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.