Inappropriate Stock Photo Of The Week: The Doctor

Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to this much-esteemed award, contenders for which include any publication whose lazy and ham-handed use of irrelevant, terrible or inappropriate stock photos for illustration purposes deserves both recognition, and a good kick up the arse.

Check this guy out. Hmmm. He’s a manager? Sure. And I’m a shy and retiring swimwear model.

Inappropriate Stock Photo Of The Week: The Doctor

Picture the scene.

Late evening. Irish Times Pictures Desk.

Photo Intern: Hey, look at this. Does this guy look professional to you?

His Mate: Yeah, I suppose so. If I’d just been diagnosed with something.

Photo Intern: Diagnosed?

Mate: Yeah. I mean he looks like a serious MD. A consultant, like. Who only gives people bad news.

Picture Intern: But he’s supposed to be a manager. In an office.

Mate: No. He looks like a doctor. Why don’t you use this here picture of a woman in a boring grey suit?

Picture Intern: Because we already licensed this one last week for an article in the Health section on haemorrhoids, but it got pulled at the last minute.

Mate: Well, use the doctor then. But you’re looking at piles of trouble if you keep abusing stock photos like that.

 

Congratulations again, Irish Times. You’re on a real winning streak.

You ****! You Just Can’t Say That On The Internet

You ****! You Just Can't Say That On The Internet

I read your Tweet. You really shouldn’t have said that.

It’s the ILF Dublin this week (International Literature Festival Dublin – formerly known as the Dublin Writers’ Festival – related attempt at satire here) and the city is swimming in a lovely pool of gorgeous writerly types putting themselves out there for our ogling and listening pleasure.

On Tuesday I went to hear Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Interviewed by the Presentatron 2000™ himself, Anton Savage, Ronson spoke about some of the more high-profile public shamings on social media in recent years, most notably Justine Sacco, who you can read about here.

I spent most of the gig laughing at Ronson’s witty delivery of serious sentiment. For about 20% of it, however, my face was contorted into shock and disgust at what utterly daft human beings are doing to each other these days.

One point that Ronson made stuck in my head: that the people who are doing this sort of extremist public shaming are not trolls. They are fine upstanding members of the community such as you (think you are) or I (think I am). And you can’t legislate against people going apeshit on the internet over one perceived offence, or taking something literally which was meant to be either ironic, sarcastic, satirical, or a plain old bad joke.

You ****! You Just Can't Say That On The Internet

Excuse me, sir. I just saw you passing by, and thought to tell you how offensive you were.

Without going too heavily into relevant cases (although I also suggest you do read Sam Biddle’s reflections on his contribution to the Justine Sacco dissection) Ronson says that it’s all really about privilege. Public shaming is only for people who are perceived to be misusing privilege, whether it’s about being white, in Sacco’s case, or rich, or middle-class, or able-bodied, or educated, or beautiful, or western, or able to taste cucumber.

Hearing Ronson speak, it occurred to me that if I ever publish a book, I will be throwing myself out in the public domain for judgement in a way which doesn’t occur today.

Right now, I am an obscure Irish blogger who gets stumbled upon every now and then by the odd person wholly unconnected and unknown to me. I’m generally careful about what I say, despite appearances to the contrary. I only have one rule, and that is that I try not to say anything online that I wouldn’t say to somebody’s face. I don’t feel the need to make pronouncements about specific individuals or their behaviour on Twitter, which is probably just as well, as it would appear that nobody is allowed to be satirical, let alone sarcastic, in 140 characters.

Admittedly, I do have a few fail-safe punching bags: such as big, powerful people like James Patterson, who I often lampoon for lapsing into ghost-written laziness and thereby publishing 382 books a year. I think I’m safe there, you see, because he’s so famous and rich and successful that he’ll never take notice of a twerp like me.

Regular readers of this blog know that I generally write with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Irregular readers, or people on Twitter – where being taken literally is a full-time occupation – haven’t a clue who I am, and neither do they care. And why should they? But I would care, if somebody somewhere decided I was Public Enemy #1 for however many hours it takes to get through the Online Anger Cycle.

You ****! You Just Can't Say That On The Internet

I had a small taste of this once, when I used a deliberately provocative and click-baity headline on a post about book reviews. I wanted hits, you see. I’d only been blogging for a few months. But also I meant what I said in the body of the post. I make book-buying decisions based on online reviews. I wanted them to be more helpful.

A couple of months after I published the post, somebody somewhere across the water decided I was  a terribly offensive person altogether. I got site referrals from links that looked like they were unpleasant, so I ignored them. But I also got some comments directly which dealt variously with the audacity of someone like me telling book reviewers what to do, and my general cluelessness about anything to do with anything. My suggestion that anonymity was in itself an abuse of privilege, with the result that reviewers say unecessarily nasty and damaging things, was like a red rag to a bull. How dare I! they cried. Anonymity is the only protection for book reviewers who live in fear of their lives from dangerous authors! Was I trying to get them killed??

Regardless of the validity of either side of argument, I had unwittingly stumbled upon an all-out turf war which had been waging online for quite some time. Nasty tactics had already been employed on both sides. It was like I’d walked around a corner and found myself in the middle of a food fight, holding three bananas and a sponge cake, and with no idea what I was supposed to have thrown in the first place. I replied and tried to explain things for a while, and then I thought: well, that was interesting, but I’ve had enough. I wondered what angry internetters were like: now I know, and now I’m off.

But I have a big question. If I am ever to publish a book myself – do I delete that post (or indeed my entire blog, seeing as I spend most of my time giving out)? In this bonkers environment where one tweet can ruin a person’s life, how much damage could I be courting from angry internet people who are dying to take me literally?

I don’t know the answer. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Jon Ronson had the answer, either. But it is fighting food for thought.

Tark And Mara Monetise That Weather We’re Having

Tark And Mara Monetise That Weather We're Having“I’ve decided we need a new season.” Tark waved a manicured hand at his chest barber in dismissal, and wiped his newly-shaven belly with a monogrammed towel before dismounting from an uncomfortably tall massage table. He swore they had it raised on purpose before his appointments. It was their only way of feeling superior to a client so great in status, yet short in stature.

“Four just isn’t enough, even with the addition of the cruisewear collections,” he continued. “I mean, even I laughed when they introduced ‘Cruise’ as a separate fashion season, but that was only because they just didn’t go far enough. We need at least twelve different seasons for maximum profit – one for each month of the year. And I’ve decided that Ireland is the perfect place to launch them.”

“Why’s that, darling?”

Mara examined a chip in one gilted talon, frowning as much as an immobile forehead would allow. The only problem with wearing so many diamonds was that when brushing past them, they tended to play havoc with one’s nails. She was going to have to start wearing more emeralds; they were softer.

“Partly because I couldn’t be arsed filthying myself in London for as long as it would take to launch each one… but mainly because the weather here is sure to allow. In Ireland, we can launch the full range of collections all together. Four seasons in one day, you see.”

Mara sniffed. “Seven, in March and April.”

“Exactly. So beginning next week, I will be launching both clothing and footwear lines for our first new season.”

“And what’s that, my love?”

Tark And Mara Monetise That Weather We're Having

“I’m calling it the Enigma Collection. But what I really mean is uncertainty. I mean, nobody knows what the hell is going to fall out of the Irish sky in April. It’s the perfect opportunity to double apparel revenues. Everything will have to be new – to reflect a new start, obviously. I’m talking colour-block layers, shoes with pull-down suede galoshes which are sure to get ruined in just one rain shower, etcetera. By making sure the clothes are as impractical as possible, we will ensure that an April layer can NEVER be worn later on, during the Irish monsoon.”

“Ingenious. And the next season?”

“Will be called: Futureproof. It’s for May, when everyone thinks it’s warm, but ends up freezing to death. I’ve come up with a range of thermal-lined belts and collars which will perfectly complement our exclusively perishable cobweb hosiery.”

Mara’s eyes widened. Tark could see the need in them. Her desire for unwearable tights was already aflame. Useless accessories always set his wife afire.

“I’ll have them for you soon, my precious prizefighter. I’ve already got the manufacturing contracts lined up. We’re going through 17 shell companies in 3 separate countries, but the labour is dirt cheap, and quite ingeniously untraceable.”

Mara took several rapid intakes of breath, the collar bones over her eminently dressable flat chest standing to attention. “Oh Tark, I do love you so.”

Tark grinned, his demonic eyebrows doing that thing that made Mara feel kind of faint, even on days she’d actually eaten something.

“I know. But you’re going to love me even more when we reap the benefits of a 672% operating profit margin, my beloved bear trap.”

Tark And Mara Monetise That Weather We're Having

5 Reasons The Internet Doesn’t Get Irony

I’ve been doing loads of giving out here, lately. It’s been lovely. Lambasting things like Twitter and terrible book marketing is more fun than reading cartoons whilst sipping champagne through a straw in a giant bathtub full of bubble wrap.

The response has been enlightening, too. I expected lots of giving out in return. People taking offence at my offensiveness. I didn’t get any. Instead, I’ve been seeing an explosion of irony. The sort that Shakespeare invented, and Alanis Morissette didn’t write a song about. Here’s 5 of the best.

Great Weather For Ducks: Or, 5 Reasons The Internet Eats Itself

1. My “15 Reasons Why I Muted You On Twitter” post was retweeted by a big pile of people who, following a mere cursory investigation, appeared to have committed at least 5 of the 15 listed offences and never interacted with me either on either Twitter or this blog.

2. My “What If Authors Behaved In Real Life Like They Behaved Online?” post was “liked” by a couple of worthy folks who had kindly (and unwittingly) provided a good chunk of the material I drew upon for the post in the first place. Needless to say, they didn’t comment.

3. None of the people currently fretting about whether I’m referring to them in the above 2 points are the offenders I was talking about. The culprits are still not reading this, which is also ironic. The circularity of this point is both making my ears hurt, and causing a quantum explosion somewhere.

4. When I was waxing inharmoniously about the plethora of literature festivals currently vying for attention in Dublin, I wasn’t to know I’d end up participating in the one I poked fun at for changing its name in order to keep ahead of the competition, so the joke was on me. Still, chances are the agent I’m meeting in the ILF Dublin’s ‘Date With An Agent’ doesn’t know this, so let’s keep this one under wraps for now.

5. If you write an article giving out yards about Twitter, you expect a massive pile of people will be disgusted with you, and unfollow you on said platform because of it. What actually happens is that a big, big pile of new people follow you instead. #youcannotbeserious

So there you go. I’m still trying to work it all out. Have a seat: this may take me some time.

 

 

Love, And The Way It Might Steal You Away

Today, this cynical old blogger wants to talk about love. *

Because just 2 short weeks ago, I fell in it. I found myself swimming in sticky, glorious, all-consuming love.

I tumbled into it while reading a book. I’m going to be mean, and not tell you which it was, because it was an old book, already famous, and I don’t want this to be a discussion about one piece of art in particular. I only want to talk about love.

For the past few years, despite wading through oodles of books, and enjoying plenty, I got no magic. I met no book which cradled my face between its covers before delivering a good slap to my hippocampus (or if we’re being more lyrical, heart). Nothing to give me all the glorious chemical releases and stomach-flutterings which only a cracking story and complete immersion in a fictional world can.

Love, And The Way It Might Steal You Away

I’m off from the real world for a spell. See ya.

This is storybook love, and when it’s done well, it can be better than the real thing. It’s by no means confined to romances. I’ve fallen in love with historical epics and fantasies and –  in one sordid little affair we won’t mention again – a violent thriller with insanity at its core.

In the real world, I favour predictability and easy contentment. I don’t want thunderclaps or action sequences or torrid episodes of tragic endeavour. They would make me demented. But that’s real life. In fiction, the more torrid and demented, the better, I say.

You know that feeling, when you’re about to see someone you have a massive crush on? Well, it’s the same feeling with storybook love, when you know that soon you’re going to be able to get back to reading again. You’re warm. Someone’s moving furniture in your abdomen, but it’s not unpleasant. Your pupils dilate.

And, while you’re waiting to reunite with that story, you’re nicer. You find more kindness to inject into everyday interactions. You feel the characters you’ve fallen for standing behind you, watching, urging you to be the best that you can be, so that they can love you back. You find vitality in the weather, amusement in the air.

When you’re finally back to reading, your face acts it out. Your pulse races when it’s coming up to a bit you sense is going to be very, very good. And when the battle, the chase, the kiss, or the tragedy is over, you are torn between heart-thudding thrill, and that sense of overwhelming loss, deep in your chest, that you can never again read that for the first time.

Love, And The Way It Might Steal You Away

What? I hear neither traffic noise nor toilsome reality. I hear only sweet, sweet music.

So basically, I’ve been fangirling all over the shop. Me! A grown woman of [indeterminate] years (ha!). But it’s been no less powerful than my first time. I remember reading The Thorn Birds as a teenager. I remember sneaking away from the coalface of my summer job to read just one more chapter, hoping nobody would think to look for me. I remember that feeling of obsession, the inability to think about anything else other than the world of that story. I know now that it was love.

It allows me to better understand the frankly scary teenage superfans of boybands and celebrities today. They’re in love, too: they just don’t feel they have to hide it, and they’re even more consumed by it, because social media gives them a constant supply of digital pheromones to feed on.

And the feeling is addictive. It’s not about the allure of fame, or even the pretty actors who make these books come alive sometimes in even more wonderful ways. It’s the fact that total immersion in a story can have the same physiological effect as falling in love. Torrents of home-made party drugs are released into our brains and a spring is injected into our step. Even after we’re forced to put these books down, our brains trot off on holidays whenever we’re not looking, back into the world of the story, serenely retreating to a place they would rather be.

Love, And The Way It Might Steal You Away

My brain, packing up, leaving a mere analytical shell behind to deal with everyday matters, such as spreadsheets, and the washing of socks

It is heady, powerful stuff. As a reader, it’s what I spend years looking for, but find only once in every three or four. Whether it’s a whodunit grabbing the reader by the throat until they know who, in fact, dunit; a romance, where the will-they-won’t-they protagonists are dancing painfully around a strongbox of potentially explosive emotion; or a fantasy epic, walking the reader through purple fields of jeopardy on a quest for the ultimate fulfilment – they all have the potential to make their readers fall in love.

I’m going to do my best to hold fast to these feelings of love. It might be years before I fall again.

It’s both the aim and the duty of a writer to tell the story well enough so that people can tumble easily. But could there be any more noble pursuit?

*Normal cynicism shall resume next week, when current affairs have once more poisoned my poor brain. Thank you for your patience.

15 Reasons Why I Muted You On Twitter (And Other Rancour)

Many bloggers have written many blog posts containing many points regarding the many things authors should not be doing on Twitter if they want to sell their books (there’s a mathematical formula in there somewhere). So, why should I add to it?

Well. Because it’s quite obvious that nobody has been bloody listening; that’s why. (Another reason is that having alluded to this post a number of people asked me to publish it. So now.)

Fine. You Don’t Understand Twitter? Get Off It, Then

Before 2011, there was a window – for about 45 minutes, one Tuesday afternoon – in which people (authors especially) had an open forum on Twitter upon which to promote themselves. During this time, pretty much any old tweet could gain some traction. Some did very well out of it. But times have changed.

There are now too many folks tweeting mindlessly, and too much. And the result is the equivalent of an ad agency trying to sell detergent in 2015 by showing a wife in a skirt and apron dancing around a kitchen. Times have moved on. I wish tweeters would too.

We’re coming up to the first anniversary of Twitter’s Mute function, and I’ve spent some very productive waiting times lately (at the bus stop; in the dentist’s waiting room, and during that interminable time between the bread going into the toaster, and the toast coming out) doing nothing but a satisfying little job I like to call Muting You On Twitter. This is because my Twitter timeline had become 90% torrential guff (and that’s even before you count pathetic ads now thrown at you by Twitter itself). The other 10% – the stuff I’d like to see – drowned.

Sure, I could have unfollowed all these people. But the sad thing is that I feel like I worked hard to get my followers, even if they never ever ever ever read my tweets and only want to clog up my timeline with total and utter shite. I don’t buy followers. I try to play by the rules.

Yet Another Diatribe Against Authors On Twitter

The factors which influence my book-buying decision… (and 1 which DEFINITELY DOESN’T…)

So, with regard once again to this post on how not to sell your self-published book, not to mention this one on author behaviour online which would earn them a slap in real life, here is the list of things which makes me mute people – mainly authors – on Twitter.

I might add that I am supremely confident that I won’t upset anyone with this list, because not one of the people I have muted has ever read this blog, or interacted with me in any meaningful way.

 15 Reasons You Have Been Muted From My Twitter Feed

  1. When I followed you, you sent me an automatic direct message telling me to go to your Facebook page/buy your book/check out your blog (I don’t know you yet. I don’t care.)
  2. You have more than 1 hashtag in your Twitter profile (so you read an SEO-optimisation article one time, and think that by using 10 hashtags you will get 1 million readers.)
  3. You use too many quirky symbols or capitalised words
  4. You have the words “I follow back”; “I promote” or “I retweet” in your Twitter profile (I make about 2 exceptions for trusted indie promoters I have interacted with elsewhere – e.g. on my blog or theirs. Generally, incessant book promotion tells me that you never employ any type of vetting process. Meaning your recommendations are irrelevant.)
  5. The first 3 tweets I see from you are inane promotions of your own work
  6. I see any tweet containing the words “buy my book” or “check out” or “another 5 star review!”
  7. Any more than 2 of your last 10 tweets quote reviews of your own books (they are meaningless)
  8. You have sent out more than 3 tweets in 10 minutes (stop clogging my feed)
  9. You have sent out more than 10 tweets in 24 hours (I said, stop clogging my feed)
  10. You have the words “motivation” or “inspiration” in your profile (sigh)
  11. Any of your tweets order me to do something (Seriously. You think that works??)
  12. You tweet banal quotes from your own books all the time (in some mistaken belief that 160* characters could hook someone who has never heard of you before)
  13. A significant number of your tweets are made up of those group #FF followback messages or retweets of same
  14. I see any tweet containing the words “Please RT” for anything other than public information, missing persons, or charity purposes
  15. Anything about your tweets suggests to me that when it comes to Twitter, you believe in quantity over quality

******

Yet Another Diatribe Against Authors On Twitter

In Shakespeare’s time, Twitter abusers were challenged to a duel

As a slight antidote to the vitriol I feel about timewasters on Twitter, I will say that if I see tweets from you containing personal thoughts from your own head, anything funny, specific replies to other tweeters or even clickbait, I won’t mute you. These things say you interact, not just bombard. Sadly however, there are few enough people out there tweeting this kind of stuff.

Also, if you were to send me a tweet telling me I’m lovely, I wouldn’t mute you either.

Just kidding. I wouldn’t believe a word.

What are your triggers? Anyone else think the mute function on Twitter is the greatest thing since the flush toilet?

 

* or 140. But who’s counting? :D

 

Inappropriate Stock Photo Of The Week: More Unlikely Employees

It’s the Irish Times again, folks. I said last week I thought I might have a problem getting away from this particular publication when it came to candidates for this dubious gong. I wanted to be wrong.

I wasn’t.

This week’s gem comes from an article which claims to give us guidelines for introducing new techology to skeptical employees. Oh, my Blog.

Inappropriate Stock Photo Of The Week: More Unlikely Employees

I have a few alternative headlines for the Irish Times:

1. FIVE VICTIMS OF SERIAL ATTACKER ‘THUMB-BREAKER TOM’ DELIGHTED TO HAVE CASTS REMOVED

2. LANGUAGE LAB STUDENTS UNAWARE THEY ARE BEING EXPLOITED BY STOCK PHOTO AGENCY

3. SKEPTICAL EMPLOYEES IN CULT TURNAROUND SHOCKER!

Now, despite the obvious supremacy of the Irish Times when it comes to stock photo abuse, I have to give an honourable mention to that guru of sandalled culture and egalitarian vegetables, the Guardian, which posted this gem last week.

Inappropriate Stock Photo Of The Week: More Unlikely Employees

Amid all the trouble in the world, this poor attractive man has had THREE MANAGERS. THREE. I don’t know how he can go on. The trauma! The hopelessness! The need to hold one’s modelesque head in DESPAIR!

I dunno about you, but this worker does not look “frustrated” to me. He looks bloody inconsolable. Way to go, Guardian.

That’s it for this week. Please feel free to suggest your own captions at will.