Saturday, 2 June 2012

Summer Exhibition 2012, Royal Academy

I like the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy; it usually has such an eclectic mix of different styles and subjects that its virtually impossible not to find something that I like.
Last year I bought something, just a small print which took my fancy, but my small act of supporting the arts got me on the RA buyers list and an invitation to the Buyers day on Thursday,  4 days before the official opening. Having said that, I'm also a Friend of the RA, so have tickets for today's Friends preview as well, but it was nice to get in extra, extra early.
Unfortunately, the only thing that really caught my eye was already sold, but there were some other quirky pieces which were quite fun, in amongst some very unappealing work as well.
I may go back for a second look later in the summer.







I might have bought this, if it hadn't already been snapped up...




Wednesday, 18 April 2012

1000 Words - A writing exercise

As Chuck Wendig says, “ time to load the guns, brew the ink and get to work. Because I am a writer and I’m done fucking around”. Except I’m not a writer. I haven’t written anything since I was at school over 30 years ago. While I’ve read an awful lot of fiction since then, I’ve never actually written any. But its come to the point where I want to write. At least I think I do. I have stories milling around in my head and I’m starting to feel the need to put them on paper. 
I’ve read a lot of writing advice recently, from a broad range of different people, but the one piece of advice from all of them that shines through is, ‘Just get writing”.
Its true, if you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. A dreamer maybe, perhaps still a weaver of tall tales, but not a writer.
As I don’t sit around telling people stories, if I’m going to get some of my thoughts out there, its going to have to be the written word. 
Another piece of advice which I’ve seen pop up an number of times is the idea of “free-form writing”. Just sitting down and writing whatever comes into your head for a set period of time, heedless of punctuation or grammar or even spelling, although on that last point, any half decent word processing package is going to auto correct spelling. 
So, this piece is mainly that, a stream of consciousness, which started with the idea of 1000 words, which seems to me to be a decent enough number for a short story. But truth to tell, I have no idea what a thousand words looks like, or what it feels like to put a thousand words down, one after the other. How long does it take? Will I have enough ideas to keep going for that long. It’s all new to me, or at least it feels that way as I haven’t really done any writing off the top of my head for so long.
I do write at work. Synopsis of financial market conditions, recommendations for deals that my clients should do. But there isn’t any real imagination in that, no real personal input required. Much of it is a re-hash of whats going on in the world coupled with some common sense ideas. 
This is different, this is more about “feeling” to my mind, this is about pulling an idea from somewhere; twisting it and torturing it to produce something new, unique.
I’m typing in my kitchen, the weather outside is very changeable, one moment the sun is shining brightly, the next the clouds are blocking out all of the light. The keyboard on my laptop keeps lighting up and dimming down in sympathy with the weather. Its quite surreal. As if the keyboard is recognising when I’m writing well and lighting up in appreciation. I know that isn’t the case, but it’s nice to think along those lines, to throw open the doors of my imagination and not really care about the truth, but just enjoy the idea.
My bookshelves are in the kitchen opposite me and while it’s not the biggest library you’ll ever see, there is a good number of really top notch books. Important books if you like, in as much as any book can really be important. There’s a fair number of trashy pulp novels as well; my reading habits are a broad church.
I wonder how some of the authors in front of me, many dead and gone, started off a book. How did they go about their business? I can see Treasure Island by Stevenson on a high shelf. I’ve not read it since I was a boy, but now I’m wondering how he wrote it, how did he work out the beginning, the middle and the end, but more importantly, how did he make those elements hang together. How to get to the end product; it’s either seat of the pants writing, start at the beginning and see where the story takes you, or have the end worked out and work towards it. 
In writing this, I’m beginning to favour the latter approach. This is all very well, just writing off the cuff, but I have no idea where I’m really going with it, which is not that satisfying, so I’ve no idea where it will end up, except that I’ll cut it off once I get to the 1000 word mark.
I’ve been writing for about 20 minutes now, which is not that long really, and my machine tells me that I’m fast approaching the 800 word mark, which I think is quite a decent effort in such a short space of time. As a piece of work, this is not really going anywhere I know, but it’s an incredibly useful exercise for me, to give the keyboard on my laptop a good workout at the very least, but more to give me an idea of what a huge pile of words I need to produce to tell a story. It’s what I set out to do when I opened up the machine and started typing away; just to get a feel for what such a large number of words looks like on the screen, what it feels like to write, what it is to just flick off the safety switch on the brain and let it run free. It’s actually quite liberating to just put down some thoughts all in a rush, as they occur, with very little idea as to what the end product will be. I’ve enjoyed it. Whether I’ll enjoy bashing away at the keys when I actually have a purpose in mind, a story to write, is a different matter, but to throw a cliche into the mix, thats a bridge I’ll have to cross when I come to it. 
Thats it, I’ve just passed a 1000 words, in little over half an hour. At least now I know what I’m up against

Saturday, 25 February 2012

It's oh so quiet...


Having one of these nights...
3.30am, my eyes are tired but my brain isn't.

Still, it's nice and peaceful outside just now, so actually quite pleasant sitting here catching up on things i've been meaning to read all week

Courtesy of xkcd.com

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

I'm giving up religious tomfoolery for lent

Thats it, I’ve had enough.
It’s bad enough that we’re having to put up with a minority Tory government cocking up the NHS, but the recent religious nonsense from them has been getting on my nerves.
The High Court ruling against pre-meeting prayers at Bideford council was always going to be contentious, but the outpouring of utter drivel since has just been nauseating.
I’ll pass over the nonsense spouted on the ruling by Lord Carey, the ex Archbishop of Canterbury, as he’s since headed off in a distinctly Homophobic direction, but suffice to say that on this particular matter, he indulged in some pretty pathetic scare-mongering

Baroness Warsi, an unelected member of a barely elected government, during a recent state sponsored shopping trip to Rome where she met the Pope, seized on the Bideford ruling in a pathetic attempt to create a “secular fundamentalist" bogeyman, gave a speech on how nasty “militant secularism” was seeking an end to a thousand years of religious privilege, (of which the Papacy has been a particular beneficiary), at the same time calling for Europe to be ‘more confident in its Christianity”.
Now, I’d like to think that the good Baroness was speaking with all good intent, but as a Muslim she must have been aware that the last time Europeans were “more confident in their Christianity”, several hundred thousand soldiers engaged in 300 years of crusades in the Holy Land, with a Papal blessing of course.
But the good Baroness sat down with the Pope, and they both agreed that there should be more faith in public life.
However, I can’t help thinking that during the meeting, the Pope would have been sitting there thinking, “Muslim; she’s going to hell”, while, at the same time, the Baroness would have been thinking, “Christian; he’s going to hell”. The hypocrisy would be laughable, if it wasn’t so pathetic. In an effort to hold on to it’s dwindling influence, religion always seems to be ready to make a Faustian pact.

Moving on from that utter waste of taxpayers money, enter Eric Pickles, who also “does God” like Baroness Warsi. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the Baroness replaced Mr Pickles as Chairman of the conservatives when he got the gig as secretary of State for communities and local government.
David Cameron does like his religious folk
The right honourable Eric Pickles wants to use his Localism Act 2011, which he brought into effect early, to reverse the High Court decision in the Bideford council prayer ruling.
How much of an abuse of power is that?

It is clear to me that, despite acknowledging our Christian heritage, we are no longer generally a religiously observant nation, yet a government minister wants to use the law to force a religious agenda onto local councils because he thinks thats what everyone wants.

As I said at the start, I’ve had enough.

There is a ridiculous level of religious posturing from the Tory element of the current coalition government. I like living in a secular state. Religion should have no part in government and I for one want to keep it that way.

Baroness Warsi wants a stronger Christian influence in society, because that will make it easier to demand a greater Islamic involvement, all in the name of equality.

Eric Pickles shouldn’t be allowed to use a secular law to force religion back into local council life.

These people need to be taken to task

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A New Year...Time for change

I've never been one for New year's resolutions, but I think I'll make a few changes for 2012; try to make time for those things which I'd like to do, but keep putting off.
I need to be more organised; a bit more focused on the things I really want to do, but get distracted from by the daily grind.

So, no long list of unachievable goals, but just a plain statement of intent. 2012 will be the year when I finally get around to un-started, as well as unfinished, business.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Smiths complete...reworking the past

It's that "Word" time of the month. My copy of "Entertainment for lively minds" was popped through the letterbox yesterday.
I used to be an NME sort of guy, but left it behind many years ago, long before it absorbed the Melody Maker.
I've never liked Uncut or Q, but the Word hits the right spot, probably because the average age of the contributors is close to my advancing years

This month they're running an ad for "The Smiths complete. The ultimate collection remastered by Johnny Marr". There's also an extensive review

"All eight albums by the Smiths remastered from original tape sources and packaged together for the first time" On the face of it, as a Smiths fan who doesn't have the full body of work, this seems like a cracking idea. Vinyl, CD's, DVD, Poster, Booklet, Art prints...What's not to like?

The review is fantastic, apparently Johnny Marr has taken the entire back catalogue and changed the feel and tone of many of the best known songs, especially noticeable on the earliest tracks.

But thats where I start to have my doubts.

If anyone has a right to change these songs, then its Johnny Marr and I certainly wouldn't begrudge him the opportunity to tweak these songs, to remake them in the way that he has always wanted them to sound. But, in my head, these songs are bound up with so many memories. I'm not sure how much enjoyment there is for me in songs if they're changed so much that they're shorn of the emotional attachment I have with the originals

Then again, I'm probably just being a knob and they're even better now, in their remastered state, than they were way back then, which was bloody fantastic

I've been writing this whilst listening to Cemetry Gates... remember, Keats and Yeats are on your side, but Wilde is on mine!

You can buy the Smiths complete here...

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Save BBC4...

I have to say of all the TV I've watched in the last week, most of the programmes have been on BBC4. I find it rather sad that it's future is under threat. Tonight in particular it's an island of quality in a sea of mediocrity.

I know that the BBC has a finite amount of cash, but surely there has to be a place for intelligent and intellectually stimulating programming in the budget

Given a choice, I'd dump BBC3 entirely, and quite a bit of the programming on BBC1 as well.That would save a few bob