Tag Archives: book

Thou shalt not doubt thyself. Also; blog.

Standard

WeChat Image_20170706095042My last update on this blog was posted about three years ago. I stopped writing because I suffered a blow to my self-confidence.

Without going into too many details; a job loss, a broken heart and other not-so-little things hit me and my resolve faulted. The problem is that when such things occur I have a bad habit of trying to undo myself, something I will write more about at a later date. So, through teary-eyes and a hammering heart I deleted my personal acting and writing website, gave away my book and film collection and basically sought to remove myself from a life that had brought me pain. A little dramatic, I know. But I am an actor after all!

Throughout the past few years I thought about starting up my blog again but was always haunted by the thought that perhaps I didn’t actually have anything very interesting to say. Is my life even worth talking about? The problem has always been that although something cool might be happening I’ve had the lingering thought that it might all fall away the next week and I’ll again be stuck with nothing to say.

That was three years ago and since then I moved to Barcelona to spend two years performing in different towns and cities throughout Spain and Portugal, pretty much every day. I performed with a brass quintet. I did a tour in Moldova and Romania. I finished writing my first book and then followed it up with a second, and a third, and a forth. I rediscovered my heart and gave it to someone else and, as of writing, it remains whole and happily pumping along. Then I moved to China where I’ve been living in Beijing for a year teaching drama and directing my own shows. Soon I’m going to leave China to set off on another set of mini-adventures before trying to settle again in another country, I don’t know where yet.

So, I figured I might at least have some slightly interesting things to share and thought now is as good a time as any to get started again.

I don’t know why I’ve always worried about being uninteresting but I do realise that it has always stood in the way of owning my own achievements and experiences. In the past few years I’ve learnt that no one is uninteresting and every journey is unique. The only thing that ever says otherwise is our own self-doubt, which can be hard to overcome. But overcome it we must. And in an increasingly scary, divided world which sometimes seems geared towards discrediting the ‘average’ person, I think it’s important to share our thoughts and opinions; our stories and experiences of a life that can, and should, be celebrated.

So, I’ll start blogging again. Read if you fancy it.

Another meaningless coincidence…

Standard

I have read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy many times, and I am sure I will read it many times more.

Recently, at work I have been getting rather annoyed at the amount of time I’m wasting listening to Smooth Radio and the repetitive noise that is Karrang (which is still playing the same songs I used to listen to when I was 15). And so, instead of sneaking books around in my pockets and swearing under my breath every time I have to put it aside to actually do some work, I have decided to try listening to a few audio books.

Today,  I decided to start listening to the Hitchhikers Guide, read by Douglas Adams himself. I was instantly reminded just how perfect this book is and how the introduction pretty much sums up my entire world view in roughly 600 words.

goog

Tonight, I arrived home, plugged myself into the matrix and the first thing I saw was the Google main screen, which today features an animated image of a computer desk, along with moving dials, a window looking out into space, an automatic door which opens to reveal a certain paranoid android, a travel bag, a towel and of course the great guide itself.

Completely unbeknownst to me, today marks the 61st birthday of Douglas Adams, and I couldn’t help but laugh thinking to myself ‘How like Adams to present me with such a marvelously pointless coincidence’.

So, to celebrate his birthday and to honour the book, I thought I would post the aforementioned introductionwhich I think is a small masterpiece of literature in itself.

If you have not read the book then I sincerely urge you to do so, if you have, then let’s read it again to mark the day…or simply just to re-read it once again.

____________________________

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy, lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.

Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realised what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.

This is not her story.

But it is the story of that terrible, stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.

It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – not an Earth book, never published on Earth, and until the terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or even heard of by any Earthman.

Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book. In fact, it was probably the most remarkable book ever to come out of the great cooperation of Ursa Minor – of which no Earthman had ever heard either.

Not only is it a wholly remarkable book, it is also a highly successful one – more popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling than Fifty-Three More Things to do in Zero Gravity, and more controversial than Oolon Colluphid’s trilogy of philosophical blockbusters Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person, Anyway?

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words ‘Don’t Panic’ inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

But the story of this terrible, stupid Thursday, the story of its extraordinary consequences, and the story of how these consequences are inextricably intertwined with this remarkable book begins very simply.

It begins with a house.

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, copyright © 1979 by Douglas Adams

Invader Zim vs The Lloyd of Dirkness!

Standard

I’ve been reading quite a few children’s books recently. The other day I picked up one called Dark Lord: The Teenage Years and proceeded to devour it over two long train journeys .

I quite enjoyed the book in a easy-to-read pass-time sort of way, but I was more intrigued by the similarities and differences it bore to one of my favourite kid’s TV shows, Invader Zim.DL-ding

The two are relatively similar in story, style and at times, tone. Firstly and most simply is the story. In one, an alien is sent to Earth to conquer it. While there he must disguise himself as a human “worm baby” and attend school whilst finding a way to conquer the planet, enslave the human race and destroy his sworn enemy Dib. The other sees The Dark Lord (AKA Dirk Lloyd) ruler of the Darklands propelled to Earth and trapped inside the body of a “pitiful human child”. He must attend school whilst finding a way to restore himself to his former glory, reclaim his home land and maybe enslave the human race if there is time. The differences are in the details: Zim seeks to disguise who he really is where Dirk seeks to prove himself. Zim makes enemies where Dirk makes friends. Etc.

But the very basic premise is almost identical: ‘An alien Invader/Dark Lord takes on human form, attends school and deal with the mundane day-to-day problems of human life whilst continuing with their evil plans and dark purposes in secret.

The biggest similarity is in character. On the surface Zim and Dirk are very, very alike. So much so, that when reading Dirk’s dialogue I couldn’t help doing so with Zim’s voice. Every cry of “Cower before me pitiful humans!” rang around my head in Richard Horvitz’s wicked tone.1-invader zim-wallpaper

However, surface likeness aside, there is also a huge difference between Dirk and Zim which I found extremely noticeable whilst reading Dark Lord. That difference lies in the level of malicious intent, or ‘evilness’ if you like.

So the big question is; who would win in a fight between Zim and Dirk?

Well, Zim has his advanced technology, but this usually proves to be less than functional, and to counter this, Dirk had his magic, which one can only assume will grow stronger after the close of book one. Also, Dirk is far more intelligent than Zim, who let’s face it, is as thick as two short planks.

So far, the odds are stacked in Dirk’s favour. But there is one more very important factor to consider. When the battle is done, and the victor stands tall over his fallen opponent, what then? Both Dirk and Zim would chant an evil Mwa ha ha! I’m sure. Both would taunt their enemy and proclaim themselves the glorious victor. But I think it is only Zim who would crush his enemy under the heel of his boot. Only Zim who would kill Dirk.I-am-zim-invader-zim-2879951-1023-768

Throughout reading Dark Lord, I have been given no reason to believe that Dirk is actually capable of any sort of evil act. We are told that in the past he has crushed cities, enslaved entire races and driven some creatures to extinction, but we are never given evidence of this. I think the mos evil act Dirk is guilty of in book one is petty theft, gluing someone’s shoes to the floor and sending his unattached arm to shave the beard off of someone’s face.

Zim, on the other hand, constantly gives us examples of just what he is capable of. In one episode he harvests the organs of all his class mates, replacing them with inanimate objects. In another, he brainwashes a child by ripping his eyes out and replacing them with robotic ones, the child is then attacked (and presumably killed) by a squirrel. And the absurd list goes on. All these things may be completely obscure and ridiculous but they are without a doubt, pretty evil. They really do solidify Zim as a particularly nasty character and allows for to be quite scary when he wants to be also.

Dirk unfortunately lacks this. The closest we get to any sort of evidence that he is capable of anything even remotely nasty, is in the first few chapters where he attempts (without any effect) to summon various spells of destruction on people.

Unfortunately, without this evidence, we just can not believe or give any credit to Dirk’s being anything more than a slightly mischievous child.dark-lord--da-gibts-nichts-zu-lach-1

What’s more, the Dark Lord’s evilness is again called into question during the tail end of the book, when he scrys his army of Orcs and Goblins being executed by his enemy’s army of white paladins. He states that even he would not stoop so low, that even he would show mercy, only killing a few of them to set an example, that even the so called Dark Lord, ruler of the Nine Hells  has more honour than the supposed good guys (because remember; Dirk is supposed to be the bad guy! Even if he is the protagonist!) But now, we’re not even following the exploits of the bad guy!

In Zim, it’s always apparent that although stupid and incompetent, Zim is the bad guy. It’s why we love to see him fail and are secretly delighted to see him victorious. It’s also why it’s a genuine surprise if he does anything even vaguely noble. With Dirk, I was never surprised to see him express feelings of happiness or compassion because I’d never really been given any real evidence that all he usually feels is hate and anger.a3ef7b86_htf_imgcache_39698

There is a scene in every James Bond film where we see the bad guy kill somebody who was powerless to save themselves, in Bond, this is usually a woman. This scene exists simply to solidify in our minds that he’s a horrible person, and this is all we actually need to justify James dispatching him as violently as possible.

In any story which features a bad guy who finds redemption, or even becomes the good guy we’ll be shown something similar, so that we have something to compare his new found goodness to. For example, Zuko’s transformation in The Last Airbender, wouldn’t be convincing if he hadn’t hounded the Avatar so ferociously to begin with.

Dirk needed something like this. He needed than one act which makes us think ‘Ah yeah, he is pretty evil actually’. It’s not enough to simply mention something that he did in a former life when he was a giant demon. We need first hand evidence that he is what he says he is, and we need it now, while he is in the form we know him in.

I don’t know exactly what it is Dirk should do to prove this, and Dark Lord isn’t as absurd as Invader Zim, so I doubt it could get away with some of the things Zim does, but even so, we really do need something.

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

Standard

Hello all, I hope you’re all doing well today.

As I am writing this, it is the 17th November, which means I’m actually a couple of days late for writing a post about the NaNoWriMo halfway point. So, lets all do me a favour and pretend it’s the 15th all over again.

November every year is an exciting time for thousands of writers. That is already established and published authors of best-selling books, those who aren’t quite there yet and those who have never written a word before in their lives. All these wonderful, creative people will spend the month, bent over their computers in coffee shops across the world, attempting to write a minimum of 50,000 words in just 30 days. This is National Novel Writing Month; “Thirty days of literary abandon”.

This year is my first time participating in NaNoWriMo, so I thought I’d share some of my experiences up to this point.

I came into the month with a single goal; to hit the word count goal. I’m not too worried about what it is I’m writing, I just want to write. For me, the month is an exercise in writing as often and as much as I can, so that after the month is done I can attack my other projects with vigour. Because of this goal, of course, some of what I have written is rather good, and some of it is an absolute, unresolvable mess! But that’s okay. And actually, that’s kind of the point for me, that it’s okay to produce something messy, unpolished and possibly a bit crappy, the point is to write without holding back, without endlessly editing yourself and without spending 3 months on a single chapter! The editing and fixing stage comes later, beyond November.

In order to test myself in this way, I decided on a very basic idea for my novel, but did not plan it. The idea was vague. It would be based on my character from my theatre company ‘The Same, But Different’, Gylligan the Traveller. Now I say character, but really Gylligan is more of a persona than anything else, and if we want to deconstruct what exactly it is I mean by persona, we’ll have to read the first chapter of my book! Anyway, the book is sort of part auto-biography and part nonsense. I had the idea that it would have a vague narrative which follows my own life in the most basic of ways, (ie; I left home and moved to London), and then is filled out with ridiculous ideas, (ie; London is facing a large scale but harmless zombie epidemic). As well as this, the book is littered with random thoughts, ideas and philosophies that Gylligan has made up throughout his life. So pretty much, I can write whatever I want without having to make much sense. This I thought would work as a platform for me to be able to simply write without any plan, foresight or strict format/style. It also works as a way for me to experiment with how I’m writing, as I’ve only tried telling linear stories before.

This is working out pretty well for me so far. As I said, some of it is utter rubbish, but some of it is okay, and either way, I’m managing to keep up without any plan or worry about what the book should be.

So, lets talk a little bit about the logistics of NaNoWriMo. As I said, I’m pretty much keeping on target. I’ve been about a day behind since I began and every now and again drop even further back, but somehow, I’m finding time to catch myself up. That’s the best thing about the month. The fact that I know I have to keep on writing otherwise I’ll fall too far behind. This fact lurks in the back of your mind and compels you to carry on writing, and before you know it, writing has just becomes part of your daily routine. It’s funny, that before this I found it hard to make time for writing, and now that I have a goal and deadline I’m magically able to make time. This is something I’ll take with me from beyond this month, and when I go back to my other book it’ll be with a clear deadline in sight.

Another thing I’m enjoying is the community. I’m not a very social person in the digi-shere, but I’ve found great joy in the odd forum comment and other bits. The NaNoWriMo website is really good, keeping track of your progress and helping to make you feel as part of a group. I’ve read that groups of people have weekly meetups, in which I can only presume they all sit in silence, writing. This to me, sounds like a great idea, and perhaps next year I’ll try to get in on some of that. It’s good to know that you’re one of many taking part in the event, and this also helps you to carry on going.

But it is hard. I’m finding it very hard actually. Maybe because I’ve been relatively busy, maybe it’s due to my lack of a plan, but maybe it’s more to do with the fact that quite simply, writing is hard. It is horrible writing without editing as you go, and actually the knowledge that you have to write everyday can become quite stressful. I find myself fretting over word counts and forcing myself to write a certain amount, even after all inspiration has dried up for that particular day.

Overall though, it’s great to be a part of it. I’m really enjoying writing every day. I’m enjoying experimenting with what I’m writing and the way I’m writing it, but sometimes I do worry about the quality of work. Finally, I enjoy knowing that I’m just one of thousands taking part in the month.

I will write another post on NaNoWriMo at the end of the month. In the meantime, if anyone fancies it, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences of the month with me. How you are doing, how you are enjoying it, etc. It would be good to hear how fellow Wrimos (that’s what we are apparently) are doing.

An exciting month ahead

Standard

As I promised earlier in the week, I have added a page to this blog dedicated to my show ‘Pages from the Book of…’ Please read, learn and let me know if there’s anything I can do to improve it.
On other news, my other company ‘The Same, But Different’ is performing in 2 weeks time as part of Lost Theatre’s 5 Minute Festival. For this, we’re adapting our show ‘Starring James Franco’ to apply to the festival’s rules, that is, to be 5 minutes long.Excitingly, you can all watch this online and vote on your favourite act (us of course). Every night there are 2 winners who all go through to the finale. Then, of course there will be a vote for the winning company. Competitions aside, it’s going to be great fun and a highly energetic night I’m sure. Here is what’s written on the Lost Theatre website:

We live in an age when no-one has time.

Average viewers spend between 3 and 7 minutes on an internet video.

Advertisers get whole stories into 30 seconds.

Reduced Shakespeare squeezed the bard’s works into 70 minutes.

Hamlet thought brevity the soul of wit.

The Japanese that haiku was the highest form of art.

LOST is proud to present the UK’s 40 most talented, innovative companies battling it out in front of a live and online audience to make it to this year’s Grand Final. Each night will consist of ten companies performing for five minutes each.
Watch this space, and I will provide more details about the show and a link to watch it on-line, before the day.
One other thing, also ‘Same but different’ related; as an experiment in writing more than one chapter every 3 months, I have signed up to NatNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. So, in November there will hundreds of people stressing and straining to write a 50,000 word or more novel in a month.

My novel will be based on my persona in The Same, But Different, Gylligan the Traveller. Other than this, I have no idea what I’ll do with it. Anyway, I start this tomorrow.

So, exciting days and exciting blog posts ahead, better than this one at least. So, come with me readers, and we’ll talk theatre, literature and absurdity!

Better late than never – Istropolitana pictures

Standard

Hello,

So this really is the final final post on Istropolitana. I’m just going to post a few pictures to give a taste and then I’m putting a full stop on Istropolitana. I’ll also try to shake off the more sort of diary style blog posts I’ve been doing. I’m going to try and concentrate more on writing some articles and bits.

Anyway, without further ado:

General shenanigans in Bratislava

Both full shows and demonstrations of training techniques took place on the outside

Our group

Bratislava seen from the cafe/tv station thing…

Bratislava seen from the castle.

Our venue: Astorka Korzo ´90

Its a real theatre…does this mean I’m now a real actor?

The first raised stage I’ve been on in years.

Pages from the Book of…

Wax Figures

“Staring guy” as described in our review.

“Sexy miss” as described in our review.

“To whom should I speak?”

“Do you know the way to my father’s shop?”