Halloween and other stuff

Happy Halloween to you!

Here follows the sea as I saw it a few days ago, phone camera in hand. It’s been tweaked using the wonderful open source program ‘Paint.NET‘ – oddly, not its URL.

The beach at St. Leonards - manipulation #1
The beach at St. Leonards – manipulation #1
St. Leonards Beach #2 - manipulation
The beach at St. Leonards – manipulation #2

Then there’s this. The latest piece of sculpture in the local sculpture park.

A Memorial for an Unseen Presence. By Jaye Ho

I think it’s a pill box (gun emplacement). Art designed to remind us of the 1st World War is a good thing. We, and by we I mean the human race, should never forget the horror of war, nor the millions of young lives that were needlessly lost. I only wish the sheet covering the frame looked more like concrete and less like tie-dye.

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow (1st November). If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, or why I often waffle on about it in October, then it’s well worth checking out: especially if you’ve ever felt you have a wonderful novel inside you just waiting to be written. I’ve taken part most years since 2006, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s almost as good as sex drugs rock & roll visiting a local sculpture park . 😉

You can find me at NaNoWriMo HERE.

Have a great Halloween! Ave. Oh, if you fancy reading a short horror story I wrote for Halloween then click here. It’s called ‘Pleiades.’



I was up at the quack of dawn trawling the net and came across this on etsy.com. I’ve seen some odd things in my time, but this just quacked me up. Poor duck looks frightfully embarrassed.

Here: you too can get a PartyFowl Made-to-Order Diaper Harness for Pet Ducks, Chickens, & Geese, though they’re not exactly cheep. 😉

Reality vs Imagination and the Pale Blue Dot

I often sit here at my desk and write fiction. Writing is a hobby – though, like many others writers, I’d like to make a living at it. Fantasy is my genre of choice rather than gritty realism, mystery, horror, or any other. Earlier today I was wondering why. Why fantasy in particular? It’s not easier than any other genre–although it might appear to be–in fact done well fantasy is a good deal harder: what with world building and language creation.

When the writing fit is upon me I use the internet a lot: to read, research, check facts, odd spellings and so forth. Out of all the sites I use Wikipedia is right up there with the best. I use it a lot as it’s by far the best resource for general research. Recently, I signed up to edit (I’d found a few typos). Today, while trying to work out how you begin to get properly involved, I stumbled upon a quote from Carl Sagan about the ‘Pale Blue Dot.’ It rang a bell in my memory vault so I explored some more.

On September 5th 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1. The mission was designed primarily to study the outer solar system and then, for as long as the craft lasted, to travel on and study interstellar space (as of right now it has been traveling for over thirty five years). Voyager 1 is the farthest away from Earth that mankind has ever been, which is a pretty sobering fact if you think about the vastness of space and the billions of other galaxies there are out there.

After it had finished its primary mission NASA got Voyager 1 to turn around and take photographs. And here is one of them. A photograph that will, if you have any imagination at all, blow your mind.

It was taken on the 14th february 1990, when, after traveling at 40,000 miles an hour for some twelve years, Voyager 1 was 3.7 billion miles away.

At first glance it’s not a terribly impressive picture … but look halfway down the light reddy/brown stripe on the right of the picture and you’ll see a tiny blue/white dot. See it? That’s Earth. It’s not imagination, not fantasy, it’s as real as it gets. And yet it’s so science fiction as to be almost unbelievable. That speck is where I am and except for vivid dreams and wild flights of fictional fancy I really ain’t going anywhere else.

It answers why I like writing escapist fantasy and why reading it appeals so much. It also gives us all the best possible reason for getting our collective acts together and sorting out the planet before it gives up on us…. Because we haven’t got anywhere else to go.

Carl Sagan says it best in his book ‘Pale Blue Dot‘:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Am I mad?

Art. what is it?

It seems that since the advent of personal computers, and especially since the internet has taken over all our lives, the distinction of ‘art’ has lost its true meaning. To me an artist was a creative, who, if lucky, managed to survive on their imagination. Now everyone seems to be an artist or a ‘media dude’ of some sort or other. And if you can ‘monetise’ your work then so much the better.

You used to have to fight for recognition of your art. Now, with a click of a button and a few well chosen keywords it’s globally accessible, and, if you’re lucky enough to create a meme or latch onto someone else’s, you’re made: with a gazzilion twats liking you on Facebook and yabbering about your marvellousness on Twitter. Fair enough. And fair enough for those who succeed no matter their art form.

But is art truly worth its money? By which I really mean: is a single painting worth so much money that alternatively you could buy an island to retire on; feed thousands for years, or even buy a few thousand shares in Apple computers.

Specifically I’m talking about this:

Abstraktes Bild. A painting by Gerhard Richter was sold by Eric Clapton at Sotheby’s in London on Friday for £21,000,000 (that’s twenty one million pounds for those who prefer text). Ironically before the internet and the BBC’s wonderful news site I probably wouldn’t have known about the sale of Abstraktes Bild at all. I’d probably be minding my own business and reading a book rather than ranting. But FUCK! It was painted in 1994. It’s not even twenty years old! Not that age has anything to do with artistic worth per se. It’s just that for a HUGE amount of dosh like that I’d want some history and age, too: a job lot! The Richter painting PLUS a medieval castle (moat, sheep, a few hundred acres and a recording studio) in Scotland, for instance.

Art is in the eye of the beholder and I don’t much like the painting. Admittedly I haven’t seen it in real life but I feel I could produce something similar without much trouble. Yeah, so that’s probably the same vain attitude that leads me to think I’d easily win Wimbledon, the PGA Masters, a couple of Olympic medals, not to mention the Monaco F1 Grand Prix.

I think my problem is more to do with the state of the planet and where humanity is in its evolution than specifically moaning about this ludicrous, outrageous sale. That we’ve reached 2012 and still seem blissfully unaware we’re fast overpopulating the planet; that there is still starvation, poverty, mayhem and continuing bloody war; that the United Nations can’t seem to make a decision over Syria. It all leads me to wonder if perhaps I’m having a nightmare.

What really upsets is that we have to face facts and do something now, but either nobody knows what to do, or if they do they don’t want to take responsibility for suggesting it. I can see their point. Telling the global population they have to stop breeding isn’t going to be popular. Especially when reproduction is one of our prime genetic instructions.

You’ll have to excuse the rather rambling nature of this post, but I haven’t had time to put ‘all my ducks in a row’ and produce a completely cogent piece. If I had this blog post would probably be a book–nay, a tome–of herculean proportions. It’s a tome that badly needs writing and would contain cheery chapters like: ‘how long has humanity got?’ and ‘how to get disparate peoples pulling together’ and ‘what is money really worth.’

Am I mad? Maybe I am. It depends on your definition. I’m certainly angry that with so many serious global problems someone can still spend a VAST amount of money on a bit of canvas and some paint. I’m also miffed that I’m not in a position to outbid the buyer … not, of course, that I would. 😉

Ferrari at Yeongam, Korea

I follow F1. It’s pretty much the only sport I do follow, though sadly I’ve never actually been to see a grand prix live. I would, but it’s seriously expensive. Besides, in these days of austerity I’d feel like a heel sipping champagne and scoffing smoked salmon whilst the proles scrabbled in the mud and doffed their hats…. Sorry, got a bit carried away there. Ho hum.

Anyway, F1 or not, this photograph of a Ferrari at Yeongam in Korea is stunning. I found it posted by Shell Motor Sport raving on about how  ‘Shell V-Power powers the F2012 through every turn, straight & chicane this season.’ They go on to say: ‘What we learn at the track we put on the road.’ I should think so to. How about lowing the price of petrol for us common folk while you’re at it. hmm?

A stellar image! Methinks the photographer, Clive Mason, deserves an award.

Ive and the Apple.

Ive – flung out with the potato peelings.

I was more than rather amazed when I came across this red iMac flung out on the pavement, smashed.

That this icon of uber-chic design from Jonathan Ive — the heart to Steve Job’s brain of Apple — was simply flung out on the pavement shocked me. I walked away wondering what Ive would say.  Would he care, and more’s the point, why did I? I took the photo and walked on, looking back a couple of times to make sure I hadn’t been dreaming. No, the smashed red iMac was still there.

I’ve worked in ‘media’ and when I did we used nothing but Apple products. Apple is lauded for it aesthetics, and that the majority of artsy-fartsy types use their computers. Pragmatically Apple and the arts work well together. Music, design, photography, et all use Apple kit (I use a G5 for music). From a visual point of view it can’t be beaten, and that is all down to Jonathan Ive’s eye. Yes, Steve Jobs might have made Apple the power house it is today, but he’d never have achieved it had it not been for Ive’s designs.

Yet, since Job’s untimely death, Apple has started to become something else. Rapaciously litigious comes close to describing their present philosophy. And, when comparing the iPhone to the stunningly beautiful Samsung Galaxy, Ive has, in my view, lost the plot.

Maybe Apple has reached the point of obsolescence in its design. Maybe Ive has had his day — though I’d like to think not. Maybe the entire magic of Apple relied on the relationship between Jobs and Ive, and now that Jobs is gone so has the magic spark?

I reached the end of the street and turned back one last time. The red iMac was still there: it hadn’t been a dream.

It was as if I’d come across a Ferrari in a scrap yard; A diamond flung out with the night soil. Shaken, I walked on. It was obviously time to see if the charity shop had any Apples. 😉

NB and NaNoWriMo 2012

A note to myself reminding me I must get it together (man) and crack on. Not that I’m a couch potato, but I do tend to fritter the hours away.

If I dropped dead tonight – not that I have any intention of it – I’d leave behind unfinished songs, unfinished short stories, and several unfinished novels. ‘Unfinished’ seems a recurring theme.

This morning I got up (as you do) bright as a button. Made coffee, put the rubbish out for the dustcart, staggered upstairs and checked my emails. An hour later, tormented by a HUGE list of things to do, I espied my bed. It beckoned, I resisted: it insisted … a wee snooze never hurt anyone.

So here, as it’s near the end of the day, I can sum up:

  1. I’ve changed this blogs appearance: the previous theme was ‘Modularity Lite’ and now I’m on ‘Quintus’. I also discovered I have 60 categories and, somehow, have to prune them and use tags instead.
  2. I haven’t published the short story I promised myself I would.
  3. I haven’t finished my work web-site.
  4. I haven’t even hoovered. 😉

If I was into that sort of thing I’d give myself a damn good spanking, and stand in the corner for half an hour.

The truth we all face is that we’re only here as sentient beings for a brief smidge of time, and a third of that we waste by being asleep. When we’re gone all we leave behind us are – hopefully – a few nice memories that others have of us, and whatever ‘art’ we’ve produced: be it music, prose or painting.

I don’t want to shuffle of this mortal coil without leaving something behind. Do you?

So … why not have a bash at this:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenges you to write a 50,000-word novel, from scratch, in the month of November. It’s a global, uproariously fun endeavor, where participants exchange advice and writing tips on the NaNoWriMo? website and in real life, with group write-ins held in coffeeshops, living rooms, and libraries all around the world. In 2011, more than 250,000 people took part in National Novel Writing Month.

I started doing NaNo in 2006, and although I’ve missed the 50,000 twice I can honestly say it’s probably the most fun you can have fully clothed.

If you’re a writer, or even if you’re not a writer but have always wanted to ‘give it a go’, sign up for NaNoWriMo and enjoy!

If you are still unconvinced here are 10 reasons you should do NaNoWriMo