Thursday, June 14, 2007

Follow your bliss. Joseph Campbell

I snap the Guildhall looking foreboding under a rain cloud yesterday. I notice that it's slightly at an angle. Must be some kind of subsidence.

Kate and I turn up at singing practice, breathless and late, after sitting too long in the Peace Cafe and forgetting that we are starting early this week in order to be filmed by the BBC. The atmosphere in the room is nervous electric when we arrive and we get changed, fall in with the others and begin to practice.

I am deeply relieved when the two men- a film-maker and his cameraman - arrive and break the tension. They explain that the film is about Stan, one of the only men in the group. They are following him over a few days of his life as part of a feature for BBC South Today.

The cameraman is a smooth NLP operator and soon has us all dancing to his tune, with the women giggling delightedly at him.

He decides he wants to do a circular shot, sweeping around us all as we sing. There is only one problem. Me.

"You're very short," he announces, as the camera reaches me. He puts it down and stares.

I'm a double water sign and sometimes we don't take criticism well.

"You're overweight," I throw back, glaring.

Then he left the room and returned a few minutes later with a pile of newspapers.

"Try standing on these," he instructed.

I stared at him with a complete absence of compassion for a moment.

"Tell me you're kidding. Please."

Five minutes later, I'm standing on a pile of newspapers and the cameraman gets his shot. And a sworn enemy for life.

Later, the cameraman wants a high shot from the corner of the room and instructs us all (with a particularly unnecessary glance at Kate and I, I thought) to 'look as though we're having fun." Of course the thing about fun is that once you try to look as though you're having it, you start to resemble a slightly nervous day release patient with a concealed weapon.

"I'm going to shove that bloody microphone..." I hiss, turning towards Kate.

"I know, I know," she soothes, "He's demanding, annoying, and rude."

I would have added smarmy, but it's not the right time to be picky so I leave it.

"If we look at each other when we're singing," she suggests, "We'll smile and look natural!"

So, the music starts and we begin singing Halle, Halle, Halle. Halfway through, I glance at Kate and we both smile. Then I chuckle. Then Kate chuckles. Then I can hear the 'Halle' that's supposed to be coming out of both of our mouths turning into "Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Before either of us know what's hit us, we're both seized by a terrible fit of the giggles that lasts for the remainder of the song. By the end, we both have tears streaming down our faces and I realise that we have both regressed back to school age. Kate even had to leave the room to calm down again.

The entire shooting took two hours, for what will only represent approximately 20 seconds of film in the finished piece. I now know that I will never want to be a film-maker. It's a strange medium and I have a new found respect for actors, who must love their trade a great deal to spend so much time being treated like talking mannequins. It also takes a lot of energy to obey commands like 'Look Happy!' 'Look Sad!'

I think the only expression I managed with utter sincerity was, "Look like you want to see the cameraman's heart being ripped out by a rabid badger with a personality disorder, while you shout commands like 'Look Happy!' at him."

I'm not sure how suited I am to being before the lens. I think I'll stick to sitting behind the keyboard.

Many thanks to Gentle Sir Michael of the Museum, who has recommended a YouTube video:
500 Years of Portraits of Women

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Writer Pauses

My head is swimming this morning, desperate to dwell on the gentle light of a rising sun, the embrace of cotton sheets (the Chief will tell me they are man-made fibres, and that one rarely finds cotton in the rental sector), even the diesel hum of the daily work run as people pour themselves away from sleeping peace, to work.

I am more in the mood for meditation than the Ministry, but Robert Frost would tell me I have promises to keep, and he would be right. Besides, Philosopher Jagger once said that you can't always get what you want. Fortunately, however, he did mention that if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. So I'm going to work.

I had a blog entry written for this morning (well really for yesterday, but one conversation leads to another, leads to another, leads to long past midnight and sleep), but I am shying away from a diary-style entry this morning. Sometimes this happens.

The Land Lord, who runs an estate agency on Castle Road, is intrigued by my diary.

"Stick that it your book!" he announces at the end of our conversations.

It makes me laugh, and oddly, always leads to an immediate compulsion to do just that. Although, if I did, I might end up writing about the Land Lord so often it would become more his diary than mine. And what could be stranger than ghost-writing someone else's diary?

The Land Lord has an antique typewriter in his office that I am utterly in love with. Although I don't need more objects, I am envious for a moment. The typewriter is my symbol for a writer, my grail. It was the first machine on which I wrote as a child, and the place I first conceived that I could do this for a living, for the rest of my life.

Perhaps I will steal it when he's not looking. Or break in under the cover of darkness like a commando. Although as I write this I appreciate that it may not be the wisest plan to post that intention on the Interpipe. Or maybe it's a double bluff........

I would also like a t-shirt with that as the main slogan - Stick that in your book!

I think it could catch on.

Karen Pommeroy: Are you saying that the death of one species is less tragic than another?

Donnie: Of course. The rabbit's not like us. It has no... (keen look at something in the mirror), it has no history books, no photographs, no knowledge of sorrow or regret... I mean, I'm sorry, Miss Pommeroy, don't get me wrong; y'know, I like rabbits and all. They're cute and they're horny. And if you're cute and you're horny, then you're probably happy, in that you don't know who you are and why you're even alive. And you just wanna' have sex, as many times as possible, before you die... I mean, I just don't see the point in crying over a dead rabbit! Y'know, who... who never even feared death to begin with.

Donnie Darko (2001)

Monday, June 11, 2007

What we are looking for is what is looking. St Francis of Assisi

Portsmouth City Dreaming - flowers near the Bandstand

A big welcome home to The Chief, who has been sorely missed over the last week during his holiday in Turkey. I met with him this afternoon for coffee and the man has a tan that is actually illegal. Not that I'm envious. I doubt it would suit me, and besides, I was recently told that I must be descended from Vikings, and that's good enough for me.

Every time I sit before this screen to write lately, the first sentence that comes into my mind is usually something like - Where do I start? It's becoming ever more clear that it is almost impossible for me to post at weekends at the moment: a current combination of summer sun, lots of great people that I want to spend time with and most recently, the emergence of a Gemini birthday every few days!

This weekend was no exception on any of these fronts. Until today, I thought that nothing could top the laughter, conversation and positivity of the last few days (I'm deliberately paying no attention to the crazy hangovers), until I saw a film today called What the Bleep Do We Know?

Unsurprisingly, I was led to this film by the Peace Cafe and it's ever interesting owner, who was kind enough to lend it to me. I'd mentioned that I planned to spend the day working and as James handed me the film, he hesitated.

"Maybe don't watch it before you work though," he warned me, "You might not be able to concentrate."

So of course, I watched it.

This movie was highly controversial when it came out, and a brief search on the internet tells me it continues to be, with some or many of the film's scientific evidence and experts being raised for criticism. If you're interested, you can read a great article about this on Wikipedia.

But there's no doubt that the film raises some amazing questions about state of mind, consciousness, 'hard sciences' and personal power. I found the film exceptionally unlifting, thought-provoking, and in lots of ways, I believe many of it's central points could actually have an enormously beneficial effect on a lot of people. I don't know enough about quantum physics to test any of the science in this film, and I'm never likely too, but I do know that the film has stayed with me for the whole of today, and I imagine it will stay with me for a while longer. Watch it, and tell me what you think!

I went for a soul-searching walk along the beach this afternoon to think about some of the points raised in the film. Three complete strangers (and a small dog) spoke to me in less than an hour, including a traffic warden that I was watching from my balcony this morning, who complimented me on my smile.

"Hey!" he called from a side street, "You look very happy with yourself! More people should try that!"

As he spoke, I realised that I had been walking along with a beatific grin on my face, which was all the evidence that I needed. Any film that can do this to you after one viewing has to be worth watching.

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity...and I'm not sure about the universe.
- Albert Einstein