Monday, October 20, 2014
As half term rumbles over the horizon alongside full metal jacket and half nelson, I break from my routine Monday blogger's generation of new material to regurgitate an old furball, all in the hope that excitement and fun may be brought to your day, dear reader, as I suffer horribly at the hands of fate.
To quote Emerson, "those who have nostrils will remember; those who owned pre-War wardrobes too tiny to host a pair of skinny jeans let alone a suit will clutch at throat and gasp for air."
I love it when Emerson played evocative instead of his usual brain hack poseur.
Anyhow, you'll be wanting your blog post, won't you?
Here's one from August 2011...
Weird things happen on crowded train journeys.
I never meant to make one yesterday; it was supposed to be a regular journey complete with space to stretch my legs and no requirement that I be breathed on from a distance of less than six inches by a fat woman whose ludicrous layers of slap somehow failed to disguise a Tolkienesque beard.
But so it goes with trains.
It only takes one points failure, one delayed connection, for an otherwise pleasant experience to be transformed into a weird kind of torture. Add to that a dead husky sled team on the line and you’re talking torture orchestrated by a sadist savant.
So as everyone is jockeying for space in the aisle — those fortunate enough to have bagged a seat pretending to be more disabled/ill/dead than those standing — this old black guy sidles up.
Actually, ‘guy’ is the wrong word — he’s more of a gent.
Struggling to hit 5' 6", he’s dressed in a smart jacket midway between lime and sage with a neatly folded handkerchief sitting elegantly in the top pocket. His trousers are pressed, his shoes are smart, and atop his head is a straw boater — all of which gives him the appearance of a man bound for Havana rather than Walsall.
He perches his slender backside on the edge of a table, somehow managing to maintain his poise and composure among the assembled throng of the twisted and stiff, and had it not been for his distinctive scent, my curiosity would have passed on to some other traveller, maybe flitting back to my mystery gent from time to time but certainly not remaining with him for most of the journey.
It was an odour I haven’t encountered for thirty-odd years — an unmistakable whiff from days gone by when football shorts were made of real cotton and chafed the insides of your thighs.
This smart little gent smelled of mothballs.
I’m tempted to ask what became of mothballs but I suppose the answer is obvious because they make your clothes stink. But it does beg the question: whatever happened to moths? Why did they stop inhabiting cupboards and wardrobes some time around 1977? Personally, I blame nylon underwear.
While my nostrils are busy processing this new old information, arranging it next to the ming of sweaty bra, bearded lady and inevitable egg and cress sandwich, Mr Havana takes out a book and proceeds to read, his hands cupping its hardback cover like a polished lecturn. It’s a book about trades and shares — a very ‘on the money’ topic given the number of world economies suddenly on the skids. Problem is, it looks like it’s been lifted from the dusty back shelf of a failing Oxfam where it’s resided for the past half a century between the 1911 Pears Cyclopaedia and a margerine carton full of ear wax bound for Ethiopia.
The remainder of my uncomfortable journey lasts another half an hour and I can’t take my eyes off this strange man. He doesn’t move and he doesn’t shuffle about but I can tell by the slight shrinkage of his jacket and the fixity of his knees that he’s working very hard to maintain this posture, poised on the edge of a table on a crowded train with book in hand. He reads it with a studious look on his face, like he’s weighing up these facts and figures of yesteryear and applying his new-found knowledge to today’s financial woes. There are graphs, which he traces with his finger like he was stroking a fluffy caterpillar prone to eczema, and he goes back to the words again and again as if re-evaluating their import in light of insights flashing beneath his boater.
All the way to Walsall, in a haze of mothballs, he reads
This out-of-date hardback book about trades and shares.
All the way from page 7 to page 7.
When the train finally groans its way into the station, I’m tempted to follow him, to see where he goes, but having been barred from the loo for the final part of my journey thanks to the crush, I badly need a wee.
Disappointed to let this curious chap slip away, I follow the bearded lady into the Gents...
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Monday, October 13, 2014
Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m no great fan of technology when it comes to the act of writing.
I don’t believe any arbitrarily designed software will help me to sort my material better than my own capacity to organise my thoughts and the links between them. Truth told, I think the people over at Scrivener ought to rename it Straitjacket.
As for hardware, I’m with the many philosophers, neuroscientists and discount horse meat vendors who assert that “the brain is the most complex piece of matter in the universe,” so I’m glad to trust the generations, associations and manipulations of my own grey matter over any amount of finite resources that the good folks from Apple seem hellbent on reconstituting as shiny, unaffordable wank.
And smartphones? Fine as long as you have no inclination to be forever declining (or being enslaved by) ALERT after ALERT for zilcho.
That said, there is one good thing to have come out of the populist technological advance now preparing the ground for cyborg-pumped Singularity Central — something that makes it easier to be a fully functioning writer out there in the wild.
Back in the day, it was impossible to innocently inhabit the corner of a pub (or a café or a park or maybe a shallow duck pond), equipped to the hilt with all you could ever need to help you morph thoughts into words, and NOT be assailed by The Dumbfounded.
“What are you doing?”
“What for? Is it a diary?”
“What are you doing?”
“About ME? It’s about me, isn’t it? Why are you writing ABOUT ME?”
Then The Dumbfounded would sit down, or ask to read what you’d written, or otherwise not fuck off and leave you the hell alone. No kidding, in my time I’ve been more surrounded by bodies than a busking hermaphrodite beating out Bohemian Rhapsody on a guitar with its zest-gorged undercarriage.
These days, everyone is more than familiar with the concept of people perfectly happy to ignore what’s going on around them — all thanks to the genius of the technoJobsworths who have shrunk horizons onto screens the size of a vain harlot’s compact mirror.
With their noses wedged between canyons of worthless gems, or their attention grabbed by some stranger-buddy’s cats giving birth in a newly redecorated kitchen on the other side of the globe, the Previously What For? Brigade flout all the rules of social conduct ever established by mankind, occasionally “levelling up” audibly or accidentally ordering ten grand’s worth of hamster bedding while ogling photos of naked acrobats.
For writers in public spaces intent on being left alone to write, this new development is a dream come true.
Glory, glory! The Dumbfounded have found New Dumb.
(As a bonus, shotguns and strangling equipment remain unpurchased; snug room lino plays host to no gallons of blood.)
And so I sit, unencumbered and unhindered, before the max brightness glare of my local ale hostelry, subjecting thoughts to paper with a view to spewking them out online a week from now.
How blissful it is not to be secreted at the edge or in the bowels — I hide here in plain sight, undigested by owls.
Monday, October 6, 2014
You’re familiar with mash-ups, right?
Armed wrestlers from the US State Department’s Overweight & Dangerous Special Reserve Squadron descend on your home and sit on your face till it turns to a pulp.
What’s weird about mash-ups is the way they sound like they’re amorphous and pulpy, where in reality what makes them work are the distinct edges between the ingredients mashed.
Given that you can theoretically mash anything with anything, the world will never run out of ideas.
It would probably take us till the end of time (or at very least, 2483) to mash together everything we already have, ticking every combinatioral box for Anything 1 + Anything 2.
Then (assuming time really is infinite after all) we could take all of our newly created mash-ups — our new anythings — and start throwing those together, and so on.
Who knows — maybe then infinity would bow out and make way for the sequel.
So, next time you’re stuck on something, don’t imagine that you lack ideas (or the capacity to generate them).
As human beings, we’re born to +.
All hinges on the assemblage of anythings, and the purpose awaiting the eventual mash-up.
That’s where French mathematician Henri Poincaré had it right all those years ago when he grew a fine beard off the back of pondering the Combinatorial.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
In my youth, I watched political party conferences with the fervour of a born-again Christian knitting Cliff Richard dolls for the deaf.
Older and wiser now, I lounge in my recliner beside a bathtub brimming with peeled anchovies, firing tiny morsels of fish at my 48" HD screen with a 1/16 replica of a medieval catapult while I scream words chosen randomly from Gray’s Anatomy.
Yup, it’s called progress...
Monday, September 29, 2014
Every word you write is a YAH! HAH! WHAH! at the concrete block held nervously by your Shaolin temple master.
Every sentence you construct is a HAAAAH! HWAAAAR! YEEEEEE! smack on the pressure points of your hooded assailants.
Every paragraph you complete is a WHAAAAAAAR! HI-YAAAAAAAR! EEEEEEEEEEEE! delivered as a single paralyzing blow to the tattooed, shuriken-hurling madman before you.
Every chapter you craft is a WAAAAAAIIIIEEEE! YAAAAAAAAAAAAA! HIEEEE-AAAAAAAAA! kicked and punched, Nuryev-like, at the snarling faces of the flick-flacking Triad Queen gymnasts encircling you.
Every novel you finish is a HEEEE-YAAAAAAAA-IEEEEEE! HWAAAAA-HAAAAAA! YAAAA-HIIII-EEEEEEEEEEE!, stunning in its uncompromising ability to terminally rupture every organ, every blood vessel, of the rhinoskin-clad ninja death squad whirling its assemblage of razor-sharp swords inches from your heroically bared six pack.
No way, Ho Tse!
According to none other than Bruce Lee (that’s “Mr Actual Kung Fu” to you, my friends,), it’s important for all of us to “be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
In other words, avoid vague imagery — and hire a decent fucking editor.
As writers, it’s also important that we wear zany loon pants while putting pen to paper.
I’ve thoroughly researched this online, and although the one killer reference still eludes me, I just know in my heart that it feels so goddamn right.
So, whatever you’re writing today, PANT UP and have at it like you’re Captain Maim Cripple & Kill himself, flying through the air in slow motion with a HIIII-EEEEEEEEE! HWAAAAAH! YAAAAAAAAAAAA!
Writing IS Kung Fu fighting. And you know it.