Friday, July 27, 2007

Refreshed and Relaxed

happy gent in Ghent
Well, I may have felt grumpy about the organisation at the Star Wars convention (they still haven't paid me, although the contract said "within seven working days" - sigh) but I can't fault the organisation of the Maybe Logic Academy Euro Meetup.

We had a fantastic time. I don't want to duplicate the posts, but you can see a brief summary over in the Only Maybe blog (linked to my Academy activities). Ah um, perhaps I should give you the direct link, as the blog rolls on, and you may read this in some other spacetime (i.e. later)
MLA Euro Meetup
And here you can find notes from our host, Borsky.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Don’t Give Up the Day Job

I have just returned from Celebration Europe (30 years of Star Wars), where we finally had all the Jabba puppeteers in one place at one time. Not that many people care. In the USA and 'mainland Europe' people who design costumes, or special effects, or operate creatures seem to interest people far more than in the UK. The Brits love of 'celebrity' means they like ‘actors’ (even if the person stood around with a rubber mask, or helmet on their head, in the corner of a scene). [HERESY WARNING] I mean, I like Jeremy Bulloch, he’s a charming man, but what does Boba Fett do, exactly? Ahem. Here in the UK a puppeteer seems about as interesting as a carpenter or electrician or scene painter. And anyway, most people think Jabba got done with computer graphics, not blood, sweat and slime. I found it a rather Ricky Gervais experience of non-fame.

Still, I enjoyed the company of fans, and witnessed relatively little geekdom. I mean, just because I personally wouldn’t queue for two hours for a ticket, an hour and a half to get in the door, half an hour to buy coupons, and four hours to get to Mark Hamill for the honour of paying £85 for his signature on a rather flimsy picture doesn’t mean I can judge people who do. I don’t like soap operas (or real opera, come to that) or horror movies, or theme parks - but they remain hugely popular, and as my hobby is conjuring, I can’t really talk about geeks!

The people we did meet proved really nice, and as I hadn’t expected to make much money (most people who want my sig have got it by now) I simply enjoyed a little reflected glory sitting with Dave Barclay, because of us having worked together. As he still works in films, and lives in LA, he has remained harder for Brit fans to meet (and get an autograph from).
Having my VIP ID checked by Hi IQ Security
I didn’t feel impressed by the organisation of the event. My name is spelled wrongly on the website (not THAT uncommon with my surname), and similarly on the poster and programme they gave us. Dave Barclay also had his name wrong (Barklay), as did Christine Hewett, and Jeremy (Bullock?), etc. We had been prevented from selling our own pix, but none at all had been provided for Simon Williamson (or Simon Williams, as the programme calls him!) The pix they had made seemed very flimsy (like a page from a magazine) which made it quite embarrassing to ask for £3 (just for the pic) - thank goodness people mostly brought their own stuff to have signed. Fans have got used to Official Pix on good paper, great colour balance, and a hologram, etc. Throw the bum out, his pass must be forged, that's not how you spell his name - look at the poster!And these should come as part of the price of the autograph, not as well as! We don’t have control of these issues, but we may well get the blame (or accused of greed) on the fan forums. They had also set us puppeteers up in the 3 coupon price range (£15!) but we immediately told them we wanted to drop to 2, and scribbled out the price they had posted. I mean, come on guys!

So yes, several reasons to feel aggrieved. The “wide range of food” in the Green Room? When I got there, a bowl of crisps and some dodgy looking meat sandwiches. When I said I was a veggie I ended up with ‘cheese and Marmite’ sandwiches (I have never eaten that combination before!). Sigh. And the coffee was the usual Brit offering, lukewarm and watery. I had to go buy double expressos from a proper coffee stall (Thanks fellas!)

On the night before we started I rented a (cheaper) hotel room just so I could get to work for 9 a.m. without dragging myself across country at the crack of dawn. I met up with some people in the bar, and had a good evening, and even managed to put a couple of the Welsh guys on my guest list (hope you had a good day, Stuart and Andrew!)

I can’t list all the people I met (you know who you are) but I really enjoyed meeting up with Martin again (we had started a conversation at a Cardiff convention, but got separated – we just spoke this morning - having got separated again, yesterday - as he tracked me down at the library (day job) – and hello to Julie!), John Coppinger (sculptor), Mike Edmonds (tail), Dave Barclay (chief puppeteer), Toby Philpott (left hand man and tongue)and seeing Sîon and Della out of the blue, and chilling out with Cutulph and Joanna at the Fox bar, and enjoying John C’s 60th birthday, and meeting Simon and Janie in the lift, and on and on and so on…

At least we got a photo of the four of us ‘Jabba crew’ standing in front of the life-size Jabba display!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Leisure, writing and Disobedience

Replica of Thoreau's cabin
Having arrived back with a rant, I thought I would offer this in tranquility. On the right of the page you can see a link to Thoreau's Blog - an online project I really liked, as the guy had arranged to publish Thoreau's notebooks and diaries(including from his famous 'retreat' 1845-7) on a daily basis. Now the cycle has completed, he does not routinely update, so I'll just give you the sample for this date, back in 1840.

Thoreau's Journal: 06-Jul-1840
Have no mean hours, but be grateful for every hour, and accept what it brings. The reality will make any sincere record respectable. No day will have been wholly misspent, if one sincere, thoughtful page has been written.

Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves sand and shells on the shore. So much increase of terra firma. This may be a calendar of the ebbs and flows of the soul; and on these sheets as a beach, the waves may cast up pearls and seaweed.

I discovered Thoreau in my late teens, and hold him partly responsible for dropping-out, opting for a simple life, etc. Not just mystical nature retreats, either. You could try reading his 'Civil Disobedience' text which also influenced me.

A Word In Your Ear

I will spend a little more time back here in the blog, soon. I have decided to allocate the time I have spent in online study (for the last three years) in compiling my book. The website, of course, forms a kind of autobiography without much detail or inner thought, and my opinions get scattered throughout blogs, articles, emails, etc - but I like the idea of generating some sort of hard copy, probably using Lulu or some such 'on-demand' publishing scheme.

As usual, I may have an overspill of material, and may well use this space to ‘flex the writing muscles’ and warm up.

I don’t think I ever explained why I use the title I do, for this blog. If you know Burroughs’ work you may not need an explanation, but for me it relates to the fact that we use language to program our psyche-soma, and those hypnotic patterns literally confuse, bemuse or amuse us… The Neuro-Linguistic Programming guys analysed this years ago - although they have since developed a slightly cult feeling around NLP. The original linguistic analysis still holds true however, even if the magical claims - fast therapy, accelerated learning, etc - aspect may give you pause.

From today’s papers: “...for those who deny climate change: believe us, it’s a reality”.

You could spend the day dismantling that worthy thought. The implicit idea that climate has never changed before, the idea that you can either deny or ‘believe’ in such processes, rather than measure them. The sloppy use of the word ‘reality’, etc.

We as humans don’t intend to ‘save the planet’ (I don’t think cockroaches, rats, pigeons and micro-organisms will much care what we do to it, and feel sure Gaia doesn't mind) but we do want to save the planet as an inhabitable environment for humans. Not the same thing.
Kit Pedler
And if we really wanted to, or accepted that we have some responsibility for the way things have changed we wouldn’t just switch to washing our clothes at 30 degrees! Kit Pedler spelled all this stuff out years ago in The Quest for Gaia (1979) (and yes folks, the hippie generation saw it coming, too – remember Doomwatch in 1970?) – as well as washing at low temperature, you should quit ironing those clothes, quit shaving, quit driving, quit flying, quit eating meat, quit using deodorants, etc, etc. Of course, when Kit turned up at the Houses of Parliament, bearded, homemade woolly jumper, on his bike, no-one took him seriously. Hey ho. So it goes.

Rather similar language gets used for our bodily health as individuals. Giving up smoking doesn’t ‘save lives every year’. It may extend them, or decrease the discomfort of old age. It may also leave you lingering healthily and unhappily (and expensively for your children) when you could have gone out with a bang. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the point intended, I just wish the language would accurately reflect what they want, rather than try to manipulate me with emotion and half-truth.

And finally, in spite of Terrorism creating a certain amount of havoc, this ‘climate change’ seems to cause far more damage and expense, and if humans do take the blame then I guess compensation also seems reasonable. Until recently these kind of events counted as ‘Acts of God’ in insurance terms. Who causes more damage, fear, disruption and expense:- Terrorists or God? All together now….

Of course, if the concept of God drives you to distraction (language illusions again – and Dawkins specifically thinks of God as a word virus) you might enjoy Billy Connolly’s movie ‘The Man Who Sued God’ which plays with the idea of insurance firms (and churches) getting away with that.

Try Disaster maps on World Mapper

And if we do decide to hold humans responsible, after all, then we might look at figures like 984,000 people killed by cars (worldwide) in 2001.

That same year (and don’t forget that includes 9/11) the figures for terrorism

Total Persons Killed: 6318

You can see why I seem so wary of car-drivers, compared to Terrorists. They seem 200 times more likely to kill me!
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