Mix It Up

I am a pop culture kid. But I am also a graduate with a degree in English Literature. Some people might think that the two things clash – in fact I have known people from those two different spheres who have suggested that very thing – kind of like you can only like The Beatles or The Stones, and not both of them. Frankly I always founds that way of thinking just so much horseshit … a nice marketing ploy, and very political; nicely dividing us into red and blue camps so we can beat each other up while driving the sales through the roof.

If you read really good writers who work in the medium of comics, and let me tell you there are some stellar writers doing that, then you know that they can corral a whole shit ton of interesting ideas and culture into their work; ideas that get to stretch their legs in an entirely different way than they might if they are let loose in prose.

I love writing prose, but sometimes I envy the economy of writing that comics allows. The compression and explosion of time between frames can be astounding. I read voraciously and learn from the act of enjoying how the story hangs. I have heard a lot of people describe comics as filmic, and sure, there was an element of widescreen entered in by Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison, but the games you can play with a page far outstrip such a simplistic comparison.

Sometimes when I try to write I am thinking of pop music and trying to catch that vibe; other times I am riffing on some jazz notion that flitted across my mind; other times I am singing a punk song in my head; tapping fingers like a DJ spinning discs; sometimes I jump-cut, head-shot, collage my way through a textual film; and other times, yeah, I am digging the visual language and pacing of a comic.

Each medium has something unique about it, something to embrace – something that might taken as a gift and transposed into a new arena. As I have said elsewhere  – I like mutant forms that struggle against purity; that have some dirt in the mix.

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again and again

It is interesting reading comics that are long running franchises where new writers and time brings a need to reinvent, reimagine, reboot the character. When you create a character there is something very personal about the story that you create for them and the characteristics which you bestow upon them, so to have someone come in and slip inside that skin? To me that would be something that I would find exceedingly strange.

I see that it is a double-edged sword – that if this happens to you and your character that you know you have created something that is going to last, because it has moved beyond the limits of what you yourself imagined for it. I suppose that in some way it is not that dissimilar to the relationship a writer has to the character once they have introduced them to readers – for thereafter the character becomes what the writer intended and what each reader understood; it is an alchemy. And other situations where this may occur? And I am imagining this because it has not yet happened to me – it may be that when a writer surrenders their book to a film-maker they must trust their creation to the director and each of the actors.

There is a part of me that desires this, and in some sense dreads it. But a character will still speak to the person who gave him voice. Filters of time; filters of viewpoint; filters of artistic need – you can come up with so many iterations. Why do I find it OK that Morrison retools the X-Men, but I have a problem with Before Watchmen. Some stories, I suppose, are constructed as sealed systems, and others are designed to be ongoing mythical archetypes for explaining what it is to be human. It is an integrity perceived by me to exist, and it affects how I read and receive the story. How many reboots can one stomach though?

It is kind of like when more than one friend tells you the same story that another friend already laid out there for you – sometimes it seems like a tedious re-hash and you call it quickly to a halt, and sometimes you enjoy it and buy into it for the different aspects that fall under the spotlight. I have read both. This week I have had the pleasure of enjoying myself more than I have felt tortured … this is always a good thing.

Backbrain

You know what is really good for a soul? Sometimes – a kick to the backbrain; the one in the tail you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking with. I have sat on my brain for too long lately. I have been making a problem out of something that needn’t be one. I know there are things that I want to and need to change about my life, but using a problem with someone else as the spur to do it isn’t going to get me anywhere, and sure as hell isn’t a solid footing on which to set out on a new journey from.

I got myself out of the house today, but I haven’t been doing that enough, and being cooped up has not proved to be a great thing. I used to get out and about more and it gave me a more expansive and healthier headspace in which to stretch out.

I have spent a lot of time reading this weekend, which has been groovy, but again isn’t a very social or space grabbing exercise.

This is going to be brief because I am going to dive back into my book, but I almost ended of a week of doing this gratitude thingy with being a whiny bitch. A Facebook status is not a place to handle anything, but I needed reminding, and the swift kick and refusal to buy into my feeling sorry for myself by my friends was the apt response and exactly what I needed to shake me loose from a very bad pattern of behaviour.

Investment

The other week I was having a conversation with my mum where she asked me if it had really been important to me that my parents had remained married and had had a good relationship – she seemed surprised that I would put so much stock in it. I honestly think she might be surprised by how much stock I put and have come to put in both the things they did which were good examples to me, and the advice which they gave me.

Of course there are generational differences and there are other sources of disagreement between parent and child, but there are some really important fundamental things which they did which have formed a solid basis for how I deal and interact with the world. Manners was a pretty important thing to my mum and dad because it indicated respect, and it definitely eased the relations and the communications between people. Tell me it is not easier to deal with someone that is polite to you – that you don’t feel more inclined to listen to them and help them if you can. If someone barks at you or treats you disdainfully or without at least a modicum of respect, don’t you feel disinclined to do anything for them? I think it is harder to be in their space … their company is generally uninviting.

So-called sticklers for tradition who are as pedantic and obstinate and rude about not being rude as those who dismiss manners and kindness out of hand as old fashioned are coming at a misunderstanding from different directions. Neither understands the purpose of the thing they are neglectfully damaging, and neither of them is willing to undo their ignorance with a bit of study. Mr Stickler thinks he knows everything and can’t be told, and Mr Rebel doesn’t give a flying fuck about it and doesn’t want to hear word one.

I give thanks to whatever that if I don’t know something, or if I have a wrong idea about something, that I am willing to see someone else’s viewpoint and actually learn. If I hadn’t had this willingness I would have gotten nowhere. The pain and suffering resulting from certain bad decisions would have taught me nothing – I would have been unable to grow both mentally and spiritually. Some people are hidebound long before they become old.

I won’t say I didn’t rile up against some of what my parents told me; and I won’t deny occupying some rebellious mode more than once, but as I get older and I see the truth in what was told to me back then, I am more than willing to accept it. I was the horse led to water but refusing to drink. You can only stand there being thirsty with an ocean of knowledge before you before your obstinacy strikes even mule-like you as being the height of stupidity, and very anti-survival. And we all want to survive, don’t we?

I aim to plough through a lot of reading this week, and maybe even release a book, which would be cool, n’est pas?

Walk This Way

I have a mainly sedentary lifestyle, but I like to walk. I aim to get a scooter or something so I can travel a little further afield, but I still like to walk and would not like to lose that to the tools of a lazy man. This whole thing, Regular Movement, is crystallising, at least in my mind, and hopefully for you as I expound upon it, into a philosophy that  can encompass everything. Why shouldn’t physical exercise be a part of the thinking? I intend at some point to write a manifesto outlining my thinking on where this could go and what it might mean to you; what it means to me.

We all have to aim a little higher than the lowest common denominator, and we have to be about more than just the filthy lucre. What is the purpose to what you are doing, and what is it that you wish to communicate? If there is nothing like that in your life and nothing like that behind the things that you do and the things that you try to create, you will wake up one day and you will find yourself to be one of the hollow men that T.S. Eliot wrote of. Who wants that fate? Who wants to go with a whimper and not a bang?

So, today I went for a walk, and the peripatetic action of that whole experience, and the pleasant conversation dug deep, and as is usual with conversations of this kind, I had a few epiphanies. When people try and force you to like them you often find yourself recoiling not only from their intrusion but the affinity of all, it makes you shrink and recoil as if someone raised their hand to strike you. I am a private guy, but if I invite you in, and you in turn invite me into your life, and we maintain an understanding of personal space that involves a checking and re-checking of boundaries (which are various ways of inviting and asking to be invited) then we will be good. Why the constant one step forward and one step backward? Because climates change, and micro-climates change faster … on a day to day basis the emotional barometer may need checking. I am not saying that I am temperamental or predisposed to mood swings – I actually like to think of myself as being fairly stable – but isn’t it always wise to check that you are indeed in the movie that you think you are in? Isn’t it polite, and doesn’t it show regard for the person you have a relationship (any kind of relationship) with?

Moving forward, always. Sometimes insisting on movement is a magic all of its own. I go on many journeys when I write, and I am feeling an itch to go on a few more physical journeys. I hit 40 in January, and I need to burn more shoe leather, and be in more interesting places, and see the world before the world flees from this viewpoint that I possess in this current form, in this current game. All the words I have written, and there is a promise of twice as much time if this is truly midlife. And the greatest thing about this second half? I have a running start, and don’t have to wait ten odd years to know enough or have enough to say. Prolific hand in hand with profound is what I hope and aim for. My books will be stones cast out that either cause ripples or sink, but that I have thrown them will mean to me that I at least made some kind of effort.

booking it

It turns out books are good exercise – not just in terms of the mind, but because of the fact that they mean I have to go to the library and walk back when I collect my books, and then I have to carry the bloody things all the way home. I won’t kid you, I love both the experience of ordering books and collecting them – having access to a limitless supply of literature is a pretty amazing thing. When I was growing up I did have books, but there were some that were not immediately available to me – things were different pre-internet, and while you could do a book-search at most bookstores to track down those rare books, the library often had more instantaneous access to those tomes. I had a great librarian who, if she thought the book might benefit other readers in the library, would order it in for me. I am responsible for bringing The Doors Of Perception to my local community.

I carried out, in the last few days, a stack of Jeanette Winterson books that represent a large proportion of her bibliography, that represents a period where book purchases and reading were relatively minimal for me. I have a stack of graphic novels too. I got some Rupert Thompson I have been itching to read, and a couple of Kerouacs. To say I am looking forward to reading them is a vast understatement.

It’s funny – I like to track my progress on Goodreads, and I was thinking, I have to have read more books than are numerically represented on that site, given that I have been an avid reader from an early age. I think the recording of them happened after I came to the states, so I didn’t have my book collection with me so I may have missed some things. I can’t wait to go back to England and uncover some secrets or rather things I have forgotten about myself. Kind of like when you find things that you have written that you don’t have the foggiest idea of where they came from and sometimes you are even given to doubt that it was you who wrote them. Memory makes an interesting landscape of life sometimes, one that is not as predicatable as one might expect. It’s all part of the fun of the game I suppose.

I intend to plough through these pages, and having the pressure of needing to read them before the library asks for them back has always provided a good motivation for me, and this is a wonderful way to discover books that at some point I would love to own. By using the library I support an important institution that helps safeguard the literacy of the future, and then by buying the book I give my vote again for the writer and give something back to the artistic community.

writer’s gamble

It’s funny how you can start writing something and you think it’s one thing but it turns out to be something completely other. It’s always a nice surprise – it’s a more immediate kind of thing when its poetry, and when you are writing a longer piece it can be the kind of thing that happens over and over until the story is finished.

With me, sometimes what happens is that I will be following a trail of sense memories down a lyrical path and all these sensory touchstones trigger different memories and before I know it recollections are exploding like tripped landmines around me, and the loudest one gets noted down into the poem.

I read an X-Men story by Warren Ellis today and it is interesting to see, when I log the book on Goodreads, just how other people can perceive the same piece of art. The weirdness of the artistic style was definitely a point of contention, but some of the remarks made about the story itself were things I found to be markedly different to my own perceptions of how the tale worked. This is why I love feedback on my writing … I am not one of those precious people who has to be surrounded by yes men, and in fact I find that highly suspect. Doesn’t there have to be at least someone in every instant who dislikes the work? Maybe not, but I feel it is more likely than universal acceptance. Anyway, one particular comment struck me – and that was someone questioning the validity of an opinion expressed by a character because the writer of the book is a white English male. If an opinion or something expressed in a book has the ring of authenticity, does it matter who said it? Truth is truth, isn’t it?

This is the gamble writers take daily – putting down their thoughts and sharing them with people, and then sitting back and waiting to discover how it is all received. It should be part of the fun, but I know it can be painful for some. Regardless of the actual emotion felt you have had an effect on someone; you have engaged – and that has to be celebrated, doesn’t it?