Archive for April, 2010

Fabrika exhibition, Leicester

April 29, 2010 Leave a comment

While I’m thinking about it, I should mention my friend Chris Cafferkey (also see Chriscaff on WordPress) has three photos in the open exhibition at Fabrika/The Art Organisation in Leicester.

This runs until 16 May – I was down there yesterday when stuff was being hung, and even half-done it looked a pretty damn fine exhibition. They already had some good oils, acrylics, and a couple of intriguing mixed-media pieces. Then there’s Chris’s photos (which I’d gone down to deliver for her), plus they were telling me at least half a dozen other artists had supplied work that should be up by now.

In other news: the electricity supply company has been wanting to change my meter for a couple of months and the meter-changing guy arrived today. Only thing was, it’s an outside meter. And halfway through the job, it started to rain heavily. Hmm… electric and water… I ended up standing over him with an umbrella, and reassuring him that I do have a current first aid certificate in case of need!


Advice to someone I know

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently read Boxy an Star by Daren King. I picked it up in a charity shop, incidentally, and it’s marked as withdrawn stock from a prison library. There’s a scene in it where the two main characters, both chronic pillheads, decide to write rules for how to live their life – like ‘open the curtains when it is light and close them when it is dark’.

Below is my version of advice to a young man I know who, to put it mildly, has a troubled life and a great deal of difficulty coping with it… written in a way that is maybe familiar to the kind of person who might want to live by these rules? For US readers (if I have any!) where it says ‘mobile’ read ‘cellphone’, and ‘pissed’ means drunk not angry (though could equally well mean both…).

If anyone thinks it’s useful (or even amusing) feel free to print, distribute, repost (preferably with an attribution) etc etc.!

Rools for how to live and b safe

Get up when it is day go 2 bed when it is nite. That way u can go to shops and doctor and stuff wen they are OPEN.

Remember wot day it is. Doctors and drugs workers and stuff dont open satdays and sundays.

Dont spliff up during the day u will never get any thing dun.

Take the pillz wot the doctor give u and NOT other pillz. REMEMBER where u put them MAKE SURE u no how many and when u take them. ALSO DONT DRINK wen youre taking pillz NOT EVEN DOCTOR PILLZ cos last time u did that u went mental and got arrested and coud of ended up in hospital dead.

Wen u get a problem like tooth ache SORT IT OUT cos if u dont u end up in pain and raving and then u drink and evry thing turns to shit. AND u still hav the problem. AND if u got arrested u got more problems.

Dont spend any money till u have payed rent and bills and put lectric on the meter and stuff other wise u will not b able to pay the rent and get thrown out. Or else u will get cut off or get a summons and bad shit happen.

Dont let nob heds in your place they reck it and use it as a doss house and steel yor stuff.

Dont let nob heds no where u live they will cum round and brake yor winders wen theyre pissed or high.

If nob heds steel stuff dont go round there place brake there winders fite them cos u get arrested 4 it. And they get to keep wot they stole.

If sumwun thinks they are yor best frend after 5 mins and u were pissed or stoned wen u met them – theyre a NOB HED.

If sumwun cums round yor place and u didnt invite them or tell them where u live and may be u dont remember meeting them – theyre a NOB HED.

Dont go to clubs and stuff cos then u drink and get pissed and get into fights even if u dont start them other peeple do and u end up in hospital or arrested.

Always no where yor mobile is AND have credit on it AND dont thro it around and brake it cos then u cant call anyone 4 help and they cant call u 2 help.

Letters in the post means offishul stuff wot needs to be opened and kept safe and take it to yor counsler to xplane wot it meens and deel with it.

Everything’s normal…

April 20, 2010 6 comments

It just struck me I haven’t posted here for over a week. Nothing momentous to report, no flashes of insight into the meaning of life, just solid nose-to-the-grindstone work.
Well, sort of. I’ve been marking distance learning scripts and musing about how we can motivate students. I’ve had conversations with others involved in the marking, to discover that ideas I put forward at the back end of last year are actually under active development. I just didn’t know about it because the person doing the development work is one of my colleagues who has more computer skills (the developments I suggested involved setting up various forums and website add-ons that are his expertise, not mine).
I’ve finished off and dusted down a short story, sent it off to its uncertain and fragile future. It’s a strange one for me in that it’s not horror or scifi or fantasy, but based on a conversation I had with a very depressed person and some of the more or less standard self-help advice that’s on offer. The advice, generally speaking, is very good: it revolves around realising that the world isn’t perfect, there isn’t a binary ‘everything’s perfect/everything’s shit’ scenario, and if you don’t succeed that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. There may be room for improvement but you can also take credit for what you have achieved. The ‘USP’ of the story is someone for whom the advice brings unanticipated results. Not having written anything quite like it before, I had to do quite a bit of poking about on to find a possible market, and we’ll see. If the place I sent it to don’t like it, I haven’t failed, just not succeeded yet. But I probably won’t find out for months.
In the in-between times I caught a programme on BBC about young and struggling artists, and another one on fashion photography in the 60s.
The first tried to open up the question of ‘what is art’. One of the lessons aspiring artists are taught, apparently, is that they need to be able to network, talk about their work and explain what their art is about – what it ‘means’. And it struck me that if you could do this and the explanation was sufficient, what would be the point of the art? On the one hand, there’s a qualitative difference between, say, being told that an artwork is ‘about’ some issue or concept, and seeing the actual product, the real object, with your own eyes. Art often does ‘make a statement’ but it’s not necessarily one that can be easily encapsulated in language. Surely that’s the point?
The second programme wasn’t ‘about’ the point I took from it. There was a segment of maybe ten seconds in which someone contracted Allen Jones with Brian Duffy – the former an artist who made strange, fetishistic artworks but was generally regarded as extremely sensible and normal in his private life, and the latter a photographer whose work was widely seen as exciting but in many ways ‘straight’ though whose mental processes and social relationships were (apparently, but I haven’t read up on this so I’m relying on what was said) very strange. The point was that it’s not possible to make an assumption that strange work is made by strange people. Zen-like poise can be the product of chaotic turmoil and vice versa.
Quite what I want to do with this insight I don’t know. But it already sounds like the starting proposition for a story. I’ll add it to the list – I’m slowly plodding through ‘to do’ list of things I’ve been meaning to write, some of them for months now.

The cycle of life (and the uses of knowledge)

April 11, 2010 Leave a comment

[Don’t read this if easily grossed out!]

We compost. Compared to most people in the neighbourhood we put out very little rubbish because most of what we eat is fresh rather than prepacked (the local market is excellent), and we recycle a lot (old yoghourt cartons become pots for seedlings, etc.).
The compost pile is coming on rather well and we should have good, rich material to put down on the vegetable beds. Among the things we compost are:
– knowledge and information, in the shape of shredded paper – old hard copies of tax documents, bank statements, etc. and anything paper that could be used for identity fraud if it was found in a rubbish tip.
– ourselves, in the shape of vacuum cleaner contents. OK, so that’s going to include dust mites and their droppings as well as flakes of our own dead skin and hair but you get the idea.
So in short, along with potato peelings and the like we’ll be consuming, in a suitably transformed way, ourselves and various aspects of our biographies.
Unfortunately our pet rat died last year. The contents of his cage, when we cleaned it out, used to fire up the compost bin really well but it seems a little extravagant to get another pet rat purely on this basis. And no, when he died he didn’t get composted – sentimental fools that we are, he was buried in the garden under what is now a flourishing patch of cowslips.

The ad execs’ conspiracy exposed!

April 9, 2010 Leave a comment

The secret is out. Advertising execs, scriptwriters and producers are rebelling against the yoke of capitalist tyranny!
Seriously though, I’m noticing a lot of TV ads these days (actually it’s being going on for a while, but it’s got me particularly amused at the moment) where things happen, or music is on the soundtrack, that is totally inappropriate to the image you might expect the adverts to convey.
Two examples.
There’s an ad for some financial product that involves a pile of banknotes that becomes a sort of glove puppet creature on a stage, singing. It opens its arms wide and notes fly off and flutter around it. Now: if I’m buying a financial product I want one that gathers up all the banknotes and keeps them safe, not one that throws them around in operatic abandonment for bankers to pick up when I’m not looking.
Another one is for a sofa company. It has a bouncy, upbeat song on the soundtrack: Lily Allen, LDN (presumably textspeak for London, which is what the song is about). First part of the chorus, which is what they play: ‘Sun is in the sky oh why oh why / Would I wanna be anywhere else?’ However the song continues, in the segment they don’t play (but which I and many other people would know): ‘Everything seems nice / But if you look twice / you can see it’s all lies.’ So I’m sitting watching the advert and thinking ‘Hmm, that’s radical: they’re actually advertising the fact they tell lies about their products.’
I’d tell you which bank and which sofa company these ads are for – except I can’t tell you, because I can’t recall these bits of information. Maybe that in itself tells you something about how good or how bad advertising is these days.
I’ve cited these two, but I’m pretty sure you can find similar off-key connotations or meanings in almost any advert running.
Explanations: (1) advertising producers/copywriters/executives have the attention span and cultural awareness of dwarf hamster (2) they know they’re doing it but don’t care, and the companies hiring them have the attention span and cultural awareness of (etc.) (3) the one I like best, they’re doing it deliberately because they’re all protesting against the existentialist paradox of being paid to give boxes of breakfast cereals or whatever more personality and meaning than they possess themselves (4) the one I like least, they do it because they cynically figure 99% of the population won’t have the wit to deconstruct the ads.
If I’m honest, explanations 1, 2 and 4 are probably the real ones – though I still like number 3, and I suspect number 4 is actually incorrect – there’s a reasonable amount of evidence that people are very media-savvy and cynical these days.


April 3, 2010 1 comment

I’ll most likely be offline for a few days. Illness in the family, we’re going to drive 200 or so miles and do whatever useful things we can do when we get there…
[edit, a couple of hours later] Belay that: we can apparently be more useful when she’s out of hospital and needs caring for at home. There will be likely be days of not being near a PC sometime later in the week…

Categories: Uncategorized

The chaos theory of blogging…

April 2, 2010 Leave a comment

The other day I was reading a friend’s blog, a post that was just a quick this-is-what-my-day-was-like post, ending with ‘how did other people’s day go?’. So I replied, briefly, and said I was working on a new story. Gave headline details of what it was about, just the basic proposition/situation I envisaged for it. My friend replied with a comment on just one incidental point contained in my brief details. But this made me realise that that single point – originally intended as just a bit of context and descriptive colour – was actually the key thing that should drive the story and be the focus of it. Fortunately I was only 1000 words in to something that was only ever intended as about 2500 words, though I don’t know how much of what I’ve written is reusable – but the new focus is very, very cool and if not unique, then certainly only rarely explored.
So it’s one of those cases where a butterfly’s wing of a comment created a mental hurricane that should result in a piece that will be striking and original.

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