Topping off 2016

There’s been so much negative feeling throughout the world in 2016. So much so that it has dulled over the good things from the year. 2017 has a mammoth task to rebalance things – unlikely? Tough to predict.

I hope your year has been relatively stress free and happy. Mine has seen a work redundancy in May(swapping work stress to stress of finding a job – although working stress is harder to manage), getting my first ever telescope in September followed by the launch of my YouTube channel in November. It feels far longer but for just over a month my attention has been laid fully at creating videos on YouTube. For someone who internalises most of my thought, it’s been a great experience to use my voice and gain some spoken word confidence.

For 2017 my idea is to record one new piece of content a week. During the last month I’ve had the benefit of lots of time to play with ideas and record videos. But they’ll come a time when I can only physically manage to record once or twice a week and I should prepare now for that time.

So what about my writing here? Well during 2016 I had wanted to have a weekly update posted. This didn’t entirely work out but it’s something to again aim for during the 2nd year.

And with that I wish a Happy New Year to you all and in closing here’s my ‘best of’ from 2016;

Best album/ep’

Three by Phantogram

Ever since I picked up Voices in 2014, Phantogram have had their claws in me. Their hybrid sound is unique and all three of their albums are distinct from each other. I’m kinda happy that I don’t know of anyone in my circle that like them. Is that selfish?

Best book/comic book’

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey 

Published in 2014, The Girl With All the Gifts is my pick of 2016 by default. I read no newly published books this year(something I will look at in 2017). Shame really but M.R. Carey’s book was excellent spin on the zombie theme. I missed the film adaptation this year but it will be watching it in January upon the disc release.

2016 was an average year of reading for myself. Blame could be laid that my focus became diluted from around May when I left work. That said, I had a slow reading period from the start of 2016 which I never pushed forward from.

For 2017 I’ll be mixing up my reading with fiction/non-fiction that’s unread in my sub 300 list. Am conscious that I’ve not reading anything but fiction so looking to redress that in the new year.

Best movie’

Arrival

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I was left with a very different opinion of Amy Adams after viewing Arrival. Honestly I hadn’t taken much of an interest in the movies I’d seen her in. Sure those were only a Superman movie and American Hustle (which I must view again). But I really did underrate her as an actress. This could possibly be her best movie to date and Arrival definitely deserves another viewing. Her other film of 2016, Nocturnal Animals, I missed at the cinema which could prove to be just as satisfying.

Best muiltiplayer in a game’

Battlefield 1

Hadn’t planned to pick up Battlefield 1. It was a gut feeling that the gameplay and setting would suit me far better than the modern-day setting FPS. The slower firing/reloading weapons from the WWI setting (and the excellent design work put into producing the nice SP experience and fantastic map design for the MP) won me over.

Best story in a game’

Firewatch

Some would class Campo Santo’s Firewatch a ‘walking simulator’ but it’s far more than that. Probably the best relayed storyline in a videogame that I’ve experienced. The two protagonists, Henry and Delilah, are so well-played out that it’s hard not to empathise with them as they find themselves in stranger and stranger situations. Total recommended for those looking for something unique in gaming.

Best TV’

Stranger Things

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What can I say?

I’m no stranger to Netflix but had no inkling of Stranger Things until it was recommended to me. Then finding out that both Winona Ryder and David Harbour were in the cast gave me the push to watch the first episode. I never looked back and for anyone who grew up as a teen in the ’80s this series will have a special resonance for you.

The casting of the show was spot-on and I can only hope that season two develops upon the ideas and stories introduced in the premier. Go watch it!

Avenues, Doors and Exits

It’s hard to contain the events of April within a single entry here so if what follows is rather convoluted then I apologise for that now.

Free agent

Since finding out that my current role as a Product Specialist was being made redundant, my stable home/work pattern has been shifted and deformed. It has taken some time to fully feel my way into a new pattern – one without a paid salary.

I’ve now seen out my notice period and am considering what to do next. The obvious line of thought is to find some paid work as quickly as possible. Yet, I’ve always had the dream of writing for a living(or at least being paid for output)so this is a time that I can explore those options in greater depth. Sites like Patreon are an interesting avenue that may lead to a possible piece of fiction – not sure if it’d be short story or novel. Actually the short story format may work better within this framework. Something at least to explore in the coming weeks.

My freelance writing dried up back in 2015 but this could be an ideal time to reignite this path even if I can only find further voluntary work. It’s one of my loves and I should allow it to flourish again, at least while I have the hours to put in. Let’s see what I can involve myself in this time.

Agent to Drake

While I have enjoyed my run to the level cap in The Division, am glad I now have the sweet narrative of the last adventure of Nathan Drake to lose myself in. Both games give me something uniquely fulfilling; an ability to role-play and co-op on one hand while being immersed in a truly great piece of writing and character development on the other. Both these games have come just at the right time for me and that’s not just because I have more time to do as I please. I’m in a nicely positive frame of mind now and this escapism helps balance out the time spent on applying for new employment.

Good, good music

There are signs that 2016 will treat me well with regards to some good music. I’ve already being enjoying the latest Deftones album(Gore) which has been a real grower. A real contender for my album of the year which surprises me as I didn’t hold much hope that Gore would be such a great body of music. Yet the Deftones continue to produce and very rarely delivery anything that is half-baked.

With three gigs lined up over the coming couple of months, will mean I’ll be catching up with my London-based friends(who I’ve not seen since last year). Always good to see these friends as they are some of my oldest whose friendships date back to my early school years.

Fading Scale

Spent the last few days considering what may lay ahead in 2016. Much of the previous 12 months has been peppered with events and emotions I’d rather not repeat. That said, stargazing upon Mount Teide for my birthday was definitely the highlight of 2015. If you ever get the chance to visit Tenerife then I suggest you take a guided tour to this (currently) inactive volcano. What makes it a unique spot for stargazing? No air pollution! No aircraft are allowed to fly over this part of the island and there’s also no artificial light either. Vilaflor is the last settlement you will see on your way up at 1400 metres. I recommend stopping here for a hot drink and breath in the thinning air.

Last year also saw my reading mojo return, helped in part to the reading marathon I did in May supporting the Myaware charity. Thankfully this has carried over into this year and I no longer feel trapped into only reading books under the 250 page count. Although very little has changed over the years I have used it, GoodReads is a very useful tool for discovering and sharing the best and worst that reading has to offer. The challenge for 2016 is to read 20 books where I managed 17 in 2015.

Reality vs. Escapism

I like to be entertained. Too much reality in my day-to-day living makes me feel very dull. Escapism is protection from the dire monotony that can so easily creep into the veins and strangle the heart. I feel happy that I’ve kept the ‘child inside’ pretty healthy during my adult years. Things don’t always go to plan and maintaining a healthy balance of reality vs. escapism is my constantly evolving and shifting battleground.

Yet there is one area that has been in a progressive decline ever since it peaked during the early to mid ’90s. My appreciation of music seems to have waned severely over the decades since. I suppose this is a natural event due to friendships that I had, that were music-influenced, now no longer my core friendships. There are remnants of those ties but as the friends, that are left in these circles, no longer have that influence over me each day I really can’t expect too much. I find that kinda sad to say as there have been some great records over the last few years that I have loved(Arctic Monkeys & QOTSA) it’s just that these are far less than the glory days of the 1990’s.

Writing fanzines during my peak musical-influenced years to writing online, since 2006 has definitely shaped my outlook and allowed for some excellent reality/escapism balancing. I hope to continue this with during 2016(and onwards) with my journal writing.