In The Land Of The Blind

Milton observed, along with many others, that power is relative. The actual power of any person is derived from the people around them and their own power or lack of power. Depending upon where you look to draw your comparisons people may be very powerful or weak. For Milton if you can see through one eye in a land of blind people that would make you king.

But there are ways of making people powerless and as I look at the modern world I realise that the powerful are those who know how things work around us. The electronics expert or the computer programmer have more authority than the rest of us. The ways in which they can interpret how technology affects their lives are different to ours. Scientific expertise is becoming a vital factor is how we can manage our lives.

But even these people play second fiddle to the people who have always had all the power. Those who own the land. Here is the root of all power in humanity and the start of all capitalism. And yet ownership is simply an agreement we have with each other, if you look at the available land in the universe our attempts to own anything are pretty pathetic.

 That’s the whole reason we do what we do the way we do it, as our perspective is never more than one eye can give us as we purposely blind ourselves to the magnificence outside our planet.

The Art Of The Clown

Clowning around as any clown will tell you is an incredibly serious art form.

If you chart the political necessity clowns had in Roman times through to the court jester traditions of Europe you can see they performed a unique role as truth tellers, as people given the social permission to make rulers feel uncomfortable without being killed for it. Something of that tradition survives amongst the comedians of the world who use satire but what has been lost is the intimacy between the rulers and the clown. Today the clowns are on TV and the leaders are in their offices whereas the most useful place for a truth teller to be would be in the offices.

Clowns are also not just about jokes. Their acrobatic abilities and timing are crucial to their fame and success in responding to the audience. The physical stress of performing is just the start for good clowns who can be either silent or speaking, and in many ways the silent ones have the hardest job but the speaking ones must never forget the voice is an instrument every bit as important as the jokes themselves.

It takes years to learn how to clown around without hurting yourself  but when you see someone like Lucille Ball and Carole Lombard you can see how worthwhile the training is.

Prizes

The function at school of prizes is part reward and part self-advertising. In the striving there is some excellence and a lot of work but in the actual winning does this all vanish? Does self-advertising take over?

I wonder at this when I see hundreds of awards from small institutions, publishers and even blogs and all over the Net stars and ratings and commendations as if they all mean something more than simply being mutually supportive. It is the same kind of misleading venture that brings the large writing awards into disrepute as people get the idea that there is an in-set and it is ‘someone’s’ turn to win. The amount of lobbying that goes into Hollywood’s Oscars that means it is no longer a mark of excellence but a marketing tool. The same is now true of British honours lists.

There are those who say no matter what human beings create eventually it becomes corrupted because the inspiration behind the creation becomes no more than the inherited institution of the following generations. Prizes are supposed to be wonderful marks of achievement  but actually they are meaningless. The true prize of a writer is to be read, of an actor to be watched, of a human being to be admired for who they are.

Everything else is candy floss.

Blueskin the Cat

Many years ago my mother said she thought the name ‘Blueskin’ was a good one for a book as it was the name of a real highwayman in the England. The book I wrote has become her  favourite as it charts the adventures of a man reincarnated as a cat in the seventeenth century, as he tries to gain revenge upon the brothers who arrested him and crosses the ocean to America where he ‘finds himself’.

The whole idea is to write ten books, the sequel is already finished and I have a third started. The first has been beautifully illustrated with watercolours by Gabriela with a wonderfully evocative cover. The paperback book will be available before this Christmas, is about 60+ pages in 7 x 10 format so perfect for young children who enjoy a few pirates, a storm at sea and lots of humour.

We will have to see how well it does before we know if Little Wolf will be published as it will probably be up to Gabriela if she wants to get involved with a second book, series are good ideas only if they are well read. that said everyone who reads it enjoys it and I hope you will too.

www.footsteps.co

Something Mozart Forgot

I have been watching on you-tube some of the got talent franchise from around the world. Amongst the entertainers and outright show-offs there are some lightly talented people. Though I think the back-story to some of them and whole ‘show’ adds so much emotion to the whole saga one can hardly be objective.

However I wonder what would happen if a concert pianist heard me playing the piano, the sheer pain they would feel at how badly I use the pedals, how wrong fingered I can be, how naive my expressions. The reason being that the concert pianist is where they are because of their connection to their art, their expertise and it is real pain they would feel at my evisceration of music.

So imagine how writers who try to be innovative and distinct, search for the universal in the moment and the story that awakens as well as reveals, feel when they have to sit through most modern films.  The fact is they cannot. The regurgitated fodder fed to the public, the paucity of honesty, the sheer churning of themes so old they cannot wade them for another half hour.

The mediocre is everywhere one looks and all one can do is applaud the attempt because the result is utterly forgettable.

Life’s Got Nothing To Do With It

The more I watch TV shows and their supposed realism the more separated from living I think they are. I know they are just stories and it is escapism on a grand scale but as a story writer I can assure you they are not that inventive or that interesting, going over story-lines and themes as old as Roman,Chinese and Greek myths. The hero, the heroine the enemy.

They say there are a set number of story-lines which we re-interpret for each generation using the old motifs with different attributes. So for example no one two hundred years ago would have ever written about a telephone in a story but the idea of communication across distances is not new, it just goes from the field of magic to the field of fact.

I don’t have an argument with these shows, they are what they are, but I do feel it’s like reading a trashy novel when you know there are wonderful literary experiences to be had, that viewers are sold short and that actually TV could be an inventive medium that engages the viewer in an extension of their experience not an affirmation of their day-dreams.

When they invented TV they said it could educate in a way not know before in the human race. I think that baton has been handed to the Internet.

Ages Past Are Ages Shared

I doubt there is anyone who has been disenchanted by their Times who has not wished to live in another time or another place. Hearkening back to a period of quietness, or simplicity and there are times when I have wondered where I would like to have been and in what age. Yet when I do I always come back to the same questions: would I like to live in a world where Plato has not thought about the world, where Shakespeare has not written about human ego, where Michelangelo has not carved human characteristics into marble. Do I want to live and never read the hundreds of minds that are open to me to read, to share their insights into life?

I find in every age many things that are admirable and even preferable to today but I cannot leave behind the history of thought. The great pain for every thinker in the world is not that we die, but that we will never know. Think of the things Aristotle would have loved to know that I know. Think of the things we will never know.

The human race is a builder; as much as chemicals build life, we build ideas. Some are very bad like infections but some are wonderful. I will never know all the wonderful ideas the human race will have, so I am loath to give up any of the ones I  have inherited.

Late Into The Night

Everyone has different body clocks and mine used to be a late, owl like one, though in the years I have had to go to school and work, early mornings have haunted me though at times getting up really early has been a boon of quietness and reflection. Emily Dickensen we are told work from 3 am to noon, so she also enjoyed the quiet. Charles Dickens on the other hand finished his work in the afternoon and then had his family time.

However life is a fluid and body clocks change, I now find I am enjoying late nights again finding moments to reflect when my mother’s illness does not take up my time. As we age sleep becomes less important for a while and management of energy levels becomes more important. I have always believed that humans are minds and bodies and one should take care of both with equal dedication and as such I allow my body to rest when it wants to, thankfully I do not have to force myself to do anything.

It is actually quite an intense way to live as Emily Dickensen observed simply to breathe is a wonderful experience, with all the passion of the universe held in every breath.

That Old Spying Game

In the world of espionage, the thriller writers have us believe, you cannot trust anyone. Having written a book about the genetics and habits of lying I am likely to be one to say that is probably true of every profession. When asked how many witnesses told lies in the legal cases a Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain said ‘all of them.’ Every soldier knows how to ambush, every business person knows how to conceal levels of profit, every lover knows how to play the field.

It would seem from this that probably most of the world is given to spying in one way or another. The techniques used to prise secrets out of nations are not all that different from gossiping villagers getting near the truth without ever knowing all the facts. Observation after all, is a skill.

And in this world where are all capable of spying, or knowing things we never conceptualise until there is a crisis and we are called upon to remember isolated facts that help us get through from half remembered chemistry practicals to unfamiliar faces, we are all capable of great things.

Spying teaches us that nations think life itself is an emergency needing prowess and vigilance to survive for even the short while we are alive. They may be right.

The Simple Life

There was a time according to popular fantasy, when life was simpler, easier even because there were fewer decisions to make, or less options for life choices. In these Garden of Eden fantasies food is cheaper and purer, the sea water somehow fresher, the clothes easier to copy and people’s expectations lower. It is a view I would heartily disagree with because it leaves out one element of the fantasy you can never leave out: its all about people.

People’s expectations have ever been simpler. The word itself comes from its usage by alchemist to describe the elements they used in their chemistry and what were they trying to do? Change everything to gold and find the elixir of eternal life. By no means simple things. The desire to rise in society, become someone of eminence, have status, to own others, leave a name are common to every society we have ever encountered.

No I suppose there were no cars once we were a horse society and there were no guns once we preferred swords and spears  but we dreamed of better things because we eventually made them. We made them because we were dissatisfied with what we had. We have always wanted bigger and better.

We have never been simple.

When You Wish Upon A Star

Many years ago my mother said that people who wish upon a star have to – this from the woman who used to feel good about having silver coins in her pocket when she saw a new moon. She meant, of course, wishing is for people having few options but the idea that we do things because we have to, comes to me now as something each and every one of us has experience of and a few of us – or maybe many of us- spend our entire lifetimes doing things only because we have to.

I met a painter many years ago who had had to train as an architect because his parents forced him to.  I have seen people marry to please their parents, and I have witnessed family-standing in the community mean more than affection or honour. I find it hard to comprehend as someone who has always done as he wished. I sometimes think human beings are so much about appearances they cannot see how ugly it makes them, when you look at them with a  different set of assumptions to their own.

This isn’t why different nations dislike each other that’s a whole other set of ignorant behaviours but it is the root of who we are – we force our own assumptions upon others to establish not our dominance but how ‘right’ we are.

Anyone can convince you you are right they merely have to say ‘I agree’, the person who disagrees with you is your best friend.

The Age Of Innocence

In the years when we have learned so much more about paedophilia I get a little wary of talking about childhood innocence. In much the same way as I would never immediately go to a child’s side if they were crying in the street or appeared lost because of how it may be construed, I have come to see many things we thought were adults being natural are anything but and talking about the innocence or children has become a shorthand for vulnerable and attractive.

But when I look back at my own childhood it isn’t innocence that springs to mind but freedom. My days were my own and even school didn’t seem too much until I reached about eleven. Until then the world was a place of endless simplicity, cosseted by my mother and my wider family, rarely bullied there were no worries but for those I shared of my mother’s.

A friend of mine at school told me once the reason we all think they are the best years of our lives is because in time we forget all the awful things that went on. I agreed with him and have never forgotten how appalling school was after fourteen, but even there the worries are insignificant compared to the adult world.

The adult world drives us to sanctuaries. We have gotten things the wrong way round.

Imaging

I am not entirely sold on the idea that movies have to have a good story to engage people. I used to believe the most important part of a movie was the script but the more I listen to people describing their favourite movies the more I hear less about plot and more about a particular scene, a particular actor, a particular genre.

When movies began the silent era was universal and they came from the history of literature and vaudeville,  with stage entertainers who knew all about people’s emotions and what they thought people wanted. The discourse between literature and a reader is obvious and mostly unchanging for thousands of years because it came from the story of oral story-telling.

But movies don’t have to tell a coherent story for two hours to be memorable or even worth seeing. They can have stands, individual stories much shorter than the two hours, even no particular story at all but a series of events linked by some idea or some event.  The reason is, as far as I can see, that movies are not about literature and story but about imaging.The image is everything.

And that works on a different set of parts of the brain where the visual transcends the reasoned. To such an extent that actors who do well simply bring their own personalities and characters to the part, hardly bothering to change emphasis, stance or even voice.

White Space

I do not consider I understand fine art very well. I was told years ago that all figurative painting is about understanding and controlling light. In a similar way to which non-figurative painting is more about controlling colours. The whole field of design which I have been involved in through my books also seemed to me almost magical as I simply did not see a page as other people saw it until I started to think of writing less as text and more as painting.

Instead of trying to control the flow of text what I was actually seeing was a vivid way of managing white-space. In fact my typesetter told me she rarely even reads what she is typesetting as her focus is all about balance, which is why she gets infuriated when someone says ‘here’s another paragraphs nothing too much to add’, when of course it is a huge amount to add as it changes every successive page and may even force a font change, which changes everything.

I will never know what fine artists’ see but I do know I am blind to the way their brains work and because I am blind to it, I appreciate and trust their descriptions of world as authentic to them. And that level of trust, which is wholly intellectual, is important because it teaches me about things for which I have little talent.

If Only

I get so much spam telling me how to make millions. I even get some telling me I’ve already made millions I just don’t know it yet. I used to just get mail telling me every morning if I wanted to insure myself for millions and so far that’s the only change e-mails have made to my daily round of unwanted and unsolicited news.

I find it amazing that people still fall for this. I know when worms stole friend’s addresses books and spam would come purportedly from them, and that made one think for a second until one looked at the header – none of my friends are in fake watch sales. I am told by the police that people still give away their bank details on occasion to liberate the lottery fund they have mysteriously won.

There is an amazing relief in winning a lot of money – worry lines literally disappear and that’s the only reason I can give for seemingly intelligent people falling for these trawling crooks. The desire to have money is so strong it gets the better of people’s good sense – sometimes for the better part of their lives. But now things have speeded up but our thinking ability has not. In seconds we can make a mistake that will cost of dear.

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