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Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics
Dalai Lama XIV
Progress: 23/433 pages

Review - Won't You Be My Neighbour

One of the questions asked very near the start, is whether Fred Rogers made a difference with the many, many years that he ran his show on TV.

He knew communication. Things which we know today, such as being a good listener and treating children not like children... not quite like adults but sort of... if they can understand the question they're asking, then they deserve a decent answer... he knew all those decades ago.

"There are so many people who will just lump them all together and say, 'Hey Kids, come on we'll see the next cartoon,' and they couldn't care less about what that cartoon is saying to the child about such things as human dignity."

He tackled so much in the way of really tough subjects like death, assassination, race, divorce and other things which would otherwise have been thought to have been off a child's radar at the time. It's as if people forget that all these things happen around children; and they need help to make sense of these things, but no one would talk to the child about them. Well, not Fred Rogers; he talked about them.

Look at us now. It's 2019 and we're starting to talk about it being OK to not be OK.

First and foremost, we need to love ourselves and children are looking around for validation... and they're not finding it. So they turn to anywhere that makes them feel valued; and certainly in some societies it's the criminal element that are capitalising on this. Commercial and other interests are also; like, "buy this product and you'll be liked." Just look at how Rogers closed his shows, "You've made this day a special day, by just your being you. There's no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are."

The next is to love each other. He did much in his shows to diffuse some of those tensions. Officer Clemmons was played by coloured actor François Clemmons who said, "I have always felt policemen would be the most dangerous person in the neighbourhood. So to have me playing a police officer, I was tremendously hesitant; but there was something reluctant about Fred to let go and I said, 'Mr Rogers, I would be very happy to be on your programme as long as it doesn't interfere with my singing." Then it moved to the critical episode 195 on the 9th of May 1969 ... before I was even born. It was the episode where Mr Rogers shared a foot bath with Officer Clemmons as a statement against the incident with the hotel manager tossing cleaning chemicals in a swimming pool where people of various races were enjoying the water.

He also said, "I think that those who would try to make you feel less than who you are; I think that's the greatest evil." I sat and wondered what he would have made of what the internet has turned into and how he would tackle the issue of cyber bullying that seems to have taken an entire generation by storm.

Did Fred Rogers make a difference? I think he did, but I believe that he has been part of an ongoing change that we are maybe not seeing until now, and it's a shame that he isn't here to see it. He had self doubts about his ability to do all this, but here we are; in spite of his own childhood experiences. As he grew in notoriety then more difficulties were put in his way by society questioning him; and he overcame it. What he achieved is still playing a part in how our society is going forward. If that wasn't the case, then this film wouldn't have been made. But it has... because he did.

"Sometimes we need to struggle with a tragedy to feel the gravity of love. Love is what keeps us together, and afloat."


I was reading an article on the humble pencil and I thought to share -https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48383050


For some time now, I've returned to pencils in the hope that the friction of the lead would slow me down and help improve my scrawl. Not much luck with my pencil of choice, the Palomimo by Blackwing. Next time I might try for their 602, but as the cost of import is so high, I'll have to finish the current box first.


What do you write with? And why?


Yeah, yeah... so I'm reading it.

To be happy is to be safe, socially active and mentally stimulated. Our workplaces should reflect this, with furniture contributing to our wellbeing.

The vast majority of my life will be sat at desks, in chairs which will either help or wreck my back. I regarded it as being in my own best interests to give this book a chance. But it actually goes well beyond furniture.


I saw a number of things; I was technical lead on a project which was part of an overall system where an organisation went to majority hot desks. It failed badly. In these pages is the explanation as to why...


We are human and our interpersonal space determines how comfortable we are at work.


Employees do not have any legal territorial rights over their workplaces; but that doesn't mean they have no territorial feelings. Humans are the only mammal that walks upright with our vital organs exposed and are instinctively protective of our personal space.


In the 1960's anthropologist Edward Hall defined our invisible personal space boundaries with, "proxmetrics," discovering that we all need room around us to claim as our personal space and use to orient ourselves with others.


We use this perceived ownership of space to demonstrate our claim of territory, even if it's for a short while. We also use it to define our personal comfort within any situation.


We need the stability of ownership, even if it's only perceived; or seen as a reward for our progress, like the coveted corner offices. Running to hot desks for everyone, is a recipe for upset people, just like not allowing a plant to set down roots.


So ... yeah... I'm reading that book.


Books I never knew existed

Add this to the list of books that I never knew existed, but makes sense in hindsight - "It's All About Me ... The power of people-first workplace furniture" ... but no, I won't be reading it. It was on a colleague's desk.


Making an honest sense - page 22 of 433

Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics - Dalai Lama XIV

To me, religion and belief have been a journey of decades, talking with a number of scholars throughout my ponderings.


To put it bluntly, I have come to believe that organised religion is the antithesis of freedom of religion; as they tell you what to believe and how to believe it. If you refuse, then you're ostracised from the club. I didn't find much freedom in them.


Combine that with Darwin whose work was a discovery of what was already there; documenting how the world actually works. He didn't dictate what he found... the world was already working that way all along. Trying to discredit Darwin's work is trying to ignore the realities of nature itself.


Many high achievers in the world of science are religious people; which all leads me to conclude that if you believe in a god and want to read the word of god, then you don't read scriptures written by the hand of man... you study the word of nature that is written all around us. If anything was written with gods authoritative hand... it's the very world we're standing in.


Further to support this is the fact that over the years, scripture has had to be re-interpreted to match the truths of nature that science has discovered. This is happening more in our modern age than ever before.


That's what I'm finding in the Dalai Lama's words so far. He isn't preaching a belief, but an observation of science; of using the tools available to understand the world as it actually is. I'm finding comfort in the Dalai Lama's encouragement of connecting with nature and using science as the tool to achieve this goal.


Some of what was written in early scripture is understandable as an explanation of what was initially discovered, in a world where our modern scientific equipment didn't exist. He isn't preaching to me, but encouraging me to open my mind and look around.


Review - Stan and Ollie Blue Ray

There are films that go beyond films. Documentaries that go beyond documentaries. This, is one of those rare films.



On the face of it, it doesn't seem like it. At the start, I was obviously aware that I was watching Coogan and Reilly. As the film went on, that didn't matter any more. It told the story of two legends of cinema.


We are all too used, these days, to fame and the trappings and riches they can bring. Fame in the modern age is seen as shallow and worthless. However, in the time of Laurel and Hardy, things were different; and the people behind this were something special.


The film is set up with Delfont being the greedy one after the money, and Stan and Ollie actually caring about their fans, their art and the joy they bring to people; despite the rough treatment they received from some quarters. 


In real life, Laurel is said to have his number available in the phone book so that people could readily call him, and it is said that he spent a lot of time on the phone to those that wanted to connect with him, especially in those closing years.


Hardy's health is reported to have cost him the small fortune that he made while alive, and both died in less than fairy tail circumstances. 


The film ends with their love of their fans, of each other, and giving their style of joy to those who loved their shows. The obvious crescendo at their last performance together in Ireland, is a key point in the film which pays tribute to the gift that they gave humanity through their work.

"It was fun while it lasted, wasn't it Stan? I'll miss this when we're gone."

Ollie, facing serious ill health, still giving his last on the stage, with the pair of them never to perform again.


This film does more than simply tell their story. I view it as a final recognition of the pain and effort that went into their career together, and a, "thank you," for the legacy of laughter that they left us.




An update

Life has meant I haven't written for a while. The Wrap has sat, untouched for months and I'm fine with that. I'm not going to force it. My department is being restructured and it isn't looking good. I'll be taking a drop in wages and that's assuming I keep my job, as I'm having to re-interview for the new post.


I've read about other authors who became successful after being made redundant and sinking it all into writing books... but I don't think I'm like that. For a start, I have responsibilities... other people depend on me. I can't take a risk with their futures. Apart from which, writing is something which I now do for pleasure. I don't want to force things. I want my imagination to come out on the page when it's ready... and I don't want to be a story grinder, if you know what I mean.


Of course, I've been doing other things. One of them is that I've donated my voice to VocalID. It's a system that takes a surrogate's voice and infuses it with the guttural sounds that someone who can't speak, can make. Those sounds are infused through the surrogates voice to make a digital voice that is unique to the person, who needs a digital voice of their own. And to boot, they're going to use my voice as their demo voice. Super cool. As I'm transsexual, they've actually listed me under "other" rather than male or female. I am a bit pissed at that, but hey ho. You can find it here - https://vocalid.ai/ - just scroll down to the voice demo section and select "other" from the gender option.


But I'm not up to much else right now. I did get something called MOFT for my laptops. It was on kickstarter and it requires that the laptops have no venting underneath, so for my Toshiba and Mac Air, it was ideal. Glues to the bottom and folds flat underneath when not in use. It doesn't unpack quite as neatly as it does in the promotional videos, but it definitely helps my wrists. Worth looking into if you write on the go.


Review - Bloom - 5 stars

Ari is young, working in the family bakery and isn't sure what he wants to do with his life, but he wants to get out of there, and tries to hire a replacement for him, so he can become a star in a music band with his friends.


Along comes Hector, a lover of baking and looking for a job.


This book is 350 pages of story and art. If you are looking for a book, but in graphic format, then this is it. 


Panetta and Ganucheau do a wonderful job of this book. It's a book, but it's a comic... but it's a book. The story line has the same ups, downs and twists that I'd expect to find in any written book that I'd read, except that it's done in pictures.


It's amazing that they have produced something of this size, with not only graphic quality but a solid standard of writing to boot.


The authors have a quality of humour that is fresh. Observational and connecting with people's lives, but avoids the tired cliches that are all too easily found in other works. They've used this medium, and the size of the book, to tell a good story. I very much enjoyed it.


Author's novel being cancelled

This one interested me on a number of angles, especially being an author and 25 year veteran of the internet myself. - https://eu.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2019/05/11/natasha-tynes-book-deal-halted-amid-metro-shaming-backlash/1176291001/


A publisher says it has postponed a book's publish date and is seeking to officially cancel the project after author Natasha Tynes was accused of shaming a black woman who works for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for eating on the train.


I don't think anyone can argue with the fact that we, as humans, need to be courteous to each other at all times, unless there's an obvious reason... like someone running towards us with a knife in their raised hand and blood lust in their eyes. Diversity training (which we had to go through... along with some personal life experience) taught me that the assumptions I made about people and circumstances, are usually wrong. The conclusions I jump to, are pits of death (or more often embarrassment) and as such, if I publicly externalise any of my assumptions, then they are more likely than not, to come back on my face, omelette style. Spanish, Denver, Hangtown Fry, they're all messy and none of them are overly positive for the complexion.


When you engage with social media (and BookLikes is very much a part of that) then you've got to police yourself. The extremists have got away with being extreme for so long, but law makers are now starting to come down heavy. Recently in the UK, a senior police officer called for effectively banning/blocking platforms if they don't cut the social mustard - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48236580 - a move which is likely to receive sympathy in some circles.


But the critical thing that's missing here is that if someone finds themselves self-policing a comment they wanted to make... then just maybe, that comment/thought was wrong in the first place. A jumped-to assumption, with no basis in fact except to re-enforce an already screwed up personal belief. And in order to self-police... then the person knows it was wrong in the first place.


Is there wiggle room in Tynes' actions? After all, the employee was not only eating while it was banned on the Metro, but is/was a Metro employee and in uniform; they should have been setting an example to customers, if anything. In this case, perhaps she should have sent it to the Metro privately. For all we know, the person might have just pulled a double shift and had no chance to get a rest break... or be one of those Americans who Bush lauded for having three jobs, just to make ends meet. The problem is that we rarely have the full story before jumping to our conclusions.


At the very least, Metro should have had the chance to investigate deeper; if that employee was, indeed, having trouble, then a responsible employer would take steps to help them out.


It's easier to hold a company to public account for certain behaviours, than it is an individual person. These judgement calls aren't easy; but one thing is for certain... if you're going to do that, then you'd better be prepared to be judged for your own judgement of others.

Punished by reading

This was an interesting article that popped up on my radar today. Kids daub racist graffiti, and end up with a punishment of reading...

 "These kids had no prior record so there was no way they were going to get a custodial sentence at a penitentiary. The sentence I gave was harsher than what they would normally have received. Normally it would just be probation which would mean checking in with a probation officer once a month and maybe a few hours of community service and writing a letter to say sorry. Here they had to write 12 assignments and a 3,500-word essay on racial hatred and symbols in the context of what they'd done… It was a lot of work."



Amazon do it again

Another author is reporting that Amazon has examined their Twitter account, and used what they found there, to terminate their Amazon Associates account, and withhold any money they owe her.


More information here - https://twitter.com/violetblue/status/1111372655007944708


If you want to do your favourite authors a favour, ensure you follow them on multiple platforms, and consider which purchase means would give them the most % of the deal.


If you're an author, don't rely on Amazon. They have been known to pull books for having too many hyphens. https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/dec/18/amazon-book-hyphens-graeme-reynolds-high-moor-2-moonstruck - make sure you've got multiple presence points.

Review - Mister Miracle

This isn't your average superhero comic book. In fact, I had a bit of a time working out what, exactly, it was.


Long story short, two warring gods (one good, the other evil) end the war by giving each other their new born sons, so that each son would be raised by the opposite god.


The son given to the evil god has a hell of an upbringing (almost literally) and escapes to Earth, becoming a famous escape artist... drawing no doubt on the experiences escaping his torment.


Then another war breaks out and the book swaps often between Earth and the far away war, and the decisions, dealings and double-dealings going on.


In some places, I found it was difficult to keep track of what was going on, especially when people who were dead kept popping back up, and I was wondering whether they were Mr Miracle calling them back in his memory, or whether this was going to be another one of those, "wake up and it's all a dream," books.


There was a deal of humour and references dashed in here, but in the end it failed to engage me and also lost me in a few places; with occasional bits of unbelievable thrown in for good measure. Different, certainly. Engaging... no... especially as they try and tie up a few loose ends before announcing that this is it and there won't be any more in this series.


Review - The Lady Doctor

Ok - where do I start with this one? It's brutally honest about what it's like to be a GP these days. The coloured panels reminded me of the use of colour by Jon McNaught's, "Kingdom," that I read a while ago. However, Williams is noted on the back as being the founder of graphicmedicine.org so presumably he has the experience to make this real.


And it reads, "real," if you know what I mean. When an author knows their stuff.


Dr Lois Pritchard is working as a part time GP in a Welsh surgery. Under pressure from the usual, and the not-so-usual patients demanding her attention; this life of mediocrity takes a turn for the worse when her estranged mother gets in touch out of the blue... and someone in a car has been taking photos of her... what's all that about?


Life is, as life does... and Pritchard has to deal with juggling a number of balls, but it all leads on a journey which changes her perception of life.


All in all, I think Williams told a reasonable story in this graphic novel. He injects some of life's dark humour along with some of life's bad timing and the occasional piece of drama. But the downside is that it's drama that I already know... thanks to actually living life myself. As such, the story was enjoyable, if not riveting, and the presentation and choice of colours, characterisations, etc. were well done. It was a good read.


Review - Firefly Legacy Edition Book 2

I didn't know what to expect from part 2, but it was an improvement from the first.


The story ran the whole length of the book and took some twists and turns that I didn't see coming. A baby is born, but the mother needs medical attention beyond what's available on the ship; and everyone ends up in danger. One rescue mission turns into another as the crew are hunted, tricked and trapped.


The cover artwork included between sections was gorgeous and the strips themselves were high quality. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.


It tidies up its own storyline very neatly and leaves the door open to the comics that are following... which I am currently receiving but haven't started reading yet.


The comparatively bland cover doesn't do justice to what waits inside. A complete story which I didn't want to put down. This is certainly a keeper.



Review - Emma G Wildford - four stars

Emma G Wildford. A woman in love, in England where women are still thought of as the weaker sex and men's clubs are still very much a place where women aren't supposed to go. Her lover has left for an expedition to Lapland and has penned a note for her to open in the event that he doesn't return. After a period has passed, Wildford decides to go after him and find out what happened. The note remains unopened.


Zidrou and Edith have not shied from writing of the sexual advantage that men took of women at the time... perhaps because those attitudes still remain today and still have to be talked about and aired. That, indeed, is a core message of this story... that some people (men or women) take advantage and chicken out, underestimating the strength of love and devotion that a partner can feel, and the lengths that some will go to for their true love... leaving the dirty work to other agents instead of having the courage to do what needs to be done, in person.


The ending demonstrates that not all people are like this, and that honest people can feel considerable disdain for those who shirk their responsibilities. In other words, this holds up a mirror to life and opens some very raw wounds.


But it does it very beautifully; the time in which this story is set, enables Zidrou and Edith to do justice to the subject matter, while delivering some beautiful artwork and philosophical viewpoints.


I believe that the original book is in French, so check your language before ordering. Er... what I mean is, check the language of the book you're ordering, not the language you use in your order of... you get the point.


This months arrivals


Arriving this months is the second (and final) part of the Firefly Legacy Edition, and issue four in the new comic series for Firefly.


The interesting inclusion is this month's ComicBook Of The Month. "Mister Miracle." 

"For those wishing that an adult superhero comic meant more than just swearing and violence, Mister Miracle might just be the series you've been waiting for all along." - Hollywood Reporter

So... this is going to be interesting. I've read the review on Page45's web site and it hasn't left me any the wiser. I have to admit that their reviews and mine, are not in sync. We seem to hunt for different things in our comics.


In the mean time, I have read the comicbook of the month, which was comicbook of the month, three months ago, and I have yet to formulate a review; although I've got a fairly good idea where I'm going with it... which is primarily because they are causing me to think on them.... they aren't comics which can be read, enjoyed and forgotten. The subject matter on many of these works are like classic art, commenting on life, society and our values.