Thursday, 21 November 2019

The Best Laid Plans

Ages ago, I had big plans to write a grand 'this week in the arts' post, in which I was going to assume the role of one of my obnoxious Blogtastic characters, and promise a thrilling instalment every week - the joke being that it was a shallow one-off. I was going to put a lot of effort into it - jokes ideas, drafting, and such - and hoped to be proud of it. Alas, as we know, life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, and I'm months down the line with no Blogtastic posts. So I'm going to sit here and write nakedly (no, I won't apologise for that image). It won't be a highly polished piece, but, damnit, I want to share with you as many of the positives as I can remember since I was last around. It has been too long!

Firstly, there has been at least some writing. I had an idea for a new novel while I was on a little break in gorgeous Ribblehead (where, I must brag, I had embarrassingly good weather for the time of year - so my boots got a good pounding), which is loosely to do with the battle between a natural life and the lure of technological advancements - particularly social media. I don't think it's an earth-shattering existential exposé, but the dark comedy of my idea tickled me, and I'm both sad that the idea has been left to go colder, but also hopeful that I get time to go back to it, and rekindle it (along with my last novel in progress, for that matter. And the one before that... [and so on - Ed.]. I've also been writing some non-fiction bits and bats (I did five essays based on 'the five paths to happiness' that we discussed in a talking group I now go to every week. I'll write out these tenets at the end), have carried on with my dream diary and gratitude journal (or gratitude diary and dream journal?), dabbled with a couple of poems (one of which turned out to be a dead-end of inspiration, whilst one I can actually see getting into a finished state with relative ease). What else... I think that's about it, apart from writing letters to my dad, and one more thing, for which I am going to subtly start a new paragraph.

Ribblehead quarry (makes me a Quarryman)
That thing is film reviews. In the past three months, I have seen more films at the cinema than I had in the past three years (actually, until recently, I've hardly been watching any films on the telly or anything. It can be surprisingly easy to let things that bring you joy slip from your life). One has been brilliant, one has been a decent effort, one has been pants, and the watching of another one has eluded me so far... But my point is that, as well as re-discovering the joy of movie-going - making plans, seeing it at the height of newness, not being interrupted by adverts, the spectacular big screen and surround-sound, that feeling of leaving the building and looking at nightstruck Morecambe with another world lingering in your senses - I've been writing reviews. Again, I had planned to have them up on Blogtastic sharpish - which hasn't happened - but I hope that mentioning it here will act as a promise to you, dear audience, and will help prompt me to overcome my issues [don't go into them. Please - Ed.] and publish them.

I've been to the theatre a couple of times, too. Way back in August (was it?), I saw a night of Eastern European theatre in Lancaster, which was very powerful. There was a one-person performance of Macbeth - in Slovakian - was, in short, defamiliarizing and refamiliarizing, and had amazing physicality and energy, and was memorable and touched me with its emotional resonance. There was also a Polish multimedia piece centring on gulags, which was dourer, and perhaps more thought provoking in a direct way - especially as it was based on more tangibly real history. I am assured by one of the organisers that it will be back bigger and better next year, so keep your eyes peeled on the Storey Institute's various event regurgitation channels. The second thing I saw was a Lancaster-based production of Wind in the Willows. It wouldn't be my first choice usually, but I went because someone I know was in the cast, and he did a great job in about five different roles (I'd struggle with one! Blimey!). It seems Lancaster Grand Theatre's visions get bigger and bolder, and yet they realise them with aplomb - the limits of the stage are stretched to fit in all the characters and props, and all the singing and dancing is tight and well-realised. Fantastic.

Speaking of screen and stage (look back at the last two paragraphs...), I'm still thankful and excited that all of Lewis' hard work over at LBP Productions has resulted in the wonderful The Way to a Man's Heart - a deliciously dark short film based on a short story I wrote of the same name. Check it out, you won't regret it! I don't think so, anyway... I mean, you might, but [okay, okay, that's enough of that... - Ed.] And as for the stage bit, a good friend of mine in Morecambe - Jim Lupton - and myself worked on a script a month or so ago for a local Christmas panto. It's the folks at Alt-Space that're producing the play, with the help of the West End players. It was a fun writing process - we focused on different elements (such as plot and dialogue) that complimented each other, and also worked together on some of the elements (such as jokes), had lots of laughs between us, and reached a first draft quickly. It was the first time I've worked with Jim on anything other than pub banter haha, and we want more. Fingers crossed we get our wish, and make a big difference with our words in the near future.

Pantomime flier, courtesy of Alt-Space. Come and watch it, if you're free!
Next [and hopefully finally... - Ed.] is reading. Did you know, you're doing it right now? I've been doing some, too. I finally got round to reading Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel, after many years of wanting to, and a few years of even (sort of) having it in my possession. I'm obviously glad I read it, as to me it's clearly the work of a very sharp mind, and it entertained me. It's not my favourite 'dystopian' novel by quite a way tho (and would remain a way off, I think, even if 'The Book' was taken out of it) - I prefer We (which, I believe, inspired Orwell quite heavily), This Perfect Day (even though that has more of a thriller vibe to it in some ways), and, I dunno, maybe Brave New World too. People had overhyped 1984 for me, and whereas, yes, the things Orwell wrote about were imaginatively prescient, I think Newspeak is the only concrete 'wow' facet for me. All these other works, in my opinion, have more aptly predicted more resonant issues in our society (the way people are tracked in TPD seems more like our mobile phones, and ties in with self-policing in a less obvious way), or put a wilder spin on things, to show us how we are. But anyway, rant over - of course it is a great work, and deserves its accolades as one of the canonical pillars of modern western literature.

Speaking of pillars, deserving of his own paragraph here is Robert Sheppard. His Drayton's Idea sonnet translations - that I have been enjoying immensely on Pages - have come to an end (oh no!), due to Brexit's depressingly slow - and ominous - roll. He has extended the project (oh yay!) using Drayton work from Idea's Mirror, which is a boon to those who lap it up like me. The guy is just unfathomably clever. The concept alone is genius, but to be that erudite, to contain imagery, humour, but also work density into his language as well as he does... It is first of all witty and entertaining, but as valid a political document as you could want also. It amazes and inspires me, and I've not this way about someone's swift, deft, and staminous [are you talking about the quality of having great stamina? Because 'staminous' ain't that... - Ed.] efforts since Tim Allen's 'Not National Poetry Day' project. I would love both of these projects to be published in full. It makes me feel good about life to experience work by people who are so on top of the game - sharp, irreverent, ludic etc - but have all the technical ability you could imagine to back it all up and help it hang together.

I feel like I should give Ian Seed his own paragraph now (it's been a long time coming, to be fair). Sorry, I'm being silly now... Anyway - I read Distances by Ian Seed recently, and enjoyed that a lot. I am not an expert on prose poetry, and couldn't really define it, except that I feel comfortable basking in Seed's living scenes. I think this prose poetry is where action meets an image/scene and produces a sense of being close to a life lesson, or a cosmic message. It's like an aphorism in motion, but when I say that, it falls so short of Seed's wonderfully comic eye (as it were). I mean, he portrays the humour (sort of dark humour, but not dark dark. Maybe shades of grey, like the lack of obvious right and wrong in the world his characters inhabit - there's no clear way, there's just being, and trying, and a sort of resolution in failure) in a situation, in the people's proximity to achieving their intentions, but someone or something falls short. They are like jokes in set-up, too, (like, their framing) so maybe that's where the poetic element comes in, because the way the form and content play is not 'prosaic' - or standardly prosaic, anyway. I have got no idea what I'm saying. Unintentionally. This is not a joke [don't we know it... - Ed.]. Help! Can I just repeat that I really enjoyed Distances? The scenes were very vibrant, and there were many images I can recall even now, but more than this was the breath blown into the players, and I can't rid myself of the 'cosmic cringe' I felt, feeling sorry for these characters and the gaffes they cause/are embroiled in, but knowing that it could not have been elsewise. Oh damnit, I'm rambling again. One of my favourite lines was [bus thing. Loss]. This was from Red Ceilings, and, also from them, I am looking forward to reading my copy of Sheppard's Micro Event Space. He has been, as usual, very generous in publishing related materials on Pages, and in reading them, I have made my appetite keen.

Riiiiiiiiiight.. That's surely more than enough for one post? But, as I said, I'm not going to polish it. This is it. Deal with it. Please.

What are you up to, anyway?

Peace, love, and light :)

Five Paths to Happiness (as they appeared in our group conversation)
  1. Be active
  2. Keep learning
  3. Help others
  4. Take notice
  5. Connect

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Just keep it clean (ish)!