"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Dark Side Of The Moon

A thankfully unused Nixon speech...

The 40th Anniversary of the first manned Moon Landing reminded me of something that was disclosed a few years ago. The possibility that the landing would go wrong was taken very seriously (Armstrong himself thought the mission was ‘fifty-fifty’) so much so that Richard Nixon’s speechwriter Richard Safire wrote an alternate message for the then-President to deliver. I find it quite moving.

“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Meme On You Crazy Diamond

Another Meme...

Well, look here, another post. At this rate you’d almost be conned into thinking I was prolific...

First, a nice little piece of Six Degree-ism: my sister mentioned the other day that she went to College with Gwen from Torchwood (of which, possibly, more later); I knew she knew the ghost, just didn’t know they were one and the same; on top, of that she teaches at one of the schools where the kids froze, the one where they wear red blazers (I think she said).

Within the same week the last meme (what I done) arrived, so did another from over yer , and I can’t recall which came first. Anyway the rules of this one...

“put the image on the blog (however, it doesn’t really match the decor),
List 10 truths about yerself,
Give the award to 5 other people
(let’s not worry about that neither),
Provide a meaningful quotation
(see bottom),

Here goes...

1. I have taught myself most of what I know, since a long time back; I taught myself to type a few years ago by cataloguing all my records and videos; following this up by copying out some complete Shakespeare texts. Last year, I took an online typing test (actually 5 or 6 and averaged them) and found my speed came out a rather neat 60 w.p.m.; I’m sure it’d be faster if I used more than two fingers on my left hand!
2. I have no heroes. Certainly none that are alive- to me, it’s a very dangerous practice, at best it can lead to suspension of critical faculty, at worst it leads to fanaticism. Also, living heroes are not a good idea; firstly, with the long-dead most, if not all, of the bad stuff has already emerged (anybody with a Gary Glitter tattoo must feel pretty daft); secondly, you might meet them... and you may find they’re loathsome or alternatively find them unspeakably lovely then feel unable to criticize their work. I know someone who reveres Kubrick, Scorsese, Tarantino, all the usual suspects- there is no argument that will shake their belief that every celluloid inch is a frame of perfection; I think Dennis Potter was a fine writer, better than he’s now given credit for, but I’m not about to claim every drop of ink that fell from his nib was holy writ- every Singing Detective or Pennies From Heaven is matched with a Blackeyes. So, heroes, bad thing; Shakespeare’s quite a good hero, very little’s known about him; but give me Beethoven, genius, Romantic, part-time bastard.
3. I have no favourite film, TV series, album or anything else. Last time I tried to make a top ten it came out over 200... how can you judge films from entirely different genres and eras against one another? How can I come to a conclusion that Singin’ In The Rain is better than say Chinatown, My Fair Lady, 2001, Casablanca, Oldboy, Spider, Hellraiser, Alien, Once Upon A Time In The West, the best Capra or Powell & Pressburger, 28 Days Later, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Deliverance, Performance, The Devils, Double Life Of Veronique or Kor-eda’s After-Life... ? How do you compare? By what criteria? To me, favouritism is a futile exercise and again leads to the suspension of critical faculties; even the greatest art is usually flawed, sometimes it’s those flaws that lend greatness; it’s by understanding these flaws that greater insight arrives. (This is not to say there are not things or creators I value over others just not to devotional levels.)
4. I am possessed of many ‘critical’ heresies. I believe the critics are worth listening to, particularly those who write ‘criticism’ rather than just opinion (or worse, those who are in cahoots with the film industry) but I repeatedly find there is a cultural orthodoxy which now seems so set in stone it’s left unchallenged and that no-one bothers to justify. For me, this in part stems from (sort of) learning much of what I know about film from watching all the 4 star films listed in the back of Halliwell (and most of the 3 star films as well) and deciding for myself what’s good and why. Many films I could say ‘yes, that’s good’ but there was, and still is, a significant number of masters and masterpieces which I believe require some justification including Bunuel, Godard, Truffaut, Mike Leigh, Hitchcock... Does that shock you? Does that make you uneasy? I don’t like Hitchcock films! Next thing you know, I’ll be wearing ‘I hate Pink Floyd badges’!
5. I believe in context and interconnectivity. In a world where everybody is becoming increasingly insular and specialized in their fields I suspect great thinking is being diminished as there is no-one left saying ‘this in this field is very similar to this in this field’- think the Fibonacci sequence- not only occurring in maths but also in biology; Da Vinci, artist, scientist, philosopher. Very little occurs in isolation, in the art/ media world this is surely more true than in many others- otherwise what would anybody write, paint or sculpt about.
6. I’m not a big fan of cities. They’re too loud, too bright, have too many people and smell funny.
7. π unsettles me. Can you think of a more deeply sinister number? 666 and 13 are just numbers; π is the number. Scary.
8. I have never wanted to be famous. Still don’t and quite possibly never will- who would?
9. I write incredibly long emails. I have a sneaking suspicion in a previous era I would have been ‘a man of letters’; misspelled and frequently ungrammatical, rambling and often nonsensical, but letters none the less. It has also occurred to me- just then- that there’s no reason I can’t edit a few of these emails and use them as easy posts here.
10. Music affects me far more than film. Being a far more concentrated and immediate medium music can produce a far deeper response; there are moments that are deeply unsettling, like the final movement of Mahler’s 10th, Shostakovich’s 4th and 15th (particularly the latter bars of the final movement over the unresolved chord while the massive percussion section enacts a mocking fading mechanical heartbeat), much of Penderecki’s 1960’s output (the doyen of the horror movie soundtrack such as Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, the De Natura Sonoris pair), the aleatory passages of Gorecki’s Second Symphony, etc. However, over all these are three (possibly a couple more that I can’t recall) that I find genuinely unnerving...

Pink Floyd: Jugband Blues

Pink Floyd: Bike, the first 3 minutes are a slightly silly song, however, then it moves into the musique concrète section. When I was at school this song was thought hilarious; when I first heard this bit I felt sick... and the ‘clan of gingerbread men’ aren’t quaint, in my imagination, they’re a small army of quite heavily armed, re-animated gingerbread men, with rows of razor-sharp fangs, who descend from mountains on the unwary with murderous intent.

Portishead: Deep Water.

Finally, there is a necessity to include a meaningful quote, though to whom it has meaning or if the meaning is supposed to be inherent is left unspecified. On the Manics’ album, The Holy Bible, at the start of the track Of Walking Abortion, there is a sample of Hubert Selby, Jr. speaking. It is quite bleak but when I found the complete quote it struck a chord.

"I was home alone, and I had what I realize now was a spiritual experience, although I didn't understand it as such at the time. But I knew that someday I was going to die. And just before I died, two things would happen: Number 1: I would regret my entire life. Number 2: I would want to live my life over again, and I would die. And I was terrified, absolutely terrified. So I knew I had to do something with my life. I was terrified of living my whole life, and at the end looking at it and having blown it. I was on disability at the time, and my wife was working part-time, I think at Macy's, it was the Christmas season, so I bought a typewriter, and decided I was going to be a writer. I didn't know anything about writing. But I knew I had to do something with my life, and that was the only thing I could think to do....

So I sat there for two weeks with that typewriter and I had no idea how to write a story, I just had to do something before I died. So I wrote a letter to somebody. And that's how it started. The long process of learning how to write."

...either that or the lyrics to an old Andy Williams song...

Now, tea and cake...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Dark Side Of The Meme

On an ‘unimportant’ meme from way back when...

Many, many years ago I was meme-ified* - something the ancient Egyptians did terribly well, but with more bandages- and it seems reasonable to get it done, albeit three million years later than everybody else. And it gives me something to write here. The basics of this are to “mention 6 things or habits of no real importance about you.” I haven’t any habits- well none that aren’t deeply silly, so it’ll have to be ‘things’ of no real importance.

1. My heart is in the wrong way round- last year I had to have a number of ultrasounds taken of it and they told me the pump side is far smaller than the receiving side- they assured me this was rare but in no way dangerous- though it does explain why I’m ageing backwards.

2. My maternal Gran used to tell me her memories of the day the Armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month; of bells ringing out and the air of relief. She also told me of her father going A.W.O.L. from the Second Boer War to be there when her sister was born; his time stationed in India and Egypt with the ‘Glorious Glosters’ before they both came along; you may well think this all horribly colonial, and for those at the top it was, but I guess taking the ‘King’s Shilling’ (actually Queen’s at that moment) was one of the better ways of escaping grinding poverty at that time.

3. I have a half inch scar just below my lower lip where I bit clean through it performing the most monumentally stupid feat ever attempted- stupider even than those of David Blaine. You must remember I was young. And stupid. So it goes like this. I came to the conclusion that if I could pick up one leg under the crook of my arm and have one leg off the ground it therefore followed that if I could pick up the other leg in the same fashion... I could... er... levitate... of course, life doesn’t always work out as planned... my chin met the floor, concrete, of course, my teeth met each other... clean through my lip. It hurt. Quite a lot. My Mum was watching Poldark at the time- so it was late 70’s/ early 80’s- I’d been eating a mix of baked beans and ketchup so my face was coated in various shades of red- and the great thing about it was that it completely disguised the hole, which of course, being so clean-cut, went straight back together; so when cleaned it didn’t look particularly serious. How do I know my teeth went straight through? They met in the middle with a nice scraping sound. Bizarrely, I escaped having stitches. It’s rather a nice scar and I’m rather attached to it- and it’s rather attached to me, so I don't have much choice in the matter. This is approximately the sixth most painful thing I’ve experienced.

4. I have a beard because after recuperating from abdominal surgery (possibly the third or fourth most painful thing) I couldn’t raise my arms to shave and, having never had a beard before, I kept it (maybe I’m a descendant of Colonel Wynne-Candy). When I was able to raise my arms and tried to wash my hair for the first time in several months I found it had become a single matted dreadlock and, but for a wonderful team of hairdressers, I nearly had to have my head-shaved. Which would have been annoying. My head’s not shaped for that sort of thing.

5. I have never won anything... I keep trying to remedy this but...

6. I have invented a new genre of music/ songs (they already exist- they just don’t realise that they exist together in my own personal genre) but I’ve not told anyone the details and won’t until I can work out what to do with it. And the only person this new music, en masse, will probably ever appeal to is... me.

7. I write all my posts in word, redraft and spell-check them all before doing a cut-and-paste job...

Apologies for not being more interesting, or informative, but it is meant to be things of no importance!

Now, you may have music... and tea... and cake... and the finest wines known to humanity, if you like. But definitely have cake. Cake is good. Cake is fine. Even the word. Cake.

FC/ Kahuna: Hayling

2002, dir. LynnFox

*And Helen can consider herself a co-source if she likes... :)

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Enjoy The Silence?

On not blogging...

So, I’ve been away a long, long time... there must surely have been a reason or two for just disappearing, mustn’t there?

Actually, there were many reasons I stopped blogging, fell at the way side and ended being taunted by road-kill; and they all came piling in one on top of the next at virtually the same time. And next thing I knew it was months since the last post. So, amongst other things, here’s some of the main reasons I disappeared into the land of flattened badgers...

  • I was feeling a bit ill (big wow, everybody feels a bit ill every now and then- get over it!).
  • I was incredibly tired: I get like that sometimes... well, often...
  • ...because I was so tired, I had to make a simple choice, spend this limited energy on writing the blog or writing bad scripts... I’m afraid the bad scripts won... and they are really bad....
  • There are a lot of blogs out there, better blogs: I don’t think mine stands out particularly... I don’t have anything particular to say about the art, craft or sheer hard work of scriptwriting (other than ‘put words down and if you get them in the right order it works and if you don’t it won’t’) and I don’t have the ego to suspect my thoughts are so mind-meltingly important that they warrant global exposure.
  • There are a lot of blogs out there (Pt. II): in fact, too many to read and yet I can’t help feeling a bit guilty if I don’t try, which invariably leads to commenting, which, as sure as night follows day, leads to time sucked into some kind of giant time-sucking black-hole.
  • I'm not particularly smart: every time I find out something new I discover there’s far more to learn (deeply frustrating) and realise that however much I know I will never know enough. So, I can’t help wondering what actual contribution I have to make to the ‘Scribosphere’. I don’t have a great desire to waste other people’s time- I'm not a parliamentary inquiry!
  • There seemed to be a change in ‘atmosphere’ a while back: an influx of privately-profiled non-bloggers contributing to comment sections with apparently no other purpose than to make themselves look smart by trying to imply others are stupid. And, of course, by being non-bloggers they remain largely unaccountable. Surely a form of intellectual cowardice.
  • I had become increasingly concerned, through voicing my thoughts, of the potential to damage any nascent career I might have. My inept script-scribblings can do that perfectly adequately on their own!
  • Without a professional credit to my name I do tend to feel a bit of a fraud in a world of professional writers and readers- James Moran I am not!
  • Finally, I have a lot to say; many, many opinions, quite a few of them contentious... some get written and go unposted, others don’t get written and others require more and better argument*. Best not to post them.

And those are some of the main reasons...

So, what about the future... will I continue blogging, will I fall asleep for a very long time, will Lois find out Superman’s secret... watch this space as they say to find out all this and much, much more... or less... who knows?

...and anyway, now everybody’s gone mental for Twitter no-one’s going to be reading a blog anyway...

*in the old fashioned sense of the word.