Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mind Mapping

I remember back in the summer that I started mapping what I use online, with a board and some Post-It notes...

Originally I just wanted to keep track of passwords and IDs, but then I became interested in what sites and software I had tried, the various places I had been, and had signed up for...

The intermediate stage
I started drawing lines as it got more complicated. (And I still have forgotten things spring to mind again, as well as joining new places, of course... )
It might prove useful in cancelling some unused subscriptions, as well as going back to stuff I liked and forgot about.

Then I tried putting it all into Personal Brain

I may put the dynamic/interactive version of the PB on the website eventually.
Personal Brain - expanded view of Outmind

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Finite and Infinite Games

A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.


Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.


To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.

I recommend this highly compressed meditational book, James P. Carse’s “Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility"

Wikipedia will give you a brief glimpse, if you don’t wanna buy it, and you may notice the Kevin Kelly review of just that book, at the bottom of the Wiki page!

You might enjoy these extended notes, again if you don’t have time to read a whole book.

This could appear in the top ten choices of my desert island's Kevin's complete (brief) review:

The wisdom held in this brief book now informs most of what I do in life. Its key distinction - that there are two types of games, finite and infinite - resolves my uncertainties about what to do next. Easy: always choose infinite games. The message is appealing because it is deeply cybernetic, yet it's also genuinely mystical. I get an "aha" every time I return to it.-- KK

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Half Truth

For some years I have contributed to a collaboratively written blog called Only Maybe, and sometimes I stumble over old entries that still make me smile.

A Zen master lay dying. His monks had gathered around his bed, from the most senior to the most novice monk. The senior monk leaned over to ask the dying master if he had any final words of advice for his monks. The old master slowly opened his eyes and in a weak voice whispered, "Tell them Truth is like a river.” The senior monk passed this piece of information in turn to the monk next to him, and it circulated around the room.
When the words reached the youngest monk he asked, "What does he mean, 'Truth is like a river'?"The question was passed back around the room to the senior monk who leaned over the bed and asked, "Master, what do you mean, 'Truth is like a river'?"
Slowly the master opened his eyes and in a weak voice whispered, "OK, Truth is not like a river."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Total Perspective Vortex

Before viewing this vid clip, don't forget that Zaphod Beeblebrox may be the only living being who has ever emerged from the Total Perspective Vortex as sane as he went in.

My first experience of this kind of vertiginous view of our place in the universe was an extraordinary illustrated book called Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps by Kees Boeke (with us positioned in the middle between the infinitesimally small, and the mind-bogglingly large and deep...) This was done in drawings (1957) because among other things we did not have a whole view of the earth at that point, or maybe something from a satellite only? No human had seen the Earth from space.

Here is another link to an online version. And an eight minute animated film version.

And then emerged a short film called Powers of Ten, by the wife and husband team of Eames in 1977.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shift happens

In case you don't have time to commit to Bobby's well designed course, step-by-step introductions to all the major communication channels available (mostly for free), then just spend a moment with this (out-of-date) YouTube clip.

I dropped out of school in 1964 because I told them they were teaching me stuff that would prove irrelevant to my life (smart-ass kid, getoutofhere) - like, I asked them if I could learn Chinese in the sixth-form (pre-university level school - 16-18 years old - I have no idea what they call that in the USA, China, Japan, India, etc).

I think I might have got something right, even if they considered me a stupid smart-ass kid at the time.
If I could read/write/speak Chinese right now I could have a good job almost anywhere on the planet. Hey ho.

No, I don't have any Chinese (thanks, fellas) but I set out to 'get' internet at the age of 54 (what people who use the Christian calendar vaguely remember as The Millennium, or 2000) and have had a decade of fun - still learning...

People often ask me...

...who I studied with online for 3 years. If you have 7 minutes, this YouTube clip might give you a mind-bending sample of the tutor I so enjoyed studying with.

This YouTube piece came from the online course currently run by Bobby Campbell, one of my fellow students.

Robert Anton Wilson's polio came back towards the end of his life, and he couldn't go out on lecture tours any more, so he set up an online study group. We had the pleasure of his company for his last 3 years...

Monday, November 08, 2010

Staggering through the early stages

If you wonder at lessening blog posts here and there, I have once again joined the fray to write 50,000 words of fiction in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Apparently even more people started this year, it was trending on Twitter (whatever that means), etc.

Family visits, travelling, gigs and various other incidents mean that I have barely kept up the pace as yet, but I have gritted my teeth and staggered on (surely I should feel this way at the end of a marathon?) And although I don't update my word count every day, you can see here that I am making an effort. Some of the shortfall is scribbled in pencil in a notebook, and awaiting typing up...

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Flashbacks - i am stylin'

One by one these interviews about Jabba emerge, taking me back to the summer.

Here's John C and me talking to KP from I Am Stylin' at Celebration V in Florida...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fonts U Like

I noticed in .Net's magazine that when they selected the top twenty fonts for online design a standard issue (free) font - Georgia - came out top.

Not Helvetica, or one of the modern 'designer objects', which seemed surprising.

So I took the opportunity to change the look of this blog (and make the letters in the main posts larger, while I was at it).

Carry on Tweaking...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

God = x

I recently got involved briefly in another of those interminable ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ type of futile argument/discussions…about whether atheists using the word ‘probably’ in their slogans sounds like a stupid attempt at placating those they actually hope to ‘convert’ or ‘debrief’.

There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

I remain a hard-liner in that I have no need of the concept of a Creator, but I don’t feel like a zealot. I have no desire to stop people believing nonsense, if it keeps them happy (although I do quibble about it when it seems to make them miserable, scared, vicious, etc).

foma - harmless untruths; lies that, if used correctly, can be useful. Bokononism.

"Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy."

I, however, prefer a sublime indifference to beliefs I don’t even begin to understand.

Julie mentioned the other day that most of the disagreements disappear if you replace the word ‘God’ with the word ‘Nature’, and I know what she means, but it doesn’t completely work for me. I have felt the same way since when I first came across Taoism (in my teens) and finally thought I had come across a group of people who saw things the same way as myself – describing that final ‘unity’ as a mystery, not only that can never be described except with inadequate labels, but never truly ‘known’.

The Tao that can be described in words is not the true Tao.

Only later did I discover in the Western tradition that several Gnostic sects had taken the same approach – that any attempt to describe or understand the source or ground of being appears doomed to failure. ‘God’ as remote and ineffable. The Unknown God.

I acknowledge one great invisible God, unrevealable, unmarked, ageless and unproclaimable

And in fact if everyone used the word to mean that, then I wouldn’t see any problem with it. Unfortunately, it is what Korzybski called a multi-ordinal (word with multiple meanings) which can lead to all kinds of misunderstandings.

I can never even work out whether people who use the word imply ‘God is love’ (trust that a benign higher being has a plan and a purpose for you) or ‘God is very strict – a firm but fair father’ (the god-fearing person as the ideal human), etc.

The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent appears in Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan.

And why a father and not a mother?

So anyway. Many of these discussions would vanish if we simply used the word to mean the completely unknowable, rather than assuming some kind of conscious being can ever be found or contacted. It would then seem obvious why religious people think of much science as somehow blasphemous or pointless - trying to explain the ultimately (by definition) unexplainable.

God moves in mysterious ways

If we treat the word ‘God’ as just a marker for something we don’t know at the moment, as in algebra we use ‘x’, then we leave it open that we may ‘solve’ the equation at some point, although it seems likely that we may end up with the kind of odd results that led mathematicians to have to describe and accept ‘imaginary numbers’, ‘irrational numbers’, and other curious outcomes.

Accept the Mystery

I doubt that we can ever ‘solve’ what people mean by God to some simple answer, especially if we use the label to describe the Great Unknown – Tao – Process – Nature.

Update: Friday 24th September - the influence of my Theosophical father must not be ignored, so I guess it might intrigue you to read this lecture from Stephan Hoeller, from 2003, which clarifies the Gnostic belief system, and myths as educational tools, and much more (including, perhaps, my own antagonism to the established church). I mentioned a lot of this (and more) in a post to this blog, from 2004, called Follow Your Bliss.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Leaving no trace

I am amused to find how many people want to make a mark on the world.

“…some are building monuments, others are jotting down notes…”
Quinn the Eskimo/Dylan

From when I was quite young I hoped to slip through this life unnoticed, leaving no trace. I certainly don't understand the modern desire to 'be famous' (in the spotlight the whole time). I didn’t find much support for this atitude until I came across Buddhism, and especially the Zen version of that ‘belief system’ or ‘approach to life’.

"When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself."
---Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1970)

Even better than that advice about immersion into the present moment, and current activity, I liked the fact that Zen practitioners seemed to perceive the whole of life as ephemeral:

To what shall I compare this life of ours?
Even before I can say
it is like a lightning flash or a dewdrop
it is no more.

- Sengai

It even seemed that both the conscious mind and the perceived world might not only disappear, but perhaps were ‘never here at all’ as separate entities (and other such tricky ideas).

True dhyana is to realize that one's own nature is like space, and that thoughts and sensations come and go in the 'original mind' like birds through the sky, leaving no trace.

This calls to mind the famous, beautiful couplet from the Zenrin:

The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection;
The water has no mind to receive their image.

Watts, Alan. The Way of Zen. New York: Pantheon, 1957 pp 93-4)

So I find the urge to write a book rather like trying to write my name on the surface of a pool of water. But I guess the image of a life as a series of waves after a pebble gets thrown in, rippling out to the edge of the pond and back towards the source (creating complex interference patterns of overlapping waves), and finally settling down (leaving no trace) always appealed to me.

Even when we do leave a physical mark like a book or a piece of art, a building, a wall, a map or a drinking well, it probably still has a finite life span before it becomes lost or forgotten or simply falls into disuse.

And in this particular life I mostly worked as a performer in live events, passing shows which linger only in the minds of the audience, for a while. The ephemeral arts.

It feels strange to realise that I have now left performances on film, which will get copied forward into new media, and possibly not fade for a very long time…I feel pleased that they are not images of me, though, but of a fully-realised character, who can live on without further input from me.

Leaving no trace, or making your mark, both work on many levels. You may not be credited with some changes you made, which nevertheless continue to influence others. You may have no idea about your descendants, and what they might achieve.

And on a daily basis, we have campaigners who want us to go out and enjoy nature, to escape from the city, but to attempt to leave no trace of our passing…while others prefer to erect signs, create trails, and otherwise help others who come behind them. Neither path seems like the whole truth.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Oh no, I may be going viral...

Although a couple of people shoved microphones at me, when I was in Orlando, I never expect such moments to be anything much more than a local radio station, or a fan website, etc.

Great fun, but I never assume anyone outside the fan base (however large that is) will come across it.

This anecdote (and I hope Carrie Fisher doesn't pop up and tell me I got it wrong all these years - which could happen, because the story is actually about how little we could see, and how little we knew about what was going on. If I had been invited to see the rushes I could probably tell you what actually happened...) ahem, anyway, this anecdote seems to have caught the ear of an editor somewhere, and after appearing on the Moviefone site it has migrated to the AOL/Video page, where it is apparently getting lots of hits!

The Man Who Licked Princess Leia: An Interview With Jabba the Hutt Puppeteer Toby Philpott

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Here, there, but not everywhere

I don't understand quite what the changes at FB involve, but don't want to lose this map, so have exported it. I have got about a bit, which is surprising with no money to speak of, but have never been south of the equator (for instance) or to India or Africa (a couple of big continents you might think it hard to miss). Hey ho.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Turn your blog into a book

It still strikes me as funny that people keep predicting the end of 'the book' as a tangible, portable object - and yet the new print-on-demand technology means we can print off short runs (just as many people still print out emails to read, etc).

And now blogs can be reproduced as books (it's another form of storage after all, for when we run out of oil/electricity/internet).


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Contents by Ernst Jandl
I've got nothing to make a poem
a whole language
a whole life
a whole mind
a whole memory
I've got nothing to make a poem

Friday, August 20, 2010


I just got an invite to an online seminar (Library 2.0) with the author of Mindset, with these intriguing notes attached:

According to Dweck, individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from.

Some believe their success is based on innate ability; these are said to have a 'fixed' theory of intelligence. Others, who believe their success is based on hard work and learning, are said to have a 'growth' or an 'incremental' theory of intelligence.

Individuals may not necessarily be aware of their own mindset, but their mindset can still be discerned based on their behavior. It is especially evident in their reaction to failure. Fixed-mindset individuals dread failure because it is a negative statement on their basic abilities, while growth mindset individuals don't mind failure as much because they realize their performance can be improved.

These two mindsets play an important role in all aspects of a person's life. Dweck argues that the growth mindset will allow a person to live a less stressful and more successful life.

"This is important because (1) individuals with a 'growth' theory are more likely to continue working hard despite setbacks and (2) individuals' theories of intelligence can be affected by subtle environmental cues. For example, children given praise such as 'good job, you're very smart' are much more likely to develop an fixed mindset, whereas if given compliments like 'good job, you worked very hard' they are likely to develop a growth mindset. In other words, it is possible to encourage students, for example, to persist despite failure by encouraging them to think about learning in a certain way."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Notes towards the record of a journey

Day One - Tuesday 10th August 2010

For all the safety margins, of allowing two hours for check in, and all that – I don’t really trust the rail network, and the really early trains cost a fortune (travelling in the rush hour) so I decided not to risk the tight connection, and travel down the night before, and stay in a cheap room near the airport.

The first train was half an hour late, so I missed the connection at Reading, so arrived an hour after the planned time – exactly the sort of thing which would have left he in a cold panic if I had travelled on the day with no room to manoeuvre.

When I was a performer, moving around on public transport, I always used to find the appropriate train/bus/plane for arriving at the gig, and then take the one before that, a system which often meant I arrived early (which rarely bothered the people who were hiring me, they could tick one more thing of their organiser’s list) and gave me time to check out the venue, size up the crowd, warm up the bodymind, and generally settle down. When that transport failed or was delayed I still felt pretty secure. Only in extreme weather conditions (say) or bomb scares, would both completely let me down...and I would usually have figured out alternatives then, too.

Funnily enough, the only gig I ever missed was one where I overslept, woke up horrified to know that I wasn’t going to make it across town in time for a school show, rang the school in anguish to apologise (thinking I would get the ‘but we have a hall full of children all waiting to see you’ sob story) only to hear a relieved voice, explaining that they had had to close the school (an epidemic or something) but couldn’t find my number to let me know not to come!


What a great thing it is to have a telepathic subconscious which allowed my a lie-in, and saved me rushing all the way across town and trailing all the way back forlorn. I could have done without the moment of cold sweat, however!

As these convention gigs lie somewhere on the spectrum between ‘working’ and ‘fun’ I don’t feel quite the same amount of stage fright (though I get some, of course, heading into the unknown where you might suddenly find yourself talking in front of 2000 people, or interviewed on television). But I still hate panic adrenaline, which seems different from the stage fright rush/buzz.

With panic, the most you can hope for is relief (catching the plane) and the worst case scenario remains that your deepest fears get realised. With stage fright you can have good shows and bad shows.

Day Two – Wednesday 11th Aug

Got up calmly enough, and now sitting chilled in the lounge, one hour ahead of rush to get to the airport, as I have done an online check-in. I won’t start to fret again for half an hour or so...

Tranquil lift to North Terminal, long lines for baggage drop, but no rush. Security did want to look through my little bag, but I guess I have a lot of little gizmos to go with the netbook, external hard drive, microphone, headphones, and a camera, and Blackberry – I really seem to have become quite a major geek, but then again I always liked gizmos, it was just that (for instance) the magic ones were things the public should never he unpacked I noticed a pack of cards still accompanies me, even though I never perform (or even practice) magic tricks any more. Some of these things remain ‘superstitions’ (hangovers from previous beliefs), and lucky charms (jujus) like the silver half dollar (1920), old English penny (1964)and Irish pound (punt)coin (1990) in my back pocket.

Some are actually useful.

I enjoy people watching at airports, but I don’t know if I really have the novelist’s eye, or the curiosity which attributes back story to people (the way an actor might).

It’s interesting how slowed down all this people management is again. In movies of the Second World War movement around Europe (mostly by train, I guess) was always hazardous, and crossing borders became very difficult for many.

In that first boom of tourism back in the Sixties, when people started taking holidays outside their home country, the whole plane travel thing seemed pretty smooth, although it has always been true for me that it takes longer to the airport and into check-out, than the whole flight combined, which still seems weird to me.

There’s something redundant about moving all these bodies around, with all their ‘stuff’, when so much of what they are doing could now be done remotely.

OK, you can’t enjoy a virtual sun tan as much, or hug your relatives through a screen, but much business can surely be done remotely – you only need face to face for that final handshake of trust. This brings up my old obsession (previously discussed as Body Mind duality) – with the body in a particular place, the skeleton which limits the size and orientation, the fragility and resilience (self-mending) of the body...and (for so many people) the identification with the body, including the grooming, the feeding, the exercise, the sex life and all that. It’s also the body they lock up, or torture, of course. Houdini was one of the few people for whom a pair of handcuffs did not simply but effectively incapacitate a person.

Minds can communicate across centuries, across the world, through various media (let’s skip telepathy for a moment!) Mind (s) does not appear to have a location, in spite of attempts to locate consciousness in the brain, the pineal gland, the heart, etc. It appears fully distributed through the system, and not just the sub-system of the body, and nervous system, but through the environment and cosmos.

It’s all very mysterious. But hey, for all the remote communication I do, some fans want to meet, shake hands and talk direct, so here I sit in an airport, about to use up everybody’s carbon ‘allowance’ to move this ageing body across the world for a week (and, hopefully, back).

The vegan meal turned out a pleasant surprise, just like the window seat. The movie screen is a bit scuzzy on the inside (can’t clean it) but I kinda enjoyed From Paris With Love – silly though it is. Jolly special agent sociopath played by John Travolta (complete with self-referential Royale with Cheese) kills dozens of peoples quite carelessly, without getting a scratch – only the hesitant side-kick gets hurt (“when I say shoot the fucker, shoot the fucker,” urges John T). He redeems himself by bracing himself to shoot his girl-friend in the head...

I know the old hero legends don’t pretend to claim reality, but these kind of shoot-em-ups owe a lot to computer games, I reckon – where the hero doesn’t ever risk anything more than resetting the game and trying again.

Reverting to the one little body, one big mind theme. You only got the one body in real life...take care of it! These are just mind games. All in your imagination. No post-traumatic disorder, no shock, no stress... These don’t resemble real people at all (except for, maybe, sociopaths). Calling them ‘professionals’ just doesn’t cut it, really, as though you just learn to be cold-hearted.

Hey ho, back to the book, or shall I sample another unsatisfactory viewing experience (the interior light reflecting me onto the screen, combined with the person in front leaning their chair all the way back does make it the film equivalent of that tinny noise you hear off someone else’s headphones (in the days of Walkmans). Now people just play it at you so you can envy their mobiles...

Even typing is hard when this close up. I guess I have to declare the apples and peanuts I have in my bag, and they will probably get confiscated (sigh) but being in the overhead locker I really can’t get at them and eat them before arriving...

I remember getting stopped going from California to Arizona, and being forced to eat the oranges out of my rucksack, if I didn’t want to leave them at the border...back in the 70s... but I don’t remember declaring illegal import of fruit and vegetables since. Perhaps Florida has different rules from California...

Just set my watch to Orlando time, but it won’t help a lot if they sit me down to sign hundreds of photos for crew and the Official Pix shop. I got RSI last time I attempted that in Indianapolis. One day at a time...

Time seems to be passing OK....given that I only stood up once in the last 5 hours...
I elected for the recent Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr, not something intended to go to the cinema to see.

Jude Law, too, of course (Watson taller than Holmes). Plenty of Guy Ritchie gimmicks, most of which are very amusing, but I really do get tired of cgi awfully quickly (either find a location or build a huge set, to impress me). It detracts from any sense of peril at all (and why is gravity so hard to simulate? Anyone?

Still, it was a couple of hours of anyone’s life, and all reasonably amusing, especially as it had all the fun of black magic, while holding onto Holmes’ (and my) rational universe. A series of (improbable, Magic Christian) conjuring tricks, bribed folks, and other sub plots…including Moriarty with an agenda of his own…

An amusing couple of hours though, because I like Mr Downey (although he truly reminded me of Emil Wolk in this particular guise…) Emil was my first clown mentor.

Ahem. Orlando airport was a shambles, it took three hours to get out. They had had a system down scenario, and the backlog was evident.


I don't want to detail those hours right now. I finally (finally!) arrived at the hotel, only to feel like Mafia Royalty. Swimming pools, palm trees, Florida posh hotel. I'd normally be in the cheapest little beat room in the red-light district or whatever.

So life continues to throw contrasts at me, and I get to roam through the spectrum of 'how others live'. That was possibly the joy I had in the 70s as I worked in the role of jester/clow/comedy juggler/workshop leader - and found myself entertaining street parties in Liverpool one day (they put us up in a squat) and a children's party at the Peruvian Embassy (or whatever) the next. I did sleazy banquet gigs, but also spent the weekend as an invited guest at Knebworth House, sitting around the pool with minor aristocrats, and people who ran big stores in London, etc. Contrast. Doing a free gig in a children's hospital one day, and attempting to entertain a coachload of Coca-Cola executives the next.

Don't get me started, this is autobiography material.

Didn't see the others just yet, so scored a bottle of red and logged onto hotel internet.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

mis-attributed jokes

"God is a comedian performing for an audience that is too afraid to laugh." - Voltaire

Or did Nietzsche write that? The Internet seems unsure...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nothing New

Julie has pointed out to me how rarely I update this blog.

I don't want it to turn into just another empty vessel cast adrift like the Marie Celeste on the ocean of internet - the flotsam and jetsam of abandoned sites, great ideas that withered away, ambitions that faded.

I'd prefer to take it down than that.

Still, it proved useful over the last decade, as a diary and such, but I have expanded my repetoire, and my blog count, and seem to have a specialised one for most of my interests, so this 'generalist' one gets neglected, and maybe I only update once a month or so.

Here's a selection (not a definitive list, but indicating the variety):
  • Intelligence Increase (a blog about magic, cons, scams, manipulation, etc)
  • Right...Well... (created as a temporary notepad for my attempt to write a film script in a month - with Script Frenzy - I have decided to keep it on as my 'creative writing' blog)
  • Anon the Librarian (created as part of my demo to people at work of the use of modern social networking and publishing media)
  • Ty Cariad (supports the website for the cottage, while it is being rented out as a holiday destination)
  • Only Maybe (a collaborative blog I established for students and graduates of the Maybe Logic Academy)

Those are all on Blogger, but I put this e-Tutor one on WordPress, when experimenting as part of my Net Trainers course.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Pen Names

Although (and of course) a lot of the fun of the Internet arises from using avatars and sock puppets and other simulations, masks and disguises...I have begun to map the various places 'I' have set up camp.

It may turn out that I don't want people to make all the connections (different hats for different sub-personalities), so the final hyper-linked map may remain just for my own use, but to give you an idea, here is the board with Post-It Notes that I am using to begin to trace all the places I use. Every now and then I get an "Aha!" moment and have to add another whole thread...

Without this, some blogs just become empty vessels, messages in bottles drifting helplessly on the cybertides; websites become boringly out-of-date and redundant, etc.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Here, there and everywhere

I don't come to this blog as often as I used to - it's been around a long time.

I have all kinds of other online presence, and sometimes I forget to keep all the balls in the air.

What I like about this one remains that I can dig back through it like old diaries.

A simple keyword in the Blog Search, like "Paris" takes me back to 2008 (Maybe Logic meet-up), 2004 (Paris Star Wars convention), 2002 (First visit to Paris with the Star Wars group), etc.

I will be heading off to Denmark tomorrow - for a long weekend...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wanna simple domain name?

The clunky old address came for free with my ISP, and they have since changed from ntlworld to Virgin, without changing their URLs, and all that. But will find me.

I decided to take a free domain name from - this remains free so long as you have (I think it is) 25 visits per month or something. Anyway, I used it, and eventually decided to upgrade to the paid domain name, because it seems like a good cause to help people whose island just might disappear if the oceans keep rising, for instance. And, anyway, I love that each country got its own little part of the Internet.

TK = Tokelau.

According to that Wiki piece "Tokelau has added more than 10% to its GDP through registrations of domain names under its top-level domain, .tk"

So click on the image below, if you want to find out more...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's too damned quiet!

If anyone wondered where I went (I doubt it) then you should know I have written a film script in the last fortnight.

I didn't say it was any good (or even finished) but I completed the first draft in half the time allotted by Script Frenzy.

Here's my entry page on Script Frenzy - already at the 100 page mark, as planned for the end of April.

To help me focus, I started a separate blog for the Script process, and may keep it going for writing projects generally.

You can find that here: Right...well...

Friday, April 09, 2010

Busking and Hat Fairs

The Raree Show - Crissie on clarinet, Clown Jules, John Trigger on stilts It was great to hear from Mike Dean the other day. He's the man behind the original Covent Garden Hat Fairs (1973/4) - long before the 'official busking for tourists' that you now see.

When I was a kid the theatre queues around Covent Garden had entertainers to amuse them while they waited to go in. The tradition had faded, but quite a few of us had started to rebuild the busking tradition. I did juggling, magic, acrobatics and fire-eating - working solo, as well as with The Raree Show, and with Justin Case (as Foolproof).

While Covent Garden was still a fruit and vegetable market, and an unusual and atmospheric place (working through the night, pubs open at dawn, etc) Mike got permission for people to busk anywhere within the area for a couple of days a year. No booking in advance, no payment, no auditions for quality and very little supervision. Wonderful, joyous anarchy in the streets.
Toby juggling fire sticks

A culture clash (and local politics) eventually drove the Hat Fair away, but it landed in Winchester and has thrived for 36 years now. London's loss, as far as I am concerned.

Winchester Hat Fair.

Anyway, Mike is writing something about the period, and was digging around for stories and photos, etc. On my website I had quoted a delightful impressionistic piece by Gerard Benson (Poet Laureate of Bradford) which appeared in the New Statesman at the time - Hats in the air.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Clocks go forward - it's gonna be later than you think

Of course, when I won't get any sleep anyway I start playing on the Web.

All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives.
Don’t know how it all got started,
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives.

If you know Dylan, then you know the lyrics of Tangled Up In Blue by heart, so you can enjoy him just grinning through it live on a fan video from 1999 (he does a good live show, with a great band, as ever)...

If you still don't understand what he said (like yer dad) or what he did to lyrics (not just words, or 'poetry') then you can read them (hear) as subtitles here.

And if that just don't do it for you, try K T Tunstall really storming the whole thing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


The countdown is already getting like the clock on the bomb at the end of the movie, when the hero tries to guess whether to cut the red or the blue wire.

It's not so much a device for blowing people up, as for winding up the tension for a climax.

It actually allows you to put a clock on the screen (but editors manipulate 'real time').

Why do you find me mumbling to myself? Well, I have made half a commitment to take part in Script Frenzy, and I suspect a bit of planning might prove more important with a screenplay, than with a novel.

And I haven't done any planning, and April looms.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Writing for the hell of it...

Didn't pass the audition

Well, I didn't make the first cut at CreateSpace (the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) but wasn't entirely surprised as I entered on a whim, and didn't really understand what I had to do to 'pitch' it, having never written to an agent or publisher, etc.

I am so diffident that (without looking back) I suspect I said I had written it in a hurry, done very little editing, felt rather pleased with myself, etc. Well, no, actually, I described it as an adrenaline-free book, a gentle soul...

[oh, OK, I'll dig out what I wrote some time - the first odd thing about the set-up was the lack of confirming emails when uploading - to the point that I began to feel unsure I had even entered successfully...]

Waiting to hear

Anyway - it was fun to join the countdown, and read all the forum entries, although some people seem to suffer real angst (like people who enjoy the rush of the lottery numbers announcement followed by the almost universal disappointment). I got a little excited, but not a lot - I prefer surprising success to over-optimism followed by depression.

Still, some people obviously put a lot into this, and hope to write their way out of poverty, or give up the day job, etc - and I simply don't expect that sort of thing to happen. If I could write something people enjoyed, and maybe make a little pin-money, I would be perfectly blissed out!

Been there, done that

Mick dreamed of writing his way into a livelihood, and got very down about his 'failure'. You have to be tough to take such rejection. It's why I could never be an actor or a chorus dancer, endlessly attending auditions, then going back to waiting at tables. It would destroy me. I got into show-biz by learning something unusual, then going out to offer it on street corners as a solo performer. Of course, the roaming public are critics, too, but they simply don't have to pay you, they don't have to analyse why. And if you enjoy what you do (I loved juggling) you can do it anyway without an audience. At the moment I write for my own amusement.

Oh, and I self-published the best cut I could make of Mick's book, too. Another Kinda Time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Writing by Numbers

I did some inventory work for the library yesterday, and found myself doing the Crime, Mysteries and Thrillers section.

I see a lot of post-Dan-Brown books - keywords: conspiracy, secret societies, etc.

Perhaps I should try one of those. Let's see, I'll need some kind of formula. It won't be easy for me because even though you can avoid sex scenes (the same way old sci-fi used to) you can't avoid death, and preferably torture, sadism, disfigurement and a lot of other stuff far beyond tying your heroine to a railway line - which I may find hard to write.

However - I can't give up before starting, so, let's see. I'll need these elements:

  • Famous Location(s) - Tourist attractions, cathedrals, special cities, etc. which might (or might not) like the publicity your book generates.
  • Famous People of the past - Who's been done? Mozart (Freemasons), Van Gogh, Gaudi, Da Vinci (or rather Leonardo) of course, Jesus and Mary, Shakespeare, Kennedy Bros, Elvis, Marilyn.
  • Imaginary organisations (or imaginative alternative uses for existing ones) or very secret societies - [eldritch rising organ music]
  • Scary events - Bond villain plans for the world – religious prophecies – natural catastrophes – alien invasion – ritual murder – abduction
  • Alternative Historical interpretations of source of civilization/religion, etc
  • Money (almost infinite resources to jump on planes, etc)
  • Religion - and esoteric belief systems of magic(k) or witchcraft
  • Espionage – codes and cyphers
  • A MacGuffin everyone is looking for (manuscripts, formula, Holy Grail, magic spear, etc)
  • Ingenious methods (technology from Q, magic from Jonathan Creek)
  • a couple of investigators - partly qualified but a little out of their depth
  • some innocents dragged into the whole thing – often in jeopardy
  • plenty of disposable villains (for getting their come-uppance)
  • the Grinning Sadist – boss’s sidekick or lone wolf?
  • a worthy opponent for our heros (curiously charming - but dangerous - Big Boss, or terrifyingly unhinged tyrant)
  • Special helpers (Mycroft Holmes, professors, etc) - usually die, too
  • Anonymous super-rich people (malign or benign) – provided with helicopters, forts, wodges of cash, etc
  • Celebrities (who, like police and spies, have access all areas – assistants, second homes, etc – disadvantage – easily recognised)

One obvious advantage of 'professors' is that they can lecture the protagonists with all the author’s research notes – just as they can explain their own specialities ad nauseum.

Although our protagonists should feel attracted to each other, for a little sexual frisson, they should be too busy running for their lives to actually find time to get it on, as they might in a bodice-ripper – and if you really want to make the goodie angry, try killing the woman he intended to commit to (leaving him an embittered but free bachelor for the next book).

It used to suffice to have a killing for murder mysteries, but jaded palates mean that you now have to have at least a serial killer, ideally a child killer, and perhaps multiple rapist as well (if you can sneak in the paedophile ring of respectable people, even better). The grinning sadist fits well in here. If even that doesn’t suffice you may have to escalate to genocide and dictators to give the reader a thrill, or even the end of the world and the human race.

Best to try to avoid farce at this point (DNA's starting point for H2G2 is the Earth being blown up by a Vogon Constructor Fleet developing a hyperspace bypass).

I guess if I want to make people squirm and curl their toes, without describing the torture of humans, I may have to do a very graphic scene in an abattoir, maybe.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another novel idea

You don't see me much in here, but that's because I work on several blogs and forums, etc - not because this blog has died!

I came across The Blooker Prize today - originally a Lulu idea, for books based on blogs or websites, etc.

Their blog may prove more informative, as that new site still has some dead links, etc.

Cory Doctorow remains good value, as ever - so worth at least a quick look at the blog.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Some radio alternatives for when at the computer

Spiritplants Radio

Radio Free Amsterdam - (with John Sinclair - and sometimes DJ Fly Agaric)

GD Radio - (Grateful Dead and more)

MacVooty Radio (Slim Gaillard)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writing On...

The piece I wrote in the novel-writing competition – NaNoWriMo - needs a LOT of work...and I have done a bit of thinking about it, but haven’t seriously ripped it apart to attempt a re-write, yet.

I decided to send a brief version of my story into the BBC ‘My Story’ competition, why not? Just keep on practising. So you can see “Amusing and Amazing Myself” posted up, under Achievement (see link above). I didn’t feel entirely happy with the category, but I didn’t really fit into any of the others available. I feel a bit sheepish, aligning myself with dyslexics who wrote books, paraplegic athletes, and the currently very-popular-with-publishers “survivors of traumatic childhoods”...but hey.

Another strange thing.

I always like ‘learning by doing’, so have experimented with Lulu Print-On-Demand, knowing full well that I wouldn’t expect to sell any books (I don’t kid myself about having any kind of profile in the internet) except for the ones I buy myself, to get hard copies in my hands, or to give to friends or family.

I say all that because I discovered something strange yesterday. I had put a price on the various books I have published, as a series of experiments in formats (spiral bound, large paperback, small paperback, etc) – and the price mostly just covered the actual cost to Lulu. As I wasn’t expecting to sell any, there didn’t seem much point in marking it up. And I made downloading PDF copies FREE.

I buy my own copies at cost, of course.

But then I went onto the site, and rummaged around in the account, to find to my amazement that three of the books have been downloaded (free) more than a hundred times. Astonishing! Would that have happened if I had charged a quid? I doubt it. Free downloads are so easy that there is no guarantee that anyone who downloaded stuff has actually read the things.

Still, it’s surprising to me.

[Update: 26th January: although all the tax requirements of CreateSpaces offer of a free draft copy stopped me applying - I still use Lulu - I decided to put Infinite Monkeys (from 2008) into the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Why not? It's all a learning curve, including rejections.]

Wish me luck for round one after February 7th!

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