A taster…. from the very

A taster….

from the very funny How to fail at writing

11. Whatever you do, don’t finish anything. Just keep starting new fragments. (Any ideas prior to your latest suck anyway.) Or endlessly torture your existing manuscripts until you drain them of any vitality they might once have had.
12. If you do finish something, immediately share it with someone who can be counted on to tear it apart, tell you you’re wasting your time, and imply you’re an idiot for ever imagining you could write. Believe this person — s/he wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.
13. Be sure you never actually submit your work for publication. Take the decision out of the editors’ hands: reject it for them.
14. If a story gets rejected, don’t send it anywhere else — obviously it was no good. In all likelihood, you aren’t either: be sure not to pass up the opportunity to consider giving it all up.

A cracking start on the

A cracking start on the topic of stopping

Someone I know has just started a weblog and in her first post pulls no punches:

I was watching the programme on Death on Channel 4 last evening. It is pretty pertinant as my mother is currently in hospital with an adverse reaction to chemotherapy which almost killed her last week. She has been on her own for 5 years now since my father died and refuses to move closer than the 150 miles away that she lives. She has known for 3 years that she has a secondary cancer and is often complaining that now she is ill she has little to live for. Yet, having been told the cancer has spread to her liver she has opted for chemo – which is making her even more unwell. I draw a parallel with the elderly lady on the programme last evening. They both profess to believe in God and the afterlife and yet they seem to be prepared to do anything to put off meeting their God. Even the commentator questioned this last night. What surprised me is that the young woman who was an atheist was the one who had least problem with accepting death and trading quality of life with her little girl and husband rather than go through chemo for a few months more. Is it the older that people get the less certain they get of their religion? Is that why the suicide bombers tend to be young people?

from Cetecean Blog

And on a related theme…

And on a related theme…
Life is too short – it’s over soon.
Get a blog.
Get a voice.
Say what you think
Open your heart (I’m not saying I’m great at this)
Bore people if that’s what you are good at
Stop worrying if someone disagrees
Don’t worry if they will laugh
Just fucking say it
State the obvious

If you don’t then the world will end up the way they think it should

Going through a phase I

Going through a phase
I must be.

I keep getting a real sense that this is it.
Not a rehearsal.
I won’t get a second chance.
I won’t pass by this moment again – it’s gone forever, never to be repeated.
It’s like a moment of flashing intensity – like waking up.
Trouble is I can’t sustain it. I keep slipping back into sleep.
The dream….
The nightmare……

Winner takes all.

Winner takes all
It was my daughter’s sports day on Saturday. It was great fun and pretty idyllic. The sports field is behind the village school and looks out over rolling filelds and woods. The school looks onto the village green where the cricket team was playing and my wife and I were getting pretty smug about how perfect it all was.

Sports_day

I then got to thinking about competition and winning and losing. I know its a bit seventies wishy washy liberal but I did worry about the kids who were always coming last in the races and the lessons they were learning about themselves so early on.

As the sports day was drawing to a close two rough looking youngsters “gatecrashed” the event and started playing with the other kids. They had lank unwashed hair and were wearing adult clothes which were way too big for them and hung loosely on them. I learned that they belonged to an alcoholic father who lived in the village. The mother had left and the kids were pretty much left to fend for themselves. They seemed nice kids keen to get along with the other children and I felt so sorry for them as they desparately tried to fit in with things so heavily stacked against them.

Where we live has lots of very smart, very expensive houses with very wealthy people living in them. If we were to get drawn in to envying some of them we would end up being dissatisfied with our lot and spoiling our enjoyment of the lovely lifestyle we have.There is no guarantee that the wealthy people round us are happy and there is nothing to say that the kids I saw won’t become successful in spite of their challenging start.

Woops! Couldn’t resist the latest

Woops!

Couldn’t resist the latest memetic Google game!

EUAN is a project for the Info2000 initiative launched by DG XIII of the European
Commission
Euan is launching a meaningful career in investment banking
Euan is drawn to Janet at first sight
Euan is the oldest of Blair’s four children
Euan is not the first son to embarrass his prime minister parent
Euan is also a sport fan
Euan is shocked to learn that he is a “GAGFI” – Gives a Gay First Impression,
and tries to change his image.
Euan is very conscious about the size of a certain appendage
Talking of stiff canons, Euan is pretty proud of himself in that department as well.

Looks like things go from bad to worse!

Backlinks Really good article on

Backlinks
Really good article on backlinks by John Udell:

Offering backlinks is a strategy that furthers the ambition of every blogger to engage other minds. It does so by enlarging the surface area and altering the shape of the posted article, which is the unit of information currency in blogspace.

Both techniques can help provoke the desired engagement which, like a biomolecular reaction, is a hard-won outcome that needs all the catalytic help it can get. The attractive force that binds molecules to substrates is weak, and easily overcome by their incessant jostling. To be effective, writes Loewenstein, “their molecular surfaces must be large, and their shapes must match within a few angstroms.”

from O’Reilly Network via dangerousmeta

Depressing thoughts Interesting that Mike

Depressing thoughts

Interesting that Mike Golby and Jeneane Sessum posted their thoughts on depression and sadness today after Marek and I both found fault with our lot. Wouldn’t it be wierd if mood swings rippled round blogging communities like wind rippling across a field of corn. It may be simply that we are all spending too much time staring at computer screens but its a nice thought to play with – wonder if it would work for happiness too?

Timely thoughts I’m not sure

Timely thoughts
I’m not sure exactly why but I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality these past few days. I have become very conscious that this is not a rehearsal and that we only get one crack at life. I have found myself thinking of all of the other lives that I won’t get to live – observing people following vastly different paths from my own which I will never get to follow. I have also been thinking about my tendency not to try 100% at things as if I will always get another chance – well I’m realising that I won’t. I’m not really getting morbid but I am scaring myself into taking each day more seriously, thinking harder about what I do with my precious time, making more effort to make the most of it.

Marek‘s obviously been feeling the same way judging by his recent post:

Get fucking busy derailing the predictability of your fucking life. Go… Go and don’t look back. Don’t stop. Go live your life out loud. Out loud my friend. Live it. Live the fucking every second of it. It’s all yours baby. It’s all yours NOW and available. The whole juiciness of it all. Do you feel the juices flowing. Yes, this is your life. Succulent, Ready, Fucking Awesome.

Jeneane Sessum interview on Radio

Jeneane Sessum interview on Radio Sandhill Trek

First on blogging and women bloggers:

And so we come to weblogging. Here is where everything converges-poetry, music, humanity, worlds, prose, journalism, literature, philosophy. Blogging is everything we want it to be. It is definitely my current medium of choice, and my writing within my blog takes many forms: poetry, prose, journalistic reporting, comedy, and more. That’s what pleases me about blogging. It is authentic and real, it is voice straight up, it is me unchained.

As a woman, especially, the net and blogging have opened up new worlds, new galaxies. The net levels the playing field for us. Women’s and men’s voices are on equal footing here, sans politics, sans pay. We are doing it for joy and fulfillment, because we have something powerful to say. And because women are generally adept at shaping and freeing words and thoughts, blogging gives us a way to soar.

more….

Through reading one another’s blogs, we know so many of each other’s faults and dreams; we’ve seen the closet doors open, and we’ve watched the skeletons come tumbling out. No hiding. “Here I am.” and “There you are.”

Let’s talk.

THEN the most fascinating thing happens–it feeds back into your blogging and your writing. Everything you’re learning from these souls you connect with begins to inform you, your thinking. Your being. It feeds back into your blog, your job, your family, your relationships within the realworld. The spark-to-flame ratio is staggering.

then on Christopher Locke

Yes, I think Chris Locke is a genius. He’s also a real person, brave, willing to live in public, show us how he loves, how he cares, how far the knife has to go in before he bleeds. Sometimes it’s so lovely, and sometimes it’s so excruciating, and the only thing we can do for each other, as some of the two million bloggers-now-friends dotting this planet, is to be there, wrap our minds and hearts around problems and joys together, and from that, grow.

A different kind of experience

A different kind of experience
I often wonder at the range of experiences different bloggers I link to have had. Loren, yet again, reminds me of how limited my own experiences have been.

Even the question marks somehow seem appropriate. No unit, no date. Just a question mark, the appropriate symbol for all those lost years. As if someone else knew that after all these years there’s still something missing.

from In a Dark Time

The crime of not caring.

The crime of not caring.

A number of things in my life feel “wrong” at the moment because I haven’t cared enough about them or for them.

I haven’t cared enough what happens to my body – I drink too much, don’t take enough exercise, don’t get enough sleep.

I don’t care enough about work – I don’t have the impact I could, don’t take enough interest in those around me, I don’t pay enough attention to detail.

I don’t care enough about those I love – I get grumpy, I focus on myself, I don’t look after the things I should, I take my good fortune for granted.

Not caring is an excuse. I am scared of caring. I am scared of the immensity of life and what it means. I am scared of things meaning so much because you only get one shot at them.

Do I care about this ……. ?

More than I can express in mere words.

Uppers and downers The Internet

Uppers and downers
The Internet Paradox study (Kraut et al., 1998) found evidence of a causal link between Internet use and depression, but it may have been specific to novice Internet users. The relationship between Internet use, social support and depression was reformulated drawing on social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1997) to account for the possible influence of self-efficacy, Internet-related stress, and perceived social support. A path analysis revealed a link between Internet use and depression, but one mediated by self-efficacy and the expectation of encountering stressful situations on the Internet. A path also was found linking Internet use to decreased depression through the use of e-mail exchanges with known associates to obtain social support.

from Journal Of Online Behaviour via stumble.com

Unbearable happiness

Tonight, as with most weekends, my family all went to the pub. Not just any old pub but THE BEST PUB IN THE WORLD. It is The Red Lion in Little Missenden. It is 400 yrs old, has hardly changed in the last hundred or so, and is regularly used in period films as there are no street lights or road markings in the village. We’ve been going there since we moved to this area ten years ago and I’ve got into the pleasant ritual of taking my daughters there on my own since they were born.

Tonight the weather was beautifully mild and the light a gentle warm glow. The pub is in the centre of a beautiful village complete with 17th Century manor house and 11th Century church. It sits beside the river Misbourne which the publican, Alan, has damned and turned into a beautiful broad expanse of water full of trout, carp and a mixture of ducks. He also has large cages full of different types of birds and a rabbit.

We sat chatting over a pint, feeding the ducks, throwing sticks for the owner’s dogs while the girls played in the small park opposite the pub and I thought, not for the first time, that it just doesn’t get much better than this.

I feel very lucky.

First of many I just

First of many
I just found the following site via the very excellent collaborative filtering tool stumbleupon.com – brace yourselves for loads more where this came from!

The foundation beliefs of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. These were taught by the Buddha (a word which means The Enlightened One) about 2500 years ago. They are essentially the same through every sect and tradition of Buddhism. They are:

All life knows suffering. Nobody gets what they want out of life.
The cause of suffering is ignorance and clinging.
Wanting it is the problem.
There is a way to end suffering. By learning not to want it.
This is the way to end suffering: The Eightfold Path.

    1. Right Understanding
    Learning the nature of reality and the truth about life.
    2. Right Aspiration
    Making the commitment to living in such a way that our suffering can end.
    3. Right Effort
    Just Do It. No Excuses.
    4. Right Speech
    Speaking the truth in a helpful and compassionate way.
    5. Right Conduct
    Living a life consistent with our values.
    6. Right Livelihood
    Earning a living in a way that doesn’t hurt others.
    7. Right Mindfulness
    Recognizing the value of the moment; living where we are.
    8. Right Concentration
    Expanding our consciousness through meditation.

from Sasana

Connectedness We were talking at

Connectedness
We were talking at work the other day about films which had the power to make us sad, how simply by watching a fictional character on a screen we can feel so moved that we end up crying and deeply emotional. I also increasingly find myself bursting into tears listening to stories of children being badly treated or neglected.

It’s as if I have a physical connection with those who are suffering. The feeling seems to rest in the middle of my chest somewhere and makes sense of the phrase “tugging at your heart strings”. I am not just simply identifying with the people involved nor even transferring my own emotions onto their situations, those these things are obviously happening too. It is a much more direct experience of a shared sadness.

I saw a link on a blog today to a video of the journalist Daniel Pearl being killed (and no I am not going to reproduce the link). Mixed with a morbid fascination about what the video contained I also had that same strange tugging feeling in my chest – it was as if I could directly feel his fear and sadness.

Is it the absence of this feeling of connectedness that allows people to commit atrocities? How do you carry out some of the awful things which happen in the world without any sense of identification to the person you are doing it to?

One step at a time

One step at a time
While climbing the hill last Sunday I was reminded again of how many life lessons there are in hill-walking – all those outward bound courses weren’t so daft.

If when climbing a hill you are constantly looking up to see how far you have to travel and worrying about how far you have to go it can be an incredibly frustrating and enervating experience. If you are lucky each time you look up you will have seen small progress up what seems an interminably long and arduous slope. If you are unlucky that slope will have been a false summit and you will have an even bigger slope facing you after it. By constantly looking ahead and wanting to be higher up you are likely to spend the whole day annoyed and frustrated. This same effect applies to most tasks in life whether it is writing a book, managing a project at work or painting a room at home. If you worry about what you still have to accomplish and are focused on how little you have done so far then task can seem insurmountable.

The trick in all cases is to enjoy the moment. On the hill if you savour the sensations of each step – the movement of your muscles, the stretching and pulling, the warmth as they work – then the effort seems interesting and pleasurable instead of an interminable slog. If you enjoy the sensation of the environment around you – feel the crunching of the rocks under your feet, the cold slipperynesss of stone as you use your hands to steady yourself – you will be much more aware of the textures and colours around you and the infinite variety they represent. Instead of getting annoyed at the grass you are slipping on look closely at the different shades of green, the patterns of the intertwining grasses, the brightness and beauty of the wild flowers dotted in amongst the grass. All of this detail and interest focuses you on the moment and will mean that the next time you look up you will be amazed at how far you have traveled.

If you go into every event looking forward to when it is over or miss the pleasures of every moment because you are anticipating the pleasures of the next one then you will go through life incredibly frustrated. If we focus on the moment and the detail and wonder of our tasks then we can complete them with much less stress and possibly even enjoy the experience.

For blatantoptimism – (he knows

For blatantoptimism – (he knows why)
“The act of writing bears something in common with the act of love. The writer, at his most productive moments, just flows. He gives of that which is uniquely himself. He makes himself naked, recording his nakedness in the written word. Herein lies some of the terror which frequently freezes a writer, preventing him from producing. Herein, too, lies some of the courage that must be entailed in letting others learn how one has experienced or is experiencing the world.”
– Sidney Jourard

via whiskeyriver

I’m still alive – despite

I’m still alive – despite being 42!
As a present for my 42nd birthday today my wife looked after the kids while I went off on my own and climbed a hill in Wales. I chose Foel Fras, the only one of the fiteen three thousand foot hills which I hadn’t climbed, as it was the first time I’ve been up a mountain in a year and a half it was a pretty easy climb! I had been keeping it for some time in the future when I hoped to do all of the 3000ft’ers in one go but as that is looking less and less likely I thought I do it on its own.

It was a great day for hill walking with sunshine interspersed with squally showers – I love watching the weather form and reform around me as I walk. It was a bit cold and damp on the top so I didn’t hang around but on the way down I stopped in a stone circle for a snooze. By the time I woke up the cloud had come down, the wind got up and the visibility dropped to few feet. Great fun. I got my waterproof gear on and enjoyed the adventure of navigating off the hill in poor visibility.

I was amazed at how well I coped physically as it is so rare for me to get to the mountains these days but yes, here I am, alive to tell the tale!

Out of the mouths of

Out of the mouths of babes
While driving yesterday with my two girls in the back of the car I was yet again stretched by my four year old’s uncanny questions. She noticed the clouds clearing and the sky becoming blue in patches and asked;

Why does the sky become blue Daddy?

    Well because as the clouds move away you see the sky behind them and that blue sky goes on and on forever.

I thought I’d answered that one in a reasonably accurate, not too boring way. But then she really caught me out….

What was the world like when it began Daddy?

    It was like a big rock with nothing on it. Then the water came and the oceans grew, plants began to grow, animals started arriving and eating the plants and then the humans arrived.

Were the humans eggs before they arrived Daddy?

    Yes darling – you could put it that way…..

Not so bad to be

Not so bad to be called common then….
“I have long had a thirst for the historical sensibility of the spiritual life, that is, a desire to find others in history whose insight into the human spirit and perhaps even the divine/cosmic/human relationship could enrich my own. By reaching across time and culture to the present through their writings, historical figures provide a special perspective and challenge; and they help to ground us in a humanity that is not merely the conditioning of our present age. One of the ways in which I have learned about and come to appreciate the spiritual writings of the past has been through collections of excerpts, excerpts which have been assiduously gathered by commonplacers.”
– Norman Elliott Anderson

from Commonplacing in the Spiritual Traditions via whiskeyriver

Just when I needed a

Just when I needed a LIFT
Today I attended another event run by the theatre group LIFT at which the topic was Innovation. LIFT run these events after the attendees have been at a related theatre performance. The performance is used as a trigger for thinking more creatively about individual, business or social challenges we are facing. Earlier this week we had all been to see a performance of To You The Birdie (Phedre) by The Wooster Group from New York.

The performance, of a classical greek tragedy, was performed in an amazingly complex and technological set. It involved actors acting to images on huge plasma screens, re-acting to other screens which the audience couldn’t see. Some of their speech was delayed through the audio system and they were being fed live instructions from the director through ear pieces. The props involved were piece from previous Wooster group productions and the material on the screens the actors, but not the audience, could see were of either previous productions or other related material from film etc. Much of the action centred around a badminton match played on stage which gave the Matrix like impression that the players were actually inside one of those old tennis video games.

The impression conveyed was of individuals trying to hold to some form of narrative in the face of amazing complexity and in a disembodied technological nightmare – sound familiar?

At today’s event we combined reflection of the play with members of The Wooster Group with a session led by an Australian theatre director from Sidney.

We talked about the Wooster Group’s use of space and their director’s interest in using ideas from architecture for inspiration. They placed actors in a constraining physical space with certain tasks and routines to perform yet used this to stimulate a highly individual, almost improvised performance. There were comparisons with structure and innovation in business and how much individuals are encouraged to be innovative or not. It also reminded me of Dave Weinberger‘s search for metaphors for the web, the architectural nature of the set mixed with the complex props and activities making sense out of the woven story.

The Australian theare director, Wesley, was part Aboriginal and he based his session on their tradition of using stories and dance to make sense of their world. Their use of images and metaphors to describe the complexity of their natural environment and their transmission of tribal stories through song and dance again reminded me of the web and the contextual threads woven by bloggers. Bruce Chatwin’s book The Songlines tends to appeal to people into the web and how it is developing because of similarities with the aboriginal sense making through paths and threads of meaning.

Better get writing then….. ”Nobody

Better get writing then…..
”Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow – whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don’t show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

via whiskeyriver

Goodness knows……. How I ended

Goodness knows…….
How I ended up in such good company.

Yes, the blogs and their people are complex. Fragile, Vulnerable. Open. All to varying degrees and in their own way. You cannot live a full life without a huge sense of humor. And, in his own, disquieting way, that personal lodestar, Christopher Locke – or his chattering doll, RageBoy, showed me just how much fun I could have in cyberspace. Able to dance ‘the sky on laughter-silvered wings’, I am not of any consequence here. The whole is infinitely greater than the mere sum of its parts. Whether I am open or closed, read or unread, does not matter. I get out of blogging whatever I put into it.

from Mike Golby

Ev’s resolve is weakening….or strengthening

Ev’s resolve is weakening….or strengthening
My Vaio’s battery has gone bad. It craps out (with no warning) at about 90% power. This puts a damper on the wireless thing I was raving about yesteday. The good news is this give me an excuse. You see, I’m being seduced into the Mac camp (for a notebook, at least). I can’t help it. They’re everywhere. And beautiful. And everyone’s in love with them. And the Unix command line and Java integration…. well, damn.

from evhead

James Hillman Interview I’ve found

James Hillman Interview
I’ve found that contemporary psychology enrages me with its simplistic ideas of human life, and also its emptiness. In the cosmology that’s behind psychology, there is no reason for anyone to be here or do anything. We are driven by the results of the Big Bang, billions of years ago, which eventually produced life, which eventually produced human beings, and so on. But me? I’m an accident — a result — and therefore a victim.

and later…..

I think what I’m saying should relieve them hugely and make them [parents] want to pay more attention to their child, this peculiar stranger who has landed in their midst. Instead of saying, “This is my child,” they must ask, “Who is this child who happens to be mine?” Then they will gain a lot more respect for the child and try to keep an eye open for instances where the kid’s destiny might show itself

and…

I think the first step is the realization that each of us has such a thing. And then we must look back over our lives and look at some of the accidents and curiosities and oddities and troubles and sicknesses and begin to see more in those things than we saw before. It raises questions, so that when peculiar little accidents happen, you ask whether there is something else at work in your life. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve an out-of-body experience during surgery, or the sort of high-level magic that the new age hopes to press on us. It’s more a sensitivity, such as a person living in a tribal culture would have: the concept that there are other forces at work. A more reverential way of living

via dangerousmeta

One day at a time

One day at a time
Bad day yesterday …dropped my Powerbook on a concrete floor (not dead but almost), got sick, pressure at work.

Good day today…best taxi ride for ages with a very interesting Buddhist driver, good presentation to nice people, watched “The Experiment” on TV (Big Brother in a mock prison), IM conversation with a colleague at the O’Reilly conference, watching Jeremy Paxman and Tony Blair sparring while drinking a nice bottle of red all topped off by Rageboy getting his balls back.

It’s what we make it

It’s what we make it
Dave Weinberger points to an article which makes much of the web’s ability to spread misinformation and adds fuel to the perception that it is a bad place full of charlatans and pornographers. As I say at the end of my workshops on the impact of the web it is no different from the world at large. If we don’t say what we think and leave the world to those who do we get what we deserve.