Happy New Year from Australia!
Not every day is a learning day. Occasionally I'll treat my mind to expanding experiences such reading an educative book on the universe, organising myself beyond tedium and frustration (the 2017 Yearly Planner is now up and running!) and even going to the local gallery. Most of the exhibits gallery cost money, naturally, but there are a great deal that are free to the world i.e. paid for by the taxpayer or public donations. Exhibits on Picasso, Andy Warhol, Ai Weiwei and Salvador Dali were all superb by the way, but since I'm not such a fan of David Hockney, my attention was lured to the other parts of this fantastic gallery.
Art and Social Responsibility
Before jumpingt to the highlights, one of the artistic pieces I didn't enjoy was some crude paintings by an artist I cannot remember, yet the words on the canvas have sparked some interesting dialogue. It read 'in this studio the artist has no social responsibility, but when the artist displays his work the situation changes.' An enjoyable sentence to ruminate on ... as with every artist, whether Hollywood Actor, Footballer or Songstress, nay almost every celebrity, the public and media are very eager to quickly put them on a pedestal for examination, pouring over every detail in search of substance, or substance abuse preferably, as that'll make more interesting headlines. When said beau celebre doesn't match the images wanted by the newspapers they are discarded with the same irrelevance as print media. Social Responsibility . . . will have to think about this some more. Social responsibility perhaps to depict truth however it may seem? That may bore more truth to a journalist perhaps. If a responsibility to society, then I think that's where I'd probably disagree with the artist: painters and sculptures can probably get away with far less social responsibility and just claim its art if it frustrates the masses. Tracey Emin's messy bed, the Turner Prize winning elephant manure....not sure what social responsibility either of them were curtailing to.
I also learnt that Bulgari wasn't Italian but Greek, that Elizabeth Taylor seemed to wear half their collection at one point or another, and that a Serpenti is an extremely fancy yet expensive way to tell the time. As an example, it may be able to tell you the exact hour you were plummeted into debt.
Gallery Top Choices
First Time Vlogging
Starting with the Basics
With some big trips coming up over the next few years, I've been looking into vlogging. What is it and why would you do it? Well, I actually started to look at it because of my drone fixation...you can read more of that on my drone needs in another upcoming article. But essentially in taking photos and videos from the air, I need to know a little bit about taking videos. Which I don't. I know nothing. Let alone how to fly a drone or even how to take videos with a drone. It'll be an interesting journey!
So why vlog?
Accessbility of the formaqt, basically. Well it's a format which everyone in the world is using there are massively popular vlogs like Casey Neistats who is a youtube icon...I have no intention of being a youtube icon...which is like saying that I don't want to date Natalie Portman. However, with the videos coming from the drone (when I buy the damn thing) I'll end up having oodles of video, which are a great format to convey the experiences of travels, taking the watcher onto a superior visual journey than perhaps my terrible photos can.
Other than Casey, my other favourite is 4xOverland, a South African that has just moved to Perth and a 4x4 guru. I find their videos informative, sometimes fun, but full of useful information I then take away. The same can be said of the extremely likeable Simon Cade and his excellent DSLR youtube videos. What vloggers do sometimes though, I think, is seem to forget that they should be treating the subject like a short story i.e. there is a start, middle and end. Since I'm only starting out on this journey, I'll publish updates as I progress, but at the moment it's mostly checking out what other vloggers do and use. How hard can it be, right? <fu**ing impossible, is usually the answer>
You can see all about those guys at their own websites and youtube channels:
A Guide to Making Videos
There was a great guide to short video filming by this young chap d4Darious link that identified Top 15 Mistakes Beginner Filmmakers make. He's very flashy and cooler than I'll ever be, but does make some really great points about film making which I think may be useful when starting a vlog. I do get that they are completley different concepts but my feeling is that you will need to engage your audience all the same. Now it says something about me that I wrote this stuff out whilst he does it in a vlog. And since he wrote it out in the first place (probably) and then acts it out as well, vlogging already seems harder than it did initially - perhaps it's only hard work if it's done well? In which case I genuinely have nothing to worry about.
I've effectively included verbatim what d3darious has said
Video Making Tips
Now obviously the above is for proper film making, but I think there are some great tips in there. The things I will try to do are:
I am coming from a zero-knowledge background other than actually watching movies. I've done that heaps, but otherwise I know jack sh*t. I watched another show that recommended starting with Windows Movie Maker as it's cheap (well, free) and then buy something that may do the job. Will keep you posted on my vlogging journey!
Writing Your Life Story
Writing a successful eBook...or rather, Writing a Book!
Why write a book in the first place? The easy answer that you want to tell a story. Everyone I think has a natural propensity when they're talking about something they love, to convey it with emotion and a fervour that only they can muster. Others take that story further, elaborating and perhaps even acting out certain parts of the story as they tell it. With ability to make videos at a touch of a button, many record their daily stories and their lives are infinitely easier than writing a book (he says, with no experience of vlogging). So why write a book? Because a) you love writing. Not like, but love. b) you want to have something tangible in your hand....doesn't quite work for ebooks though, does it? But the image is the same.
I've decided I love it. What next?
The process for writing a book takes months and years. Effort, perspiration, inspiration and patience with yourself. Naturally I can only speak of my experience, as this blog will humbly testify. If you're writing in your spare hours when you come home from work and on the weekends, then it can take insurmountable time and space, chewing away at the fabric of your existence and haunting your otherwise quite pleasant dreams. Well, that's what happened to me, anyway. I started writing the book during the travels, and tortured myself to set a timeline. However, a junior writer of absolutely zero experience other than some magazines here and there, I was still finding my style and my brand. So back to the drawing board. Whilst documenting facts is easy, feeling your way into telling your story is much harder.
You only develop that though through...writing. If you have your style and brand set-up, and you feel that your style can stay the course through an entire book, then you're set. All you have to do is months and months of writing, then proofing. Then re-proofing. And then re-proofing the re-proofed bits. Then speaking the entire thing out loud. Then re-proofing. Then you ask friends to read it, 90% of which will be too busy. Then you get some feedback, realise you've come across as a complete racist, prejudice moron, re-work the entire chapter and find spelling mishaps such as writing trace instead of trance, both of which are correct words but don't fit into the context of why people kept vanishing without a trance. A séance would never be the same.
After the first few chapters of your book you should approach some editors - Penguin and Harper Collins for example have open-periods where you can send in your book for free, usually at the start of the month (here in Australia, anyway). It's very much a 'don't call us, we'll call you'. They won't call you. Don't' cancel dinner reservations in the hope they'll call back. I sound like an arse, but if you're expecting fame and fortune on your first book you're deluded. 'Yes' you say, 'but I'm different, they will see my talent' and perhaps you're right. But very few writers enter the writing field to make money, very few actually do make a great deal of money. Write a book because you enjoy writing and the process of it.
Writing an eBook
Once you've been rejected by a few publishers, you've now entered the world that millions of writers worldwide have done. Welcome to the club! THAT's the precise moment where you think 'fu** this for a game of soldiers, I'm off to do this eBook thing', and that ladies and gentlemen, is where I found myself. So I dug into it and found a lovely company called Smashwords that help you do all those lovely formatting things you need to do within books to get it up to scratch. They have a step-by-step guide which any idiot can follow, even me. They take a cut of 15% of your book sales, but will enable you to actually get your book out there into the public. Woohooo, let the money roll in, am I right?!
The Count of Monte Cristo is FREE
To emphasise, you're wrong. Completely wrong. You have to think, amongst other things, about your intended audience target (action, adventure, travel etc), an alluring cover that will attract readers above all the other books that are on offer. Why should your book be priced above the millions of FREE books that are available. Because it's better? Unlikely. In a world where you can pick up The Count of Monte Cristo for virtually nothing, which is one of the best books money can buy (even though it is free) you have to have really work on your selling points. Marketing isn't just important, it's imperative.
Smashwords give you some great examples, but effectively everyone in the entire universe is judging your book by its cover. Combative man looking dangerous with gunfire and explosions? Buy! Sexy woman in lingerie? Buy twice! Man wearing sweaty nervous smile with book title made up in MS Word? Meh, probably not.
Top Tips - Organise Your Life
Stop watching television. If it help you write your book, then awesome! However, if you're writing a novel around The Great Depression, for example, and you have a winning story about, oh I don't know, plucking a name from random like Tom Joad, then watching repeats of Friends, Game of Thrones or some other stuff probably isn't going to help. Focus.
Top Tips - Realism
This book is your lifelong story, your ambition and your creation. This is the embodiment of you: you're Jesus, but instead of wine and bread you're pages of ink. It's your child!! Having said that, don't get too protective about your book. If someone says a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter is boring or doesn't work, they may have a point. Nothing is sacrosanct, even that one paragraph that depicts the poor Doctor, weeping silently into the freezing night, longing for his soul mate taken in the prime of her life....if it doesn't fit into the scene where the Brady Bunch are buying ice cream, cut it.
And review objectively. This is hard. Take a step back, try to view it from different perspectives. That's why it's important to ask EVER
Top Tips - Invest in Photos and Logos
Hire someone to do your cover for you or at least spend considerable time working on the cover. You can have an absolute masterpiece, but if your cover is nothing then you'll get nothing
Jump onto iStockPhoto to buy photos or the amazing unsplash for free photos. There are plenty of free websites around that offer photos, and if you're wondering about splashing out $15 for a photo, you're probably in the wrong game. If you think it'll make your book more attractive to buyers, it's worth the expense.
Stuck for money but want a cool logo or front or design? Get onto Fiverr they have a range of options and very cheap prices.
Top Tip - Find an editor
AHire an Editor. Hang on, I'll back that up. Hire a GOOD Editor. Look at their previous work, ask for examples, work with them and question them on their editing decisions - in a learned way not a combative way, obviously. You're the master of this book, but they're suggestions could be extremely valid. They vary in cost depending on their experience, but you can pay anything from a $1000 dollars to something obscene like $8000.
Again there are many sites available to you that you can hire people to do tasks for you - kind of like Airtasker but in this instance I like to use upwork - it's quick and easy and you can hire a vast array of professionals to do almost anything. However, be careful about who you hire for any long term or costly projects, suss them out as to who is going to be the best fit for your project. You can check their work with ten minute screengrabs that upwork do automatically.
Top Tip - Return on Investment
Which brings me to my next point - Return on Investment. If you're anticipating spending $2000 on your book with an editor, cool cover design, some fantastic pictures etc then remember if you're pricing your book at $5 you need to sell 400 books, plus the 15% in Sales you're losing out on. If you're using Amazon, say goodbye to 40% of your book revenue. Ouch. For your information I set my target at a realistic....five. If I sold 5 books, then I'd be happy. Writers don't write for money, they write because they enjoy it. For the record, I exceeded my aim!
Top Tip - Tell your Friends
This one was the hardest for me as it involves being vulnerable about your ideas and ambitions, but trust me it's the best thing you can do. If you have a business idea, you'd be surprised at the feedback you can get from your friends and family and strangers about making it better. The same goes with your book. Throw away your lack of confidence. Be open about your writing, don't listen to the negativity, you may get some great ideas and feedback from people that you can use. If they're interested in reading it, then brilliant! You have a free editor that may even buy it or tell other people about it when it is eventually published. Lose the shyness, tell people about your book!
Then just pray to your God...and whilst you're there, ask him/her to buy your book.
Hope that helps, and good luck!!
Politicians are, I think, supposed to be representative of the people. Yet when we think about our Politicians, they are clearly not. How can Trump or Clinton be a representative of the people? Trump inherited vast sums of wealth, Clinton graduated through Yale Law. In England, how can Etonians from privilege represent or even have a passing knowledge of what constitutes every day normality? In Australia how can a Prime Minister worth $200 million dollars possible perceive what it's like for the working class? They're divorced from society.
On the other hand, wouldn't a successful business-man know how to engage in international diplomacy? Know how to make a large business (essentially a country is as much) work to its most effective manner whilst garnering the best deals and high profits for its shareholders i.e. the citizens of this fair country? The last bit may be a bit of a sticking point given that the top end of the market is still getting richer whilst the bottom is getting poorer. But ideally you want your best and brightest leading the way, not some blue collar or white collar middle of the road ambiguate without a clue.
In the last few months there have been protest votes against the perceived establishment, which is a rallying cry against the common politician. The public are sick to death of politicians repeating the same rhetoric, claiming as many benefits as they can muster whilst having their wives, sons and daughters within the payroll to perform administration work. It's a quirk of the system that they've all got offshore bank accounts, pay fu** all tax and then complain the lower and working classes don’t work hard enough. Meanwhile big business, contributing less than middle-income earners despite the incredible billions of dollars in profits, attempt to claw back any ounce of credibility they can muster through setting up shop in these countries (UK - Google) to appease the Government. Doubt it'll last very long, the deal or the government.
Champion of the People - Working Class, Politically Savvy and Educate
But it's not all doom and gloom, it's Christmas after all. There must at some point be those from working class backgrounds that have earned a spectacular education or that are self-taught, that aspire for change for the good of the people rather than lining their own pockets, and that can actually empathise with the working classes, or as Kipling put it, walk with Kings and not lose the common touch. Maybe Santa will bring him or her to the fore. They'll change the world.
I wrote this week in my normal job (I have a day job, thankfully) about leadership and what that means. The difference between a manager and leader is stark, and there have been few inspiring leaders in the past 20 years. All I can think of perhaps is Obama and Tony Blair in their first years, and Duterte is inspiring something over in Philippines albeit murder. But we need a united figure - a single champion of the world that will unite all parties. A person that isn't from anywhere but is from everywhere. That is educated, intelligent, is a master negotiator yet can apply adaptive communication to every human being on the planet, and make the decisions that not only better society but take on the decisions that we don't have the strength or foresight to make. Perhaps Artificial Intelligence will supply the answer as I'd be amazed if we came to it ourselves.
*And no, Mr Branson nor Virgin in no way endorse me, or my website, or my face, or my book or my feet. I get nothing. Not even an invite to Necker Island. He doesn't even return my five calls a day or acknowledge the lingerie I send him in the post. Unbelievable*
It's been an immensely busy year in terms of personal experience and ticking goals off that I'd always wanted to achieve. I'll write more about one of those in another space, but to cover off my year:
Writing and writing...