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.
Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This
Friday, December 29, 2006
Friday, December 22, 2006
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
"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 yet...as 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
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
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 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
Sunday, December 10, 2006
"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?"
"I WANT TO WAKE UP! I WANT TO WAKE UP!"
W.B. dreams up D.B. in a vision.
"What's up Will?" I ask.
"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."
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
"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
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
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.
"Two Thumbs Up, Dead Beat."
"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
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..
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
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.
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!