Trapped

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I’m slightly claustrophobic. I don’t get panic attacks or anything like that just thinking about it but I hate being confined. (Bondage I’m alright with but that’s probably too much information) No it’s the feeling of feeling stuck with no way out that gets me.
But thinking about it recently it’s not just being physically trapped that I hate. It’s the whole feeling of being trapped by life I hate. My last relationship broke up partly because we had fallen into a rut and things weren’t moving. Since then I’ve been kind of liking living the single life but again feeling trapped by life. I hate my job and have very little hobbies so I get this image of this sand timer slowly running out and thinking I’ve got to get out and do things.
It’s not always that easy though. Ok yes this week I’ve applied for a new job. Fingers crossed. It’s a scary thought for as much as I hate the job I’m in it is secure. I’ve got used to it over the last four years and moving on is moving out of that comfort zone.

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It’s the same with relationships. My interest in girls has picked up again recently now that I’ve had some time to myself. I need to get back out into the social world. I’m just not that good at it. I feel awkward in social events. Quiet and withdrawn to begin with which isn’t the best impression. There’s a girl I’ve known for a while who I like and so I’ve decided I’m going to see what happens. I’m going to try and make some moves. (Is that the right phase?) Just simple things like actually trying to chat to her instead of being shy in case I say something wrong. If anything at least it’s an escape attempt from this life I’m now in. I’ve spent years thinking she was out of my league and that I wasn’t good enough. And so I’ve never tried.
Funnily enough I’ve been catching up with other friends recently. One is married but it’s not a good relationship. She feels trapped in a rut. Another friend is single at the moment. Her latest try with someone didn’t work out. She feels disappointed and trapped wondering why she can’t meet someone nice. Oddly both those friends are women that I’ve been interested in before. One was a close friend and one was someone I got to know through and arranged date. But sadly in both situations I wasn’t the one for them. I just wasn’t their type. So they’ve gone on and gone with those they feel are their type and now it hasn’t worked out.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking any pleasure out of the fact I got turned down and then things don’t work out for them. They are friends and all I want for any of my friends are for them to be happy whether that is with me or someone else. And going back through the messages that use to pass between us I can see I was flirty, funny (I hope) and above all good at talking to people.
So why can’t I do that now? Why is it I get sent a simple message by this girl and I have to think about a reply for ten minutes? Worrying about whether I’m going to say the right thing or not. Then when I do reply I get nothing back. Did the conversation just end? Did my reply bomb? Or is she busy and just not replied? I want to compliment a photo of her, on how pretty her eyes are, but is the comment going to sound cheesy, creepy or will it be liked. I realise that I have become trapped within my own world of self-doubt.
But I’m a good guy aren’t I? I try to help others. I’m not mean or abusive. All my previous relationships have ended naturally and with me still being on friendly terms with them. Is it true women like the bad guys? I have plenty of women friends all happy to give me advice. Be yourself. Don’t try so hard. You a great guy, it’ll happen. Surely the best place to get advice about women is from other women. Even if they’re not interested in me themselves, hmmm.
I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this girl but then I don’t know what’s going to happen with this job or even with me in the future. We’ll just have to see and hope. And if not pick myself back up and try again. I sometimes feel like the donkey in the well.

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But either way I’ve got to keep moving. All I can do is fight and search and stay alive because somehow I will find…….. Hold on I’m back quoting Ashes to Ashes again. But the thought is still the same. I’ve got to keep trying to stop feeling trapped by life but to take control and go for it.

Positive thoughts.

 

Angel as a Role Model

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When I wrote the original role model piece years ago Angel was the last one I added on it. In fact the series had just ended. Although originally a character in Buffy, the vampire slayer the series found its own way to go. The main theme of Angel is quite clearly one of redemption. Angel was a vampire killer but was given his soul back and so now feels guilty about his past. He is quite literary battling his inner demon(s). At the time I was going through some things that resonated with this theme and so it is little wonder that I felt a little connected to the character. As such it was what inspired me to write the original piece about the role models I my life as I tried to put myself back together.
It would not be the last time that life knocked me down and like Spider-man I would have to force myself back up and to carry on. Like Duncan MacLeod I would have to explore inside myself and find inner peace with my decisions and the bad things of my past. To carry on trying to be the good guy that I wanted to be led by the morals and the sense of right that I had learned as a kid from He-man and Robin of Sherwood.
But with Angel there was a sense of trying to get out there and do things to make up for my past. To try and make a difference in the world and to the people around me. Spider-man felt a responsibility to go out and help people. He-man too was given his powers to be the hero. Robin Hood felt a sense of justice to fight back. For Angel it was all about trying to make amends by doing the right thing.
This is clear in Buffy where as a character he helps Buffy until that time when completely happy he turns back into his dark identity of Angelus. By the time he comes back to normal he realises he must leave Buffy and Sunnydale behind. Buffy the series is a metaphor for growing up, the demons metaphors for the trials and tribulations of going through teenage life and into adulthood. Here is after season three a bit of a shift in tone for the series as we see Buffy trying to make her way in the world after high school. Angel the series is a lot darker. (well for the most part)

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This is now showing us a metaphor for being a grown up and having to live in the world. Angel and his friends may start their investigations agency with the aim to help the lost souls of Los Angles but it’s not long before the reality hits that they need to charge sometimes for their services. The must make a living from what they do. There is no great wealth hidden away for our heroes to concentrate simply on helping people. The closest hero on this list that comes close to being in the same situation as Angel is Peter Parker who is seen always struggling to make ends meet while trying to still help the world as a hero. What we do get with Angel is a show that considers what makes life meaningful in amongst the rigors of everyday life in which we get caught up in. We see this not just with Angel’s actions but also the relationships of those around him.
The series also deals with loss and with making sacrifices. We have Angel initially trying to forget the love of his life and get on with his life, shutting himself away from people, a brooding figure, and it’s interesting to see how the cast grows over the five series as Angel becomes more at peace with who he is. But there is also more lost to come with one of the initial characters dying in the first part of the first season. It is made clear from this moment on that this is a show that is going to deal with darker issues.
And it does this most with season five showing what can happen when you make compromises to get what you want. Even though death has been shown throughout the series the death of Fred is both sudden and shocking. As for the final, it is possibly one of the darkest endings for a show that I have seen. (The only other one I can personally think of is Blake’s 7) It’s an emotional rollercoaster which left me in complete shock. In hind sight I can see it was really the only good way the show could end and it also highlights the whole theme of redemption as Angel and his team make the ultimate sacrifice in order to do the right thing.

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The line that sticks in my mind most from the show, and one of the most quoted, is one that I try to live by. “If nothing we do matters then all that matter is what we do”. It is something that resonates with me even more after I studied philosophy. Sometime are actions might not make that much of a difference to the world. Sometimes it may make thing a little better for a while but the actions will soon be overshadowed by the realities of life. But we should still do what we think is right even if such actions are futile. And this is true especially if we are trying to make up for something in our past. This is something that Angel learns when he finds out that there may not be some great destiny of final win to aim for. It’s about little acts of kindness.
As mentioned in the Highlander post there is the point about accepting yourself for who you are good or bad. With Angel there is the message that you can make up for that past by trying to be a better person and do the right thing no matter how dark things are. Angel realises this at last. It’s not about doing it for any reward or redemption but simply to help. It is important to try and make that difference, to stand up and be counted. And maybe then when we finally face death we can do it with courage, safe in our knowledge that we lived the best life we could and tried to make a difference and what more could someone want in that final moment.

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Secret Identities Not just for superheroes

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I’ve been thinking a lot about secret identities recently. In my novel the main character is a guy who is a cross dresser and develops a female alter ego who slowly starts to take over. In a recently written scene where my character is having a bit of a crisis about who he is and who he wants to be he has a dream which ends with him reviling he/she is Supergirl. The dream as I wrote it is meant to represent my character embracing who they really are. It symbolises the two identities in his life.

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Now this is a novel I started years ago in university as part of my course (I took a novel writing module in my third year.) It was to write a first chapter and I got a B grade and was pleased with the piece. I always felt it was worth finishing so after a bit of a break, both in time and relationship I returned to writing early last year. Currently I’m on chapter eighteen which is where I wrote the dream sequence. Now I have a rough plan in my head where the novel is going but not specifics and the dream sequence was thought up yesterday on the spot. That said it felt that there was something familiar about it that stuck in the back of my head until suddenly at 3am this morning I remembered why. Part of the module all those years ago in uni had been to write chapter one of the novel. The other assignment had revolved around a 500 word essay about the influences on the novel. And it was in part of that assignment where I mentioned Batman as an influence. I had ‘forgotten’ it until now although the theme was still in my head.
It also got me re thinking about secret identities, something that has always fascinated me. After all the first two heroes in the role model blogs both have secret identities. There is always the thrill when I see Adam turn to He-man, something as a kid I acted out numerous times. He goes from the weak Prince Adam to the strongest man in the universe, hero of Eternal. An actual physical change. There is the whole underlying masturbation metaphor of a boy turning into a man, secret powers that were revealed when he held aloft his magic sword but we won’t got into that right now. (err just how many of my heroes actually weld swords?)
Then there is Spider-man. Of course his costume, like other costumed heroes, is to protect his secret identity and therefore keep him and their his family safe but we also notice that often Peter Parker feels freer as Spider-man swinging about town. He is metaphorically raising above his troubles. He can appear to be more confident as spider-man then Parker especially in his early high school days. So like my character the alter ego in the ‘costume’ allows them to have more freedom and to be whom they’d like to be. However in the movie Spider-man 2 we see how there is a struggle with the duel identities.

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But of course earlier I mentioned Batman. Batman is a fascinating case because even though it is Bruce Wayne starting out as Batman it can be a bit confusing to who the secret identity is. After his parents die young Bruce embarks upon a mission to train himself to fight crime. He learns martial arts, the sciences. He trains himself to be the world’s best detective. He uses his wealth to build the various gadgets and vehicles he’ll need. The only reason he uses a costume is that he needed something that would help install fear in his enemies. In the meantime he portrays Bruce Wayne as a carefree party animal. It raises the question which is really the secret identity. Batman or Bruce Wayne. There is a case to be made that the real person here is the one who goes out dressed up as a bat. It was this blurred line that I wanted to install in my novel with the male and female alter egos being blurred to who was the real person and who was the lie. Which identity hid the real person? Like in Spider-man 2 I wanted this to be a struggle between the two identities.

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I’m going to side step a minute to talk about Batman. There is something fascinating about him so much so that I had thought about doing a blog just on him. I think as kids many of us have a superhero we’d like to be mainly because they have some great power. But with Batman he becomes a hero though hard work, determination and discipline. He is (if rather unlikely) a hero that anyone could become. After all anyone could train in martial arts. Others can train their minds to solve complex crimes or become a forensic expert. And with money you could use technology to build gadgets. Batman represents the pinnacle of what mankind could achieve without the added benefits of some supernatural ability. Obviously there are many other heroes that fall into this category and Batman is simply an example of one. The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the earliest. But there is a realism to these types of hero even if the feats they perform are not and today there are some people out there that do go out as costumed heroes.
Anyway returning to the themes of my novel for a moment while the Batman/Bruce Wayne theme runs through it the dream sequence has Supergirl. Why? Well when you think about it Supergirl (and for that matter Superman) is the secret identity. It is in fact Kara (and Clark) who is the mask with which she hide behind. For my character it is telling him to discard the secret identity he is hiding under and emerge as the more powerful true alter ego.

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There are I’m guessing many people out there that have secret identities or wish they had. Some may want to be heroes. Some just may want to be a different version of themselves. And some may want to be the person they would love to be but are too scared to be that person. They have to go into the real world hiding their real selves away. For those brave enough to dare take their alter ego out into the world there is of course the real fear that their secret identity may be found out. And to those who have had their Supergirl/Superman moment I say well done even if tinted with more than a hint of jealousy.
Of course it is lucky that for my character that he can pass easily for a woman even though he carries the fear of being found out. There is of course a bit of myself woven throughout the novel. Well they say to write about what you know. For myself I’ve been pushing my boundaries a little bit. Kind of testing my abilities. Little trials hidden in darkness. No great launch of my alter ego into the world. (Although I really would like a supergirl fancy dress outfit) Rather like Bruce Wayne I would have to put in a lot of disciplined hard work first. No magical way to transform myself in a blaze of energy into someone different and I’m still not sure who I really am yet anyway. I’ll carry on for the moment living in my secret identity. Maybe one day one of the pics on here will be ‘me’.

 

Highlander as a role model

So eventually returning to the hero series it’s time to talk about my next role model. He is Duncan MacLeod, The Highlander.

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Now with Highlander and indeed the next hero we have something a little different because where the heroes before were heroes from my childhood influencing me as I grew up. But I came across Highlander one night watching sky back in around 1994 if I remember right (either way it was half way through series two). By now I was what could be considered a young adult but I believe that we can always find mentors, role models and lessons throughout our lives so there was still stuff I could learn from Duncan MacLeod.
For a start there is the fact that once again we have a sword bearing hero and to be fair the sword fight scenes in the series are one of the highlights. But unlike He-man and Robin of Sherwood this is just a normal everyday sword not some magical powerful artefact although the lighting effects that follow a beheading is cool. MacLeod is also very well trained in martial arts (as is Adrian Paul, the actor who plays him) and it was because of watching this programme that I eventually took up martial arts myself including sword work.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I was not that good at it, I didn’t practise as much as I should have and at times I found it quite difficult. I did it for about a year but I did get to my yellow belt (the first upgrade) so it’s still something I can be proud of.
The show also taught me to be aware of life itself and how short it is. There is one episode where MacLeod berates a fellow immortal of not following his dreams stating that most people grow old and die before realising them. This to me is a great lesson that we should get out there. Life is for living and to strive for our goals. It’s interesting that Macleod and the final two heroes on the list are immortal in a way or at least live longer than normal lives. It does show that immortality can be more of a curse and what it means to be human.

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MacLeod also shows other traits such as personal honour, a sense of moral duty and an acceptance for who you are. If we take a look at the character we see that in his life he has fought in many wars and taken down many immortals and mortals. He is at heart a warrior raised by a warrior clan in the 1400’s. Where you could draw a similarity with the early MacLeod and He-man, both being warriors He-man is always a clear cut good guy. It is impossible for him to do bad things. MacLeod on the other hand has chosen sides in wars, he has killed people. He is more realistic and therefore not as clear a hero as He-man. The same can be said with Spider-man in that Spider-man never aims to kill anyone. The closes comparable hero we have looked at so far then is Robin Hood where we have someone who has chosen to fight for honour even if it means having to kill at times. (and it should be just pointed out here that I’m not justifying killing per say but that it does mark these two heroes as flawed heroes or even to a degree antiheroes.
Here is a role model who in later life is disciplined and uses meditation to reflect on problems in his life and to bring calm. Thus he is able to balance his role as a warrior and being peaceful. Many time in my life I have battled my way through life that sometimes it has felt like I’ve been fighting a hard battle and sometimes I need to step back and take a rest and enjoy the good things I have in my life. Such times have come and gone but there has always been some other good thing come along and that keeps me fighting against the difficult things in life.

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Finally in his final episode there is a line where he thanks fellow immortal Methos saying that he has taught him that life is about change, about accepting who you are, good or bad. He knows he has done some bad things in his life, as mentioned above, even if he believed he was right at the time. But he has come to accept who he has been and made peace with that. This too is a lesson that can be taken from the show. I have made mistakes in my past and there is nothing I can do to change them but I can learn from them and move on and try to be a better person. The part about accepting change is also very poignant. Over the course of the series through the use of flashbacks we see how his life had changed and it highlights how people and places have come into and out of his life. In the second season we see his long term girlfriend killed and after a time MacLeod had to move on. The fact that the song Dust in the wind is used following the aftermath of Tessa’s death is very apt. It is something that I have kept in mind ever since that people and situations will change throughout my life and I’ve learnt to enjoy the moment knowing that it can soon be gone. Uni is a great example of this as I was very aware that it would end one day.
MacLeod therefore ends up being the role model that makes me look at my inner self and to my past and try to find peace with myself and that past. He also make me more aware of my limited time in the world and to try and make the most of it. To enjoy friends and adventures while I can.

 

Musings on death

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This wasn’t planned for the blog. I’ve been working on a couple of pieces including the next hero blog when lying in bed last Thursday night (28th December) and suddenly had to go back onto my laptop and onto Facebook for something. There in the little trending column something caught my eye. Sue Grafton, Author dead. Sad news indeed. But then I had only just discovered her books, The Alphabet mystery Series starring private detective Kinsey Millhone about two years ago when I then started collecting them and currently making my way through the range. I can’t even remember now how I came to learn about them, some research for University if I remember correctly. In fact in a bit of an odd synchronicity I had just finished reading F is for Fugitive the day before. I felt saddened of course but partly because the mystery line now ends. She had written books A to Y. Z is for Zero would have been the last final novel for Kinsey. But now that will never come to pass. An incomplete series. When I get to Y is for Yesterday and finish it I’ll know that will be it, the story not quite complete. It is of course it is completely selfish on my part. But I’ve never met Sue Grafton, never talked to her or even seen her on TV. She is a name on a range of books I’m reading and a Wikipedia entry I’ve read through.
Then again personal mourning is in a way selfish. We feel sad because we will miss the person gone. Words not said, things left undone, a suitcase of memories and still frames in your mind. We feel sad because their going means a change in our own lives.
I think on that night as I read through various comments from other people about adding my own comment. About how I’m one of her readers, new but still now a part of this group of admirers and fans. I don’t. Somehow I don’t feel I have the right. I’m not saying that those who did comment didn’t either. There was some lovely messages posted. But while I’m here I will admit that at the very least Kinsey in a little way influenced parts of my own novel and the character of Bernice in my book so I’m grateful to Sue for giving me that as well as the pleasure of reading her novels. But it’s Kinsey that I’m going to miss. The character has died alongside her creator without closure. I hate unfinished business.
It is an odd thing to feel sadness for some celebrity that has passed on. With friends and family it is people you have been close to who, as I said above, have left a hole in your life. But when it comes to a celebrity death the hole that is made is because we can still feel a connection to that person because they have somehow touch our lives. The first celebrity that really touched me was George Peppard. Cigar chopping leader of the A Team that had thrilled me as a kid. That’s all I knew him from, I knew nothing of his film career before. To me it wasn’t George Peppard that had died it was Hannibal Smith. It was part of my childhood. It was years later I found out about his feud with Mr T and feeling disappointed that this image of a team of actors coming together to make this show hadn’t got on. I wanted the chance to tell him that not everyone preferred Mr T to Hannibal. I wanted to be like Hannibal with the plans and the leadership. (Although Murdock was my favourite cause he was funny)
You see it’s that personal connection. Whilst writing this I glance through the BBC webpage of notable deaths for 2017. Sue Grafton isn’t on it. Colin Dexter is. The creator of Inspector Morse. He died in March, I didn’t know. His death brings a sense of ‘oh’. I was more saddened by Morse actor John Thaw’s death. The person I had seen playing Inspector Morse. I’ve never read the books. I feel disconnected.
Much of course has been made about the infamous 2016 where we seemed to lose a load of big name celebrities. Alan Rickman, Bowie, Prince. For me personally it was Robert Vaughn again the A Team but before that The Man from Uncle another programme I grew up watching. And then of course Hustle. A series I watched from start to finish and quite often watch the repeats. At least Hustle got a final end. But when I think of Robert Vaughn I think of Albert Stroller or Napoleon Solo because I don’t know Robert Vaughn. I don’t know what he was really like. I have only his characters to go on.
See these are my ‘heroes’, they are supposed to be around for ever, immortalised. That’s why we feel shock and sadness when we see a favourite TV character die. Something that the soaps have capitalised on for the Christmas season. No longer is it the season to be jolly but instead an excuse to pull at the heartstrings with some beloved character killed off. Its characters that we have got to know, an insight to some made up world that we become a part of. Their story finished. (Unless it’s a superhero/villain or any character created by Steven Moffat that we know will probably somehow get resurrected in some way). We as humans do seem to have some morbid curiosity with death.
As a Doctor Who fan I felt sad when Jon Pertwee died in 1996 but it’s been watered down somewhat since because stories of the third Doctor continued on. First with novels and now Big Finish have a range with Tim Treloar doing the voice. The third Doctor carries on much like how David Bradley recently did the first Doctor this Christmas. ‘Sort of a way of cheating death’. But this is years after the actor has passed on. When popular ex companion actress Liz Sladen died in the middle of filming the fifth series of the Sarah Jane Adventures the series aired with only the completed episodes. The loss to raw, the idea of recasting or carrying on the shoe somehow deemed (quite rightly) unthinkable. The wound still fresh, the story brought to a sudden and unplanned finish. I hate unfinished business. Of course not all fans like the idea of these recasts but in some ways at least they remain ‘almost’ faithful to their original portrayal. I suppose that’s why I hate remakes. The A Team film, The Dukes of Hazard films, reboots of childhood favourites that doesn’t match the original. A tarnished version. At least with Ghostbusters (2016) they used new characters. I’m ok with Hawaii Five 0 because I never watched the original and there is no connection. (I’m surprisingly ok with the new MacGyver as well though I was sceptical at first.)
But I’m getting slightly off topic. The fact is would I had felt differently about the death of Sue Grafton if she had already finished the range? I have to answer an honest yes, to a degree. Because I’m still working through those novels and I have a way to go. They are currently part of my life and the death hangs over them now like a shadow. It would still sadden me a little when I had read it that night and then it would have been put in the back of my mind like some of the others this year such as Rodney Bewes, Keith Chegwin and Sean Hughes, People I’ve watched in the past that bring a little sadness at their passing but that I’ve moved on from. Oddly enough I have been watching the Bottom Live shows. One last week, one tonight and it was tonight as I read written by Rik Mayell and Ade Edmondson that it hits me again that Rik is no longer with us. There will never be another Bottom, live or otherwise. With Rik dead so is that character now dead. When I now watch these shows I know I am watching something that will never be able to be continued. The same feeling I’ll get when I finally reach that ‘final’ novel. I hate unfinished business.

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But at least there is one glimmer I suppose we can take from writers, actors, singers, characters et al that we lose is that their work, which is their connection to us, will be their legacy. A lasting footprint on our world. Always personal, sometime cultural. Conan Doyle, Elvis Presley, Eric Morecambe all still remembered to this day. So the same can be said for the immortal characters created in this world. It will probably be many years before I reach that last novel. Maybe by then I will have finished my own novel, maybe even hopefully be published, my own little stake on immortally. As the Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero said “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living”.