January OWLS Post: Accepting Being Rebuilt

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Welcome back to a new year and a new OWLS blog tour. This month we are looking at the theme of metamorphosis.

A brand new year means new beginnings and opportunities. We have a tendency to embrace the new year because it’s a time when we can start fresh. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring our favourite dynamic characters who undergo changes for better or for worse. We will analyze these characters’ transformations and how these transformations benefited or minimized these characters’ potential in becoming “great people/beings.” We will also use these characters as a way for us to reflect on our own lives and who we want to become.

We all know that life is about continuous growth and change. Our bodies and minds are transformed every day, sometimes in small ways and other times in ways we could not have imagined. Not all of these changes are good but whatever changes come our way we need to find a way to cope with them and to deal with them.

Admittedly, for most of us these changes are not as drastic as the ones that Shinichi faced in Parasyte.

For Shinichi in between going to sleep one night as a normal high schooler and then waking up after a bad nights sleep and terrible dreams, his whole world and his body had changed. Though technically only half of that statement is true.

The world had already changed with parasytes already being fairly embedded within the population and murders already occurring. What changed for Shinichi was he gained an awareness of a reality he’d previously been either oblivious too or disconnected from.

And that happens a lot in our own lives. We learn something or experience something that makes us feel like the entire world has suddenly shifted. But really, the only thing that has changed is we are now aware of the situation. But that awareness brings new possibilities for action (or even the choice to close the door on it and now wilfully ignore something). In Shinichi’s case, becoming aware of the threat to humans gave him choices and while at first it seemed he was overwhelmed by the new reality he adjusted.

What took him longer to adjust to were the specific changes to his body. His right hand was eaten and taken from him. In its place was Migi, a parasyte with a mind of its own that didn’t always do as Shinichi wanted. Sometimes that worked in his favour when Migi would react to external threats faster than Shinichi could and other times it worked against him when Migi decided not to cooperate. However, Shinichi was faced with a situation where he had to learn to cooperate. Ignoring the reality of Migi was not an option. And while Migi certainly came with perks and enhancements, for Shinichi his body seemed no longer under his own control and at first that left him feeling quite despondent and helpless. But overtime, he found a way to accept Migi and even ended up feeling quite sad when Migi’s consciousness bid him farewell.

It’s a feeling anyone who has suffered an injury knows well. When you’ve broken a bone or torn tendons or ligaments (or worse though hopefully not), limbs suddenly don’t response the way they are supposed to. Even after they heal, they are never quite the same and sometimes you need to relearn skills or ways around basic activities that never used to give you problems. It can be tiring and frustrating and a feeling that somehow you aren’t in command of your own body. However, overtime while it might never be the same, it may get significantly better or easier to accept.

Though that is just looking at the physical changes. Shinichi’s metamorphosis went significantly further, particularly after Migi saved his life by repairing damage to his heart and chest meaning parts of Migi became spread throughout Shinichi. Shinichi became colder and less emotional and this pushed distance between him and his human friends.

Again, most of us haven’t had an alien parasyte fuse with our bodies but the idea of feeling removed from people you used to be close to and unable to connect with those around us is one most people can understand. Whether because of anxiety, depression, or just growing apart, it is a feeling a lot of us have experienced and can relate to.

Arguing whether Shinichi was a better person before or after his transformation is kind of pointless. Shinichi was fine as he was. The kind of shy high schooler with his crush on the girl. He may not have been about to change the world but he was living his life the best way he could. Shinichi after the transformation looked and acted differently, but that shy boy was still a part of him, as was his crush on the girl. With the knowledge he’d gained about the threat to the world and the strength he’d acquired he was set on a different path, but it wasn’t better or worse than where he’d started. Just different.

For me, Shinichi kind of demonstrates something that is worth remembering. Some changes you choose yourself and others happen to you, but the most important thing is what you do after the change has happened and how you react to it. In 2019, life is going to happen. Things will change. Big things and small. The question is how will you react when these changes affect you?

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PARASYTE: THE MAXIM [LIMITED EDITION]
PARASYTE: THE MAXIM [LIMITED EDITION]

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Being Fearless And Taking on a Colossal Challenge

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Ignoring the hyperbole in the title, blogging is a hard gig with a million things to do and any change becomes a massive challenge. With WordPress trialling their new editor, a new mountain has appeared. And while at the moment you have the option to just ignore it, looming ominously in the distance, ultimately the only way to know whether it is actually going to be that much of a problem is to actually get in there and give it a go. So that’s what I’ve done for nearly two weeks and while I know they are still working on features and things, these are my current thoughts on it. With the thoughts of others scattered throughout via Twitter – thanks to those who shared their experiences.

Now, this post isn’t actually about tearing apart WordPress or the idea behind the new editor. Basically because, the idea is kind of cool in giving bloggers more control over layout and how the post looks and being able to integrate different kinds of media within the post. That is, as I said, kind of cool. The execution however is a leaving a little bit to be desired, however with one or two exceptions, at this point I’ve managed to work around most of my major issues and the more I use the new editor the faster it gets to put posts together. 

Dakaichi Episode 7 Takato and Junta
Me hoping to get on the good side of whoever is in control of the fate of post editing.

That said, I must admit, I’m in the minority of bloggers I know in that the majority of my posts are drafted and edited pretty much entirely in the editor. I do copy content out and save it as a word file after the fact, but essentially all my drafts begin their life inside WordPress (unless it is a collaboration in which case the start over on Google docs for the most part. And that leads me to the number one issue I have with this new editor.

Hitting enter when writing text automatically starts a new block.

And you might think, so what? Start a new block. See the problem with that comes when you want to format or edit your text before going back and adding images and the like. Because you can currently only format one block at a time. So the more blocks it adds, the more you need to individually format.

Then again, you also can save blocks as reusable, and once you’ve formatted it once you can instantly insert that block into a new post saving a huge amount of time.  So, for something like my signature, that I apply at the end of almost every post, spending the time playing around with it, and editing it in html to actually insert line breaks rather than having multiple different blocks and being able to insert images into it, is actually worth the time because I only needed to do it once and then give the block a sensible name in my reusable block list and now it is a simple matter of ‘add block’, search for name, insert and it is done. 

2 Block editing is a no go right now.

Just so you know, being fairly average at computers (I can use them but I’m not into coding or the like) my previous method of having a consistent signature across posts was to edit in html view after I created a signature, copy the code from that into a word document and then paste in the html view every time I started a new post. That kind of required me to have the word doc where I’d saved the signature open and accessible while in the wordpress editor and to be honest while that worked well enough, it wasn’t exactly a neat solution. 

I personally see the saving reusable block thing as a huge advantage, though that comes with a couple of minor points:

  • Editing the block and saving will apparently update the block everywhere it is used. Now, on paper that sounds great. If I want to add a link into my signature, it would now automatically update across multiple posts rather than having to go and change them manually, or shrug and just assume that any post before such a date will have the old signature. Or my episode links will now  automatically add to all the posts that I’ve added that block to so, again theoretically, if I added the block at the start of the season and to every post after, editing the block by adding the latest link, all episode reviews would have a link to all other episode reviews. Which is kind of cool… provided it works and I don’t accidentally do something to destroy the block across every post.

  • However, if I’ve saved a block purely for the formatting, I need to remember to convert back to a regular block before I start editing and not to save it as a reusable block after I’ve edited. So for the headings I’m currently trialling at the top of episode reviews, because adding colour to a heading was pain in the neck, I saved one as a reusable block, insert it at the top of a new post, convert it, and then change the series name to whatever I’m reviewing. It saves me formatting time but I keep freaking out that I’m potentially altering other posts in the process and then have to check to make sure they are still as they were.

  • Also, it isn’t clear yet how many reusable blocks can be saved or whether I’ll actually remember what name I’ve given half of them so some might never get used again and just be sitting in some kind of data storage limbo.

Moving away from reusable blocks, the single content type allowed in most blocks is really quite frustrating. So before I added a list in but there was a bit of a lead in to the list. The sentence introducing the list is in one block and the list is in another. Incidentally, because the introduction is a paragraph, I can change the text colour and add background colour to that block if I like, but I can’t in the list post (unless I manage to edit the code just right and don’t get an error message which is a fairly common occurrence because not all html code is acceptable in wordpress so sometimes even knowing the code isn’t enough to edit the block without encountering an error).

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 7
You do your research, find out how to code something, enter the code beautifully and then get told that your editor doesn’t accept half of it. At least I’m learning something.

There is a media and text block that allows you to have media on either the left or right side and then text beside it which I have found useful for my weekly summary posts but even then there isn’t much flexibility in layout. You can’t wrap the text around the image or video, merely place it in two columns side by side.

While I’m at it, I’ll throw in the part where I can’t centre justify my text anymore. Left, right or centre but no more centre justify and that seems like a fairly elementary thing to fix.

Run With The Wind Episode 7 Kakeru
Yes,  there’s no getting around it, the new scheduler makes me want to punch something.

Let’s get a few more negatives out of the way. The scheduler. I hate the new scheduler so much right now. I’m learning to get on with it, but the basic loss of being able to see when my other posts are scheduled while scheduling a new post is really horrendous. That and we are back to scheduling posts in whatever time zone WordPress has set rather than local. This was what it used to be like even using the old editor, but then they changed it to local time.

However, it meant that during my first week at least, posts that had been scheduled using the old editor were still scheduled in local time and in the new editor I had to do time conversion to schedule them appropriately (4 am my time Saturday morning is  6pm Friday in WordPress schedule time incidentally) and for awhile it was really making me want to scream in frustration because I’d be scrolling through the scheduled posts and checking my written schedule (yes, I’m old school and still record in an actual notebook) and my posts wouldn’t be in the right order. Such an unnecessary frustration.

What will annoy me more is when they just randomly change it back to local time as they have done once before but they don’t bother to send out a notification of such a significant change that will have a huge impact on those who schedule posts.

Voice of Fox Episode 5
Clear communication would sort so many of these kinds of issues.

And then one more minor gripe, the gallery. I can no longer make a slide show with images or preview what the gallery will look like or decide to have my images appear in random order and just a lot of functionality of posting multiple images is gone. I’m kind of hoping these features are coming but again, it seems like something simple to include so not sure why these features have gone AWOL.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 6
Taking the good with the bad.

That said, I’m kind of feeling there’s a lot of positives. Inserting tweets, video embeds, the survey short code, has never been easier. Once I decide how I want my standard posts to look and set the reusable blocks I need, creating a post should actually be a fairly quick process. The media library is much better than it was and adding alt text and descriptions to images has never been easier. I haven’t reverted to the classic editor because I really haven’t felt a need to do so and  I do believe that once I get my head around this new one, there are many things that will be faster and even in just a week (scheduling multiple posts a day), I know that some things have gotten faster.

Still, it is one thing to know that something has potential to be good and another to see that a post of yours has just gone out with all your words mangled because it was one you copied and pasted from an outside source into the editor and then foolishly assumed that the way it previewed would be the way it would post (silly writer).

Tsurune Episode 5 Minato and Onogi
Yep, guess where you’re about to end up.

And when struggling to find the block type you need because you aren’t sure what it is called, wanting to move an image and being unable to, just wanting to be able to apply a change to the font or format of multiple text boxes simultaneously and realising you absolutely cannot… new things are hard. They are frustrating. And particularly when they have a massive impact on the time it is taking to prepare a post (already a fairly onerous task), and sometimes you don’t end up with the result you want, the challenge can seem insurmountable.

The good thing is, that when the challenge is too hard at the moment you can switch back to the classic editor if you have to. And if you are copying and pasting text from other sources the majority of the time, I’d actually recommend it – that text blending thing where it removes spaces randomly is really irritating. The other thing is that there is a huge community out there and so far asking questions on twitter about the editor has brought many to the surface willing to offer advice, or at least relate to the same issue and how they worked around it. I also managed to have a fairly decent help chat through WordPress when trying to help someone else who was having an issue.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 7
Let others help you.

On that note, I did turn the question of what is good and bad about the new editor over to twitter and I’ve tried to share some of the responses throughout the post if you want to check out the issues others have encountered. But, if you’ve tried the new editor, leave a comment of your experiences below and help others learn from what has worked for you and what hasn’t. 

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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MY HERO ACADEMIA – 2018 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
MY HERO ACADEMIA - 2018 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Friday’s Feature – Fiction to Change the World

I’m pretty straight forward about being completely obsessed with stories. All my life I’ve been a reader and a viewer of stories. As a kid I read obsessively (thanks to all the friends who have saved me from walking into traffic while reading) and I loved going to the movies and playing computer games. Sometime in my early twenties (pretty much when internet access started getting much better than dial-up) a new outlet for that obsession was found in anime.

But this post isn’t actually about me. It’s about the nature of fiction and why experiencing narratives is so fundamentally important.

Narratives for Entertainment

Obviously reading and watching for pleasure involves entertainment and that is probably one of the main reasons people engage with stories. Right back to the days of people gathering around the fire to hear about how the earth was made or how man discovered fire. It gives you a break from the real and takes you somewhere else for a little while and can amuse you and invoke a whole range of emotions. However, this is just one facet of the experience.

Food
Food Wars – Fun, energetic, some basic messages about not-being a jerk, and overall entertaining (at least season 1 was).

Narratives as Educators

This should also be straight forward. Back to the gathering around the fire, people passed on their knowledge, their religion, their ideas through the stories they told. They also shared their values and ideologies through the characters who were made heroic and those that were made into villains. You could learn about what was dangerous, what was acceptable, what was known about something through a story.

You also gain a rich knowledge in general through reading stories. Random facts stick with you well after you finish the story. Stories set in real locations or dealing with real issues usually weave facts into the story to make it more believable. While you can’t take everything in a fiction story at face value (how much research was done and how much was made up is questionable), you do gain a fairly diverse range of knowledge about places, settings, and things.

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Shion no Ou – Have to be honest that I knew nothing about Shogi going into this anime. Afterwards had to look up explanations not because the anime didn’t explain it, but because I wanted to confirm whether I’d understood it correctly.

Narratives as Community Builders

In addition to educating, narratives allow communities to form and to mesh. By having a shared story or understanding, people are able to understand one another better. It’s interesting as we see our world becoming increasingly small that we realise that a lot of the fundamental stories around the globe are very similar in nature and yet those small differences can become critical to understanding one another.

horriblesubs-zankyou-no-terror-10-720p-mkv_snapshot_06-12_2014-09-22_11-18-31
Terror in Resonance – Dealing with issues old and new. While focussed on events in Japan the messages are universal.

Narratives to Develop Empathy

This is absolutely crucial. Over and over we hear that the current generation (whether it was X, Y, millenials) have no empathy and are self-absorbed. By experiencing things outside of their own life and connecting with characters, people can actually learn to empathise in a way that they might not just by interacting with people in the real world. A common trait of someone who does not have very much empathy is very little imagination. It actually takes imagination to consider how someone else might be feeling and imagination can be fuelled by exposure to narratives (not the only way to build imagination).

Genos
One Punch Man – Poor Genos just wanted to be a hero. He worked so hard and got so incredibly rolled by the plot.

Narratives to Break Barriers

Following on from the ability to develop empathy and imagination, narratives allow people to see beyond the concrete reality and think in ways that might allow new solutions or new possibilities to be formed. At the very least, when confronted with a problem, someone with a rich exposure to stories (or to real life experiences) will have a wealth of options whereas someone without that exposure will struggle to think of a way around the issue. So without experiencing everything yourself, experiencing stories is a good way to build up your repertoire of problem solving skills.

sakamoto
Sakamoto Desu Ga – Title character Sakamoto certainly shows that there are other ways of thinking about situations.

As we increasingly see reality TV shows and talk shows dominating, I think it is important that the importance of narratives and the role they serve is remembered.

What are your thoughts about stories and the role they play? Or, what’s your favourite medium for stories?

 

Words of Wisdom

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