Monday, December 17, 2007

Listen Again

I was listening to iPM earlier. For those who haven't heard it before, it's essentially a heady interactive mix of consumer issues, current events, and extended whinges about the misleading advertising of broadband speeds; an offshoot of news and analysis programme PM, but with a blog. I'm sure last Saturday's programme must have raised all sorts of interesting and thought-provoking issues that I could perhaps have diverted you with here; however, throughout the entire 25 minutes I found myself with just one - admittedly quite pressing - question on my mind: "Ooh, I wonder what would happen if you just added a letter to other popular Radio 4 programmes? Or you could take one away! Brilliant."

Erm, I got quite excited.

What? It was a quiet afternoon.

Anyway, so far, my favourite alternative programme by a long way has to be Monkey Box Live (with recorded highlights available on partner programme Monkey Box; obviously). Erm, not really sure what that might entail, quite frankly, beyond recordings of a box full of monkeys... Still, that's more than enough, isn't it?

Of course it is.

Anyway, here are some more I came up with (like I said, it was a quiet afternoon):
(for those more unfamiliar with the Radio 4 schedule, links go to the parent programme)

Act O'Worship - same programme, but now outsourced to an Irish call centre.

Afternoon Lay - Russell Brand keeps us up to date on his sex life (stand-in presenter: David Walliams).

From Our Down Correspondent - news for depressives.

Tall in the Mind - short people with denial issues.

Afternoon Dreading - niche programming for those who fear the hours between 12pm and 6pm.

Quote... Nunquote - same as original, but with a vow of silence. Thank God.

The Achers - daily discussion programme for arthritis sufferers.

The Achers Omnibus - weekend edition of The Achers. On a bus. For some reason.

Many Questions? - same as original programme, but with Jonathan Dimbleby giving the distinct impression he'd really quite like to get home for his tea.

Bran of Britain - needlessly testing the nation's knowledge of husks.

Excess Braggage - half an hour of insufferable boasting.

Eek in Westminster - comedy programme, in which a mouse is secretly let loose in the House of Commons.

A Good Tread - Sue MacGregor and guests discuss their favourite tyres.

In Our Tim - Tim Henman reads from his food diary, occasionally hurried along by Jeremy Paxman - "C'mon, Tim!"

The Latte Story - updated radio adaptation of those Gold Blend ads from the 80s.

Prayer for the Dray - daily entreaty on behalf of the traditional haulage industry.

You 'ad Yours! - noisily triumphalist consumer affairs programme. But just to completely distinguish it from the original, now presented by aggressive Cockneys. You slag.

Woman Sour - sixty minutes of personal attacks on Jenni Murrray by Yoda. Utterly, utterly uncalled for. Yet strangely compelling...

Ok. I'm done. No, wait...

Nope, I'm done. Bit tenuous those last few, but never mind.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Not so Christian Voice

In the comments of my previous post (all those weeks ago... sigh), for some reason or other, and at no-one whatever's request, I grudgingly resigned myself to having to say something considered and articulate about free speech... fortunately, it so happens that Stewart Lee, the co-creator of Jerry Springer - The Opera, has already done the job for me :)

Well, not for me specifically... I didn't commission it or anything... I just mean that...

Look, anyway, if you have 40-something minutes to spare and don't mind watching lots of people saying stuff you already agree with (unless you don't; in which case, you probably should watch it, and not just because it's fun to shout stuff at people on telly) you can watch his documentary don't get me started... in YouTube-sized chunks here, here, here, here, here, then here. Unlike watching back-to-back episodes of Two Pints of Lager..., it probably won't be the worst thing you've ever done with 40-something minutes. Actually, that probably doesn't work, does it? Back-to-back episodes of Two Pints... would be more like 50-something minutes... No, never mind, that actually probably just reinforces my point.

[Sighs] It's no use. I tried, but it turns out I can't hold my tongue (eeeew, it's covered in spit):

1. Jerry Springer - The Opera DOESN'T portray Jesus as a coprophiliac sexual deviant. It's just the same actor in a very similar costume. If Stephen Green had seen the show he might have noticed. Oh, wait, apparently he did see the show. Still, to be fair, it must have been difficult to see everything properly while wearing blinkers.

2. If God does exist, He surely doesn't need defending. Surely. Even by humourless reactionaries who seem to think "the government is encouraging children into... infertility" (seriously, what?). Well, that's just the start of Christian Voice's nuttiness. I could go on... and on... and... but just take a look at their website. It's a veritable prelapsarian paradise of Christian love* and tolerance.

It isn't?

Really, I'm shocked.

3. Not really especially related to freedom of speech or Jerry Springer - The Opera, but anyway... I notice that Christian Voice has produced a Briefing Paper on Islam, which they believe to be "as dispassionate a piece of research as possible and... a true reflection on the beliefs of Islam." Wow. That must have been some piece of research. I wonder how many people worked on that "massive undertaking", how many people there were busily and thoroughly sifting out the "authorative sources", working night and day? After all there's "so much [material]" out there these days. There must have been at least, ooh, how many people...

You don't say. Really? Just the one? That can't be right. Oh well, I'm sure he must have been a highly regarded expert on...


It was Stephen Green?

Of course it was.

Still, at least he has an MA. In something. So that's alright then.

(Hmm, you have to actually send away for it too. Might it be just a little too underinformed and inflammatory to be freely available and easily prosecutable? I wonder...)

4. And what's the thing that annoys me most about Christian Voice? That they're such easy targets. I mean, now I feel like a bully for even having said any of this. And how cunning and underhand is that? Bloody passive-agressive religio-nutjobs.

Actually, it was the stunning level of bigotry and intolerance that annoyed me most. Of course.

But that wasn't funny.

In any way.

[Sighs] And God forbid I should be serious...

Actually, I really shouldn't. Because if God is even remotely connected to Christian Voice then I can only conclude that: a) humourlessness is next to Godliness; and, b) that's not a God I ever want to get close to.

And here endeth the rant.


Facebook: cultural phenomenon, or first instruction in remedial reading classes?

*should anyone decide to be pedantic, what I mean is, if Christ came to save mankind from Original Sin, then Christian love must be, in a sense, prelapsarian.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Give money to Christian Voice: fund a mentalist

According to later today's Guardian, some pressure group called Christian Voice is trying to prosecute the producer of Jerry Springer - The Opera for blasphemous libel; also the Director General of the BBC for showing it on TV:

Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said in 2005 that the show portrayed Jesus as a "coprophiliac sexual deviant".

Hmm. Anyone else think Mr Green's case might be just slightly compromised by his familiarity with the correct term for being sexually aroused by faeces?

Good. Then if we're all agreed that he's at least put his foot in it*, I can skip the earnest ramblings about freedom of speech and instead let you know about a superb little radio programme I just heard: From Fact to Fiction. It's a series in which writers pen a 15-minute fictional response to the week's news. I've heard others in the series and not been especially enthralled, but last Saturday's was the best thing I've heard on radio in ages - a funny, witty, thoughtful, at times cuttingly satirical, surreal narrative called To The River, performed and written by a poet, Adrian Mitchell, and a singer, Andy Roberts. Yep, it does mostly rhyme, and there are short comedic songs... yet it's still wonderful. Get clicking before it's gone (probably by Saturday).

*To those with more visual imaginations than me: sorry. Also, to Mr Green's lawyers: that was A JOKE; and if it could remain a cheap one, that would be just peachy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm sure it'll pass

There's one consolation to having writer's block: the fact that even though you aren't writing you still get to call yourself a writer. Which isn't so much a consolation as a lie. Still, it's quite a consoling one. And sometimes you take what you can get.

For those of you who might be reading between the lines, yes, I have writer's block. Although, how you can claim that was between the lines...

Anyhow, I think I know at least part of what's behind the block: I've got out of the habit of just coming up with stuff from scratch. During the MA there were always assignments - briefs, words, or ideas that had to be turned into something. Granted, I generally turned them into things that were very much my own, but there was always at least the smallest of starting points; the clicky thing that lights the gas, if you will. And if you won't: well, I suppose you could choose your own metaphor, but really you're just creating work for yourself.

I remember not needing prompts and deadlines - frankly, I'd be worried if I couldn't; it was only about a year ago. It was nice. I probably needed someone to shut me up or point out where I was being self indulgent, now and again, of course, like at the end of that last paragraph; and half the stuff I wrote never got finished... But still, I didn't really need prompts. And now? Well, this blog's the only thing I write from scratch, and just look at it. Poor limping creature with its uneven fur.

Oh well. There's a lesson to be learned, I supppose: you can't enter an institution without becoming institutionalised; at least a little. Still, I'd do it all over again. One of the best years of my life.

And I never was good at learning lessons.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Warming up

I appear to have injured my throat. By eating.

Unless there's some other explanation for why it rather suddenly began to hurt to swallow just as I came to the end of my evening meal tonight. I can't think of one. I was eating salad - not a very big one; there wasn't even anything sharp or spiky in it. And besides, it's not that kind of pain. Which all leaves me with just the one conclusion: in future, I shall have to warm up before eating.


Anyway, the apparent unfitness of my gullet wasn't really what I came here to blog about. I was actually thinking of trying to witter on about something writerly. You know, seeing as I threatened a week or two ago that this might yet turn into a writer's blog.

If any writerly types out there were waiting for that, incidentally, well done, you've been practising a valuable skill - writing seems to involve an awful lot of waiting (waiting for inspiration, waiting to hear whether people want your work, waiting for your benefits claims to be processed). All of which, I suppose, is only fitting, given the similarity between the two words - all too easily confused. In which case, maybe I could solve all our problems by thinking up a new word to replace 'writing'...

Of course. We could call it procrastinating.

Which would be great. For one, it would eliminate all these kinds of conversations:

"Are you writing, or procrastinating?"

And wouldn't this be a great aphorism?

Writing is 1% inspiration, 99% procrastination.

Wait. No, it wouldn't. In my new scheme of things that aphorism would end up being:

Procrastinating is 1% inspiration, 99% procrastination.

Which makes no sense whatsoever. Shame. (Or possibly makes perfect sense. But that might just be me).

Oh well. On the bright side, at least I've fulfilled my intention of wittering on about writing for a while. So, then, time for a bit of good, solid procrastinating, I think.

Who says blogging's not a good warm up exercise?

Well, not for eating, though, probably.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hmm... What?

I seem to have become very easily distracted lately. I'd like to think that this is because my mind is constantly assailing me with so many brilliant ideas at any given moment that to concentrate on even one of them and follow it to its inevitable brilliant conclusion is almost physically impossible, but, sadly, I'm not a monumentally arrogant arsehole. Not 'sadly' for everyone else, obviously; I, though, would quite like to have a self-image like that - unlike people with that kind of self image, it must be very nice. To be that self-confident, I mean. Anyway, I seem to have distracted myself again. Thank goodness, then, for that first sentence to remind me what I'm doing - on this occasion, at least, I won't be realising in three hours time that I've apparently forgotten to wash my hair. Again (don't ask). Anyway, being distracted.

As far as this distraction thing goes, it's fair to say that I really don't help myself: I just added a Google Reader widget to my iGoogle homepage. Now, each and every time I go there for some link or other, I shall instead find myself refreshing the reader box and only remembering what I wanted to look at some time later, most likely after a long and convoluted chain of other links and articles has led me to a story about the deputy mayor of Delhi being killed by monkeys, or some such other common everyday occurence (erm, not because I'm often to be found speculatively googling for recent cases of Asian dignitaries being mauled by apes, but because the article might contain some random word that jogs my memory - for instance: "Ah! Peanuts! Of course - I was going to read today's Peanuts strip. Bloody monkeys." Sadly, that's how my mind works. Or doesn't).

It's not even as if my brain needs outside assistance to get distracted - it's already capable of forgetting what it loaded google for within the space of a mouse click. So why I decided signing up to Google Reader would simplify my life I have no idea. I was probably distracted.

Anyway, I'm sure there was something I was supposed to be doing...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

By, like, a proper production company, and everything...

I just found out today that my radio sitcom's going to be pitched to the BBC later this month :)

So, um, yeah, I guess this thing might yet turn into a writer's blog...

Who'd have thunk it?

Friday, September 28, 2007

This time, it really is about the news

Let it never be said that I don't make the same mistake twice. In other words, I bought newspapers again today. Two of them - the Sun and The Times. Actually, I meant to buy The Independent, not The Times, but clearly even at the purchasing stage I struggle to pay them adequate attention.

And I do struggle to pay them adequate attention; I seem to have some kind of aversion. Within a paragraph of any story, I've usually glazed over; assuming I've even got past the headline. And on the odd occasion I get to the end of a story, it's seemingly only after a supreme effort of will on my part; and the odd rest or two. I was being slightly disingenuous in my last post: often it's not boredom that stops me reading, it's some kind of mental reflex, equivalent to gagging. I find my brain rejecting the words, quite violently.

Let's take the front page of today's Sun:

I'm here, Dad...
I'll stay as long as it takes


Bollocks did he say that. Or rather, bollocks do they know he said that. Turn to pages 4 & 5 and sure enough, yep, they've paraphrased the words of "a source close to the family". There'd barely be a story at all without the words of this mysterious all-knowing "a source close to". There'd barely be a Sun, in fact. There's always an "a source close to". When we finally find this omnipresent celeb hanger-on he or she should be forcibly silenced so that we don't have to read yet more of these non-stories, the flappy-mouthed bastard. Perhaps by being forced to eat every single one of the innumerable words they've spewed out over the years - either they'll be too busy to speak for the next few decades, or they'll choke. Either way: result.

And what's the main headline?


I am this far away from slapping my forehead over and over until those five words have fallen from my brain. Or my brain has fallen from my head. Whichever proves most expedient.

Yes, I know it has inverted commas around it, but could that be any more sensationally misleading on first glance? The first line of the text box next to it might as well say: "Made you look." It doesn't of course, although that would at least be more honest. As for what it does say there:

Kate and Gerry McCann were horrified yesterday as desperate Portuguese cops amazingly claimed the couple had buried missing daughter Madeleine over the border in Spain.

The latest in a string of sick theories from cops...

Nice to see The Sun taking a typically even-handed stance on whether these poor innocent Brits* had anything to do with their daughter's disappearance, or are just being wilfully tormented by a bunch of nasty foreigners set on prolonging their agony.

Don't get me wrong, I expect nothing less of The Sun - after all, what would it be without emotive, biased, manipulative and xenophobic reporting? (Answer: readable; credible; less popular, probably. Depressingly). And I have no idea what's true and what's not in the whole McCann saga. But is it really still news - front page news? Hello, what about Burma? Oh, there it is, in a speech bubble next to the blonde head of Amii, 20, from Birmingham, who has this to say:

It's horrifying to see images of innocent protesters being gunned down by soldiers simply because they are marching for democracy.

Which is presumably why such images, and any other mention of Burma whatsoever, have been bumped to page 12. Nice to see that its Page 3 girls now have a hand in the Sun's editorial decisions. Who'd have thought we'd see that day? Truly, we have progressed.

Tossing The Sun aside, then, let's move on to The Times.

It too has plenty of faults, of course; not least blandness, and the same ownership as The Sun. And sometimes that is why I glaze over as I scan its pages, why my brain rebels against the words, but there are other reasons why I struggle to pay the news - the serious news - adequate attention: sometimes I find myself caring. I hate it when that happens.

I wore a red shirt today in support of the Burmese. I doubt very much that it helped. And I can't say that I saw anyone else wearing one. But it was easy enough to do. Which is probably why I did it: if it had been anything more arduous, I doubt I would have. I'm a hypocrite. And I don't like to care - via then not doing anything, it makes me a hypocrite.

There's too much to care about. Too many stories from which some little detail of someone's humanity could leap out from amidst the rhetoric, agenda and non-stories of whichever paper I'm reading it in, and trigger not the mental gagging reflex I talked about but a lump in my throat. Too many lumps in your throat and you can't breathe.

Today, flip-flops, of all things, made me care, made me want to do something; made me realise I won't; made me realise I can't. They were on the feet of protesters being shot at and beaten by Burmese police and soldiers; and they were lying on the road, left behind as they fled. When, I found myself thinking, would you ever need to shoot at someone in flip-flops? What person has ever been a threat to society whilst wearing flip-flops?

There were other details, as well, buried towards the end of the main article; recounted once the journalist finally had some room to write, having got the blander, more ignorable facts out of the way, as journalists must. He must have been praying that the end of the article - in this instance, perhaps the most important part - wasn't cut, like so many are. Fortunately, as far as I can tell, it wasn't. It contained details of the kind of one-to-one human encounters, that, reported more or less baldly, without The Sun's blatant emoting, can bring a story home to someone; that can make it real. Maybe make it real to someone who can do something. At least, I hope so. Though I'm not sure what anyone outside of politics can do, or whether anyone inside politics will do anything particularly effective.

I said above that I don't like to care. In the case of Burma, it's because I can't do anything, anything meaningful. In so many other cases, it's because maybe I could. And it's because I know I won't. Unless it's easy. Like ranting on a blog hardly anyone reads.

I've linked to this before, but now seems to be an apt time to link to it again:

Suu Kyi/Giacometti, on Locus Novus.

I knew nothing about Aung San Suu Kyi before seeing that. Shortly after, I happened to read a chapter from the then still Chancellor, Gordon Brown's book, Courage: Eight Portraits - it was also about Aung Suu Kyi. The chapter was syndicated in The Guardian. If anyone reading this doesn't know anything about her, or the issues surrounding what's going on in Burma at the moment, I'd recommend at least reading what he wrote. She really is a remarkable woman.

As for Gordon Brown, it's probably too early to judge. I just hope that, unlike me, he has the courage of his convictions; clearly, someone else needs to.

*They're British, they must be innocent, remember?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yet more biting, news-based satire

I've had it in my mind for a while to write, every week, something funny about, or inspired by, things from the news. Not necessarily satire; maybe just a short story. So, last Friday, to that end, I bought a couple of newspapers. Having finally got around to reading them, I can now report that:

1) The Countdown numbers game on the back of G2 is way more difficult than the telly version.
2) Unless it's already filtered through humour: good grief, the news bores me senseless.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

The last few paragraphs might be worth reading, but I wouldn't get your hopes up

I decided I should blog more often. Sadly, I didn't decide what about. So, unless you have something better to do (I feel sure that you must; but apparently I don't, so I'm not going to presume), you'll just have to read along as - like some kind of curiously specific confectionery junkie in an understocked newsagents - I flail around, desperately, in search of a topic.

[Pauses a second for tumbleweed to go about its business].

Judging by that slightly tortured simile, your reading may not be entirely without pain. Or at least empathy for the plight of innocent similes, unwillingly conscripted into this mess. I'd apologise, but, frankly, if you're going to get sentimental about mere figures of speech, you're going to need to toughen up in this world, and fast. And receiving easy apologies from me certainly isn't going to do anything for your sense of realistic expectations.

Anyway, why should I? I mean, you don't have to read this; I, on the other hand, have to write it, and no-one's going to apologise to me for that, are they? No-one ever apologises to the author for what he's produced. No-one ever said to Joesph Heller: "Closing Time had lots of good moments, but overall was somewhat sprawling and oddly unsatisfying. Sorry about that." Did they? Most unfair, I think. After all, I'm sure he set out with good intentions. And didn't so many of us get to the end of Catch-22 wanting more of Yossarian, Milo Minderbinder, et al?

Of course, I'm not Joseph Heller. So I have even less right to expect apologies for what I write. And you, therefore, have even less right to expect apologies for having read it.

So there.

Of course, if none of you were expecting apologies, I apologise unreservedly.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Nowhere. As good a place as anywhere; though less preferable than somewhere (for a more exact, though less whimsical definition, see a dictionary). Oh well, I guess I could talk about fun stuff I've found on the internet...

If I'd found anything much lately, that is. I haven't. Indeed, last week, I found myself sitting in front of my laptop doing nothing, just staring at Firefox expecting to be entertained. At least ten minutes must have passed before I realised that that was what I'd been doing. "What the Hell are you doing?" I thought to myself, "You waste enough time without doing stupid things like that," and immediately loaded up FreeCell. Clearly, there is no hope for me.

Oh, I had a dream last night. I don't really remember it, but at some point I saw, handwritten very precisely in black felt-tip pen, near the bottom of a white-painted wall, the words:


I found it very pleasing.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

My continuing morbid obsession with the daddy-long-legs

There's a daddy-long-legs in my room. It's not relentlessy bumping into my head, trying to assault my laptop screen, or creating a strobing effect by flying round and round inside my lightshade. At least it's doing me that courtesy. No, instead it's endlessly half falling, half flying up and down a corner of my room, apparently with all the incompetence it can possibly muster. If anything I think that might actually be worse. It's not as if it's even a window that it's banging itself against. It's the intersection of two walls. There is NOT THE SLIGHTEST POINT to what it's doing. God, it's depressing.

I have said many times that I think the daddy-long-legs is the living refutation of the theory of intelligent design (unless God really did create it, in which case he's messing with our heads). Not to mention impossible to pluralise. I now also think it is the living embodiment of futility. And I DO NOT want to be sat here staring at the living embodiment of futility. How's a person supposed to achieve anything worthwhile whilst staring at the living embodiment of futility? How's a person supposed to contemplate the future? How's -


I think it may have just dropped dead and fallen down behind my bedside cabinet thing. If anything that might just make it even more the embodiment of futility.

Still, at least I don't have to stare at it now. Bloody things.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A little something about nothing much

While my calendar might still be telling me it's April, it seems August is now well underway. I suppose it had to happen eventually... As did a new blogpost.

Yet, what is there for me to witter about?

Much like August, this post has taken me rather by surprise. There I was, idly clicking refresh on various facebook pages, when suddenly I find myself here in blogger, a new post insisting it be written. Remaining obstinately blank and open, the post shakes its head and taps its feet impatiently at my claims to have nothing much to write about. Yet, surely, is that not the truth?


I mean, is there even a grain of interesting content so far? And for that matter, does interesting content ususally take the form of grains? Like instant coffee, say, or cup-a-soup.

[Sighs] Would that it were that easy: instant blogposts - just add water. You could try that, of course, but even if somehow you didn't electrocute yourself, it would still, no doubt, mean faffing around trying to find something to stand on to get at the fusebox and, whilst balancing increasingly precariously, attempting to flick the trip switch back to the 'on' postion without breaking any of the more important and painful bones of your body. Or the trip switch, for that matter. Unless your fusebox is somewhere sensible, of course. In which case, why not put on rubber soles, stand well back, and go for your life? So to speak.

Ahh, blogging about having nothing to blog about - has it come to this?


Yep. It most certainly has.


In other news:

BBC News website headline: France announces paedophile curbs

French children warned to be extra careful crossing the road.

I know, I know. But when I read it that was the first thing that came into my head.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

He turns the page, and...

Yay, it's April! Well, OK, in my room it's April...

I probably shouldn't have bought a Dali calendar.

OK, fine - I only just turned it over from March.

Seriously, I don't 'get' calendars. I mean, the pictures do really brighten up the place - of course they do - except... then there all those ugly numbers hanging off the end of them. Which, I suppose, would be fine, if I'd ever been able to find much use for them.

Should probably just buy more posters...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


It just occurred to me how mad scriptwriting is. Essentially, I've spent the best part of the last two days arguing with myself whilst pretending to be about twelve different people, one of whom is God. That can't be good for a person. I'm just glad there's a bloc meeting tomorrow. It might mean lots of tedious faffing over commas and such like, but at least I'll finally be able to talk to someone who isn't fictional, again. Or who isn't me.

Wait, does that mean I'm fictional?

Oh, never mind. I doubt I could tell the difference right now anyway.

Now back to that script...

Random philosophical poser: If you're talking to yourself, and there's no-one there to hear it, does that mean you don't exist?

Friday, July 13, 2007

And another thing...

Following on from my comments below about writing having most probably had quite a significant role in keeping me on the write* side of sanity - i.e. because it was in writing that I actually got to see and express my true self, and see it as having any real substance - I was reminded of certain writing exercises I undertook earlier this year, ones in which I was doing quite the opposite of all that self-expression stuff I just said. In other words:

See! I told you Resnick was bad for my mental health!

And let that be the last time that name ever appears on this blog.

In other news: four days :)

*That does seem the most accurate way of putting it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've been feeling happy. For two days in succession. No, wait, come back, you haven't got the wrong blog...

Are you still there?

OK, then.

Anyway, it's good, isn't it?

Um, that was all :)

UPDATE: Listening to this rather a lot today (still Thursday). Erm, looking at the lyrics (freedom, bold new world, etc.), I wonder if Nina Simone might have been thinking more about the recent(ish) passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as she sung that chorus...? But anyway.


Happy songs? Singing? What's wrong with me?

Oh yeah: suddenly, nothing much :)

[Contented sigh...]

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Overheard in Falmouth yesterday:

[LOUDLY, AS IF IN SUDDEN REALISATION] "Yeah, Yan's mum might want me to have one lopsided boob."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

When lecturers forget about Pavlov...

I was thinking about procrastination earlier*.

Not 4'33" was pure procrastination. I started it when I'd taken a few days off (five, if you include the weekend) to get something together to send off with my application for the MA. I did nothing; I just wrote the blog. Then I ended up including a link to it as part of the application. Why not, I thought, people seemed to like it.

Once I'd been on the course for a few weeks, I was told that the blog had clinched my acceptance onto the course.

[Sighs] And I wonder why I have a procrastination problem...


In other news...

"Grigioni, now back in Switzerland, said she could normally get tortoises to ejaculate within minutes."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tonight's blogpost is brought to you by the punctuation mark: ...

Seeing as I seem to have absolutely no ideas or inspiration at the moment, I thought I'd write a blogpost ([sighs] well, that could have been better phrased for a start...). Perhaps that'll get the creative juices flowing (oh, and now we have cliché - this is really going well).

So what to write about?

Erm, I could find out what's going on in the world, I suppose...

[Briefly goes a-googling]

Well, that was mostly depressing. Still, if you're a machete wielding thug, now might be a good time to head to Nigeria to stock up on supplies. Erm, you probably aren't, though, are you, so never mind [Note to self: install that Statcounter thingy].

OK, having entirely comprehensively (and there we have tautology...) covered what is going on in the world, I guess I could write about what's not going on in the world...

Well, I don't think anywhere a feather is being scraped across the strings of a violin, at just this moment, in anticipation of the most pleasing musical note ever to be experienced by the human ear perhaps being sounded. Or for that matter, with any similar intention, a violin being scraped across a feather. Now, violas, on the other hand...

No, it's no good, I just can't write today. I mean, violins and feathers! So that's contrived wackiness I can add to the list of reasons why this blogpost is rubbish... And, now I think about it, it wasn't even well contrived. I mean, there's a certain sense to something beautiful like a feather being used in an attempt to emit a beautiful sound. Still, I suppose at least I didn't resort to ukuleles. Whatever that means...

[Argues with self for a while...]

Hello, this is the winner of the aforementioned argument. I haven't really got anything useful to say either. I just happened to be slightly bigger. Which is, perhaps, why I've never had to think of anything useful to say before... Ooh, moment of horrible self-realisation - I've basically just spent my life imposing my will on others through the exercise of sheer brute force, haven't I? That wasn't nice. Erm, the moment of self-realisation, not the beating people. I mean, it involved thinking. I didn't become bigger than other people so I'd have to think, Godammit!

Oh, but wait, I am a thought... [disappears in a puff of paradox].

Ah, good, has he gone?

Oh, wait, that leaves me to write the rest of this nonsense.


Erm, yep.

Right, then.

[Sighs] You know, I think I might just go to bed...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My life is still quite exciting

Random (though quite regular) bit of self accusation: My laziness knows no bounds.

Puzzling corollary thereof: Which implies it may have been actively testing for some. Perhaps, even, exploring.

Conclusion: There's a contradiction there somewhere.


UPDATE: Ah, of course! Mystery solved. It simply hasn't bothered to move far enough to find any.

Which is a relief - for a second or two, I thought my laziness might actually be more active than I am. My procrastination, on the other hand...

Yes, my life is incredibly exciting

I'm in a (partly cold induced) bad mood. I'm quite enjoying it. I mean, sometimes it's nice just to wallow in a bad mood. Getting in touch with your inner misanthrope is how I like to think of it. The only problem is sooner or later I'm going to have to leave the room, either to get a drink or go to the loo. Or, if I suffer some kind of fit of efficient time management, perhaps both on the same trip*.

Now, I generally have no objection to leaving the room. However, such a manoeuvre always entails the risk of 'people'. They get everywhere, I find. And sometimes I just want to avoid them. I mean, how are you supposed to maintain a mood of idle self-indulgence, when you have to indulge others, by saying 'Hello', or even smiling. Or worse, engaging in conversation. Oh, and most ruinous of all there's the risk of being 'cheered up'. Not even forcibly, sometimes it just happens. Quite unexpectedly, despite all reasonable resistance. Like death. Or, for that matter, life, I suppose.


So, what to do?

Well, I guess, sooner or later, that decision will be taken from me. So, that's some consolation, I suppose - at least I'll be saved decision making :)

Or should that smiley have been the other way up? I can't decide.

[Sighs] It's hard being me**.

*No, not like that. That would be disgusting. Though quite good for the immune system, apparently.

**OK, clearly it's not. But, hey, I did say I was in a bad mood - groundless self-pity's half the fun of it.

UPDATE: Apparently, Patroclus was also feeling moody earlier. Two people probably doesn't count as a meme, does it?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Abandoned burblings

I was writing something for bloc on the theme of escape last night, until 5:30am. It still wasn't any good. I also stepped on a slug, whilst barefooted, for the second night in a row (not the same slug). That wasn't any good either. Yeuch. Anyway, for reasons I can't be bothered to explain, the story (such as it was) ended up containing a couple of burblings that might loosely be described as poetry. So, rather than waste all that effort completely, I'm putting them here:

Burbling No. 1

(Battery not included)
Nonetheless, ouch

Burbling No. 2

Why not be a butler?
(Serving suggestion only)

A buffet of innuendoes

(Serving only suggestions)

A pretty woman, by men

(Served only with suggestion)

What exactly is a butle?

(Just a question)

Right, back to the drawing board. Well, a blank Word Document anyway...


Friday, June 08, 2007

Testing Times (A Sign Thereof)

Just wanted to confirm that, assessments and such at uni having ended for a few months, the near relentless stream of semi-regular drivel that is this blog has now resumed. Until my next bout of chronic laziness and time mismanagement, probably. But still.

As for the photo, a number of these went up around Falmouth about a month ago. No idea exactly what they're being tested for. But I think it's fairly safe to say of this one that, yep, it definitely is a sign*. I'm almost certain of it.

*To be fair, though, I think they figured that out eventually themselves**, seeing as the testing seems to have stopped now.

**Whoever was testing them, not the signs. This isn't LA Story. Believe me. I stood there for nearly an hour*** and it didn't once give me cryptic romantic advice.

***If you round up to the nearest fifty minutes.

Ha ha! Made you look!

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

There's no smoke without a story

There's a pub about a minute from where I live; 30 seconds away, if you could walk directly to it. Almost on my doorstep, really, I suppose. It's been all boarded up since... well, judging by a sign just up the road still inviting any passing time-travellers to watch World Cup 2006 there, probably sometime last summer.

I mention this pub for two reasons, the second of which will become clear. The first is that the place has always amused me. Like I said, it's been all boarded up since before I got here - not amusing in itself - what is amusing, though, is that if you happen to walk past it you'll also see written on a chalkboard outside (just about visible on the photo below, if you click on it) the words "Happy 18th Birthday Ross." I always wanted to take a photo and add the caption: Must have been a hell of a party.

Recently, the pub went up in flames (you can watch a video here). There was a fire engine, of course, plenty of smoke (blowing in the direction of my house), a small crowd - in other words, general noise and conspicuousness. More or less on my doorstep.

Not only was I not first on the scene, pen and reporter's pad in hand, I singularly failed to notice it had even happened. Well, not until a familiar building on the front of a local paper caught my eye a few days later.

So, erm, yep, local journalism. Probably not the ideal career for me...

Which is nice :)

Monday, May 07, 2007

My typically in-depth analysis of the French election results


Does anyone else immediately think of some kind of knitted cover for sarcastic comments?

(the pic is linky)


Oh well.

Err, OK, it seems you've just highlighted an empty line...

Hi, I suppose.

Strange empty-line-highlighting type person.

Er, wait, bugger - I can't say that now, can I? Now I've added that invisiblogging tag, empty-line-highlighting probably isn't such a strange thing to do. Well, not unless you hadn't figured out what that meant, of course. In which case, I reiterate: Weirdo.

Erm, anyway, there were other meanderings here earlier. Now there aren't. Although, I suppose, relative to the previous meanderings, these could also be called "other meanderings". But that would just be confusing. And irrelevant, because the other other meanderings don't exist anymore. Which is probably best for all of us. They only complicated things. Not like these meanderings at all.

So, yes, this invisiblogging thing. Basically, I just figure it could be fun. Less so if no-one notices, though; hence the tag, the existence of which rendered those other other meanderings confusing. Hence their removal. And their replacement with these clearly far less confusing meanderings.

Er, right, anyhow:

Watch this space :)

And all the other ones...

Friday, April 27, 2007

I'm still kind of busy

As this blog purports to occasionally have something or other to do with writing, and because inexcusably his death has hitherto gone unmentioned here; today, instead of my hopeless nonsense, why not go read something Mr Kurt Vonnegut had to say on the subject:

How to Write With Style.

In fact, the man had many wise things to say* (apart from that thing about semi-colons), and not just on writing. But the one I always remember was actually something his uncle told him to say:

My uncle Alex Vonnegut, a Harvard-educated life insurance salesman who lived at 5033 North Pennsylvania Street, taught me something very important. He said that when things were really going well we should be sure to
notice it.

He was talking about the simple occasions, not great victories: maybe drinking lemonade on a hot afternoon in the shade, or smelling the aroma of a nearby bakery, or fishing and not caring if we catch anything or not, or hearing somebody all alone playing a piano really well in the house next door.

Uncle Alex urged me to say this out loud during such epiphanies: "If this isn't nice, what is?”

Timequake, 1997

Yep, I know, I'm a terrible cynic, so what am I doing quoting something like that? Well, precisely because I am a terrible cynic - I'd be a much better one, if it wasn't for that passage. And if that isn't nice, I don't know what is.


So it goes.

*on this occasion, after a short burst of rural angst from some old episode of The Archers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


...I don't seem to have posted here for a while.

Right, well, that's that sorted, then.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Woo hoo!

My Resnick breakdown is over! Erm, done.

Well, one of the two. I'm no longer sure which.

[Sighs] Now I just have to script four of the 32 deathly dull scenes I've come up with before 1pm tomorrow. Oh, and prepare some questions to ask some nice person I'm interviewing at 4:30pm. Then write an Industry Analysis by about 12:45pm Friday. And then there's a samba drumming rehearsal. And the drumming gig at 9pm-ish. And...


Still, people say it's nice to have a full life.

SMALL PRINT: Yeah, yeah, I know... self-inflicted... blah, blah. Never let the truth get in the way of a good whinge, though, that's what I always say.

EVEN SMALLER PRINT: Wait, no I don't. I never say that. Oh well. Never let the truth... No, I'll only want to contradict myself again. And this is the smallest print blogger will do. Which is probably a good thing. I could go on like this for hours. Not that anyone would be able to read it. Or want to. Just like my Resnick scenes, probably. Not that I'll be writing them in small print. But maybe I should. Then no-one would want to read them. And if no-one wanted to read them, I wouldn't have to write them. Woo hoo!

[Sighs] Wait, there was a flaw in that logic, wasn't there? Bugger.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Resnick avoidance (a slight return)

There are blonde people in the living room.

I'm not sure who they belong to.

Don't get me wrong, I have no real objection to them being there, it would just be nice to know when these things are going to happen. If only so I know whose head it is I'm clonking my door against when I go to brush my teeth at 3am. Anyway, the head in question seems to be fast asleep this morning, and now on the sofa, so I suppose it's probably ok.

Or unconscious.

But probably ok.

[Sighs] When do I get to live on my own again?

Resnick avoidance

Ah, now why didn't I think of this before?

I mean, what better way to avoid doing anything useful (or even writing Resnick) could there be than a little blogging? Well, there's leaving bad jokes on the course discussion board thingy, but I've already done that. And watching the latest episode of Scrubs. But that just made me depressed. Not because it began with a funeral, or even because the latest series isn't as good as previous ones, but because even the worst recent episode is still good telly - playful, likeable, funny, character-driven - in other words, quite unlike what I'm supposed to be writing just now, namely [types next word slowly through gritted teeth (no, I didn't think it was possible to type through gritted teeth either, but you learn something new everyday)] R-e-s-n-i-c-k.

Anyway, in light of David's recent post, and by way of illustrating just how much writing Resnick pains me, here is why I write. Or at least, down there¬, after this disclaimer about it probably being a bit pretentious, and yet another one of my digs at philosophy, which it is, on both counts (that was it, there, by the way, the disclaimer):

My experience of Life has always been as something utterly baffling, incoherent, absurd and irrational; an unlikely, undignified, comical and tragic imposition. Frankly, I don't understand it, I don't much like it, and I rather wish I'd been asked about it first. But it can be kind of fun. If you can ignore the random futility of it all, or take it at face value and learn to laugh at it.

When I was in my teens, I naïvely thought philosophy might help me understand Life, might be some kind of defence against it. But it didn't, and it's not. Philosophy looks at Life, sees a mess and tries to tidy up. It's the annoying flatmate who leaves Post-it notes everywhere. It's the big point-misser of academic disciplines. As I came to realise, Life just is messy, illogical and baffling, and to ignore the rampant insanity of it all, and certainly to try to tidy it up, is to miss its very essence and, indeed, the fun of it.

Fiction, on the other hand - in fact, Art in general - embraces Life, its variety, complexity and extremes. It doesn't run scared of emotions, paradoxes and contradictions - the very stuff of Life - it meets them head on and refracts and reflects them anew. It shows us ourselves and the world from every angle. It prepares us. It places us in hypothetical situations and asks us, "How would you react?" It can create new worlds, new people, places of refuge, places where Life makes sense, runs to some pattern (though never does fiction try to fool us that Life does make sense). It rebels against, subverts and inverts Life, toys with it, stretches its absurdity to comic extremes: it makes a fool of Life and offers us the satisfaction and relief of laughing at it. It's our way of fighting back. Philosophy's abstracted fussing has nothing on that.

And that is why I write: to fight back against Life - to render it ridiculous, to take its own weapons and use them against it (kind of like Judo, but with a laptop). And because there is so much that, collectively and singularly, fiction can do.

Not only that, but I believe in creativity; in the imagination. I believe that it's the one thing (but in so many, many forms) that makes life bearable. But maybe it's even more than that.

I'm going to go hypothetically religious on you for a second:

I tend to believe that the idea of there being a God is just an over-complication - if God can exist for no apparent reason, why can't the world? - but just supposing there is a God, and He/She/It created the world: what could bring us closer to communing with Him/Her/It than exercising our own capacity for creativity? Wouldn't the ability to create be the one thing we shared with God, an aspect of God in all of us (created in his own image, etc.)? Could the imagination, then, be said to be somehow divine? Or could it be said, even, that God is the imagination (rather than just a figment of it)?

Well, who knows? I certainly don't. And, yep, the paragraph above may well merely be an example of someone who spends a ridiculous amount of time writing nonsense, trying to justify himself by making following his imagination sound all spiritual. But still, there's something mysterious, inexplicable, and strangely fulfilling about creativity, something that makes me wonder if there is something more to Life, something that means I can't shake the feeling that maybe that paragraph above wasn't too far from the truth.

So can you imagine how I feel about writing a Resnick episode? Resnick dwells upon all the most depressing and lumpen aspects of reality (by which I only partly mean Nottingham); it's a format that not only doesn't play around with reality it tries to make it seem even worse (and not even for darkly comic effect); and every last dour, depressing and deeply dull aspect of it all is enveloped in the strait-jacket of police procedure (that's what drives it, not characters or ideas). In short, Resnick is the place where the imagination goes to die. And, quite frankly, the last place my imagination wants to be taken is Luton.

So, in conclusion, I have said it many times, and I will say it many more:


Right, now that's out of my system, I suppose I better start writing the damn thing...

Tomorrow. Maybe.

For crying out loud, there must be some way out of it....

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Early yesterday morning I was awoken by the ghost of rain

Or, less poetically, it might have been a troupe of tap-dancing seagulls.

Either way, it sounded exactly like rain; quite heavy rain; possibly even hail. And it continued to sound like rain for a good few minutes, even as I stood at the window staring at a clear sky, not a hint of precipitation in sight. Closing and re-opening both the curtains and my eyes confirmed only that there was definitely no rain to be seen.

And, nope, I hadn't got dreams and reality confused. Again.

Perhaps, then, that dark cloud I sometimes feel hovering above my head had finally tried to rain on me?

I have no idea.

Since all explanations I can come up with are plainly ridiculous (though I rather like the idea of being woken by the ghost of rain), has anyone else got any ideas?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Books that didn't quite make the bestseller lists

Part 1, in a continuing series that I shall no doubt promptly forget about and fail to repeat:

Tuesdays With MORI - the uplifting memoirs of a part-time market researcher.

Books I have deliberately misunderstood

Continuing series, Part 1, liable to forget, blah blah, etc.:

Five Children & IT - Edith Nesbit's remarkably prescient 1902 prequel to The Phoenix and the Carpet. Information Technology is represented here, in metaphorical form, as a rather grumpy sand-fairy of whom any requests made are inclined to end unsatisfactorily. Perhaps the most uncanny thing, though, is Nesbit's realisation that, as the raw material for silicon chips, today's IT systems would - like the Psammead - spring forth from sand.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Mango

I was going to submit something for the latest edition of bloc (the theme of which was Art), but it ended up being late and too long. As you can probably guess from the title, it ran into a few difficulties. They haven't been entirely ironed out yet - there are few bits that don't quite flow, the odd paragraph that doesn't smoothly transition to the next - and I'm still not sure about the ending. Or the beginning. Or the bits in between. Still, I'm going to be off-blog for the next week, and the piece seemed long, rambling and nonsensical enough to represent a week's worth of my blogposts, so here it is (in fact, what with rather belated responses to comments as well, it'll be like I haven't even gone away)¬


It was a brief spell in his life, one of which most people were none the wiser, one that passed largely without incident. That is if any period of time in which one lives as a mango can be described as passing largely without incident. In truth, it can't. Not that Kermit Lansbury can be persuaded to share this view.

"No, it passed largely without incident," he told me once, quite firmly. It was September 1977, the first time I'd heard about it - the Mango Period. I tried to argue, but to no avail; each time my mouth opened so did his: "Uh-uh," it would say, as he raised both an eyebrow and a forbidding finger, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. I have tried many times since to get to the bottom of it all, this mango mystery; that time, though, I gave up. Sometimes there's no point arguing with him.

Already Kermit was a highly regarded artist, even back then in 1977 - perhaps you recognised the name? In fact, you probably know some of his more famous works: Untitled #111; Untitled #40; and perhaps his best work yet Untitled #86. Or maybe you would if he'd given them proper titles. Or even created them; at least in the conventional sense. You see, Kermit's reputation has been founded on taking abstract conceptual art to audacious and previously unimagined new levels (new depths, his critics have said): his works exist only in his imagination; only as concepts. As he puts it: "To make the concept concrete is merely to make concrete. And what fun is concrete?"

It goes almost without saying, then, that his works are quite unusually brilliant. No-one has been able to say otherwise. Indeed, Kermit himself has assured me of their brilliance on many occasions.

"Oh, they're brilliant!" he tells me, rolling his eyes in apparent rapture. For my part, I tell him that I wish I could somehow walk around that internal gallery of his; that everyone could. "But that's just it, there is no need," he enthuses, all expansive hand gestures and wide animated eyes. "Of course my works could not possibly be more personal, yet what could be more universal than subjectivity? We all have that in common. The simultaneously personal and universal - a beautiful paradox! Already they are somewhere inside of you. Inside of everyone. People need only look."

Then what makes you so talented, I asked him once, if your works are just lying around inside of everyone, waiting to be found. "Me? I just found them first, of course," he laughed. Perhaps, that is something that all great artists can say of their works.

But to anyone unfamiliar with the world of Kermit Lansbury no doubt this all sounds much like the Emperor and his new clothes, and his claims to have lived as a mango perhaps sound to you no more than a self-conscious eccentricity. Let me describe, then, one of the pieces he once described to me; it is not something he is in the habit of doing, and took much persuasion on my part, but I'm sure he will forgive me for sharing it with whoever might read this. After all, it has already been exhibited all around the world. The piece in question is very simple, and like all Kermit's work unnamed: it consists only of a huge black expanse and in the bottom right-hand corner a tiny white dot. It is in the interpretation that complexity arises:

"To you, a pessimist," he told me, "it will mean optimism, perhaps, this dot. And from moment to moment you will see a different dot: smaller, larger, in a different position, maybe even sometimes no dot. Everyone will see it differently. Me, I see a negative of the image - I call the dot pessimism. But, of course, I am blessed with innate optimism. Someone else may call the image Solitude; another, Hope. How to name it, then? It is much that way with all my work."

How to name it, indeed, this image? But even more so, as we have already touched on, how to render it? How to render any of his works? Ever changing, endlessly interpretable, so personal as to be universal: the only possible medium, the only possible gallery space for Kermit's works, indeed the only place that would not rob them of their essential subjectivity is certainly in his head; and at the same time, perhaps, in all our heads. To commit such works to canvas would not only compromise them, it would be impossible.

Needless to say, exhibiting Kermit Lansbury is not without its challenges.

The stunned expression of the woman who first opened a gallery to Kermit's works was itself a picture to behold. After many weeks of assuring her not to worry, that everything would arrive in time, just go ahead with the invites, he had turned up an hour before the opening entirely empty-handed. "But where are they?" she had asked. "Your works. We can't open to an empty gallery."

"Why not? It's a perfectly lovely gallery. All the more so for the lack of clutter," he had deadpanned. The poor woman was frantic. It was her first exhibition. A directionless young heiress, at this stage merely dabbling in the arts, Portia Teversham had never owned a gallery before. Which is not to say that she wasn't taking the whole thing very seriously.

"We have Press coming! We can't…"

"For an unknown? You've done me a great service then."


"Don't worry. I'm here. That's all you need. Every one of my pieces, even some I have yet to create - they are all here," he had smiled, tapping his temple. I remember her just staring at the madman, open-mouthed. "I was once a mango, you know," he had then whispered in her ear, as she would tell me many years later. I don't think he could resist. It is to her eternal credit, then, that she finally went ahead with the event.

Kermit had talked her round, of course:

"If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then let them come and behold beauty. What need have they of artworks? Interpretation too. Is that not the critical thing? If that is of their own making - the public, the critics - then my work need not be involved.

"Don't misunderstand me, there are, of course, artworks in my mind, many of them - I have spent countless hours over each - but how can I render them as I see them? Only in my mind are they as I see them. The instant they leave my mind they have failed. Were I instead to describe them it would be just the same.

"Nevertheless, they are undoubtedly worthy of exhibition. And so, here we are. I have my twenty works and each of the audience will be asked to leave with their twenty interpretations. Would that not also be the case if my works had simply been placed on the walls? When you think about it, where is the problem?" The poor girl hadn't been sure, although she'd been quite sure that there was one. But it was too late. And not just to cancel the show: she had fallen for him.

More or less the same speech Kermit later gave to the assembled Press and public. Some critics enthused wildly, if inaccurately, about the event as "a profound and unique comment on the impossibility of Art." Others decried Kermit as a "charlatan" pulling a "cheap stunt." While others were merely curious to see what he might do next. The reviews of that first show were decidedly mixed. But one in particular pleased him enormously:

"The images I saw ranged from the oddly comforting and vaguely pastoral, to ones so perverted and disturbing I can't even begin to describe them. Whether these in fact corresponded in any way whatsoever to the twenty that Lansbury had brought to the gallery, I have no idea. But, why not? Kermit Lansbury's images are subjective, as were mine. And what do we all have in common? Our subjectivity. Thus, as subjective images are they not universal? Frankly, I don't know, and it's making my head hurt. But that's no reason to suppose that tonight I didn't meet a genius." It was nice, Kermit told me, that at least one person had understood.

Of course, it might seem odd to think nowadays, when Lansburys quite regularly change hands for many thousands of pounds, that Kermit was unable to sell a single piece at that first show. But bear in mind, back then, his particular brand of conceptual art was unheard of; much less, widely understood. Collectors were baffled. Whilst it's never been unusual not to be able to touch great works of art - museum guards are generally quite insistent on the matter - in 1969 not even to be able to see what you were buying, that was unheard of.

How times have changed!

We have Kermit to thank for that. For it was he who first pointed out the obvious: many art collections already go unseen, gracing only the bank vaults of the rich. To these people, that they will never see what they have purchased is - aptly enough where Kermit's work is concerned - entirely immaterial: all that matters is ownership. To Kermit, then, the works may as well remain in his head.

Still, acceptance that all collectors need possess of any of Kermit's works were signed deeds of ownership was far from instantaneous. So it was perhaps fortunate that a certain young heiress fell for my dear friend when she did (in the career of which successful artist, though, has luck not played a hand?).

Within months the pair were engaged, the ring of course a stunning Lansbury creation: quite unique, and near impossible to copy, and thus the envy of all Portia's friends. Indeed, at the party, it also caused quite a stir amongst her parents' friends. And it was perhaps this buzz that later led to Kermit's first sales; though, obviously, we shouldn't discount the undoubted quality of the works themselves.

Neither was marriage long in coming; a union that has not been without its difficulties - Kermit's frequent alcoholic excesses are well documented, and thus not recounted here, ditto the incident with the sturgeon and the dentist - but I know for certain neither he nor Portia have regrets. Something that is comforting to know as Kermit's life nears its end.

Indeed, even in death Kermit Lansbury will blaze a unique trail: perhaps the only artist to take his every work to the grave (how this will affect the collectors market, goodness knows). I say 'perhaps', for here a contradiction lies: are Kermit's works not, though, as he has often suggested, just waiting to be found in all our heads? To Kermit there is no problem: "So both things are true. What can I say? I didn't create the world!"

No, he didn't, he has just made it that much more interesting.

But let us go back to the beginning of this piece, what of that little documented period before his great artistic success? I recently asked him again - had it informed his work? "How could it?" he replied. "I was a mango! I was not conscious. My work has thus been informed entirely by not being a mango." As he was of course aware, that wasn't really what I wanted to know. He sighed. "People buy things that exist only in my head, yet that they have problems with? OK, I will tell you what happened when I was a mango." What, I asked, thinking finally I might get to the bottom of it. "Nothing. I was a mango!"

Like I said, sometimes there's no arguing with him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Locus Novus

I was looking at that video Miss-Cellany linked to (although the post seems to have disappeared now). The one where small children viewing their lives through fake TV cameras they'd all made led to real violence. I liked it. I wondered if it had been animated by Chris Ware - he wrote/drew Jimmy Corrigan, which I also liked. At the end of the video it said This American Life, so I googled it. And, yep, it was Chris Ware. Which led to more googling, which led to a blog, which... well, it's the final destination that's important here, not the journey (contrary to the usual adage). I ended up at a new place entirely, somewhere I'd never been before: Locus Novus. Literally, and literarily a "New Place". And I love it. What a brilliant idea. And done so well.

How to describe it? In their words:

  • A synthesis of text and image
  • A synthesis of text and motion
  • A synthesis of text and sound
Yep, it's a writing site. But one where the presentation of the writing, the context, the medium, is as integral to the pieces as the words. Many of the pieces I've watched/listened to/read tonight (all three at once, in many cases) I would have enjoyed even simply as words on a page. What amazed me, though, was the effect seeing these words presented with especially chosen music, sounds, and images had on the way I appreciated them; how much it enhanced and even changed them. It was like an additional level of punctuation had been employed; one that worked on the emotions. In fact, I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that they've created a new literary form (erm, unless someone else created it ages ago and they're just copying it - I wouldn't really know).

People have experimented with the layout and appearance of text before, of course, to create differing effects and emphases. BS Johnson, for instance - he would have loved Locus Novus. But here it's taken a step further. Images and music can change at appropriate points in the text. That word 'appropriate' might sound unlikely, given that everyone reads at different speeds, but that's the point: you can only read what's on the screen. In some pieces the words/sentences/paragraphs appear then dissolve to be replaced by new ones (don't worry, soon enough they'll appear again and remain elsewhere on the screen in case you missed them or need to re-read), in some they scroll, in others you click for more when you're ready. It really does make a difference.

For instance, if a sentence appears on the screen, you really don't know whether it's about to be contradicted or agreed with - your eyes haven't already scanned what's coming next; they haven't been able to. In other words, there are real dramatic and comic pauses. In effect, you can almost copy the rhythms of speech. And as for the images and music, well it's obvious from movies/TV/etc. that these have an effect on how you perceive things. What is more surprising, though, is how unintrusive it all is - enhancing, rather than distracting. Like I said, it's been done well. And not just in terms of the design, and the technology behind it all.

What shows most that they've thought about things is that none of the pieces is more than 1000 words long. That's right, short and manageable. Unlike hypertext novels, for instance - those are just annoying: similarly reliant on internet technology, but you never know how much more of them you're going to have to read. True, you might not ever know exactly what you're going to get on Locus Novus either - the element of surprise is something else to recommend the site, by the way, in my view - but you do know how much time you're going to have to invest: not much, really. Which given the potential reward on offer, can't be bad.

Anyway, it certainly brightened up my day and got me excited about writing. Indeed, maybe it's the future of writing? Whatever, it's worth a look.

So, go look:
Oh, yeah. I didn't spot them at first, so I should probably mention, for the 'Recent' section there are up/down scrolly arrows way over on the right.

Right, I'm off to read some more... well, it's more than reading, really... it's... erm... watching? Well, not exactly...

Ok, so if this catches on, we're all going to need a new verb. Still, the old ones have been around for years - they could probably do with a nice rest.

Addendum to the above post

More Locus Novus stuff:

The City Without Memory by Stephanie Hammer is utterly, utterly beautiful. It deserves a separate post of it's own - hence this one.

For Miss-Cellany, and anyone else who might be interested, here are some links to the author and some of her other work. I've read all the stories, but, sadly, they just don't really compare. Although, I do kind of like Small Stars. And the first line of Glamagandhi made me laugh. Maybe they'd be better done Locus Novus style?

Anyway, I found stuff, so here it is:

And the stories:

Monday, March 12, 2007

Club de Misère*

Miss-Cellany, Liam and I were thrown out of a club on Friday night. Which was nice.

Oh, wait... no, it wasn't. Particularly for Miss-Cellany and Liam, who were placed in very uncomfortable looking armlocks and marched out of the club, in Miss-Cellany's case, her feet hardly touching the ground - being all of five-foot-not-much, obviously such force was entirely necessary. I mean, who knows what someone her size might have done to three bouncers. How Liam got involved I'm still not certain. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Back to the beginning.

A number of us, including our course leader, had gone for a drink at Jacob's Ladder pub. Not ready to go home, we had all successfully navigated our way down the 124 irregularly shaped and irregulary sloped steps to the Moor - not something that would have been easy had any of us been the slighest bit the worse for drink. And we had certainly appeared sober enough to the doorstaff at Remedies to actually be admitted in the first place. So there we were, sitting in the corner behind the DJ booth minding our own business, when Miss-Cellany started acting in a way which might be construed as erratic and dangerously anti-social - or it might be if you're someone with no common sense, no judgement, and a necksize larger than your IQ. She... wait for it... lay down!?!

Curled up on a sofa chair, in fact. And why not? She was tired. She'd been up since 6am, working extremely hard on the latest edition of bloc. No reason why her partner Andy, or anyone else should leave, though, so why not just put her head down; at least, I'm guessing that was what she thought. Very nice of her, really.

Enter the bouncer. As I remember it, it was the young dark haired guy who came over and spoke to her first. I saw him out of the corner of my eye; as I looked around she was just sitting up, talking to him, quite rationally and calmly. From the expression on her face it looked like someone had told her something ridiculous that she couldn't quite believe. Which was exactly what had happened: she'd been told she'd have to leave just because she'd been lying down. If she'd been drunk and incapable of looking after herself, fair enough. But plainly that was not the case, being as she was perfectly rational and lucid. Any idiot could have seen that.

Well, apparently, not any idiot. There were at least three of them who failed to tell the difference (and later a policewoman, too, whose non-idiocy I had grave doubts about). The other two were called over, presumably, in case the situation got ugly, which of course it did with the arrival of a woman who on a bad day might have resembled Alice the Goon (back left - perhaps I'm being a little unfair, but so were they) and a big, bald neckless guy who looked like he'd escaped from a rugby scrum.

Anyway, Miss-Cellany rejoined us all at the table (Andy, Steve, Joe, beyceyar, Ryan, Holly, Christina, Jen, Liam; of whom, Liam and one or more others were, I think, on the dancefloor). Andy tried to reason with the young dark-haired bouncer (I think), whilst Miss-Cellany tried to reason with Alice the Goon - when she and Andy had finished their drinks they'd be more than prepared to leave, Miss-Cellany was saying. Indeed, after a tug-of-war over Miss-Cellany's drink, Alice backed down. However, by now the bald guy wanted a piece of the action - perhaps he felt excluded, or something, poor thug. Or was just baffled by such an alien thing as reason. Here I became involved.

I'd already been trying to say how ridiculous this all was for a few minutes, but it was just then that the scrum escapee asked me to move out of the way so that he could grab Miss-Cellany. Obviously, I didn't.

"Are you going to move, or not?" he continued. I just said,

"No," and remained firmly in my chair.

There wasn't really anything to gain from it, I guess. I mean, I couldn't exactly have stopped him getting to her. Still, passive resistance is better than no resistance.

Anyway, I didn't have long to wait for the consequences. My chair was lifted from the floor, with me still on it, and unceremoniously swung out of the way. Quite why I spent this brief elevation endeavouring to put my drink back on the table I will never know. A bloody strange thing to do. Because not only should I have had a drink in this situation, I should have had other refreshments too, and perhaps someone fanning me - I mean, that was probably the closest I'll ever come to riding in a sedan chair. I really should have made the most of it.

What happened then I'm a little hazy about. By the time I turned to where Miss-Cellany had been she must already have been propelled past me, because instead there were two bouncers there telling me to leave and blocking me from grabbing my bag. Obviously, I wasn't leaving it there, so I just stood asking to get it. To no avail; until suddenly a gap opened up.

I was suddenly left alone. I can only assume it was because one of them had just gone after Liam. So, needless to say I grabbed my bag, and seeing my drink on the table decided I'd finish that too - one of those gestures of futile defiance probably witnessed by no-one, but vaguely satisfying nonetheless. I was then able to just wander over to the stairs of my own accord. Which was where I saw Liam being dragged off in some kind of armlock. Like I said, God knows why.

So, I'm half way down the stairs, when I feel a hand planted firmly in the small of my back: Alice the Goon is now needlessly ensuring that I do what I'm in the process of doing anyway: leaving. Like I said, utterly needless. But then it was all pretty needless, so I shouldn't have been surprised, really.

Reaching the bottom of the steps with her hand still propelling me, and by now somewhat pissed off, I made a point of not changing course and walked straight-shouldered into the doorman. Again, a silly, pointless gesture, but so was pushing me, so it made me feel better. Especially as I got away with it - I think he tried some kind of minor retaliation, perhaps hitting out behind him, but it only connected with my bag. At least I assume that's what happened, because I felt something hit my bag. Anyhow, Miss-Cellany and Andy were outside already, and possibly one or two others, trying to negotiate the return of her bag.

Liam followed shortly thereafter. Responding to the now five bouncers' quite unreasonable obstinacy, he shouted something to the effect of:

"God, no! Don't let her have it back - who knows what she's got in there."

Apparently, doormen aren't able to detect sarcasm. Not only was it lost on them, one of them took it completely seriously, starting to ask with a very concerned furrow in his forehead "What? - does she have drugs, or..." Thankfully, he eventually twigged, once we'd cut off his question with loud exasperated "Noooo"s (how do you write the plural of "Noooo"?).

The bag was eventually returned, though. I forget how - phoning Steve didn't work, and almost everyone else quickly emerged without it. Probably Jen was allowed back, as she hadn't been chucked out and arrived downstairs a little later. Like I said, I forget.

What else happened?

Oh yes, I mentioned a policewoman. She was bloody useless. She was in a car somewhere up the Moor, so Miss-Cellany made a complaint. Essentially, the woman just came over, listened to us, listened to the bouncers and said:

"Uh-huh. I understand both your points of view." Which was helpful.

We gave up and headed back to Christina's.

So, there you go: don't lie down in nightclubs. Or at least not in Remedies. The bouncers are under strict instructions.

Actually, no, if that's the case, do lie down in Remedies. In fact, everybody should, all at once. I reckon we should return in a few weeks and spread a message to suddenly all lie down at 2am. The whole nightclub. It would be brilliant. They wouldn't know who to chuck out first.

Ooh, I just had a great idea! Why stop there? No-one likes bouncers. So, let's make it a massive nationwide protest against bouncers. Everyone lying down at once in every club across the land. Like some kind of massive flash-mobbing type thing.

Now how to organise it? Hmm...

OK, anyone who reads this, spread the message: Friday 23rd March (or really Saturday morning, I suppose) lie down in whatever club or bouncer patrolled pub you're in at exactly 2am. Confuse the hell out of the nation's bouncers. It'll be great.

Plainly, this isn't going to happen, is it? But it bloody well should.

Any ideas?

*Sorry, I seem to have a bit of an anagram addiction, 'de Misère' being a nicely apt anagram of 'Remedies'. A remedy for what, exactly, I've often wondered. Still not sure. Certainly not misery.