Category: Uncategorized

Creative Licence

As our world grows more dysfunctional there appears to be a corresponding upsurge in control freakery of all kinds – focus groups, market researchers, spin doctors and the like. Uncertain times naturally breed a desire for commercial safety but what is designed to please everybody often ends up delighting nobody. A formula movie composed by committee might tick generic response boxes but most likely lacks the art to stir and inspire audiences – an art that can only arise when film-makers who have real flair and passion are given their heads.

Such art is often controversial but controversy is the mark of a mature community and we should beware a situation where creative freedoms are constrained in the interests of mere uniformity. Socially-aware cinema has always given a voice to those in our society who may otherwise struggle to be heard.

For that reason I can thoroughly recommend Sorry We Missed You, the latest offering from veteran director Ken Loach who at the age of 83 has lost none of his fire and crusading spirit. It’s the touching and often intensely moving story of an ordinary family caught up in the gig economy. More than one commentator has observed it should be required viewing before the UK election of 12 December. At any rate, laughter and tears were never far apart in what I found to be a deeply cathartic experience.

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To end on a lighter note, I’ve just watched this documentary on the making of A Hard Day’s Night. Lasting less than 40 minutes, it’s an engaging and often joyful insight into more innocent and optimistic times (sigh!) when even the suits would risk giving genuine talent a free rein. Hard to believe now that they went about it in such a haphazard and ramshackle way – though somewhat easier, especially after watching this, to understand how it all somehow succeeded!

 

Bifocals

This sharp little poem has really struck a chord with me!

To work out why, I tried substituting author for archer and applause for prize. There’s no doubt an overwhelming desire to show off is a surefire way of taking your eye off the ball … or bull. Double vision indeed!

Amazing that the poem was written 24 centuries ago, don’t you think?

When an archer is shooting for nothing
He has all his skill
If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous
If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind
Or sees two targets -
He is out of his mind!

His skill has not changed. But the prize
Divides him. He cares.
He thinks more of winning
Than of shooting -
And the need to win
Drains him of power.

Chuang Tzu

 

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Image: ClipartWiki

Midnight Meditation

I couldn’t let today pass by without saying something about the climate change protests that have taken place around the globe. Let armchair critics have their outraged rants about schoolchildren missing lessons and adult working days being lost, their fury fueled by reactionary media in cahoots with tax evaders and toxic polluters. I believe we’ve heard too much cynical mockery of youthful idealism and more than enough nasty ridicule of the ‘snowflake’ variety. The future belongs to young people and their children and it’s absolutely right that they have their say now, before it’s too late. The times, along with the old demographics, are changing and if politicians understand anything at all it is the power of symbols to change hearts and minds – a power exponentially amplified in the huge whispering gallery of a deregulated social media. In the increasingly faint but fervent hope that our wars can remain purely cultural, I’ve chosen a picture which seems to strike some kind of balance. It’s a balance between science and art, man and nature, pessimism and optimism, work and play, now and forever. After all, as everybody really knows, the best things in life are free …

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Image: Time Magazine

Paper Chase

The other day I was talking ‘personal organisation’ with my fellow-retiree and WordPress correspondent Curt Mekemson – click on the name to view his enjoyable blogsite. Our conversation reminded me of a highly effective system I’d begun to use by the end of my working life. If I’d seen it earlier, I might have more hair now!

It’s paper-based but I’m sure it could be adapted for computer. I’d recommend a read to anybody, if only for a glimpse of perfect order in an otherwise disorderly world … 🙂

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The Less Stress Desk System

Operates on the “doing one job at a time” principle and “out of sight, out of mind” principle. Also keeps a running check on the work in-hand while constantly keeping papers in the right priority. Most desks have piles of papers on them, usually in no order of priority. Pending baskets invite paper piles. Double and triple tier baskets double or triple the size of the pile and the pressure. They are a constant reminder of work waiting to be done, and they distract from the current job. The less stress desk system cures this. Here’s how it works.

It uses one in-tray, one waste-paper basket and one bank of size A4 drawers. Drawers are better than baskets or trays because they keep pending work out of sight, but aren’t essential to make the system work. The drawers are labelled as follows:

Action Today

Action Soon

Redirect

File

Read

Info Needed

Under pain of death, people are warned to put papers only in the in-tray on your desk. Each time you return to your desk, or complete a task (whichever is convenient to your working style), you sort, not deal with, the in-tray contents as follows:-

1.  Take the first in-tray document, scan it quickly and ask yourself “Am I ever going to need this piece of paper again?” Be ruthlessly honest in your answer. If the answer is “No” put the document in the waste-paper basket.

2.   If the answer is “Yes” put it away immediately in the appropriate drawer of the bank of 6, including papers that you intend passing to other people. Put these in Redirect.

3.   If you have a Secretary or an Assistant, have him/her empty and deal with Redirect.

4.   Don’t go home until you have dealt with all the contents of the Action Today drawer. These will be processed one at a time and put in one of the other drawers or waste-paper basket as appropriate. If you are rigid in your discipline about not leaving each day until the Action Today drawer is empty you will become very realistic about what you put in it.

5.   As you leave at the end of the working day, put the contents of the Action Soon drawer in the in-tray ready for the same process at the start of the next day. This keeps pending material under constant review and prioritises it constantly.

6.   To prevent the Info Needed drawer becoming like the usual pending basket, handle it as follows:-

a)  Write on the original document the action needed from another person to provide the info needed plus the date you expect it by with a note to let you know if the person can’t do it by that time immediately on receipt.

b)  Note this in your diary on that date. Put the document in ‘Redirect’ to be passed on but with a note for it to be copied and this copy go into the ‘Info Needed’ drawer. Your diary will bring this to your attention at the right time to pull out and put in your ‘Action Today’ drawer.

c)   People will get used to meeting your diary date if they know you don’t forget and automatically chase them on the due date.

7.    Put away any material that will take more than a few moments to read – e.g, Trade Journals – in the Read Drawer. Plan blocks of time to do reading daily. And filing things away can be relaxing when you don’t want to do anything else.

And there you have it. Almost makes me want to go back and have a second crack at it. Almost.

I Poured Myself A Drink

The idea is that I keep typing until the glass is empty and then stop. It’s one way to galvanise myself when more than a week has passed since my previous post and I can’t think of what to write.

Not that there’s nothing to write about. If anything, there’s too much. I mean, where do you start? And anyway, my pesky inner critic continues, what good will it do when the world is already awash with unread words and you can barely bring yourself to read any of them – much less actually add any of your own to the swirling soup?

Ah, what does he know? He doesn’t get out much.

Besides, I don’t have to write about anything. All I need to do is follow one word with another. A sprinkling of commas and full stops (periods over the Pond) and Bob’s your uncle!

“Bob’s your uncle” is a phrase commonly used in United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries that means “and there it is” or “and there you have it.” Typically, someone says it to conclude a set of simple instructions or when a result is reached. The meaning is similar to that of the French expression “et voilà!” or the American “easy as pie” or “piece of cake“.  (Wikipedia)

Hmm, this is easier than I thought it was going to be! With so many words online, there’s no danger of me running short. And now that I’ve mastered Cut & Paste, well, ain’t no stoppin’ us now …

Hey, better and better! This interweb thingy’s outasight! Ya don’t have to get bogged down in present-day doom-and-gloom when you can still party in more innocent days gone by!

Maybe I should take my tune from a social media acquaintance whose one contribution to the Brexit, er, Debate is to post cheery stuff from 1972 – the year before we joined The Common Market, as it was then called. Ah, happy daze … well, happy if you’re a victim of arrested development … gee, remember when songs off commercials went to Number One instead of the other way around?

Wow, just to think, three or four sips ago I was in the throes of a colossal communication breakdown and now I’m well and truly plugged into where it’s hot and happening! I’m even starting to discover a youth I never had. Is there no limit to my potential cultural reach? Running out of words? I should cocoa …

Question:  Perhaps you can help Americans with a phrase, I should cocoa, that at least one of us finds rather bewildering.

Answer:  Since few Americans know of or use rhyming slang, that isn’t surprising. It originally stood for “I should say so!”, a sarcastic exclamation to express disbelief, derision, scorn or indignant negation. You might also render it as ““You must be joking!” “Not on your life!” or “No way!” …

… It appeared in London in the 1930s but became more widely known in the 1950s through its use on the BBC radio programme The Billy Cotton Band Show. Many people were reminded of it as a result of the Supergrass hit with that title in 1996.

It’s an odd example of the type, since it’s a straight rhyme of cocoa with “say so” without the bipartite phrasing usual in terms like apples and pears (for stairs), daisy roots (boots), or plates of meat (feet) that leads to their being abbreviated as — for example — plates, as a further level of in-crowd obfuscation. Though it has been recorded in the longer forms coffee and cocoa and tea and cocoa, these look like afterthoughts, attempts to force an existing saying into the standard mould (if these were genuinely the original forms, one would expect to hear coffee and tea as short forms, but one never does).

My thanks to World Wide Words for that informative infusion of wise words. But let’s not be picky. Any kind of words gratefully received, as it happens, and with at least a  mouthful of beer in my glass who knows where I’m going next? Time and space are as nothing to a cybernaut like me who’s just remembered how to fly … eat your heart out, Orville!

Not, of course, to be confused with the early aviation pioneer and brother of Wilbur:

Wilbur and Orville Wright were American inventors and pioneers of aviation. In 1903 the Wright brothers achieved the first powered, sustained and controlled airplane flight; they surpassed their own milestone two years later when they built and flew the first fully practical airplane.

Well, that’s quite enough excitement for now!

Besides, I’ve swigged the rest of my beer …

 

Home Truths

 

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Reading this, it’s easy to despair.

But my irrepressible inner optimist reminds me of something Karl Marx said. Mankind, he suggests, always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve.

If that is true then all we need to do is to embrace the idea of ‘a spiritual and cultural transformation’ where selfishness, greed and apathy become history and new collective values take their place.

Simples?

I only wish it was. My fear is that things are going to get worse before they can get better. And fear is a big inhibitor of imagination. How to imagine a better future, eh? How to remember the past in a way that helps us construct a brighter world?

Ah, such difficult questions for the solitary blogger! Perhaps TS Eliot can offer  assistance. Here’s the opening of Burnt Norton, the first of his Four Quartets:

 

“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”

 

Human kind cannot bear very much reality

I wonder? What do you think?

 

Image result for bird in bush

 

Image: Flickr