New Year’s resolutions 2014

I didn’t really have any resolutions for 2013, because I was going to be making enough big changes in my life as it was – leaving the Army, travelling to India. I’m making several for 2014 though, and this is what they are:

1. Read and see six Shakespeare plays.

I’m OK with all the big names, like Hamlet, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, but beyond that my knowledge of Shakespeare is woeful. I need an intensive familiarisation programme, so I’ve decided to challenge myself to learn six more plays in a year, by both reading them, then seeing them performed.

I haven’t come up with a detailed plan yet, or decided on the six plays. King Lear will definitely be on the list because it’s a major play which I know practically nothing about. Besides that I’ll probably concentrate on the comedies. I’d like to see at least one at the Globe, and another done by the RSC in Stratford. Local companies and amateur productions can complete the mix.

If anyone’s interested in joining me for any of these, or has any suggestions of productions I could go to, let me know.

2. Avoid using Amazon, and support independent book and music shops.

I love little bookshops and independent record shops, and I think it’s a tragedy that so many have been forced out of business by Amazon and disappeared from the high street. Amazon has a doubly destructive effect on independent shops: it uses reprehensible methods, such as tax avoidance and exploition of workers, to massively undercut prices, which not only directly hurts the smaller shops, but also ensures that the only companies able to compete on the high street are the large chains like Waterstones, which buy them up when they’re in trouble.

While I’ve been complaining about the loss of all these great little shops I love, I’ve also been directly responsible for their destruction. Swayed by the price and convenience, I’ve been a heavy user – possibly even an addict – of Amazon for years. But it’s time to break the habit.

In 2014, I will try to avoid any use of Amazon, except where it’s impossible to get something by any other means – and I’m hoping with ordering services, Ebay and smaller online retailers, this will never happen. As much as practical, despite higher prices, I will buy books from independent bookshops (not even Waterstones) and music from independent record shops. Amazon Marketplace is exempt from the boycott, because many independent shops sell through it as well, although when using Marketplace I will always try to buy from a seller with a physical shop, not just a warehouse operation.

3. Repair my ZX Spectrum and complete The Lords of Midnight.

My first computer was a ZX Spectrum 48K. I still have it in a cupboard, complete with my collection of games. The last time I tried to use it, the Q key wasn’t working properly, and I packed it away again, thinking its days were over. But I’ve done a little bit of googling recently, and I’ve discovered that a) keyboards are a common problem with old Spectrums, b) the problem is easily fixed by the replacement of the keyboard membrane, and c) there are websites which sell replacement membranes and provide full instructions on how to do the repairs.

So this year, that’s what I’m going to do. Replace my old Spectrum’s keyboard membrane, and get it up and running as a retro gaming station. When that’s done, I’m going to celebrate by taking on The Lords of Midnight, the epic roleplaying-wargame hybrid which is not just one of the best Spectrum games, but one of the best computer games of all time. I never managed to complete it when I was younger, but in 2014, Doomdark will finally be defeated.

4. Avoid InCaps.

Originally I’d only planned the above three resolutions, but just before I got round to writing this, I read this post over at Boing Boing in which Cory Doctorow argues that the use of “InCaps” is a marketing affectation which “has no place in journalism or commentary”. By slavishly following the stylistic whims of company branding, over┬áhouse styles and the ordinary rules of English, writers have ceded too much power over our discourse to the marketers. This appeals to both the anti-corporatist and the grammar pedant in me, so I’m adopting it too. Hence the “Ebay”, not “eBay”, above.

9 thoughts on “New Year’s resolutions 2014

  1. I am up for a spot of the Globe as never been. Been to Stratford RSC to see The Comedy of Errors and can recommend going there and doing a tour

    • The plays the Globe is doing this year that I’m interested in: Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, The Comedy of Errors. I’d be interested in All’s Well That Ends Well too, but I don’t think my Gujarati is up to scratch.

      • Oh they doing that nonsense languages around the world thing again? I am in for any but The Comedy Of Errors. Saw the complete works of Shakespeare in a pub so have covered all of the plays and taught me far more than Will Farr ever did.

  2. When I first read “Ebay” I thought “That’s weird, Tom doesn’t normally make capitalisation errors”, which made number 4 all the more pleasurable. Unrelatedly, I’ve never understood the problem with Amazon etc.’s tax avoidance. As far as I can see, it’s legal and sensible of them to do it, so why wouldn’t they? If there’s a fault, it seems like it’s laws which should be challenged. They allow the super-rich to go untaxed and since the super-rich are just like everyone else in that they don’t want to pay their taxes, the law setters should take responsibility. I think your stand against Amazon would be better if it took the form of a political lobby rather than a boycott.

    • I agree with you about Amazon and our tax laws. The analogy I like is that if you leave your meat out to go rotten, it’s no point complaining about the behaviour of the maggots which will inevitably infest it. The only sensible thing to do is to improve your own meat storage systems, eg. buy a fridge.

      But my resolution isn’t intended to challenge Amazon’s tax behaviour. It’s just to stop directly financing a trend (the closure of bookshops and record shops) that I don’t like.

  3. I have 3 Spectrums, and would happily provide you with parts, if it helps in your retro gaming quest. Last time I tried it, the original 48k blue-keys computer didn’t actually boot properly, but the +2 worked up to a point (I think the tape player connection is suspect). Can’t remember about the +1. I offer anything I can do to help bring down Doomdark.

    • Thanks for the offer. I still think I’ll buy a replacement membrane though. They’re not expensive, and it’ll leave you with an intact 48K if you decide to repair yours as well some day.

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