So I’m really very into the Quantified Self movement, although I’m not quite a QS data-meister. I’ve owned a few wearables— a Fuelband (which died late last year) and an UP band (which died recently, sniff), and I’ve usually always got some kind of tracking experiment going on. I’m currently making use of Reporter, Oda, Moves and a few Numbers spreadsheets to track the highs and lows of my daily activity. That said, perhaps the most accurate indication for my mood and productivity is my web-based output. When I’m firing on all cylinders, the writing happens, blog posts flow, and pictures get taken. When I’m manic, the creative outputs drop off, one by one, and yet it’s such a soul-warming thing to write, to capture a beautiful image… it’s exactly what I need when buried under a seemingly infinite pile of things to do.
The weather’s changing (for the better) here in London, and though I’m currently still manic, the compulsion to get the camera out is returning. I’m dusting off my photoblog and the Flickr account (member since 2005!) and hoping to crank out a few new images in the not too distant future. I’ve just scanned through my most recent memory active card, and I’ve come across a backlog of images that haven’t yet seen the light of day, largely drawn from the poetry events I’ve supported/managed/run over the past couple of years.
Franklyn Rodgers once challenged me to do more documentary work. I think I’d like to do more along these lines. More to capture some sense the worlds I find myself living and working within.
So, back to the camera.
Roman Mars — This is Radio
This, for no real reason other than the fact that I’m a stalwart listener of 99% Invisible…
Person of colour? Ever identify with the label of “other”? You need to see I, Too, Am Oxford.
I took a quick trip through the archives today, and it moved me in ways I didn’t expect. So much that resonates with my own school experience, and other experiences since. Simple idea, powerful collective statement.
GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ: That’s a journalistic trick which you can also apply to literature. For example, if you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you. One Hundred Years of Solitude is full of that sort of thing. That’s exactly the technique my grandmother used. I remember particularly the story about the character who is surrounded by yellow butterflies. When I was very small there was an electrician who came to the house. I became very curious because he carried a belt with which he used to suspend himself from the electrical posts. My grandmother used to say that every time this man came around, he would leave the house full of butterflies. But when I was writing this, I discovered that if I didn’t say the butterflies were yellow, people would not believe it.
“Such a small, pure object a poem could be, made of nothing but air, a tiny string of letters, maybe…”
- Mary Karr, from Lit: A Memoir (Harper, 2009)
“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his [or her]…”
- Flannery O’ Connor (via apoetreflects)
“For me, the writing life doesn’t just happen when I sit at the writing desk. It is a life lived with…”
- Julia Alvarez, quoted in 1998 in The Writer magazine, with the quotation republished in “Great Writing Tips from 125 Years of The Writer,” in the magazine’s April 2012 issue. (via apoetreflects)
HAROLD RAMIS: That about sums it up. But part of my smile is also about how absurd it all is. I think I got in touch with that absurdity quite young. Sometimes it’s hysterical irony and sometimes it’s a painful irony. Life has all of these contradictory feelings and contradictory results. People spend their whole lives struggling to get what they think they want, and even if they get it, they find that it’s either not what they wanted, or it comes with so many unwanted consequences. We’re always shut off from pure joy.
“All things pass, and it feels like the time of the blog has in some sense passed too. Who has time…”
I’d like to believe that personal/individual blogging is still a popular form of expression, but I certainly appreciate the sentiment of the extract above (and the entire article). Who needs to think their way through a long-form piece of writing when they can reblog1 something that’s popped up on a dashboard (“me too!”) or tap out a 140 character statement of the moment and move on?
I started blogging in the early noughties, inspired by Josh Santangelo of Endquote.com, the first blogger I can remember reading with any regularity. Josh wrote about his hopes and aspirations, loves and losses, and all the messiness of his inner thought and experience. I was a bright-eyed wannabe writer with a penchant for the web, confessional poetry and any other writing that gave me insight into the inner workings of people I didn’t know. But Endquote was less an opportunity to practise voyeurism, more a reminder of the way that emotive writing can show us how different we are from the other people we share the planet with, and yet how un-alone.
Last time I checked, the Endquote.com I knew was gone, replaced by a generic (professional) holding page. Checking again today, I find that Endquote is now a Tumblr property, complete with images of sharply styled young women, selfies, nods to sartorial inspiration and Soundcloud embeds. I miss the old Endquote (though I wonder if the writing as it was would have the same impact on me now) but this new iteration is still Josh. An absolutely contemporary expression of self.
Nothing against reblogging here. Reblogging may as well be the new common intertextuality. ↩
This started out as a much longer piece. Honestly. I’d love to say I edited it down from flabby imperfection, but the truth is I committed the schoolboy error of drafting the original through a web back-end in Safari on an iPad, while switching between tabs, as if taunting the god of all things technological to swallow everything I’d written. Which s/he did. D’oh. ↩
Could be just me, but it looks like Tumblr doesn’t like Markdown footnotes. Grrr. ↩
I have three goals for each day that I come to work:
—Learn something new
—Have a good time
If I am not accomplishing most of these on most days then it is time for me to find something else to work on.”
“Language is the element of definition, the defining and descriptive incantation. It puts the coin…”
- Charles Wright, The Art of Poetry No. 41 (via bostonpoetryslam)
- Odd Thomas
Very true. I’m reworking my “professional” website at the moment, and one of the time-consuming jobs is having to go through my history and decide which projects are appropriate for my portfolio. There’s so much I’ve done that I’ve forgotten, regardless of scale or prestige. And that’s the value of this kind of exercise. I hate updating résumés and CVs, but it’s necessary— not only do these documents serve your own professional efforts, but they’re useful reflections on everything you’ve achieved, challenges for you to think about what you define as important.
I’ve just recently returned from a week out leading an Arvon course. If you’re not familiar, Arvon is a residential creative writing institution founded by Ted Hughes, with a number of different centres in remote locations around the UK. There was a period of time when I used to run Arvon weeks quite regularly, but it’s been a while since I was last there, so a recent burst of Arvon invitations has been welcome. The week I’ve just returned from was different from any other Arvon week I can remember leading. The participant group consisted of foster-children and their carers; an age range spanning from six to mid-sixties, split between three rough bandings— adults, teens and little’uns. It was an intense week (lack of internet and mobile network notwithstanding), but so rewarding.
Everyone wrote. Even the adults, those with English as a second language, who may have been forgiven for thinking they were just there to chaperone the kids. And what stories they all had. What poems they wrote. For an afternoon, I sat with the group of adults and spoke with them about life stories— how the children in their care need to document their lives so they have something to look back on. I’d like to think that I gave them a few tools and techniques for compelling writing, but I know they also left me with a reminder of how important our writing practise is.
As a writer— as someone who’s supposed to chase the writing day in, day out— it’s perhaps too easy to lose sight of what the individual poems actually mean; how much they weigh, what place they carve out or impact on beyond the paper or screen they’re written on. But experiences like this serve as a reminder of how powerful and valuable this work with words can be. And how that power doesn’t have to be manifest on a spotlit stage with an audience of thousands. That value doesn’t have to be attached to publication in a journal or anthology. I’m talking about what poetry can do (or be) for everyday people who push (or are pushed!) to write it, nudged to engage with parts of their experience they didn’t think it was possible for them to capture in words. And what happens when they succeed, when they stand back from what they’ve written and see themselves or people they know there, recognisable and yet unfamiliar. Even if they never pick up the pen again.
And so, on to the next opportunity.
“The way to develop good taste in literature is to read poetry… For, being the supreme form of human…”
The way to develop good taste in literature is to read poetry… For, being the supreme form of human locution, poetry is not only the most concise, the most condensed way of conveying the human experience; it also offers the highest possible standards for any linguistic operation — especially one on paper.
The more one reads poetry, the less tolerant one becomes of any sort of verbosity, be that in political or philosophical discourse, be that in history, social studies or the art of fiction.”
- Joseph Brodsky on how to develop your taste in reading — a brilliant 1988 essay, all the timelier in the age of linkbait. (via explore-blog)
“Learn how to use e-mail. Decide why you are on the planet. Have fewer meetings with fewer people for…”
If you’re not checking in on Nicholas Bate, regularly– rectify, stat. It’s for your own good.
“I’m still asked, what good is science fiction to Black people? What good is any form of literature to Black people? What good is science fiction’s thinking about the present, the future, and the past? What good is its tendency to warn or to consider alternative ways of thinking and doing? What good is its examination of the possible effects of science and technology, or social organization and political direction? At its best, science fiction stimulates imagination and creativity. It gets reader and writer off the beaten track, off the narrow, narrow footpath of what “everyone” is saying, doing, thinking - whoever “everyone” happens to be this year. And what good is all this to Black people?”
- Octavia Butler, POSITIVE OBSESSION 
“But experts believe the success at keeping the death toll relatively low– 40 cyclists have died at…”
But experts believe the success at keeping the death toll relatively low– 40 cyclists have died at the hospital in 10 years- is masking a lack of focus on preventing collisions.
They called on the Mayor and Transport for London to help build a comprehensive database of cyclist injuries. This would record factors such as whether the crash involved a HGV, car or pedestrian, the personal details of the cyclist, what happened before the collision, and if helmet and high-visibility clothing were worn.”
Ross Lydall, Evening Standard, Thurs 6th Feb
Makes sense, and in a data-driven society, only a matter of time. It may sound morbid, but as a cyclist, whenever I hear news of yet another fatal traffic accident, I find myself wondering what actually happened, and whether there was anything the cyclist could have done to protect themselves.
I’d imagine a database like this could have an impact on cyclist safety, provided people actually took the time to examine the findings and stats. Cue call for sexy data-visualisation. And iPhone app.