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Archive for March, 2010
Mental health problems and creativity have long gone hand in hand. It seems as if the very kernel of what it means to create, in what ever arena, is instrinsincly tied up with being fucked up in the head in some manner. Of course, being fucked up in the head doesn’t mean your going to be a creative nexus of greatness. Sometimes I take great comfort in this fact. Sometimes I don’t. It might just mean your fucked up in the head.
Not that ‘Neurological’ indicate mental health exclusively. The article actually focusses mainly on other things such as massive physical trauma as a trigger for neurological problems. I just got mental health on my mind I guess. Teehee.
As a result of a car accident as a teenager, Parker became addicted to morphine and, in turn, heroin. Contemporary musicians took similar drugs, hoping to emulate his playing. Through the 1940s, Parker’s career flourished. He recorded some of his most famous tunes, including ‘‘Billie’s Bounce’’ and ‘‘Koko.’’ Yet, he also careened erratically between incredible playing and extreme bouts of alcohol and drug abuse. This deteriorated in 1946, when after the recording of the song ‘‘Lover Man,’’ Parker became inebriated in his hotel room, set fire to his mattress, and ran through the hotel lobby wearing only his socks. Parker was arrested and committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, where he stayed for 6 months. This stay inspired the song ‘‘Relaxin at Camarillo (1947).’’
The track Relaxin at Camarillo is available on YouTube and it has a wonderfully rambling swing-backed sound. As far as I know, it is the only song about a stay at a mental hospital, but as musicians have had more than their fair share of hospital stays, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were any others, so do let me know if you know of any others.
And here’s that track.
Oh yeah, and that massive physical truama being a trigger thing? I can relate.
But that, my dear reader, is a tale for a completely different blogpost at some point in the distant future.
The new law will ban the denial of coverage to women who have had a prior Caesarean section, or have been victims of domestic violence. Previously companies have denied coverage in such circumstances by regarding them as pre-existing conditions that will mean a higher cost of coverage. One such company–the ironically named Golden Rule based out of Indianapolis–not only rejected women who had a C-section but went on to recommend that if they became “sterilized” they would offer coverage.
Some new changes to the law will not take into effect until 2014, but the ban on discrimination will be implemented immediately.
The short version? The American Empire is going down, baby, and a lack of perspective on things means that there ain’t no turning back.
Everything you learned, everything you believe and everything driving our political leaders is based on a misleading, outdated theory of history. The American Empire is at the edge of a dangerous precipice, at risk of a sudden, rapid collapse.
Why? Throughout history imperial leaders inevitably emerge and drive their nations into wars for greater glory and “economic progress,” while inevitably leading their nation into collapse. And that happens suddenly and swiftly, within “a decade or two.”
“Most great nations, at the peak of their economic power, become arrogant and wage great world wars at great cost, wasting vast resources, taking on huge debt, and ultimately burning themselves out.” We sense the “consummation” of the American Empire occurred with the leadership handoff from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush.
Unfortunately that peak is behind us: Clinton, Bush, Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and all future American leaders are merely playing their parts in the greatest of all historical dramas, repeating but never fully grasping the lessons of history in their insatiable drive for “economic progress,” to recapture former glory … while unwittingly pushing our empire to the edge, into collapse.
A Piece on the joys of the epigraph and how they can be used to great effect in your writing. Well, other peoples writing really, but you could apply the understanding gleamed here to your own.
When treated with the necessary respect, a well-placed epigraph can work wonders. Even Elmore Leonard won’t dismiss them. In his draconian set of rules for how to write (which is really a set of rules for how to write like Elmore Leonard), he strikes off the prologue, the foreword and the introduction (as well as most modifiers, adjectives and adverbs), but the epigraph he leaves alone. One of Leonard’s authorial dedications itself reads like a sort of epigraph. “To my wife, Joan”, he writes, at the start of Freaky Deaky, “for giving me … a certain look when I write too many words.”
Epigraphs can come in many forms. There is the epigrammatic (“A human being is never what he is but the self he seeks” – Octavio Paz; used by Nadeem Aslam in Maps for Lost Lovers); the prophetic (“And what is good, Phadrus, / And what is not good …. ?” – Plato; which opens Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance); the poetic (“Why so pale and wan, fond lover … ?” – Sir John Suckling; cited in Hangover Square). There are those that are an extension (and explanation) of the title. John Steinbeck’s Burning Bright is a reference to Blake; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise comes from Rupert Brooke.
Man, I’m getting frantic. I haven’t even looked at any feeds today, I’ve been posting stuff I’ve had up in tabs since yesterday, and I’m already over my deadline to stop blogging. Plus, I smell, which is probably something i should rectify, and I have some paperwork to do which makes me wonder if I’m even going to get to do any novel writing today what so ever.
There’s been some debate in the comments of this post as to whether self-publishing has any value. Yesterday I stumbled across some things that are pertinant to the arguement.
Aside from the classic stories about famous authors 50 or more years ago who met with success after choosing the vanity press, and the good number of nonfiction books that have consistently sold well over a span of time, you don’t often hear about contemporary books or authors hitting it big with self-publishing. Are writers deluding themselves into thinking they can be successful without a Big House to guide them?
So I went online to identify successful self-published novels. Here’s a starter list of 20 from many I found in a quick search on the web. Measuring success, of course, is subjective, and I’ve not read most of these books, but reviews by way of Goodreads.com, LibraryThing.com, Kirkus and Amazon seem fairly consistent.
Yes, self-published novels can bring in good sales and decent incomes. They can also lead to a writing career for those authors who started out in the self-published arena. Take a look for yourself.
In the list itself there are two books that I have actually heard of; one being ‘legally blonde’ which was turned into a movie with reese witherspoon (and spawned a sequel) and the other i actually own! A heartbreaking work of staggering genius by Dave Eggers. Now, I know a little of where Eggers went after this book and amongst other things founded a publishing house, mcsweenys, who do a quarterly journal (who produce some truely lovely books, like the one pictured above which i used to own, and has an eccentric online version from which i’ve posted), a monthly journal called The Believer and who does a whole bunch of other stuff as well.
So, from a self-published book he has garnered himself a pretty sweet career. So there.
Also, check out this interview with someone who self-published a book and had some sucess and critical acclaim with it. He goes into, amongst other things, why the book was self-published to begin with.
Very funny, very interesting, very long. I actually listened to this yesterday and found it a thoroughly engaging and thoughtful presentation shot through with Adam’s trademark wit and sense of irony. It mainly details the conception and journeys of his book Last Chance to See in which he travels the world in search of really really endangered species.
Of course, one of the most insightful things i got out of it for me was that in a pinch you could use a condom to turn a normal microphone into an underwater one.
via boing boing
National Geographic’s ‘Explorer’ series are examining the myths and effects of LSD:
LSDs inventor Albert Hofmann called it “medicine for the soul.” The Beatles wrote songs about it. Secret military mind control experiments exploited its hallucinogenic powers. Outlawed in 1966, LSD became a street drug and developed a reputation as the dangerous toy of the counterculture, capable of inspiring either moments of genius, or a descent into madness. Now science is taking a fresh look at LSD, including the first human trials in over 35 years. Using enhanced brain imaging, non-hallucinogenic versions of the drug and information from an underground network of test subjects who suffer from an agonizing condition for which there is no cure, researchers are finding that this “trippy” drug could become the pharmaceutical of the future. Can it enhance our brain power, expand our creativity and cure disease? To find out, Explorer puts LSD under the microscope.
Also, someone posted a link to this article from the guardian in the comments:
“The working hypothesis is that if psilocybin or LSD can occasion these experiences of great personal meaning and spiritual significance … then it would allow [patients with terminal illnesses] hopefully to face their own demise completely differently – to restructure some of the psychological angst that so often occurs concurrently with severe disease,” said Griffiths. So by expanding their consciousness during a session on the drug, the patient is able to comprehend their thoughts and feelings from a new perspective. This can lead to a release of negative emotions that leaves them in a much more positive state of mind.
Twelve patients with terminal cancer have already helped Grob to test this idea and, although the research is not yet published, anecdotal reports from some subjects are encouraging. Pamela Sakuda (see below) was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer in December 2002. Her husband, Norbert Litzinger, said the psilocybin treatment transformed her outlook.
“Pamela had lost hope. She wasn’t able to make plans for the future. She wasn’t able to engage the day as if she had a future left,” he said. Her “epiphany” during the treatment was the realisation that her fear about the disease was destroying the remaining time she had left, he said.
Every cause in the known world seems to have a day dedicated to it but who exactly is in charge of this shit exactly and what gives them the authority to attempt to control our thoughts like this? In newspapers and light and vapid news programmes the call will be sent out that today is the day or the month where we’re supposed to think about these things. International no smoking day? How about international lick my festering lungs clean day? Leave your contact details in the comments and i’ll set it up.
April is international poetry month. Of course, it’s not international good poetry month so prepare for pain. Prepare to have poetry of all description shoved down your throat. One of the books I’m reading at the moment, reality overload, has a number of paragraphs discussing this approach to poetry – a sort of flattening of value and draining of meaning wherein all poetry is the same and is merely a commodity to be consumed. It’s a pretty involved book which I’m going to have to re-read with a dictionary on hand, but I’ve garnered alot from it. I hope.
I used to write alot of poetry, in a completely untutored way, but I don’t like alot of poetry. I used to do open mic readings alot as well. The types of places that have poetry readings are usually the kinds of places that cultivate culture like one would attempt to conservate an endangered species and as such draw crowds of, well, a mixed bag. The events ended up feeling quite sterile. I once got a knowing nod of respect off of an acclaimed poet as I got off the stage at one of these quite sterile feeling events – the event being centered around her reading. Her name is Pascale Petit and she was really quite good but her performance was totally marred by, dare i say it, the ambience of dead air. The poem in question was this one and it’s honestly a total mess, formless and making makebelieve at having a structure. Stil, there’s something about it that I’ve always liked.
In later years, having decided that the vast majority of poetry readings/open mic opportunities carried this same weight of dead air, but still finding myself writing and developing, having this sense in my head that poetry could be vital and full of life (the way it seems to be in Manchester at the moment), I started doing readings at an open-mic night at a club. Obviously, such spots were intended for musicians and I was in fact the only writer who read there. My performances there went pretty well. People used to come up with me and attempt to converse, ocassionally buying me pints of lager. On one ocassion the noise of people talking drowned me out and I started shouting. The moral of the story i guess is don’t ever give me a live microphone.
Since I’ve decided to give being a ‘novelist’ a go my poetry output has dropped a hell of alot. I want to come back to the form, give it a studious attempt for a change, but I barely trust myself to write a novel, let alone write a novel whilst studying and writing poetry, so it’s gonna have to wait.
Which brings us to this post on writers rainbow I found wherein the author encourages the novelist to step away from the keyboard and take on the techniques of the poet for a while.
Poetry, for me, is an intuitive process, very different from my work in fiction and prose, in which everything I do is analytical and purposeful and organic to my nature. I come from a storytelling family, so that has to have had some effect on me. I also continue to have trouble finding poetry that resonates with me. For such a short form, I find it wears me out, all the same. I like a puzzle as much as anybody else, but let’s keep it to jigsaws, crosswords and sudokus, I say. Give me access.
But one thing I admire about poets is their relatively low-tech writing practice. Most poets I know can write poetry wherever they are, whenever they are. A pen, a notebook, and a moment is all it takes to get them writing. Prose writers, on the other hand, are keyboard junkies (to be fair, if I hand-inscribed everything I ever wrote, I would have a terrible case of writer’s cramp!) who need outlets, laptops, perhaps a mouse and a thumb drive, to get their work achieved. Not all prose writers are like this…
I totally get what she is saying here. I used to fill notebook after notebook with scribbled notes and poems like i was shelling pistachios (i have a thing for pistachio shells) but since I’ve been on the prosetrain… My current notebook is like 3 years and it’s still far from filled. It’s definately something I miss – the spontinuity, the writing by intuition alone. these days notes are thought and grown invitro before even reaching a page or screen. There’s still intuition and spontinuity, but nowhere near as much.
Still, what is said is no absolute. Not all poets work this way. Not all prose writers work at the opposite end of the spectrum. The point is, i think, new perspectives and techniques are always valuable as your never quite sure where they will lead you and any creative process should be something of wandering into the unknown.
you know how it is, you stumble across and artist or band online or in a magazine (okay, not really in a magazine much these days… The NME is the enemy!) and you mean to make a note of them to, you know, check them out further but then you just forget.
Anyway, this is one of those. Bonobo. I’m listening to him right now on spotify, but will i remember his name in three days time?
On the occasion of his Razzie prize for worst screenplay ever, Battlefield Earth screenwriter JD Shapiro, explains how he came to write one of cinema’s great and foetid turds.
Then I got another batch of notes. I thought it was a joke. They changed the entire tone. I knew these notes would kill the movie. The notes wanted me to lose key scenes, add ridiculous scenes, take out some of the key characters. I asked Mike where they came from. He said, “From us.” But when I pressed him, he said, “From John [Travolta]‘s camp, but we agree with them.”
I refused to incorporate the notes into the script and was fired.
I HAVE no idea why they wanted to go in this new direction, but here’s what I heard from someone in John’s camp: Out of all the books L. Ron wrote, this was the one the church founder wanted most to become a movie. He wrote extensive notes on how the movie should be made.
Many people called it a Scientology movie. It wasn’t when I wrote it, and I don’t feel it was in the final product. Yes, writers put their beliefs into a story. Sometimes it’s subtle (I guess L. Ron had something against the color purple, I have no idea why), sometimes not so subtle (L. Ron hated psychiatry and psychologists, thus the reason, and I’m just guessing here, that the bad aliens were called “Psychlos”).
The only time I saw the movie was at the premiere, which was one too many times.
link to the original piece minus the claustrophobic web design of the new york post.
Some salient quotes from the article:
So far there is no scientific proof that mephedrone has been responsible for any deaths in the UK, and scientists are still trying to work out whether it is harmful on its own or if taken with something else.
In her resignation letter, Dr Taylor told the home secretary she was quitting because she did not have trust in the way the government would treat the ACMD’s advice.
“I feel that there is little more we can do to describe the importance of ensuring that advice is not subjected to a desire to please ministers or the mood of the day’s press,” she wrote.
“This is a pivotal moment in UK drug policy,” said Dr Nutt.
“Given the plethora of ‘legal highs’ that could follow in mephedrone’s wake, the way in which this issue is handled could well set the tone for many years to come.”
Although Dr Nutt uses the disclaimer ‘could follow’ it seems short sighted and ignorant to think it would be otherwise. There are already, for example, analogues of THC available. Given the efforts by pharmacutical companies to isolate the alkalines in cannabis which are useful for relieving the symptoms of certain illnesses so that they may be used without the ‘danger’ of a resulting high it seems only fitting that others with a knowledge of chemistry and an interest in the recreational/entheogenic aspects of such substances are going in the other direction.
For me this whole debacle is the result of years of igonorant and prohibitive policy and a lack of any kind of true drugs education in schools and frankly it’s only going to become more urgent as time goes on. As Dr Nutt highlights above a cross-roads has been reached that will call into question the validity of prohibation as a tool of law & society. Whether or not anyone will be able to stop reading the tabloids long enough, removing themselves from the base emotional manipulations that such publications use on a daily basis to hook their readers in, to formulate any kind of clear thought on the mattter is another question all together.
I’ve read more in depth articles on this topic, the ghettoisation of SF as a genre, the attempts of authors and publishers to distance themselves from science fiction whilst at the same time embracing its tropes and metaphors (the spectulative fiction label, for example), but i can’t for the life of me remember where they were. Any ideas?
What do novels about a journey across post-apocalyptic America, a clone waitress rebelling against a future society, a world-girdling pipe of special gas keeping mutant creatures at bay, a plan to rid a colonisable new world of dinosaurs, and genetic engineering in a collapsed civilisation have in common?
They are all most definitely not science fiction.
Literary readers will probably recognise The Road by Cormac McCarthy, one of the sections of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway, Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood from their descriptions above. All of these novels use the tropes of what most people recognise as science fiction, but their authors or publishers have taken great pains to ensure that they are not categorised as such.
Sometimes you just don’t want your children’s heads to be filled with wonder and curiousity and unbridled imagination. Sometimes you want them to know exactly how fucked up and pain filled the world can be. Sometimes you want them to be just as broken inside as you are, assuming that you haven’t broken them already or let Uncle Tobias break them for you. For these times it can be useful to have some literature to further the ‘realist’ indoctrination of your offspring. You need The Most Depressing Children’s Books Ever Written