My dream job

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. The long hours fraught with danger, the lack of privacy, the huge impact on family life, missing birthdays and Christmas. I.. just.. love it. No, seriously, despite the sarcasm, I do. I get to make a real different to the lives of people and I play a part in protecting the most vulnerable in society.

But what – if I wasn’t doing what I do – would be my dream job?

I wish I ran my own business. I love gaming, the internet and internet forums. I recently set up Strategy Gaming Network as a community for people to talk about strategy games. I would love to be able to do that fulltime. It wouldn’t be a job. To quote that other famous Job:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

I’m lucky in that I love what I do. But I would love to run a forum and write about games as a full time profession too.

What is your dream job?

Three favourite books

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

This is quite possibly – along with book three in this list – what got me into science fiction in a big way. I was in my mid-teens when I first read Consider Phlebas and it opened up the universe of Banks in such a big way that I developed a voracious appetite for The Culture. So much that character names from his books have featured in numerous online ventures. Names like Horza, Zakalwe and Excession.

The epic scale of a war spanning light-years sets the back drop of the story of Bora Horza Gobuchul and his quest to locate a renegade Mind lost on one of the famous Planets of the Dead controlled by the elder Dra’Azon species.

The war sets the scene but the book is really a collection of short stories chronicling Horza’s adventures. The Temple of Light, the Megaship, the Eaters, the Damage game, the Command System. Horza’s escapades are numerous and Bank’s prose is both humorous and epic in scale.

What’s interesting – from the perspective of a Culture novel – is that Horza is an enemy of the Culture, choosing to fight for the Idiran’s in their holy war as the Idirans are ‘on the side of life’. This is a precursor to future Culture novels which a focused around the Minds which control that utopian society. For a first book to feature the enemy of your primary series protagonists is a bold step.

Thoroughly entertaining if ultimately futile as set out in the epilogue of Consider Phlebas, Horza’s escapades get 10 from 10 and a thorough recommendation.

 

 

Wonderland Avenue by Danny Sugerman

Wonderland Avenue hit me right in the feels during my tumultuous late teens. Handed to me by a friend I immediately fell in love with Sugerman’s portrayal of life with Jim Morrison of the Doors, and more importantly – both to the book and to me – his relationship with his father. 

The book opens with Sugerman’s childhood and his difficult familial relationship and quickly introduces the music of the Doors to the reader. This was also a commentary on the impact of popular music on society and how it heralded social change. 

Sugerman casts off the protection of his family and strikes out on his own falling under the wing of Morrison. It charts his rise – much to the disgust of his father – in the music industry, his encounters with drugs, relationships with other personas from the music scene and his ultimate fall from grace. 

The book had my crying with laughter; Sugerman’s description of Iggy Pop in a dress chopping up a car with an axe is a firm favourite moment for the sheer hilarity. As is Sugerman’s call to the police to report his car stolen only for it to dawn on him that it’s in a house in Laurel Canyon having been driven off the road and through the roof. Wonderland Avenue is replete with comic set pieces which will have you laughing your ass off. 

But there is also genuine sadness in the book. Estranged from his father and brother, hooked on narcotics, Sugerman’s demise and redemption was both joyous and difficult to read. It brought back personal feelings of remorse as to my own relationship with my father. 

And when I turned the final page I cried tears for both Danny and for me. 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I can’t remember when I first read Hitchhikers. It was a long time ago. Funny, very English, and science fiction which borders on science fantasy. It’s the story of Arthur – a fairly average chap – who embarks on a whirlwind adventure with Ford Prefect, a researcher for the titular Hitchhiker’s guide (which has the words ‘DON’T PANIC’ in large, friendly letters on the cover.)

Adams wit is absurd, the plot borderline insane, but the true and very real message of Hitchhikers is largely what makes its appeal.

You see, to Adams, the universe is a joke and nothing actually really matters. Earth is bulldozed to make way for a hyperspace freeway, a towel is the most important thing a traveller can own, and The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42.

In many respects, Adam’s writing is nihilistic. It’s designed to show our place in the universe doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make a difference. There’s futility in the message but it’s wrapped up in the warm & comfortable prose of a writer at the top of his game.

You can enjoy Hitchhikers for the many jokes, set pieces, wry humour. For the offbeat characters such as Zaphod Beeblebrox – the two headed, three armed Galactic President and Marvin the Paranoid Android who dwells in the depths of depression. Or you can see it as it is meant to be; a treatise on the scope of the universe and how little, how so very little, we small humans matter.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

What is your favourite book? Share in the comments below.

How the coronavirus has affected me

Without question the defining issue of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic and the COVID-19 disease which stems from it have had an impact upon society quite unlike anything else which has happened in my lifetime.

Its unlikely that anything else – barring world war three – will have such an impact on the world as this has. But how has it affected me? Barely.

LOCKDOWN

Lockdown hit and it was strange at first. The streets were empty, the shops started running out of essentials. We had plenty of toilet rolls but could I find flour anywhere? No chance! Queuing to enter a supermarket was odd at first but quickly became the norm. I think we, as a species and as a society, are fairly resilient. We will accept certain restrictions placed upon our freedoms for the ‘greater good’ of society and humankind. This was one such restriction.

HOME

Save for the lack of visitors things at home changed very little. We still had our house, our child and each other. We never went without. We were not impacted financially and neither of us – due to our work – had to work from home. That would probably be my worst nightmare; being trapped in the house for days on end. Thankfully for both of us, employment was unaffected. We had to go to work because – heroic pose – society needed us.

WORK

My boss is fearless. Truly fearless. But this thing, this microscopic ‘thing’, terrified him. It was difficult to not take on that fear. Fear of infection, fear of disorder, fear of death of oneself or one’s colleagues. I’m pleased to say that none of these things happened. Life went on. Life goes on. Work is as work was. Yes, the type of-

Look, I’m a cop, ok? Let’s add some context to this post. The type of job changed. Shoplifters became burglars, for example. Domestics with through the roof. People, it seems, can only tolerate their spouse if they can leave the house.

Assaults on emergency workers by coughing and spitting became common-place. How awful must a person be to directly threaten the people who are there to help them with an infectious disease?

LIFE

Life goes on. Its different now but it goes on. Day after day we carry on, hiding our smiles behind masks. I’m dismayed by the struggle people have with maintaining social distancing. It’s a perplexing situation when people cannot avoid parties or groups for a few weeks. Its not just YOUR life you’re playing with, its my life, it’s the life of nurses, it’s the lives of your loved ones.

FUTURE

Coronavirus isn’t going away. Our government is inept and has screwed up with their response to this. Hence why “England topped Europe’s grim league table for highest levels of excess deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.” Source: washingtonpost.com

Social distancing will remain until next year. Think again if you expect to go on holiday this year. Local lockdowns WILL happen.

But remember; it’s for the Greater Good, okay?

How has living under lockdown affected you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Blog name and meaning

Hello. I’m alsarcastic.

…and this is my blog.

How did the name come about? This blog has been through many names over the years it has been active. (active!? – Ha!) alsarcastic is probably the longest serving blog name and I don’t intend to change it any time soon. Before it was alsarcastic it was mistersarcastic as a match for my twitter account. Once upon a time I deleted the mistersarcastic Twitter account and when I went back to use it again the name had been taken by someone else. The account is now suspended. Ha! Take that, mister-account-name-thief-sarcastic.

Crime does not pay.

I needed a replacement. My name is Al. alsarcastic was born.

I am not currently active on Twitter due to my self-imposed twelve-month social media ban. I’ll write about that at a later date.

Why sarcastic? I’m terrible. I have no filter when it comes to sarcasm:

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence,” wrote that connoisseur of wit, Oscar Wilde. Whether sarcasm is a sign of intelligence or not, communication experts and marriage counsellors alike typically advise us to stay away from this particular form of expression. The reason is simple: sarcasm expresses the poisonous sting of contempt, hurting others and harming relationships. As a form of communication, sarcasm takes on the debt of conflict.

And yet, our research suggests, there may also be some unexpected benefits from sarcasm: greater creativity. The use of sarcasm, in fact, promotes creativity for those on both the giving and receiving end of sarcastic exchanges. Instead of avoiding sarcasm completely in the office, the research suggests sarcasm, used with care and in moderation, can be effectively used and trigger some creative sparks.

The Surprising Benefits of Sarcasm

I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest it’s the highest form of intelligence and I’m far from the most cleverest chap to walk god’s green earth, but I am prone to sarcasm both online and offline. It’s something my friends typically groan at before massive eye-rolling. To summarise. My name is Al and I am sarcastic. Hence; alsarcastic.

Do you have a blog? Share it in the comments below.