Monday, December 29, 2008

Library Angels

As a lover of libraries, I found the internet an infinite amount of fun, because it allows the chasing of footnotes and cross-references (previously a leisurely activity, browsing and grazing) into quite a high speed sport. Well, sometimes. Occasionally I still slow down to book speed, carrying cross-references around in my head, or on a USB, or a little white library card...

And when you start hunting specific information it becomes quite a lot trickier, assessing sources.
In the Berlin Library - Wings of Desire - Wim Wenders
But still the library angels come to help (those pony-tailed people from Wings of Desire, leaning over the shoulders of the readers at the Berlin library) and in haphazard skimming I come across little gems. Don't ask me how I found this, I forget, but I have always liked Auden - a lucid poet.

The Labyrinth

Anthropos apteros for days
Walked whistling round and round the Maze,
Relying happily upon
His temperament for getting on.

The hundreth time he sighted, though,
A bush he left an hour ago,
He halted where four alleys crossed,
And recognized that he was lost.

"Where am I?" Metaphysics says
No question can be asked unless
It has an answer, so I can
Assume this maze has got a plan.

If theologians are correct,
A Plan implies an Architect:
A God-built maze would be, I'm sure,
The Universe in miniature.

Are data from the world of Sense,
In that case, valid evidence?
What in the universe I know
Can give directions how to go?

All Mathematics would suggest
A steady straight line as the best,
But left and right alternately
Is consonant with History.

Aesthetics, though, believes all Art
Intends to gratify the heart:
Rejecting disciplines like these,
Must I, then, go which way I please?

Such reasoning is only true
If we accept the classic view,
Which we have no right to assert,
According to the Introvert.

His absolute pre-supposition
Is - Man creates his own condition:
This maze was not divinely built,
But is secreted by my guilt.

The centre that I cannot find
Is known to my unconscious Mind;
I have no reason to despair
Because I am already there.

My problem is how not to will;
They move most quickly who stand still;
I'm only lost until I see
I'm lost because I want to be.

If this should fail, perhaps I should,
As certain educators would,
Content myself with the conclusion;
In theory there is no solution.

All statements about what I feel,
Like I-am-lost, are quite unreal:
My knowledge ends where it began;
A hedge is taller than a man."
W.H.Auden - image from poetry collection website
Anthropos apteros, perplexed
To know which turning to take next,
Looked up and wished he were a bird
To whom such doubts must seem absurd.

WH Auden

Auden at Poetry Connection

apteros = wingless

Saturday, December 20, 2008

NoFit State Circus in Mumbai

The circus is appearing at the Mood Indigo festival in Mumbai next week.

Article in The Times of India

NoFit State
In the coming year, you can catch them at The Roundhouse, London...

28 MARCH 2009 - 19 APRIL 2009

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I really got the Dark Day Blues

Hey ho - the solstice is on its way, and now I walk the dog every evening I will notice the lengthening days much quicker than the average city dweller.

I have so often been the 'bringer-down' or ghost at the feast at this time of year I almost have a role to play as Mr Bah Humbug.

I never have felt particularly against people having fun, but I do think we should attempt it every day of our lives, not just for some narrow season.

Still, everyone claims the excuse of illness these days, nothing is ever their own fault. There's a symptom, a syndrome, a genetic tendency, anything you like, but whatever you suffer from it's not your fault.

So I am going to finally suggest that I get ill and fatigued with S.A.D, and those factors make this time of year stressful for me, because of the 'busyness', socialization and all that.

My irritability and sneering don't arise from bad attitudes, I just feel a bit rundown.

The festival isn't lowbrow (although a house around the corner has a Nativity Scene complete with Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Santa and a Snowman); the shopping and sales aren't a frenzy of consumerism; the family get-togethers are not all miserable; the religion isn't all empty of genuine sympathy for homeless people (who only need a place at the inn) or the sixth of the planetary inhabitants who don't even have fresh water.

No, I am just under the weather. Nothing to worry about. It'll soon pass.

And I wish you all a very merry christmas time!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another one gone

Very sad to hear that Davey Graham has died.

Back when I worked at Les Cousins I saw all the guitar greats of my generation, a privilege I can't even explain.

I recently met someone who was equally into that generation of guitarists - and it reminded me of all those magic moments, hanging out with Roy Harper, John Martin, Bert Jansch, John Renbourne, and on and on - even though I wasn't a musician, just the tea boy.

Davy seemed like the grand master of the group, even though he never was as famous.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hey, get some quality time online...

Click to go to current episode
Anyone (if such a person exists) who looks at this blog even erratically, will know about Bobby Campbell, an artist who I have collaborated with (remotely) for some time.

Mostly (mostly) I have done words and he has done images for short pieces, but he also scripts extended artwork for other people to draw.
What Bubba Had Did
So to sample that particular mixture, try the online graphix here @Gnosis where you can read a free comic adventure for the curious of mind (weekly, updated Sundays).

This - drawn by Marcelino Balao III, written by Bobby - a whole different graphic style and magical words, wonderful to behold.

Check it out. Stretch yer mind a little.

[Update 29th December: Bobby has begun contributing a regular-ish Thorsday posting at OM,Dreaming@Wake.

Worth visiting for the Toynbee Tiles alone!]

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ever so 'umble

This year the first draft for NaNo came easily, but I intend to give it a bit more time, and really look at re-writing it, editing, etc.

I can already tell (without looking at, or remembering, what I wrote) that this would be a large effort, and I know one has to be able 'to kill one's darlings' (i.e. be ruthless with those favourite phrases that don't fit, or those characters who never went anywhere, and maybe wandered in from a different book, etc) and I still have relatively little grasp of 'page-turning' qualities.

Pulp Fiction in the UK in the 40s would have 12 chapters of about 3000 words, each ending in a climax, apparently. They were short (40,000 words) and aimed at a non-intellectual crowd (cowboys, sci-fi, detective fiction, romance, etc) and hardly feature in reviews of 'literature' at all. That structure (or formula) has worked fine for Dan Brown, for instance, and he's laughing all the way to the bank, about people like me who thought the books a bit thin.

Anyway, I need the practice. I am still working my way towards something between a memo, essay, autobiography, half-conceived at the back of my brain, and fermenting even as I type. After the fermenting comes the distilling, I guess.

I don't kid myself one life is that important. In fact, I first found my feet when looking at the vertiginous nadir picture by Escher (somewhere in Mexico) when I realised that trying to make myself large enough for the world to notice was ludicrous (Pop Idol, and all those other desperate attempts at 'celebrity') as we all remain ants. That picture didn't make me religious, but I saw the market place from above, in just the same way, and realised I needed a little circle of people around me, each willing to help me eat and survive. That's all I needed, not a stadium full of fans, a world-wide audience, etc. And I went out to become a street performer in the markets of Mexico, and never looked back.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I made it, already!

I have no idea quite how (or why) I have managed to write 50,000 words in two and a bit weeks, but I have.

Unlike last year, when I battled along, squeezing out the minimum necessary to make it to the end, this year I always knew roughly what I would have to write the next day.

No doubt the thing is still full of loose ends, ideas started and not completed, characters who either need filling in, or removing, more plot tension (people like tension apparently), and all that.

But that's for the editing and re-writing stage.

Last year I didn't even bother with that, as I knew it was merely a personal challenge, and not necessarily for others to read, or care about. It might have proved an interesting insight into what I can do in a panic, but it didn't seem worth the effort to re-package it.

This year I not only set myself a fictional goal, but feel willing to go back and rework it a bit. Not right now, but later on! Maybe I'll make another silly video!

I have to write an article for Kaskade now, and catch up on my Net Trainers' homework, and look after the doggie on my own (with Julie away for a few days) so I'll probably take a rest from the book for a moment.

But I finished it already! Yahoo and Yippee and all that jazz :-)

Someone immediately asked me what it was about.

What are your songs about?’ Bob Dylan was once asked.

‘Oh,’ he said, ‘some of them are about three minutes, some of them are about five minutes, and some of them, believe it or not, are about eleven minutes’.

My book is about 50,000 words...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bogus takes a break from writing

I have amazed myself by getting in front on the writing numbers. This has even left me time to actually explore a little what other people are doing.

Normally, I think of wandering around forums as the almost perfect procrastination tool! It amused me to get a sound bite into the WriMo radio podcast, so I decided to dig out an old webcam, crash my machine with out of day software, Restore (sigh) download something a little newer, and then rattle off a video for the NaNoWriMo video blog corner.
Why not? I learn by doing...never did seem very good at theory.

How good the first attempts come out doesn't bother me much. Well, I died the death when things didn't work in my show, so did lots of rehearsal and practice, but in workshop situations (which I consider trying to write a book in a month as) anything goes. That's the general principle behind it - Go for it, shut down the Inner Critic, just try stuff out.

So I know how bad this appears. Julie told me the lighting makes me look 100, but I was attempting the Magus in the den look. Perhaps I should have adopted an eldritch voice, to, to make it clear. Sorry Julie, I know I don't really look like this, except maybe first thing in the morning with a hangover, feeling my age! With the Keith Richard craggy lines, and all.

Oh, and the howling fan on my elderly PC just swamped the mic, so Brian Eno's Discrete Music is rather too loud. Hey ho, I'd do Take Two if I could be bothered, but this is a month of not looking back, not editing, just do it and move on.

I'll try to improve on it with the next one, maybe take a little time!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Monkey Notes

NaNoWriMo profile
Ah, me, what a hectic day!

Julie and Dandy the dog just went back to the cottage to work on it, so I am a DIY Widower again. :-)

I started my new novel-in-a-month "Infinite Monkeys", so perhaps not having to walk doggie for a bit fits quite well with hammering away at the keyboard.
Not just yer ordinary monkeys
So far I am ahead of schedule, and still bubbling with ideas, but (like any marathon) I don't kid myself that I won't 'hit the wall' at some point.

Last year something like 100,000 people set out, and at least 15,000 completed their 50,000+ word books in the month. I am using the Bogus persona for this...

I gather even more people have started this year! As well as adults, a lot of young people also go in for this...

I love it, it's a project dear to my heart that people should write and have fun!

Today, I noticed they wanted 'people over 50' to talk on the WriMo radio, so I volunteered, and may get transmitted on Wednesday.

Of course, Universe having a sense of humour, just as I psyched myself up for a Skype interview, the door went, and Calum turned up (bless 'im! - I miss hearing someone singing their heart out in the loft) so I ran up and down the stairs, and then hastily babbled down the phone, to Santa Barbara, for 15 minutes. I have no idea how that will sound...

Rather like writing a hasty novel, with no going back to edit, or doing a re-take...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Spooking the Herd

A lot of people still seem to believe in money – and therefore seem to think that something dreadful has 'happened to it' recently – as though it resembles the weather, or something outside our control - rather than the behaviour of human herds.

A million pound note sold for a mere £78,000. (This evokes the Mark Twain story)

Our Maybe editor Kent did say “get into gold” in his “Will You Survive the Coming Financial Crash?” and he appears to have been right in predicting that, although (ironically, given that he got the economics right) he didn’t survive it for medical reasons. (sigh)

From Kent's article

And hyperinflation wipes everything away (if you think a million pound note improbable).

I still don’t really understand why gold works for people when paper doesn’t, however.

Burning paper money cheaper than buying fuel in 1923

With a very little brain like mine, I find it easier to use a metaphor to understand what people think of as ‘money’.

The casino movie

where rich people gamble, and then run out of ‘cash’ so they put their shirt, their family inheritance, whatever – on the turn of the next card – and end up in debt.

As often as not, to get that IOU back they have to do something for the casino owners that goes against their normal behaviour - or just accept the 'pearl-handled revolver on the terrace'.

Now that’s just debt from bad judgement (selling the family jewels).

You get more of a plot if the casino needs some leverage over someone, so raises their hopes, encourages their gambles, and over-extends their credit (knowing full well that the odds favour them – eventually – winning it all, and ending up with power over the unfortunate gambler). And in such a plot, if luck started to favour the gambler, it seems safe to think that the casino would cheat to make him lose.

Lending money to sub-prime users could just be bad judgment, but it seems far more likely (to me) that it had a hidden agenda. Would you lend your own money to someone unlikely to pay it back? No, neither would I. Of course, if you lend money (at interest) to lots of people, perhaps you thought only a small minority would fall down…covered by the profits from the others. Um. It does seem a good way to scare and enslave people, however.

The only way (back in the movie) for the trapped person to escape the obligation usually involves borrowing from someone else (only temporarily solving the urgency of the problem of meeting a deadline), stealing, or selling something valuable (if you have anything at all left).

As money doesn’t really exist, this is not the same as just a bad crop, or shortage of apples for the year.

The government gives the banks the right to print money, and then the banks lend that ‘magic money’ back to the government at a rate of interest. There’s nothing there but IOUs! Check out my previous entry, or go straight to the excellent video of Money As Debt for a lucid explanation. It'll only take 30-40 minutes of your time, and worth every second!

So long as people 'believe in money', or trust others to eventually ‘pay back’ with something tangible, this imaginary system works. Once you have lost confidence it is hard to get it back.

Writing another, bigger, IOU doesn’t really cut it…I am the casino boss now, and I want my pound of flesh – no more promises, pleadings and bits of paper.
Bryan Berg 2007
Any house of cards has always seemed a fairly unstable model (although here’s Bryan Berg the world champion card stacker) – except for the magicians’ special-effect version which instantly erects itself for a big finish appearance. from Elmwood Magic And magicians (ever topical) can now produce a card castle made from credit cards! heh heh

it's only paper
So, returning to our unfortunate gambler – now enslaved to whoever owns that IOU (and they do get bought and sold and passed around) – does he know he’s been manipulated? Can he just shrug? Perhaps he can get the obligation written off or forgiven? Not usually out of the kindness of anyone’s heart – more likely for some great favour done (think Pulp Fiction).

After a period of apparent democratisation, and sharing of wealth with the workers, and self-sufficiency (“own your own home!”) – the real wealth (stuff) seems destined to fall back into the hands of the very rich individuals, and the institutions (banks, governments, etc). They don’t really care if the ‘value’ of the property has gone down, as those figures were only as imaginary as the bait of lottery wins anyway. But they do end up with you wage slaves paying them rent again. Lovely!

At this point, my own bets (that I wouldn’t receive a pension, so why invest? That savings would get wiped out, so why save? That borrowing would end up enslaving me, so why borrow against an uncertain future?) seem quite good.

I am rarely more than a couple of hundred pounds away from ZERO – sometimes up, sometimes down, but never very far each way. I have been considered poor by most people’s standards, of course (no credit). Right now I am little better or worse off than during the rest of my life (Freedom, as Janis so rightly pointed out, is just another word for nothing left to lose).


Friday, October 10, 2008

I hope to do even better this year!

I suddenly got very old. I don’t understand. One minute I felt immortal, now I wake up with an aching back, a headache, no energy to face a working day, a general sense of malaise, mouth ulcers, bad skin, etc.

What happened? I feel hexed by time.

Anyway – in spite of having a million things to do – I have decided to have another go at writing a book in a month. I know I could attempt this any time, or spread it out over a longer period, etc – but I enjoy the sheer madness of the project, and knowing that many thousands of others have embarked on the same marathon at the same time.

Whether you want to participate, or just watch, you could contribute donations to the Office of Letters and Light (the money goes to literacy and creativity campaigns). I tend to make a donation (although it's not compulsory, and you can JOIN IN FOR FREE) as a form of commitment to myself - it makes me feel as though I have 'signed up'.

Although I have always wanted to get kids away from sofas and tv (which is why I have spent a lot of energy on promoting community circus projects, etc) I equally would like the kids who rarely do much except kick a ball around to perhaps find the fun of words. And when young I reckon you should try everything (how do you know what you may turn out to have a talent for?)

For old folks, setting yourself a mental and physical challenge can also have its benefits, I reckon.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Home Made, Hand Made

I just watched Be Kind, Rewind - and enjoyed it. It may not be a classy film, it has a low budget look to it (stars and all) but the idea behind it seems cool.

Sweding - making your own stuff. In the world of Internet and YouTube almost everyone can get their hands on tools and stuff for their own creativity - you don't have to always buy 'corporate'. We all like quality, of course, but the 'punk' aesthetic of do-it-yerself has a lot going for it.
Panto at EPA Not that I consider the idea new. My dad made and used puppets throughout his life, with any old raw materials. A shortage of stuff after WWII made him ingenious about using anything that came to hand. His 'den' (where he ran workshops) had dozens of shoe boxes lining the shelves, with anything anyone chose to give him - cotton reels, toilet roll tubes, scraps of fabric, buttons, ping-pong balls, springs, etc.

He had a treasure trove of stuff. Like many artists he would sometimes seek out something to fit, but as often as not would allow the object itself to suggest a use.

The whole 'tv for kids' thing of making puppets with bits and pieces emerged from that work. After our extravagant and affluent wave, we have returned to the idea of recycling and reusing stuff - and getting creative on a budget.

I have nothing against people improving the quality of their product if the feedback of their creativity finds a big audience throwing money in the hat. I worked with Jim Henson at his peak, and that green sock and half ping-pongs that made Kermit had ended up with him able to employ whole teams of creatives, with access to the best tools and materials in the world. State-of-the-art experimentation. No problem. Employment for other creatives. Excellent!
35 years ago - living in a shed in someone's garden
I couldn't wait to get discovered, or pass an audition though - so I had started performing in the streets with what I had. It worked for me - through the thin times of the 70s - as punk emerged as yet another wave of 'homemade'. It doesn't have to look cheap - you can create style with attitude. I ended up in the movies for a while!

The NoFit State crew came out of a workshop I ran when on the dole (that £15 a week raised my income by a third!) No-one had any money. After 20 years of sweding, they now tour an award-winning show - tabú, with about 40 people on the road - getting reviews like this:

'Cirque Du Soleil without the Disney and the disinfectant… this is the future of British Circus.’- The Guardian

Uploaded by nofitstate

Gee, gosh - it makes me proud - but they did it with whatever came to hand, lots of attitude and enthusiasm - and getting other people involved. Arts Councils didn't think of 'circus' as an 'art'. It's a lot of work, putting up and taking down your own theatre...

So - I have started making books for the same reason - because I can. Because anyone can get pen and paper (or access to a word processor). Because I don't have a video camera to make YouTube movies for my friends' amusement, (although I have put tiny clips up, I like to try everything). And because Lulu offer me the chance to actually make hard copies - like a book mocked up for a movie - see my Lulu storefront.
Cover by Bobby Campbell
I am sweding books right now. My mate Mick had only just started into computers when he died (in 1994) and he would have loved it. I started tidying the house, and really have to throw out all the books and papers of his that I hoarded...what I haven't made digital has to go. I already made up short runs of some of his writing back in the days of photocopying .

I now edited a final (?) version of 'the book that nobody could write' - Another Kinda Time by Mick Swain - (I leave you to decide if that is 'kinder' or 'kind of') - as one last tribute. He got me writing in the first place, and he might have loved the creative outlets in the modern world. You do this stuff for your own pleasure. If others take it up, amplify it, or put you in the spotlight, fine - but you should have fun, just in case you fail to give up the day job. Fun seems infectious, and gives you the best shot.

Oh, and just for a synchronicity (Mick's favourite model) the DVD extras include a 'mosaic of Passaic' (where they shot the movie with the help of local people). Just last night I used his own phrase to describe his method of turning diary writing into fiction - a mosaic of the prosaic. Spooky, huh?

And we now have hard copies of the Maybe Quarterly in circulation, too.

Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind on Director's File

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Nothing original under the sun (stolen from Shakespeare)

Anyway - as I was saying - funny times right now.

I have to know about most internet things as part of my job - so although I run my own life on Gmail, Blogger, WordPress, PayPal and the home space that came from my service provider (even though they changed hands in the last few years) - I try everything out, so I have Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, YouTube, MySpace, etc.

When I joined Facebook I broke some kind of written (or unwritten - I skimmed through the Terms and Conditions - as you do) rule about using your 'real name'. Although I always performed under my 'real name' in a business where people often make them up, or simply work under them so long they become acceptable - 'know as' - and you can even open bank accounts without 'legally changing' your name.

So anyway, I open and kill Yahoo accounts all the time, just to get 3 days free trial of the magnificent XM Radio. No doubt, many Americans listen to one of the dozens of channels while driving. I can only get it on the internet (no satellite signal) and can't subscribe (I asked and no-one replied) so I have to keep inventing new Yahoo addresses just to get another trial period.
I don't want to sound mean about Yahoo's service, but at least I found one good use for them.

But I digress (quite often). I joined Facebook for an exploration, as Sid Scribe. Now Sid has a history. In the early days of email I got several addresses of varying degrees of privacy (to avoid spam) and one I used simply for activities that might generate or attract junk mail - or simply endless newsletters that I had subscribed to. So to subscribe I had an email address of - just so I'd know the kind of stuff.TJ - from Nine Characters in Search of an Author - in MQ He became Sid Scribe when 'filling in personal details' and emerged. In Facebook I gave him TJ's avatar, but TJ 'is' someone else again, (ermerging from some collaborative writing by the Maybe crew) so I've added a 'real' pic.

Confusingly, once people 'knew Sid was me' (I wish I'd spelled it Syd, now) through the friendship chains - people kept greeting me on my rare visits to Facebook, poking me, inviting me to games - I dunno. I still really only go there as part of my job...

I have had connections with the 'other' Toby Philpott before, and he seems like a nice guy (we have chatted occasionally, as people still sometimes get confused. For a while he had a link to 'The Star Wars Toby Philpott' on his blog, as I had "The Liberal Legend - Toby Philpott" on mine. Now I find at least two more in Facebook! So, stuck with my cover story, Sid Scribe has now invited the three other Toby Philpott members as friends. Hail Eris! I actually had more fun in MySpace, but that's another sub-personality and another alias. That bogus guy has videos at YouTube, as well, and has written most of OM (Only Maybe) for over three years. With fantastic visual from Bobby, and others.

So, let's face it - I stole Language Is A Virus, and added those arch inverted commas for the E-Prime freaks who know the connection to Korzybski and then Burroughs...but poets don't own words, right? And I have used the damned title since 2001, so I got attached to it (After the other blogs, Spooking the Herd, and Thinking Allowed - up to 9/11 - or as the Brits should think of it, 11/9).

I thought it didn't effect me, but I decided to start blogging fresh. Find myself still here, seven years later.

The website with this title has some word scramblers for NaNoWriMo Writers' Block - which amused me, as I consider that kind of November. The whole site seems filled with treasures, but I have no idea what names or buzz words might make you click that link - Hakim Bey, OuLiPo, Nin, Burroughs, software to play with, articles, even NaNoWriMo widgets and logos, etc.

Oh and I saw Laurie Anderson live once - I loved that mix - it resembled the fringe theatre of the 70s, with all and any elements of theatre and performance art mingled. I loved it.

You have to play to learn.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wandering into the autumn

Just about caught up on my sleep now. The Norway trip, followed by a working week, really knocked me out. Oh, and the late nights with 'probably the worst hangover in the world' (with apologies to Carlsberg), etc.

Of course, the sun has come out now that I have returned to my windowless office...

Anyway - I don't suppose anyone is actually reading the damned book, but at least I managed to complete the process. The hard copy of our online magazine does appear to finally be on its way to distribution - which is fun - especially as we seem to have let the online version lapse now. I still haven't decided whether it would prove reckless to try to write another 50,000 words in November (and if so, whether to do a bit of pre-planning this time!)


The collapse of capitalism really does seem imminent now, after 40 years of hippie anarchist warnings. I don't say that with glee (because finding myself proved right does not help with the inevitable distress to many folks) - just with a resigned shrug.


I have returned to online study with Sheffield College - their Net-Trainers course (a new course starting soon, if it interests you). I have found it interesting, time-consuming, rewarding and sometimes fun, too. Whether it would ever generate freelance work I have no idea, but I hope to combine Council work on staff training (using Learning Pool modules and a Moodle delivery system) with these general studies - as they seem eminently compatible.


In spite of staying in touch with my Maybe buddies I feel far less involved with the Academy (don't have time or money to take Erik Wagner's course, for instance, though I would love to).

I keep having a look backstage at Joomla, to see if I can contribute to the online magazine a new way - but deadlines loom, and I don't think I will make it for the Equinox - which seems like a shame because I had put the material together - just can't handle the new delivery system.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In the blink of an eye

I have been alternately exhausted and exhilarated for over a week now. This time last week I was in Norway with my great friend Stein and his family - attending a fantastic music event - Punkt 08. I was there and back in what seemed like a øyeblikk. You can see a day-by-day review at All About Jazz.

I enjoyed most of what I saw and heard (there were talks as well as concerts, sessions and live remixes). Brian Eno's 7 Million Paintings Eno and Hassell with audio-visual aids
were installed in the art gallery - and he and Jon Hassell did a great 'double act' talk. Amusingly enough (given the previous post about POD) they discussed the two books they were working on, or possibly a combined effort...
Eno talked about the spectrum from Surrender (his title) to Control - whereas Jon Hassell used the metaphor of the North and the South of You (intellect, emotions or head and heart, or brain and body, or thought and passion, etc)

My favourite band may have been Nik Bärtsch's Ronin - a self-professed zen funk band (a pretty good description of what they produce).
It was also fun to finally meet Stein's family, Heidi, Milli and Malin - and put faces to names (Stein and I have been online students in a forum for about four years now - and we met up for the first time in Paris in July).

Long journey home, back to work, social life, and not enough sleep - a fairly jet-lagged week. Then last night I went up to Brecon to finally catch this year's show from NoFit State, and it was truly excellent! The skills levels have gone up a notch again - and as well as the 'arty' aspect it now has muscle and humour and dynamics to balance the ethereal floating aspect of aerial shows. But I can hardly see straight with fatigue. Although I am let off dog-walking routines when Julie and Dandy are away at the cottage - I just stay up later on the computer, etc - so still don't get enough rest and relaxation. Hey ho.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vanity, vanity - or learning by playing?

I have a proof copy now, for one final editWell, I know, publishing your own book sounds like vanity (or desperation!) but I don't see it that way.

When I grew up, 'proper' books were hardback - selected by editors you went to university with, published by your old school chum, then sold to, and read by, your peers.

The whole paperback revolution made all sorts of other books available and accessible, from popular science to pulp fiction. People could afford them, you didn't have to treat them with reverence (students scribbled in them, used dayglo highlighters, etc GASP!), and could easily give them away and get another copy.

Well, paperbacks come as standard now, and hardbacks remain a luxury item for most people.

Many of us now spend as much on a magazine as we might have previously on a book.
Bob Young - founder of Lulu - and furniture made from unsold books!
So, to avoid trashing the planet unnecessarily while still ending up with something you can read in the bath or on a train (without battery failure) or in bright daylight (sunbathing on holiday) a hard copy still makes sense. And Print-On-Demand makes even more sense to me. It should become standard, somewhere in the future, rather than swamping the planet with paperbacks which end up remaindered and then pulped.

So making this first book remains playful learning to me. I may have something more to say later, I may spend more time on writing and editing, but this got the ball rolling for me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book of the month

Or rather, book in a month.

Last November I picked up the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. A crazy thing to do when you only decide to go for it on October 31st, so no plot outline, or character profiles, or story arc or any of that.

Just sit down every day and write 1666.666 words every day for 30 days.

I did it anyway.

Unlike some who started that marathon I did actually finish, as well! Me and thousands of others. Just a personal challenge...
Fred Allen

I can't understand why a person will take a year to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars. Fred Allen

It sat around for months awaiting 'revision' and 'editing' and 're-writing' and all that stuff. In fact it should probably go in a drawer somewhere to be discovered after my death - and then either read once or burned.

Still, in the modern world I think of it as raw material...and as I want to write a colourful autobiography (now that I lived the life) I don't really want to dwell on this, or get so perfectionist that I hate it, hide it, bin it. And anyway, November fast approaches so I may want to do the whole same thing again!

Why not join me at NaNoWriMo! Ahem.

All sorts of other challenges exist, as you can see on their follow-up page (draw a comic book, write a script, whatever). This also has some very worthy stuff about seriously re-writing if you want to find a publisher. And yes, well, I know all that - I don't think I'm Kerouac or that the zeitgeist needs me.

I decided to experiment with Lulu (reading their How-To descriptions doesn't work for me).

I really don't expect anyone to respect this as anything more than a hilarious rough draft, with flat days of no inspiration, bright ideas never followed up, etc. Still, I wanted to see it in book form. And funnily enough, I noticed that NaNoWriMo have thought of offering a hard copy as a prize to every 'winner' (people who complete the challenge on time) so perhaps it's not such a daft idea.

I asked the magnificent Bobby if he could make me a cover...and he did. I tweaked the writing for typos, etc. I wondered about using 'real people' (as they turned up when my imagination failed) or 'real events' (some of which seem like fiction to me looking back) - but I didn't really have time (at the time) to stop to think.

So (to quote Bob D) "I re-arranged their faces, and gave them all another name". And got it done. For those who care about the Jabba escapade, this describes me back out on the streets, homeless, a year after that high point... Yeah, a little bit of truth...

I have put in an order for one copy of the thing as a 'book' (hard copy) so I can proof-read it and revise if necessary - and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone at this point, but I like to share experiences, so this direct URL will already show you the idea, and it would even work to download a PDF version, or buy a print-on-demand copy for anyone who wants to play. :-)

Then I would have 'sold' a book, which would make me jump around like an Olympic champion (just like when I sold my first Star Wars autograph).

Almost Foolproof
You might prefer to wait until I have done more revision. (Second Edition!)

Right now I doubt that I will do more than order a few copies for family and friends, just for my own amusement. Fun though! I got inspired by the thought of receiving hard copy of our online magazine - Maybe Quarterly - a project we ran this summer rather than produce yet another online version (we did 14 so far). One thing leads to another...

Peace Out!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Like Mind

With the usual mysterious synchronising of like minds I started looking/listening at Alan Watts on You Tube for no apparent reason – and when I went to the Forums I found Pentaphobe had posted a link to these delightful animations accompanying brief recordings of Alan Watts.

I know when I peep into the world of Sinologists, and serious Zen folk, and all that – I may hear Watts described as some kind of dilettante, or populariser – but I know for myself that he changed my life with a couple of books. I would have thought myself irredeemably mad in my teens if I hadn’t come across Psychotherapy East and West, and would probably not have found the courage to drop out without The Wisdom of Insecurity, and he popped up every now and then (when taking acid I found his beautiful little book The Joyous Cosmology - Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness both enlightening and reassuring, and I found The Book - On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are absolutely hilarious because I had just experienced that weird insight of the world as some sort of godhead playing hide-and-seek with itself…and so on).

Then I didn’t read him for decades, although his ideas would often occur to me (re-occur to me) at critical moments. I enjoyed his autobiography In My Own Way (beautifully ambiguous title), and later, Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown.

Then I get the impulse to look him up again, knowing that (for instance) he made a walk-on appearance in Cosmic Trigger, etc. And not only do I find these half dozen animations just recently posted at the Maybe Logic Academy, but one refers to ‘the language of the birds’ which I happened to use as the last five words of a speed novel I wrote last year (in a month), and have currently found myself editing to publish (just for the hell of it) on Lulu.

Small and self-referential world.

You can easily YouTube 'Alan Watts' yourself (and you will find more) but I’ll offer you a taste with this Conversation With Myself from 1971, because I think it important you hear his voice, and see his face, to fully appreciate his communication (excellent though his words remain).

Enjoy - if you have half an hour to spare...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Always Merry And Bright

Slightly disappointed mood.

The pseudo-Dylan movie "I'm Not There" seemed to fall between two stools. It didn't grab the non-Dylan fan in my no conversions...and for someone like me it missed the point (about my personal vision of Dylan, at least) by acting so glum. Even the much-touted Cate Blanchett performance only managed world-weary punk existentialist - and utterly missed the wit, the venomous sarcasm, the furious energy and self-confidence - oh and the humanity and sensitivity. I'd recommend watching Don't Look Back (1967) if you want to see that period in something like a true light. And if (as this movie attempted) you want a phantasmagoric movie - capturing something of the atmosphere of some of Bob's songs, rather than mere 'reality' I'd go to Bob himself, and enjoy Masked and Anonymous (2003), or even the much-maligned Renaldo and Clara (1978). And for real fans, try Martin Scorcese's No Direction Home.

More vague disappointment

I came across John Fante in the library and happened to know that Charles Bukowski rated him highly.

I can see what he means in terms of vividness, painful honesty, etc – in fact if I didn’t know I would have thought Bukowski wrote it - but (just like with Bukowski) I eventually get tired of the unrelenting ugliness and grimness. And that isn’t because I haven’t lived in poverty (I have, more than once).

For instance – in Ask The Dust the Mexican girl is portrayed as smoking dope as though it’s heroin or cocaine (OK, written in 1939 by a self-tormenting ex-Catholic), they score in what sounds more like an opium den than anything Louis Armstrong, Carl Sagan or Bob Marley would have recognised. She then duly goes mad (as in Reefer Madness) and so on.

Very disappointing.

But, as I say, for all the vividness of the writing I always found Bukowski too glum and angry. I prefer the sheer reckless glee of Henry Miller. But then again, he escaped from the puritanism of the USA, unlike Fante the proud American, and expressed hatred for much of American Life, even though he retired there eventually.

I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.
Henry Miller

Starving writers writing about writing and writers goes back a long way, from Knut Hamsun to Miller, from Fante, Bukowski and Kerouac, etc.

And now I plan to publish something that deserves more work, but represents what happens when you sit down to speed write a book – so I guess I should shut up.

Although, the Unwritten Books Project sounds fun.

A Reader's Guide to the Unwritten amused my, too - in a Guardian blog.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Feeling a little better

Phew, this really has begun to resemble a 'diary'. I don't often use it to record my mood swings, or as a confessional - although blogs mutate.

I generally think of it as a kind of public notebook, in which I scribble my rants and raves, and occasionally people appear to read them.

I don't have 'an audience' in mind. I don't think of it as a family newsletter. I certainly have few illusions about becoming some kind of online journalist. I write to clarify my thoughts, to practice my writing, and so on.

The sheer discipline of writing regularly seems important.

And it frees Julie up from having to listen to the babble out loud - more of it can go on in my head!

Maybe Meetup some time?

I had a lot of fun recently meeting up with some of my online buddies, as we share interests and some kind of common language. Last year we had 5 people get to Belgium/Holland for the annual meetup, and this year we reached 8!

Amazing that when we meet we just carry on where we left off typing. No-one has proved a disappointment, everyone seemed kind of familiar - and we got on terrifically! I do tend to keep my sub-personalities apart - not for secretive reasons, just compartmentalisation. If you feel any interest in the Maybe Crew then you can always use the links scattered here and there - we have had a blog for 3 years, produced 14 editions of an online magazine (with a hard copy special in the pipeline), we have taken courses together - on Robert Anton Wilson (the founder of the Academy) and just about anything he could interest us in, from James Joyce to anarchic politics, alternative economies, etc.
Stein was taking the picture
Anyway, I brought it up because one of the Maybes (that I met face to face in Paris) has invited me to go as his guest to Norway for a music festival! Punkt 08. We talked on the Eurostar, and Eno came up, among a dozen other subjects, and now he will visit Norway, and so will I! The phone call came the same day that doggie had his op.

You see, the whole thing does connect up. Simultaneous highs and lows keep me confused, but they keep me here on the planet, too. Big thanks to Stein for making that day bearable!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Feeling really uneasy

Apart from a restless night, with dreams verging on nightmares - we took the doggie in to the vet's today, to be castrated. I have to use that word - 'neutered' seems like a weasel word.

If his hormones are the problem, I wonder why we haven't yet invented a 'bromide' (the chemical that soldiers and prisoners suspect their warders and officers of putting in the tea, to make them more manageable). I certainly don't like seeing him frustrated (what chance does he have of getting laid?) and fighting other young males, and all that. But it does seem a bit brutal.

I still have a problem with the 'special creation' rules we apply to humans, though. The male youth that hang around over the road from the house, or who hot-rod up our residential street, jeer and taunt at passers-by, and may be carrying knives - we don't discuss castrating them to calm them down, now do we? Or rather, only old-fashioned right-wing nutcases do - or people in countries that still consider stoning to death people who commit adultery (say) or chopping the hands off thieves.

And yet - the supposedly 'rational' decision with a dog is just that. And I fully appreciate that he doesn't live a 'natural' life anyway. I just feel queasy about the decision. It does seem like the top of a slippery slope that lets people cut vocal chords because barking annoys humans, etc.

And even the Dog Whisperer recommends it, although it does make it a little less amazing that he can run a pack of 40-50 dogs in his yard. Getting to be Top Dog by cutting everyone else's balls off does sound a bit medaeval to me. Eunuchs in the harem spring to mind. And surely they were still employed as body-guards, so perhaps it doesn't curb aggression at all? Or am I confusing Hollywood images with reality?

Anyway - like I say. I am feeling wobbly. Drugging him, and then watching him resist with all his might from being dragged into the operating room. Very distressing.

Of course, I am (by most people's standards) sentimental about animals. I don't eat them, for instance. I don't have the farmer's casual approach to 'animals' because I think of them as fellow 'sentient beings' in the Buddhist tradition. I can't pretend (like fishermen) that they don't feel pain. I certainly would find it very difficult to kill one (I even apologise to snails when I step on them in the garden, and feel quite awful for my momentary lapse of awareness).

I don't completely trust anyone who says 'it's for their own good' - when the generation before me had their tonsils removed automatically (thankfully, medical opinion changed by my time). And the same generation of Americans (as me) all got circumcized, even if they weren't either Jewish or Muslim. Another thing which might simply depend on 'fashion', or medical opinion, or even medical income-streams. Or might be a good idea medically (traumatising your male child in the first few weeks doesn't sound like a good idea to me).

Still, it's done. It's probably too late already. It goes with the territory of having a dog for a pet.

I have quite a resistance to doctors, anyway - which comes more from my dad, I think. Women generally seem better at dealing with the earthbound practicalities of life. I have had teeth out, and stitches in my forehead, but that's about it. By contrast, I have held other people's hands approaching childbirth, abortions, hysterectomies, death, etc. There's no comparison.

That doesn't mean that I am not crying as I type. Better end this tea-break, and get back to work.

Sorry, mate.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hard copy - grim determination

Just a draft and test page of the cover - Maybe - by Bobby CAs we approach the time when the first hard copy of our online magazine becomes available (more on this soon!) I realised I still like having something paper in my hands - well, I work in a library! And although I recommend online research to lots of people, I certainly don't read fiction on a computer much.

I have decided to investigate Lulu Publishing. Not exactly vanity publishing (you are not paying someone else to produce a huge run) - just Print On Demand. They also offer the option to allow people to buy (or get for free) your book as a downloadable PDF.
NaNoWriMo 'winner'
Although I hope to complete the book I talk about so much, I did actually write 50,000 words last November (as part of a challenge-to-self writing marathon hosted at NaNoWriMo).

Motivated by our 'manifesting' of a previously ephemeral online magazine I have decided to use this 'hastily written piece' as a sampler to learn how Lulu works.
Bobby Campbell
I have commissioned a cover from Bobby (an artist I have a collaborative working relationship with) and although I intended to publish the piece 'warts and all' I have inevitably started tweaking it. I still don't want to rewrite the whole damned thing, though (even though when I write articles I obsessively rewrite).

It's a test. And it's a record of what comes out of me if I write 1667 words every day for a month! Of course it seems seriously flawed. The tenses keep changing, it has a shortage of vivid description, I spotted repetitions, etc. I don't care.

I want to put more energy into the other book, which has lingered around for so long. Well, since I reached 18 and 'wanted to write'. I realised then that no-one much cared what someone of that age thought, and I had little experience of the world. I looked at dust-covers of books, and read about the colourful lives of the authors. So I decided I'd have to go out and have a colourful life. I abandoned any attempt to go to university, or get a job - just dropped out and ran!

Well, I found my colourful life, and now I would like to capture some of it.

Almost Foolproof

Actually, the 'novel' that I'll Lulu has a certain amount of 'real life' in it, too - almost inevitably when you have to write every day. It became a semi-fictionalised roman- a-clef about a period of my life in the 80s. Still I attributed some events in my own experience to other characters, and made some stuff up, etc. Desperation makes you do these things. I also included, as a character, a late friend of mine, Mick, whose papers I attempted to edit, but I never really finalized the book he had been working on when he died. So I put him in here and wrote him the happy ending he always wished himself.

If this all works out perhaps I will have one more try at completing his book, too, and 'putting it up on Lulu'!

Meanwhile - I have to take seriously my own plan to complete my unorthodox autobiography - for which I do have a working (secret) title - just like James Joyce with his Work-In-Progress that turned out as Finnegans Wake. I wonder if LucasFilms will let me put Jabba on the cover? Hmmm. Things to research!

Virtually foolproof

On the old website I compiled the scattered bits of erratic writing I have done over the years (a meagre haul!) - but recently I have been migrating all that stuff from that rather dated-looking Front Page template to a new set of Writing pages hosted by Google. That also means I can move house when necessary, and not feel tied to those original hosts (although I might lose my Google 1st place ranking for a while - probably a relief to the other Toby Philpott!)

100% foolproof

To document this adventure, I will start by offering you a few links (and storing themself up for myself, too, of course.

Guardian article on Print-On-Demand, from 2006

Lulu Publishing (UK)

Lightning Source (POD publishing)

Writers Services

Society of Authors

Monday, July 28, 2008

Unbelievable in many ways

Before anyone asks, no they don't fly me in to judge the Slave Leia Metal Bikini Awards - and bless all the women who want to be slaves (Ho Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha) but I am afraid that my hand is on the button to the Rancor Pit. You could ask nicely.

Jabba has had all the semi-belly dancers he can handle - he had Oola who didn't age a bit - but still didn't feel satisfied. He even had Leia in his grasp, an intelligent author of something like his own generation, intelligence and all (Doh!)

Pass the hookah - no I said 'hookah'!

And no, I don't find these things out by searching for 'Leia Metal Bikini' - I just have a Google Search set to Jabba, but I mostly find Office jokes about the guy who can eat the most junk food in five minutes. etc.

Hey ho, and back to writing the book. These research trawls lead to many strange places...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sunshine and showers

The hill outside the window keeps appearing and disappearing, with the low cloud flowing over it. The rain hasn’t stopped today.

I checked out Paris for next week and it sounds sunny and hot. Extreme contrast to end the holiday. Ten days in the remoteness and timelessness of the Welsh mountains in mist and rain – then a couple of days in a heat wave at one of the centres of civilization – with at least two of the others who have worked on producing a print copy of the Maybe Quarterly.

I got a little ray of sunshine (dodgy Segue warning) to hear that Sunshine Gray had begun work on her website. You can see and hear some of her work on MySpace. You can also hear her on Siren Radio next week – 9pm BST on the 23rd July. I missed this when in Cardiff, couldn’t get a connection here, and will find myself in Paris next Wednesday (sigh) but I reckon it’s worth tuning in, turning off the lights, and enjoying an hour of sounds. Sunshine back in the daysAccording to her blog, the radio site had some problems on the first transmission (server change) which is sad (but re-assuring when the Circus Arts Forum has had problems which I have had to apologize for, since a server change - at least I'm not alone!)

Sunshine and I have known each other (in a fairly distant sort of way - working in different creative fields) for many years…and she turned up again through the wonders of Internet, about three years ago.

I feel very proud of all and any of my creative friends. In a relatively barbaric country like the UK (in terms of showing respect for the arts) to choose an ‘artistic’ life seems like folly, but some of us can’t help it. And we tend to cheer each other on.

Hooray for our side!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Still raining after all these days

The sky so grey today that I didn't even know it was morning.

I walked a couple of hours yesterday, when it never quite rained, and me and Dandy went through the forest to find a waterfall and grotto that were not a disappointment.  On the way back we saw a heron, but didn't get close.

Overhead, I can tell buzzards (fan tail) from red kites (forked tail), and around the house we have all sorts of chaffinchs, bramblings, great tits, coal tits, sparrows, siskins, greenfinches, etc.

I am not really a bird watcher, but this is the place to come if you like that kind of thing.

I have a dog sighing on the sofa. He doesn't understand why I 'd prefer to read a book, or even watch the golf, of a cold grey wet July day.   So I guess we'll go trudge around in the rain again. I can't think of somewhere new to go (I spent a little time looking at the map).
Related Posts with Thumbnails