creative writing, Identity, opinion, Suicide

Here’s to creativity… and other evils


Happy New Year 2018! Let’s raise a glass of champagne to our favourite friend, a writer’s indisputable nemesis: that heathen God of War, Creativity.

This article has been composed in honour of Kim Jonghyun – a creative genius, and an irreplaceable member of the musical world – and to mark my return to the folios of cyberspace. Certainly, it’s the only place a writer can occupy a rightful, permanent residence, unencumbered by paper and blotches of ink, nothing but the silken, seductive touch of the keypad present beneath one’s fingertips.

Creative composition, in all its forms, from the written magnum opus to the operatic masterpiece, is dominated by emotion. The hippocampus is the central point, seething regret, desire, determination, fervour – a veritable miasma of condensed emotions, each striving for control. It can be a battle to squeeze a single phrase, an iota of sound from such a pool of turbulence.  Creativity: an eternal cycle of intense joy, and crippling despair – polarised sensations, deeply intertwined. Both are essential. Both are deadly.

Creativity: it’s a brutal war against the mediocre. A spectre is present at the heart of each creation, a kernel of self-doubt which can rapidly expand, reaching gargantuan proportions if not swiftly curtailed. Call it an infection, an epidemic, an unalterable affliction. With every publication, an instantaneous flood of uncertainty oozes behind, trailing upon the throes of each exalted release. When you scrutinise each, the taint is evident – a misplaced phrase, the incorrect intonation, an unnoticed tautology. Submerged in self-disdain, almost crippled by anxiety, panting for release – yet the brain will not relinquish its hold, will not cease its urge to dissemble every painstakingly produced creation.

As artists, we are all expected to sublimate our own desires for the good of our craft. And we freely comply with these severe regulations: a silken yoke is fastened uncomplainingly around our willing wrists. Every second of every day must be accounted for, spent productively – skills must be honed, articles composed – another golden star to notch onto the wooden wall. If not, you’re condemned to spend the remainder of the evening – and most of the night – locked within a self-imposed torture, unable to escape from the venomous, repetitive internal chorus.

Leave me alone, you cry out, and the voice will respond. Leave? How can I leave? Without me, you are nothing.

The inner voice – your own, at its very ugliest – is never wrong. How can it be wrong? It’s you. Only you know the truth. Only you are privy to your innermost thoughts. Your lifelong partner, your companion until death – it’s you. Stalwart companions or violent enemies, you’re mortally bound, shackled tightly together until the last trump sounds, when you haul your complaining flesh from the throes of a concrete coffin. Bones have crumbled, resembling a glutinous dust – the jellies of your eyes are shrivelled, all plump, juicy remnants of flesh evaporated. But the brain is still present, oozing turgid clumps of neuronic transmissions, palpitating in a frenzy, picking up the last traces of thought still etched upon its coils. Ready, once again, to fasten its teeth into the meat of the soul.

The personality, as Freud observed, is tripartite. We are burdened with not only the ego, which is a vile monster in itself, but the superego, and the “id”. The id: a repulsive creature of base instincts, drunken upon the fruits of excess, and nursing within its craven bosom two entirely separate components: Eros and Thanatos. The inherited, biological components of the id battle for dominance: the hapless libido, encased beside its far more malign, sinister brother – the Reaper, stretching out its welcoming hand, oozing the promise of release.

All creative outlets demand an investment of one’s essence. This sort of relationship cannot be maintained upon an unhealthy foundation; at the first push, the slightest external impression, the structure will fall. Creativity: it cannot be forced. It must be softly coaxed from its shell, in the guise of a prone animal, offered the occasional titbit as a form of temptation. The creative part of the brain, after working itself into an orgy of anticipation, leaps forth, flinging itself headfirst into the nearest ravine at the promise of release. It has to be carefully monitored, otherwise it’ll drown itself in excess. Once unleashed, it cannot be subdued, exuding obedience, to the depths of its cage.

Neurological findings have pinpointed the true biological accelerators, aiding and abetting the creative process. Firstly, the prefrontal cortex must be thoroughly suppressed – at least, for the duration of spontaneous invention. We must lose the ability to look forward, to predict the consequences of our actions – we must be firmly anchored within the present, confined to the four walls of the left hemisphere. Woe betide you if those walls are painted black.

Another trait which must be expelled with haste: the long-term memory. Surprising, I know, but essential. We must forget what we know, and wipe away the viscous coating of past experiences, in order to form fresh realisations upon an untarnished landscape. The last is perhaps the most predictable: an absence of critical thinking. We must scrape away the last vestiges of constraint, and abandon all self-awareness, in order to achieve true creative independence.

Of course,  we cannot escape our constant companion, riding upon the coat-tails of creativity – emotionalism. As is evident – particularly within the performance world – heightened emotional activity is an arbiter of creative function. Without it, all publications lose a semblance of zest; in the area of performance, it is mandatory. Above it all, the super ego presides, conducting its behemoth orchestra without pause, whilst the rest of the soul writhes upon searing coals.

I’m not afraid of Death. I’m terrified of the Living Death – the death of the soul, the demise of ingenuity, the bright shades of invention: extinguished. And that’s my  “resolution” of 2018 – to eradicate all semblance of this from my own internal amphitheatre.

Digital revolution, opinion, Politics, Technology

Fires, fears, fake news: Just another day in the UK (beware: app teaser also included)

Today, my friends, we’ll have to welcome back the termagants of youth. We thought they were pacified by Labour’s dramatically increased majority – the lowering of tuition fees assured, they shall retreat once again into the amicable embrace of millennial apathy. Nope – c’est pas vrai! They surge once again, emerging from floods of unbottled hatred, brandishing the scythes of social media, Twitter-storms abounding in their wake. Each digital onslaught is echoed upon the planes of reality, raging rallies beside ruthless retweets: our beloved Spectator caricatures, rendered in alarming Technicolour, circulate within the propagate realms of Twitterfeed. Naturally, this week has issued a multitude of conquests. Not only have we isolated the latest bacterial strain of “fake news” – we’ve managed to tie the knot between two differing branches of activism. Digital campaigning has managed to obtain new levels of recognition, with co-founder of the YouTube centric “Novara Media”, Aaron Bastani, emerging triumphant from behind the glossy, impenetrable surface of the smartphone, making his debut before a protesting crowd championing the slogan “#MayMustGo”. In our current climate, “political affiliations” are almost akin to marriages: unwanted, costly, and frankly, rather pointless.  It is no longer necessary to be forsworn, shackled within the yoke of party policy: as of now, such urbane activities as “letter-boxing” and “street-campaigning” are considered almost futile; erstwhile neighbourhood representatives of the Labour, Green and Tory parties are few and far between. Those desperately clutching the title of “party executive/financial coordinator” to their shrivelled bosoms, whilst they rattle collection tins and batter letterboxes in an increasing bid for attention, now need to wake up and sniff the neoteric aroma of a WiFi transmission, taste the wondrous swipe of a Samsung S8 as it glides across their tongues. Let us jump from the sinking ship of the last several centuries, and instead embrace the strengthening impact of the digital revolution: online campaigning, Facebook livestreams of hustings and electoral events – all tangible, happening, now.

Almost every day, every hour of the televised run-up to the recent General Election has been speckled with prevarication.  Each article concerning our esteemed Rameses II and Nefertari (you choose) has been coated with a sticky encrustation of falsity – blatant, exorbitant sensationalism is an ever-increasing facet of the mainstream media, otherwise referred to as “scaremongering”. Most recently, certain falsehoods regarding the Grenfell Tower inferno have been brought into prominence. Two of the most odious specimens of bottom-feeder journalism have again obliged us with a few farcical examples, in honour of the election. We are, indeed, so cordially obliged.. 

It is, quite frankly, hilarious. Let’s sit back, chew on our popcorn and observe the Sun, now begging the public to ignore these “hyperbolic” rumours of their impersonation of a Grenfell Tower victim relative –  those who have unequivocally guilty of blatant sensationalism since their inception! According to these well-informed individuals, Corbyn’s all set to requisition the homes of the rich – in true Bolshevik, vodka-swigging style. Sigh.

Indeed, a stupefying number of news outlets today are scraping the much abused, beaten barrel when it comes to reporting. Those on the left seem determined to encourage recognition of the apparent “demonisation” of the working class, spread throughout the media, akin to the journalistic blitzkreig directed towards Jeremy Corbyn. A human wave attack, masquerading as a peaceful penetration? Allow consumers to put their much-squeezed brains into practice, and judge.

The Press retains power – a monopoly of social and political discourse, a rigid handling of public perception. Only from the Spectator can we obtain “better arguments” – for the “price of a cup of coffee” (that accursed adage) we are chained to a limited multitude, a bleating babble. Must we return to the confines of the intellectual wheelchair, allowing us to navigate this minefield of knowledge? No.

Which do we prefer? The carefully aligned postulations or the universal bleating of twitter? Answer: there’s absolutely no difference. All amount to speculation – may we remain Spectators, or die.

Or stay tuned, for the launch of my new app, designed to eliminate fake news once and for all, spreading enlightenment to all and sundry. OK, I know you don’t believe me yet. But just wait and see, and follow me on Twitter @CatTranfield – you’ll be the first to know.




Digital revolution, opinion, Politics, Technology

Technology is the answer: Oligopoly, ordinance or an ode to advancement?

The word “money” pulls me towards two options: run as fast as possible in the opposite direction, or surrender honourably unto poverty in the hope that it will “inspire me to aim high, and achieve better” (cited: your bomb-dodging, powdered-egg consuming grandmother). As older generations observe, from the comfort of blissful suburbia and secure retirement years ahead: “it’s character-building…one day, you will look back upon such hardships, and be grateful.” I laugh carelessly in response, and continue to watch my hard-earned salary slip between my fingers. Oh, you poor dears, your knees knocked terribly during the Cold War. At least your interest rates were also frozen.

Currency is catastrophic. Wealth is inert. It is a status symbol, a number printed on a bank statement – however, its material value will shortly be placed at naught. Money is a belief system, of little substance within our current climate. It is ephemeral, yet we prize its value. I’m not your typical butt-hurt millennial, kicking my heels and wailing: “Student debt/no home. Poor little me, I can’t get married” (I refer you to Rhiannon Cosslett: A Millennial and a Baby-boomer trade places). Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want to be a homeowner. I’d rather be a tube-hopping, couch-surfing, Spectator-reading smoker for the next ten years. All I want is the freedom to tube-hop without being launched into penury. And to devour more than three articles at a time without committing to £4.00 a month. (Damn you, Spectator. I may defect to the Telegraph. You’ve been warned.)

As a young adult, the esteemed authorities of our society seem determined to push myself and my contemporaries directly into a budget deficit, which will rage, to varying degrees, for the next several years. Being a denizen of London, one can’t step out of one’s Zone 4 domain more than twice a week without being put perennially out of pocket. Even something as fundamental as travel is not feasible, despite Sadiq Khan’s fare freeze of earlier this year. My earnings, as an entity, no longer exist as material gain: my account is an hourglass, leaking steadily, dripping kernels of self-respect and property-owner ambition to the floor. If you don’t use a contactless card (perhaps because you loathe watching those figures steadily decrease by up to 20% each week) you are forced to top up your Oyster card before each return journey. Half an hour can be squandered, squashed behind people who, amazingly, think that rush hour is a good time to update their monthly Oyster allowance with coins and cash. 

Coins? Why are these small, easily lost, inane pieces of metal not sitting behind dusty glass, in the darkest corner of a back-street London museum? As a result of the latest developments, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Monzo, you will rarely glimpse the sight of someone handing over £3.50 in change for their extortionately priced Starbucks coffee. I tend not to carry a single coin or pound note about my person. (As if I could afford the alleged luxury of the famed Teavana Shaken Iced Passion Tango Tea Lemonade – try saying that at twice the speed. Valuable pounds and seconds wasted.) Dear all beggars in Soho: I am unable to oblige your requests for “a bit of change”, largely due to practical reasons as opposed to the well-known miserly behaviour of the struggling student populace. Yours truly, little Miss Broke.

When observing the so-called development of British currency over the years, only one point is clear: there is absolutely no direction. The economy is stagnant across the world. Economic “growth” can instead be regarded as consistent regression; “progress” can be achieved by placing a space-age leisure centre beside a downtown slum. Salaries are decreasing, whilst working hours increase; levels of child poverty across the world are sky-rocketing – the highest levels have been found in London itself, supposedly one of the richest cities in the world. How did this happen?

According to Caitlin Moran, our society is entrenched in the past, regressive; we long to be flung, face first, back into the deluge of the twentieth century, from which we shall unearth the dull, oxidised gold snatched from the colonies; we long to don flag-printed robes and toss tea around in pride. Brexit and Trump are well-recognized examples of this: a desire to return to the fabled British Empire, to “make America great again”. Apparently, the only future that propagates change is the one perpetuated by tech firms, who, according to Moran, focus purely on commerce: “your driverless cab, your drone delivery, your wearable health-tech – it’s just about the lucrative stuff.”

Well, maybe. Those such as Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, are dishing out a similar rhetoric. Technology will condemn us to a future of false consumerism and intellectual decay. We shall be left sobbing, tossed amongst the detritus of society, prostate upon an uncultured, bleak, Brechtian landscape whilst robots patrol within our midst. The remains of our welfare state will be yanked from under us, and jobs will disappear overnight. 

No. Unfortunately for those profiting from this scare-mongering rhetoric, you’d better trade your place on the soapbox for a seat at the very back of the atrium. (We can’t have you raining all over our metal-man parade; you’ll rust the future of the human race.)  Technology may eventually become our rust-ridden saviour, our metal messiah, a mechanistic incarnation of the Second Coming. Take this from a non-partisan digital native, who is currently planning her own retirement: our automated future is neither a utopia nor a dystopia. This assertion may not contain the Moranian stamp of validity; it is, however, grounded in solid fact.

Let me throw a couple of bright tech bombs at your head. Deep Mind. Bitcoin. Bio-Bean. Floating farms. Secco.  (No – it’s not toothpaste.) We’re in the middle of a population explosion, ladies and gentlemen, and it’s not going to stop here: by 2050, there will be an estimated two billion more humanoids crawling about on our already pillaged planet. But never fear: safety is at hand, in the form of a technocratic triage. Say goodbye to your insurance premiums and your carbon footprint – coffee-powered, self-driving cars are at hand. Dreading your imminent old age? Welcome to DeepMind Health, and an extra twenty years of life. Fancy a trip into space? Your personal rocket awaits. Thanks to newly-developed asteroid-mining, you might return with a sackful of gold. Forever alone? Say hello to your new robot girlfriend. (She might condescend to touch you in that special place). Loathe your daily commute? Get ready to whizz to work, with the commercial speed of a jet airliner. Constantly forgetting your password? Your brainwaves will pick up the slack.

Here is the paradox, people. Old money: new living. Old living: new ideas. If you launch yourself into the twenty-first century shouldering left-over baggage from the twentieth, you’ll find yourself dragging your feet at every step. Sure, perhaps a fully automated economy won’t work within our current economic system. Maybe now’s the time to kick it into the backseat permanently. It’s a brave new world – if you’re gutsy enough to step into it.

If ever there was an outdated system that needed its backside kicked headlong into the future, it’s the educational institution of Britain today. For most of the 21st century, educational developments have reached an all-time low – speaking as an individual who has spent most of her life interred within the pungent, fleshy confines of the educational vulva, without suffocating upon repeated ejaculations of suppurating, futile policy alterations further denigrating the purpose of education – indeed, quite an achievement. I am one of the pulsating wounded – my brain has been truly disembowelled by the last seven years of so-called “secondary” education – luckily, I have maintained a firm grip upon the last vestiges of my sanity (so far, anyway). The education system – indeed, the National Curriculum itself – is inherently flawed. Critical thinking is speckled sparingly amongst each subject, without sufficient focus – furthermore, students today are not being taught how to innovate. They are taught patterns, akin to algorithms – for example, the theory of pie – however, they are not given access to the reasoning behind these theories; they are simply memorised, without true comprehension. Furthermore – 65% of current learning will be irrelevant within a couple of years. Sure, every process which takes a split-second to accomplish will, of course, be automated – however, innovation remains paramount. We must equip the younger generation, allowing them to approach the next singularity – in the words of my new best friend, Simon Very, it’s time to “invest in the long-term”. Now’s the moment – let’s act.