for sunshine after storm

“I would say that he has a rather limited and uncreative way of looking at the situation. You want to know if I understand that this is a mental hospital? Yes, I understand that. But, then how can I say that you are Don Octavio and I am a guest at your villa? Correct?” – Don Juan DeMarco

A few months ago I experienced something unusual. I was tense. I couldn’t think clearly. I couldn’t grasp my thoughts. A fog had descended over my brain. I couldn’t visualise or access the parts of my brain where all the interesting stuff was. 

I love reading and literature. I could read something but I couldn’t access the memory drive or whatever the technical term is for that, where I hold all the allusions and reference points to my previous experiences and all of the other shit I’ve read in my life to form a picture or an opinion or expand on, or even understand what the writer was trying to say (intentionally or otherwise). It was an incredibly frustrating experience.

I was stressed out from long hours. I was physically and mentally jaded. My brain and body had effectively hit the ‘safe mode’ á la Windows 98. All my body and mind was interested in was the basic functions of survival and protecting myself to stay alive. An ancient, hard wired evolutionary response.

Your body is designed for two primary functions: reproduce and survive. When you’re faced with stressful situations, the only parts of your brain you can access are the ones which perform the basic functions of keeping you alive. If you’re about to be lunch for a sabre tooth tiger, your mind couldn’t give a shit about the nuances of James Joyce’s Ulysses, only the threat at hand and keeping you alive. 

It actually took me a while, to regain my sense of self. I don’t like feeling jaded or having my mind clouded over. I enjoy the sensory aspects of living. How pretentious as fuck does that sound? I started trying to increase blood-flow to my brain and break the shackles of the stultifying fog.

I started looking for outlets and later it was by chance I became interested in playing guitar again. I don’t profess to be even a proficient guitar player. I’m working on it. However I became fascinated by the possibilities of the instrument and the creative process. I eventually started to think outside of the box again and started looking beyond the conventional idea of the instrument. If you’re playing an electric guitar, essentially, the guitar is actually the platform and your instrument is the amp. I started messing around with various effects pedals, which are actually addictive. I started looking beyond the guitar in the conventional sense of playing chords and became interested and intrigued in the various multi-faceted possibilities. Utilising the various quirks of the equipment to create interesting sounds, rather than spending hours tediously practising ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ to make it sound like it does on Led Zep 4, I thought it was more interesting just messing and playing around. Creating my own sound. I didn’t care. The stress was gone. This is freedom.

I had internalised the greatest lesson from James Joyce’s work, the creative process is essentially for your own amusement. Art brings stillness and fulfilment. It doesn’t mean shit if people like, appreciate or even understand what you’re doing, it isn’t a means to an end. You do not create for visceral reponse. It is an outpouring of spiritual repose.

Four on Six

image

I’m determined to get good at this.

Some considerations:

During every practise session of an hour or longer, there will be 10-20 minutes ‘cold time’ and this makes no consideration for how “purposeful” the practise session is. Nor does it take into consideration how invested you are in what you’re actually doing. 

However this also doesn’t take into consideration towards other time spent towards developing. Time invested in studying technique, music, researching, learning will ultimately be beneficial. 

Raw is Wah

Looking forward to the arrival of my new Telecaster, Dunlop JC95 Wah and Behringer SF400, which has some interesting effects and a wide range of tones I can mess about with.

I recently found the sweet spot with my Les Paul, where I managed to finally illicit the right amount of gain to get a really dirty, gritty bluesy sound. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing some Beatles stuff in the fashion of a really beat up, poor mans ZZ Top. I’m interested to see how I can expand on that with the Telecaster. I loved the tonality of the Tele whilst playing blues licks.

I ordered the JC95 Wah after spending an afternoon watching head-to-heads on YouTube of various pedals and I ended up torn between the JC95 model, which is based on eliciting the sound of Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell and the signature model of the late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrel, ‘The Crybaby from Hell Wah.’ For the sound I’m looking for, It was a tough choice between the two as to which offered the most textured, layered tone. I ultimately opted for the Cantrell model, as you can only obsess over the nuances of sound so much and obsessing over the ‘perfect sound’ just gets in the way of creativity. You have to work with the quirks of the tools at your disposal.

Rather than looking for perfection, I think it’s a lot more interesting to work with what you’ve got and build your own unique style and sound based on that, rather than being de rigueur or trying to imitate someone else. It’s the quirks which give you the authenticity, soul, individuality and originality.

It’s always better to the first and best you, than a second rate someone else.

Looking to add an MXR M108 10-Band Graphic EQ and a decent digital delay pedal sometime soon, too. This set-up should lead me nicely to one day making high budget films on oil tankers lamenting the breakdown of human relationships and swimming with dolphins. If you don’t get that last reference, you never will. 

Crabwalk @ NGCA 

Checked out this great exhibition at the NGCA in Sunderland, today. Particularly liked this:  

  

It’s called The Cortical Night by Alex Dordoy. The canvas shows a cerebral cortex manifested as a forest against an opaque backdrop. Forests traditionally serve as a great mythological metaphor for transformation and change. This is also reflected in the spherical orbs representing the moon. Of course the moon is the ultimate methaphor for transformation. Those distant enchanting spheres that exist in the space between wakefulness and sleep, before disappearing to be reborn again. It’s a truly stunning interpretation of the dreamscape intertwined with the waking consciousness.

 
Also, I really liked the work of Jennifer Douglas which is designed to represent the current condition of Kazmir Malevich’s suprematist masterpiece ‘The Black Square.’ I’m a great fan of Malevich and I continue to lament missing the 2014 Tate Modern exhibition. Nonetheless, her work here serves as either individual (fractured) canvasses, or as a complete constructivist composition for which the picture below doesn’t do justice. 

  

Well worth a look.

In the Heart of the Sea. Review.

One of my favourite – and one of the most beautiful – books I’ve ever read is Leviathon, or the Whale by Philip Hoare. It’s a stunning portrait of the authors obsession with these mastadons of the sea. Whales possess something of a mysterious aura, perhaps more so than any other creature of the deep. Mesmerising and intelligent, the book enshrines the terrible beauty of man’s relationship with the whale. The depth of the writing justifies the mystique which we hold the leviathan.

I was pleased to see ‘In the Heart of the Sea.’ An enchanting dramatisation of the story that inspired or perhaps preempted Moby Dick. Whilst I didn’t think the movie lent itself well to the 3D format and wasn’t without its flaws, I was still perhaps a little disappointed to see such a low turnout for such a movie. 

‘In the Heart of the Sea’ tells an enormous story, one that can most certainly be described as an epic. From director Ron Howard, whose previous work includes Apollo 13 about a group of men stuck in a capsule in outer space, this movie is bigger. There is a massive performance from Chris Hemsworth. Engaging and engrossing, embodying everything we expect of the archetypal mythic hero. There are also a number of other standout performances including that of Benjamin Walker who I thought had good chemistry with Hemsworth.

Perhaps in trying to tell such a story in two hours, some of the suspense and tension is lost. Ironically, the role of the white whale is perhaps the least satisfying aspect of the movie – becoming an inconvenience and distraction from some terrific human drama being played out between Hemsworth and Walker. The inevitable shipwreck at the behest of the whale within the scope of the movie is almost superfluous. The ship could have ran aground or been hit by a meteor, the whale is a minor detail. Jaws this is not. On some level this is a disappointment, as the role of the leviathon in such a movie should be to enhance the tension and drama to truly Odyssean levels. I think the movie also suffers from the backdrop of the story being narrated through a world weary Brendan Gleason to Ben Whishaw’s (who is ostensibly in every movie this year) Melville, who in turn is taking pointers for Moby Dick. Whishaw in particular does nothing to enhance or move the story forward. His performance is particularly flat in a movie which ultimately relies on the fine acting driving it. 

Without this Treasure Island-esque narration – which let’s be real is a writing cop-out and/or a director not having confidence in the story he’s telling – and rather, had Howard invested the screen-minutes between Gleason (who I usually like) and the woeful Whishaw in building the tension on the ship towards the encounter with the leviathon, whilst utilising the  tremendous acting talent at his disposal, this movie would truly have been an epic – in the cinematic sense – for the ages, rather than one that tries to do a little too much in two hours.

I’d associated Hemsworth with the Marvel: Thor abomination. With Thor of course being retconned as an alien rather than a Norse God, so the retarded American Bible Belt wouldn’t be offended by the notion of other deities. He really is a talent though, hopefully they’ll put him in a few more serious films to showcase his abilities.

Language and Death in Montreal 

After arriving in Montreal I decided to go to Irish language classes. I’m referring to the native language of Ireland which is ‘gaeilge.’ Not how to speak English slang in an Irish accent, “Tell yer man to stop givin’ out. Great craic like so it is. Get a caravan for me ma in periwinkle blue. Watch the dags.” Irish is a protected European language and one I’m actually fairly proficient in, as I spent a lot of time with my West Cork family growing up and also spent time in the gaeltacht areas where Irish is in everyday usage. My foray into Irish language classes was more to do with finding likeminded people. Whilst not a dying language gaelige is somewhat endangered, limited mostly to the declining gaeltacht areas mainly on the west coast of the island.

As it happens, I would have been better served taking lessons in Québécois. As it happens Québécois French is similar to French, in the same way Irish gaeilge is similar to Scottish gaelic. They’re effectively of the same genus, but it’s like comparing a German Shepherd to a Husky. They may look similar but the differences can be profound. In essence, languages like animals can be broken up into categories and sub-categories. A man and women may not appear similar, but they’re extremely similar when compared to a monkey. A man and a monkey are nigh on identical when compared to a dog, but a man and a dog are more closely aligned when compared to a shark.

French is a romance language and shares characteristics with other central European Romance languages which have evolved from Latin such as: Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese.

English is Germanic, as is Dutch and by result of colonialism Afrikaan, Swedish, Norwegian, Dane.

Irish shares characteristics with Celtic languages such as French gallic, Welsh, Scottish and the natively deceased Manx language. You can however find some commonalities with English if you know where to look (just showing off).

I find whereas French is quite formal, Québécois is much more idiomatic and certainly takes quite a bit getting used to as a result. Infact the idioms make it more difficult than speaking say, Spanish and then going to Catalonia. As at least the format of the languages in how they’re spoken are basically the same.

I find language a pretty fascinating topic. It’s interesting how much of an impact language has on how you think. This is why languages like Irish and others further afield were suppressed by English colonialists. It wasn’t simply a case of convenience, but an act of cultural defenestration enacted against natives. Including changing names/surnames. My own family name in Irish is Laighin, from Laigin. The Laigin were a population group of early Ireland. The name is actually an ethnonym denoting a distinct ethnic group. The Laigin also give name to the province of Leinster, which in Irish is actually Cúige Laighean (pronounced cooga layan) Literally, ‘Fifth of the Laigin.’ The Laigin are by virtue are also highly prevalent in the early cycles of Irish mythology, some of the oldest recorded on the planet.

The rebirth of my interest in the Irish language in the last few years was to do with reading stories and poems in their original form which as is often the case, do not carry over well when translated into another language. Again, Irish poetry and literature are amongst some of the earliest recorded. Thus, it is not simply a language that is endangered, it is a massive amount of cultural and literary history too. This is why I strongly believe in participation in the language and have such an interest in its perseveration.

There was debate during the Irish revival at the turn of the last century about its continued usage which I believe is quite pertinent, however not for the reasons set out. The great Irish writer James Joyce briefly studied Irish under Padraig Pearse the leader of the Easter Rising. However, Joyce who would go on ironically to be perhaps the greatest proponent of the English language of all time, found the Gaelic League’s revival of the language to be essentially ‘backward.’ I think he was essentially correct. There is and certainly in the case of the Gaelic League was very much a prevalent conservative instinct. Although I do believe it was well intentioned, I believe the same conservative instinct is prevalent in the well-intentioned people who are trying to preserve and save the language to this day. For a language to survive it must be allowed to evolve and grow. We’ve seen this with the English language which is almost distinctly unrecognisable from the time of Shakespeare. I recently watched Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender, anyone unfamiliar with the play may have felt like they were by virtue thrown into watching a foreign film. Evolution is healthy for language.

Joyce as he demonstrated with his later works was anything but backward looking with regards to language. Ulysses and particularly Finnegans Wake are imbued with linguistic inventiveness, playfulness and creativity. Joyce in Finnegans Wake in essence opted to invent his own language which was based around puns, English, Irish, Greek, Latin and drunken rambling. Far from being frustrating and unreadable, these are the works of someone having a laugh. My experience in Montreal furthers my conviction, that rather than being an frustrating exercise in unraveling idiomatic French or wishing for more formal syntax, it is beautiful to see a language thriving. Irish language enthusiasts and revivalists would do well to learn from theses examples. It is best not to be conservative when it comes to the rules of a language. A language lives and dies by its efficiency and ease of usage. Then the languages possibilities which aren’t finite may again wake [terrible, don’t care].

Doctor Who Season Nine Finale

My guilty secret was always that I’d been pretty big on Doctor Who and I’d seen pretty much every episode. Actually, this doesn’t seem so much of a big deal, if we’re just talking about the post 2005 run. However, prior to that, it wasn’t exactly something you spoke about at school in the mid to late nineties and early 2000’s. I used to watch the original series fanatically when I was eight years old on a Sunday morning on Sky. However, it becomes deeply problematic when you’re in Canada and trying to get BBC iPlayer to work.

I was born in 1987. The original series finished in 1989. The only Doctor Who up until the 2005 series, aside from the novels most of which aren’t canon was the 1996 TV movie, which contains some pretty controversial continuity.

The original series ended whilst the showrunners at the time were looking to reboot the character of the Doctor. However, many episodes towards the end of the shows run are effectively forerunners to the 2005 series, which is cleverly grounded by relatable working class characters. I digress.
The current season is interesting in that the first episode takes place on Skaro. A planet that was destroyed in the seventh Doctor episode ‘Rememberance of the Daleks.’ If you haven’t seen ‘Rememberance’ it’s basically on the same lines as the fiftieth anniversary episode, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ complete with anthropomorphic (or living) weapons. Nonetheless, Skaro was last ‘seen’ briefly during the TV movie, when the seventh Doctor went to collect the left overs of The Master from the planet, before it turns out much to everyones shock that The Master isn’t actually dead and has turned into some kind of snake. In this season after some jostling about by snakeman looking for The Doctor which includes an encounter with The Sisterhood of Karn (think intergalactic version of the witches from Macbeth, “Sleep no more!”)last seen in Paul McGann’s only other appearance as The Doctor prior to the fiftieth anniversary special, and who will feature in the final episode of the season, we head off to Skaro after the Doctor, Master (now going as Missy) and Clara are taken there by the man who turns into a snake, or the snake that turns into a man. This is Doctor Who, so who the fuck knows for sure. Eventually, after some talk about hybrids, The Doctor and Clara escape whilst Missy/The Master tries to strike some deal with the daleks.
The next two episodes contain amongst other things mention of ‘the bootstrap paradox’ as The Doctor breaks the fourth wall to familiarise everyone with the concept for what will ultimately be the ‘deux ex machina’ resolution to the season finale.

The next couple contain more on hybrids (as do the Zygon episodes) and introduce us to Ashildr/Me who will reappear in Face the Raven in order to capably assist in killing off Clara aswell as in the season finale. Intriguingly The Doctor proclaims at the end of Heaven Sent, which credit where it’s due to Moffat is a great piece of TV, “The hybrid is me” as he arrives on Gallifrey which is looking in remarkably good shape for a place that was last seen being frozen in time as a warzone. This seems too much of a red-herring from Moffat. We’re all familiar with his douchey ways and expect him to be all like, “Lol no the hybrid is Me/Ashildr.”
I actually half suspect that he’ll go down the road of trying to explain the line from the TV movie about The Doctor being half-human. There is an interesting insight relating to the latter part of the original series character arc which ties in with the present series. The latter part of the original series strongly alluded to The Doctor being more than a Time-Lord. Thankfully, as they are a group of people who are just an irritating bunch of bureaucrats (also pointed out by The Fisher King in an earlier episode of this season) and would thus make The Doctor a complete dullard and ratings killer.

“The Other was intended to be part of the backstory of the television series during the Seventh Doctor’s tenure and part of script editor Andrew Cartmel’s intention now known to fans as the “Cartmel Masterplan” to restore some mystery to the character of the Doctor. Cartmel felt that years of explanations about the Doctor’s origins and the Time Lords had removed much of the mystery and strength of the character of the Doctor, and decided to make the Doctor “once again more than a mere chump of a Time Lord”. Elements of this effort were liberally scattered through Seasons 25 and 26 of the series, and occasionally included hints about the Doctor’s past; for example, in Silver Nemesis, when Ace and the Doctor discuss the creation of validium, the Doctor mentions that it was created by Omega and Rassilon. Ace asks, “And…?” and the Doctor is silent. Cartmel has written that this was meant to indicate that the Doctor was “more than a Time Lord.”

Not to mention, “A possible origin for the Other is provided by Human Nature, a 1995 Virgin New Adventures novel by Paul Cornell. In the novel, the Doctor transforms himself into John Smith, a human with only fragmentary memories of his past life. Smith writes a children’s story about an old man in Victorian England who invents a police box larger on the inside and capable of travel through time and space. Lonely, the man visits the planet Gallifrey, where he finds a primitive tribe. He tells the Gallifreyans about science and the arts, teaches them to travel time and space, and advises them on how to be as civilised and law-abiding as England. When they grow dull and officious, he invents a way for them to begin new lives upon death, and gives them second hearts in hopes of making them more joyful. When this fails, he steals a police box and flees back to Earth, deciding that being free is better than being in charge. Smith’s story was plotted by Cornell’s friend Steven Moffat; Cornell stated, “He’s always had some radical thoughts about Who, and it was good to be able to give expression to some of them.”

I genuinely wouldn’t put it past Moffat – who has also made past allusions to being a fan of the Doctor Who movies of the sixties where the Doctor is an Earthly scientist –  to have The Doctor use the bootstrap paradox to actually be the founder of Time-Lord society or something to that effect. Which would also in his world have the desired effect of shocking everyone senseless, granting him his typical self-adulation at how clever he is and to create more questions than he’s actually answered. He’s also effectively said as much in the sense that he shot himself in the foot with the fiftieth anniversary episode where he undid all of RTD’s good word in killing off Gallifrey. Not to mention, the series had failed to remotely explore the physical and emotional consequences of some genocidal lunatic roaming the galaxy, and the effect that would likely have on your personal relationships and how you interact with people. Actually, I have something of an inkling that no-one would want to interact you, let-alone the universe  holding regular Doctor vigils at his hour of need, in season finales. Although, this could yet again be further proof of the antipathy held by everyone towards the Time-Lords. I liked Eccleston’s Doctor, however maybes it’s just me, but I would’ve been more interested in an exploration of such genocide beyond: The Doctor is angry. What the fuck is he angry about? No-one asked him to kill billions of people. Followed by, Doctor is happy now because he met a girl from a council estate. All is redeemed. It was an arc that had massive potential but ultimately became one that was never utilised to its maximum potential, nor one the show has ever fully moved away, or developed beyond in nine seasons. The show seriously requires a new direction.

Parisian Tragedy

The attack in France is so sad. Although such awful instances have happened before in other major cities across the years, Madrid, London, New York, Dublin and so on, there is something particularly awful about this Parisian tragedy. I imagine only an attack on Rome would be quite so equally poignant and symbolic, and would be likely to resonate quite so deeply with European citizens. 

I mention this, as Paris, like Rome is a place you associate with great beauty, culture, art. A place that upon mere mention has a soul stirring profundity and will reconcile in the mind many great romantic connotations, and above all, all that is quite so beautiful about Europe itself. A place that contains much of France’s great cultural heritage, and the heritage of many around the world in far diverse places. Although I cannot say if the attackers had an appreciation for such symbolism in their planning, or they perhaps just considered Paris simply a soft-target, it has resonated with me deeply.

My thoughts and prayers are with the French people and all others who may be affected directly and indirectly.