2017

E͌R̰̟͔̪͉̕RO̖͇͙̍̋ͤͥͥ̌ͦR̖̭͋̆̓ͮ͋̂̚ ̄͏͉̩̩̦͔4̵̱̳̝ͨͩͬͅ0ͧ͌̓4̗̼̖̩̺̱̿̀̏̄̋ͧ͋͠ : ̜͉̤̮̟̞͉ͥ̔ͩ͋ͫ̔́Y͆̋͆̀̚̚Ě̗̟͈̩͒̓̌̀̿̕Â̲̣ͪ̽͆ͬ̾̉̀aR̫̯̜̈̓̆͂ ͇ͯ̿͗̏̋̓N̬̘̒̍̈́0Ť̆̉̅̈̒͞ ̭̦F͈̳̤̈ͮͪ̃O̜̬̠̞ͨͩ̓̅ͫ̚͞ͅ(U̸͑̊̐ͧ̒̚N̤͙̬̯ͥ́D)͌̍ͪ̕¿¿¿

“So get up and stop your complaining
You know that you’re the only one who’s been destroying all the fun
Look what happened when you were dreaming
Then punch yourself in the face.” 
LCD Soundsystem, ‘american dream’ (American Dream)

int main()
{
int c;
cout<<"\nEnter your choice\n";
cout<<"1.Shutdown \n";
cout<<"2.Restart \n";
cin>>c;
switch(c)
{
case 1:cout<<"Your system will be closed after 30 seconds \n\n";
system("c:\\reality\\universe\\milkyway\\node23\\sol\\earth\\14091994\\close /s /t 30 \n\n");
break;

case 2:cout<<"your system will be restarted in 30 seconds\n\n";
system("c:c:\\reality\\universe\\milkyway\\node23\\sol\\earth\\14091994\\restart /r /t 30\n\n");
break;

en
select
"2. Restart"
restarting
error
ERROR
path not found

c:\\reality\\universe\\milkyway\\node23\\sol\\earth\\14091994
cannot reach
load error manifest
ERROR 404
SYSTEM FAILURE
A problem has been detected and reality has been shut down to prevent damage.
The problem seems to be caused by the following file: 2017.exe 
If this is the first time you've seen this stop error,
restart your system.
Do not attempt to load the file.
Repeat:
Do not attempt to load the file.
Attempts to run the file may damage your reality, mental stability, and sense of self.
If this screen appears again, follow these steps:
- Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Alternatively:
- Shrek.avi, La Vie D'adèle.avi, Shrek 2.avi, The Room.avi, Eyes Wide Shut.avi, The Room.avi, allstar.mp3.
Alternatively:
- Write a long-form, personal and oversharing blog about your experience of a span of time (365 days in length).
...
run 2017.exe

2017.exe

This is selfish therapy. I want to make that clear. This is a long-form blog that is peppered with oversharing and reflection on a year in my life. It is written for people who know me, to let them know how I’m doing (spoiler: I’m doing pretty okay). It’s written to myself and for myself to try and encompass a time of my life. It’s also a complete narcissistic exercise.

A playlist of songs that filled my year. A backing track of sorts.

I’m going to try and express to you exactly what it’s like to be in my brain, but that’s ultimately kind of a futile mission. When I talk about, you know, my experience of depression — it’s not universal. When I talk about nervous breakdowns, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and American fascism, you know I’m trying my darnedest to put you behind my eye-holes but that’s ultimately impossible. Even if I do know the best words.

This isn’t a strictly linear piece. Like, “January — wow I was so happy!” all the way to “December — oops I forgot where I buried the bodies!” We’ll go over the place. I’ll forget things. I’m not sure what else there is to say? It’s quite a long ride.

Some content warnings: depression, nervous breakdowns, anxiety attacks.


“THE FORTY-FIFTH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DONALD JOHN TRUMP.”

So where did we leave off? One giant error with 2017 is that it felt a lot like a 2016-redux in piecemeal. It wasn’t quite the nihilistic hellscape, personally and politically, and there were tiny shades of hope here and there. For the most part the patterns were the same. Since 2015 it’s been a seemingly non-stop WTF for the world news, and for the world really. Reminder: generations before already managed to hit their high score of carbon dioxide and will be bringing out a radically dramatic change in our climate that will likely kill us all. Happy New Year!

I’m meant to be optimistic and reflective. Don’t worry! I found the answer to my spiralling mental state and political nihilism from 2016! (spoiler: I didn’t, but it’s complicated)


I’ve informed a lot of people close to me that 2016 was a diagnosis. Literal, in my case:

“You have severe depression.” The doctor said.
“Boo-yah!” I replied, chugging a six pack of Sprite.

At the end of 2016 I was on medication. Once in a while I also went to counselling sessions but I found online counselling was actually better. Mostly because I could sit at home and cuddle my doggo whilst talking about the fact that I could feel empty inside one morning and then energised the next. I’ve talked previously about how I think my mental illness stems from a sense of control, or lack of it. 2016, not just the politics of it but the personal events was a year that broke the camel’s back.

2017 then, I’ve told friends, could be called a year of treatment. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Putting your life into trilogies and a neat narrative doesn’t solve any of your problems, in fact it’s rather an unhealthy way of framing your life in the first place. Reality makes no sense. We’re hyper-aware organisms with small brains, clinging to a rock filled with green and oxygen which we’ve managed to poison. A rock floating in a void of nothingness, revolving around a giant orb of flaming hydrogen. There is just a thin wafer of an atmosphere that’s keeping us from being sucked out into the vacuum like a party balloon being popped. Happy New Year!

What I’m trying to express is that the struggle for those great moments of epiphany don’t exist. Your brain is so tiny that it’ll try and find these times. You’ll remember this and that moment as formative. The brain also catalogues moments of trauma more in depth than those of joy as a survival mechanism. Humans aren’t built for the times we live in. You’re meant to be out foraging for food, not reading Thomas Aquinas in your pajamas.

And, yeah, maybe a few minutes or days can determine your life. When you fell in love, when you finally completed a thing, or when you had a complete nervous breakdown and fainted in your room. But ‘life’ as a series of events that follow on from one another isn’t just a false answer, it’s an answer which fails to capture the actual majesty and might of it all

It’s been an extraordinary year. An error message really. I wasn’t quite prepared to process the joy in my life so I’ve been fluttering between polar opposite tones, without any sense of normalcy. Not that there ever is a ‘normal’ point in life but being acclimatised to the thought that I can be happy has been difficult.


Emerging into the New Year I wasn’t exactly the cheeriest chap. You can read exactly what happened but, suffice to say, it was hard being optimistic. It was difficult for me to reach some resolution after a constant barrage of bad news. If we’re still in the mind that there’s only very few, rare moments that can be called “moments” then November 9th 2016 is one of those. Some friends of mine think I changed physically after that day.

A disclaimer. I am an observer of America. Of its history. I’m not a citizen. But America tends to be the stand-in for ‘the world’ these days. After that election night I did become consumed in a complete rut. I’ve been a American history know-it-all for most of my existence, and a lot of our hopes as a species are kind of pinned on their world leadership. But I knew that November night that this is it. That I knew that this was it. That, yes, the world is going to end. Our tiny monkey brains, the backfire effect, media simplification, centrist liberalism, racism, the fucking Nazis, they had all led us to having a fascist in charge of the West.

I started this year wrecked with insomnia and consumed by my Twitter feed of the Presidential transition. But I did have plans for my year ahead. Not resolutions, strictly. Write more. Read things. Figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Try some way to find some line of hope and happiness.

Except that wasn’t easy. I wasn’t sure about anything really. Except that the forthcoming forty-fifth President of the United States was literally Wario. I tried starting a weekly blog or at least something to regularly post but, honestly, I got caught up in actually spending some time just figuring out what exactly I’m all about. My times at Cambridge were three years of eight-week terms that were jam-packed with activity, stress and academic analysis of Lyndon Johnson’s wrinkly hands. Having to instant noodle my way through emotional growth wasn’t exactly fruitful.

Watching the toddler wannabe-dictator in chief has been utterly nightmarish. It’s consumed a portion of my time and mental energy. Because whilst he’s threatening to ethnically cleanse children, letting Puerto Rico languish in blackout because the people there aren’t white, giving tacit support to fucking Nazis, and demanding a war widow give him praise, his supporters still submit to him. He literally issued a Presidential pardon to a white supremacist who created “concentration camps”. Wario directly subverted the Courts’ control over someone that practically pursued an ethnonationalist agenda, in a move that signals that the rule of law does not apply to his vision of America.


As I predicted back in August, and what I continue to believe, he will be President until 2024. He will reshape Western democracy and destroy compassionate governance. And by ‘he’, I mean the people around him. He acts only out of impulse and Fox News-fed emotional turmoil. Barely spends time doing anything. But he’s a figurehead to a larger and much more disturbing fascistic culture in the White House.

In August I wrote a long-form piece following the pardon of Joe Arpaio and as to why I think that was the turning point. What that news meant for the world at large. There’s been some incredible bits of hope here and there, such as the Virginia election and the Alabama special. A Democrat won in Alabama! OMG! I woke up at 3am to get a drink of water, expecting to see an alleged paedophile elected to the United States Senate. Instead I got the welcome surprise of voters actually letting in the guy who prosecuted the KKK in the 1960s. Although a huge majority of white voters still went for the alleged child predator so uh...

But this violence and pain? This has always been America. From the slave trade, the Civil War, the civil rights movement, Reaganomics’ infliction of poverty, the financial crisis, and Black Lives Matter. Pain upon minorities and the impoverished has always been America’s story. Autocracy, without getting anachronistic, has always been there. Obama killed American citizens with illegal drone strikes. He actually deported more immigrants than any President in history. Don’t get me twisted, there’s a lot to admire in Barack Obama and those years feel like a few decades away now. A lot of good things happened in those eight years, but history is a lot more complicated than ‘good things’. Fascism didn’t come overnight, nor all at once. Only now it’s donning a ridiculous clown mask out in the open.

The Republican Party have done an incredible job at immunizing themselves against any actual attacks. Even if it’s based in reality. Like, I don’t know, how about a byproduct of the changes in the tax bill meaning 13 million people will be uninsured. Or how Congress quickly voted for a tax break for private jet owners but might just throw 9 million poor kids out of health coverage because they’re sooooo busy. Any attempt to state these facts comes across as a partisan attack to some voters, and thus false to them. It might be part of the backfire effect, but you might have 1/3 of America’s voters who simply do not believe in consequence. Even if they’re shown the exact legislation and consequence, which is rare, they will still think it’s a liberal-media-Democratic-Party-fake-news attack. That because it sounds so ridiculous, that the Republicans wouldn’t murder poor children?! I don’t want to say there’s voters out there who are completely sworn to their Fox News demagogue-in-chief, Alabama made it clear there’s hope still out there, but the major story is this: some 1/3 of American voters might not have any reason anymore. Again, trying not to make any sweeping generalisations but the data makes it clear that something scary is going on. There’s a whole chunk of voters who vote in whatever direction ‘upsets the libs’ even if it ends up ending the world.

Uh. Happy new year!


THE YEAR OF THE CRACKED SCREEN

Puds.

In July of this year I went with some friends to have a little relaxing sojourn in the Yorkshire Dales. We got a huge house together and I got some research work I had to desperately do in order to acquire currency. Because, you know, capitalism.

I tried to work nights and keep hiking with my friendos but, alas, I could not manage and was practically consumed with work for most of my time there. I still managed to enjoy their company and especially enjoyed putting together a proper roast dinner. I’m a Yorkshire pudding maestro now. Oh and I also set off the fire alarm at one in the morning but don’t tell anyone else that.

Whilst cooking the illustrious Yorkshire puddings, I clumsily let my phone slip off the counter top and on to the hard tile floor. I heard the smack and then reached down to look at the fruits of my accidental labour. A totally cracked screen. With small dust-like pieces coming off as I felt for the damage. Whole veins of void get in the way of YouTube videos now. A cracked perspective into a warped echo chamber reality — Twitter, my photo albums of my doggo, my email etc. — all of it now takes place through my cracked black screen. It’s a hundred quid to replace and, in my life, that’s a total luxury. So for 2017, and the foreseeable future, my perspective on the world is cracked. Always reminding me that I’m looking at a screen.

I don’t know if I’m a theist or whatever. What I can imagine in my simple monkey brain is a giant bearded chap leaning down from a cloud and trying to signal to me about the reality of processing reality. I mean, making a point by throwing something valuable on the ground and smash it is totally an Old Testament move. I don’t know if I’m just reading too much into my life. Although then again I’m not sure there really is any authorial intent if you’re viewing it from a hard deterministic point of view.

The gradual idea I’ve come across, to try and make this into some pretentious statement, is that 2017 was a year of self-awareness. An awareness of the mistakes I had made in my own emotional health. Such as tying it so much to external events, politics and the like. This was a constant tug-of-war with my own brain to actually internalise this.

Remember what I said about error message? Hardware failure? Cracked screen! Bit too on the nose.


Part of this year was figuring out exactly where I need to put this cracked perspective. I did apply for a few History MAs and almost got excited. But there’s always that little nagging part of your brain that tells you to take a little leap of faith once in a while.

My early 2017 was consumed with seeing my family, walking my doggo, seeing my brother Jeg, who is now a tubby lil munchkin who throws things at the floor for no reason — and some people wonder why I understand the President of the United States so well.

I ended my medication in early Summer. You might be wondering why I’m not really putting any attention or even writing in-length about my mental health. That’s not because it makes me uncomfortable. I’ve had plenty of upside down moments this year. I felt really lonely for some of this year and was really thankful to be back in Cam, exploring Austria, wandering about Belgium, relaxing in the Dales, or chilling out in Edinburgh. The happiest times of this year have been when I’ve been with people I like. Of course, I can’t do this all the time because I have a mental illness that means sometimes I just want to watch Brooklyn 99 all day while eating ice cream. That’s my brain.

If you want some of the Top Ten moments of the year in terms of my mental health, there was a pretty big nervous breakdown in November. Sent into an insomniac-tailspin by some extraneous events, which meant my interactions with people became nonsensical. I was only just introducing myself to some peeps too so a lot of folks’ first impression of me must be this disjointed, absurd idiot who stutters and rambles. Someone with an ever-changing pitch of voice, who sometimes tells too many jokes in order to find some way of dealing with the present moment in which his brain is deflating into itself.

Figuring out how my brain works and operates, that I’m never going to be in total sync with it, has been part and parcel of my 2017 struggle. I do understand it better I have to say.

My depression is not the universal experience. It’s mine. Owning it as mine is part of dealing with it. I’m going to have crises and panic, but everyone has shitty days. Everyone is dealing with something. Knowing that the planet is doomed and we might literally (probably) boil to death is a little scary. But whilst it’s useful to prepare for the hellscape of the future, it’s much more practical to appreciate things. To recognise that I am a much happier person when surrounded by the people I love. And making sure that happens more often.


Jeg, my lil bro.

Early in the year I was between ‘things’ I wanted to do. I’ve always been a writer, I’ve known that for a while. I know that I like writing books, even if my current novel has taken me some five years. I like that the only reliable comfort and sense that we can have is stories. Stories can show us that in this uncaring, unforgiving world that there is still beauty in belonging, in the smallest possible part, to this universe. It is storytelling that I adore. Whether it’s history, about how Lyndon Johnson conquered the Senate. Or it’s the modern myths of Star Wars. Or that time in Nepal that I had to help break into a friend’s moped to get his keys back.

It’s long-form TV which has held my interest. It did start a few years back with Breaking Bad but my catalogue of consumption has exploded recently. There’s been some incredible shows which managed to completely break into my soul. The Good Place, for example, is the exact kind of show that I would love love LOVE to work on. I just align with its humour and its worldview, and I’m always a big fan of stuff which just takes a sledgehammer to narrative structure. Bojack Horseman has always been a scarily personal show for me, but this September’s season managed to pick apart a lot of trauma in my own life. There’s also Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Leftovers, Stranger Things 2 (it’s about American fascism!!!), Review and and and…

I’d been playing with the idea for a while, but I decided to make a little leap of faith. I applied to study Screenwriting at the National Film & Television School. From chatting to graduates and attending opening days, I came to believe that this step would give me a chance of being able to tell stories and gain employment. I mean, it’s still work. A lot of it is dull and forcing your brain to come up with ideas isn’t always fun. But it’s addictive. When you’re writing a story for so long and it’s 2am and you’re surfing the edge of your consciousness into a completely different world. There’s no feeling like it.

I sent in everything a few weeks before it was due and spent the rest of the time winning BIGLY at pub quizzes and hanging out with people I like. I also saw Jordan Peele’s Get Out which is my film of the year.

What struck me about Get Out wasn’t just that it’s a multi-layered social satire horror that manages to transport you completely and totally into its principal character. It’s crammed with some seriously clever writing that manages to both subvert and use horror tropes to make you feel some serious stuff.

Not only that but as much as I love my weird bullshit absurdist dramedy, what I really like in any story is clarity. Complete clarity of purpose and intent. Brevity is the soul of wit, so said some dead guy nobody cares about.

Get Out is a completely clear film that knows the exact purpose in each of its scenes. It’s almost seamless how Peele manages to transition from tone to tone, which I is the sign of a master filmmaker. I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.

So anyway, while sat around waiting on a reply I wrote a bunch of stuff and then BOOM they called me up and confetti dropped from the sky! The film school wanted to interview me 💯🔥👏 but oh no their only slot was while I was on holiday 😞😢 but… what if… I were to purchase fast food and disguise it as my own cooking 🤔🤔 actually no — instead I would just have to change my flight and spend a few extra pounds that I didn’t have lying around 🤷👌 *sigh* alrighty then!!!

Mood. Always.

They sit me down and they start throwing questions at me. You know, all the questions. Explain quantum theory. Easy. Explain why Captain America is a perfect deconstruction of Nazi propaganda. Boom. Pitch us a story.

Oh.

Oh um.

For clarity, they gave me time to prepare and some image prompt but I was sat a little dumbfounded at what notes I had prepared. I’ve also rewritten this so it’s a lot more clearer and cleaner of a read. I used a tiny scrap of an idea but otherwise I invented this in half an hour.

I haven’t put a story online in a while so…


ASPARAGUS

The notes I wrote on the day.

My story was Asparagus. And it launched a twenty minute ramble of what the story would/could be. This is Trademark™ of Nathan Hardisty™™.

So there’s this guy. Actually, not guy. Or whatever. Who cares. There’s this guy, and he’s having a really hard time in his marriage. He lives in a semi-detached house with his wife of about twenty or twenty-five years. Think Peter Capaldi on roller skates. Actually, no. Too handsome. Think Peter Capaldi. So Capaldi is a medieval history professor. He’s finding his life repetitive. We open with a basic montage of his life. Lecture after lecture, marking awful essays, eating a tuna sandwich, heading home and reading a book before falling asleep.

Anyway. Capaldi comes home most days and his wife just doesn’t talk to him. It’s not abusive, but it’s a silent household. Whenever he tries to make conversation, she just refuses. They both know a divorce is on the horizon. And he lies in bed just completely without thought.

His only thrill is when he’s talking about history. Especially the Wars of the Roses. We see him in the first ten minutes launch into a giant lecture which ends with him crying as he gets caught up in a story about the snowstorm drenched Battle of Towton.

So when he comes home and his wife has bought some asparagus soup, he’s a bit pissed off. He spends the night avoiding her after eating up, before he falls asleep and he’s suddenly in the freakin’ battle! Blizzards, metal clanging against metal, and the screams of thousands of young men battling for Kings they barely know. It’s so vivid and real. And then he gets his head caved in. That’s just before waking up. But the dream consumes him. He wishes he could go back there. He reads up on Towton, gets all the details, and just lets his work slide a little.

He tries retracing his steps but nothing works. It was just a big dream, his wife says. Don’t get too much into it. He shrugs it off until, boom, asparagus soup again. And when he sleeps, he’s back there. Groundhog Day or Edge of Tomorrow style. He’s in the thick of the battle, and no matter how far he runs, he’s still getting his head caved in by the same bloke.

So he stocks up on asparagus. Just chews it throughout the day. But he’s got a spring in his step now, waiting for bedtime. Someone installs a medical kit in his office, with syringes and stuff, and notices Capaldi looks a lot healthier and happier.

So he reads up some more. Tries stuff out whilst in the past. Tries running West. Nope, dead. East? Nope, dead. North? Nope, he ran East by mistake so uh dead. He tries South and he’s executed by one of his fellow soldiers for going AWOL. Oopsie!

It’s no use. His wife is noticing how he’s bounding about. He’s started cycling (only to get home quicker and make himself tired for bed). Capaldi is consumed by this dream. Or was it time travel? It feels too real. He asks some of the Physics department if it’s possible and they laugh at him. His History colleagues tell him it’s a really amazing dream. He tells them he fought with a silver pike. One of his colleagues says they only just found silver pikes from the battlefield last week. Did he read the bulletin? Nope, he says. Oh no! Maybe it was real!

When he heads back into the past, this time he manages to find a way out of destruction and into a quiet forest retreat. And it’s there he meets someone played by uhhh… Daniel Kaluuya? Yeah why not. They chat a little bit, exchanging a loaf of bread. They’re both not sure which side they’re fighting for. Kaluuya talks about home. That he comes from a family in London, once stolen a long time ago at the end of the Crusades. Originally from the shores of Northern Africa. He shows Capaldi a signet ring, passed down throughout the family. His only inheritance. Capladi tells all sorts of future things which confuse Kaluuya. What we see throughout the film, and what comes apparent in this very moment, is that Capaldi doesn’t have any friends. He doesn’t really have a connection with anyone. Until now. So, yes, this is a love story. Not a romance. But it’s about finding a genuine connection with someone.

Oh and then he gets his head caved in.

So he takes some time off work to just nap and rest. Even forcing the flu upon himself. He revisits Towton under the guise of a worktrip and sleeps under the stars. It’s then that Kaluuya says that he doesn’t live far from here. Capaldi could start a new life. It’s to the West, a little farm area. A place called Reynes. A days walk or so. They’re always looking for bodies to do busy work. Capladi takes him up on that. Kaluuya has listened to all his stuff about his wife and lacklustre life. And Capaldi recognises a sense that neither of them belong in their lives. But together they could make something bearable, and to Capaldi being able to live in this time. I mean, yeah, the dysentery might be bad but he just feels much more alive. And then he gets his head caved in before waking up. Eyes wide. A plot forms. His wife grows agitated.

So with his students in seminars he breaks it down to them. If you were a footsoldier at the Battle of Towton, how would you win? Going back and forth between 1461 and the present, he draws insane maps of troop formations from his memory. Taking notes down whilst getting stabbed and shanked. His students submit essays about how he could survive, and he argues in the lecture halls that it’s simply not working. We go back and forth, as he struggles to find some way to burst out. And his colleagues are worried this work is consuming him. He’s drinking asparagus juice by the litres. Eating it in droves. Pale in face. He talks in his sleep, and his wife is scared. Kaluuya at one point tells him he should maybe calm down a little. But every interaction is just like they met for the first time. It hurts Capaldi that he just can’t break into this time where he might be happy.

His eyes shine this weird blue whilst he’s asleep, like his brain is elsewhere, but the light is weird at night, right? One day his wife goes to his faculty and, with Capladi’s colleagues, they stage an intervention. He says he’ll come with her. For a nice chat and a cup of tea. He can’t find a way through anyway, and dismisses all of his students until the teacher’s pet just finally tells him the solution. As his wife and colleagues come into the hall, he runs out back to his office. Locking it. He tears open a medical kit and injects asparagus straight into his system, sending him into a complete collapse.

Fight dirty. Become the soldier. His student told him. He always held back, because he was a 21st Century gentleman. But this isn’t some great polite tactical bout, it’s slap-dash-and-not-die. Fight for what home is to you.

And he does it. He kills the man who always caves in his head. He escapes the flurry of battle that wades into the late hours, and goes to the forest to wait for Kaluuya. But nobody’s there. Just the signet ring on the ground. Capaldi thinks maybe he’ll come back. He waits into the night, looking up at the stars. A clearer night sky than any. Kaluuya isn’t coming. He travels to the farm, and he’s not there either. He dare not check the battlefield. The landlord of Reynes offers him work, after Capaldi blubbers something about the future. He’s not waking up, or travelling back. He’s here now.

The next day we see him start to dredge the seeds. We watch through the weeks as his beard grows and he lives in a small hut. Still staring at that sky. Holding on to the signet ring. Quite sad. But a little smile. After the spring comes and the seeds start to grow, we see him drag his weary self into the farmland in shock.

It’s asparagus.

Growing green and steady.

All the way from his feet and unto the infinite horizon.


They shook my hand. I went on my way, certain I’d probably cocked up that interview.

I had a flight the very next day for a holiday in Vienna with my friends. I saw a fragment of the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire. I dabbed to a portrait of Napoleon (it’s a developing theme, trust me). I had a good time relaxing with people I very much enjoy.

Dab-poleon.

In Asparagus I had told the story of someone continually escaping into the past to find a genuine connection, avoiding the effort and struggle on the present time because it was so painful. I’d told a story about myself, in some small ways. I mean, I don’t shoot up vegetable juice every night. But I’d seen myself. I’ve always seen myself in anything I’ve ever produced, but here I was.

Yet it was oddly kind of comforting to see how open I was. To see how enthusiastic I was in saying out-loud that my brain is fucked and I’m not going to let it get the better of me. Of course, I was speaking out loud in terms of a bullshit story about Peter Capladi and root vegetables but it doesn’t make the sentiment any less true.

I got an offer a few months after my interview and I’ll be starting this January. Chuffed.


FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW.

My reaction to seeing this was literally to sigh and say out loud: “Oh for fuck sake”

For about eight weeks from late April to early June I was consumed with reluctant hope.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Theresa May called for an early general election to take place on June 8th. The campaign would last some six-seven weeks. At the very start, the Labour Party, headed by Jeremy Corbyn, were over sixteen points behind in the polls. Corbyn came last in credibility across the board. Deemed too radical a leftist, with too troubled a history. He was an unassuming old bloke who made jam in his spare time. Labour was done. He was being squeezed within the party too. A huge chunk of Labour constituencies backed Leave during the Brexit referendum, and the other half went Remain. An impossible coalition. His M.Ps had called for a second leadership challenge in Summer 2016. They were hammering him, sniping him by political proxy, every single week. The media were also hungry for it, with every bit of gossip just able to tide them over for an entire day of reporting.

That’s whilst the Conservative Party is led by a woman who forced gay refugees to prove they were gay by filming themselves having sex. Oh and the same party that had the National Health Service declared a humanitarian crisis under their watch AND which continues to force nurses to use food banks but cuts corporate tax rates. Oh and gives arms to help Saudi Arabia’s violent and illegal destruction in Yemen. That’s even with an economy continuing to stagnate in terms of productivity and plummet in terms of wage growth! But oh no Jeremy Corbyn makes strawberry jam! And Diane Abbott forgot some numbers! LOL! They’re all the same! Ha ha!

I am a socialist. I’m for a broad redistribution of wealth and strengthening investment into public services. A reform of capitalism to usher in a much more compassionate economic system. Even with all that, this isn’t going to be a piece that professes to all the strengths and complete love of Jeremy Corbyn. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find the cultist members that are alleged by much of the media. Quite frankly, I was disappointed in Corbyn at the start of the general election campaign. He’d failed to articulate any kind of broad message. The piles of misplaced blame that Labour accumulated for the Brexit referendum was completely ridiculous, and reminded me of the 2008 crisis being completely lumped at the party’s feet (and thereby keeping the party from power for a decade). But, I simply did not believe he’d be able to walk the tightrope of Leave-Remain voters. To defeat an entrenched hostility. To this day, I am incredibly angry at how Corbyn promoted the gross James O’Mara, knowing full well how disgusting O’Mara was. I didn’t think he was capable of becoming Prime Minister.

No matter the campaign, no matter the six weeks — the Tories will win their thumping majority. That’s what most people, myself included, believed.


Because he would have to run against the most impossible odds. Not just the 200–1 he had to become leader back in 2015. He would first have to fight to convince people like me to back him again, who weren’t ready to even begin to hope for anything. Then he’d have to fight to rally the Labour Party behind him, a broad church of centrists, neo-liberals, leftists and all sorts of leanings all joined together under the purview of social justice. That was just an impossible task given the toxic environment. Then he’d have to start campaigning, and run against over two years of built-up press attacks, caricatures and ingrained public ideas about him. He would be running against the power structure. And then, and only then, would he then have to start actually trying to put together a convincing message in the first place.

Like, you might be wondering if my Labour Party affiliation might be getting in the way of seeing this objectively. You might be thinking I’m hyping up ‘the absolute boy’ a bit too much? I mean, yeah he’s a cheeky lad. Sometimes just plain charming. When he opens up and gets angry with the gross injustice in this country, it’s hard not to get emotionally invested. But, as displayed in the past two years, that would be foolish. It’s over, they said. And yet, if you try and articulate the 2017 General Election in a historical context, the result broke every rule in the book and completed the most remarkable non-victory-but-kind-of-victory-but-lets-be-frank-its-a-sort-of-lost result.

#Thornberry2025

Those six weeks were a complete whirlwind. From the complete sigh of let’s get this over with in seeing the 400+ majority the Tories would probably get. I signed up for some campaigning and door knocking here and there. We were awfully lucky to have a Prime Minister who was woefully inept at politics, and Corbyn had fought enough campaigns and withstood enough across his lifetime to be able to be an incredibly effective campaigner. The turning point more or less came with the manifesto, which basically said fuck it, let’s go out in radical glory.

Watching those polls tick up ever so slightly every day. It was difficult to hope. And I didn’t. I didn’t think hope was practical. Polls are bullshit. I still think you have to work hard and hard for this stuff, that whatever optimism you have has to be put into practise on the doorstep. Retweeting polls and forwarding memes to your lefty friends isn’t going to win a General Election.

June 8th was still magical, don’t get me wrong. I’ve never been more nervous for an exit poll. I was in a Dungeons and Dragons (we’ll get to that) session when it took place. But the next time this happens it won’t be like this. The actual story of the election is so bonkers that it’s going to take some time to digest. A Prime Minister refusing debates. An upset in some of the Bluest parts in the country, including bloody Canterbury. And, ultimately, a political system left in some weird limbo. In which the head of the Conservative Party is blackmailed by the DUP for £1bn but can be barely spare loose change for the NHS.

Labour did not win the General Election. No one did. But to go from a party languishing in 23% to eventually capture over 40% of the national vote. Insane. A full 10% up on its actual 2015 results. It was the biggest vote share increase since 1945. Young people actually voted, en masse. Those big hopeful things actually worked out?! Next time Labour is the favourite. It will be the most brutal political war of our lifetimes, because this time we’re a threat. I’m not going to be morose and think we’re doomed. Nor am I going to think it’s confirmed victory. But the chance is there and it’s time to take it. Think practically.

I’m not thanking Corbyn for it either. He’s a bloody good campaigner with some problematic past. It’s what he represents that I’m fully on board for. A coalition of young voters and the left behinds. Who have been facing the blunt edge of decade-long austerity economics which is not fucking working. Who knows what’ll happen in the next five years? Maybe we’ll fail and fall flat on our face. Maybe the public will fall for someone like Ruth Davidson or James Cleverly.

That’s the error message, you see. All this year has been a constant see-sawing between a complete and total we’re fucked to oh we might not be completely fucked. 2016 was one constant note of despair but this year I’ve dealt with multiple emotional tones, and that’s probably what has made it difficult to process.

But it’s nice to note down the moments when I was smiling.


NEW OBSESSIONS (AND OLD)

Sigh. This isn’t going well. I hope they’re remembering to add their proficiency modifiers.

“Okay roll me a d-20 and add your animal handling?”

“Alrighty.”

They roll.

“I got a… seven?”

“Unfortunately the unicorn does not like you enough.”

So begins a group argument lasting about forty minutes about whether or not they should just go on foot to the Orc hideout instead.

This is the roleplaying game known as Dungeons & Dragons. Conceived by some guy called Gary Gygax back in the 1970s, D&D is currently undergoing a bit of a renaissance.

D&D is a board game without the board. The entire game takes place in two realms. The rules. That includes character sheets, rulebooks and guides — all peppered with a wide array of math. It also takes place in that weird bit of the brain that we’ve classified as imagination. I mean, yes, there’s often maps and monster figurines, but the bulk of D&D is made up of imaginary conversations.

I’d been interested in the game for a while but never really saw its potential until I started listening to The Adventure Zone. It’s a podcast with the McElroy family who, if you don’t know them by now have a sizeable video/podcast empire. They are absolute goofballs of three brothers, joined by their papa in their take on D&D. The Adventure Zone starts out as three idiots who try and bumble their way through a fan-requested recorded game of D&D and then it opens up into this sprawling and manic story of hope, stories, friendship, determination and that stupid thing called love. You can feel the story being created by all four of these lads, who start off by joke-calling one of their characters “Taako” and then end the series by reducing you to tears after seventy hours of emotional build-up. It is quite honestly one of the greatest stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to — and that it’s born organically out of this weird roleplaying system is just so bizarre. It got me through quite a lot of rough nights this year.

So. I decided I’d try my hand at the game.

It’s usually comprised of a gamemaster or Dungeon Master, who oversees the world which is populated with players. These players all have character sheets which chart their abilities, skills, inventories and stories. They interact with the world the Dungeon Master creates through rolling a dice. That includes everything from petting a doggo to having a fight with a rascal goblin. Other than that, there’s a breadth of freedom to tell a story.

The problem with writing is that it takes forever to receive feedback. You’ve got to wait for the person opposite to finish reading the thing. Dungeons and Dragons is a bit different than that. I’m telling the story as the players set foot in it, telling them that their feet is hitting the cobble as soon as their imagined heel does. I get an immediate reaction. So if I’ve got a character in mind, or some kind of joke, or some story trick, I can get a reaction straight away. It’s useful for me to try out some narrative ideas I’m batting around my head.

I’ve only played these stories with a handful of people. I’ve got two groups on the go. Firstly with some of my close friends who wanted to indulge my curiosity about this game. Watching them interact with this world has been one of the most creatively satisfying experiences of my life. I also found a group operating nearby to me in Leeds. Quite literally happened upon it, and had to basically perform mental arithmetic and creative gymnastics to a bunch of strangers.

It’s been a year of trying out new obsessions like this. Dungeons & Dragons is now a part of who I am. I am thinking every single week about the next session, the next campaign, items to ‘homebrew’, and tailored stories for people. It’s fully collaborative. If a player suggests a change to the world or their own character, I’m more than happy to build that into the wider narrative. I can’t wait to play this game with so many people throughout the rest of my life.


Alongside Dungeons & Dragons, I also acquired a borderline unhealthy obsession with The Room. I can’t really introduce anyone to this bizarre disasterpiece. I watched it for the first time alone and laughed a little. This year I read The Disaster Artist, the book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, about the making of The Room and it was the funniest book I’ve ever read. I’ve watched The Room six times. I quote the film regularly — to their complete annoyance — to some of my friends.

We had to tell Tommy about six times how to spell the word “love”. In the end he scribbled love hearts all over a picture of his own face.

When I travelled down to London for a showing of the film, as much as it was kind of a bit weird to get a picture with Wiseau and notice he’s kind of a bit off-putting, I enjoyed my time with my buddies more than anything. I am so happy they are my best friends.

Nobody knows this until now but I actually missed my train that September night. I had to wander around St. Pancreas, still in tuxedo and formal shoes, until 6 am. It was a really quiet evening, and I had a little nap in Starbucks. What a story! Even though I had been addled with a little summer sadness, I really enjoyed that twilight wandering around a quiet train station. It was weird watching every stranger slowly fall to sleep. Oh and something utterly WTF happened.

This is no joke: I was walking around the station and suddenly I saw a janitor calling into the air.

Suddenly a fucking hawk comes out of nowhere and landed on his leather-gloved arm.

What the fuck.

I thought I was hallucinating.

I asked him like, you know, what the fuck?!

This guy told me that he signed up for this job a few months ago because it was the night shift. Because this was the only time he could take his bird-friend out to fly about and hang out. He looked quite tired and he said it’s quite weird adjusting to the night, but he seemed to adore his hawk companion.

I’m reminded of that interaction every once in a while and it sticks out to me. I’ve got no idea what it means. If anything.


REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION

I dabbed to Napoleon all across Europe. Deal with it.

These last few months have been equally weird. In October, quite a few odd things happened. I’d been fully confirmed for my studies at the National Film & Television School. I also happened upon a job ad for writing about film and television online. Out of a whim I applied and within a few weeks I was a fully employed, working-from-home-so-I-can-cuddle-my-doggo, writer of listicles and news. It’s been quite a weird experience to suddenly go from this unemployed know-nothing between existences. The site is Film Daily, and it’s a fairly new place that mostly deals with indie cinema and fringe-television. You can read everything I’ve written here. If you want some idea of what they let me get away with: I once got so bored writing about news that I just wrote up a paragraph about how Jeff Goldblum continues to exist. They also let me justify my total love for my favourite Christmas film Eyes Wide Shut.

Remember what I said about the see-sawing of tones this year? Again — going from ice cream binges to working eight hours on weekdays has taken some adjustment.

October also saw the release of Blade Runner 2049. Blade Runner is an inherent part of me. I’ve written so much about the fucking 1982 original that I ended up farting out a book back when I was seventeen. It’s awful, don’t read it.

I’m not a total fan of how every woman in the film is a prostitute, a hologram, trapped, or a violent bodyguard. Besides the ‘resistance’ maybe? It’s a little unclear. I dunno. I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this one okay!

My exact opinion on 2049 is going to have to wait another week. I’ve written another long-form piece about Blade Runner; a part-sequel to my original book. I think I’ll be done with it before I move out. To watch a sequel to the film which personally affected you in the most profound ways is quite an experience, isn’t it? If you want the short version: in a year of roundabout emotional tones and a weird time figuring out how to live with my brain, revisiting this too familiar Blade Runner world was completely uncomfortable. At the end of it, I was realising that 2049 is it’s own thing and in many ways seeks to just be a ‘reply’ to the first film. It was oddly calming. I was moved by it.

In November I travelled down to take part in two intense weeks of pre-study at the National Film & Television School. I met my classmates for the next two years as we attempt to actually make things and then present ourselves to the professional world.

Elvis!!!

I’m lucky to have found a bunch of completely wonderful people to spend those two years with. It’ll be quite sad saying goodbye to a lot of folks and family in Leeds. I don’t know how my doggo Elvis is going to cope with me, and me without him. But I’ll be back.

Those two weeks were also filled with real left-field stuff. I had a bit of a nervous breakdown and a slurry of anxiety attacks. I think people there noticed. As you read about earlier, these were the bunch of strangers who were able to witness my mental illness deciding to do a tap-dance.

In retrospect, I think I made the only impression I could have possibly made. That of an oversharing, overthinking know-it-all filled with pretensions and barely struggling to articulate his reality even to himself.


This last month hasn’t been anything too special. I did watch Stranger Things 2 and almost wrote a thinkpiece about it. It released during the anniversary of the election of President Wario. That’s partly to blame for my mid-November mental stutters I think. The actual sequel series itself was about the anniversary effect and also about American fascism! Think about it: a monstrous growth that lies underneath American culture, even directly underneath Republican households. Many people, however nice, just completely doubt that there’s monsters anyway. The few that attempt to indulge the monsters end up endangering America. And the monster itself — the Mind Flayer — represents “the Nazis”, as Steve says, hell bent on total annihilation. The monsters we once thought dead have returned and in some ways we’re fighting the same conflict we’ve done before.

It’s partly why I’ve also warmed quite a lot to the Star Wars sequel films. I mean, yeah, The Force Awakens was kind of just a constant nostalgia-indulgent film. I’ve clued on now that it’s a story of a coalition of POC, the oppressed, and the impoverished waging war against a bunch of alt-right children cosplaying as their Nazi grandparents. Having to fight the same battles we thought were done.

Watching Carrie Fisher’s final performance was particularly heart-crushing. She meant a lot to me.

The Last Jedi was fucking phenomenal too. It did use the structure of Empire Strikes Back, but in many ways it attempted a democratisation of Star Wars and the truth behind the force. That the resistance against oppression, and the fight for joy, is an inspiring story that doesn’t belong to a bunch of royal families of Skywalkers and Kenobis. That legends are imperfect, and some stories are stories of failure. I think writer-director Rian Johnson did a stellar job with the hand he was dealt. I understand the fan outrage behind it, because it is a film which basically takes away all the toys. But I loved it.

Peter Capaldi also hung up his velvet coat as the Twelfth Doctor and I’ve got a lot of thoughts about his era of Doctor Who. I’ve watched a lot of the classic series, and I owe a lot of my sensibilities to its tone and style. Showrunner Steven Moffat, for the past eight years or so, finished up and I’m incredibly split on his tenure. His first few series with Matt Smith were pretty well acclaimed, but I found his writing just downright self-indulgent and mired in some casual sexism. The Capaldi era, however, might be the best in Doctor Who. Owing most of itself to an injection of new writers and incredible direction (especially Rachel Talalay), there have been a bunch of awe-inspiring stories. Oh and Capaldi himself.

He’s also got perfect hair. Actual #goals.

Peter Capaldi was every shade of the Doctor. He was ancient and wise, silly and childish. Funny as fuck. Kind as a happy granddad. What he brought to the role was to show off every single flick and emotion that the Doctor is capable of. That underneath it all, he is a kind and decent man determined to do what is right. Although he has done a few genocides along the way, let’s be frank. Jodie Whitaker taking over the role though is just so so exciting.


2018.exe

To cap off my 2017 I travelled to Edinburgh for New Years with some of my favourite people. It was a joy of a time wandering around the city. I’d never been to Scotland before and on our second day I ended up clambering up a mountain and came down it bruised, broken and half-fainting. Yet I wasn’t frustrated. It was an insomnia wrecked week, mostly with me napping in-between the long walks and cheerful chatter. I was trying to process a year, you see. It was good to then watch Justice League and sort of see that as the perfect film to sum up my year. Disjointed, held between multiple voices, and filled with complete tonal whiplash from wall to wall. It kept refusing to end and yet there were some satisfying seconds here and there. As the final film for my year it was oddly kind of fitting.

That’s where I was. In the snapshot night of December 31st. On the streets of Edinburgh, with a rock-orchestra playing in front of me. Before turning around as there were just minutes left. Holding my third small can of Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime cider. I was dying for a piss. There was that minute left of 2017.

My 2017 was an error message because it darted between polar-opposite emotions. I wasn’t equipped to handle it, and that’s what made it arguably a difficult time. Or easier. It’s unclear. But it was a time in my life. It’s gone now. That’s all I thought of as that klaxon hit down to midnight.

I’ve experienced some grand times with people I love. I hope they know just how grateful I am to them for letting me experience actual lasting joy.

I’ve written. A lot. So much so that I most definitely have a full novel coming out at some point this year. Eep!

I’ve made some new obsessions with the likes of Dungeons & Dragons.

I’ve got a practical and actual future ahead. I am moving to a whole new town and starting a course with people I enjoy greatly.

I’ve witnessed a political world that has shifted itself from sheer hope to complete despair with no sense of rhythm or sense. All I know is that there might, might be a little allowance of optimism. It’s a start.

Most importantly — I have learnt a little to live with my brain. I am better equipped to recognise not just how terrible the world is but how good my life is. To acknowledge that my control is limited. That my tiny brain isn’t designed to process millions of people suffering all at once, on such a scale. And that’s okay. It’s not a fault, it’s a feature. In the context of the last few years, that’s a huge step for me.

In some small part I’ve fulfilled the promise of last year. I’ve visited my little brother through 2017 and watched him learn to crawl about and mumble. We can’t quite yet discuss macro-economics but I trust one day we’ll be best buddies. I promised to him and everyone I know that I’d find a way to get better. I’m not 100% there yet, or even 50% or 30% or whatever, but I’ve got the path.

I think I might actually know where I am going. And I am, most days at least, kind of sort of happy.

I am happy.


Writing this was the most difficult task of the last few years for me. I struggled between the several tones, not just in experiencing them but articulating them now. I wanted to write a coherent piece, even if the topic in question was literally incoherence. I tried my darnedest. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my year. If you suffer from anything similar to what I’ve described then I hope you’ll find the help you need. If you’re already on that track, I’m saluting you. It’s so much effort, right? So much hard, boring work!

I wish you all the very best with 2018. May it be filled with all things splendor and good in your life.


“Once I saw mountains angry, 
And ranged in battle-front. 
Against them stood a little man; 
Aye, he was no bigger than my finger. 
I laughed, and spoke to one near me, 
“Will he prevail?” 
“Surely,” replied this other; 
“His grandfathers beat them many times.” 
Then did I see much virtue in grandfathers — 
At least, for the little man 
Who stood against the mountains. “
Stephen Crane

Appendix of Stuff

Here was all the media I consumed this year and the stuff which rather tickled my fancy from music to film to games to TV to books. Absolutely no order whatsoever. This is more for my benefit than yours. I’ve likely left stuff out.

Recommendations in bold. Thing of the year has an asterisk*.

Music

Run the Jewels 3 (Run the Jewels), CARPENTERBRUTLIVE (Carpenter Brut), Fest blikket (Hanne Kolstø), III (BadBadNotGood), Spirit (Depeche Mode), Amen and Goodbye (Yeasayer), Silver Eye (Goldfrapp), DAMN. (Kendrick Lamar), iii (Miike Snow) Humanz (Gorillaz), Flower Boy (Tyler the Creator), Gang Signs and Prayer (Stormzy), 4:44 (Jay-Z), Reputation (Taylor Swift), Sleep Well Beast (The National), The Family Jewels (Marina and the Diamonds), american dream (LCD Soundsystem), Music for People in Trouble (Susanne Sundfør), Half-Light (Rostam), Painted Ruins (Grizzly Bear), MASSEDUCTION* (St. Vincent), Los Angeles Police Department (Los Angeles Department), Mouth Moods (Neil Cicierega).

Film

Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, Moonlight, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Thelma, Jane, Most Beautiful Island, Charles III, Rogue One, The LEGO Batman Movie, OJ Made in America, I, Daniel Blake, Logan, John Wick 2, Mystic River, Baby Driver, Get Out*, The Big Sick, Wonder Woman, The Room, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, La La Land, God’s Own Country, Long Shot, Too Funny to Fail, Woodshock, 78/52, Dealt, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore, Blade Runner 2049, 1922, Get Me Roger Stone, The Founder, Manchester by the Sea, Kubo and the Two Strings, Alien: Covenant, Dunkirk, Atomic Blonde, okja, Thor Ragnarok, Boy, The Disaster Artist, Star Wars The Last Jedi, Justice League.

About to watch: Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, The Florida Project, A Ghost Story, Phantom Thread. I saw Call Me By Your Name just this week and it is devastatingly good.

Games

Stephen’s Sausage Roll, Thoth, Caveblazers, Heat Signature*, Mini Metro, SWAT 4, Spelunky (I hit 100%!).

I might not write this section next year.

TV

The Leftovers, The Good Place, Bojack Horseman S4*, You’re the Worst S4, Man Seeking Woman, Sherlock S4, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend S2&3, Inside No.9, Doctor Who S10, Silicon Valley S4, Harmonquest S2, American Vandal, The Vietnam War, Rick and Morty S3, Review S3, Count Arthur Strong S3, Stranger Things S2, Better Call Saul S3, Veep S6, Ozark, Game of Thrones S7, The Crown S2, Samurai Jack, The Defenders, Master of None S2, Back, Mindhunter, W1A, Brooklyn 99, The Handmaid’s Tale, Godless, Black Mirror S4, She’s Gotta Have It, House of Cards S5.

I swear I watched a lot more this year.

Books

The Romanovs: 1613–1918 (Simon Montefiore), The Underground Railroad* (Colson Whitehead), SPQR (Mary Beard), The Disaster Artist (Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell), The Plot Against America (Philip Roth), The Holocaust (Laurence Rees), The Man Who Was Thursday (G. K. Chesterton), Blitzed (Norman Ohler), Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders), The Last of the Tsars (Robert Service), Spelunky (Derek Yu),, Difficult Women (Roxane Gay).

Also some boring history and some film studies books.


Addendum

Hi! If you want to follow my life throughout the next year, I’m on Twitter @writerNATE. I’ll be very very busy throughout the year with a whole Masters in Screenwriting thing to do.

I hope to still write a few things here and there though.

I expect to have Tears in Rain 2049, a longform review of the new Blade Runner, out by next week. I may also push out a piece about the year of the Wario administration.

Later this year I’ll have a novel (eep) and some other things (woo) on the horizon. But, you know, busy busy busy (yay?)!

Cheers!