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.
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