Fresh Facebook Page, Fresh Flash Fiction, Fresh Thoughts…

Hey! Here’s some miniature news. (Miniature news is delivered by ‘ickle pixies with high-pitched voices. It’s better than ‘Big News‘ which is often just ridiculous…)

I set up a Facebook page and you can go there, ‘Like’ it, follow it or leave comments if you so desire. It’s called ‘Jamazing Things’ and I will do my best to festoon it with Jamazing things. I figured it might be a way to spread my jam further across cyberspace and establish a public front. I also figured it would allow me to devote my private profile entirely to bad summer selfies and in-jokes with Italian friends without any irritating distractions.

I’m not sure – it’s an experiment but you can go find me on the Matrix Fakebook now and it may be worth watching out while I roll out some rad new designs (writing, doodling, even more miniature doodling, war plans, revolutions, new religions, I-just-don’t-know-what-yet-but-it-could-be-thrilling). Otherwise, doodles are happening (see the unicornscape below) and yesterday I returned to ‘James vs. Story Cubes‘ and dashed out a couple of short riffs of flash-fiction. (One of them is about a warrior king who got crabs, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Oh, and I’ve also been thinking about Twitter as well lately. I’ve been very much out of the loop and alienated from that thing, and I got worn out long ago with its ‘rolling news reaction’ grind. Altogether, too many inane opinions, too much snark, too much negativity and the whole unfiltered stream-of-consciousness aspect got dull. Stream-of-consciousness broadcasting is perilous business, especially when my own stream-of-conscious oscillates between overexcited geeksplosions in all-caps and hideous melancholy. From there, trying to understand my Twitter feed looks like that moment in Star Trek where Spock mindmelded with a traumatised pizza. But, hey, maybe it’s time to try a tiny-comeback and engage with it again. Yeah, in conclusion I think I’m going to tweet more – more than just dumping my links – and I think I’m going to mostly tweet unfathomable absurdities because trying to make sense and be clearly understood in this nonsensical Universe is futile.

There is my miniature news, narrated in a high-pitched voice by a shrunken-down version of myself. (I thought it might help me with these miniature doodles and make me cool like Ant-Man, but now I can’t reach the cutlery drawer. Hurm.) More soon, but for now, take care out there and, please, spare a thought for all the unicorns, pizza aliens and pigs that have suffered…

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Unicorn Farm…

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2014: Cue the Upbeat, Uptempo Montage Moving Through My Year Gone Past…

It’s the end of the year! So there! Yeah! 2014, then -. thanks, ta-ra. Aww, but I feel like it wouldn’t be the right thing to just skip on into the shiny/shitty future without noting its passing and pondering a (short, very short) moment on the past twelve months. I don’t really want to dwell on things and get caught up in zeitgeist ectoplasm and retrospective navel-gazing so I’m going to fly through it in an upbeat, uptempo montage. Cue the montage…


(… and I’ve filmed everything in Dutch angles so we’re all anxious and on edge, ’cause this is the age of being-on-edge and anxiety…)

Hey! I am James Clayton and I am moving through space-and-time-and-emotions-and-ideas. Pleasure, pain, ups, downs, upside-downs, down-upsides, maybe-sideways. Uncertainty, near-certainty, false-certainty. Something of nothings and nothings that might actually be something. Ambiguity and ambivalence. No, I don’t know. Really, I’m very lost and reckon (hope?) that time and, in fact, the entirety of existence is an illusion. Even so, conventional time-comprehension and the calendar says that we’ve been going through 2014. What happened? The following things happened, in no particular order. (A lot of current affairs and huge real-world socio-politico-economic things occurred, flamed and roared over. They’re all rounded up, reacted to and wrestled with elsewhere. A lot of those things make us sad and angry, so I’m going to stay in my ludicrous world of 2014 for this, pausing only to say that’s its not as ludicrous as Kim Jong-un’s. Hey Little Kim! You ludicrous, man!)

Personal shenanigans: I wrote some things, doodled some bits ‘n’ bobs, ran a few month-long projects here and there and daydreamed a lot. Things I wrote and doodled went up on the internet and in zines but the best stuff is still in my head. Alternate reality incarnations also unleashed groundbreaking epics and art masterpieces but I’m playing catch-up to those guys (Yeah, they see me comin’). Lots of stuff on the internet, and then I flip between my things and the fog of information, disinformation, Wikipedia entries and basketball highlights reels. The pixels burn me out a bit, cyberspace seethes, the Twitter stream turns into a steaming torrent and portals on Facebook show me prettier pictures of places that seem more appealing. Andiamo! Adventure! Go travel…

I discover Dublin this year, find solace in a Shropshire countryside writing retreat and dig London again during the annual videogame convention bro-trip. The most epic adventure, however spans the summer and takes me further afield. I jump on a plane and then I jump on another plane to go back to and, again, go back to Italia. Lo adoro – è il luogo dove il mio cuore è. Italian friends old and new. Refamiliarised with familiar places and enjoying an array of new cities and experiences. I realise that I have a spread network of extended families for life and I feel alive, connected and soul-fulfilled. And then there are all the old and new friends from all over the world and we’re all brought together and share the sacred summer camp tutor bond. (It is sacred. We have rituals, shared hallucinations and an unshakable faith and sense of vocation.) It’s all-singing, all-dancing, educational entertainment English-teaching action. It’s fun and games and frustration and trauma and battle scars and war with demonic bambini. It’s physical and mental exhaustion but it’s also triumph and exhilaration and it’s the greatest time of my life. This summer was the best summer, so grazie.

Away from the best place with the best people, best food and best quality of life (yeah I’m in love), the other most-excellent stuff is culture. A vast celluloid sea of supreme movies inspired many smiles, many tears, many emotional and cerebral moments in the dark space of the cinema. Oh my Godzilla: Inside Llewyn Davis; Her; erm, Godzilla; Guardians of the Galaxy; Boyhood; The Wind Rises; Edge of Tomorrow; Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Nightcrawler; The Babadook; Pride; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; FuryThe Raid 2; Black Sea; The Double; Calvary; Only Lovers Left Alive; The Grand Budapest Hotel; The Lego Movie; 12 Years a Slave; and so many more to make this movie-maniac go wild over and over. There are too many genuinely awesome films, so I have less time and inclination to watch much TV. The most terrific telly is Cosmos and BBC documentaries in my 2014.

There are also lots of books and comics, but they’re mostly old books that weren’t published in 2014. Fresh music moving me most would be Monster Magnet Milking the Stars and Weezer telling me that Everything Will Be Alright in the End. “EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIIIIIIIIGHT… IN THE EHHH- EEEEEEHNNNND!” Now I’m dancing and all the freak misfits of the galaxy are having an empathetic moment where we realise that we’ve been losers and been through some noxious crap but that, hey, we’re okay. We’ve grown and we’ve learned some things. We’re better for the experience. We’re moving forward together into the future, ’cause we’re slightly crazy, cosmic quirky heroes hooked on a feeling and high on believing…

I think that’s what I’m taking from 2014. Am I forgetting a lot of things? (most definitely yes) What did it all mean? I’m not really sure and I don’t really care anymore, to be honest. I’m already in 2015. See you there, in the future. TO THE FUTURE!

*blows a kiss to 2014. Love you and remember you always, sugar…*

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Saying "Bye!" and jumping off 2014…

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Newsletters, Blog Brainstorms and Fresh Cyberspace Rituals…

Sisters and brothers! I’m trying a new thing because trying new things is a thing I like to do. The new thing is this: a weekly newsletter/blog-blast powered by the TinyLetter engine. I’ve titled it ‘Cyberspace Ritual‘ and you can visit any time, get access to an archive or -even better – subscribe to join the mailing list. Then you get emails! Yay for getting emails!

Why am I doing this, aside from the novel reason of trying something new? I reckon that a weekly newsletter round-up of things I’ve been creating, thoughts I’ve been having, feelings I’ve been feeling and interesting things I’ve found makes sense. I share and spread all this stuff around various areas of the internet but it’s all very ephemeral and easily lost. By gathering it all in together in one place, I can make it coherent and – what’s more – I can frame and articulate my thoughts properly. I’m not convinced I can do that well on Twitter (noisy stream-of-consciousness and quasi-impossible online fish market) or Facebook (photos and hanging with friends when you’re not hiding from memes). I also feel like this website should be more for writing out long, specific things like straight-up fiction or long essays with a specific point.

I’m also partly influenced by some excellent mailing lists I personally subscribe to and a couple of fine comics writer folk who have mastered this medium (namely Warren Ellis and the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds).  So yeah, that’s that. Head on over and subscribe if you want to get that action. Otherwise, tune in on Tuesdays and I’ll have stuff for you and it will be good stuff. (I hope. Nay! I promise you!)

Things That Are Gonna Be Big in 2014…


It feels good to be in the Future-Now at the beginning of a whole reboot/fresh start/new era. Seizing the spirit of change I will now list my New Year Revolutions and New Year High-Def Resolutions… or not, because it’s actually better to keep them to yourself. Sage advice: internalise your self-improvement schemes and stay pretty quiet about them and you have more chance of actually achieving your idealised goals. You also decrease third-party pressure and are less likely to irritate people with your your pity-parties, your self-loathing and your self-flagellation.(And you’re good, by the way. Best wishes and all power to you as you go about your empowered self-improvement missions.)

Instead I’m going to list the things that are going to be big in 2014. I mean huge. I’ve consulted the Oracles, whispered with the ravens and squeezed my scrying teabags and all of them concur and can confirm that the following things are going to be hot, on trend and oh-so-zeitgeisty over the next year. I suggest you jump on the bandwagon right now and embrace the hip crazes. The things that will be big in 2014 are…

  • Godzilla.
  • Labyrinths and mazes.
  • Artichokes.
  • World War I-era facial hair.
  • Men calling each other “Sister” and women calling each other “Brother” and everyone completely smashing the idea of gender-specific terms of endearment for friends. Believe it, brothers and sisters.
  • Top-knots.
  • Prog rock revival.
  • Amateur astronomy.
  • Amateur astrology.
  • Brutal honesty.
  • Forgiveness.
  • Brown paper bags.
  • Dissonant audio.
  • Séances.
  • Steam.
  • Supermarket sabotage.
  • Overlong shoelaces.
  • Putting vanilla syrup on everything.
  • ‘Adopt-a-Bee’ conservation schemes.
  • Da dance craze dat all demz be callin’ ‘Da Soup-Doop’.
  • Grow-your-own garlic.
  • Big eyes.
  • Minotaurs.
  • Kit Harington.
  • Japanese mythology.
  • The critical re-evaluation of phrenology in academic circles.
  • Wardrobe sharing.
  • Iran at the FIFA World Cup.
  • ‘Reclaim the Comments Section’ activism movements and the consequent prolonged troll battles that follow.
  • Warzone tourism.
  • Corporate assassinations.
  • Sci-fi poetry.
  • Stroking people’s faces (no longer seen as ‘a bit weird’).
  • Diaries as a smarter alternative to stream-of-consciousness venting on social media platforms and on the public spaces of the internet.
  • Presenting Shakespeare monologues in surreal fashion and uploding them on YouTube.
  • Owning a pet sheep.
  • Independent political candidates.
  • Rock Paper Scissors tournaments.
  • Origami.
  • The word “Ishrific!” which means “Whoa! It’s terrifically shit-hot!
  • Elaborate faking of deaths for life insurance scams or for sympathetic tributes on Facebook and Twitter.
  • The flaming unicorn-horned crocodile “ARE YOU FOR REAL?” GIF meme.
  • Storytelling chain-letters.
  • Insomnia.
  • Baristas and other service industry workers adopting kooky pseudonyms and work personas as company policy.
  • Polygamous marriages.
  • Affecting an Eastern European accent.
  • Customised coffins.
  • Coloured cardboard boxes.
  • Tibet.
  • The insult: “You genefreak!“.
  • You, genefreak.
  • Research into gene therapy to modify and perfect your impefect genes, genefreak.
  • Spontaneous unprovoked laughter.

And if the rest of the world fails to turn these things into trending topics and doesn’t catch on to the fact that they’re the cool stuff making 2014 so 2014, I’ll just celebrate them myself until the wider Universe adopts them as well. I’m a futurist and a forward-thinking fashion trendsetter. Mark my word and heed the soothsaying sources: 2014 is going to be an excellent year and it’ll be especially immense for everything in the lengthy laundry list above.

Welcome to 2014, brothers and sisters! It’s gonna be ishrific!” I say in an affected Eastern European accent while pouring vanilla syrup all over an artichoke. Oh my Godzilla, I’m psyched about this future-now. Ha ha, ha ha ha!

Get That Computer Screen Off My Cinema Screen!

Last night I made a short Vine movie clumsily titled We See Screens and We See Typing But Shouldn’t We Be Seeing Something Else? Because six seconds isn’t much space to make the full point or represent the questions that inspired me to make it, here’s a blogpost with extra detail. Yes: it’s an exclusive Director’s Commentary!

I got the idea for the Vine vid a few weeks back when I watched the Wikileaks biopic, The Fifth Estate. Overall, I enjoyed the movie but one thing rankles and it’s a rankle that keeps on resurfacing across a range of films (and on TV as well). Computer scenes: I’m not keen on them. They irk me. They annoy me. They get me saying, “Ah, enough, can we point that camera some place else please?

I’m not opposed to scenes that feature computers. I accept that we need them because sometimes plot points turn on the effective manipulation of technology. Also computers exist in ‘real life’ and people use computers and the internet so naturally they should be present in film. As a matter of fact some of my favourite movies are about computers and A.I. entities, complex techno-techno devices and other sentient machines that may have more soul or intelligence than human beings. Off the top of my head I’m remembering The Matrix, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Dark Star and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Please, let’s all take a moment to mourn for HAL 9000

Anyway, the thing that bothers me is gratuitous shots of computer scenes (I mean realistic PC screens and not grandiose supercomputer interfaces of the kind that star in the kind of classic movies mentioned above) . I’m talking about the moments where films linger on people checking their emails, browsing the web, looking at YouTube or posting things on message boards. Yeah, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. of TV: I’m looking at you with your last week’s episode all full of “Hey! We can rely on Instagram and Facebook to do our secret spy-biz now and, hey, let’s all look at computer screens!

I understand why we’re seeing computer screens on screen. These are the technologically literate times we live in and humans use computers and are perpetually hooked up to social media. I get the want and need, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Most of the time I find these scenes dull and sometimes even disturbing. I think there’s an ‘instant disinterest’ switch somewhere in my sensory machinery and the moment a shot of a monitor flashes before my eyes, that lever gets knocked.

Breaking it down in brief, here’s what I think happens: I spend a lot of time looking at computer screens. I go to the cinema as a refreshing alternative, so I can look at a different screen. Seeing computer screens on screens is a bit of a weird visual experience anyway – “Screens on screens? How perverse.” as C-3PO never said – but it also ruins my escapism trip. I came here to get away from that! Get that thing away from my eyes!

There’s also probably some control freakery in there because I can’t stand the sensation of being a passive observer as other people use computers (mainly people who are inept when it comes to using computers). I want to empathise with characters, not get frustrated with them for the way they browse the web or debase themselves with banal online chat.

That stuff is for real life or real online life and that, as I say, is the life I’m not keen on seeing again when I go to the cinema. Supremely talented cinematographers and actors deserve better than that. The strength of The Fifth Estate, as a case study, is in the facial reactions and dramatic delivery of Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl to significant things that appear on their laptop monitors. You can’t milk much drama and emotion from flashing cursors and un-personified pixels alone.

Humans and human thoughts and feelings are always going to be way more fascinating to behold and appealing to viscerally experience than a shot of screen. It’s my humble view that filmmakers and televisionmakers need to show some caution and restraint in case I’m not the only one who feels this way. They have to have a good reason to be there and you have to work extra hard to make them interesting. I don’t want to look at computer screens on TV screens or cinema screens – I’d rather be looking at fantastical stuff that isn’t so quotidian. Epic special effects spectacle! Beautiful, breathtaking landscapes! Exhilarating ultraviolence! Evocative drama from past times or future times or times from worlds that are entirely fictional fabrication! Impossibly good-looking people and good-looking animals! Impossibly good-looking people and animals bursting into song and dance routines!

That all sounds so much better than standing by watching someone social networking. Uck. Please, keep the shots of computer screens down to minimal, if only so I don’t get this uncanny nausea stemming from a sense of frustration that I can’t transcend over-familiar reality or do anything to stop the screen-fetishism that will lead us to a dystopian future…

Escape to Italia…

Pronto! It is time I departed for a bit, mi amici. I’m leaving the country to go do some travelling – hang around Milan; hang around by the beach learning how to interactively educate Italian bambini; and go somewhere to interactively educate those bambini; hang around the Emilia-Romagna countryside with old friends a bit more. I am very, very excited about this.

Altogether, for the next month I’m going to be in motion, out of the country and out of the loop. I intend to take this working holiday as a fresh break and therefore will not be hooked up to the internet, in synthesis with my keyboard or in sync with all the invisible clouds of connectivity and cybernoise. I’m leaving my laptop (her name is Galadriel, in case you’re interested) behind. I’m gonna get me a shot of unwired time free of social media, tuned out and unplugged from the relentless machine. I think I need it. Yes, I definitely need it and I need a change of scene. It’s that time: Adventure Time.

I won’t be here but some things I’ve written may appear on the internet in the intervening period. Flipping back to yesterday, June’s Pictonaut story is a 17th-century period-mystery choosable path narrative I knocked up in accordance with the rolling of the dice. For shapes of things that may come, there may be a couple of Friday Den of Geek columns published while I’m away. I’ve also scripted up some Fight! Fight! Fight! episodes that may be comin’ at’cha sometime in the near future. All of these things are in the hands of my internet overlords and I bow down to their pre-eminent editorial authority.

I just write stuff and enjoy the living drokk out of doing it but for the next month I won’t be writing it on a keyboard. It’s all going to be brainstorming in notebooks, doodling on sketchpads, etching love letters to imaginary holiday romances in the sand and scribing Zen beat poetry in a beautiful Chinese paper book my Dad brought back from China. He failed to find the 5 Deadly Venoms on his Oriental odyssey but nice stationery that I can do wonderful things with is an excellent gift, indeed.

When I get back it’ll be full throttle on some fresh projects. I’ll be editing the Badnasty Horror Horse Opera anthology. I’ll be working on more choosable-path yarns with The Working Barbarian and my own dicewriting exercises. There’s a whole lot more but for now though, basta. I’m a-gettin’ outta here.

Thanks for reading, take care of yourselves and be excellent to each other. Ciao, amici…

*Logs off. Disconnects himself and flies off into the sunset, riding high and free on an exhilarating zephyr wave, spirited away by the spirit of adventure…*

Irrelevant Judgement and the Doctor Who Feedback-Amplifier…

I have opinions but they are unimportant and irrelevant. You have opinions but they are unimportant and irrelevant. They have opinions but they are unimportant and irrelevant. Yet they are all out there on the internet clamouring for attention, expressed through various social media channels.

We live in a democratised information age that allows and encourages freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Simultaneously, though, it also empowers pompous arrogance and self-entitlement in a public space. At least that’s my opinion, and my opinion is unimportant and irrelevant.

I’m just blasting on my own blog – an ill-informed personal opinion zone – here but there is a wider sociocultural concern on my mind (on my Twitter feed, on the comments section of every single article I read, in the articles themselves, etc. etc.). Our society is very judgemental and technological advancements and changing times have conspired to make us even more judgy. What do you think? Like or dislike this? Vote for your favourite! Give us your feedback! Comments? Stick up your star rating!

We’ve got to a situation where we’ve got to have something to say about everything that happens or that we experience. (We don’t, by the way, and if we do that we’ll exhaust both our minds, mouths and fingers.) The thing that’s most troubling in this idea though is how there’s an explicit suggestion that there has to be a value judgement in that. You’ve got to like or dislike something. You’ve got to have an opinion on it, rate it accordingly and mark it down for posterity. You can’t be ambivalent or just let something be – it has to be categorised and subjected to a review treatment.

You realise that this goes beyond enjoyment of pop culture art when you find yourself batting off emails asking you write a review and provide a star-rating for a USB stick you ordered off Amazon. I’ve got to have an opinion on a pendrive? What if I don’t want to have an opinion and subsequently share it? Does anyone actually want to know what I think about the crap I buy, the stuff I watch or the experiences I immerse myself in?

Maybe, maybe not but most of the time it’s probably the latter because I’m not a person of immense wisdom or significance (Yet. I’m working on it, a’ight?). I’ve got some awareness and expertise in certain fields and likewise, I respect the thoughts of others who I know know about specific things. I flock to them and consult their personal experience if I wish to get an enlightened perspective and I figure that most people do likewise. Or do they? Do people put what people think – subjective opinions and not objective intellectual appreciation – above all else or, in fact, are people putting their own subjective opinion as the paramount truth?

Have we now got to the point where the opinion is more important than the actual original thing that we’re forming an opinion on? Across journalism across all media formats there’s now a greater emphasis on what the Twittersphere is saying and it’s mostly in my opinion (and my opinion is irrelevant and unimportant) asinine and adds nothing. Opinions are like arseholes in that everyone has one (some people have two) and they are best dealt with artfully one at a time in beautifully-lit private spaces. Everyone’s arsehole all at once forcefully shoved in your face, however, is a violent pornography nightmare.

Social media is a giant magnifying window in which to advertise your arsehole and all that dribbles out of it and collectively our culture encourages expressive incontinence. I’m moved to muse after contemplating the kind of things that I’ve observed in cyberspace over the space of the past week – lots of judgement and a lack of judicious, conscious thought on behalf of a lot of people (myself included). So many people rushing forward to spray their self-righteous opinions all over everyone else, but no one cares but that doesn’t matter ’cause everyone’s entitled to our opinion and this is how we do this right?

Skipping past current affairs and the spheres of politics, sports and suchlike – all infernal flame grills that require a Hazmat suit which I’ve left at the drycleaners – I’ll round up by coming back to the entertainment arena and the thing that prompted this on-the-fly thread in the first place: Doctor Who. It’s a popular BBC TV programme that airs on Saturday nights and follows the adventures of a Time Lord and his blue police box. It’s got wide appeal, tradition, history and oscillates between all kinds of stories, themes and settings each week. There’s a lot of interest and things that are worthy of note here – it’s a pop cultural concept encompassing multiple concepts and it inspires further thought and discussion.

In the aftermath though the emphasis appears to be judging each episode and then by extension the entire current ongoing series. In particularly the judgment is a value-based one of whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It’s a rating review and as soon as the closing credits have rolled I get the sense that people are falling over themselves to race onto the internet to slam down their opinion. But who cares if you enjoyed this week’s Doctor Who? Your opinion is unimportant and irrelevant! No one cares because they care too much about their own unimportant and irrelevant opinion! To log on to the internet at the weekend is to bear witness to the Doctor Who Social Media Spitting Contest. Everyone seems desperate to gob off and regurgitate their personal bile in the aftermath of eating up the broadcast episode. I sometimes wonder whether the draw of Doctor Who is now working out what you’re going to say about it after watching, how you’ll publicly judge it and how sure you are of your position in case you end up engaged in a spitting contest with someone who just happens to find exception to your hacking phlegm.

I think (and this is my unimportant and irrelevant opinion) that too often we, as pop cultural consumers, are approaching everything through a paradigm of “is this good or bad?” as if we are pre-emptively reviewing or rating the experience as we go through it. That affects your mindset and locks you into judgementalism. Sometimes this is required if you work or write as a critic  but on a functioning human level, it’s unnecessary. You don’t need to judge everything or form an opinion on everything and then weigh in by sharing it on Twitter or another online space or in real life. (And there is no real life. This is all an illusion and that’s not an opinion but actual fact.)

If you let go of that obligation – an obligation encouraged by all this technology and the social media connections we’re slavishly hooked up on – and you detach yourself from the evils of judgementalism you may be able to experience life as it is. Doctor Who just is. The film you watched just is. The product you just spent money on just is. The meal you just ate just is. Life just is. You don’t need to rate it, review it or stick a thumbs up or thumbs down on it every single time. What’s more you don’t need to tweet it out to everyone and force your judgement on everyone else. Attachment is the cause of suffering, and that’s Buddhist wisdom. Ah, satori

The side-effect of everyone forcing their judgement on everyone is that these opinions become even more unimportant and irrelevant and everyone’s just drowning in noise and even more apt not to listen. That’s just my opinion though and my opinion is unimportant and irrelevant…