At school my art teachers hated me- I wasn’t very good at art and I wasn’t very good at doing things that were artsy. And whenever I tried to be artsy I would fall faster than an apple onto Issac Newton’s head (Hush… I don’t care if that’s just a myth… It works in the context of what I’m trying to say, right?). One of the primary reasons I failed AS level photography was because I wasn’t artsy enough- It wasn’t that my photographs were bad (see below,) it was that the artsy stuff I was supposed to do with them wasn’t good enough (at least not for the teacher anyway.) But recently I’ve found myself back in the realm of the artsy and this time I think it might be working. Continue reading
I read this lovely thing about Tom Hanks on Buzzfeed, talking about the favourite films which he’s made and aspects of the performances and his co-stars and what not. It’s a brilliant article and well worth reading. You’ve got to love Tom Hanks in my opinion. Even in films like the Da Vinci Code (remind me again… If Mary Magdalene is in the painting of the last super then what happened to the twelfth disciple?) he’s a good actor. But this isn’t about Tom Hanks… Though thinking about it, there are worse things I could do than write a couple of thousand words on Tom Hanks. Reading that article made me want to talk about my own work and literary universe in a similar way- about the inspirations and the writing process etc… As Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, ‘follow in the footsteps of greater men. That way, even if you do not surpass them in greatness, you can still share in their glory.’ Ok… I know Tom Hanks didn’t write the article and what not but he still did the talking, right? And whose footsteps are better to follow than Tom Hanks?
I picked up a book this week, I won’t say what it was because it was by a writer who, to his fans, is quite loved and I can’t be bothered with the ‘You know nothing… It’s brilliant and this is bullshit’ comments right now. And then there would be less chance that those people would actually see my forthcoming arguments as anything but a slight against their favourite author. It was sci-fi, a book I’d had on my list for a while but not yet got around to reading. So I did start to read it and I got most of the way down the first page before I figured it was probably a pile of rubbish. Now it isn’t good form to stop reading on the first page… The book might get better once it gets going. So I carried on to the end of the first chapter and then I threw it away. Turns out it didn’t get better. It was dull, plodding, pedestrian- The most egregious examples of science fiction clichés were there: An alien world, no context to what was going on, unpronounceable names, the apocalypse coming, some sort of saviour… And worse, it read like something that a third rate creative writing student would come out with. It was not good at all.
Somehow I ended up spending an entire evening watching TED talks. One of them came up on the YouTube homepage and it looked kind of interesting… It was called ‘forget what you know’ and it was all about learning and how we shouldn’t take knowledge at face value, as it is given, but look at in our own way. I didn’t watch it all as my interest was soon caught by another TED talk… How to learn any language in six months. Apparently the trick is to learn the little, fiddly words first (the buts, the ands, the ons etc.) and then gradually expand your vocabulary- It’s all to do with the most commonly used words, which are more often than not those small fiddly words. Do that and you are most of the way to mastering a second language. I figured, as I am a scholar of Italian, that watching this talk might help (Ma perché James? Il tuo Italiano é buono— No! Il mio Italiano é non buono.) It was an interesting watch but I don’t think I’ll become a fully fledged Maestro Italiano inside of six months. It might take a bit longer. Then I began to spiral, watching many more of these videos, some of them relevant to my life and others not so relevant- ‘How to sound like a leader,’ ‘how to engage in better small talk,’ ‘how to magically connect with almost anyone…’ The ones I watched were varied and whilst some were more interesting than others I found that there was always something I could take away from them, something that might be useful.
In the cases of the languages video it may help me to learn my Italian faster. Instead of concentrating on learning the big words, the pomodori and the pesci and the likes, and concentrate on learning the sul and the e and the é words. Some of them, like the leadership video, taught me how I should be presenting myself and introducing myself to people. One was about small talk, something which I have never been very good at, though at first I was a little wary of one of its main ideas… When people ask what you do, don’t straight up say it but say something that makes them ask another question, say something that intrigues them. Cue some very pretentious responses such as ‘I give people hopes and dreams’ or ‘I fill the world with beauty and love.’ I don’t know about you but if I asked that question and someone came out with an answer like one of those I’d come away thinking they were a bit of a tit… or worse. Imagine if I answered a question like that… What would I say? ‘I take people on wondrous journeys of imagination filled with mystery and magic!’ I would sound like a loon if I introduced my job like that but that doesn’t mean I should discredit the idea completely. It’s a good thing to get people interested in what you do so if you can do what the talk suggested and generate that interest but without sounding like a pretentious twonk, of course. Regardless of the fact that I would actually sound pretentious doing it, I can still find a way to use the idea.
Back before the summer when I was just starting to learn the true extent of my mental health issues I was looking into causes and cures and all sorts of other related stuff. I eventually came across this TED talk about something called ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’- ACES. They’re basically bad things that happen during childhood and they can fuck you up for life. They are something that is well worth looking into if you’re interested. So for some reason YouTube decided it would drag out this ‘Forget What You Know’ talk based on the fact that I had watched this one video months before… It was probably just a random choice based on my history but I shall probably be eternally grateful it. Those TED talks, in one evening, have given me so much inspiration and so much which I can use that there are no limits to the future benefits. Who knows when I will need to sound like a leader? And thanks to the languages video my Italiano may start coming on in leaps and bounds.
Already one video has had me heading down a road towards some kind of self improvement. I ended up watching a talk on how it is easier to draw than most of us realize and the results were ok… My drawing (by hand) is bad and the method suggested by the video reversed that. Then I stumbled upon something called ‘Inktober’ and I thought ‘Hey… Why don’t I give this a try? Improve my drawing skills even further.’ Four days in and the results have been mixed- You’ll have to go to my Twitter (JPCrocks) to see them if you want. They’re too bad to pollute this space- but who knows how good and artistic my drawings could be by the end of the month. I could turn out to be a real modern day Da Vinci… Or more likely not, given the quality of my drawings at the present moment in time.
I’ve been wanting to improve myself for a long time but I’ve never quite had the full impetus to do it. But these TED talks have done something. Merely watching them has given me the impetus to improve. I have been inspired to improve. It is amazing, how one fifteen minute video has the potential to do something like that… How one little video can change people in ways we cannot even imagine. This year, so far, appears to have been all about the future and this week I’ve been given another glimpse… Thanks to watching these videos I now have a clearer idea of how I can get what I want from life. And they’ve taught me how to get it too.
And to finish here is one talk I especially liked.