Childhood books in my suitcase

I am packing to go to Inbound 2017 and beyond.

Here’s a story.

I look through my garage. It’s a mess of house moves and life moves. After a while, I haul out my big suitcase. The one for big trips. It hasn’t been used for a while, and it’s dusty.

And extremely heavy.

Look!

It’s a beautiful sight.

It was full of my childhood!

Redwall, Animorphs, The Animals of Farthing Wood, Narnia, The Lion King, Brer Rabbit, Nursery Rhymes.

I stood there, the light breeze rustling up the smell of my childhood and taking me back.

  • Snuggled up in bed with my parents reading to me. Asking for the same story again and again.
  • Borrowing videos from the local store, repeatedly. Tracking my favourites.
  • Unwrapping the next book in the summer holidays, and rushing to read it by myself in a corner of the hotel.
  • Copying illustrations from the books as soon as I learned how to hold a pencil.
  • Aspiring to write like that author one day. And that one. And the other one, too.
  • Loving animals, and being convinced they could talk if I listened the right way, based on these stories.
  • Discussing American and English grammar, and TV adaptations, with my favourite teacher.

All of these moments that made me, all together in one suitcase.

It was perfect.

Except for one thing.

I am packing to go to Inbound 2017 and beyond.

Oh yes.

They are in the way. So, I let each book go.

The suitcase is no longer heavy. It is ready for me to travel light, into the future.

Lyrics and songs I find beautiful

” ‘Cause this youthful advantage fades while the sand is
Dripping from the hour glass”

“Fashionably sensitive, but too cool to care”

“Mistaken you for someone else –

Someone who gave a dam… somebody more like myself”

“Wanna slay ’em, wanna lay ’em, wanna play ’em

My favourite toys

American boys”

“A simple life’s my cup of tea
I don’t need nobody but me
What I wouldn’t give just to be left alone
I want to be a millionaire someday”

The man with the yellow violin

I miss the man with the yellow violin.

His high notes raised my commuter spirits every morning when it was needed. I was low, and he was an inspiration.

Violins usually play on mourning or sadness. They indulge the sympathy of sad story told by real life. The sound touches the soul of compassion.

But this yellow violin was destined for King’s Cross cross-ways amid commuter rush. The music and his enthusiasm and the spark was there to soothe and delight. That moment to stop and hear and reflect the morning commute. The wondering why I am here at this time in my life. The potential of it all, the parallel worlds alongside my daily grind. I am here to listen and my particular train is in vain because I know it wasn’t meant to be. Where it was taking me was the source of my despair. The beautiful soaring sequences were familiar and timely. They melted my heart in broken realisation of the route I was taking that morning.

The mourning yellow violin was special and bright, and my morning was special and bright to me. The blues had thawed the melancholy and the yellow lion spirit had brought the light.
I wondered if he enjoyed his job. I didn’t have to wonder. It was obvious. I mean, I projected. I wondered if I enjoyed mine. But, I enjoyed the commute, and I miss it now. I miss the man with the yellow violin.

 

One Day by David Nicholls; amazing

Seriously. One Day by David Nicholls got to me. one_day_big
I’ve cried, smiled, felt my heart burst, romantically despaired, love-hated London and questioned the point of my own 26-27 years (especially when I got to that point). It described everything with the bittersweet aptness and post-party despair of free-falling after University. That freedom tainted by that sobering realisation of how much you rely on, and need to face, the very things and people and insecurities you left behind. Far behind, in some cases. But you’re back, and life goes on at an abrupt, galloping, yearly pace, and the book catapults through the snapshot dilemmas of growing up.
 
The runaway stream of words about the finest, direst details caught in my throat, often. It’s a mirror; an affirmation for any confused 20-something reader that we’re not alone. You are certainly not. The two graduates couldn’t be more different, although they cross into different stages at mismatched points and it’s an uplifting tragedy; a contradiction in terms. I was angry at the author for doing this to them. Doing what? Pounding their souls with the gritty realities of life out of control. The unexpected twists and turns that no one can foresee despite the fact we are told stories about them all the time. 
 
And as the book develops, rapidly, their lives speed up, and the author speeds up, and there’s a moment in reading wide-eyed that I wondered if this was rushed. Whether the author deliberately sped up to convey a sense of life reeling out of control – or, just to make the point. That time, and books, run out.
 
While reading this rather life-defining book I started writing emails in the style of Emma, as if I had suddenly found (identified with) that voice. 
 
And there’s the classic writerly point made alongside the protagonist’s journey through book publishing that writing is good and worth pursuing and works out in the long run, even if just to make you a better and more compassionate person with the relationships that make you grow, regardless of material and literary success. Except, she is also self-deprecating and insecure and finds herself adrift with disappointingly superficial characters in The Arts – and you can’t help wonder if Dexter is like that, and you just want to shake Emma and show her that she is refreshing and sweet and honest and you need her to know her solid intelligent mind soars through these pages. And Dexter… oh, Dexter. You can understand, truly, that people who are lucky, successful and incredibly good looking are, well, in pain. 
 
Places and paths are revisited and retrod with such honest flaws, such sincerity, and such intelligence. We all feel these things. But especially after University and some definition that graduates are supposed to be successful and they find themselves falling just as much as anyone else, until we learn, somehow, messily, to do some things better and all of a sudden our age changes things and we want different things and how is life ever going to work out, for real? The answer provided is realistic; it works out but only in ways we don’t expect. And these ways can delight us, if we have the courage to change absolutely everything when we just can’t take it any more.
 
And, perhaps, live a little more.
I cried. Many times. (And if you know why, don’t spoil it for everyone else.)

 

B0ring Tweets vs Ricky Gervais; my appreciation, your treat.

Adapted conversation from when I introduced funny guy The Bunnybeater to… @b0ringTweets Versus @RickyGervais

Here’s Episode 6. It’s a particularly good one. Episode 7 was a bit of a let down after that, to be honest.

B: “I don’t understand.”

A: “You don’t understand?”

B: “I…I’m starting to be entertained by them, but I’m not sure why. But, not hugely entertained. Just a little.
“It’s odd. Perplexing. It’s like a joke I can almost grasp, but not quite.”

A: “Exactly! … When you actually laugh, that’s when you’re in trouble.”

B: “…You’ve actually laughed?”

A: “Right. So. If you read Boring Tweets you’ll see how its funny Gervais is trying to push his limits. Like a test of will. He caaaan’t keep up boringness. And Boring Tweets takes his time, it’s tense… Its like. That can’t possibly be manouevred to be more boring. But he trumps Gervais every time! The Olympics of being boring, as it were… And humour is basically playing with expectations, after all?
…Not that im really into it and thought about it much or anything.” *whistles*

*serious silence*

A: “It’s just so unfunny its funny, okay!”

B: “Oh you’re so very English.”

A: “How’s that very English?”

B: “The ‘so unfunny it’s funny’, the actively trying to find humour in being deliberately mundane. It’s a very specifically English trait.”

A: “Well… it is! I suppose Gervais captured that awkward social small talk unbearability in The Office. I love it because, well, it’s… kinda soothing. Reassuring. The mundane. Yet also so irritating. And that tension is the funny. You want it, but you don’t. You realise what a waste of time this is. You feel – really feel – the futility of life, spent in these boring (but not bored) moments watching the trusty monotonous photocopier machine repeat in The Office’s cuts or the pregnant pause for thought as Boring Tweets is warming up to say something utterly, resignedly, but addictively and hypnotically, pointless.
Isn’t this the very tragi-comedy of life itself?!”

LOOK. I’M DEEP.

A: “You know what else is pointless?
.. A blog post on this conversation! Yes! I love pointless blogging! It’s reassuring!”

*30 secs later*

Afterthought: Ya know, it’s not just the genuine believability of boring tweets, it’s the consistent cadence and right rhythm perfect for Twitter. I did linguistics of dramatic script at University for one semester and that paper would have had a field day on this.

The Book Club, Shoreditch

I felt like I was in a hipster film set.

Not a set up film set, I mean, in a documentary about hipsters? … as in, it was so real, it felt fake?

Just, space, wooden floors, with good looking creative types wearing cardigans and thick-rimmed glasses using their iDevices or playing ping pong (which is cool). Colours were all pretentiously pastel and everything was too polished, and lean… even down to the variety of beers, with a beer menu of about 12 beers that were in large font across an A4 piece of paper on a clipboard, with a similar wine list, and cocktail menu with an intriguing ‘Shoreditch twat’.

Still, it was nice. Fun. Cute. Cool… for a summer’s day.
Maybe I should write a blog post about it, I thought to myself.

But the problem with hating on hipster venues is that they *aim* for pretentious, so it’s just a low blow to say it’s *too* trendy, either it sounds ironic (and falls into their trap) or… I sound bitter (which falls into their trap).

Faltering Fullback, Finsbury Park

A delightful pub with a clever beer garden, full of quirky randomness. The decked garden is built upwards with different levels, nooks and crannies for one or for ten people, with tables close enough together to encourage talking to strangers on a summer’s night.

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They have a quality selection of drinks, but they ran out of the Heineken and Amstel on tap – but Hoegaarden instead was better, with lemon *and* lime!

image

Plenty of cool kids staying up late on the Sunday I went (11th May), with live music consisting of an acoustic band crouched around a table in one of the three different sections of the pub.

Cute.

Chance Gallery: Little City Observationist exhibition

The little things in London, often missed by tourists, are a treat when viewed through the eyes – or, lens – of Stephanie Sadler. Her best photos (18 of them) make up her first solo exhibition ‘Little City Observations’ at The Chance Gallery, 123 Sydney Street, Kensington.

See it now until 17 November!

Photo by Vanessa Fergus

Photo by Vanessa Fergus

 

 

Stephanie is the Little City Observationist. The exhibition features photos from her blog Little London Observationistwith some photos from abroad too. A New Yorker artist and blogger, she’s called London her home since 2007 and been on a mission to seek out ‘the little things’ on her travels around the world, for her photography and her award-winning (Top Expat Blog Great Britain via Internations, Top Blog England via Go Overseas, one of the World’s Best Travel Blogs via Travel Onion, etc) blog. She’s started a new one recently to capture other cities, too.

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The launch party on Monday was wonderful. The balance of black and white, and colour, photography is laid out with optimum space for appreciation and mingling in the bright little gallery, and the photos themselves have a distinctive style. Consistent with the focus of the blog, I got a real sense of the limitless possibilities of art, street art, blogging, fashion and design across the divides of London.

I caught Stephanie amid mingling and she was a lovely ray of sunshine as a host, and her love for London and art is clear.

Stephanie on the left

Stephanie on the left

 

Two interesting things strike me about the exhibition.

First, it’s an original and inspired exhibition of the quirks and unusual spots in London, and she has a distinctive style. The consistent blogging has led to a self-made success story purely through dedication, love of Londoners, and she’s a lovely person.

Second, she is clearly genuinely inspired by the city around her and the blog, and the exhibition, gives a real sense of the random mix jumbled together in this vast and varied city. Like her post of 35 Londoners.

It helped me remember why I love it here so much, despite getting caught up in the struggles of life, as we often do, since I came back from New Zealand in 2009.

Have a look and it’ll make you see London in a new way.

 

Two glasses of wine - and LLO cupcakes!

Two glasses of wine – and LLO cupcakes!

Exhibition was funded via Kickstarter.

 

 

 

Joyously melancholic Thermoluminescence’s new album

Will (right) and Adam (left)

Will (left) and Adam (right)

Just a couple of kids jamming in bedrooms, Thermoluminescence have released their shockingly good ambient electronica album- TODAY!

Entirely self-produced and two years in the making, DISCODISCODISCODISCO is fantastic. “Joyously melancholic” is an apt description from a friend of theirs, and this strong album fearlessly juxtaposes amazing ambience, uplifting and catchy tunes and eerie yet calming ups and downs. I’d recommend it for a Halloween house or dinner party, rather than a club. The songs are so distinct they made me want to dance, hum, and concentrate at different times. I imagine their first live shows, planned for early 2014, will be epic and transportive, and they have a pop edge.

But, not that kind of pop edge. Adam has articulate views on the competitive nature of music a la X Factor: “The competition thing is just really ugly and weird. Pitting artists against each other,” he says, “A release from Sony and a release from EMI are going to be directly competing for sales if they’re released in the same week, and that’s really weird to me. Art really isn’t a competition, so to boil it down to number of sales, number of awards, and number of twitter followers is a bizarre way to approach an art form. We’re not really part of that whole thing if we choose to stay out of it.”

Adam Glasspool was originally doing alt rock music in bands when he developed his “stupid little side project to get rid of the more experimental music things I had in my head.” Unexpectedly, his second album, a free download, took off and he, and band mate Will Bowles, started to talk about record labels, “but we were worried about the level of creative control we could maintain,” he says.

“We have a pretty counter intuitive approach to how ‘big’ we want to become as a band. I can’t imagine a record label would be too happy with the idea of limited growth. So I hastily set up a record label – Poles Apart Records to release stuff on – just to make it official. We were thinking about the future too, especially in regards to control over our own music. Right now we can pick where we’d like to go for album number four and how long it will take us to get there.”

Thermoluminescence, made up of experimental 20-somethings Adam Glasspool and Will Bowles, are a band with a clear idea of where they want to go – and no further, if it means selling out their independence and passion. They are a fine – and sweetly humble – example of awesome art from today’s entrepreneurial creative generation, and my favourite quotation ever:

“The first step – especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money – the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.” – Chuck Palahniuk

Thermoluminescence create music for the pure love of it, if I have judged the incredible, brave freedom of this album correctly. I like most songs yet every song is different, it sent chills down my spine, made me want to dance, and inspired me to work, all at once. My personal favourite is Stop Worrying – it simply had me grooving before I even stopped to appreciate its complexity and deft key changes and mood shifts. Round+Round has a music video on youtube today – watch it!

Adam admits he has evolved, from making “shitty dance music on my own” to a self-assured duo with Will with great music videos and plans for the live shows. “I know I’m more proud of this album than I have anything I have ever done,” he says.

Download the full album at  http://thermoluminescence.bandcamp.com and pre-order the CD with bonus music and full artwork exlusives for January 2014.

I’m going to their show – you coming?

Arts or technology: Worth a degree?

This five minute debate on technology vs. Arts degrees is weak on the side of the arts. Against Belinda Parmar, campaigning tech agency Lady Geek’s CEO, the Guardian art critic Adrian Searle often resembles a rabbit in the headlights. He says he couldn’t bear a world full of technocrats and I would like to develop that thought.

It is not just technology that is important, and it is certainly not the most important advance for society, despite the financial and career rewards at the moment. Logically, a world focused on developing technology leaves less room for the ideas, visions and – if you like – soul, behind them. Think human and machine: Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, or I Robot. Amazing films. I studied them at University and learned about the ideas and moral questions of technology. I wonder if you learn as much about the arts when you study technology.

Films that belong with the arts and the arts are where philosophy and how to live and morals are truly debate and grow, by the people who study, love and invest in the arts. Technology certainly does enhance the arts, but I say there is no point to technology without the arts. Study of the arts (and I don’t just mean through a University, of course) are there for that purpose, and that is what they are worth. Technology may well provide fantastic career options, but I gained an arts degree for the purpose of a career and to nurture and appreciate myself, the world, and the stories of life.