Christopher Nosnibor Banned from Social Network.. for Networking

Back in the MySpace days, when I was refusing to sign up to Facebook before peer pressure and a mass exodus meant I had to move in order to maintain my virtual profile and contact with many of the people who I’d met but who had since migrated, there used to be a running joke about Facebook that centred around the absurd premise of only networking with people you already know.

Having accumulated over 1,300 ‘friends’ (who probably are electric) since setting up my account, it’s probably fairly obvious that I’ve exchanged friend requests with a lot of people I’ve never met, never heard of and know nothing about. I do, however, tend to share a number of mutual friends with these ‘strangers’, more often than not on account of common interests and publishing.

Sometimes, I may not be actively seeking friends to add, but will fire off the odd friend request because, well, because Facebook tells me to. Granted, I’m entirely responsible for my own actions, but the feature whereby Facebook suggests friends is undeniably a less than subtle form of suggestion. Now, I’ll concede that it does list these suggestions under ‘people you may know’, but when you’ve got a significant number of mutual friends who move in the same circles, then you’re into ‘friend of a friend’ territory in a rapidly diminishing virtual world.

Still, to cut a short story shorter, it would seem that one of my requestees decided they didn’t know me and didn’t want to and told Facebook as much. Consequently, I received a notice informing me I was banned from sending any friend requests for a week, and furthermore, I was required to revisit the terms and conditions and tick a box on a declaration stating that I wouldn’t send friend requests to anyone I didn’t know, ever again. I was given the option to cancel all of my outstanding friend requests, or just those sent to users with whom I have ‘few’ friends in common, which was generous, but note the use of the word ‘few’ – not ‘no’. What qualifies as ‘few’? it’s all relative, surely. If a person only has 10 friends and five are mutual, it’s relatively many, but few in real terms. I know, I’m intentionally missing the point to an extent.

Moreover, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the irritation and antagonism serial spammers cause, or the threat to personal security the scamming spammers represent, but I nevertheless find this suspension approach absurd, because it’s not hard to distinguish between a human who’s a heavy user and a spambot.

Can you imagine the same scenario playing out in the real world: for example, delegates milling around at a conference not speaking to one another or introducing themselves to others? Shuffling up to the buffet and not speaking to someone because they don’t already know one another is hardly networking, is it? Or imagine a freshers’ week at university where no-one strikes up a conversation with someone just because they look interesting or they’re wearing a particular band T-shirt or whatever, because they don’t share an arbitrary number of common friends already. It’s unfeasible, and life simply isn’t like that. Social networking isn’t like inviting random strangers into your house just because they knock at your door: the clue’s in the name.

So is this an indicator that despite what Facebook claims to be, and despite the fact we’re supposedly living in a shrinking world with a wider society, what we’re actually doing is growing more insular, more fearful of ‘strangers’ and spending our time indoors not meeting new people, preferring instead to only associate in virtual life with people we know in real life? This would also suggest that social networking is, in fact, the precise opposite of what its name implies, and it would be more accurate to describe it as anti-social not-networking. Staying may well be the new going out, but forgive me for wanting to get out more while I’m staying in.

 

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Farcebook: absurd ‘guidelines’

 

And if you’re loving my work, This Books is Fucking Stupid is published on April 1st.

Reflection of the Television: The Best House is Where the Heart is….

It’s broadly accepted that daytime television is trash. As a student, I recall mornings spent in front of ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and ‘This Morning with Richard and Judy’, shivering in my cold, damp student digs and being vaguely aware of my brain and muscle tissue slowly withering. So to clog cyberspace with an article bemoaning the depressing vacuity of daytime television would be about as vital as announcing excitedly that the earth is round.

Nevertheless, these things gnaw away at a person’s insides. At least back then daytime television made an attempt to be entertaining, and to be original (albeit often within the comparatively limited scope of the quiz or game show format), and the producers did make an effort to find suitably flamboyant hosts, however tango-tanned and inane. But as is the postmodern malaise, the acceptance that we have reached the end of originality – and what’s more, originality is too expensive to develop when quick profits for minimal outlay are the order of the day – has permeated every aspect of our culture.

And so it is that having moved on from game and quiz shows to so-called ‘reality’-based shows, daytime television has descended further still into an endless slurry of its own recycled making.

Not so long ago I was complaining about the low-grade ‘antiques’ show ‘Secret Dealers’ where there was nothing remotely secret about any of it while the so-called ‘experts’ trawled round the home of a member of the public and made offers on their belongings so they could then sell them on for their won profit. Being an amalgamation of various other programs based around people flogging off all of their worldly possessions for some cold hard cash they could use to ‘treat the grandkids’ or ‘go on a cruise, a holiday of a lifetime’ or something equally ephemeral that’s hardly a substitute for the family heirlooms.

I recently stumbled upon the latest stripped-down to moronic basics rehash of a tried and tested formula in the form of ‘May the Best House Win’. Basically, it’s a remake of ‘Come Dine With me’, the show where strangers spend a week taking turns to host a dinner party on which the other contestants score the host’s even out of ten and the winner – i.e. the one with the highest score – wins a grand (a large chunk of which they’ve already spent on lavish food and wine in order to impress their guests). ‘May the Best House Win’ follows the same format, only without the dinner party. Or the social interaction. This means that the contestants troop round one another’s houses, like some open-house viewing, neb round and criticise their choice of wallpaper and carpet, making inane critical comments like ‘for me, lampshades is a thing of the past’ before giving a mark out of ten for said abode. This is repeated for all of the competing homes and the house that scores the highest wins its owner some cash.

And that’s it.

It’s like ‘Through the Keyhole’ without any of the mystery or the celebrity allure. And it’s simply a means of justifying some misguided snobbery about individual and subjective tastes. All of the contestants mark their opponents down because it’s in their own best interests to do so, justifying their scores of four and five with remarks like ‘it’s ok, but it’s not really to my taste’ (which is only to be expected because it’s someone else’s home and not yours), but with the subtext that they are in fact supremely jealous that their opponent has a billiards room and private cinema that pisses all over their 52” plasma hung over the wood burner in the recently knocked-through living room. The winners invariably have large homes decked out to ‘high-end’ specification that’s all about style over function.

Instead of ‘who would live in a house like this?’ the question is more a case of ‘who would apply to appear on a show like this?’ Everyday people, of course – everyday people with a bit more cash who want to nose around other peoples’ homes and show their own off on national television. Strange that none of the houses look anything like my bog-standard two-bedroom mid-terrace, for example. Well, no, it’s not really. ‘Average’ simply won’t do: how will that impress anyone? It’s all about the ‘wow factor’. Besides, ‘stuff’ just isn’t done (where the hell do these people put their possessions?). But then, no-one’s going to sign up just to be subjected to ‘Look at all those unsightly records and books… and that bulky hi-fi. They should just get rid of it all, get a Kindle and rip it all to MP3, then the music can be piped into every room with some hidden speakers through an i-Pod docking station… A PC? How retro! So last century. Completely impractical, though, so bulky. You need an i-Pad…’ It’s all about nondescript colours and clean lines, about having a living space that resembles any 5-star hotel around the globe. Size matters.

Just as magazines ranging from Real Homes to Tatler aren’t really about sharing design tips, so ‘May the Best House Win’ adds a competitive element to vulgar vanity. But hey, it keeps the nation passive and numbs the nation’s unemployed, preventing them from rioting or otherwise expressing their discontent at the appalling state of things, while at the same time giving them something to aspire to. And if they can’t get off their arses, get well-paid jobs and ultimately achieve all the trappings of status in order to get their fifteen minutes of fame, well, there’s always ‘Jeremy Kyle’.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Too Busy to Blog!

For many writers – both accomplished and aspiring – a common obstacle to productivity is inspiration. Most people run dry at some point. It’s not a brag when I say that this isn’t a problem for me: no, my real problem is time. There simply isn’t enough, and there are only so many ways to stretch it.

Over the past few years, a fair few people have asked me how I manage to maintain my output, how I find the time. The answer has always been that I make time, and type quickly. But then, every now and again, it becomes insustainable, and when it does, something’s gotta give.

I didn’t set out to become a music writer: it was something I once dreamed off, made a few stabs at and did on a very part-time and voluntary basis for a couple of local and regional papers back in the early 90s before giving it up. My applications to music papers for paid work had been unsuccessful, to the extent that none of them had even bothered to reject me, and I decided it was simply too competitive for me, a person who’s not particularly competitive by nature. Moreover, not given to being all that outgoing, and steadfastly refusing to suck up or otherwise ingratiate myself, I decided music journalism wasn’t the career for me. I was 25, working full time and studying at the same time, and in my spare time, attempting to carve out a novel. I was going to be a proper writer!

It took another five years to get my first book, Bad Houses out into the world, and the novel I had been working on, Exiled in Domestic Life, along with its sequel, Rusty Bullet Wounds, remains languishing, unpublished. Still, a lot’s happened since then, and while I have received some help and support – not to mention invaluable exposure – from people who I’ve encountered along the way, my weekly blog on MySpace did contribute considerably to whatever readership I achieved.

People are always going on about the importance of maintaining a blog as a means of building and maintaining one’s profile, and at the time, it seemed that they were right, but when the MySpace community dissolved before my eyes, so the hits to my blog plummeted. Rebuilding a readership from scratch just felt like too much effort for questionable reward, and by this time I had begun reviewing for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’, something I had fallen into quite by accident, but it felt good to be reviewing again. It had been noticeable that the reviews I had posted on my blog had been the least successful by miles, receiving half the hits of my rants. Having a proper outlet for the reviews was an extremely positive thing, and besides, it meant that even if I wasn’t being paid, I was getting free CDs and entry to gigs – plus being able to say that I was a writer for a recognised site meant I was able to approach PR companies directly and have them add me to their mailing lists. This meant even more freeness.

At present, I’m managing to review approximately half of the stuff I get sent, and given that I’m kicking out an average of one to two reviews per day, you can get an idea of just how much the reviewing gig’s grown in the last couple of years. But I don’t want to be known simply as a music writer: I do still write fiction, after all, and have some pretty hefty projects in the works, with the story ‘Corrupted from Memory’ which appears in the new Paraphilia anthology A Dream of Stone being the first of a new wave of fairly dense pieces penned recently.

Then there are the interviews. I’d be daft to turn down the chances I’ve had to meet up with various bands, or to conduct email interviews with Malcolm McNeill and JG Thirlwell. They’re once in a lifetime opportunities. None of them came about because of my blogging, though, and finding the bile to spew out a weekly rant in a blog just wasn’t something I had in me.

The discipline of maintaining a regular blog is healthy for a writer, primarily because it’s so easy to procrastinate, defer and postpone: a commitment to produce a piece each day or week can be a great motivator and can provide the impetus to knuckle down to writing and attempt something new. By the same token, it can all too easily become an obstacle to producing anything else, with the main work becoming sidelined by the thing that’s supposedly a mode of liberation and promotion. Moreover, in churning out pieces on not only a regular but a frequent basis, it’s easy for the quality of output to suffer and to find yourself saying the same thing. If it gets boring to write, it’s going to be equally boring to read: if and when that moment arrives, it’s time to quit.

I had other reasons to quit, or at least cut back though: well, something had to give. I’m no longer studying, but am still working full-time and then some. I can’t not: there are bills to pay, and very few writers actually get to make a living from it. Besides, getting to teach English Literature to undergraduates, albeit on a part-time basis, is often rewarding, but make no mistake, it’s hard work, especially in conjunction with holding down another job at the same time. So how do I find the time to write? Make time, and type fast, of course. But without blogging, at least as often. Has it damaged my readership? No, I don’t think so, and while I receive more hits to my site via searches for ‘Christopher Nonsibor reviewer’ and Christopher Nosnibor Whisperin and Hollerin’, I still get the same number who arrive at my site having searched for ‘Christopher Nosnibor writer’ or for one of my books (more often than not THE PLAGIARST).

But then, I’ve recently found myself wondering if maintaining a blog is as important as it used to be – not just for me, but in general. I still read voraciously, but the number of blogs I read has diminished, and I instead prefer to read a small number irregularly, rather than a large number regularly, partly because many of the blogs I follow tailed off around the same time I allowed my blogging activity to become less of a feature of my writing output. Is the golden age of blogging over? Does it really matter? A world in which everyone has a blog is a cluttered one, but shouldn’t be mistaken for a well-informed one. Knowledge may well equal power to an extent, but with no shortage of blogs brimming with ill-informed opinions and even outright hateful propaganda receiving ample traffic, it would equally appear that misinformation is power, and besides, who cares about what you’re saying as long as you’re popular. The interest in celebrity blogs and Tweets remains unabated. Ok, so bloggers like myself (i.e. the authors of the blogs I like to read) are never going to be in competition with these ‘celebrity’ retards, and never were, but there comes a time when pissing in the wind stops being fun and simply becomes a thankless slog.

For me, the blog always served a dual function: to vent or to comment on the things I had no other outlet for doing so, and, if I’m honest as an indirect means of promotion. Now, I have other channels for both promotion and venting, and besides, I’ve come to the conclusion that the world only needs so many producers of culture and of comment, given that there are only so many consumers. Personally, I try to do both, but it’s hard to consume while producing. It’s simply impossible to read an article and write one at the same time. So, while I continue to work on the job of perfecting a clone or two to enable me to multitask more effectively, the blogs will remain on the back burner while I crack on with the real work…

And of you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

A Dream of Stone (and Other Ghost Stories), edited by D M Mitchell and Dire Mccain is out now in the US through Paraphilia Books.

Performance… But is it Art?

One of my things is anonymity. Call it a gimmick if you like. I prefer to call it an integral part of the reading experience. Where my writing is concerned, I don’t want the reader’s opinions of the work to be coloured in any way by the kind of judgements my mug gurning all over my Facebook and MySpace page and the back covers of my books may inspire. It’s oft said you should never judge a book by its cover, and similarly, you should never judge a book by the appearance of the author. Being an ‘invisible author’ lends itself well to projects the THE PLAGIARIST. It also helps to allow me total freedom to write without having to worry about anyone coming over to me in the pub and giving me grief about the slating I gave their mate’s band the other week or whatever.

However, I also appreciate that this approach can, at times, prove to be an obstacle to the promotion of my work. Public readings, especially open mic nights, can be extremely useful for getting literature to different audiences. Not everyone uses social networking: not everyone has the same interests listed as I do. There are countless people who are potential readers, but just don’t know that what hey need is my writing, a spot of Clinical Brutality, or whatever.

I’ve done a handful of spoken word evenings in recent months, with varying degrees of success. Even when not performing, I like to attend to listen to what’s out there. Some of it’s extremely good.

The Takeover Festival, currently on at the Theatre Royal in York is holding an open mic night on Thursday, March 17th, and it promises to be good, not least of all because the King Ink guys will be there. Will I be there? Almost certainly. Will I be reading? Quite probably. Might I get someone else to read on my behalf while pretending to be me in order to retain my anonymity and to confuse the hell out of anyone who might have seen me read before? Possibly….

Takeover Open Mic is at 7:30 at the Theatre Royal, York. Tickets are £3, or £2 for performers. For more details, go here: http://www.takeoverfestival.co.uk/index.php/open-mic-night.html

Well I’m Excited…. Inching Closer to My Destination

The publication of a new book always brings with it a degree of trepidation, nervousness, even anxiety intermingled with the anticipation that can border on excitement. It also means I have work to do: being published by a no-budget publisher run by a couple of guys – albeit very hard-working, enthusiastic guys – in their spare time means the amount of promotion that gets done on my behalf is fairly limited. So an imminent publication date means work for me, raising my profile and making people aware that I have a book due. It’s not something I particularly enjoy doing: I find it difficult. To my mind, it’s too close to cold sales calling, door-to-door campaigning, standing in the street handing out leaflets or holding a banner, i.e. the potential to be an irritant is vast, and there’s a very grave danger that everyone will think you’re a cock. Promoting your own stuff means you can preface ‘cock’ with ‘egotistical’ too.

Still, needs must and while I’m anxious about sale, first and foremost, I’m anxious about reception, specially when it comes to a book like From Destinations Set. There’s every chance that people will find the presentation off-putting, too difficult to contemplate. But then I didn’t really write the book for them: this is a book for readers who want a challenge.

It was with no small amount of joy that I read the first review of the book, by writer Leeza Coleman. She describe the reading experience as ‘intense’ – which is exactly the kind of reaction I was hoping for. Her review is on Facebook, and Clinicality are taking advance orders now. Now roll on the 28th….

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk.

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now…

To celebrate the solstice, I’m giving away my brain-thrashing dual narrative novella, ‘From Destinations Set’ away as a FREE download, for one week starting now. Download the .PDF via this link: http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/from-destinations-set/11723683

To find out more about From Destinations Set, here’s a blog I wrote just ahead of its release in September: https://christophernosnibor.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/less-is-more-judging-a-book-by-its-cover/

Download, read, enjoy, and here’s to longer nights!

THWACK! There’s Every Reason to be Afraid…..

On Friday 10th December, the King Ink guys will be launching issue 2 of one of the most exciting new zines around, I’m Afraid of Everyone. It features a new piece by yours truly, entitled ‘Blaming Bukowski.’ Precise, punchy and perverse, I’m pretty pleased with it.

There will be a launch event at the Python Gallery in Middlesbrough on the same night, stating at 7.00pm (and not 7:30 as previously stated). I shall be reading my piece, and more recent writings. As I don’t venture out often, this is something of a landmark occasion. It’s going to kick arse. So do get down / up if you can.

I’ll also have a selection of my published works for sale (or to trade in exchange for beer, as I attempt to launch my barter-based micro-economy).

More details are available here: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1524930503&v=wall#!/event.php?eid=170032709690882