Post-Colonial Science Fiction: Avatar and District 9

Awhile back my dad took me to see the film Avatar. I found the movie largely disappointing and completely unworthy of the hype that surrounds it. Most of the fun I had regarding that movie, was taking it apart and seeing how I can put it together. Later, I saw another film that I feel is similar in regards to theme, District 9. Both of these movies dealt with what are essentially colonial themes, but in my opinion District 9 is a far superior movie. This is because District 9 meets what I believe to be the criteria of a good science fiction movie, which is that it explores complex ideas about humanity.

First off, I’m going to talk about Avatar. I was very angry at James Cameron for making Avatar. I don’t really know what I was expecting, because I hated Titanic and the kind of movie I would have liked Avatar to be seen as is downright impossible to be made on the scale that Avatar was done at. The entire thing was one long Dances with Wolves rip off recycled in Space and done with characters who are so cardboard a light breeze could through them over. What disappointed me even more was that Avatar could have been a much better movie. A friend sent me an internet article about an early version of Avatar called Project 880, which had more developed characters and dealt with many philosophical issues in the movie that I thought were underdeveloped or completely missed in the film.

However, if the Gods of Science Fiction were to call on me, they’re humble servant, to go back in time and right the blasphemy against them that is Avatar, this is what I would change.

  • Loose Mighty Whitey, you know this story. White guy goes to random group of native people where he proceeds to out native them in every conceivable way. While in modern times this could have something to do with liberal guilt, it is still kind of racist. Not only that, it has been done. I have heard Avatar described as Dances with Wolves in Space and Pocahontas in Space, but unfortunately Avatar cannot be called Avatar in Space. I’m not saying that we don’t get ride of the whole aspect of Sully joining the Na’vi for awhile, I’m just saying we don’t make him their Messiah.
  • Loose the Noble Savages, this is essentially what the Na’vi are. They spend most of their time in harmony with nature when they’re not riding around on flying lizards and whatever the hell it is Na’vi are supposed to do. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with being a Noble Savage, the fact that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with them is the entire point of being a Noble Savage. My problem is that it is just to easy. I’ll probably go into this later in another point I’m going to make, but basically I think we should cut the blue cat people some cultural slack and make them more then just stand ins for our romantic notions about Native Americans.
  • Loose all that Action Movie Shit, I don’t go to movies because I want to see explosions, and as cool a world as Pandora is, I can’t really get into it if I don’t care about the people who live in it. I would basically turn it from an Action Movie into a Psychological and Philosophical Drama.
  • Character Development, get some, The characters in Avatar are very poorly developed and for the most part act as archetypes. Basically, what I’m saying is give them more depth. Especially that psycho Marine guy who’s basic purpose is to be the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids and Crack. I personally love seeing American soldiers act like total monsters in movies, it’s kind of cathartic, but these days I’m liking it less and less.
  • Ramp up the Philosophical Issues, To me science fiction has always been a genre of ideas, which is something Hollywood seems to translate as “Things blowing up IN SPACE!” There are two issues that I felt Cameron could have concentrated on, issues of identity and the fact everyone is standing on a living freaking God.
  • Questions Regarding Human (and alien) Identity, The first problem is simple and in my opinion should have been a much larger focus for the movie. Jake Sully is sent to planet were he is given handy new alien body. Handy new alien body can do all kinds of things Sully can’t do, such as breath the toxic alien atmosphere and walk. Sully ends up being picked up by the local alien tribe and gets to learn they’re ways. Now we get to my question: Is Na’vi Sully the same person as Human Sully? When Sully becomes one with his Avatar, is he still Sully, is he still human? This could be highlighted in certain rituals of the Na’vi that we could add to this version. Say instead of burying their dead the Na’vi take the body of that dead person and eat it in a ritual similar to that of the Australian Aborigines. This handily gives Sully ethical issues and messes with various ethical issues, and any preconceived Noble Savage ideas we may have about the Na’vi
  • And Finally, God/Eywa. Not once are any theological or spiritual issues raised that the stupid humans are dealing with is a being that could be the closest thing to a God they have ever encountered without being certifiably insane. Now this is just me speaking, but this should have been a much more bigger thing to catch my attention for this movie. What if the entire point of going to Pandora is really that they have found God? Alright, maybe they come for the Unobtanium, but they stay to figure out this God thing.

So basically, for my rewrite of this movie, we leave out most of the action sequences, the basic starting plot, subvert every Colonialist cliche in the book, and end it all with a huge mindscrew instead of an action sequence.

Anyways, on to District 9. This is in effect the exact opposite of Avatar. They both feature a story about a human who becomes an alien, discovers new things about his world and feature colonial themes, but District 9 is probably a much more accurate idea of how things would turn out in the end. Basically, a bunch of alien insects called the Prawns land their space ship a bit above South Africa and overtime are moved into a slum. They are being taken cared of by a weapons corporation that is trying to figure out how to work they’re weapons, which appear to only work for them. The Prawns are also victims to Nigerian gangsters who eat their flesh so they can have the energy weapons and what appears to be a crippling drug problem related to cat food.

Enter Wikus van der Merwe, a young ambitious bureaucrat for evil weapons company who is sent to get all the prawns into a new slum outside the city. He starts of as a fairly unsympathetic character who bribes the prawns with catfood and “aborts” prawn eggs with a flame thrower. No sooner does this happen then he is infected with weird alien fluid and begins to slowly transform into a prawn himself. This disturbs Wickus very much, as he is soon on the run because his former co-workers want to cut him open for the money.

So why is District 9 better then Avatar? Well, for me it’s because I care about the actors and it doesn’t feel as phony. Avatar just seemed like a cheat, were as the guy who made District 9 seems to have done something that I believe has serious artistic merit. Plus, District 9 just has characters I can actual feel for, like Wickus. He starts out as basically a jerk, but when he comes out he seems to be a more developed human being (or prawn). The movie also had a better handle on it’s themes, such as the whole issue of oppression of minorities. Also, if District 9 is a film version in space of Kafka, it does this in a way that isn’t as obvious as Avatar’s rip off.

Anyways, I’ve been working on this blog post for to long, I will publish it and let you, dear reader, decide if I’ve got a point, am just ranting, or both. Excelsior.

The Nature of Art

I was hanging out, once again, around a bunch of atheist math students when I got into an argument that I did not hold well with in a verbal sense. This was because we were really arguing about Art, and because I associate Art with God and the spiritual world, I got confused. Since I was in all likelihood the only person who believed that a God existed and probably the only one who saw God to be the source of Art. I am also the only person to capitalize Art despite grammatical laws. Anyways, the conversation went something like this

This entire argument got me very upset so I went to talk with my Chaplain. I had had many good conversations with him about God, which for me translates as conversations about life. Before we go anywhere I’m going to give you a brief transcript of the conversation.

Atheist #1: Hey, what does everyone think of Avatar?

Me: Oh ugh, what a horrible movie.

Atheist #1: Well, technically speaking the visual affects where good, but the plot was terrible.

Me: Yeah, but it was a terrible, terrible movie.

Atheist #2: Well, it wasn’t that bad.

Me: Yes, yes it was. Now, if you have a director like Alejandro Jodorowsky, then you’d have something. Anybody here familiar with Jodorowsky? El Topo?

Atheist 3: Oh ugh, what a terrible movie.

Me: No, no. I think Jodorowsky’s El Topo is a better movie then Avatar.

Atheist #3: Nobody understands El Topo.

Me: So?

Atheist #3: So nobody will go and see it?

Me: Why does that matter?

Atheist #3: Because nobody will pay to see it?

Me: That doesn’t mean that it’s not a good movie. What does money have to do with anything?

Atheist #3: If 800 million people go to see it it’s not a good movie?

At this point I’ve come to a hault. I got into a very heated point were I tried to make this about God, which to me it was, but to which the athiests didn’t see that. Athiest 3 did say that he was an artist, but I don’t know if I believe him as of yet.

Now, to explain what it is I should have explained in the argument, Art is a process by which human beings communicate certain concepts to other human beings through methods of symbols. This is fundamentally a magical act, and even if you don’t believe in magic as such, you have to admit that by my definition it’s the closest anyone is ever going to get without sufficiently advanced technology. While I connect the idea of God with this, this is not proof of God’s existence. What Art is, is one of the most fundamental aspects of what makes us human. Which basically brings us to the crux of the argument.

My Position: Art is the most necessary aspect of human development. As such, there are certain responsibilities that make up being an Artist to the rest of humanity. This responsibility is that we must help our fellow human beings. To do this, our Art must not suck. To do that would be to commit a horrible transaction (I might say “crime against the Holy Spirit”).

Athiest #3’s position: Your concept of Art is unrealistic and overly mystified. Give the idiots what they want. If they want to see two and a half hours of “Dances with Mutant Smurfs,” then let them.

So basically, as I talked this all out with my Chaplain, I realized that I was not worried about God as I had previously been, but that I was frustrated on the theories of Art. The fact that in our original conversation I was discussing God only goes to show how seriously I take the idea of Art and the creation of it. As Alan Moore says in Mindscapes, “It is not the job of artists to give the audience what the audience want. If the audience knew what they needed they would be the artists and not the audience. It is the job of the artist to give the audience what they need.” Atheist #3’s comments were an insult to Art, and in my own overlapping social categories thought he was attacking God. Maybe he was attacking God, but he was doing this through his misguided ideas of the nature of Art.

Exegesis of “A Maze of Death”

I’m going to make this quick statement, I am in love with Philip K. Dick right now. There is something about a science fiction writer into big religious questions that fascinates me. I am on a more or less steady diet of Philip K. Dick right now and I figured that I should work this into the blog. As such, I am going to work this into my new blog, mostly because it gives me something to talk about. What we have here is a continuing feature, which I will be calling an Exegesis in honor of Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis, written to explain the visions he experienced during the early 70s. THERE WILL  BE SPOILERS.

If I where to sum up “A Maze of Death” in one sentence then I’d say “It’s Lost in space and on really bad crack.” Yeah, not a good way of describing it, but it gets better. Basically, all these people who are sent to the mysterious planet of Delmak-O, with no explanation why they are all sent there and not really any hint. Since they all have different careers (marine biologist, linguist, theologian, etc) they have no idea what it is they are supposed to do. When they finally get to play the tape (Yes, it’s a tape. It was published in 1970), it has been busted and won’t work. So basically nobody knows what the hell they are supposed to be doing on this planet.

And then people start being killed.

Which is where the Lost thing comes in, more specifically, theories concerning Lost. It is stated that everyone on this research colony is in some way a jerk. Pretty much everything from general jerkery to bestiality is covered for in this group. This relates to the Lost theory that the characters are all in purgatory, which will relate to the book. In this case, the reaserch colony believes that they are part of a really sketchy government experiment, at least initially though because this is a Philip K. Dick novel. Lost my track of thought there. Anyways, the vast majority of “A Maze of Death”s cast is made up of jerks, addicts, madmen and various combinations. A couple are all right, but I didn;t really find the characters that interesting compared to the issue of the whole ontological mystery of the situation.

Another interesting feature would be the Religion that everyone in the book follows. It was basically developed by Philip K. Dick with his friend William Sarrill (whoever that is) with various inspirations from Dick’s conversations with Bishop James Pike. Basically, the religion of this book has an existent God that is seperated into three aspects. The Mentefactor, who is never given much detail but I think is supposed to be God the Father, The Intercessor, who is sort of like Jesus, and The Walker-on-Earth, who is basically this random do-gooder who wanders the earth doing good deads much like Kane from Kung Fu. These gods can appear to you at various times and do whatever it is they do. You can even pray to them via electronics. That’s basically how the book starts, one of the characters wants a change of job since his current one isn’t challenging. So he prays for a new job and gets one that leads into our story. There’s also a holy text that has some sort of inane self-help title that I think was How I Came Back From the Dead and So Can You. That is probably meant as a joke. Oh, and there is a fourth being, an evil figure called the Form Destroyer, which is basically the forces of entropy that will consume everyone and was created when the Mentefactor made the Universe as a side affect. Hope that covers everything.

Anyways, people trapped on a mysterious planet, everyone’s a jerk ass, people are dieing. I’m not going to go and explain all the weird stuff that happens, but a lot of weird stuff happens. There’s a weird prison thing that may anticipate the Black Iron Prison of the Exegesis and VALIS. There is also a Tench, which is a sort of jell thing that works kind of like the I Ching. The vast majority of these things are left unexplained because of the twist ending. The twist ending, which is important for this is that the events of the novel aren’t really happening. All the characters are in fact going through a computer generated simulation to relieve stress because they are stuck on a space ship with no hope of rescue. Everyone was being killed of by everyone else because they are so sick of each other that they can’t stand to look at each other. It’s supposed to be cathartic.

So, we know come to what it is that Philip K. Dick is trying to get at. A lot of this is about Dick’s beliefs on human sympathy. Simply, everyone should just be nice to each other. The characters in “A Maze of Death” are unable to do this in any meaningful way. They are basically unfit human beings by Dick’s standards. What is more, they are trapped on a star-ship with no hope of rescue and placing themselves in what pretty much amounts to maya, the Hindu concept of the vale that we perceive as reality, though in this case the reality they have to face is worse then the illusions they have to live in.

Or is it? At the end of the novel, one of the characters, overcome with depression concerning his situation is greated by the Intercessor. This is a surprise to him and the reader as the Intercessor has already been stated to have been a product of the simulation, something that the cast made up for the simulation. The Intercessor takes the character away to be reincarnated as a cactus, but the rest of the characters are sent to live out the simulation once again.

FINAL ANSWER: Dick’s ultimate philosophical goal is to show humanity at it’s worse, but also to offer hope in finding salvation through religion. There is also an open ended question regarding the existence of God. “Did we make up God and does that mean salvation is not possible?” Dick does not really address this question in full in “A Maze of Death,” and I have yet to find any works that really look at this. This is a pretty hard question though, largely because this isn’t really asked and it is not also very logical. Salvation can only be found through God, therefore if God doesn’t exist Salvation is not possible. However, in Dick’s story, God does in fact exist, but has appeared in the guise of a form that is created. By this, Dick is implying that God exists and appears to mankind via images created by man for God. This makes sense if looked at with the idea that God is not a being that is comprehended by human senses. The creation of various masks can help in the communication with humanity.

Alright, this is as far as I can go. I’ll be trying my hand at VALIS next, wish me luck.

What is Surrealism?

Today a friend asked me what surrealism is, which is something that I believe I have a better idea of then the average North American. I’m not completely certain that I gave him a proper definition though, so this blog post is to give my definition of what surrealism is.

The word “surreal” was first used by Apollinaire to describe a play he wrote called “Les Mamelles de Tiresias,”(French for “The Breasts of Tiresias”). The Wikipedia no longer explains what this play was about, but I don’t think the breasts were that  integral to the plot (or what passed for the plot), but it ended with a moral in favor of sex. I have read a bit of his poem “Zone,” which was a bit surreal itself, since it used the metaphor of Paris as a field of sheep or something like that. This all happened around 1917, and Appollinaire would shortly be biting the bullet in the trenches, so he won’t be coming into this.

We know go to the Dadaists. The Dadaists were a fun-loving bunch of anti-artists who generally were not fans of the factory of death that was WWI. Their argument went something like this.

  • Modern society is based on the achievements of the rational mind (i.e. railroads, industry and such).
  • Our society is slowly crumbling apart because of the onslaught of this pointless, stupid and machine death-factory of the Great War
  • THEREFOR, our rationalist society is the cause of this war. It is evil, or at least not very efficient, and thus we should mock the hell out of it. Let’s go shock the academy.

And thus the Dadaists were born, largely in Switzerland. Dadaism lead to all kinds of fun things to shock the old fogies, such as toilets claimed to be art, placing random words together to make poems and getting dressed up as a funny pope thing and intoning meaningless nonsense.

As fun as it must have been to be a Dadaist, they were not really an art movement meant to last. This leads us to a young French man named Andre Breton. Andre Breton is the guy if you want to know about Surrealism, largely because if there wasn’t an Andre Breton there wouldn’t be surrealism and Dali would have just been considered weird. Breton got his start in the Dadaists, but was also very inspired by his time as a doctor during WWI. He worked at a psychiatric hospital and hanged out with a lot of crazy people. Among these crazy people was a guy called Jacques Vache. Very little is written about him on Wikipedia, except that he was a bit of an anti-social jerk, Andre Breton was pretty taken with him, and he wore a monocle. O, and he apparently OD’d on opium in 1919. Vache was also a fan of another crazy guy called Alfred Jarry. Jarry wrote a bunch of plays about a guy called King Ubu that were apparently violent and banned shortly after the first performance. Jarry’s a big name in Surrealism, as like Appolinaire he is very direct precursor.

Anyways, back to Breton. Around 1924, he wrote a little document he liked to call The Surrealist Manifesto. To Breton, surrealism was…

Psychic automatism in it’s pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by written word, or in any other manner — the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

…and this proved to be popular among various French artists. Andre Breton was able to get together a bunch of people to start what he called the Bureau of Surrealist Research, under the direction of a guy named Antonin Artaud, who was an interesting guy who I try reading but find a bit to angry. The Bureau’s main goal was to experiment with Surrealism so that it could exist outside the world of art; that they could basically make a working competitor to scientific rationalism. Artaud was a big guy in this, as he saw that Imagination was just as real as the rest of reality. He believed that what we consider real is merely part of a consensus and he for one was not for the consensus he had to live in; kind of like Mage: the Ascension. If they had LARPs back then, he would be an interesting person to run one. Actually, I think that the Surrealists in general would have loved the concept of LARPing and would have probably done some very fun and crazy ones.

So if I had to give a definition of surrealism, I would probably go for that definition, a rejection of rationalism that exists largely within the world of art, but is trying desperately to get out. No, surrealists are trying desperately for surrealism to replace rational thought. My own opinions on this are that I have sympathy for the surrealists, but I also am a bit cynical about the whole enterprise. While Imagination is beautiful and not wholly separate from reality, I do not think that the surrealist idea of ultimately replacing the rational with the surreal is feasible, or even ultimately desirable. This undesirability is due largely because I don’t know how normal humans would react if we all abandoned rational thought. Would we become more violent, or would we just all become fishmalks? Yes, it is possible that this could lead to a reversal where individual people become irrational, insane beings and countries are all rational entities that don’t waste money on war and stuff like that, but that could just because the government is busy investing money in clown cars for immigrants or breeding winged giraffes or something. Also, everyone would be too busy slapping each other with fish because they’re all crazy fishmalks to slap other nations with fish.

Still, Surrealism does exist in the world of the imagination and that has got to count for something. While we have yet to make a full summoning of surrealism into our plane of existence to overthrow the tyranny of the machine-gods of Rationalism we can still imagine worlds of sock islands and purple otters and whiskey trees, or stuff we’d rather imagine because who the hell wants a whiskey tree besides alcoholics and bootleggers?

Anyways, that’s my definition of Surrealism. Hope you enjoy.

Alan Moore: Art is Magic (my responce)

This video, which had damn well better be up, is from the documentary The Mindscapes of Alan Moore. Somebody put up a lot of cool stuff from that very nifty documentary, and it has been something I return to for contemplation.

Alan Moore has been my first real stepping stone for me to seriously look into the world of the occult. This is largely due to Alan Moore making it look fairly non-occult and scary. In his series of comic books, Promethea, he makes it look pretty cool. It was very colorful and non-threatening, and while scary at some points, it didn’t really seem to be something that would damn my soul to eternity. While I’m still wondering if Christianity and whatever it is Alan Moore is supposed to be are compatible, I am fascinated by his beliefs regarding magic and art.

So is Alan Moore right? Are the goals of Art and Magic so easily together? I don’t believe that they are that tied together, there is a lot of art that I would say does not fit the qualification of magic. The question that should really be asked is does Art affect the outside world, or does the outside world affect Art?

Art is definitely something that lives in both worlds, by which I mean the Macrocosm, the world we share with everyone else, and the Microcosm, the world of our perception. It can exist in a physical plane, were we can see it or read it or hear it, but we also see it when we look at it. This causes us to interpret it, which gives it existence in the microcosm. This can cause the audience to think about things if the artist decides to do thus. So yes, I believe that Art can affect the world around us.

The problem is this is not being used in a beneficial way, as Alan Moore is saying, but that most of the modern-day equivalents are working in advertising or mediocre Hollywood films. They have the most power over the various Microcosms of individuals, as film is the most prevalent form of artistic communication. The problem is a lot of this isn’t that good and is seen largely as entertainment, as compared to something that could benefit humanity as a whole. There is also the issue that if we were to somehow overthrow the advertisement/Hollywood control over symbols, we (and I mean Alan Moore and myself and whoever else wants to give this a go) would just become propaganda. Not that this is something that is going to happen in the near future, because I’m not the kind of person to become a propaganda minister, because I have talent. Also, I’m smart enough not to get involved in any revolutions.

So anyways, what I really wanted to talk about was that I believe Alan Moore has a point here and that if I am going to be a writer, and I am going to be a writer, I should be prepared for my ideas to take hold on the world. This is a bit of a problem, because I’m not sure what my goals are in my writing. Here’s a list of recurring themes that exist in the things I plan on writing.

  1. We should probably not be to excited about Richard Dawkins and his gang of Athiest sharpshooters
  2. The State is the House of Satan and any follower of God and Truth should not hold any magistrasial position. This holds to anyone seeking a political revolution. Anyone who claims that God put him or her in any form of position of power, is lieing, a heretic and possibly the Antichrist. (I am open to voting however)
  3. Art is a magical force that can affect the world around us, but it’s being misused by the mainstream media, advertising and Hollywood’s poor examples of film. (AVE HERZOG!)
  4. Probably something involving God, inspired by my Christian Anabaptist routes and things like that, but with syncrenetsic elements that combine aspects of the Western Mysteries, Sufism and Eastern Religions.

I have been working on this for to long, and like the thing on Jodorowsky’s Tarot, I will return to it soon. Probably more sooner then the Tarot thing.

Filtering out the good stuff and chucking the gunk

Well, here it is. My new blog. For those of you who don’t know, I used to have a blog called “The Aspie Diaries.” That was getting a bit frustrating and I felt I needed to start a new one, mainly since I’m not the human being who started that blog. This is what I hope to be a more mature blog to focus any thoughts I have regarding what I usually ponder about, such as life, religion, the nature of ideas, writing and role-playing. Expect fan material for White Wolf’s World of Darkness line.
While I had your attention, I thought I’d bring up what this blog is supposed to be and why I called it something as crazy as SOLVE ET COAGULA. Knowing some of my audience, such as Jason from the Chasing Hermes podcast, I really don’t need to explain what that is. However, the vast majority of my readers (i.e. my family) probably have no idea what I’m talking about. And what’s with calling my blog psychic-refugees.blogspot.com, anyways?
Well, the psychic refugees thing is easy enough. It was part of an early title for this blog, something like Psychic Refugees of the Lost Aeon or Psychic Refugees of an Unknown Generation. While these names had cool words like Aeon and Generation, I didn’t really like them. Earlier ideas were Exegesis, which I stole from Philip K. Dick, and Incorrectly Decoded Signals, which I stole from a William S. Burroughs quote. Neither of these felt right, so instead I decided to go SOLVE ET COAGULA.
Solve Et Coagula is an alchemical phrase, which basically means “To take apart and then to reassemble.” I first heard it in the documentary “The Mindscapes of Alan Moore,” where famous comic book writer and magician Alan Moore used it to explain art. To put it at it’s most basic, he said that modern art concentrates too much on the SOLVE(taking apart) and not enough on the COAGULA(putting back together). Also in that documentary he put forth his idea that writing is fundamentally a magical act, as the artist creates something out of nothing.
Alan Moore’s thesis is similar to that of the Remodernists, an English art movement I discovered over the Internet. They are a reaction about trends in English art to call pickled sharks or unmade beds art. The Remodernists are into pure art, which is to say art that has spiritual meaning to it and is not ruled by the empty commercialists of the day.
I’m not a painter, but I am a writer and a poet. For the most part I’m oblivious to modern art and writing, though I am a fan of slam poetry and Roberto Bolano, as well as the British Wave of Comic Book writers that started in the 1980s (Alan Moore is the leading figure in this movement, though a trend is probably a better word). I do believe that my writing should be meaningful, if only because I want my life to be meaingful. Which brings us about to the reason I’m starting this blog. It is, in many ways an alchemical sequel to my last blog, “The Aspie Diaries.” I feel that that blog has been weighing me down, that I had developed outside it’s bonds and it’s time for me to spread out my wings and remake myself. SOLVE ET COAGULA is the tool by which I plan on doing that. Hopefully this blog will be a new home for my thoughts and musings, and hopefully I can keep it going.
Well, hope that is a good explanation and enjoy my writing.