Still Preoccupied With 1984

A book report on the world of Orwellian political horror

For a long time I have avoided reading books that others, especially the mainstream, find to be, for lack of a better word, popular. Some titles include the Harry Potter, Twilight, and 50 Shades series. If it is gaining mass appeal, I simply don’t engage.

But what about those books that people rave about? You know the ones, they get you in such a way that you are compelled to tell others of their importance to society at large or the deeper implications they have on life. Do I lump those books into the same category as popular, mass-appeal, titles? The answer is, sometimes. Let me explain using this book report on 1984.

How I got started reading this book

For years I have avoided 1984 because of how boring it seemed to me to read about a society where is always watching you. I was born in an era where this is not only a reality, it is accepted as fact. If often all myself, ehy would I be interested in reading a book almost entirely about the world I already live in? I read fiction to entertain myself with a world unlike my own. So I avoided this book.

That is until I put a question out there:

I was surprised by how many people wanted me to read this book. And since I had never read it, it made sense to at the very least consider giving it a go for the fb crowd. So I picked up a copy of the book and started reading in a very different way than I normally do: I read to fb live every week day night for over two months until it was finished.

This book report is meant to go over what I read.

What this book is about

To put it bluntly, 1984 is about a loser in a crappy situation.

Old, worn out, and a cynical cog in the political machine, Winston Smith is a man who yearns for the world around him to be different than the drab, hate-filled, war torn, one he finds himself unable to change. And although he had no real memories of how the world used to be, or how he would want it to be, he loathes the world as it is now: gripped by the authoritarian might of The Party (IngSoc) and it’s personified visage known as Big Brother.

The story follows Winston on his aimless journey of self discovery. I say aimless because Winston, and the readers, have no idea what he is looking to accomplish with his life. We (Winston included) follow a journey wherein the protagonist falls in love with a rather promiscuous girl, becomes nostalgic for a history he had no part in, aligns himself with the infamous counter-movement known as the Brotherhood, teams about the true nature of the world political theatre, and is caught by the clutches of the terrible Thought Police.

The ending is, without a doubt, memorable. To have become completely engrossed with the horribly vicious world and times of 1984 and then to watch a relatable character suffer their inevitably fate is wretchedly frustrating. A similar story could be seen, felt, or even personally experienced today, and probably for the rest of human history.

What this book is not about

This book, 1984, gets touted as a lot of things: instructions for oligarchs, prophetic visions from the past, a dystopian novel. It really isn’t any of those things.

I wouldn’t say it is instructions for oligarchs because what oligarchs we have are so we’ll played out that this text fails to take into account the debth by which they must exercise control.

It really isn’t prophetic because it didn’t go far enough. George Orwell had no idea that the internet would be a thing and he had no understanding that the telescreens would be put in our pockets, along with mics and speakwrites.

This book is in no way dystopian because the end of the book is actually a happy one. Where the party is the good guy and Big Brother a lovable personification of it. And what’s more, in the end, are we sure of what we just read to be true?

But the one thing that I wanted to say about this book was that it is not a very exciting book for it’s content. Enlightening maybe, but not very exciting.What made this book enjoyable was I got to read it live and others found similarities between reality and fiction. So, this book is fun for how relatable it is. It’s not fun for how long it is.

What you might gain reading

With all that being said, readers round the world have enjoyed 1984 over and over again for its applicability to the modern world. This is what makes some books more equal then other books in that they carry the uncanny ability to educate, elucidate, and disseminate information about the real world in a novel way.

If you’ve never read 1984, you might be intrigued by the antagonist and his views on the party. You may even like, or even relate, with the love interest in the story. You might find yourself entirely enthralled with the idea of the Brotherhood and their seminal work, Oligarchival Collectivism.

But if there was anything for which you would gain for reading this book it would be a newfound appreciation for the past in the importance of the written word and artifacts that we use to remind ourselves of the past, for good or for ill.

Now I turn the time over to you, have you read 1984? Have you become enthralled by Big Brother or no people who have? Have you seen instances where the past was removed from plain sight and the memories and stories beginning to disintegrate? Let me know in the comments below!

Open Source Solutions for Old Writing Problems

The original manuscript alongside of my computer running Typora, GitHub Desktop, and Chrome.

There are many problems that I have encountered while on my journey of writing Without Power. And as writing is an incredibly old skill, it is interesting to see how modern tools have helped me on my journey to overcome some of the most difficult problems. What’s more is that there are many free, open-sourced solutions available to writers.

What I used to write the book

When I started writing, I used only a pen and paper. Now don’t get me wrong, I love writing analog and I prefer to do it when ever I can. But what I hate doing is taking the time to transfer my cursive writing to a digital document. That transfer process is such a pain that I quit writing by hand while writing Without Power and focused entirely on writing by computer.

When it comes to writing by computer, the first of many problems is how to stay focused while writing. With so many distractions available that writing on a computer, I would argue that it is nearly impossible to actually write. It is not so simple sit at a word pad or a text editor and just write. The very UI is distracting! And so for that I made use of a free desktop tool called, FocusWriter. Just look at how lovely and customizable it is.

What I used to proof version of the book

When it comes to proofing a book, I would argue that the most powerful way to do that is to actually go through the printed document with a pen one word at a time. There is something to visiting upon every single word, one after another. It feels as though each key stroke is up for scrutiny. There is something absolutely wonderful about that, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

So, yeah, I know it seems hypocritical to hate transferring information from analog to digital, and to still do it anyway. And I know that there is software better suited for proofing, but reading a proof on printed page is far more satisfying than on a screen. So I don’t really have any open source software for this section. But I do know that I was pretty open about my proof reading on my fb page.

What I used to manage edit versions

Now comes for the most intriguing part of all of this, to be honest. I say it is the most intriguing because it is a territory that I have yet to explore as it pertains to writing, and that is version management. What do I mean by that?

Well, when it comes to writing and editing a book, there are going to be many changes that take place of the course of the project. And over time, those edits can potentially get lost. In the past, the way that authors handled editing was simply by re-writing the proof from scratch. Yes, that’s right. An author like Hemingway would take a page he had just written and re-write the page from scratch over and over again until he had the page down pat.

To me, that is astounding. It explains why those early typists from the turn of the century had the kind of interiors to their texts that they had. They were repeating the text over and over again until it satisfied their obsession. For that, I tip my hat to them and they will always be considered greats for it.

For me however, I thought I would try something a little different. I learned recently that some people use GitHub as a repository for crowd-sourced creative work. I am not a big fan of the idea of crowd-sourcing my creative work, but the idea of using GitHub as a repository for version control of edits seemed like a brilliant way to proceed with polishing the work and implementing the proofing edits I have on written the printed draft.

The thing that I am really excited about with GitHub is that it enables me to empower other people to work with drafts of the document. This is the part of crowd sourcing that I am excited about, proofing. Each person will be able to make changes to their own version without losing any progress of my own work.

So now I turn the time over to you, do you use any particular tools for writing?

Start of a 90 day no-gym fitness journey

I love Sundays. I love being able to sleep in, focus almost exclusively on my interests, and I most especially love the opportunity to reflect on where I see my life’s journey going.

Now, waking up late this morning was definitely a pleasure. I normally wake up at about 4:45am every weekday (if you want some tips on how to do this your self, check out this post), but on the weekends I take a much more unstructured approach.

So there I am in my apartment, I have awoken to the beat of my own drum, and I get the feeling that I want to go to the gym to throw some weights around. That’s when I realize that I had recently froze my account at my local Planet Fitness. Kind of came as a surprise.

I have been going to that gym for five years, almost every single day. You’d think that I had taken some serious crazy pills to freeze my account. Well, as you will soon learn, I did it because I am not willing to take the crazy pills.

Let me explain. About two weeks ago I received an email saying that there would be a mask policy put into place as of August 1st. I shrugged my shoulders, and decided that I would deal with that policy when that day came. Now I am severally opposed to wearing masks at the gym, and so you have to know that this is a cancellable offense in my book.

When August 1st came around, I entered the gym, scanned my bar-code key-chain, and went on my way. That’s when the assistant manager, who I know very well (been going 5 years, you get to know people), came up to me and asked me if I had a mask.

“No,” I said.

“Well, Alixander, we have this new policy that requires you to wear a mask,” she said straining for breath through her fabric mask.

I knew where this was going, and so I simply asked her how long I have to wear the mask.

“You can take it off as soon as you are working out.”

I smiled a big, maskless smile and said, “Well, I am working out right now. Thanks for letting me know.” And I walked on my way.

Needless to say, I ended up getting chased down by the assistant manager and was told that if I didn’t follow policy of wearing the mask when I walked in and walked out of the gym that I would have my account suspended.

Step into my shoes just for a moment, and trust me when I say that I understand that she needs to do her job and enforce policy, but in order for me to enter and exit the gym with a mask on is like saying that I need to wear a condom before and after I have had sex.

I politely told her that I was going to finish my work out and that I was was going to place a freeze on my account. She explained to me that she didn’t want to see me stop my five year streak over something like this. Truthfully, I didn’t care. Who I was when I started at that Planet Fitness five years ago is a very different person than who I am today.

The picture in the photo was of my very first day five years ago.

You can see that I apparently got in trouble a lot for “training” my friends on how the equipment works at the gym

So fast forward to today, waking up to the fact that there will be no gym for the next 90 days. I had some serious questions going on in my head. The first of which was, what do I gain not having to go to a gym any more? The next was, how will my training be hampered without the gym’s equipment?

I contemplated that while I was working on making a new workout shirt for this next stage in my personal fitness journey. Rummaging through my old shirts, I found one of my favorites from a band I absolutely love (Crook and The Bluff) and cut it into my new gym shirt.

Making one of these gym shirts is pretty easy. Making all the muscle to fill it, that’s the hard part.

I followed the instructions from this website for the first one that I made. I make them a little bit different now, but you’ll get the gist of it.

After I was done with cutting up the shirt, an intimidating experience considering how much I love the shirt, I then went on to think deeply at my desk. And the best kind of thinking is done with paper and a writing utensil.

I realized pretty quickly that the biggest upside to not having a gym was that I would be able to work out when ever I wanted, where ever I wanted, and I wouldn’t have to pay to train. That seemed very exciting. Not having a gym meant that I’d be able to train outside in the open air instead of in gym air, or I’d be able to train at home instead of having to compete for gym space. This seemed like a huge upside to me.

The downside that immediately presented its self was that I would not have any gym equipment. This would mean that I would have to either get super creative about body weight workouts, or I would have to start investing money into gym equipment that would be taking up more space in my already small living situation. So the downside of not having a gym was that I would have to house my own equipment, or my workouts would become longer for less of a result.

What do I mean by, longer for less of a result? Well, I will use one example. The way that the human body is designed is to compete with the forces of gravity. All of the functions of the body are meant to compete with the never ending pull that the earth has on the mass of the human body. That means that I could easily do pushups and air-squats for almost indefinitely with enough training.

On the flipside, there is the problem of the pull exercises. As the body is primarily made to push away from the force of the earth, there are few instances where the pull muscles of the back are necessary. And except for things like pulling a rope, or climbing a tree, the back is severally limited when it comes to body weight exercises. So in order to over come that, equipment or props will become necessary.

Liberty Park | Utah tourism, Salt lake city, Utah
Here is a pretty ideal picture of the park’s views of the rocky mountains.

After some time of contemplating the upsides and downsides to no gym, I got off my butt and headed out the door for Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park. In no time at all I had completely forgot all those upsides and downsides. As I went about the streets of my city, I found myself picking ripe apples, plums, grapes and pears while walking to the park. By the time I got there, I was basically on a sugar rush. It was time I got to training.

Using a concrete picnic table, I did the following workout:

  • Alternating Step-ups: 20 each side
  • Inclined Pushups: 20
  • Seated Crunches: 20
  • Air-squats: 30
  • Lunges: 20 each side
  • Speed-skaters: 20 each side
  • Rotating Planks: 20 each side
  • Lateral kicks: 20 each side
  • Backward kicks: 20 each side
  • Criss-cross kicks: 20 each side

Granted, this wasn’t the most strenuous workout. In fact, it was pretty freaking easy. But being in the shade of a bunch of huge cottonwood trees was incredible. I loved every minute of being able to breath the air around me and to feel the gentle breeze that came through the trees. Honestly, I loved the feeling.

Afterwards, I went for a run around the park. The park so happens to be a mile around and the pace I took was a pretty good one. Once I had finished the big loop, I headed on home. As I walked home listening to birds singing and watching squirrels dart up and down trees, I thought very seriously about what the next 90 days of my fitness adventure would be like. I wondered as I walked home how others had handled this change from gym life to no-gym life. I knew that I wasn’t the only person to let the gym go in the last couple of months. So now I turn the time over to you:

What have you done since you kicked the gym habit?