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.
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