"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Scarlet & Other Stories

On going absent without leave, computers, eyes, recent developments and an important request- rather long but please bear with me...

First, I hope you all had a good Christmas and I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

It occurred to me that it would probably be polite to start the new year by explaining why things tailed off during the last.

The last you may have heard I’d sent in a selection of random script pages to Red Planet and was pacing more nervously than a prospective father during the 96th hour of labour. Except I’d all but decided not to bother completing the complete draft having decided the first ten pages I’d written were drivel. Thankfully, I had the sense to thrust them upon a sentient being who said these were quite good so ‘write the rest’. So I did. The first draft needed to be properly storylined then clocked in at around 100 pages and was done in a couple of weeks. Then I sliced and diced until it was a more appropriate length. If I remember correctly this was dealt with by the beginning of November. While I’d written something rather poor it was still fortuitous, so it turned out, to have a completed draft...

Do you know what a ‘backlight’ is? Neither did I. It’s the thing that makes the pretty pictures appear on a laptop screen. When it dies the computer dies: it is not economically viable to repair. And thus my faithful old Toshiba started to die after 6 years loyal service while I was writing the RPP piece. Unfortunately, within a day of completing, and just before I was about to back it up and check all the most important files were also, the hard-drive imploded. So, I had to find a new laptop and hope that I could get all my data recovered including the just completed script. A new laptop was relatively easy to acquire (they sell them in something called ‘shops’), the data recovery was tough going as the hard-drive was hard to access (but apparently I only lost 14 files and I still haven’t worked out what) but the hardest thing was getting back online as apparently the drivers needed for this (and practically all other things) change by the day. And have to be downloaded. And how do you download the drivers for internet access when you haven’t got internet access?

The new laptop has taken some getting used to because at some point since buying the Toshiba they decided to change where most of the keys were and made them a lot smaller (or closer together) and the screens are now a lot wider... apparently for no other reason than so America can have two pages on screen at once... and what America wants we all get. I thought it was just to annoy me!

When I got back up, running and online in late November I discovered in a somewhat well-stuffed inbox the telegraph from Red Planet telling me that they too rather liked the play what I wrote. I was rather pleased. As it had arrived nearly a week before I was very concerned that I might have missed the next deadline- and still don’t know- and had to hurriedly go through the somewhat rough, full script making sure that it had not been ‘corrupted’. That got sent off and now I’m back to pacing in the aforementioned corridor. Of course, I’ve since realized quite how ropey the script is and have already set about a comprehensive ground-up rewrite.

The Problem
The new laptop didn’t just require adjustment to new hardware but also to new software- Vista doesn’t ever do as it’s told- I change the settings, it decides I’m wrong and changes them back again; Word 2007 is shockingly bad and I’m hunting down Word 2005 or earlier (I can’t find anybody who actually likes or uses 2007)- but these are things you can get used to... even if you don’t want to!

Now, for several years I have feared that I have been slowly glowing blind but, as I’m very squeamish when it comes to eyes, I’ve put off doing anything about it just in case there was something wrong. The new machine has a wide shiny LCD screen that has a brilliant burning intensity. I’d always turned the screen brightness down on the old matt-screened Toshiba but turn the new one down to the right level for me and it turns into a very good mirror. Turn the screen up and it feels like I’m staring into a light-bulb. In the first month of use I was finding it harder and harder to see- and using the machine less and less- I was left unable to focus my eyes, things were very blurred, over-bright and my eyes hurt and strained constantly. But this only happened after computer usage. Finally (presumably this is the approach to the innermost cave), I bit the bullet and went to the optimist optometrist.

Several years of worry have been assuaged- I am not going blind. In fact it turns out I have very good eyesight, both near and far, and good peripheral vision to boot. However, although the lady didn’t give it a name, I seem to have some form of Photophobia which hadn’t previously been a issue. Thankfully, it’s not severe but apparently is irreparable. I think I know where it’s arisen from though I’ll probably never be certain. In hindsight it has explained a few things including why I’ve been dreading the ban on incandescent light-bulbs as I have found the fluorescent bulbs quite painful. What I really need now is a screenguard for the laptop which is proving impossible to find- everybody says they exist nobody knows in which mythical land. If you know somewhere I can get a laptop screenguard please get in touch as a matter of urgency.

In the meantime, I’m trying not to spend so long at the machine and I write everything in detailed notes on paper (like I always used to) and just type it up so it’s a good job my typing speed is half-way decent. So you’ll have to forgive me if I spend less time online.

Other Stuff
The most unexpected thing I realized while I was computerless was how little I missed the internet- and how little I really used it for- email and eBay primarily. The loss was more irritating than devastating. I didn’t use these iPlayer type things- why watch TV in pixelated form on a small screen when I can watch it on TV? I’ve never played computer games- online or offline- life’s too short already. I just went back to music, reading, watching and terrorizing the cats with my own inimitable brand of terrible guitar playing. Being unable to type was a nuisance but I’ve always done a lot on paper anyway. The other thing I hadn’t realized until I stopped was how deeply tired I was. Maybe sometimes people need a bit of a break.

...and in the meantime, I appear to have acquired some followers. Which is strange, new and unexpected. This wasn’t there when I was last about. What’s it all about? Do I have to do anything? Should I reciprocate? When I get 12 followers I’m going to start a religion- I already have good recipe for loaves and fishes... well... pilchards on toast. And now I must be thinking about a meme- and rather a difficult one I suspect...

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