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TMM: A lonely job

When I read a post that I wish I’d written because it (a) says what I’m thinking and (b) says it better than I could, there is only one thing to do … reblog it!

I read it just after reading this rather startling thought, from Scott Fitzgerald: “Either you think, or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilise and sterilise you.”

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“An artist is always alone – if he is an artist.” – Henry Miller

Writing is a lonely job, no doubt about it. And no matter how successful you might become, you’re still alone. It’s the inexorable truth of the writer’s condition: you sit at your desk, in an empty room or in the most crowded coffee shop, yet you’re alone. You just do your thing.

Of course, this poses a rather interesting question: if you spend that much time alone, how do you find stuff to write about?

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Fly free, fly high

Today’s Daily Prompt word Silhouette triggered nostalgic memories of Lotte Reiniger’s stop-go animations, often shown on television when I was young. High-tech they weren’t – but exquisitely expressive nonetheless.

Exotic folk tales like The Arabian Nights always awakened my imagination, instilling a  love of escapism that found a later echo in sci-fi and fantasy. The magic was in the reading, however. I sometimes found illustrations disappointing and often felt that TV and film versions were crass and clunky. Between page and picture something had disappeared.

But these little animations have a tremulous, gentle delicacy that somehow preserves the dreamlike appeal of traditional stories. Here is one I particularly remember. Second childhood, perhaps, but the older I get the more I find myself returning to such sources of innocent pleasure …

A Short History of Dance

I picked up a flyer the other day for Rebellion Festivals which, I discover, take place in London and Amsterdam next year. Oh, and there’s a four-day event at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool – a venue I associate with much daintier and more decorous leisure pursuits like ballroom dancing. Here are poster images of the Empress and nearby Tower Ballrooms from their heyday in 1938:

Image result for ballroom dancing winter gardens blackpool

The Blackpool Tower Ballroom (from an original painting by Fortunino Matania, R.I.) - From a 1938 programme for the Winter Gardens Complex

I wonder what these audiences would have made of the pogo-inducing punk bands who will be playing at the Rebellion Festival 80 years later. But setting aside the culture chasm, those conventional 1938 crowds and their 2018 punk progeny do have one thing in common – both are a decade into austerity arising from a major financial crash.

We may or may not be talking about similar social stratas but it’s still worth considering how different generations respond to economic adversity: in 1938 by escaping into a conformist gentility originating in our aristocratic past and in 2018 by, er, escaping into an anti-bourgeois revolt with working-class roots. Two escapes: the first escapist and the second more akin to escapology.

It was the cheeky insouciance of the Beatles that first turned the tables on the cultural dominance of the upper crust’s Hooray Henrys and Henriettas. The Fab Four got their feet in the door and 15 years later the punks kicked it open. Deference had disappeared and with it – or so it seemed – the hypocrisy of sweeping stuff under the carpet and drawing a discreet veil over, ahem, unsavoury subjects.

You can hear the resounding echo of all that iconoclasm in the names of bands appearing at the Winter Gardens. Several I recognised but here are some I didn’t:

Lower Class Brats
Peter & The Test Tube Babies
Subhumans
Dirtbox Disco
Toxic Reasons
Gimp Fist
Culture Shock
The Defects
Newtown Neurotics
Vice Squad
Rubella Ballet
The Stupids
Los Fastidios
Rude Pride
Cheap Sex
Paranoid Visions
Barstool Preachers
Filf
Drongos For Europe
The Crippens
Hagar The Womb
The Restarts
Contempt
Choking Susan
Spunk Volcano & The Eruptions
Hands Off Gretel
Geoffrey Oicott
Knock Off
Warwound
Wolf Bites Boy
The Mis-Made
Tiger Sex
Pizzatramp
Headstone Horrors
Boots N All
Surgery Without Research
Flowers In The Dustbin
Millie Manders & The Shut Up
Fire Exit
No Thrills
The Droogettes
Vomit
Delinquents
Litterbug

What teenager worthy of the seventy-year-old label hasn’t wasted an afternoon or three sitting around with a couple of mates inventing stupid names for bands? I remember being hugely impressed with one that Peter Sellers came up with, probably on one of his solo record albums produced in his pre-Beatle days by George Martin who also produced the Goons’ records such as the immortal Ying Tong Song:

What a treat for us kids to hear grown-ups coming up with such inspired nonsense! And the band name that impressed me so much? Snotty and the Nosepickers!

Hmm, guess you had to be there … wearing short trousers and still laughing like a drain when references to anything mildly rude arose. This was the stuffy 1950s, of course, when the scope for cultural rebellion was so much wider. Tiger Sex or Knock Off   wouldn’t have got anywhere near the Winter Gardens at a time when TV would only show Elvis the Pelvis from the waist up.

The 1960s – much-maligned by sexual puritans and social conservatives – brought an end to paternalist censorship. Abortion and homosexuality became legal, capital punishment was abolished and measures were taken to improve the position of women. The 1970s brought further social reform, including the Race Relations Act.

The economic deregulations of the 1980s were, in my view, a backward step. The responsibility of Maynard Keynes was replaced by the anarchy of Milton Friedman, which culminated in the 2008 crash and consequent austerity – an austerity that bears down unfairly on the young.

If I was 18 now, with hair, I’d be dyeing it green … and dying to pogo up and down to a punk band called Screw The System or something! Better anyway than having to take part in dance marathons for peanuts, like youngsters 80 years ago, before they were marched off to fight in a war whose primary cause was the very same Depression that had forced them to dance for their dinner and a temporary roof over their heads in the first place.

Image result for dance marathon

Ah, what the hell, enough of this Black mood … I’m going to cheer myself up with another listen to the Ying Tong Song!

Images:     Arthur Lloyd      History By Zim

Comic Cuts

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They say a picture paints a thousand words.
Well, I’ve got a complaint to make.
This one only has two.

Unless there are more round that corner where we can’t see them.
Don’t know about you but I’m convinced we’re not being told the whole truth.
All the pictures we see only show what the artist or photographer wants us to see.
What about all the stuff that’s just out of view?
What are they trying to hide?

Another thing.
What’s so funny about people having nothing to be thankful for?
Is the utter failure to provide customer satisfaction something to be laughed at?

No, my online friends, instead of giggling over cartoons in darkened rooms we should be taking to the streets and demanding answers.

Where are all the other words? What’s round that bloody corner? Why are other people behaving so strangely? Did we miss a meeting? And why are we being lead by idiots pretending to be geniuses? Or are they geniuses pretending to be idiots?

Either way, we’re scuppered!

Our only hope is that somehow there dwell amongst us true visionaries who see into the heart of things and can guide us away from the dark abyss of error and forward into broad, sunlit uplands … er, Winston Churchill quote, besides he’s no longer with us … yes, my virtual compatriots, true visionaries like the chirpy unsung hero of these few short scenes:

Which current world leader can boast the 100% approval rating this little guy achieves? The man under the piano failed to provide his customer-experience scores before our deadline so we have excluded him from the survey.

Next:  Why laughing is bad for you – official report

 

Image: medium.com

Well, Shiver Me Timbers!

Image result for a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor

This old English proverb, famously quoted by President Franklin D Roosevelt, packs a powerful punch. No wonder it often appears on motivational websites. Chins up, people, gotta roll with them punches! When the going gets tough, the tough get going …

But we’re not talking fisticuffs here, we’re talking sailing! It always amazes me how many English words and phrases come from our proud seafaring past. Here are just some of them:

A shot across the bows
All at sea
Batten down the hatches
Between the Devil and the deep blue sea
Broad in the beam
By and large
Chock-a-block
Close quarters
Copper-bottomed
Cut and run
Edging forward
Fathom out
Full to the gunwales
Get underway
Give a wide berth
Go by the board
Groggy
Hand over fist
Hard and fast
High and dry
In the offing
Know the ropes
Loose cannon
On your beam ends
Panic stations
Plain sailing
Push the boat out
Shipshape and Bristol fashion
Shake a leg
Slush fund
Taken aback
The bitter end
The cut of your jib
Three sheets to the wind
Tide over
Touch and go
Walk the plank

A saying similar to the one used by FDR is, Take the rough with the smooth. Bet that one has a nautical origin too!

I suppose proverbs like these stand the test of time because they express simple, obvious truths. You only learn to handle difficulties by, well, handling difficulties. Children are often, though not always, protected from difficulty but gradually learn to take the strain – another salty saying? – as a natural part of growing up.

But what if we were prevented from growing up? What if our community or society kept us in an infantile state, by chance or even intention, our only role to passively consume the untruths they chose to feed us? Buy this and be happy. Watch this and believe it to be real. Buy into the collective dream. It’s a common enough theme in plays and movies, from Death of a Salesmen to Pleasantville and The Stepford Wives.

One of the very best satires of reality television and its arrested development is Peter Weir’s film The Truman Show which features Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, the unsuspecting star of a reality television show which is broadcast live around the clock and across the globe. His entire life has taken place within a giant dome in Hollywood, fashioned to create the seaside town of Seahaven Island and equipped with thousands of cameras to monitor all aspects of Truman’s life.

SPOILER ALERT: if you haven’t seen The Truman Show you might want to stop reading right there! In fact, if you’ve not seen it, do yourself a big favour and see it as soon as you can. Required viewing, I’d say. It often makes for uncomfortable viewing but it’s impossible to stop once you’ve started.

All of Seahaven’s residents are actors, either acting out a script or repeating lines fed to them by the show’s creator and executive producer who seeks to capture Truman’s real emotion and human behaviour, give audiences a relatable everyman and protect him from the outside world with an illusion of ‘normalcy’. We identify with Truman because the people he views as friends and Neighbors are secretly two-faced, a childish fear we can all share.

As you might expect, most of the film charts Truman’s dawning realisation of his predicament and growing desire for independence. This comes to a climax when he tries to escape Seahaven by boat. Will the executive producer continue to play God, we wonder?

Aha, you cry, here’s the link to all the nautical stuff that naughty old Nomad was flagging up and tying to the mast earlier! Well, the following clip from the film should make the connection even more obvious, though I think the proverb A Smooth Sea Never Made A Skilled Sailor has something relevant to say about Truman Burbank’s disenfranchised plight before he makes his bid for freedom and by extension asks us hard questions about how free we are who watch the watchers watching him …Image result for dr seuss bee watchersImages:  Threadless   The Art of Dr. Seuss