Archive for the ‘Writers’ Category

I absolutely love the New Year; always have, always will.  If this didn’t happen, we’d be stuck in the same… (what?), forever.  Wouldn’t be a year, but the psychological ramifications of NOT measuring time on a cyclical basis would be uber-depressing.  Hey friends, happy new… nothing?  Day?  OK – I’ll take whatever I can get.  Happy Same Year, Happy Old Year, Happy Furthering of the Dredge and the Drudgery, with no good drunken blowouts to shake off the cobwebs and kick the minor negatives permanently into the past.  This is a powerful thing man, for me it is at least!

I always make resolutions, albeit lightheartedly.  I know this is not dead serious, and I enjoy thinking about a brand new slate.  But thankfully, we have no shortage of the cranky and cynical to keep us in line and remind us that “It’s just another day, sheeple – no different than yesterday or tomorrow”.  THANK YOU – because here was I, watching for unicorns and expecting the Rapture.  Sir Dickimus of Headicus, maybe you should go tell your 3-year-old now that Santa is bullshit and Grandma is “actually” decomposing in the mud!  Go have a beer and get o’er yersel, fer the sake of Auld Lang Syne.

2013 was momentous in many ways, and 2014 will be epic.  A Few Notables:

Both my beautiful and amazing kid sisters had babies.  The youngest sis has very severe diabetes, and was told by medics her whole life that this could never happen, her body couldn’t support a pregnancy.  Fuck you, doc – both are alive and well and as radiant as ever, and our clan is 2-stronger because of it.  Go Defiance!

554043_586423754736893_1503031208_n  Dylan Tigger

My Sis-in-Law DIDN’T get blown up in the Boston Marathon.  Then after she didn’t get blown up, she got married to a wonderful man and they built a gorgeous new house to start their life together.

My Uncle-in-Law (who ALSO didn’t get blown up) turned 70, and we partied like Hobbitses into the small hours of the summer.

We met a few new friends, musicians  & art afficionados, and bade adieu to a few more moving on to new adventures and pastures.  Those friends that moved on, we sent them off like Vikings, and feasted like Klingons in their honor.  Very memorable days.

I began working on the writing for a SICK jazz album, and have never been happier with the sounds coming out of my guitar. On top of my game indeed, and loving it up Big Willy Style.

Apologies to the notables I have missed – this bears no reflection on your noteworthiness.  Oh, and I didn’t die.

And for 2014?

Planning a trip to England to see the fam, and meet the clan members born since my departure.

I have 2 big anniversaries late in 2014:  10 years living in the USA, and 10 years married to the most amazing woman I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  AJ, I love you soooooooo much, you make me want to retire early, so I can just hang out with you all day every day.  Screw you, proponents of marital combat – try wedding your best friend in the world, and then you’ll see that men and women aren’t enemies.

Happy New Year!!!

Dylan and Dad

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So here is my curse, and Faust had the same ailment, which did not end well for the poor guy:  I was born with an unquenchable hunger for all the knowledge the world ever possessed, and even knowledge the world never possessed – all of it.  I wanted to know everything – still do – all the secrets guarded by every hidden sect across the globe, from the Freemasons to the Mithraists to the Templars and Rosicrusians, the chronicles of Da Vinci and Zoroaster, back again, through every hidden or destroyed record sealed up inside altars, bricked up inside walls, hidden in vaults and tunnels, in cities now under the sea, lost by fire, destroyed by flood, encased in magma and lava, or only ever known by verbal whispers passed from parent to child and never written down through the pagans and the druids and the Far Easterns and the Egyptians and all the other cultures throughout the world and throughout time.  This hunger never went away, no matter how much information I crammed into my brain, and if anything, every answer I ever obtained did not spawn the satisfaction I had hoped for, but created yet another outwardly spiraling plethora of more questions and curiosities.  One human cannot possibly have the capacity to contain all the knowledge I crave, and this hunger has no shape, form or affiliation.  This has presented many challenges throughout my life, because as far as I know, no-one has ever been able to run in every direction at once.  It’s pretty amusing to bystanders, however, when I try.  Picture Cerberus chasing his tail, and you’re not too far off.

The thing is, I do feel special; either I am special or I am a lunatic, but since being a kid I’ve been like a bug-light to ghosts, and more recently to ‘people’ who visit me in my dreams.  There is a whole tribe, many of them, and places they live which aren’t on this rock or in this dimension.  I wake up most mornings with the feeling I was THERE – in the place where all the answers were, and then as this bastard condition known as consciousness takes over, it fades and slips away too quickly for me to retain, and this is immensely frustrating.

I was very lucky as a kid, in that my parents were not religious, and so I didn’t have any dogma shoved down my throat.  In addition, my dad is an absolutely wildly interesting man.  He, like me, is crazy about this stuff, and we used to go on these adventures all the time, looking for fossils or ghosts, watching for UFOs, reading everything we could get our hands on about King Arthur, Merlin, Camelot – whatever.  In fact, I truly do not understand and cannot fathom people who aren’t built this way.  People who are disinterested in things are completely bizarre to me; I don’t judge them, but nor do I understand them, or get what makes them tick.  My friends were like me, and we gravitated towards the occult and the darker side of nature.  Even though I grew up and moved away from my original country, this has never, ever died in me.  I was fanatical about chaos magic, and used to dream as a child about being caught up in the primordial ooze – spiraling ink blobs whirling round at breakneck speeds before the world was formed.  It didn’t feel like a dream, but a memory, and I have always instinctively known – albeit never been able to give form or validation to this knowledge – that our life as humans truly is transient and fleeting.  I have never subscribed to any subset of religious thinking, and have always been a staunch opponent of organized religion, but I’m not atheist either.  In fact, I’m a lifelong member of the “I don’t know what’s out there, and I’m comfortable with that” club.  If we knew everything, then what would be left to look forward to?

But lately, I do feel like I’m getting closer to understanding something.  I don’t know what it is, but I have a scent.  I’m wondering if this is naturally what happens to people as we age, and edge closer to death?

So the study and training of memory is called Mnemonics, which stems from the Greek Mnemosyne, who was the goddess of memory, and incidentally, mother of the nine Muses.  The muses were nine sister goddesses born of Zeus and Mnemosyne, and they were responsible for creating the arts, sciences and knowledge in general, right?

So to muse is to become absorbed in thought, to meditatively turn something over in the mind, or to wonder / marvel or speak reflectively.  Muse is also the root of way more words and notions relating to inspiration – including “Music”, which was created by the muses.  The first muse is called Clio, and she was credited for discovering the guitar.  Erato is the muse responsible for love, love poetry and weddings; Erato was also friends with Eros, (aka Cupid), and would make the arrows which Eros would shoot into our loins, making us feel Erotic (and sometimes erratic).  At least, this friendship was suggested by Apollonius of Rhodes in his book Argonautica, during an invocation to Erato.  And Apollonius was a poet who named himself after the god Apollo, who was the adoptive father of the nine muses when Zeus and Mnemosyne palmed them off.  Safe to say, this dude knew his shit.  So Mnemosyne was the root of all memory, and to this day Mnemonics is the study of memory, and musing essentially means to hang out with the muses and think about stuff, and music is born from musing, and if you muse over things this way and that, they become very, very amusing.  How can you NOT love this?

In case you care, the whole nine muses are:

  • Clio – discovered history and the guitar.
  • Euterpe – the flute, several other musical instruments and dialect.
  • Thalia – the protector of comedy, and discoverer of geometry, architectural science and agriculture.
  • Melpomene – invented tragedy, rhetoric speech and melos (the succession of musical tones constituting a melody.  Maybe even a mellow or melancholic melody.)
  • Terpsichore – invented the harp, dance and education.
  • Erato – the hottest one.  (Love, love poetry and weddings)
  • Polymnia – divine hymns, mimic art, grammar, and geometry along with her sister Thalia.
  • Ourania – celestial objects and stars; invented astronomy.  (Her name sounds eerily like “Uranus”, dunnit?)
  • Calliope – the superior muse, imposer of serenity and justice, and protector of heroic poems and rhetoric art.

 the-9-muses-of-greek-mythology_full_size_landscape1

And don’t get me started on epistemology.

I try my hardest never to judge anyone for anything, but in one specific area I sometimes fail:  I can’t stand half-arsed attempts at anything.  I just can’t bring myself to read crap writing, listen to crap music, or summon anything but indifference towards crap art, and it bugs me that people release things before they are ready for release.  If you’re going to do something, then you have to do it to the absolute best of your ability, otherwise why bother?  Why would I write, unless I can learn to do it in a way that makes my soul bleed and my heart explode?  Why create music that wouldn’t even stir a cup of coffee?  That’s not to say don’t go for it – actually, I’m saying the opposite.  If you’re going to create anything, then do it as though it were the most important thing in your life, because really it is, or should be.  Strive to change the world, or get the hell off my planet.  Nobody is born good at stuff – this takes tears and frustration and dragging your self-esteem through the shitter.  But if you want it, then how else can you get it but to challenge yourself to be better, with every note or sentence or brush stroke you put down?  And if you find yourself dissatisfied with something you’ve done, then go back to it.  Stay up all night with it.  Take it to the basement, and fight to the death until it’s either excellent / great / powerful, or ditch it entirely and keep on trucking.  You can’t ever, ever let the product dictate your limitations – it’s the other way around, and with that mindset, you really don’t have any limits.  This is key.

A plain fact is that writers have to research – we’re all very familiar with that.  I couldn’t write cold about an FBI agent or a safari guide, because I don’t know anything about being either.  If I wanted to attempt that, then I’d need to do a whole lot of learning before I began.  So that being said, something I see over and over in fiction writing is when people use the musical term “octave” incorrectly, and it goes up my arse.

Two people are engaged in adult playtime, and when a particularly stimulating thing just happened, “their voice went up an octave”.  NO IT DIDN’T!!!  They’d sound like Mickey Mouse!  An octave is the same note, raised to the next stave in the musical spectrum; that would sound ridiculous in this context, and send the love interest into fits of laughter or fear!  I’m sure it went up in pitch, maybe even volume (decibels), had a tremolo effect in there, the intonation changed, but if I was ever playing round with someone whose voice went up eight whole notes for any reason, I’d either call a doctor, an exorcist or Simon Cowell.  An octave is a very precise measure, so it would sound perfectly harmoniously musical – they would literally be singing.

To that same note – pun intended – look at the roots of words, and use them accordingly.  Octave – eight notes.  Octopus – eight tentacles.  Octet – eight people.  Octagon – eight sides.  Octapeptide – a protein fragment comprised of eight amino acids linked in a polypeptide sequence.  (OK – that last one I didn’t know without referring to my old beloved Merriam Webster).  Octogenarian, an eighty year old, octcetera octcetera octcetera.

I don’t really care what anyone writes – it is certainly none of my business.  But from a reader’s perspective, these small transgressions can have massive ramifications in how you are perceived as an author.  If you choose to write, then words are your notes, and using the wrong one is akin to Beethoven hitting a bum chord halfway through Moonlight Sonata.  One second you’re half asleep floating on a raft at midnight, and the next you’re arse-deep in cold water, thrown out and coughing up seaweed.  Words are critically important, especially if words and language are your business, and you’re asking other people to give you money in exchange for those sentences.  The worst response you can get to any creative endeavor is apathy.  It’s hard enough to shine in this overcrowded world, without giving the world a perfectly valid reason to bury you in obscurity.

Good things are happening this week!  I decided to start diversifying my activities, and rekindle a few old creative flames, to offset my day-job blah.  As a result:

I have been invited to play at a jazz recital in June, and soon afterwards, to start teaching guitar at Zabinski music studio, in Pawtucket’s Hope Artiste Village.  Very excited!  So I will get to test my new crazy solo jazz-classical style on a real live audience.  Fingers crossed they don’t pelt me with rotten tomatoes.  I also want to start a mosh pit of really small children, and make this venture mutually entertaining. It has been approximately 12 years since I last played live, so my heart is thanking me profusely for getting off my arse again.

I also just did an interview with Motif magazine, a local arts / entertainment paper, for a feature they’re writing on me in their next issue, focusing on the publication and sale of “Vegetables” in Machine of Death, and my current mission to film-script the story and try to sell that on the back of some media-whoring I’m planning.

This weekend is also Gaspee Days festival in Warwick’s Pawtuxet Village, so if you’re heading down there, look out for my friend Kari, and her incredible macramé jewelry designs at the Fnurra Smycken tent!  If you buy lots of her stuff this weekend as a result of my pitch, I reckon she might buy me a beer next time we’re out.  But I haven’t proposed this to her yet, and I still owe her a shot of Jameson’s.  Seriously though, her work is truly awesome.

 

Have a great long weekend folks!  I’m not getting out of bed on Monday, for any reason.  By Tuesday, my reason will be to shower and change the sheets.

Back in my reckless and feckless youth, (or “yoof”, if we’re being regionally appropriate), I was obsessed with learning how to consciously Astral Travel, and with learning how to invoke lucid dreams.  I learned a very cool trick from an interview with Chris Barnes – the vocalist from Cannibal Corpse, who was incidentally way into this stuff – in which you program your subconscious as you’re falling asleep, by implanting triggers in your mind which allow you to ‘wake up’ in the dream, and start making conscious decisions while you are fully asleep.  This is unbelievably effective.

What you do is this:  As you’re dozing off – preferably not whilst driving – think of a light switch on a wall, next to a door.  Make it as vivid as possible, and meditate on this until you are asleep.  For vividity’s sake, I saw a bright green light switch on a red wall.  Do this every night for a while; make that your falling-asleep mantra.  And then in your dreams, on any given night, keep an eye out for this light switch.  Once you see it, your mind will recognize it as a cue, and as soon as you see this cue in your dream, look at the palms of your hands (if you are lucky enough to have them).

What happens is this:  When you look at your hands, you will immediately teleport into another place in the dream – could be anywhere.  And because you a) saw your cue, and b) made the deliberate decision to look at your hands, you become fully cognizant of your dream surroundings, and can then walk round and go wherever you please.  (I highly recommend doing this after watching several episodes of the Magic Roundabout!) Not only will you then get to enjoy absolute freedom to go anywhere in the world, but you will also remember every detail of the dream / trip when you wake up; this in and of itself is priceless – especially if like me, you have a memory like a whatchamacallit.

So I used to always go looking for said power animal, but in the last ~ 20 years, never found it, and started to discount the power animal story as being hokum.  But recently I’ve begun doing this again, and something occurred to me:  The Power Animal can be whatever you want it to be, and if it doesn’t find you, fkit – go and find it.  Better still, program it in there.  After all, spirit guides aren’t ACTUALLY animals – obviously.  That would just be weird.  They’re ghosts / telepathic aliens made of light / inventions of our perspective / small gods / whatever.  So they’ll adapt to whatever form works for you.  Since I moved to the US, I’ve had a particular affinity for frogs.  This stems from a small metal statue we have on the coffee table of a frog sitting in a Buddha pose.  This little statue has made me feel so Zen over the years, I named him “Peace Frog”.  (Hmm – maybe my power animal is Jim Morrison – I could live with that too).  So the conclusion of this is actually quite boring – nothing has yet happened with my power frog, but I just decided that’s quite appropriate.  So I’m going to go to sleep tonight, astrally travel to someplace swampy and fetid – maybe a fetid swamp – and I am SO going to hang with my amphibious friend, to see what the hell is going on around these parts.  Because while I’m awake, I live in a state of perpetual confusion and bewilderment.  If anyone wants a souvenir, (like a bag of dead mosquitoes), let me know.  You have about 8 hours to get your requests in, and then I depart.

Peace Out!

CC

I have a very nice life on the East Coast of America, but have been through some unbelievable doses of crazy to get here.  I rarely ever speak about the most formative times of my life, but every now and again I feel like it.  I’m not American – I hail from Northern England, but came here to get married –  literally speaking, with the clothes on my back and a relatively small suitcase, in 2004 (October 1st – the day before Gandhi’s birthday).  Specifically, I come from a place triangulated between Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, called The Dearne Valley.

When I was born, the Dearne Valley had a major coal mining industry, and everyone was gainfully employed.  My grandfather drove coal trains at Manvers Colliery through his whole post WWII career; it supported everyone.  But then around 1984, when I was about 8, the National Union of Mineworkers went on strike due to shitty working conditions and abysmally low wages, and the rest is sadly history; the pits all closed, almost everyone I knew lost their jobs, my parents had a grocer’s shop for a while which they had to close because nobody had any money for food, and the place very tragically crumbled into the pits of hell.  If you ever saw Billy Elliot, Brassed Off or The Full Monty, that is EXACTLY what it was like.  People were cold, hungry, desperate, scared and had no idea how they were going to buy their next meal.  Two of my childhood friends and peers (brothers) were killed aged about 9 and 12, digging into a railway embankment for coal one night to keep the house warm, when a makeshift tunnel they dug off Railway View collapsed.  Suicides and eviction went through the roof.  Everyone went hungry, and we all became experts at sustaining on potatoes and home-grown vegetables.  Maggie Thatcher just died last week, and I could imagine one or two street parties being thrown to celebrate her demise.  Although I don’t fault the Iron Lady or know too much about the political intricacies involved – she was leading a country with a situation on its hands; she may have made some questionable decisions, but she didn’t make the coal run out.  Fossil fuels just runs out; end of story.

But despite the turmoil and the tragedy, the adults in my community worked VERY hard to shield the children from how scared they were.  (And it is tough trying to implement optimism and hope to a kid living in a warzone.)

When the strikes happened, and the “scabs” (fkin HATE that word) were trying to go to work and NOT strike, a lot of violence happened in and throughout my community.  Every village had a pit – sometimes two – and you couldn’t go anywhere (including school) without walking past picket lines.  When we came back from playing football on the rec, the picketing miners outside Goldthorpe pit would always, always share their sandwiches and water with us, and shoot the shit about who won, and which teams we all supported.  Then two days later you’d hear about that same sandwich-sharing man getting his head busted in by a police truncheon, when a fight broke out because another decent man tried to go to work, and a riot broke out.  These were the fathers and uncles and brothers of my friends, who were going to war with each other.  When I was 8 we were escorted out of school, because rioting between miners and cops spilled through into the streets, and one day, into my school itself.  They bloodied up the yard pretty good, and at one point, several cops chased several miners actually into the main school building, which culminated in some very violent arrests outside a classroom where 6-year-olds were finger painting.  It was very exciting at the time; I’m 37 now, and to some extent, the trauma is only just starting to catch up with me.

One thing that occurred to me only recently though is the real root cause behind all of this industrial death:  There was no coal left, and the pit bosses were all too aware of this.  A decade earlier, Sheffield’s world-famous Steel Industry had suffered the same horror, and putting 2+2 together, it was because of the lack of coal.  The Steel Furnaces run on a LOT of the stuff, and towards the end, the coal board were having to choose between whether they kept supplying the steel industry, or sold the remaining dregs to the locals so they could heat their houses.  In the end, we all lost.  And almost 30 years later, self-esteem is in very short supply in that region.  It killed not only people, but everything.

So all is pretty good these days and the place is much more stable; but based on that, I do still have a hard time listening to very privileged people hating on “social welfare systems” and “free healthcare systems”.  To those people, I have only this to say:

If you haven’t lived through desperation, then please tone it down a bit, because you have NO IDEA what you are talking about.  Every “handout” you attack puts bread in the mouths of children.  Every “free” doctor’s appointment saved the lives of MY PEOPLE who would be stone dead without it.  Every scornful face I see ridiculing “Socialist” programs is very lucky to have a place to live, and everyone who resents paying into a system that helps the under-privileged does not deserve to live in a place that would be willing to do so.  If you really do feel that mercenary, I would challenge you to go it alone, in some paradise where you can’t take it all for granted, and the police ARE to be feared and hospitals don’t exist.  Words are deceptively cheap and easy, but can make or break friendships in a heartbeat.  Be kind to everybody; it doesn’t matter where they’re from – it only matters that they are here.

In one form or another I’ve had that “Ninja Pencil” blog theme kicking around in various guises, initially as the term used to relate to artwork I was trying to promote.  But now I’m not there any more, I’m here, a few years later, and so I’m bidding the ninjas farewell and going to train under the warrior monk Lu-Tze, from Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time.  I obviously can’t stop thinking about time-travel.   Pratchett and Star Trek are equally responsible.  And maybe Galactica, with their jump drives and FTL technology.  I think if I need to get serious about my writing, I need to start channeling JJ Abrams or Gene Rodenberry in my pre-scriptionic meditation rituals.  And if I can channel the Great Bird of the Universe, then I’m gonna start channeling Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Cliff Burton when I play guitar, and Jerry Goldsmith when I write music.

I joined the local YMCA a few days ago, and the place is great, not to mention yuge!  They’ve got a big indoor rock-wall which I’m dying to try out, and they have induction sessions which I plan on attending pretty soon.  So yesterday I swam for the first time in forever, getting to about 750 or 800 meters before they closed at 2.  I wanted to keep going, so instead I sulked in the steam-room for about forty five minutes.  It was most traumatic.  And then, for consolation, I met a friend for beers at Dave’s on Post Road in Warwick.  Yesterday was fun.  This weekend, I am doing as little as possible.

CC

I’ve always been obsessed with time travel, and then something startling – you might even say ASTONISHING – occurred to me today: I am a frackin time traveler. In late March 1976 I decided, “this womb is getting stinky”, and so I decided to bail. And holy cow, was April Fool’s Day an apt day to escape, because this place has got NOTHING on the womb – joke was on me BIG TIME. I turned round to crawl back in, but my biological mother was already in the bar, on her third vodka.
When I realized I was born for good, I decided to time travel forward by a few years, and try school. So I boosted about 5 years, and then quickly decided that was an error. So I curled up in fetal position in bed that night, and elected to go back to my fourth Christmas.  But this time round, right before my brother bit that chunk out of my back, I planned to sidestep his sneaky chompers and watch him hit the deck in full lunge, maybe even land his face in a bowl of cereal. So I closed my eyes, set the dials and went back. Guess what? My plan worked exactly – there were cornflakes stuck to every wall in the house, by the time I was done with my deft ninjistics. He had no idea I knew he was coming, I almost felt bad for him it was so easy.  Next day I was done with being a baby, and decided I wanted to be thirty-seven, hilarious, good looking, popular, talented, sardonic, and develop a wit that wove in and out of sarcasm like a sine wave.  Or, a wit-weave-wave, if you are an appreciator of alliteration.  So here I am, happy at last! I love my life.

Place smells great right now – I’ve got a Shepherd’s Pie in the oven. I kept seeing all these vegan and vegetarian recipes everywhere, so decided to be radical and try the cannibal version. I found a sleeping shepherd – I’ll spare you the details – but you can substitute the human for either ground turkey if you are a carnivore, chick peas if you are a vegivore or both if you are an awesomnivore. I put extra chunky onions in there, an extra carrot, peas, sweetcorn and some Coleman’s sauce. I’m salivating like Pavlov’s Dog round about now, so I’m going to go sign off, savage my postal delivery person’s leg and then hi-five my late lunch.

Have a nice weekend, cats!

CC