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Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Visions of Sin - Christmas with Dylan

Dead Beat is taking a break from tobagonning, skiing, skating, falling down, eating, drinking, falling down to wish all Dead Beaters out there a Happy New Year.

Saint Nick brought the necessary items including Bob Dylan's new album and Christopher Ricks' Visions of Sin - a dissection of Dylan's lyrics - yup he's the same guy that writes books on Eliot, Keats and all those other puppies. So lots of food for thought and for blogging.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dead Beat Chooses a Christmas Poem: In California During The Gulf War - Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov floats past. Dead Beat is in the shower.

"Open up!" she yells.

D.B. is singing Blue Christmas too loudly and cannot hear her.

"Open up Dead Beat, I know you are in there." She bangs on the door near taking it off its hinges.

I arrive out steaming in my bathrobe.

"What's up Lev?" I ask.

"Dead Beat this is serious. I read your post - I Write In A Night Of Shame - I want you to listen to this. This is my Christmas poem."

Dead Beat listened then, and he listens and will listen then and then again.

In California During the Gulf War

Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among
trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts,
the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought,

certain airy white blossoms punctually
reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink--
a delicate abundance. They seemed

like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed
festival day, unaware of the year's events, not perceiving
the sackcloth others were wearing.

To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well
with our shame and bitterness. Skies ever-blue,
daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons.

Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches
more lightly than birds alert for flight,
lifted the sunken heart

even against its will.
But not
as symbols of hope: they were flimsy
as our resistance to the crimes committed

--again, again--in our name; and yes, they return,
year after year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy
over against the dark glare

of evil days. They are, and their presence
is quietness ineffable--and the bombings are, were,
no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophany

simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossoms
were not doves, there was no rainbow. And when it was claimed
the war had ended, it had not ended.

I Write In A Night Of Shame

So John Berger no stranger to Chronos and Kairos (see previous posts) talks to me of time.

I take it to be a Christmas message.

"I write in the night, although it is daytime... I write in a night of shame. By shame I do not mean individual guilt. Shame, as I'm coming to understand it, is a species feeling which, in the long run, corrodes the capacity for hope and prevents us looking far ahead. We look down at our feet, thinking only of the next small step.

People everywhere, under very different conditions, are asking themselves - where are we? The question is historical not geographical. What are we living through? Where are we being taken? What have we lost? How to continue without a plausible vision of the future? Why have we lost any view of what is beyond a lifetime?

I WRITE in the night, but I see not only the tyranny. If that were so, I would probably not have the courage to continue. I see people sleeping, stirring, getting up to drink water, whispering their projects or their fears, making love, praying, cooking something whilst the rest of the family is asleep, in Baghdad and Chicago. (Yes, I see too the forever invincible Kurds, 4,000 of whom were gassed, with US compliance, by Saddam Hussein.) I see pastrycooks working in Tehran and the shepherds, thought of as bandits, sleeping beside their sheep in Sardinia, I see a man in the Friedrichshain quarter of Berlin sitting in his pyjamas with a bottle of beer reading Heidegger, and he has the hands of a proletarian, I see a small boat of illegal immigrants off the Spanish coast near Alicante, I see a mother in Mali - her name is Aya which means born on Friday - swaying her baby to sleep, I see the ruins of Kabul and a man going home, and I know that, despite the pain, the ingenuity of the survivors is undiminished, an ingenuity which scavenges and collects energy, and in the ceaseless cunning of this ingenuity, there is a spiritual value, something like the Holy Ghost. I am convinced of this in the night, although I don't know why.

The next step is to reject all the tyranny's discourse. Its terms are crap. In the interminably repetitive speeches, announcements, press conferences and threats, the recurrent terms are Democracy, Justice, Human Rights, Terrorism. Each word in the context signifies the opposite of what it was once meant to. Each has been trafficked, each has become a gang's code-word, stolen from humanity...

The new tyranny, like other recent ones, depends to a large degree on a systematic abuse of language. Together we have to reclaim our hijacked words and reject the tyranny's nefarious euphemisms; if we do not, we will be left with only the word shame. Not a simple task, for most of its official discourse is pictorial, associative, evasive, full of innuendoes. Few things are said in black and white. Both military and economic strategists now realise that the media play a crucial role, not so much in defeating the current enemy as in foreclosing and preventing mutiny, protests or desertion.

Any tyranny's manipulation of the media is an index of its fears. The present one lives in fear of the world's desperation. A fear so deep that the adjective desperate, except when it means dangerous, is never used...

The claim to be saving the world masks the plotter's assumption that a large part of the world, including most of the continent of Africa and a considerable part of South America, is irredeemable. In fact, every corner which cannot be part of their centre is irredeemable. And such a conclusion follows inevitably from the dogma that the only salvation is money, and the only global future is the one their priorities insist upon, prior ities which, with false names given to them, are in reality nothing more nor less than their benefits.

Those who have different visions or hopes for the world, along with those who cannot buy and who survive from day to day (approximately 800 million) are backward relics from another age, or, when they resist, either peacefully or with arms, terrorists. They are feared as harbingers of death, carriers of disease or insurrection. When they have been downsized (one of the key words), the tyranny, in its naivety, assumes the world will be unified. It needs its fantasy of a happy ending. A fantasy which in reality will be its undoing. Every form of contestation against this tyranny is comprehensible. Dialogue with it, impossible. For us to live and die properly, things have to be named properly. Let us reclaim our words.

This is written in the night. In war the dark is on nobody's side, in love the dark confirms that we are together."

Dead Beat urges you to write in the time of night - to shed light on the dark which is on nobody's side.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Multi-Dimensional World of Writing

del_ight asks about Space (see Chronos and Kairos).

del_ight, I am still wondering about this.

Space is clearly important but does not seem as 'overt' in writing as time.

Mechanical time we have created. We have also created a three-D world. The answer must lie somewhere in this latter fact. This is why branes (see Branes Not Brains) interest me.

Will ponder more and share my thoughts. I'd be interested to hear all of yours too.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Chronos and Kairos

Time. (See previous post)

Chronos and Kairos.

The time of Man and The time of the Angels.

An hour seems to pass in minutes. Minutes seem to take forever. And all the while the clock ticks off the seconds in a regular fashion, one by one.

The time of the events in a story and the time of 'story'.

The time of a narrative poem and the time of the lyric poem.

It all comes back to time and our handling of it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Einstein, Poincare, Saint-Saen and Dead Beat Determine Simultaneity

So Hudson gets on his high horse again.

"It's always Einstein this and Einstein that with you." He sips his port, listens to Saint-Saen's Carnival of the Animals. "What about Poincaré?"


"See. In France, Poincaré has long been a hero. Known for his innovations in the qualitative studies of chaotic systems, for his invention of the mathematical theory of topology, for his contributions to mathematical physics, and for his philosophy of conventionalism, Poincaré was without any question the most renowned French scientist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Ask Del_ight, she'll tell you.He cared as much about simultaneity as Einstein."

"I care too, Hudson."

"I know. I know. But Dead Beat, Poincaré was, beginning in the early 1890s, deeply involved in time-distribution networks.

D.B: At the Bureau des Longitudes?

HUD: Yes, where he would serve several terms as president. And this was crucial, because the astronomers and geographers of the Bureau were working intensively with the telegraphic transmission of time. This was not for domestic railroad use – or at least not in the first instance. Rather, these engineers and scientists were working at a much higher level of precision. They needed to determine simultaneity so distant observers could determine their relative longitude.

D.B: For cartographic purposes, since longitude measurements are measurements of time?

HUD: Precisely. Their goal was to map the nation, the empire, and then much of the world. Specifically, they aimed to find points of reference – for instance, in North Africa, Senegal, Ecuador, and Vietnam – from which the further mapping of the interiors could proceed. Maps were important for extraction of ores, for military domination, for the cutting of roads, and the laying of railroad lines. Railroad lines brought in more cable, and therefore more mapping, and so on. All of this constituted a major technical program, a great national moment. And the timing is fascinating."

D.B: Time Hud. It all comes back to time.

HUD: And time references.

D.B: Einstein, Poincare?

HUD: You got it

D.B: It's like I say Hud, time is the most important aspect of writing.

HUD: I think we may be in agreement for once, Dad.

Hudson Discusses Random Brownian Motion

"Dead Beat. Random Brownian Motion? Are you off your rocker? Even your most ardent fans are deserting you in droves. Whatever happened to 'Literary Thoughts and Advice'?"

"Get down off your high horse, Hudson. Just because you don't understand basic science."

"Dead Beat, don't talk to me about science. I defy science."

"Okay, Hud. Truce. But listen there is a science of 'literature' and a science of 'creativity' - we just don't talk about it that way so often."

Sorry Dead Beat, but isn't that a bit mechanical?"

"No, no, no! Darn it Hud, much of what we understand about writing is described as being mechanical, much of that which we don't understand we attribute to the'Muse' or to 'creativity'. But just because we don't understand it does not mean it is incapable of being understood. And here's the real point, H., much of it is already understood...BUT NOT BY WRITERS...but darn it I understand it."

"So let me get this straight, Dead Beat, technically therefore you would not be a writer?"


"Just a point."

"Hudson, 2 dimensional Brownian motion is often compared to a drunken man wandering around the square. We don't see the logic, but it is there. The drunken man himself is most probably not aware of it. Just as we do not understand very well the processes of our creativity, we do not understand very well the processes of our lives and yet... and writers we attempt to describe our lives .... Hudson, Einstein used Brownian Motion to prove the existence of atoms, the make up of our lives. Trust me, writers need to understand the theory of Brownian Motion. Great writers already do."

"I smoked opium with Einstein once, Dead Beat."


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Scream from Dead Beat to Edvard Munch

Edvard, Dead Beat screams a Happy Birthday to you. You have been a good and constant friend throughout the years.

How To Write A Great Short Story

Okay Dead Beat is about to give away the secret recipe. His Great Grandmother's actually - Mary Borden's Hearthy Pie.

1. Begin with nothing.
2. Search around in the dust particles visible through the light of your kitchen window engaging in Random Brownian Motion.
3. Notice an effect - call it Random Brownian Motion.
4. Learn the science of Randomness.
5. Limit your use of Space and Time.
6. Purchase character birth control.
7. Study the difference between sequence and series.
8. Introduce a sequence of events.
9. Recall the sequential events of Random Brownian Motion.
10. Introduce reflection.
11. Recall the Law of Reflection*
12. Combine sequential events and reflection in a manner which allows for depth and density**.
13. Appreciate that you do not understand the science of Step 12 and enrol in a lifelong research program.
14. Examine what you have discovered.
15. Remember you are first and foremost an entertainer.
16. Return to Step 2.

*The law of reflection states that when a ray of light reflects off a surface, the angle of incidence (the ray of light approaching the reflective surface) is equal to the angle of reflection (the ray of light which leaves the reflective surface).

**Density (symbol: ρ) is a measure of mass per volume. The average density of an object equals its total mass divided by its total volume. An object made from a comparatively dense material (such as iron) will have less volume than an object of equal mass made from some less dense substance (such as water).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Democracy of Writing - Kofi Annan

Dead Beat listened to Kofi Annan in his farewell speech as secretary-general of the United Nations, given at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library.

"Talk to me about democracy," Dead Beat heckled.

"Dead Beat" Kofi replied, "The U.S. has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint. Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level. As Harry Truman said, 'We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.' States need to play by the rules toward each other as well as toward their own citizens.
When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose, for broadly shared aims, in accordance with broadly accepted norms.
No community anywhere suffers from too much rule of law; many do suffer from too little and the international community is among them. This we must change."

Dead Beat expresses his gratitude to the levelheadedness of Kofi Annan during his tenure.

Writers, listen to the above.

Dead Beat Gives Yeats A Piece of His MInd

Dead Beat has a great interest in the mind - he has studied Hypnotherapy and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) for many years and is qualified in both. So it should come as no great surprise that Old W.B. (see previous posts) would wish to communicate with him over this. W.B. himself being a great man for the 'mystical' things.

"Is that you Dead Beat? Is that you?" (Deep echoing voice resounding in my library)

"Is that you W.B.?"

"It is D.B. (Echo) It is."

"I thought you were fed up with me."

"I was, but you appeared nevertheless. Dead Beat I am here to tell you about 'automatic writing'."

"I know, I know. You and your wife, Georgie Hyde Lees. Dropped the 'i' to become George (something to do with numerology). You were the questioner and she the medium. Her hand was 'seized by a superiour power' and automatic writing the result."

"Yes, yes, D.B."

"Geez W.B. give me a break."

"D.B. It is the truth...(echo) truth...truth...On the afternoon of October 24th 1917, four days after my marriage, my wife surprised me by attempting automatic writing. What came in disjointed sentences, in almost illegible writing, was so exciting, sometimes so profound, that I persuaded her to give an hour or two day after day to the unknown writer, and after some half-dozen such hours offered to spend what remained of life explaining and piecing together those scattered sentences. ‘No,’ was the answer, ‘we have come to give you metaphors for poetry.’"

"Now remind me Willie Boy, you bought this?"

"I wrote about it all in A Vision."

"Strange book, W.B."

"My best, D.B."

"Give me The Tower, The Winding Stair."

"They could not have happened without automatic writing."

"Metaphors for your poetry...(bass echo) metaphors for your poetry..."

"A superior power, Dead Beat."

"Georgie and wishful thinking. Willie, I love you, you would have made a great student of NLP. Hate to break it to you though. There is no 'superior power', no 'muse' just logical processes within the mind we do not understand so well, but D.B. is doing his best to learn. You'd have liked me Willie. You really would."

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Flowers of the Town are Rotting Away - Dead Beat's Aural Vision of W.B. Yeats

D.B. had an aural vision of W.B.

He thinks you all should have the same.

Listen in to Yeats

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Current Cake and Playboys - Yeats, and Dead Beat Discuss Synge

"So W.B. you were talking about Synge."

"I want to escape this nightmare D.B."

"Finish your Synge story first."

"And then we will not dream of each other again. Our paths will not cross. W.B. Yeats, Nobel Laureate, will not set eyes of the unsavoury Dead Beat character infinitum?"

"It's a deal, Willy Boy."

"I don't even know if I should trust you.... When I had landed from a fishing yawl on the middle of the island of Aran, a few months before my first meeting with Synge, a little group of islanders, who had gathered to watch a stranger's arrival, brought me to the oldest man upon the island. He spoke but two sentences, speaking them very slowly, "If any gentleman has done a crime we'll hide him. There was a gentleman that killed his father and I had him in my house three months till he got away to America." It was a play (The Playboy of the Western World) founded on that old man's story Synge brought back with him. A young man arrives at a little public house and tells the publican's daughter that he has murdered his father. He so tells it that he has all her sympathy, and every time he retells it, with new exaggerations and additions, he wins the sympathy of somebody or other, for it is the countryman's habit to be against the law. The countryman thinks the more terrible the crime the greater must the provocation have been. The young man himself under the excitement of his own story becomes gay, energetic, and lucky. He prospers in love and comes in first at the local races and bankrupts the roulette table afterwards. Then the father arrives with his head bandaged but very lively, and the people turn upon the impostor. To win back their esteem he takes up a spade to kill his father in earnest, but horrified at the threat of what had sounded so well in the story, they bind him to hand over to the police. The father releases him and father and son walk off together, the son, still buoyed up by his imagination, announcing that he will be master henceforth. Picturesque, poetical, fantastical, a masterpiece of style and of music, the supreme work of our dialect theatre, it roused the populace to fury. We played it under police protection, seventy police in the theatre the last night, and five hundred, some newspaper said, keeping order in the streets outside. It is never played before any Irish audience for the first time without something or other being flung at the players. In New York a currant cake and a watch were flung, the owner of the watch claiming it at the stage door afterwards."

"What about the cake. W.B.? Did anyone claim that?"


The Nullity of the Rich and the Squalor of the Poor

W.B. dreams up D.B. in a vision.

"What's up Will?" I ask.

"Just remembering."

"Your time in Paris?"

"How did you know, D.B.?"

"Sheer luck, W.B."

"I was thinking of J M Synge."

"Coincidence or what, W.B., I was thinking of the great John Milington just this morning also!"

"I had met John Synge in Paris in 1896. Somebody had said, "There is an Irishman living on the top floor of your hotel; I will introduce you." I was very poor, but he was much poorer. He belonged to a very old Irish family and though a simple, courteous man, remembered it and was haughty and lonely. With just enough to keep him from starvation, and not always from half starvation, he had wandered about Europe travelling third class or upon foot, playing his fiddle to poor men on the road or in their cottages. He was the only man I have ever known incapable of a political thought or of a humanitarian purpose. He could walk the roadside all day with some poor man without any desire to do him good, or for any reason except that he liked him."

"D.B.'s king of guy."

"I advised John Synge to go to a wild island off the Galway coast and study its life because that life had never been expressed in literature. He had learned Gaelic at College, and I told him that, as I would have told it to any young man who had learned Gaelic and wanted to write. When he found that wild island he became happy for the first time, escaping as he said "from the nullity of the rich and the squalor of the poor". He had bad health, he could not stand the island hardship long, but he would go to and fro between there and Dublin."

"Maybe I shouldn't ask, but what's wrong with Paris?"

"You are uncouth D.B. This is not a dream. This is a nightmare."

D.B.'s Vision of W.B.

So D.B. has a vision, and in that vision he is visited by no less than W.B. Yeats.

"You have been bandying my poetry about," he quarrels.

"Reminding the masses, W.B."

"They have not forgotten."

"Out here in the sticks they have."

"D.B. In the country you are alone with your own violence, your own heaviness, and with the common tragedy of life, and if you have any artistic capacity you desire beautiful emotion; and, certain that the seasons will be the same always, care not how fantastic its expression. In the town, where everybody crowds upon you, it is your neighbour not yourself that you hate and, if you are not to embitter his life and your own life, perhaps even if you are not to murder him in some kind of revolutionary frenzy, somebody must teach reality and justice. You will hate that teacher for a while, calling his books and plays ugly, misdirected, morbid or something of that kind, but you must agree with him in the end."

"W.B. I agree. I agree."

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Lake Isle of Innisfree - W.B. Yeats

"Ah now, Dead Beat aren't you becoming just a tad too cynical?"
"Not at all D.B. Too much window dressing out there."
"I hear you, Dead Beat, but it's -20 out there. There's a heap of snow. The days are getting shorter."
"Okay, okay... Here, D.B. Here's one by Yeats to cheer us up."

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

"That's more like it, Dead Beat."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

John Steffler Poet Laureate of Canada

More importantly, what can he do for us now ?

Poet Laureate of Canada

Okay, my Dead Beat friends, here is the question - what was the advantage to poets and Canadian poetry in general in having a Poet Laureate for the last two years?

Answers in five paragraphs or more.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Comedy and the Absurd - The Vaudeville of Writing

People sometimes bemoan the hapless form of the Marx Brothers in film - essentially they were bring a stage/vaudeville form to cinema. Clearly adaptations need to occur. The Brothers were hugely sucessful on stage. The attempt was to replicate this as much as possible for film. This was in the 'early' days of film remember.

Dead Beat is completely forgiving. Like Groucho he couldn't really stand the harp either. But like Groucho he understands that you need to give the audience time to allow their laughter to subside before the next onslaught. Highs and Lows - does this not sound like form to you?

Anyway Dead Beat is much more interested in the form of their comedy. This is where the goodies for us writers are kept.

This is the thing to remember: Comedy has form and structure.

Comedies have type characters. They begin in comic situations that develop in unconventional ways. In the case of the Marx Brothers the unconventional becomes 'wild', 'chaotic'. And we laugh.


Well there are three types of comedy: Farce, Romantic, and Satire.

The Marx Brothers are clearly in the former cagagory. Here we encounter zaniness, slapstick humour, hilarious improbability. The fantastic, the absurd, the ridiculous. Wild coincidences, twists and complications. Confusion abounds. Deception, mimicry, disguise and mistaken identity.

This latter point is of great interest to Dead Beat: Mistaken identity. Comedy questions identity, our identity just as great writers do in their works. Although it deals in stereotypes it uses these types to force us to recognise the absurd within us - the absurdity of life. Comedy is subversive and to be feared by the powerful.

Ignore its possibilities in your writing at your peril.

Dead Beat Gets Two Thumbs Up from Roger Ebert

"Two Thumbs Up, Dead Beat."
"Roger Ebert?"
"Why are you phoning, don't you have a movie to watch or something?"
"It's The Marx Brothers. You've been writing about them. Two Thumbs Up."
"They were good, weren't they? I mean very good. Anarchic, chaotic, but not without form."
"Dead Beat, they were the instrument that translated what was once essentially a Jewish style of humor into the dominant note of American comedy. Although they were not taken as seriously, they were as surrealist as Dali, as shocking as Stravinsky, as verbally outrageous as Gertrude Stein, as alienated as Kafka."
"Yeah, Roger, that's what I was saying. Two Thumbs Up."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wimpy Dogs Read White Fang

Hudson's a wimp.

Outside clawing at my window to get in, standing on his hindlegs to paw at the cowbell outside our door. And it's only - 20, a mere whiff of a breeze.

What's up dog?

And so I complain about it to my friend Donna - "Tell him to read White Fang," she urges.

I toss it out the window and close the window quickly to keep the heat in..

Writing the Book You Want to Read.

Dead Beat has started dotting the 'i's and cross the 't's. It is time to put this rewrite aside (See Dead Beat Rewrites His Novel) and to contemplate. See if something more needs to be done.

All in all he is pleased with what he has so far.

Hard to know when you set out. You have a feel for the type of novel you want to write (in this case tender and tragic - set in a frozen landscape which threatens to dissolve) - all very well but can the writing match the vision? Can the plot be sustained? Will the characters hold up?

You write the book you think you want to read.

I think I would want to read this one. Time will tell.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Digging - Seamus Heaney

Returning to branes soon (see below). In the meant time Famous Shay adds this worthy addition to any writing site:


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney

Branes Not Brains

Dead Beat is interested in branes:

Drawn from the analogy of membranes in biology, brane theory is about using the concept of multidimensional structures to explain the universe.

Stay with me.

The easiest way to understand is the 2-brane concept.

Stay with me.

Think of the surface of an inflated balloon - now think of a surface on which the galaxies and stars are moving through space.

Stay with me.

Brane theory suggests we have a universe with up to 26 dimensions.

Darn it. I lost you.

Darn it. You were meant to stay with me!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

To Be Sure To Be Sure - Bertie Ahern Swallows A Brick

So Bertie (see Wise Guys and Bertie Ahern) when pressed on US torture flights through Ireland assures us that he asked The Pres about it: "I was sat closer to him than you are now and I looked at the great President Bush and said to him I wanted 'to be sure to be sure' and he assured me."

"The great...." Ugh phumph tropf...

Sorry that was Dead Beat choking on a communal glob of Irish embarrassment... which is better than swallowing a brick, I suppose.

W.C. Fields Juggles Great Literature

Did you know that W.C Fields started his act as a juggler and a very fine one at that? - now Dead Beat knows these things - so how come Fields ends up one of the best loved movie comedy stars?

Juggling of course - timing - This is Dead Beat's point all along. If you can juggle, you can make people laugh, if you can make people laugh, you can write great literature.

Just ask Beckett.

Dead Beat and The Marx Brother's Scrapbook

Dead Beat is in his element.

You know he has been feeling like hibernating. Then he went to his favourite doctor who recommended a good dose of The Marx Brothers. Well ain't life a bucket of coincidences as Forrest Gump might have put it...right?

Dead Beat is up to his usual hanging out at the hockey arena for four hours a night routine while his Little Dead Beats get their adrenelin rush. So he gathers up a handful of Little Dead Beaters and heads into the frozen waste of Pinawa. Now you have to understand Pinawa has little...very little... but perversely it has a second hand bookstore. Strangely (perversely) Dead Beat does not go there that often - mainly because the Literature section has been reduced to a half-shelf -

Anyway he goes there and although he already owns three copies of Annie Dilliard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek he buys a fourth copy because he cannot believe it is sitting there on the shelf for the pricely sum of three Canadian dollars and because it makes this feel like Dead Beat is in a secondhand bookstore in some far flung hive of literary activity.

Anyway To Cut A Long Story Short Dead Beat looks across and spots a tattered copy of The Marx Bros. Scrapbook by Groucho Marx and Richard Anobile.

For those other lovers of the brothers this is the bible.

$5.50. A snap.

D.B. is in such a good mood he splashes out $8.00 on the philosophy of The Simpson's for Eldest Little Dead Beat .

Next up - Forrest Gump and the Nietzsche Connection

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Mad Trapper Meets The Brothers Marx

Dead Beat reads that they want to exhume the Mad Trapper once again (see Cranky Meets the Mad Trapper). People want to nail down once and for all just who he is.

We're like that, you see. We need to know people's names, where they came from, what nasty little secrets they have locked away.

It's a way, is it not, of finding out something about ourselves without having to look too closely.

We laugh at the guy slipping on the banana skin because we are grateful it is not us.

Slapstick you see. The Brothers Marx. Beckett too stole the hat swapping roputine in Godot from Duck Soup. He made Film with Buster Keaton. Bim and Bom (entertainers from civil -war time Moscow) are mentioned in his work.

The heart of comedy is tragic.

The tragedy of The Mad Trapper will not be undone by digging up his body. The mystery of who he is remains the most relevant aspect of this whole story. As long as we do not know his identity, he will always be you and I.

Who is he? Just who is he?
He is. He really is.

Dial-A-Prize Winning Novel (1-800-Booker-Nobel)

Dead Beat is offering a new service - Dial-A-Prize Winning Novel (1-800-BOOKER-NOBEL)

All you have to do is provide me with your credit card number and personal taste in books.

Dead Beat will provide the political back drop, the politically aware theme, the oppression, and the full frontal display in Chapters, Indigo, Coles and all other independent-bookstores-who-care-about-literature-more-than-they-do-about-money-hah-hah-!

If Dr. Phil rejected you, Dead Beat wants your story.

Mass murderers and serial killers need apply.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Brothers Marx and Other Literary Giants

Okay Dead Beat has been getting very serious (see previous posts) - time to lighten up - and Dead Beat's true belief - you want to know anything about writing, don't look to The Brothers Karamazov but look instead to the Brothers Marx.

The Infamous Swordfish Scene from Horse Feathers.

Bouncer: Hey, Baravelli!
Baravelli: Whadaya want?
Bouncer: Watch the door for a few minutes. And don't let anyone in without the password.
Baravelli: Alright, what is it?
Bouncer: "Swordfish" is the password, d'ya understand?
Baravelli: Okay, I got it.
Bouncer: Well, what is it?
Baravelli: Password.
Bouncer: Swordfish! Swordfish!
Baravelli: Alrighta! Swordfisha! Swordfish!
Bouncer: Aahh...
Baravelli: Piazza mosco santa rumbolla fatcha duzzi patsi!
There's a knock at the door. Baravelli opens the peephole.
Baravelli: Who are you?
Wagstaff: I'm fine, thanks. Who are you?
Baravelli: I'm fine too, but you can't come in unless you give the password.
Wagstaff: Well, what is the password?
Baravelli: Oh no, you gotta tell me! (pause) Hey, I tell you what I do...I give you three guesses...It's the name of a fish...
Wagstaff: Is it Mary?
Baravelli: Ha, ha! Atsa no fish!
Wagstaff: She isn't? Well, she drinks like one. Let me see...Is it sturgeon?Baravelli: Hey, you're crazy! A sturgeon, he's a doctor cuts you open whena you sick. Now I give you one more chance.
Wagstaff: I got it! Haddock!
Baravelli: Atsa funny, I gotta haddock too.
Wagstaff: What do you take for a haddock?
Baravelli: Well now, sometimes I take aspirin, sometimes I take a calomel.
Wagstaff: Say, I'd walk a mile for a calomel.
Baravelli: You mean chocolate calomel. I like that too, but you no guess it. (Slams door. Wagstaff knocks again. Baravelli opens the peephole again.)
Hey, whatsa matta? You no understand English? You can't come in here unless you say swordfish! Now, I give you one more guess.
Wagstaff: (thinking) Swordfish...swordfish...I think I got it! Is it swordfish?

To Cut A Long Story Short

Okay, you see Dead Beat first came to Canada for a short adventure before settling down in his home country of Ireland. He had done some traveling before and had lived in Africa and the US for a while and in a remote fishing village in Cornwall, and so he thought, "Ice." Dead Beat needs ice as a Dead Beat does. And so Dead Beat sought out ice.

Dead Beat is keen to experience a new culture too.

Mrs Dead Beat and all the little Dead Beats are just as keen. So D.B. finds ice. He finds the Cree culture. In Norway House in Northern Manitoba.

Coincidentally Dead Beat discovers that it is but a stone's throw from Churchill, a town Dead Beat had read much about (having a great passion for polar bears - who knows why) but quite honestly had no clue where it was truly located.

And so Dead Beat and his family (the youngest a mere five months) pack their bags. They have found Nirvana.

Anyway to cut a long story short (fellow Dead Beaters a piece of literary advice - always cut a long story short) they intended staying there a year and then returning home - three years later they were still in Norway House - and although they have now moved, eight years later they are still in Manitoba.

Dead Beat found his ice. he found his bears, and yes, he found his nation. Norway House First Nation. The First Nation People of Canada.

And so The Government of Canada form a nation - Anyway to cut a long story short - No First Nations Need Apply.

That Darned Hudson!

So Hudson says, "You already are a nation, Dad - A damnation! Ruff!"

Monday, November 27, 2006

No Irish Need Apply

Let Old Dead Beat sing you a tune (See Dead Beat Forms A Nation).


Written by JOHN F. POOLE, and sung in the good old days, with immense success, by the great Comic-Vocalist of the age, TONY PASTOR.

Dead Beat doesn't quite have his timing, but he has his flair.

I'm a dacint boy, just landed from the town of Ballyfad;
I want a situation: yis, I want it mighty bad.
I saw a place advartised. It's the thing for me, says I;
But the dirty spalpeen ended with: No Irish need apply.
Whoo! says I; but that's an insult—though to get the place I'll try.
So, I wint to see the blaggar with: No Irish need apply.
I started off to find the house, I got it mighty soon;
There I found the ould chap saited: he was reading the TRIBUNE.
I tould him what I came for, whin he in a rage did fly:
No! says he, you are a Paddy, and no Irish need apply!
Thin I felt my dandher rising, and I'd like to black his eye—
To tell an Irish Gintleman: No Irish need apply!
I couldn't stand it longer: so, a hoult of him I took,
And I gave him such a welting as he'd get at Donnybrook.
He hollered: Millia murther! and to get away did try,
And swore he'd never write again: No Irish need apply.
He made a big apology; I bid him thin good-bye,
Saying: Whin next you want a bating, add: No Irish need apply!
Sure, I've heard that in America it always is the plan
That an Irishman is just as good as any other man;
A home and hospitality they never will deny
The stranger here, or ever say: No Irish need apply.
But some black sheep are in the flock: a dirty lot, say I;
A dacint man will never write: No Irish need apply!
Sure, Paddy's heart is in his hand, as all the world does know,
His praties and his whiskey he will share with friend or foe;
His door is always open to the stranger passing by;
He never thinks of saying: None but Irish may apply.
And, in Columbia's history, his name is ranking high;
Thin, the Divil take the knaves that write: No Irish need apply!
Ould Ireland on the battle-field a lasting fame has made;
We all have heard of Meagher's men, and Corcoran's brigade.
Though fools may flout and bigots rave, and fanatics may cry,
Yet when they want good fighting-men, the Irish may apply,
And when for freedom and the right they raise the battle-cry,
Then the Rebel ranks begin to think: No Irish need apply

Hup ye boys!

Dead Beat Forms A Nation

So let's get this straight. The Canadian House of Commons has overwhelmingly passed a motion recognising the Quebecois as a nation within Canada.

Now let us understand what a 'nation' is:1) a human group bound together by ethnic ties i.e. ties of blood; 2)a territorial unit that exercises political independence.

Well the latter does not apply as they are a nation within Canada so it all boils down to having the right blood. And blood does boil.

But no that is not what our leaders are saying (because that might not be so politically astute). What we have is a 'civic nation'.

The Government when asked to explain if it included every resident of Quebec regardless of which boat their ancestors came over on? (i.e. why not Quebecers and not just Quebecois) answered, "No, it doesn't. It doesn't. Let's be clear on this." They were then asked to explain to anglo Montrealers why they are not Québécois, but they insisted they didn't say that.

How clear can you get?

Dead Beat is so glad he is Irish where we just engage in civil wars, terrorism and 'peace' processes.

Dead Beat is thinking of forming a nation of his own in Seven Sisters Falls.

No Irish or Quebecois Need Apply.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Some Redemption from Marina Tsvetaeva

Here, some redemption (see The Subversion of Truth) from Marina Tsvetaeva:

To Byron

I think about the morning of your glory,
About the morning of your days too, when
Like a demon you from sleep had stirred
And were a god for men.
I think of when your eyebrows came together
Over the burning torches of your eyes,
Of how the ancient blood's eternal lava
Rushed through your arteries.
I think of fingers - very long - inside
The wavy hair, about all
Eyes that did thirst for you in alleys
And in the dining-halls.
About the hearts too, which - you were too young then -
You did not have the time to read, too soon,
About the times, when solely in your honor
Arose and down went the moon.
I think about a hall in semi-darkness,
About the velvet, into lace inclined,
About the poems we would have told each other,
You - yours, I - mine. I also think about the remaining
From your lips and your eyes handful of dust..
About all eyes, that are now in the graveyard
About them and us..

Translated by Ilya Shambat

Thursday, November 23, 2006

If Hudson Did It, Here's How It Happened

So Dead Beat goes into the library and there Hudson is sitting at Dead Beat's writing desk.

"What now, Hudson?"

Hudson puts down his cigar, licks his pencil. "I'm writing a new book."

"Oh yeah, what's it called?"

"If Hudson Did It, Here's How It Happened."

"Hudson, what are you telling me?"

"That pee stain on your Persian rug."


"Calm down, Dead Beat, it's not a confession."

Dead Beat F##king Gets It From Al Pacino

So Pacino gets back to Dead Beat:

"Hey, you? You a Communist or something? How would you like it they tell you all the time what to think, what to do, you wanna be like a sheep, like everybody else. Baa baa? Puta!

You want a stoolie on every block? You wanna work eight hours a day and you never own nothing? I ate octopus three times a day, f##king octopus is coming out my ears, f##kin' Russian shoes are eating through my feet.

Whaddaya want? You want me to go where you say I go. Hey, I'm no little wh##e, I'm no stinking thief! I'm Al Pacino and I want my f##king 'Human Rights'. If I want to visit Oscar Wilde's f##king bedroom, I'll visit Oscar Wilde's f##king bedroom. I don't have to do what you or anyone else f##king says.


Okay, Al, Pal. I get it. Dead Beat f##ing gets it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Leeches and Jars of Mustard

Altman as you know made the film Short Cuts - based loosely on some of Ray Carver's short stories.

Well Dead Beat who used to hunt and fish quite a bit with Ray Carver and Carver's old buddy Richard Ford, asked him one time while warming up a leech in his mouth:

"So Way temm me abow the stawting point fow yaw stowies."

"What's that Dead Beat?" Ray asks pulling in a big one.

Dead Beat takes the leech from his mouth, checks to see it is now wiggling just fine and puts it on his hook.

"So Ray, tell me about the starting point for your stories."

"Well Dead Beat, I never start with an idea. I always see something. I start with an image, a cigarette being put out in a jar of mustard, for instance, or the remains, the wreckage of a dinner left on the table. Pop cans in the fireplace, that sort of thing. And a feeling goes with that. And that feeling seems to transport me back to that particular time and place, and the ambiance of the time. But it is the image, and the emotion that goes with that image – that's what's important."

"How about a leech in someone's mouth?"

"That's good, Dead Beat. Now where did I leave my notebook?"

Dead Beat's Open Letter to Al Pacino

Al, Baby,

seems you were spotted around my old Alma Mater Trinity College Dublin yesterday to check out Oscar Wilde's old rooms. Now, Al, I know you have developed a passion for Wilde and are planning a documentary about the Irish writer's work. I know you appeared as King Herod in Wilde's 'Salome' on Broadway, but Al, hooh hah!

Did you think to be shown to Dead Beat's old seat of study in the 1916 Reading Room or his place at the back of the lecture hall in the Engineering Building?

Did you not want to see the many steps of the Pavillion Bar dear Dead Beat took a tumble down one rowdy Friday night?

* * * *

Al, you are like me, we refuse to be fools, to be puppets dancing on a string pulled by other men. I hoped the time for veils and dancing and heads on plates was over. That was my misfortune. That was your misfortune. I was hunted on the streets of Cavan when I was twelve years old because of who my father wasn't. I had no choice.

Believe in a family, Al. Can you believe in your country? Those Pezzonovante of the State who decide what we shall do with our lives? Who declare wars they wish us to fight in to protect what they own. Do you put your fate in the hands of men whose only talent is that they tricked a bloc of people to vote for them? Al, in five years the Dead Beat and Pacino family can be completely legitimate. Very difficult things have to happen to make that possible. I can't do them anymore, but you can, if you choose to.

Next time, Al, go see where I threw up in the toilets.

And hey, Al, read my book.

Blocking the Audiences View - Robert Altman

"Here's another thing..."


"Audiences: I am not going to do their work for them. I like audiences to crane their necks."

Listen to him: make your audience lean forward and look more closely - block their view for crying out loud.

The Great Art of Blundering - Robert Altman

Dead Beat heard a voice from beyond the grave -

"Altman is that you?"

"Someone just called me an expert, Dead Beat."

"And aren't you?"

"I am not an expert. That is someone else's job. If I were expert, the approach would be all wrong. It would be from the inside. I am a blunderer. I usually don't know what I am going into at the start. I go into the fog and trust something will be there."

Blunder on Robert - the fog has been lifted.

And so Dead Beat would urge you in your writing to become blunderers - go into the fog and trust something will be there.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Kicking Jim Gallagher's Butt - and Dead Beat When He Is Down

So Dead Beat's eldest gets into Grade Seven and thinks he knows it all - starts berating Dead Beat for not being as good as some kid who wrote some piece of nonsense called Eragon when he was only 17 and made it onto the New York Times Bestsellers List. Now Dead Beat's eldest is reading Eldest the second part of the trilogy it seems. He thinks it is wonderful.

Dead Beat tells him that it is probably some mass market fiction dependent on plot.

"Doesn't all fiction depend on plot?"

So Dead Beat scoffs and gives him a lecture on the difference between plot driven 'entertainment' and character driven 'literature'.

"Yeah, well if it is characters we are talking about," Dead Beat's eldest responds, "Eragon kicks Jim Gallagher's butt!"

(Jim Gallagher being the main character in a very fine novel, The Eskimo in the Net, by a masterful but aged non-bestselling author).

Dead Beat Rewrites His Novel While Doing A Literary Impersonation of Jackson Pollock

Everytime Dead Beat thinks he has finally reached the last rewrite of his new novel, he discovers that he knows better. And so he sets out again on one more rewrite. He finally makes it to the end, and then he looks at the two narratives unfolding and decides the pacing of the unfolding narratives could be better. And so Dead Beat commandeers the kitchen table and spreads his novel out across it in sections. Then D.B.moves quickly from one section to another like a literary Jackson Pollock tossing scenes and paragraphs around like dripping fluid or a heavy impasto.

Thing is, Dead Beat now has a better narrative flow but has to rearrange all his chapter breaks - The Rhythm of The Chapters should keep him busy for some time to come.

An Entree to the Human Condition: Robert Altman Remembered

Dead Beat wants to know why they are all dying on him right now (See Intellectual Freedom Fighters) -

They don't come much bigger than Robert Altman however. Any writer worth their salt know how much they have to learn from his film work. More on this anon. But for now Dead Beat just wants you to remember one of the great independent filmakers of our time.

In his own words from his honourary Oscar acceptance speech:

"No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have. I'm very fortunate in my career. I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition."

Robert, it has give us all an entree to the world and to the human condition.

Thank you.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Politics of Writing - Alice Walker

Dead Beat was on a mountain top just kind of wandering around, meditating about his life, you know, that sort of thing, well who should he bump into in a cloud but Alice Walker (see Expecting Mangoes)

She walks right up to him and says, "You see, Dead Beat, Anyone who is really alive in their own time will have to be a political writer. As we reveal different worlds to each other, we move us forward into being more compassionate people. Virginia Woolf said writing improves society and makes the writer a better person, too."

With that she walks away, disappears into the cloud, vanishes. And Dead Beat, well Dead Beat looks for the path back down the mountain, and there isn't one any more.

Expecting Mangoes - Alice Walker

Dead Beat notes that Alice Walker is out and about promoting her new book, a collection of meditations, "We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness."

Okay so what, D.B.? Writers are at this all the time.

So what? Ask Alice Walker about not having a bestseller since 1991 (and a minor one at that) and hear her reply:

"The way I see my work . . . if you look at a mango tree, you expect mangoes from it. And I feel that way about myself. I expect from myself, as a writer, to write exactly what is natural to me. It is sometimes a problem for other people. . . . I wish that each gift could be received with the joy and the delight that I create it. But I don't wait around, hoping and wanting and wishing. I'm usually on to making something else."

That's what.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Marketing of The Longlist - IMPAC

Dead Beat finds it heartening to read the publicity for the 2007 IMPAC Award Longlist and to see that there are 138 writers (and books) included. But he dearly awaits the day when the long long list of all nominated books are announced. Indeed there must be an insatiable market for a long long long list of all nominated and near-nominated books. Or godammnit any book published anywhere at any time, read or unread, since we all want to get in on this great big publicity machine that once was called literature.

This way for Make-Up and Costumes...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Intellectual Freedom Fighters - Milton Friedman's Influence on Writing

Dead Beat does not normally quote Ma'am Thatcher, but he likes what she had to say about Milton Friedman who died Thursday aged 94.

"Milton Friedman revived the economics of liberty when it had been all but forgotten... He was an intellectual freedom fighter. Never was there a less dismal practitioner of a dismal science."

Not too sure about the dismal science part, but I know what she is getting at.

Now why is Dead Beat acknowledging Friedman's death as he acknowledged recently the death of architect Sam Stephenson? Well like Stephenson Friedman was an architect too - as all of us would be writers are.

If we can grasp what has been achieved in architectural design, in economic design, to name just a few cultural arts, we have a better chance of achieving a literary design which applies to our culture.

You cannot separate Economics from Literature - neither stands alone. Each aspect of our society thrives and is dependent on the other.

Friedman was a believer in the principles of 18th century economist Adam Smith, and he consistently argued that individual freedom should rule economic policy.

In an essay titled "Is Capitalism Humane?" Friedman said that "a set of social institutions that stresses individual responsibility, that treats the individual ... as responsible for and to himself, will lead to a higher and more desirable moral climate."

Each one of us who puts pen to paper (or 1s to 0s) must be as aware of this 'moral climate' and must use literary techniques to lead society towards it.

Intellectual Freedom Fighters take up your pens and prepare for battle.

Death of a Naturalist - Seamus Heaney

Just heard that fellow Irish man (the similarities end there) and Nobel Prize winning poet, Seamus Heaney suffered a stroke but is in recovery.

Dead Beat wishes him a speedy recovery. Here's a wee reminder:

Death of a Naturalist

All the year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampots full of the jellied
Specks to range on the window-sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like snails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

This In Spite of That - The Subordination of Literature Again

I want to return us to The Subordination of Literature - that's the problem with these blogs you see - we run from a subject to quickly - read it, got something from it or didn't, move on. All too fast - how are we going to learn anything? D. B. generally tries to drag it out - come at it from a number of different angles - but ultimately be approaching the same 'idea'. All the same he gets side-tracked too....

But listen to my buddy Gardner: "Life is all about, and this and this and this. Literature is about subordination. It's about this because of this. This although that. This in spite of that. And that's the difference."

The difference between life and literature. Now remember what Ford told us in The Imaginative Gesture of Literature: "You only give rise to the need for imaginative gestures like literature when the facts prove inadequate."

There's this and there's this and there's this. Facts, inadequacy.

So we imagine that it is about this because of this. Or we imagine that although we have this we also have that. Or that we have this in spite of that.

We create imaginary people in imaginary worlds to imagine beyond the facts to some greater truth.

Don't rush this. Let us take our time. Think on it a while. Then come back to it and think again.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Drinker With Writing Problems - Brendan Behan

On the subject of the Bould Brendan Behan (See Sam Stephenson and Brendan Behan), he and Dead Beat shared many a pint of Guinness in Mc Daids where Brendan would give Dead Beat an earful.

A few morsels for your pleasure:

I am a drinker with writing problems.

“It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody.”

“To get enough to eat was regarded as an achievement. To get drunk was a victory.”

"There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”

"I never turned to drink. It seemed to turn to me."

"An author's first duty is to let down his country."

"I only take a drink on two occasions - when I'm thirsty and when I'm not."

May your thirst be quenched.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sam Stephenson and Brendan Behan

Like any self-respecting writer Dead Beat is a fan of architecture and notes the passing of Sam Stephenson, one of Ireland's most controversial and creative architects.

Dead Beat likes this story Sam used to tell about that other controversial Irish man, Brendan Behan:

On the day I arrived home from my honeymoon, all we had in the flat was a cooker, bed, and a round table and chairs that I had built myself. At the time Brendan Behan was living upstairs. He barged in one morning to use the phone; he wanted to ring the pawn shop to see how much he'd get for his typewriter and when he saw the state of the place he gave my young bride some typical Behan advice - 'don't worry, he told her, 'all you need is a bed, a table and a corkscrew anyway'.

The Imaginative Gesture of Literature

Just a snippet: Ford again

"Wait until the facts become surmountable. You only give rise to the need for imaginative gestures like literature when the facts prove inadequate."

Wipe Clean - Learn to Write Your Letters

You see Dead Beat instructs adults, youth, beginning writers, emerging....

One thing he tells them all is that all writers no matter how great are still dealing with the same basic elelements of form: in the story - plot, characterisation, setting, theme... Better writers just do it at a higher level.

This I believe is terribly reassuring - so it was wonderful to hear Richard Ford talking about learning to add more details to his characters and how he is not very good at writing in the third person.

Always learning, never too old.

Characterisation - First Person Versus Third Person

"So Dickie, (See Richard Ford and Dead Beat Mix It Up) I'm thinking about your characters. Sometimes very detailed, sometimes not so."

"Okay Dead Beat, here's the truth. I reached a point two or three years ago where I realized I wasn't doing enough of what I needed to be doing when it came to describing people. When it came to finding a way for the reader to actually physically envision people. Some of that comes with writing in the third person. Writing in the first person, a character describing herself or himself is a little unpersuasive. In the third person it becomes absolutely essential. I wanted to write in the third person because it's one of the things I feel that I don't do very well. One of the things I did was to set a task to try to make myself do it better. To try to describe people more. How they looked, what they wore, what their faces were like. I'm always reading my colleagues...Ian McKewen, for instance, He'll spend a whole paragraph doing something that I would have thought heretofore I would have got away with not doing at all. Or maybe half or a third as much. I decided I would do it more because maybe I could do it better. It might make the characters more vivid. Maybe it was just an opportunity to write, that I could seize."

So Dead Beaters think about this, first person versus third in characterisation - point of view always has advantages and disadvantages - it's a question of balance, weighing it up.

The Subordination of Literature - Gardner Again

"John (Gardner)," Dead Beat says, "They give your book On Moral Fiction a hard time."

"You go with the blows Dead Beat."

"I kind of like your take on the Subordination of Literature."

"And so you should."

"Why don't you remind my readers Mr. G?"

"Well it's simple really: "Life is all about, and this and this and this. Literature is about subordination. It's about this because of this. This although that. This in spite of that. And that's the difference."

Simple really.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wise Guys and Bertie Ahern - Stuff Like That

Dead Beat occasionally works with Government Agencies - Impact Writing, reports that sort of mundane but hugely important persuaders of policy.

Anyway, he also works with Grade 5 and 6 children, junior and senior high schoolers:"don't use words like 'like' and 'stuff'. "What does 'stuff' mean? - too abstract - people cannot understand what it is you are talking about - you need to be specific."

Now you are talking to young children, now you are talking to a terrorist organisation you are tempting into main stream politics:

Listen here to the Prime Minister of Ireland talking about the Political wing of the IRA (The Irish Republican Army), Sinn Fein and why he would not go into power with them in a coalition in the next election :

""I've given 25 years of my life to this stuff, but that is all anathema to Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein don't believe in or agree with that stuff. They are anti-Europe. I've been over with the Commission and Sinn Fein have no time for those guys. In all the things that I've spent all my life working in, they have a totally different view," Mr Ahern said.

Bertie Ahern, Prime Minister of Ireland, talking about the most important decision in the recent history of our state - not their violent links, their parlimilitary base, but 'stuff' and 'guys' - Wise Guys no doubt.

Learn to read, and learn to write.

Apply for senior postion in Irish Government thereafter.