Thursday, December 10, 2009

Handwaving first draft (draught?)

While writing this first draft of a novel I discovered Auto-Summarize in Word. It's a bit clunky, to be honest, but another fun toy like cut-ups, word clouds, etc. These are the 500 words it chose, when asked:

Frank pulled the door shut behind him, for the last time. Another TAZ gallery closed.

People strolled by, and glanced into his room, but kept going. Frank sighed.

“Feel free,” said Frank.

The women fluttered a little, then looked around the room again.

“Sure,” said Frank.

Frank nodded.

The room had begun to become an attraction. For some reason, many people seemed to enjoy his room more than reverently wandering around other rooms in the gallery, discussing the works in hushed tones.

With his folio of material, and his guest book, Frank had little trouble getting another white room in a gallery. “OK, Frank, see you later.” The other two people seemed younger than George. Most of the public rooms are more like a museum, art gallery sort of thing. “Do you mind if I take photos?”

“Sebastian,” he said.

“Not so much a drawing room, as a withdrawing room,” he said.

Frank left the building.

The older man laughed.

Frank paid attention again.

“Frank is bringing to life a room with a future as just one room in an art gallery. “Air.”

Sebastian being oblique.

“George’s three initiations.”

said Mo, turning to Frank. “If we can find the right room,” added Sebastian.

George’s little soirees seemed catalytic for many people. Frank stood next to Sebastian for a while.

Sorry if that sounds superstitious.”

Tina and Izzy had arrived back, having chosen their rooms.

“Wow, again,” said Frank.

Frank had kept his London flat. Sculpture has presence in a room.

Just the thought of art. A room where I can remember other galleries, other rooms. The world already has enough rooms. We can’t all visit all the rooms.

“Never heard of him,” said Frank.

Sebastian smiled. Owl looked sideways at Frank. There were times when Frank sat in his room wishing he had some input. “Meh,” said Sebastian, “it’s just art and money, dancing.”

The L-Shaped Room.

Your room gave him freedom for a moment, from playing the old man.

The art of chess, the art of war.

So you pretend to make art, or you make pretend art?” Frank smiled at the boyish glee. “The art of Buster Keaton?”

“Hey, real art!”

“Yes, I always enjoy it when people play in my room, and make the art for the next visitor.”

Just gimme a white room.”

I’d love a white room with a passive artist in it. Up-time. “Why is it not art?”

Frank just sat.

The Marquis came into the room. “Is Frank here?”

There were times when Frank sat in his room wishing he had some input. The screen effectively divided the room. George smiled.


Frank was astounded and appalled. “George!” “To politics, art and money!” “Okaaay,” said Frank, cautiously. Izzy looked at Frank, puzzled.

“Relax, Frank,” said George, which didn’t help a bit.

“Relax, Frank!” “Frank,” said George. Apart from frivolous art investments.”

Friday, December 04, 2009

Look at the size of that!

check out the NaNoWriMo blog for more details, updates, etc.

2009 Stats:

This year, we had 167,150 participants, up 40% from 2008's total of 119,301.

We wrote a total of 2,427,190,537 words, up 48% from 2008's collective word count of 1,643,343,993.

(that's over 2 billion words from the typing monkeys!)

This averaged out to 14,531 words per person.

We had 32,173 winners, up 48% from 2008's total of 21,683.

This gave us a 19.2% win rate, the highest in modern NaNoWriMo history. (Last year we had an 18.2% win rate; in 2007 it was 15.1%).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another rough draft completed!

When I used to write articles I didn't even do a 'first' draft, but would start with a 'zero draft' which had no pressure on it at all, just a brainstorm of ideas poured out onto the page.

I guess that's what NaNoWriMo novels feel like - no hesitating, no re-reading, just get it down.

Somerset Maugham, the renowned novelist, once joked that, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.”

So now I have done that, I may take the raw material and try to make a 'first draft' at some point. Perhaps I should put it away, to cool down, for a bit.

But I have 50,000 words to play with, cut-up and mess around with.

I know many people have little curiosity about the game (or not enough time) but if you do want to know more, go to my NaNoWriMo account, where you can see an excerpt under the Novel Info tab, etc.

And please don't, as most people do when I say I have written a book, ask "What's it about?" because I can only at the moment offer a slightly sarcastic, "It's about fifty thousand words long."

[I stole that from Marilyn Monroe, who, when asked about her nude calendar by a prurient reporter, "Do you mean you had nothing on?" replied, "Oh, no. I had the radio on."]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Future Wave?

Just received my invite to beta test Google Wave, which is fun!

Of course, like the first person with a telephone, you lack someone to call!

Fortunately, at least a couple of friends have already found their way in, so we can start testing, probing and playing to see the benefits.

I won't do the rant here, yet - as I have only seen the video! Inevitably, such an interactive piece of future software remains blocked at the library where I work, but here in Starbucks (hiding from the rain) it works fine on their BT FreeZone, although a netbook screen is possibly not ideal for such a complex front end.

Like I say, I don't like to judge until I have played with the settings, got used to the navigation, etc.

Anyone else out there on Wave, who reads this thing?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

So far, so good...

Having passed 32K, slightly ahead of schedule for us 50K folks (I know others do even more!) I took a moment to make a word cloud of 'Handwaving' so far, I don't know if I have the balance right at all yet, but I have enjoyed a fair percent of the writing - sombunall (some but not all).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Playing with Clouds

I just went off to Wordle, to try making clouds...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Serendipity and The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke

I do love browsing libraries (and secondhand bookshops) because of the accidental finds.

The other day I saw Michael Chabon's The Wonder Boys, and having enjoyed the movie decided to read the book. It turned out excellent, so I checked him out (Wikipedia, etc) and then went back to our shelves to see what else we had by him.

I now have a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (if I can find time to 650pp, however readable!)

The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke More interestingly, nestled next to it I found a slim novella called The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke by Mark Chadbourn. I have been to see Dadd's extraordinary painting live (no reproductions do it justice - it's 3-D in oils) and it remains one of my favourite ever pictures. This novella comes with an Intro by Neil Gaiman, too. Looking forward to reading this one fast, and first.

If you don't know about Dadd, his madness, and his masterpiece, Bohemia Place has a good reproduction, some commentary, links to Queen's tribute, Dadd's complete poem, etc.

This biography page has some interesting stuff, including blaming his madness on smoking in Egypt. Some of the links are broken, but I didn't check them all, yet.

Then back to Chabon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ah me, I feel like a Dadaist... reminds me that I shouldn't trust what I get through da medja.

Fair enough, they spelt my name right (possibly a first in newspapers and tv) and called me a 'circus historian' (which I find hilarious, even if I do actually find that stuff fascinating - I even help run a website about modern circus since I retired from perfoming.)

They put incorrect name checks on Kevin (aerialist) and Marco (riding the Penny Farthing bicycle) - then cut to Le Grand Cirque (much cuter) and some funny stuff with orange balloons that humans can get inside (something I witnessed back at a juggling convention in the early 80s - still funny and novel to the public, of course) - and finished with 'the show will run until 27th September" - without pointing out that NoFit State and their show Tabú (about human fears) does not include comedy balloons (or even the fear of asphyxiation).

That funny, cute bit (for your kids) - they should have said - comes from a show you have missed this time around.

hey ho.

I don't even know why I feel even slightly surprised.

Don't get me wrong, if you want another Cirque du Soleil clone, then Le Grand Cirque probably will suit your family perfectly.

It just misses what NoFit State Circus attempts to offer people (participation)... (I feel tired now, perhaps I'll go lie down).

They've only been working at this for 25 years, perhaps da medja will get it, one day. As well as the main show, Nofit State do community outreach stuff - check out the Parklife blog. Real people, remember them? Parklife - Nofit State's outreach programme..

But anyway - NoFit State's Taboo show runs until September 27th in Cardiff.

You don't get to sit down, but walk around in a club atmosphere with stuff happening all around you. Really, this stuff is aimed at young adults (who probably don't think 'circus' has much to offer them). It works (and wins awards) all over mainland Europe.

In the UK new circus still hasn't trained (or attracted) a suitable audience of grown-ups. One of the reasons for the group dropping the word 'circus' and going for NoFit State©.

You have been warned (surely) that 'the bar is open'.

G'night. (I'm sure the current troupe don't need me as an advocate of 'shows I recommend'.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Watch us all on tv tonight!

For those of you in the area (or who can receive ITV Wales) an arts programme called The Wales Show will do a feature on NoFit State this evening at 22:35.

Your humble reporter may even show up, in the guise of a 'circus historian', to put the New Circus concept into context compared and contrasted with the traditional images of circus.

Or hit the cutting room floor, for waffling. :-)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NoFit State in Cardiff Bay

NoFit State will feature in ITV Wales' "The Wales Show" at 10.35 on Thursday, September 17th 09.

I know this because I went down to see the NoFit State crew today, already set up outside Cardiff's Millennium Centre. I even ended up being interviewed myself - to describe 'New Circus' in the context of the traditional image of the circus - by the charming Frances Donovan.

You can check out a Timeline I made on the Circus Arts Development Agency website (which I work on) - to see that circus has always been an early uptaker (they used gas lighting, then electric lighting), has always incorporated new tricks, stunts and toys (the unicycle developed from the Penny-Farthing bicycle, but BMX stunts began to appear in Archaos back in the 80s), and originally appeared in outdoor ampitheatres and temporary wooden structures before tents became used for touring.

Circus history remains predominantly oral, and some of it should be taken with a pinch of salt (as hype became part of the circus style in the days of Barnum). Daredevil stunts, exotic people and animals, extraordinary visions, exciting live music - these have formed part of what the circus had to offer as it travelled around the globe, but fashions keep changing in what people want to see and experience.

We mostly agree that animals (apart from those great apes, 'the humans', of course!) should no longer feature in shows, and NoFit State doesn't aim so much at 'the family audience' as at young adults (although everyone is still welcome, of course). It offers a 3-dimensional sensurround immersive experience -something you can't entirely appreciate through television - you have to be there!
Don't miss the unique opportunity to see this award winning show!
See previous posts for further details, links and video clips.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Cardiff's own homegrown 'new circus' - now an international touring company - soon appearing at the Millennium Centre for a short run (11 September 2009 - 27 September 2009) - a brief glimpse of the award-winning show

“This is the future of British circus” The Guardian

NoFit State return in triumph to the Millennium Centre

You can see what a hive of busy folks can do, to keep you entertained.

NoFit State tent getting erected last year at the Millenium Centre.

The WMC promo for the international touring show

The NoFit State promo

A glimpse of the current show on DailyMotion - not the Hot Chip clip on YouTube...

And yeah, the NoFit State community work carries on as the main show tours...see the link to Parklife in Stockton and the Parklife blog.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Getting silly now

After enjoying John Sinclair (up in Stourbridge live, but listen to Radio Free Amsterdam) touching on the Beats and Jazz, and Bob D still turning out Theme Time Radio - drawing on all the roots music of the last (say) 8o years - although the 100th edition entitled Goodbye might prove the end of a cycle - I have run out of sensible drug connections and ended up with 'what's legal', a very limited (and limiting) choice of alcohol and nicotine.

Hey ho, walk the dog, and regret nothing.

XM Radio have now (it seems) more or less stopped their free trials (which let me, with random Yahoo addresses, listen to Bob every Wednesday in the UK) and BBC Radio plays Bob repeats (only within the UK) but the run has reached an end point.

Fair enough. Get a life (and start torrenting). The artists have to get paid, I know, but they also need 'airing'.

(blush) OK, XM let me again (7-day free trial), check out Deep Tracks, so superb, as a mix....
Taking the dog out now, to wander the mean streets, and just hum the stuff I'd like to hear for real...

Monday, August 17, 2009

What a Long Strange Trip it's been

I had real fun leaving work early on a Friday, to make my way (via 4 trains) to Stourbridge to see a genuine 60s hero working with a friend of mine. A showing of the movie TWENTY TO LIFE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF JOHN SINCLAIR (87-minute documentary film by Steve Gbehardt, 2007) then John Sinclair doing his poetry, and DJ Fly mixing musical accompaniment (although I bet that ain't the word for it these days).

Not only did I enjoy the gig itself, but had one of those smooth journeys, as though the universe wanted me to get there, nice and easy-like. The trains went on time, I met Nick outside the gig, we walked into town and bumped into Fly and Janne. After the gig I met up with Jack and Tony, and got whisked away to take tea and talk all night. A little sleep, more tea, then a ride into town on the extraordinary Hankmobile (thanks Hank!) a really fun way to travel, where I immediately met up with Fly and Janne again, then sat with Mr Sinclair for a short while, before strolling to pick up train connections (complete with a guard who advised me of a better route, saving me a couple of hours!) All very smooth. More on this later, gotta go back to work!

Check out John's new book, "It's All Good: a John Sinclair Reader".

His touring website - On The Road.

John's Wiki entry.

DJ Fly Agaric 23 on MySpace

Listen to John’s shows on
Radio Free Amsterdam

Episode #276 of the Radio Show (with DJ Fly Agaric) uploaded at SoundCloud

Fly on MySpace

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Berlin and back

Last year in Paris
The online study group I belong to meet up once a year, in different places.
Somewhere in Berlin

Last year in Paris.

This year Tons invited us to meet in Berlin, and we had a fine old time...

My internet connection seems slow to useless at the moment, so I don't intend to upload anything much right now. If you care, you can see some pictures of the Maybe crew in Berlin on Only Maybe.

Jabba the Hutt recommends the Rock 'n Roll Herbege in Berlin!

Fly Fuzz and I stayed at the Rock 'n Roll herbege, which proved an excellent choice for those of us who stay up late, and like to mess around. Highly recommended!
Rock 'n Roll Herbege bar

Room No 6 at the RnR hostel

One for the road...

Friday, July 17, 2009


I do hope some of you follow @gnosis - one of Bobby Campbell's masterpieces of collaborative work. It gets better all the time...
Click banner to see preview

Bobby scripts this stuff and also does illustrations of his own, of all kinds, for all sorts of output - including covers for my first attempts at making a book.

See post for 7th July

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bard in the Bardo

I am still experimenting with the webcam on this netbook, and as I have had to do 'serious' voice-over (PA announcements) for the library, recently, I (as ever) gave myself a real project to do - rather than just mess about.

So here's a poem by Louis MacNeice, written in the UK during The Blitz (1944). I found myself born shortly after that, so it always seemed somehow personal (at least to my generation of heavy-metal babies - Hiroshima contaminated the planet while I was still in the womb).

Here's Louis reading his own poem (if you have Real Player).

Poems for Paranoids

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quentin's message of hope

If you’re on a tightrope when you first set off you don’t know how much play there is in the rope, but when you get into the middle between the ages of 20 and 40 the thing rocks like mad and it’s too late to go back even to look back.

But if you go on as carefully as you can, you see the other platform and then you just make a dash for it not bothering with what the audience thinks, or waving your arms or looking dangerous, and difficult and prodigious.

What you grab hold of when you get to the other side in fact the edge of your coffin. And you get into it and you lie down and you think, ‘my cuffs are frayed’, ‘I haven’t written to my mother’. And then you think ‘it doesn’t matter because I’m dead’.

And this is a message of hope. It will come to an end. It will come, we cannot be blamed for it and we shall be free.

Quentin Crisp

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Infinitely Monkeying

Have a Little Fun
Make a Little Money
Do a Little Good
Christopher Hyatt

I just received a draft of the cover for my recent NaNoWriMo novel, so now I have no excuse to not complete my proof-reading and tweaking and get the finished thing up in my Lulu storefront.
Actually, you could have got the work-in-progress already, warts and all, but now I will try to tidy the whole thing up.

I have spent a little time making small corrections, but have failed to savage it, rip it up and re-write - as all the advice suggest a writer does to a first draft, hey ho. I still quite like the simplicity of the story and style.

I'd rather do another one, and keep going until I get the hang of it.

Even more fun, I don't have to write juvenile novels and shove them in the bottom drawer, as people used to. I can publish it for my own amusement, to learn all the different processes of layout, commissioning covers, and all that.

I have never waited for approval first.

I started juggling to pass the time, rather than go look for a job. Then people stopped to watch me practising, and eventually passed a hat around for me, so then I had a job for a decade.

I'll just keep writing, although I can hear Lou Reed's devastating put-down of an incoherent heckler "If you're a writer, nobody reads you!" But in the modern world of blogs and tweets I don't feel alone in this. Just reminds me of the days of juggling on street corners with busy commuters avoiding my eye, and scurrying past... I still enjoyed myself juggling, even when I didn't get a crowd.

So do if you do it for the fun, even if you don't make any money, you do at least have some fun to show for all the work... Fortunately (or 'like magic') I have found a very creative collaborator, who can do this stuff for me - he's cheap (or rather, I'm poor - I'd pay him more if I could), he's fast, he has fun.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Strange Brew

You may wonder how an ageing library worker spends his time. Well, one way involves learning how online education works. Of course, as part of the job, he has to roll out staff training, etc – but the best way always seems (to me) to experience the role of student – so currently I find myself doing this course on Chapel Perilous.

Week 4 involves (among other mixed media) the ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven (the first piece of recommended Beethoven I recognised). Of course, with no decorum, I aimed other students at the Beaker version from the Muppets.

Extraordinary to think I got to work with these comedy geniuses just as they decided to work on a ‘serious movie’ like The Dark Crystal – but I actually had Beaker on my hand for a brief sequence in Muppets Take Manhattan (part of my training period) leaning out of a bus going around Trafalgar Square.

That’s when you find out the power of the movies (filming late at night when there is little traffic, they had to negotiate to keep the fountains lit).

Following the link out on YouTube I then remembered us doing a memorial for Robert Anton Wilson at a Maybe Logic get-together in Amsterdam, when we ‘kept the lasagne flying” over the lake in Vondel Park.

And watching that took me to another YouTube upload – a film clip of some of us Star Wars buddies in a bar in Japan – the staff heard we were Star Wars ‘stars’ and that I worked as a puppeteer (on Jabba) so they brought me a rat puppet from behind the bar, to challenge me to bring it to life...

PS: no I didn't write my own Wikipedia entry (or the Wookiepedia entry, where it came from) .

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Out and About with Star Wars

Although still connected to NoFit State (the circus) and working in the library and supporting the circus info website and helping Julie get the holiday cottage project going and writing for my own amusement and figuring out how to publish on Lulu and studying online and learning e-tutoring and web content design and walking the dog and so on - I still (very occasionally) go out to meet some of the Star Wars fans.

At the end of May I will be off to Swansea for the day...
I am only sorry that I can't take the dog, he does a good Chewbacca...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's going on?

For anyone who wondered why this blog went quiet, things have been quite hectic.

Julie has been putting the finishing touches to her latest magnificent project, the cottage in the country.

She has totally transformed it, inside and out, lavishing time money and her artistic eye on every detail. Even renamed it 'Ty Cariad' (something like 'beloved house' in Welsh). I have started a website for Ty Cariad, still in progress.unfinished porchI have never been a DIY person, but even I went up last week, painted the exterior in what I insisted was some kind of yellow, which Julie assures me looks golden in some lights and green in others. It turns out she had chosen 'Churlish Green' just to suit my temperament. :-) Well, maybe. I also varnished the magnificent new porch, made a compost heap, and helped remove an unsightly old tv aerial.

Dandy sits around looking beautiful and decorative, sighing and yawning occasionally at all this human activity that does not involve walking in the beautiful surroundings often enough for his liking. At the end of my day I usually found time for a strenuous trek - or Julie and I would drive to the Nature Reserve for a gentle amble.

And so on. More soon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

You may seem like your own worst enemy

With a film of The Prisoner on the way, I don't want to comment on 'remakes'.

I guess Zeitgeist comes in here, somewhere - but also the tendency of great art to escape its context and become universally relevant, and evocative.

The Prisoner cycles around - just like Finnegans Wake - the end could equally seem like the beginning.

Anyway... Heeeeeere's Patrick.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Everything that happens will happen today

When I went to Norway, to catch Brian Eno at the Punkt 08 festival, he said (at his lecture) that he had been working with David Byrne on a new album.

Well, here it is, available only from this website, in every format you can think of, from MP3 download to Vinyl, CD, etc.

For those who like that sort of thing! David Byrne added words to instrumental tracks that Brian Eno had already written.

I may add more, when I have listened to it all.


[later addition/edition] - current favourite track "I Feel My Stuff".

Friday, March 27, 2009

Eclectic Reading

I have always read widely, and self-employment gave me a lot of time to do it – not just because of working less hours per week than others, but because of all the travelling by public transport. Drivers don’t have that joy, of a train-ride and a book!

Gonzo Poet

Among recent books I enjoyed, I would include Oh Dad! A Search for Robert Mitchum, by Lloyd Robson. Not that I come from the generation where Mitchum was at his peak (one of the only actors who managed the difficult trick of being a man’s man and a woman’s man at the same time. Perhaps Sean Connery also managed it), but I liked him when I saw him.

The book is a gonzo adventure through America (the kind of thing usually done as a tv documentary these days) in search of the places and events in Mitchum’s life – motivated by the fact that Lloyd Robson is a poet (from Wales, indeed) and he discovered (perhaps improbably) that Mitchum was a poet and writer – and that beneath the ‘bad boy’ image lay a wit and intelligence that Bob concealed pretty effectively.

The Great Game

I have also been delving into The Great Game – the battle for central Asia between the Russian and British Empires. I haven’t even read Kipling’s Kim (though it is lying around waiting) but that is the period of time I find intriguing. I mostly don’t do history or war, but my attention got drawn to the subject not only because of simply not understanding what the hell is going on in Afghanistan (for instance) but discovering just how long all this had been going on.

For instance, the UK is full of Free Tibet supporters (and I agree with them) but do they know the Brits fought their way (viciously) into occupying Tibet back in 1904? China is not the only guilty party. Just as the image of China as an opium den is really propaganda, as it was the Brits who flooded the Chinese market with cheap opium (they produced in India)to subjugate the population – and the Boxer Rebellion was in response to this.

So yes, I have always found the hidden history of drugs interesting (and even consumed a few myself) – and particularly the hypocrisy involved – when people who worry about my nicotine and alcohol habits (from a health point of view) can be sipping caffeine with their sugary chocolate cake at the same time, without acknowledging the parallels. Uncle Albert on his 100th birthdayMost 'drugs problems' I have heard of involve doctors (the uppers and downers, pick-me-ups and sleepers, Mother's Little Helpers) or alcohol (from hooliganism to wife-beating, from driving accidents to premature death), and yet The War on Drugs remains pointed at the 'illegal drugs' (an ever-shifting border, and not a scientific description).
Policemen on the tv (and in real life) retreat to the pub for a drink when considering how to trap 'drug dealers', like New Tricks or, like Morse with his bottle of wine at home - solitary drinking. In all those home make-over shows they point to the new patio as a place for a nice G&T in the summer, but never 'settling down with a nice spliff'. And they celebrate the completion of the project with champagne, just as we give all our sports stars (!) alcohol as a prize. No wonder the high-speed drivers squirt it all over the crowd, rather than drink it! Drunk at 200 mph? i don't think so. Only Skins and Shameless (of shows I watch)appear to 'normalize' drug use. To describe how things really are is not necessarily to condone them. But the media have trouble separating these, as Noel Gallagher discovered when describing a spliff as normal as having a cup of tea (that's caffeine again, of course, another drug, often taken with sugar, an inert speedy substance without nutritional value).
I wept with laughter when reading Operation Julie, at the repetition of 'real policemen' going to the pub every third page, while trying to catch the acid manufacturers. That great escapade probably led to the absence of really good acid ever since, and its replacement with all kinds of unfortunate concoctions which further contributed to its bad name. Curiously enough, Albert Hofmann, who discovered/invented LSD, lived happily until the age of 102, still taking small doses. But facts don't work as well as myths.

But this time I am not writing about drugs (although, legal at the time, they necessarily appear in the story) but the reconnaissance, espionage, political manoeuvring, etc around the turn of the Nineteenth Century. I first noticed the curious fact the Madame Blavatsky (Russian), Gurdjieff (Armenian/Greek/Russian?) and Aleister Crowley (British) had all, at some time or another, been suspected or accused of espionage in this region. Since then, apart from reading their biographies, I have read The Great Game: the myths and realities of espionage, and am in the middle of Tournament of Shadows, among others.
On a more intriguing note, I read Tim Maroney's edition of HPB's Book of Dzyan, in the intro of which he draws some interesting parallels between sci-fi fantasy writing (so big in the 20th Century, but he references HP Lovecraft) and the strange world models of HP Blavatsky, offered as 'true'.

ESPionage and magiCIAns

I also read the biography of Charles Fort by Jim Steinmeyer (the inventor of illusions, but also an excellent writer – I really enjoyed Hiding the Elephant, and Glorious Deceptions. And yes, I see a strong connection between conjurors and their skills, and espionage. In this murky cross-over world I end up implying some connection between magick of the occult variety, and what people so loosely call ‘the stage variety’. It really upsets some of the esotericists when I imply any connection at all – as if I am implying it is ‘all manipulative tricks’ – where actually I want to point to the area of common ground, hypnosis, belief systems, the unreliability of our perceptions, etc. I battle on. One day I might be able to put it in a way that didn’t upset so many folks. And shamans have always used ‘little tricks’ to draw people into more suggestible states, like many gurus (think Sai Baba and his mysterious ‘ash’ and occasional jewellery, or Geller in his guru phase with ‘teleports and metal-bending, or Blavatsky suspected of chicanery).

If any of the espionage, magic and occult stuff sounds interesting, you will find longer contributions, and further links, from me (the bogus magus) over at Only Maybe - e.g. ESPionage and magCIAns.

If conjuring on its own seems sufficiently interesting, then I gather interesting links on the Intelligence Increase blog.
Fun Stuff
And, just for laughs, I read A Load of Bull by Tim Parfitt, a really hilarious 'Englishman abroad' book about Spain in general, and Madrid in particular. Hilarious!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Just for Laughs - memories of Vaudeville - George Carl

When I have a day when I shouldn't have got up, I tend to go for comedy. I ended up doing it for a living (loving) because I couldn't see enough physical comedy in my childhood (no tv, rare films, etc).

10 minutes of George Carl – possibly the greatest clown (in my sense of the word, nothing to do with circuses) with a rather slow audience in Sweden.

A thousand physical gags he could do in any combination of 3 minute spots, 5 minute spots, etc.

It seems like a fairly subdued audience (the jobbing professional) in this 10 minute set (with good quality footage) you can see some of the range, not only of clumsy gags mixed with dexterity (the style I chose to adapt) but with a wonderful Max Wall legs ending (to go with the resemblance in the face).

Here’s a 7 minute set on Johnny Carson, with dozens more variations. A couple of misses (for the jugglers) but more gags per minute than many people achieve in a lifetime – even the magical penetration of the microphone stand (I can live with the buzz on the soundtrack, and this audience seem to really get it!) You get the lot, hat, mike stand, funny legs. His misdirection is worthy of a magician (did you see the microphone go down his trousers? I didn't.

Here’s 6 minutes of lower quality video for Jerry Lewis, and you know some of the gags by now, but he’s storming. And he has a proper vaudeville drummer hitting the highlights. And the audience even notice and appreciate the mike penetration!

OK, OK I stole a couple of gags out his collection of hundreds...but I have no record of any of my live shows (before video phones, and all that). Maybe Reuven Hannah still has footage (he filmed it on roller skates) of a show I did at Riverside Studios, with a genius drummer (we improvised the whole thing for 300 people as I was in a bad nervous state (personal life events) and they carried me through.
Brighton Juggling Convention 1978 - me in Black and White crazy outfit, beard, grimace, etc
And Tim Bat may one day retrieve some low-grade footage of me trying to do my (until then original) juggling act, following a whole evening of juggling acts who had done just about everything (that we knew at the time) already. 11 of us turned up to the convention (from 5 countries) and nowadays you will find several thousand people attending such events.

And finally, a part of the Royal Command Performance (the kind of glimpse I had at the time) of George Carl. If I achieved 1% of the shared fun I can die happy. Peace and humour. Amor et Hilaritas!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Old Dog - New Tricks

OK - the new library opened, and we did good!

On Facebook, I started as an avatar (testing the system for work, not wanting to get involved) - and joined as Sid Scribe. He has (in his iLike field) a track from later Pink Floyd (obscured by clouds type film track) called Free Four...

"The memories of a man in his old age...

Are the deeds of a man in his prime -THRUMMMM."

Since then, I joined Facebook for real, and now have linked to heads from the 60s, street performers from the 70s, film folk from the 80s, circus people from the 90s, all my family (more or less) and library co-workers (and other online friends) from the 21st Century. And of course the Maybe Logic crew, but we already have other channels of communication.

Check out our ongoing blog at Only Maybe (just put that in Google to find it), the online magazine we made 14 issues of (followed by a hard copy - ask me for one if you are interested, I still have a few in a box) - or just go to the public bit of the campus for a glimpse.

Life goes on.

I have written two not-great books (just for the hell of it, and as a personal challenge, like a sedentary marathon), but I carry on learning, and may offer you something readable eventually.
I have also dabbled in online publishing, just to see how it works - the things remain full of typos, but I am improving all the time. I'll try to keep it short.

But then again, some people like great epics (who actually reads the whole of The Lord of the Rings? Maybe the folks who read all of Happy Potter?) No problem, we all have our epics. Just as Bill Hicks remains relevant - so does Illuminatus! even if it got written in the 70s.

Predictive text, indeed.

Greetings to all sentient beings...

The room got crowded, but it's kinda fun.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Grandpa Takes a Trip...

...Down Memory Lane.

Strange circumstances led me to go to a Sixties Night at the Globe in Cardiff.

I did kinda assume that this would be an opportunity for people to dress up (I know there were Mods and Rockers, and Kings Road chic Mary Quant 'hippies', as well as scruffy Notting Hill 'heads and freaks' like me), but we didn't have one style - we raided the dressing up box, so you might see a completely silver alien chatting to an 18th Century dandy.

Given that people seem to like dressing up as Vicars and Tarts, etc - it did seem likely. Sadly, even in my mildest outfit (mirror waistcoat, sand-dollar on macrame necklace, velvet jacket) I seemed over-dressed. I thought it would look appropriately sedate for a granddad. Hey ho. The only long hair was on the girls.

In spite of incense, and a bubble machine and being handed a bedraggled flower by a young woman it couldn't really feel like the 60s with everyone drinking, and nobody smoking. We didn't have alcohol at UFO, or Middle Earth, or Les Cousins, Bunjies, etc. Not to say we didn't drink, but only in pubs (playing darts in The Pillars of Hercules and drinking Newcastle Brown before going down to Cousins). And although you could get nine months (not just a caution) for possession, you would almost certainly smell hash at an all-nighter...

Still the band - El Goodo - were pretty good (although I never heard any kind of country music until the 70s, when Dylan did Nashville Skyline, and I got to The States and heard the non-redneck versions from The Flying Burritos, New Riders of the Purple Sage and all that) but their extended riff at the end hit the spot - and the light show improved, and I met a few nice folks, so I don't consider it a wasted evening (in fact, for lack of spliff, I wasn't wasted) but maybe a wasted opportunity. And no, I didn't get any acid flashbacks - more's the pity. Peace.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Cardiff avoids disaster

I gather the weather remains pretty foul everywhere, but here in Cardiff we may live in a micro-climate.

OK, it's cold and wet, but hardly a threat to life and limb - or any kind of excuse to close schools and stay off work (much though I'd like to right now).

I guess there may be more snow on the way - and no doubt it remains pretty heavy up in the cottage (where Julie and Dandy are right now), but I just got a wet, grey Monday to contend with. Oh, actually the webcam at Pontrhydygroes shows the snow clearing, right now.

These blog entries are drifting from serious Thought for the Day, to a weird bland blend of Facebook and Twitter (and pictures of the dog).

"What RU doing right this moment?"

(typing, of course!)

Broken-down metaphors

Hey ho. I amuse my friends by using car metaphors, when I can't even drive, but I suppose I see

  • websites as for stick-shift drivers

  • blogs and forums for people who like automatic (less to know or think about)

  • Facebook and Twitter, etc simply seem like Dodgems /Bumper cars...great fun, for some, but so limited as to be almost useless for 'transport purposes'. IMHO Although communal picture albums seem fun (you could also try Flickr).

  • At least on MySpace musicians can easily upload music samples, which I like - and YouTube lets you share vids, etc

But each to their own, of course. I'd hate to sound like a snob, when I hardly devise websites (HGV license?) or write code (racing drivers?) or innovate (world land speed record?)

Metaphors always end up over-stretched, eventually - sigh.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Not quite gone this morning

Not as glamorous as by night, but the garden still had snow this morning, and, in spite of the pleading look "can we go out again, can we, can we, can we?" I had to go to work (sigh).

Mooching Pooch

Dandy has never seen snow in all his two years...not great pix with my camera battery dying, but it could be gone by morning. This was our midnight walk!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dropping like flies

I had every intention of dropping in here to celebrate W.C.Fields birthday - a favourite fellow juggler, fellow Aquarian, and fellow curmudgeon.

Now I heard that John Martyn died this morning, and I don't feel quite so jolly, although I still want a serious drink, in honour of both of them.

I knew John back in the days when he looked and sounded like an angel. I knew him well enough to know that he was a bit tougher than that, but I was so astounded by his talent that I felt honoured to just sit and roll joints for him, and listen to him play. I never even had the bottle to grab a set of bongos, and try to accompany him (sigh).

It was only a few weeks ago that Davy Graham died - who was the hero to just about all the guitarists at the time - and I met many of them, just from working at Bunjies Coffee Bar, and (more importantly) at Les Cousins Folk and Blues club (the place to be).

I never did show any talent for 'talking music' so I never got really close to they would get bored with words, and start talking through their instruments. I was still pretty happy to just be the tea boy (in both senses of the word).

Anyway. He's gone. And I never got to say thank-you just one more time.

Talking 'bout my generation...

Or rather - I feel like screaming along with Joe Cocker:

You feeling alright?
I'm not feeling that good myself, yeah
Well, you feeling alright?
Hey, I'm not feeling that good myself.

Woah, you feeling alright?
Yeah, I'm not feeling too good myself
Woah, woah, I'm lonely
But I'm not feeling that good myself.

You can turn away
You feeling alright?
I'm not feeling that good myself, I tell you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stuff going down

Family News
Julie has gone back up to the cottage, but had a near miss with the car on icy roads in the mountains, so all and any good wishes you want to send her would be welcome. She and Dandy survived unhurt but shaken, and it sounded a bit scary to me.

Circus News
Joke Schot had taken some great photos of NoFit State's Tabú show, so Kaskade Juggling Magazine contacted the circus asking for some words to go with them. I hacked some together for them (I used to write regularly for Kaskade in the early days, and worked for the circus way back when, also).

The article is out. I am pleased with it. That link goes to the words, at least, on the review page at the Circus Development Agency website (I do content management there) - because I doubt that it will reduce sales very much for my words to leak out elsewhere. I recommend Kaskade, not just for juggling, but all allied arts throughout Europe (they have a great listings page for events, as well as addresses for all equipment makers, etc. )

You can also find online a rough draft of some footage of one of the NoFit State outreach projects, when the local Community Circus did a show for Swindon Festival. Here on the Ideal Films site.

Library News
I started a blog focussed on my library work (as a library sub-culture is heading towards an ephemeralized online library to compliment the physical buildings, etc.

You can check out Anon the Librarian for that part of my life -as we move into the new 'state-of-the-art library' in the next month or two. I hope to extend the work I did on the NetTrainers course, and with the Council's Moodle/Learning Pool site - becoming less of an IT person, and more aimed at staff and public training...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Prisoner may have finally escaped, who knows?

Very sad to hear that Patrick McGoohan has died at the age of 80.

The Prisoner remains one of the best pieces of tv I ever saw - even though we originally watched it on black and white television(1967 in London) - he was shrewd enough to get it made on film stock in colour, so that it has survived (unlike a lot of tv from the period).

I feel very ambiguous about the attempt to make a film of it. After the shambles that I consider the film version of H2G2 to be. After 'their' significant failure to reproduce The Avengers (another great series of the period) as a modern film.

I'll wait and see, with the stoical patience exemplified by Number 6's view of the world around him, a role model I adopted and continue to employ to this day.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Fool on the Hill

It was great to have a visit from A & A - and they saw both a crisp bright day, and then another when it was almost snowing - misty in the valley, sleet, I guess, quite gloomy.

I am a bit gloomy, too, as I had a mild 'waxy ear' so used some drops which obviously softened the wax just enough to go deep into the ear, making me actually deaf. Doh! It really wasn't that bad before, just a slight crackle when I moved my head sometimes.
highest point - 308 metres  above sea level
Now I am only half-tuned into conversations, television and the sounds of nature (good to stay alert with a lively dog, and unknowns everywhere, from sheep to loggers).
View from the top
One unpleasant side-effectof the deafness is the pounding blood in my ear when walking these steep hills. As it is a little warmer up in the sun, Dandy and I have tended to go up, rather than along the bottom of the valley, and I went to the highest point (308 metres above sea level) I could see for one panoramic view. You can see the Ystwyth valley, the iron age hill fort - Castell Grogwynion - and a farm by the road on the way to Aber. You might want to click on the pic to see it larger (I haven't done anything to the images yet, as battling working on a Mac which does things whole different ways, etc.)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Where the sun don't shine

We had a crisp clear morning up here in the hills, so I walked the dog along the sunny ridges, but once you dip into the valleys, where the sun hasn't penetrated, it remains really cold...
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