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 - tabĂș, 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
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