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...
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