concept? Send your leg to Spain for some reason, or send your arm to draw cocks in moon dust? If artists borrow and geniuses steal, maybe it’s just for idiots to convince themselves they should bother trying anything new. But look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t want to see a movie of a giraffe controlling an entire planet with Jenga.

Next time on the bandwagon, something unoriginal, cliched and derivative. Or a story about turning all the faberge eggs in the world clockwise by two degrees and seeing if anyone notices.

I Wrote About Sensationalism – You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

People will tell you that 2016 was the worst year ever… EVER. At least the mindset of the worst being behind us puts us in a better mood for the year ahead (remember the women’s March? That was so good people couldn’t even wait until March, they had to do it in January). But 2016 was the worst? Really? Remember like, polio and stuff? No, neither do I, I hadn’t been born yet, that’s how far away we are from it now, my whole brilliant life so far, plus more. Remember when Hitler? Or before we evolved the need for cool sunglasses? Let’s get some perspective guys, especially if your cool sunglasses have prescription lenses.

 

I’m not going to give you the whole ‘let’s give Trump a chance’ spiel because that’s what got the city of Troy in trouble with that big wooden horse. ‘Hey I know it’s from the Greeks, but let’s give it a chance, maybe it’s full of money and wishes.’ Just that we need to dial it back sometimes on the hyperbole. Otherwise we’re no better than him. Him who has ‘the best words. Everyone knows it.’

 

Remember when BBC News 24 launched, and everyone was panicking that either there was actually much more news than we realised, or that the channel would struggle to fill the time? I don’t think that helped. That constant need to fill a void, be it dead air or head space, then migrated to the click-bait articles of the Internet, making us all believe that we cared about the net worth of Charles M. Schultz, or what that kid from Jerry Maguire looks like now (he’s ripped). Luckily we’re moving past that to an extent, and if you don’t believe me, check out the Facebook group ‘Stop Clickbait’, or look for any meme or joke that ends ‘you won’t believe what happens next’, such as the unimaginative, derivative title of this blog. We are becoming savvy consumers of media, gradually more able to discern real from fake, and fake from ‘alternative’. More and more people are, in the parlance of our times, ‘woke’.

 

The closest I came to buying in to apocalyptic media hype was leading up to the activation of the Large Hadron Collider, during which time everyone was told that the machine would be used to recreate the conditions of The Big Bang, leading to a possibility that they would create a black hole, which would of course swallow us all up.

Feel free to cast your mind back to recall whether this did in fact occur, and then whether any of the news outlets reporting this seemed to do so with any level of authority or knowledge on the subject. It puts me in mind of the time I was stopped by a Jehovah’s Witness in the street as a teenager. I explained my beliefs, what I thought happens after death etc. She asked how I thought the universe got here then? I suggested The Big Bang. She replied, ‘Yes but, if we had a Big Bang now… we’d all die wouldn’t we?’ I had to admit, as irrelevant a question as that was, she had me. We would all die. All of a sudden she had me thinking about physics, when all I’d been planning to do that day was go to my A Level Physics lesson, which I was now late for.

As it turns out, the peeps at the LHC were trying to recreate conditions very similar to those immediately after the Big Bang, in terms of pressure, temperature etc. They were not trying to create a new universe, so apologies to those people that think everything’s so fucked at the moment that we may as well try.

 

Oh yeah, and remember the whole 2012 Mayan prophecy thing? Turns out they just stopped their calendar, not that the world would necessarily end. At least we got a terrible Roland Emmerich movie out of it, wherein John Cusack tries to escape a planet-wide apocalypse by driving away in a car. Oh yeah, and remember the time I convinced myself I had a brain tumour while at work? Turns out I’d just had one more coffee than usual which gave me a headache and fast-tracked me to Anxietyville. I would’t recommend you visit Anxietyville by the way; all paving is crazy paving, all warts are worry-warts and all the road signs just direct you to ‘bed’ even though no-one sleeps. And not in a cool New York way. In a less cool heart-palpitations way. Oh and everyone watches Gogglebox or something. Satire.

One thing that confuses me is the idea that everything is worthy of comment. Nothing is above reproach of course, or irreverence, but why talk about something as inconsequential as Trump’s hairstyle or whether or not the kid from Jerry Maguire is ripped (again, he is), when we should be discussing the actual things Trump does, and the actual things the kid from Jerry Maguire is doing now (according to Wikipedia, he was in a movie called Loserville last year. Looking ripped probably).

 

Scientists are not trying to destroy the world, which Mayans did not predict, and they are not acting under the orders of President Trump. He hates science. What he really cares about is fashion. I mean just look at that hair.

 

 

Next time on the Bandwagon, a full retrospective on the career of Jonathan Lipnicki, aka the kid from Jerry Maguire. Spoiler alert, he works out a lot.