Sunday, 17 April 2011

Me Through the Ages

Self-absorbed introspection GO!

So I was just looking through my old facebook profile pictures and thinking about the context of each one and how my life has changed along the way, and now I am going to subject you, my readers, to those thoughts! I'll try not to bore you too much. It might even be interesting. (OH yeah, me and Buttercupliffy had a conversation about this on a bus journey, didn't we? Well, that being the case, hopefully at least you'll find it interesting)

Wow. Really young me. I'm not sure exactly how young I am in this photo, but I'm pretty sure I was still in sixth form. Everything was so much simpler back then. Though not necessarily as good.

The outfit was the uniform for a barbershop quartet I was in at the time. We weren't particularly great, and we only managed to finish learning a total of three songs, but it was fun.

I didn't have a lot of photos of myself at this point in time, so my choice of profile pictures when I originally got facebook was somewhat limited.

OK, these two photos go together, they're me showing off my 19th birthday presents - t-shirts, fancy chess set, games, CD. My original intention was to set the picture on the right as my profile picture whenever I was busy revising, as that's what I'm supposed to be doing in it.

The display on the calculator on the T-shirt, incidentally, reads "YOUR CALCULATOR CAN'T HELP YOU NOW." I have to wonder if I worried people sitting behind me when I wore it to exams.
It's merchandise for the Klein Four, an a capella group who sing songs about maths. I don't know if they still exist - nothing on the ebsite seems to have changed in the past five years - but I like the T-shirt, and the music (Even if I didn't understand all the relevant maths until my final year).

And a year later, this entirely serious photo. It's somewhat indicative of the state of my social life at this point that I haven't had any particularly notable photos taken of me for a year. Though, in that year I joined NUGSS. And of course, thus began my obsession with G&S, and something of a positive trend in that regard (One of a series of such). Likewise, about two and a half months before this, I joined the GitP forums, which have since had a similarly significant effect on my life.

Christmas! I like doing odd things with the paper hats from christmas crackers. On a previous occasion I managed to pull all my hair up through one so it hung out the top.  Sadly my attempts to repeat that since have only resulted in me ripping the hats.

'Actual Size'. From a mini-show I was in. Combination of advanced science and G&S. Performed as part of a presentation by the people responsible for the Ig Nobel prizes at the Centre for Life. Shame I can't do things like that more often - good fun, plus we got paid for it (The money naturally went into the society account). Thinking about it, I suppose this was my first ever principal role. Weird now looking back to that, and it wasn't really that long ago. A couple of years...
Also I remember being quite pleased afterwards when I was complimented on my multi-talentedness by a chessplayer I knew in the audience. I think it was Geoff Shearing, though I couldn't swear to it.

OK, at this point we get to the beginning of  the extensive series of parties - somewhere in the region of one a month - which I'd say are one of the things that really cemented some of my friendships and also gave me a steady stream of suitable profile pictures. I'm not necessarily going to include all of them, because there are many and I'd only have so much to say about each one.

First one, seen to the left, goth/emo/darkness themed for Anna's 19th. Hence all the black. As I recall, that photo came just at the point when I realised I'd forgotten to pose. That party has yet to be matched for the sheer amount of conversation it generated on facebook, in the form of excessive numbers of photo comments. Photo, incidentally, taken at the Sage Gateshead, in which I used to spend so much time that my mum referred to it as my second home. As a result, I find it a bit weird when I hear people talking about how it's a world-class concert venue and so on - because to me it's just a place.

And here is my 21st birthday. Chess theme - everyone wearing either all black or all white, but I allowed myself both, 'cause, y'know. My party. Also I'd had the sort of 'inverted suit' idea for a while and wanted to do it. Of course, I later revisited the idea and it was then the inspiration for the avatar I'm using as a picture on here.

Bunnies! Not a party.
My mum uses them for teaching, I used them for a few amusing photos. Behind me you can see the keyboard I got for my 21st birthday, for which I currently cannot find the plug, unfortunately.

Pirate. I remember this costume being the first instance of me noticing how one can be a bit prompted to act differently based on the clothes one is wearing. First time I wore that costume, I developed a swagger.
Let's see... pirate shirt ordered from the internet, necklaces borrowed from mother, headscarf is an old martial arts belt and the sashes were from my costume for the NUGSS production of Patience.
My costume also included a jacket which looked sort of naval-like, which will appear later in this blog post.

So I think by this point the general shape of my life as it is now has mostly been reached - other than the fact I'm no longer in uni. Parties with friends, G&S with G&S people, forums, choirs, chess (Though not spending a great deal of time on it).

So, the Swing Bridge Singers had a residential at Ridley Hall. Me being me, naturally I jumped at the opportunity to ponce around an old stately home wearing a waistcoat and a pocketwatch, and I just had to get a photo of such before I left, or two as it happened. This is the second, and if you compare them, I don't appear to have moved at all between the two, other than struggling not to laugh in this one. You might almost think Liffy had just been photoshopped in.

And here is me as Jack Frost, at Liffy's 21st. Twisted Fairytale theme. I was thinking of writing a story based around that sort of idea, featuring the characters we dressed up as, but I never really got anywhere with it.
You also see here the results of the one and only time I have ever dyed my hair. It's only around this point that I gradually stop thinking "Wow I look young" when looking at these photos.
Hm. We stopped doing the thing of trying to get specific photos of everyone's costumes in some nice setting like this. What gives, guys?

These two come from a christmas party and the Swing Bridge Reunion, respectively. I just really like  the way look in both of them.

Since the previous photo, I have attended my first forum meetup! Also I've learned some of the difficulties of not living with one's parents, and withdrawn from the world somewhat.

Again, I just like this one for how I look.
At some point as I recall Hazyshade was trying to get photos of everyone in our group of friends wearing that hat of his. Don't know how far he got with that.

OK, this next one is really significant, not for the photo itself, but for the memories associated with it. Behold me!

So, yeah, I was Ralph Rackstraw in a production of HMS Pinafore. Whiel I do feel that I could have done better, and that I could do even better now, it was nonetheless amazing. My favourite G&S show, my favourite role... yeah, this was really something special.

I make no comment about events which happened later in the after-show party than this photo.

Oh yeah, and there's that naval-looking jacket I mentioned. I saw it in a charity shop, thought "This is too good not to buy," and only 10-20 minutes later added to that, "And it'd be handy for HMS Pinafore next year!"

I'm a Beeblebrox!
Hmm. When was the Easter party last year? Was this before or after I handed in my MMath project? Well, either way I was getting pretty burned out on maths by this point. It didn't help that I got so into Pinafore that regular life seemed somewhat less interesting afterwards, either, but in general all the work was just feeling too much like work.

And now I'm a toy soldier and it has only been a year since the long string of parties began. See how my life suddenly got much more interesting and there were a lot more photos?
Sadly, this is the last of my profile pictures in which we see the House of Awesome and Win, as we called it. I still kinda miss that house. And I didn't even live there. It took a while before I stopped imagining future parties happening there, even though I obviously knew they wouldn't be.

And my 22nd birthday. I am a mad scientist. It was on this particular birthday I pieced together the nickname Ralph Pocketwatch. This was also the only time I was the one trying to decorate a house to fit a party theme. I'd say it worked reasonably, since if nothing else it was amusing and inspired me to run Mad Science! WW.

But my mad scientist picture was rapidly replaced by this, from the NUGSS summer show after-show party. I still don't know why I'm pouting in this photo. I just took a photo of myself and I got this.

And thanks to my being cast as Sir Roderic in Ruddigore, now begins the age of the beard! Odd to realise that. I've gotten quite used to the idea I have a beard, so it feels strange to think about when I started growing it. But then conversely it still isn't really part of my self-image. Weird.

This, I have to say, is one of my favourite photos of me ever. It makes me a happy Thufir. From my second forum meetup, last July in London. I left this as my profile picture for quite a while just because I like it. I mean, how many people get the opportunity to be hugged by their own deity? :P

Ruddigore. I really liked that portrait and I feel I should have been allowed to keep it.
Behind the scenes in my life, we have now reached the present status quo. I'm back at home with my parents, looking for a job, doing lots of Gilbert & Sullivan, wishing I had more money, wondering what to do with my life, etc...
Meetup three! Last December, Sheffield.
We are the Waistcoat Brigade!
Oh, and my beard has changed.

Of course I posted this one in the post about my beard as well. Iolanthe. I'm into my state of doing truly excessive amounts of G&S!
I always did manage my extra-curricular fun things somewhat better than the things which are supposed to be serious and important. Now I'm out of serious important things I've really ramped up the fun ones, but I do need to sort the serious.

Why must I be so rubbish out of my element?

OK, and of course the most recent, current profile picture:
Enter the Herald!
Hmm, not much of photographic interest has happened to me since The Grand Duke? Yeah, I guess not.

And to finish up, what I look like now, when recorded on a not particularly great webcam!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

I have to get my mind right.

OK, so some people may have noticed that my whole NaNoWriMoWroMo idea... didn't really pan out. Or at least they may have inferred that from the fact I stopped talking about it. I think that was down to a mixture of a sort of creative burnout and my inherent laziness.
That said, it worked a little bit. The 10000-odd words I wrote were still more than I've done for ages, and I managed to be moderately productive doing other things while procrastinating from the writing I was supposed to be doing.

But this has gotten me thinking about creativity, and how one tries to induce it. I mean, it's said that you can't force creativity - or is it inspiration that you proverbially can't force. Hmm. Because inspiration you can't really, but creativity you sort of can.
And even with inspiration, you can still possibly help it along.

Let's take writing as an obvious example. In all probability, the way I will come to start writing something, or at least wanting to write something, is by something just occurring to me as a good idea - a stroke of inspiration. Then I just have to put in some effort to figuring out the details to make the idea work, and actually do the writing.
Now say I feel like writing something, anything. Well, I can go to something I've already started, because then I don't need an inspiration - I've already had the main inspiration, I just need to get myself in the right mind-set for what I want to write. This is what I mean about being sort of able to force creativity. I have to get the conditions right for myself, I have to feel comfortable - this often involves trying to shut out any indications of the existence of the outside world, possibly shutting myself away in a room by myself, curled up with my laptop, in a hoodie, hood up, listening to music. But that's just the extreme. But the point is once I feel comfortable I just think about what I'm writing and I can come up with ideas, because I have parameters within which to work - I already know the setting, characters, etc.
As a sidenote, on obvious example for this is writing WW narrations, since they have deadlines (Technically at least - I'm not always the best at posting my narrations on time). But I can force myself to meet the deadline because I have simple parameters - a predetermined setting, and I know someone has to die, at the hands of either the village  or the werewolves. So to get a more precise idea for the narration I can just start free associating with those particular details in mind.

And here's where we get to the point where you can even kind of help yourself come to an inspiration. Obviously, random inspirations are unpredictable, but the thing is one is often inspired by something, so to try and get more inspiration, you can just look around for things to be inspired by. And this need not involve actually getting up, wandering around and looking at things. It's a mental process, so all it requires is thinking - like say, the free associating I was mentioning that I do when I don't really know what to write but I have maybe have some idea. Even if I really have no idea at all, under the right circumstances I can just throw my brain around and see where it lands, so to speak.

So really, all that I have to do is get myself into the right mind-set. Which seems to be a bit less simple than it sounds. An obvious point which applies to my recent failure in this regard is that being ill, as I have been for the past couple of weeks, really doesn't help me want to do anything. Then there's the possibility of shutting out the rest of the world, as I mentioned above. Just generally making myself comfortable - physically and mentally. If there's something that's bothering me, distracting me, it's likely to continue distracting me, which is not particularly conducive to me trying to think about writing or whatever.
Then another thing which I've found helps me think somewhat is just going for decently long walks. For some reason I tend to forget this - when I want to be writing something, it does seem a tad counter-intuitive to waste a load of time by shutting down my laptop, leaving the house and going for a walk for an hour or so, but a combination of the fresh air and the fact I really don't have anything else to do mean I start really thinking. And in any case I need more exercise.
And then there's simply the point of getting myself thinking in the right way. If I'm coming back to something I've already started, an obvious way to do this is just to read what I've already written. Again, slightly counter-intuitive, since it takes up time without advancing anything (Though it may lead to editing), but it gets me back into thinking teh right way, and reminds me of the details and how the story is flowing, etc, etc. And if it's something new? Just read something. Ideally something in a similar style to what I want to be writing, but if nothing else, reading is likely to bring me to more things which may inspire me, and seeing what someone else has done creatively helps me consider my own creativity.
So, my intention at this point is to get back to reading more, because I don't read enough these days (Unless you count forums and facebook, which I don't).

Now that I've written all that out, it seems really obvious. But that's partly because I've come across all these points before - and the significant point is that they're only obvious when I remember them, which is for some reason not all the time. Hopefully now that I've made this blog post I'll remember them more?