Saturday, 31 October 2009

Flowchart your life

That's what we did....

Friday, 23 October 2009


I like to hear people hum along to music. Especially when they think they’re on their own. And also when they get so lost that they can’t quite help it.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

It's late at the bookstore and two flies are wrestling

It never seems that there is an absolutely ideal time to post - but 3 am Greek time is as good of one as any. I'll admit to feeling a little bit of blog-writer's block lately. Life here in the bookstore is repetitive, it changes in barely noticeable increments, but there is something so ineffably relaxing and grounding about it. Nonetheless, there have been revelations (if only incremental) and it seems that the blog being what it is, I should share some of those here. And so, in the grand tradition of the blog, I will list my recent revelations in the order that I find them to be most impressive - impressive to who is a great question. Especially when I'm asking the great hulking mystery of the internet - though "Who are you trying to impress?" is a question I'd like to ask myself a lot more often anyway. See? See? Leave me in a Greek bookshop and I get all kinds of reflective.

But onto the tiny revelations of so far.

1. In our society we place far too much importance on individual achievements rather than collective ones.

Okay, so you probably saw this one coming with socialist-sounding talk about why Homer was probably written by several poets over time and why we should all definitely be okay with that and see it as some sort of grand structure, like a cathedral, that could only be built through the collective effort of many individuals and the knowledge, hindsight, whatever you'll call it of many generations. But I was also prompted to think about how much we undervalue work by a collective when I was reading Raymond Carver's "What we talk about when we talk about love." Some of you may have already heard the lore about this collection - that the stories were so heavily changed by his editor Alfred A Knopf, who basically created what many always identified as Carver's unique minimalist style, that you could say they were co-creators of whatever made those stories magic.
Now a lot of people, myself initially included, would be inclined to be annoyed at the fact that Knopf had so much to do with Carver's legacy - that Carver wasn't given more creative room to move. But, to sound like a psychologist or particularly tuned in teacher for a moment, can I ask why we are annoyed? Could it be because we are uncomfortably attached to the idea of a lone genius making work in his basement? At the end of the day, it may just be possible that Carver is great because there were two people involved in that greatness. And what the heck is wrong with that?

2. I am excited about theatre because it is live. I am excited abouttheatre because it is now. I am excited about theatre because you have to *literally* be in the right place at the right time. And even if this sounds obvious, I also need to be reminded of it in the moment, live, at the right place and the right time for it to really hit home.

There's just nothing else like it. More on this later, but for now my here and now inspiration is more preoccupied with the desire to sleep that the desire to explain itself. So for now, here's to incremental revelations, and explaining them to the blog incrementally.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Paper Cinema's Odyssey - Sneak preview shots

Here are some of the drawings Nic made in Greece. The boy looking out to shore is a preliminary sketch for Telemachus and the man on the shore with a beard is the first sketch of Odysseus on Calypso's island.

If I were in London I'd be watching this...

Those of you who know me will know that I have an equal love of new writing and site responsive work. When they come together effectively, it is bold, risky and rare. I spoke with the lovely Lucy about this piece while she was writing it, and it sounded like it was heading in that risky and rare (and exceptional) direction. I'm extremely annoyed that I'm not in London to see this - from what I've read about it, it sounds like Kirkwood and Clean Break have created something delicate and important.

Friday, 9 October 2009

A kitten is asleep on my lap as I type this...

Hi Bloggy friends,

Sorry not to be about for the last couple of days. I've come back to the bookshop, Atlantis, in Greece, where today I spent some time with Nick from Paper Cinema discussing the Odyssey and drinking too much white wine. A kitten is now asleep on my lap as I sit behind the til. It may sound idyllic, though last night this kitten thought that my legs beneath the covers were a toy to be pounced on with claws at regular intervals.

A few things have come up today while discussing beautiful stories with Mr. Beard.

1. a beautiful image to end something. Think Zorba the Greek or the end of the poem "Pomegranate" by DH Lawrence. Kundera does this too at the end of his novels.

2. In a story, every action should be followed by an action of greater quality and magnitude, culminating in an action after which the audience can not imagine anything else. Action has come up a lot lately in my life. Apparently Karma is all about action too - this is what I learned yesterday by looking it up in the excellent "A short introduction to everything."

3. There is a lot of creative room to move in the Odyssey and there always has been. The story itself is really the result of a collective effort of many poets over a long period of time- regardless of the capitalist belief that it had to have been created by an individual named Homer. It's a framework that many artists have moved in creatively for ages, and the more of their own spin they put on it, the better. (Don't worry, I haven't gone to Greece and become a communist.)

4. The kitten jumped from my lap once I started typing.

This is a beautiful place to work.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Shocked and awed

This is probably one of the most amazing things I've seen on the internet. Sometimes the very nature of youtube clips etc. annoys me, because they do seem to give everything a certain shared yet diminished cultural currency. I mean, imagine if you saw this kid live... He's some kind of virtuoso! I leave it to you - the boy works a strange kind of alchemy on that instrument.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Werner Herzog: Live in London, not eating his shoe

Hey bloggy friends,

I have come back from a lovely and accidental evening of successful Karaoke singing. Yes, oh yes, Kenny Rogers and the Muppets from 2 posts ago convinced me to take my passion to the stage, put on a cowboy hat, and tell the people they had to know when to hold 'em, etc, etc. Got off to a shaky start, but after that my North American accent ensured a good amount of Karaoke success, made all the better by my friend Bernard also donning a cowboy hat and backing me up on air guitar on stage. Quite wonderful all told. A grand bout of silliness inspired by - oddly enough, Werner Herzog, whom I saw speak at the Southbank Centre mere hours before.

I'd gone to see Mr. Herzog mostly because I'd been told that once, having lost a bet, Werner Herzog ate his shoe, and was filmed doing it by Errol Morris. This gave me an immediate respect for the man's integrity, his sense of the absurd, and of course, his digestive system, which must be made of steel or something to take a shoe on board. So even though I've only seen one of his films, I felt very comfortable paying full ticket price to see the man himself have a 2 1/2 hour chat at Royal Festival Hall.

But how - you may ask - did he inspire me to sing Kenny Rogers? Well, the wonderful thing about Herzog and chat is that he covers a myriad of topics. He definitely didn't stick to film - he talked about his favourite Dutch landscape painter, Fred Astaire and the simple magic of cinema in his dance numbers (a thought I'd had after stumbling upon one of Mr. Astaire's numbers last week), the jungle, Facebook, twitter, and - the end of everything. Thank you Werner Herzog.

When discussing the end of everything, which he very much thinks is coming, he quoted Martin Luther King who said, "If Everything ended tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today." He then went on to discuss the futile but enjoyable things he would continue to do in the face of the end of civilization. Well, the whole thing had me oddly inspired. You see, the particular Karaoke bar I go to usually only ever lets the regulars play (one drunken night I called the poor Karaoke dj a fascist), so I never bother requesting songs anymore. For some reason, after my 2nd drink of the day on a near empty stomach, this seemed oddly similar to Herzog's musings on the end of everything. What's the point in requesting a song when he'll never call me up anyway, I asked myself... but the answer was clear. It is worth requesting the song, even if the song never gets called. Plant that apple tree, take a gamble.

So I did - and for a while it seemed that I never would get called up. One of the regulars who had requested far after me was singing, and I thought, they've skipped over me. How about that? Of course it was always going to happen. But a few songs later, my time in front of that screen did come. And you know, even if it hadn't, it was worth putting some hope of singing into that little piece of paper. You should always request.

Wow. I actually managed to apply both Martin Luther King and Werner Herzog's profound sentiments about the end of everything, hope, humanity, civilization, to Karaoke at the Birdcage. Well, you gotta start somewhere, don't you?

Do me a favour and forget the last four paragraphs. Watch this instead. In the words of Werner Herzog, "Fred Astaire is as good as cinema gets." "Why?" the nice man asked him. Werner: "He just is."