Tuesday, September 26, 2006

DIARY 11 - PRANCING NARCISSISTS


David and I went out to a Gay Pub last Saturday with a couple of friends. In a corner of the pub was a dance floor not much more than ten foot square. On one side was the music and on two of the other sides a sequence of large mirrors. Now, I always thought some gay men could be narcissistic and self involved, but you really should have seen some of them dancing.

First there was a slightly unnerving little man in army fatigues with a chiseled face, doing martial arts / Ninja moves to the music. I say 'to the music' but actually it was 'approximately with the music'. When he danced he took over the majority of the floor. Folks were afraid of getting their ass kicked, literally. Over in the corner behind him, watching himself on both sides was a man gesticulating to the mirrors. Looking for all the world as if he was having a fierce argument with himself. Or was it a form of aggressive flirting as sexual harrassement?

Finally, their was the Prima Dona. A slim guy with short greying hair and Jarvis Cocker's bone structure. He performed to his audience. Ascending to the dance floor he took one sip of his drink, gave the disc jockey a cursory look as if to say 'I'm ready, are you'. Then he'd turn to face his audience, focused his eyes, dropped his forehead and with a melodramatic flourish danced. He didn't do footwork. It was after all a little risky with Ninja Man around. For what he lacked in fleetness of foot he made up for with ample amounts of flirtatious hand and arm semaphore. Lovingly caressing his torso or rolling out his arms a la Jackson the Perfidious. Occasionally he'd jump off the stage and head for a man at the bar and dance at him like a matador. I didn't detect an iota of parody. He seemed deadly serious to me. You could feel his ego blowing you kisses from twenty paces. People avoided eye contact in case they might be next. This was not an in joke. Fortunately he stopped dancing before the Drag act, after which everyone was getting it on on the dance floor,including me.

The cabaret/drag act called herself 'Rose Garden' as in 'I never promised you a....' Great legs, shaved smooth and sprayed a healthy tan colour. Some women would die for a pair of pins that good, and some probably have. His main claim to fame was an ability to sing 'Yes Sir I can Boogie' whilst whanging a hula hoop around his waist like a gyroscope. Impressive !

Monday, September 25, 2006

FILM REVIEW - Confetti


Well, this was a disappointment. Being a great admirer of Christopher Guest's improvised movies I was hoping this English effort would be good,or at least passable. In the end it was neither, it was a pile of poo!

It had all the right actors and a quirky idea. Whoever devised this movie, if indeed there was such a person, put spontaneity in subservience to plot. In improvised work the book has to be left open or the drama wont go anywhere remotely unexpected or original. The problem for this movie is it feels as if it's been shoe-horned into a storyline that's had it's laughs preset by rather predictable set pieces.

Guest's movies are primarily vehicles for the creation of characters, not jokes or plot lines. The storyline for 'Best in Show' is:- a number of characters come to a Dog Show and one of them wins. The humour emerges from the well developed, rounded nature of the characters. If improvised drama has a weakness, it's in a tendency towards broad caricature. It's there in Mike Leigh's work and on occasions even in Guest's. To counteract this Guest does huge amounts of filming. Some of that work never gets shown in the cinema. The process does ,however, develop and flesh out the characters and brings a certain level of believability to them. Confetti gives the distinct impression of skimping on this sort of background work and filming. It's like they said, 'Now, here we need some shots of the contestants in Marriage Therapy' and so they did a few minutes worth. What was needed was a few days of improvised 'therapy sessions'. This would allow the actors time to develop ideas about the scene and it's significance to their character. It would also have given the director lots more material to edit and select from.

'Confetti' falls into the huge gaps left by an ill thought through film concept. Confetti fails to connect you with its characters, because they're one dimensional cut outs. They're not appealing, they're not even funny. This film, like wet confetti in a gutter, is soppy, limp and hardly worth noticing.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

QUOTATION MARKS No2



Slight shifts in imagination have more impact
on living than major efforts at change

THOMAS MOORE

DIARY 10 - DAUBING & SCRIBBLING

What are my daubs and scribbles all about? Each medium I practice seems to possess its own individual nature and character. Whether its painting or writing, it appears to manifest a different emotional tone. For example, my paintings have a bright, energetic and entirely positive quality. They touch on spiritual feelings and have, for me, a background in the warming fires of what I consider is my faith. This remains unchanged over time and is seemingly unaffected by transitory moods. Writing ,however, becomes a conduit for more negative melancholic strata, the darker emotional passages of my psyche. So my diary entries of late have focused on the less sweet aspects of my current state, namely frustration, boredom and despondency. These have been dominant experiences in recent months, but they aren’t a balanced or complete representation of how I am day to day. They are just the shards of a particular moment that got stuck in a narrowed perception.

I don’t regret what I write or paint, but I do sense their incompleteness as forms of expression. Any earthly endeavour being grounded in feeling and nature, is bound to be limited by circumstance, to be partial and incomplete. The paintings, the poetry and the prose can therefore only be channels for distinctly individual forces and colours of feeling. The struggle is for a sense of complete expression, though the results always fall far short of it.

For me, writing and painting do share some characteristics. They both combine a seriousness of vision and intent with a playfulness and lightheartedness in the struggles of the creative process. These are also, I note, two dominant facets in my personality. I can sense their presence in my spiritual practice and my approach to work, as well as play. I am aware that the seriousness tends to be worn too heavily and becomes rigid persistence. I guess the lighthearted playful side acts as a counter balance. It enables me to continue when the vision is thwarted, and thwarted it is. That is life though, a clash between aspirations and conditions. Somewhere sandwiched between the rolling out of our ideals and the inevitable clash with reality, lies the hard won fruits of our spiritual and creative practice.

RANT - GIVE US A SIGN MASTER !

It wasn’t until I visited Norway last year that I began to notice the English fetish for directional signs. Oslo, in comparison to even a quiet smokey English hamlet, is minimally sign posted. Presumable in a country the physical size of Norway, with a combined population hard pushed to exceed a modest sized metropolitan city in England, getting lost there would theoretically be much easier. Just walk out into any Norwegian Wood and be discovered decades later frozen to a pine tree. Little realising you were a mere hundred miles from a local supermarket or Viking Theme Park.

In this information age of Google and Sat Nav , it’s hardly beyond the ken of most English people to know where they are going and how to get there. Yet still we hear complaints about the wrong sort of signs, not enough signs, or worse still signs in the wrong places. I rarely hear anyone saying there are far too many signs. Just take a look at the way they clutter up our street corners.

In Cambridge, because it is a heritage site, heavily traffic congested and a cyclists paradise, we are festooned with the dratted things. Covered with Blue Signs, Green Signs, Brown Signs, White Signs, Black with Gold Letter Signs. Speed Signs, Warning Signs, Informing Signs, Advertising Signs, Place Signs, Floodlit Signs, Flashing Signs, etc etc. Centuries ago a lonely wayfarer toddling along a cobbled road to Cambridge would look out for a milestone. Usually they simply told you how far you were from London and how far away the nearest town was. These days signposts are getting to resemble models of a double helix, which for Cambridge would be very apt.

So what is going on here? Our every directional need is met. It’s very hard to get lost for very long in England. Within minutes you’re bound to find a sign for a B&B, its name and proximity. They do all but tell you the tariff, how long they’ve been in business and whether they’re gay friendly. Perhaps its because English people are hopelessly parochial. They travel in confidence around their own homes and gardens. They haven’t a clue about anything beyond their immediate road, let alone village, town or country. There is no point in asking for directions, you have to rely on signs.

Signs do ,however, have a habit of running out, just when you most need them. I was once in Thetford looking for the site of the priory ruins. There was a sign in the town centre which I followed to where there was another sign. Then came a fork in the road where there was no sign. Suddenly I was thrown upon trusting my instincts. In this instance they were entirely wrong. I wandered around cyclically for sometime, getting tantalising glimpses of my quarry through bushes, but never getting close to it. When I finally found the entrance it was obvious why the sign makers had given up. It was getting far too complicated, involving subways under roads. More signs would have just confused things even more.

David has reminded me of a classic example of pointless signs. The ones that say ‘To the North’, I guess that’s so Southerners are forewarned. Quite when the South becomes the Midlands, or the Midlands the North is a debatable question. What is it we are North of? Civilisation? The English Channel? The Queen?

As a country we take pride in our nonconformity, which appears to be in direct contradiction to our actual behaviour. We complain about red tape and unnecessary restrictions on our liberty and rebel in pitifully minor ways. We never want to take off and get lost in a wilderness ourselves. We sit in our homely armchairs, wearing our carpet slippers and watch vicariously someone else’s adventure on cable TV.

Monday, September 11, 2006

DIARY 9 - BOREDOM MANAGEMENT

In the last few months I’ve been experiencing boredom quite frequently. It is one of those states that I appear to have no magic potion to transform. Tolstoy said that boredom was ‘the desire for desire’. Having never read Tolstoy I wouldn’t know how familiar he was with it. Nor whether reading one of his books induces it. My experience certainly endorses his aphorism. How many times do I restlessly wander the flat looking for something to preoccupy myself with? Eventually I flop down on the sofa and exasperatedly declare my capitulation. Boredom is of its very nature disinterested and disengaged. Boredom is a poison that paralyses and has no immediate antidote.

By nature I am inclined to ignore something so lacking in meaning and drive. I act as though boredom is only a momentary lapse in an otherwise seamless progression of purpose toward something or other. Can this really be so ? Boredom like anything else must arise due to a particular set of conditions. One ends up in a dead end because a while back you took a whole series of wrong turns and ignored all the warning signs. One thing that boredom is not is spontaneous or instinctual in its origins, though it might appear so by its manner of arising.

If I have noticed anything it is that boredom is preceded by one of three things. One, there has been an unacknowledged low level of creative stimulus that slides secretly into boredom. Two, I have been too other regarding with my energy without receiving or giving myself enough to replenish it. Or three, patient endurance turns into exasperation and from there is born the bastard. Either way the result is a feeling of being instantly impoverished. Boredom ,in this sense, arises as the result of previous states of emotional or imaginative under investment. It’s as though your own personal Stock Market crashes, shares lose their value and cease to attract buyers. What I experience as disengagement has the taste and texture born from the desiccation of desire.

It is dashed difficult to distract yourself from being bored. Boredom has a stodgy immovable quality that ,much like quicksand, drags your further down into it the more you whimper and flail. It’s generally better not to make sudden movements mentally or physically and trust that the boredom will pass. Vegetate for as long as possible, preferable in front of a trivial, undemanding piece of celluloid trash. Meet the boredom on it’s own level, forget trying to raise your game. I’ve never found the resources in the moment to create a remedy. When you’ve accidentally fallen down a deep dark well you’re incapable of knowing the way out. What you have to trust in is some damsel arriving with a rope of golden hair. It might be an engaging phone conversation or a meeting with a friend in a cafe. Usually I’m drawn out by such unforeseen events. Something external to me heaves me out of my trough of despond. Leaving conspicuous trails of dark green slime from the bottom of the well distended behind me. A sludgy detritus erased from memory by the sudden rebirth of interest.

POEM - GETTING LIPPY

These lips that he bites are not his own,
they turn up now, instead of frown,
these lips hide white teeth,
a fresh and lively tasting tongue,
that penetrates and explores, with
no moment of caution for reflection,
and scarcely bleeds when bitten,
these lips have changed, he cannot disown them,
even though they smile too frequently for his liking,
leave an impression in public of being unapologetic,
of being considerate of others,
of being happy !


Bristles on the chin, strange, yet not unfamiliar,
nor as long, nor quite as coarse,
the skin less stippled, distressed, less antique.
a line of sight, sharpened in profile,
though not without a jaunt or twist of wit,
sparkling motes, like a fish, often leap from this dark lake,
it all has a certain set to its folds, wrinkles,
and cut of the jaw, a cheeky bone that is new,
hasn’t been seen in a mirror,
since maturity, or even before, if ever,
across a confident blue black evening a clear moon is rolling,
this face knows these lips are up for anything.


This face will use these lips and they will
kiss wood, iron, blue sky and black earth.
kiss fire, water, great sadness and great mirth.
kiss girls, boys, bald babies and the dead.
kiss Mothers, Fathers, Aunty Hazel and Uncle Fred.
kiss fingers, toes, cutlery and crockery.
kiss knees, elbows, exuberantly and quietly.
kiss nipples, bums, trousers and dresses.
kiss softly, violently, gods and goddesses.
kiss letters, words, sentences and novels.
kiss handcuffs, chains, a knot that unravels.
kiss angels, devils, a blessing and a curse.
kiss Popes, Rabbis, and other things perverse.
kiss earrings, studs, tiaras and cravats.
kiss hovels, palaces, and two bedroom flats.
kiss dreams, nightmares and all we pretend.
kiss laughter, tragedy, a world without end.
kiss squares, circles, straight lines rectangled.
kiss fads, fashions and anything new fangled.
kiss fags, pipes and wedding souveniers.
kiss hunks, pimps and outrageous queers.
kiss rapists, murderers and even politicians.
kiss doctors, nurses and cosmetic beauticians.
kiss Heaven, Hell and all the other buggers.
kiss windchimes, dolphins and little plastic buddhas.



VIDYAVAJRA

CD Review No 1 - Sparks - Hello Young lovers

Gut Records Ltd. 2006

The album ‘Lil Beethoven’ three years ago set a well nigh impossible musical high point for any band to exceed. Let alone a band whose longevity and diversity of output is legendary. How come we ignored them for so many years? The answer is quite simple. Sparks in the Seventies were a unique mix of musical / lyrical wit and invention. However. From ‘No 1 in Heaven’ onwards Sparks rode any stylistic fashion train going from New Wave to Rave, with varying degrees of success. With ‘Lil Beethoven’ and ‘Hello Young Lovers’ they have rediscovered how to be innovative whist remaining quintessentially inimitable Sparks . From the opening mini operetta ‘ Dick Around’ you know that this is an unusual groundbreaking record. The Sparks renaissance continues.

Ron Mael has always had a preoccupation with the prescient dilemmas of the modern man in love. Check out ‘Amateur Hour’ from ‘Kimono My House’ , ‘Reinforcements’ from ‘Propaganda’ or ‘The Lady is Lingering’ from ‘Indiscreet’. He constantly reveals and revels in a particularly male form of neuroses. ‘ Hello Young Lovers’ is no exception and has many wonderful couplets like these :-

‘Think about the recent past,
The cynics said too good to last
But she could change her mind again
Oh, no, this movie said ’THE END’
So I will go about my day
Just dicking round, my metier
And realise that life is change
And furniture to rearrange’ FROM – DICK AROUND

‘The skies are starting to cloud up
But that wont slow me down
Your eyes are starting to well up
But that wont bring me down
‘Cause I’m waterproof, I’m waterproof
The pressure you’re exerting is irrelevant to me
I see you crying but I’m not buying your Meryl Streep mimicry
It’s misdirected, your voice inflected
For maximum sympathy’ FROM – WATERPROOF

That’s the lyrical invention, the musical style develops further breadth on this record. ‘ Dick Around’ is not the only mini operetta, the disc finishes with the magnificent ‘As I sit to play the organ at Notre Dame Cathedral’. There is also the kitsch barber shop of ‘Here Kitty’. The barbed use of the Star Spangled Banner lyrics as ironic counterpoint to the Barn Dance that is ‘( Baby, Baby ) Can I Invade Your Country’. Also, the glory that is ‘Perfume’ with its simple lyrical premise harnessed to the sassiest and jauntiest swing beat.



It’s obvious those decades in the musical desert were not misspent. Whilst success eluded them, they broadened their musical palette. They can now parody any style with panache. ‘Hello Young Lovers’ successfully expands the classical fusion of ‘Lil Beethoven’ by restoring some of their earlier pop sensibilities.

QUOTATION MARKS No 1


Students,
when you want to say something,
think about it three times before you say it.

Speak only if your words will benefit yourselves and others.
Do not speak if it brings no benefit.
These things are difficult to do all at once.
Keep them in mind and learn them gradually.

DOGEN

Saturday, September 02, 2006

DIARY 8 - BACK TO BASICS

The whole process of personal/spiritual review began because of physical ailments. A persistent back problem which came and went in intensity according to mood. Here I am a good 2-3 years later, and many changes down the line, with the range of physical aliments growing by the week. The back is still with me, though nothing like as intense. To this I now have to add severe shoulder pain, particularly when I'm asleep, a tight achilles tendon that hurts like hell in my heel if I'm stood or walk for too long. The Doctor says these are difficult ailments to heal, so it will all take time of an unspecified length. My stomach has been upset now for three weeks or so, alternating between being bloated after an ordinary meal to discomforting flatulence. All I need at the moment is this blessed head cold ( yes, its still with me! ). I have to acknowledge that my current work/financial situation is the root of matters physical. I do feel to be under a lot of strain.

As yet there is no visible end in sight to this situation. I keep scouring the job adverts. My heart of hearts says; I really dont want to work anymore, I've had it with working for anyone. Whilst at the same time I know that that's niether realistic nor entirely true. I look through the newspapers and the internet sites and feel my heart sink in dispair at the paucity of work I find myself remotely interested in. Or more to the point, jobs I could apply for with more than a cat in hells chance of getting. Meanwhile, work in the Crematorium drags through its petty pace from day to day. What in heavens name do I need to do next in order to turn this state around? Patience and persistence, two of my best qualities, are rapidly loosing energy the longer I remain in this bardo. If I have to drag myself forward again I'll scream,'this is getting very very very boring !!!' I'm grappling more regularly with a 'fuck em, it isn't worth the effort' truculence. Not very constructive I know,but I have to acknowledge that response is appearing more frequently in my psyche. To summarise in as English a fashion as is possible, I am more than a tad frustrated with the universe.

Friday, September 01, 2006

POEM - EVERDAY SHOES

Old comfortable shoes,
their worn and scuffed uppers
fit like gloves to the gnarled bone
and muscle of Buddhist feet.

Abrade and nip no longer,
accommodated to name and form,
do the shoes fit the feet
or the feet fit the shoes ?

These borrowed brogues
walk present in the world,
with a soft tongue and too tightly fastened lips,
cushioned by a detachable inner sole.


VIDYAVAJRA

DIARY 7 - SOUR GRAPES

Overripe grapes hold their external shape whilst inside has passed well beyond any edible form. One moment of direct pressure and the whole skin would collapse like a ripped waterbed. There’s a vivid moment in the film Samson and Delilah, when Samson’s eyes are popped out. I understand the special effect was accomplished by pressing a couple of black seedless grapes into the fevered eyeballs of Victor Mature.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, it’s how my eyeballs currently feel. Painful to the touch, aching like I’ve been reading a turgid and densely written Russian novel. Through extensive sleep loss, I can now understand how keeping someone awake can be a popular form of torture. Not since I saw the recent Terry Gilliam film – Tideland, have I endured being forcible kept awake with such bad grace. I paid good money to see that, more fool me, but this head cold came free of charge.

I remind myself ‘only a couple of days more of feeling my brain is a grape being crushed and there’ll be the blessed release and subsequent glutinous runoff ’. I know these cold cycles like every brain cell in my head currently under duress. I’m not sure those cells are not dying off at a fast rate, they should do tests. They’ve just discovered that arteries in a heart disease sufferer age rapidly by a huge number of decades. Yet they haven’t a clue what a head cold could be doing on the quiet.

What was worse was going to work with weakened centripetal force. I felt like a weeble that wobbled but didn’t fall down. My brain, for no apparent reason, would flop like a bean bag in my cranium. Keeping my eyeballs functioning cooperatively was a major task. Staying open and responsive at work was a task and a half. Fortunately the aching eased off with the afternoons cremation services. Nothing like a sobering reminder of our mortality eh? No one’s died of a head cold have they? Bet they wouldn’t tell us if they had.

By the time I returned home I was feeling on the far shores of normal. As the evening draws in, a hand clamp resumes it’s authoritarian squeeze over my cerebellum. All I need to do now is go to bed. Sometime in the early hours I’ll reawaken because the ache in my head has burgeoned. Here am I ,suffering like a diva in a major operatic aria, with someone elses cold ! As there is the notable absence of God as progenitor these days. I feel I must plonk responsibility where its due, right there in someone's lap. It makes it so much more bearable to know there was a cause, a reason, there is someone who is entirely responsible for your suffering. Even as you read this I’m considering my options for litigation.