Category Archives: What I think

“Why can’t you just… be a better person?”

This was an old joke between my first wife and me, when a discussion or argument that had reached the point where one person wanted to shout “Why can’t you just do what I’m telling you to do?” – the other would pull out this line and defuse the situation (obviously not foolproof as you may infer from my use of the phrase ‘first wife’).

But it’s a good question, why can’t you just be a better person? Why is personal growth so hard?

Why do we have to grow at all? Can’t we just carry on where we are? Well, no it appears not. Even the most stagnant relationships and work situations don’t last forever. We end up having to change in one way or another and we can either do it consciously or unconsciously. No scrap that, it’s not either/or, it’s a matter of degree of consciousness – my experience has been that for every epiphany as a result of conscious work on myself there are a hundred little growth spurts that I don’t recognise as such until much later on.

So what is this conscious work? It’s a kind of growing up, it’s a way of building good character, it’s dealing with the unconscious triggers that result in disturbance (/me being a dick). Most spiritual traditions and teachers have a way of doing this and for me it boils down to a few steps:

    • Admit that the disturbance is in me. Not that the outside world is perfect and I’m wrong, but that the thing causing me the most pain is not outside of me, it’s within.
    • Accepting the thing I’m doing is part of me and likely has been around for a while (ie it’s not just a product of this situation). This is tough. Who wants to admit that they’re habitually self-centred, self-righteous or dishonest?
    • Remembering that just because it’s a (perhaps quite old) habit doesn’t mean that it’s the ultimate truth about me. I am fundamentally honest and I’m mostly capable of enacting that but there are times, when I feel under pressure, that I say things that aren’t true.
    • Forgiving myself for doing it one more time and forgiving those that I’d associated with my disturbance.
    • Doing something to express that forgiveness to anyone I’ve harmed through the disturbance – this requires a couple of careful steps, one is assessing who has been harmed (it might only be me!) and the other is how to do something about it without compounding the original harm.  Finding someone else who can help you see the right path through this bit is invaluable.
    • Get on with doing something helpful and useful for someone else.
    • Rinse and repeat as required.

I’m not done, by the way, I have no illusion of my own perfection, but it helps, it really does.

Women’s work #IWD2016

I don’t work for free, that’s a firm rule.  But when Helen asked me to help with making a series of podcasts with women in tech for International Women’s Day, I said yes without hesitation.

I’m proud of the work we did today, all of us, in collaboration.  I know that you’ll get great value out of listening to the stories of the women we met and worked with.

But whatever the financial value, whatever I might have been paid ordinarily for a day like today can only represent a tiny, tiny fraction of the value of unpaid physical and emotional labour as well as financial support given to me by the women whose homes and lives I’ve shared over the years, support which continues to today.

Thank you, all of you, mother and sister, grandmothers and aunts, girlfriends and wives, I love you all.

How do you find a smell?

Often, if I’m out in town, I will catch a whiff of something nice.  Some cologne or perfume or something that transports me to a happy warm childhood place or an image of someone or something or just a feeling of rightness, a rightness that isn’t there all the time.  And I think wouldn’t it be nice to smell that more often.

But how do you find a smell?  Even if it’s a mass-produced thing that you can find behind the counter in Debenhams, how would you start?  How does this happen?  I’ve never done it.  I can remember buying after-shave perhaps once or twice in my life and then it was always pretty random.  Oh yes, that one will do.

I know there’s a vocabulary, “lemony”, “sharp”, “tweedy”, “high notes”, “musky” etc. but I’m not sure what they really mean – they can only be subjective can’t they? There’s one that reminds me of a playgroup I went to more than forty years ago – how do I communicate what that is?  I know it when I smell it but I can’t conjure it up in the same way as I can say, the smell of cut grass.  It’s just out of reach.  When I come across something I like, I want to say to someone, “what’s that smell?  How would you describe it?  Do you know what brand it is?” but that wouldn’t go down well on the Waterloo & City Line at 08.51 on a crisp Thursday in February.

 

Theatre Blogging: it’s not what it could be

I heard recently about a director having the nasty experience of inviting a journalist into rehearsals and then having an unhelpful (I haven’t read it, it’s paywalled) preview article published just before the show opens.

Yuk.

Reading about it sent me back to look at what I wrote nearly eleven years ago (!) about using blogging in theatre.  I was surprised to see what emphasis I put on buzz and PR (that was how the original question had been framed).  And it’s that angle that all the marketing people picked up. I went to see John Berry at ENO because (see the comments on the post) they were doing something like this a couple of years later.  And a year after this first post, I did a little site about the opening of Avenue Q.  It had to be done, and I’m glad I did it, but I don’t read any of the West End theatre blogs or the mainstream journalism that has taken on our blogging form but sticks to traditional writing styles of reporting and criticism.

But I was thinking about more than marketing.

What I was thinking was of a kind of collaborative production journal, where everyone contributes…  think “The Making of…” fly-on-the-wall documentary style, only on the web, and released in chunks as they happen, day by day rather than being stitched together after the show has closed.

I think this points to something much more interesting to do – about using these tools as part of the production, as part of the artistic process, to log progress and reflect on thinking and how things are emerging, for the benefit of the team themselves much more than prospective audience members and to create something bigger and longer-lasting and more networked than traditional documentation or archiving.  It’s “sources going direct”, cutting out the dependence on news organisations (and their sodding paywalls) and making our own media.

 

Audioblog 160223 – Walking by the canal thinking about @solobasssteve

Download .mp3 (7.9MB)

Walked by the canal this morning, nice and slow and easy. Reflective, as canals are and encourage us to be. Not much to do except dodge buggies, joggers and duck poo. And think about something Steve Lawson wrote on Facebook this morning.

6m 11s I pass by a jackhammer, mind your ears.
It made me realise how long I’d been talking for, so I finished.

Self Care: Things To Do

This is by no means a canonical list, but I remembered on Saturday that I had it with me and so I shared it with people.  It occurred to me that it might be useful to share here too.  I could add to it, so could you, but it’s just what came out one day when I sat down to write “Things I need to do to take care and resource myself.”

  • Go for a walk – 20 mins to 1 hr (longer on rest days)
  • Have a rest day
  • Go on holiday
  • Walk in the woods
  • Talk to someone, anyone
  • Have a nap
  • Meditate
  • Tidy up and process stuff
  • Time my work periods (25 minutes working, 5 minute doing something different)
  • Do the washing up or some laundry
  • Read for fun
  • Play a game
  • Go to unplugged/tuttle/some other coffee morning type thing
  • Forgive myself for not being perfect all the time
  • Do someone a favour
  • Stop working for free
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Listen to music
  • Play music, sing and dance around the living room

Audioblog 160220 – Why So Serious?

Download 5.7MB

I recorded this on Waterloo Station shortly after the Devoted & Disgruntled Vaults Festival Open Space on Saturday. The space was opened to discuss “Let’s stop romanticising depression and marginalising other mental illness” and I called a session called “Why So Serious?” about the issue of taking oneself too seriously, dealing with other people’s expectations, the link between adopting a serious persona and depression or burn-out.

I reported like this mainly because I’d called a session at the previous week’s space but had then spent the whole week not being able to write a report.   It’s reminded me how much I like making this format.  Expect more…

[insert celebrity name] died in January what’s up with that?

We have seen some cultural icons pass in the last month.  And whenever we hear of another individual death, we’re tutting on social media and giving January 2016 a bit of a hard stare.

It’s had me thinking about death, how it’s always a surprise even though we know it’s coming.  How the War Babies and Boomers are getting older and will naturally be starting to disappear and what it also means about our culture.

First of all, January.  Yes January is a bastard.  Even if you’re well it’s long and dark at our latitudes and I think lots of people who aren’t so well decide consciously or not that they’re not up to sticking around for another winter.   From the ONS Winter mortality statistics from England & Wales you can see that January 1st was the number one day to die in the period 1/8/2014 to 31/7/2015 and that January was the peak month for deaths with just under 60,000 people.

image (7)

But what about Bowie, Lemmy, Rickman etc?  Well they’re the early-ish ones of a much bigger trend.  Although life expectancy at birth for males in the UK is currently about 78, back in the late forties it was 63-64 (presently ONS don’t produce life expectancy tables for people who took extremely large amounts of drugs in the seventies like Bowie and Lemmy).  A bit like house prices, most people have come to expect average life expectancy to keep going up even though they realise it can’t keep going forever.  Sooner or later everyone who had a top ten hit during the sixties and seventies will be dead, shortly followed by everyone who bought a copy of said hit.

And during the sixties and seventies we had something that we hadn’t had before and haven’t had since – the primacy of youth.  If you look at the people playing on number one hits during 1965, for example, most of them are aged 25 or under (the youngest was Dave Davies of the Kinks who was just 18, the oldest was Ken Dodd at a venerable 38).  That means we have a bubble of very famous people all around the same age who will probably be dying in the next few years.  We’ll have to get used to losing our heroes.

[Help me improve this.  Can you see better ways to use available data to make the point?  Can you see some more important points to make?  Pointe them out, let’s improve it together.]

 

Some Hows of Timelapse

I made a little timelapse this week and put it in my flickr stream because I found, to my chagrin, that it made instagram video barf.

Robert spotted it (see? he *is* looking, watching, lurking quietly after all) and kindly mentioned it in his newsletter this morning. He asked “How did he do that?”

Well here are a few ways of answering that:

  • I shot it on my phone. It’s an “HTC One”, which accounts for the wide screen. There’s a free (with Pro version available) app called Droid Timelapse. The only real setting I use is to adjust the Frame Capture Rate – each frame here is a second apart. I did no other processing after shooting, just uploaded it.
  • I’d just tried out the new cafe in the newly extended Sainsbury’s in Garratt Lane, opposite the Southside Centre. It is nothing special, but for £1.95 I got a large mug of reasonable coffee that I enjoyed more than the sort they serve over the road in Caffe Nero for example. I came to the exit and realised it was raining (again) and saw in front of me a big window out onto the street. So I went and stood by it, propping my phone up against the glass, firing up Droid Timelapse, holding very still and pressing the button to make it start. Then I waited for the counter to reach 10 (I don’t know how long that took, I’d have to do some arithmetic with frame rates… but that makes 10 seconds of video) and I pressed the button again to make it stop. Then I went and bought some sausages in Sainsbury’s and went home.
  • While it was shooting, I was nervous. I expected at every moment to hear one of the security guards behind me say “I’m sorry sir, you can’t do that here” I couldn’t move because I was holding the camera still. I imagine that if anyone had actually paid any attention, they’d have thought I looked like I was waiting to take a picture for a very long time. While I was standing there a young (I dunno, late teens I guess) woman and a slightly older man came and stood nearby. They had a trolley full of groceries but I assumed they were either waiting for the rain to calm down or waiting for someone else to turn up. They were having that kind of conversation where you don’t get too deeply into anything because you know that you’re going to be interrupted at any moment by a change in the weather or the arrival of your friend. I zoned in and out of their conversation while wondering how the movie was going to turn out – would it be too fast? what would it look like when the traffic slowed down or stopped for the traffic lights? how many buses had gone past now? – the only thing I remember her saying was “I’ve been told by many people that they’ve had visions of me dying young.” When I turned around all I really clocked of her was that she had long hair and was wearing a light-coloured (creamy) woolen garment – I couldn’t say whether it was a cardigan or a pullover. It might have been Aran.

Does that help? Anything else you want to know?

Footnote: While I drafted this post (and the previous one) in Fargo, it’s still easier to embed media (especially moving pictures) using the wordpress.com interface. Boo! (actually that’s not true, I made it up before actually trying it out – the flickr code is just a line of text which would fit nicely on a line in Fargo. I’ll try that next time)

[bds] People, places and things. Oh and time.

[This post is about the Bromsgrove Digital Shoebox project – bds]

I’m thinking about the scope of media/content/stuff.  It’s a balancing act, working out where to draw the lines – what should be included, what should be outside the remit of the project.

It doesn’t actually matter that these lines are arbitrary and flexible, but at this stage, when the main focus is on explaining what I’m doing, in order to help people decide whether to fund more work, it helps if it’s clear enough for them to quickly understand the basics.  On the other hand, I don’t want to dictate this too tightly, too early, I want your input.

So what’s in?

  • I’ve talked about photos, film and audio; scans of documents might be interesting if they’re not available elsewhere.
  • I’ve set the timeframe to be the 1970s and by that I suppose I meant 1970-1979 inclusive.  I’m not deeply attached to this, and I wouldn’t want to exclude interesting material from say 1981.  I think it’s something that can become firmer when we really know what is out there.
  • The media should have been produced in Bromsgrove or include people who lived in Bromsgrove at the time (let’s not exclude those pics of school trips to France!).  If it’s in Bromsgrove, then the media might not include people, it might just be places, buildings, roads, railways etc. I think using the boundary of Bromsgrove District Council is appropriate.
  • I’m also most interested in media made by “ordinary people” rather than press or TV coverage (if only to avoid rights conversations with a bureaucracy) but I wouldn’t want to exclude them altogether.

Any thoughts on other dimensions to the scope?

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