Collisions

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I shared my Inspirations Song List today as I’d updated it (Songs that Inspired Stories), then joked that I should make a list of stories that started from collisions. Not literally — although I do have one or two of those — but collisions of ideas.

Example: later this month Empty Mirror will publish my essay ‘Chaucer and the Art of the Grift’ which came from a collision in my head between The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and David Maurer’s The Big Con. It makes perfect sense to me but maybe this is why I have a hard time getting people to follow my thoughts. Possibly they seem random and incoherent!

But they seem reasonable to me. Here’s a random selection of things what I have written and the collisions from which they sprang:

The Mangrove Legacy: Peter Cook & Jane Austen

White RabbitBlue Sunshine & Seance on a Wet Afternoon & certain London pubs

How to Be Dull: academia & Jerome K. Jerome

Airships & Alchemy:  <— exactly that

Owl Stretching: The Descent of Inanna & Spike Milligan

‘Elf Prefix’: The Maltese Falcon & The Fairy Melusine

‘Headless in Bury’: The Big Sleep & vikings

‘Wordgeryne’: Lovecraft and medieval charms

‘Losing My Religion’: REM, Tony Hancock & social media debates

“Domus inferna Sancti Guthlaci: A Rediscovery of the Twelfth-Century Narrative of The Saint and the Money Pit”: my Pseudo-Society talk that sprang from rearranging the Harley Roll illustrations of the life of the saint so they became a sort of DIY disaster

…and of course there’s a whole random Fall song + whatever random obsession has fired in my brain this week which covers most of my crime writing that isn’t currently inspired by Robyn Hitchcock.

It’s not just me, right?

[Image from the Cosmagraphia Scoti MS. Canon. Misc. 378 via Bodleian Library]

Under My Skin

A week ago — a momentous time for so many reasons — I whacked my knuckles on the book case in the conference room outside my office at the end of a day meeting students for advisement. I’ve done it before: those of you who know me well will not be surprised. Head in the clouds, absent-minded professor — whatever you want to call it, I end up with odd bruises all the time. And then in a minute or two, it became this lump.

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I did what any normal person does: I sent the picture out on social media asking people if I should be worried. Some alarmed people said YES especially when I posted a video so you could see it in 3D, but most people said just ice it and elevate. I chipped some ice off the frozen-over freezer of our office because you have to improvise at times like this. Later at my friend Angela’s house, she gave me some frozen green beans that worked much better.

Robert got Lagavulin which worked even better with real ice.

The lump went down over the next few days and the bruises took off, lending a bit of colour. It was sore but not awfully so. There were far more painful things happening in the world, so on the whole I figured it could have been worse. See, much better!

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You don’t always know how an injury will affect you: something that didn’t seem all that big a deal might end up being surprisingly painful. Some things you know are going to be bad. Bracing yourself is the only option and it’s not enough because it’s coming at your from every direction. At least with big things you’re not alone: we’re all in that sinking boat and some of us are bailing it out (some are just bailing). There’s some attempts to patch the gaping holes, but there seem to be an inordinate number of folks rushing to the apocalypse.

In the words of Saint Kurt the Vonnegut, so it goes.

They get under our skin. That’s what they want. We inherit different thicknesses; we cultivate other characteristics. I recently did one of those ancestral DNA kits. I had hoped my ancestors would be a little more curious about the world, but they end up being 100% European:

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The Finnish is no surprise; I never thought I had any British/Irish blood so I’m going to claim it’s all Scottish, of course. Balkan and Southern? I’m going to go with Slovenia! But mostly Northern, which surprises no one. I also have 293 Neanderthal variants which is fairly high (higher than 74% of those they tested). What does it mean? Well, among other things:

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So there’s that.

To sum up: it’s a really lousy year for so many reasons for so many of us and things look likely to get worse. Your community will be more important than ever. Be part of them, look out for others, let yourself be looked after especially if you’re not one inclined to do that. Be grateful for every bit of joy that comes your way and if you have it, the reduced tendency to sneeze after eating dark  chocolate.

‘One of the ways to avoid being beaten by the system is to laugh at it.’

Peter Cook

FFB: Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes

For some reason, I had not noticed before Peter Cook’s sister saying that their favourite childhood book was Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes by Harry Graham. It much reminded me of our childhood fave Shrieks at Midnight so I had to get a copy.

And of course it’s delightful.

Check out all the other overlooked Friday books at Patti’s blog or rather over at Todd’s this week.

Love Me

Words I hear in Dudley Moore’s voice, of course. As you will doubtless guess I am exhorting you to check out things that I am doing. A rather pointless venture, I know. The only thing people read on social media are the things they have tagged you in. C’est la vie. My head is full of things that must come out. Decades of indifference have left me delusional that you are all pining to hear my latest: don’t wake me up.

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Gutterthon

Those great folks at the Cultural Gutter are raising funds to pay their writers. A novel concept but I hope it catches on and puts the HuffPo out of business. I have contributed to the cause by offering to write the original story for my Deliberately Lost SF Classic ‘Psycho Motorcycle Dolls (1966)’ and you can be one of ten people to see this exclusive story by contributing to the Gutter. There are other fabulous prizes as well.

 

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Letters on Love from The Pigeonhole

Yes, just that gif has made me start twitching just in the time it took to write this but it’s there to get your attention. I think. Sign up for this free multimedia event which takes place both online and on the Southbank and you will be rewarded with many musings about love — including a song by me. That’s right. I am full of surprises. Which brings me to…

How to Be Dull

Admit it, you’d prefer a dull life. So does Basil Morley. Soon he will explain to you how to obtain this nirvana in the hottest self-help book of the season. I can promise you it is a peach and looks extraordinary because that Stephanie Johnson has been whipping the thing into shape. So start following the site and do be DULL.

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TOA/V: The Bed Sitting Room

As a preamble, let me say WHOOHOO Fox Spirit! Nominated (for the second year in a row) for best small press in the British Fantasy Awards — as well as several other skulk noms. Well done!

I finally got the Blu-Ray/DVD package of The Bed Sitting Room because it came up in conversation on the J G Ballard group. I have long had a very poor recorded-off-television-on-videotape-then-transferred-to-dvd copy. When the beauty of the photography was mentioned I thought ‘huh?’ and since the dual package was cheap (and meant a copy for each residence) I decided to take the (not especially deep) plunge.

And yes of course it’s Peter Cook and Dud and Spike Milligan and a terrific cast of luminaries and Richard Lester, so of interest naturally to any fans of them all. I remember reading the play written by Spike and John Atrobus in the British Library and trying not to laugh too loud as I always seem to be making too much noise there.

We watched it last night and it’s just as mad as I remember. More a meditation on the absurdity of trying to ‘keep calm and carry on’ in the face of nuclear annihilation than a real story. Some funny moments, but it’s mostly sad. It is indeed beautifully shot though, and filmed (alas) on mostly scouted locations of ugliness, pollution and trash. It’s more a curiosity that works well in bits. You could imagine structuring a lecture about post-apocalypse narratives illustrated with various scenes from it.

I am looking forward to the Braden interviews with Cook, Milligan and Lester, all 20-30 minutes each. When I’ve got a moment between translating bee charms and whatnot.

See all the overlooked gems at Todd’s roundup.

SpeakEasy Radio: Ham and Humour

Today’s brief episode on SpeakEasy Radio deals with Ham on Heels, S. L. Johnson‘s illustration that inspired it, Henri Bergson, Totie Fields and more. In my abundant free time, I have a book to write on comedy. Maybe someday I’ll get to it…

Gammon Heels 2015

Happy Birthday, Peter Cook

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Happy birthday to the funniest man who ever drew breath — not to mention also a very dapper man at his best. The world is a poorer place without him in it. And a visionary, who believed in “Training BEES for uses against foreign powers, and so on” and “Elimination of spindly insects and encouragement of lovely little newts who dance about and are happy.”

In his honour, dance about and be happy (with or without newts). Julie Andrews!

“Everything I’ve ever told you has been a lie. Including that.”

What I am always tempted to say at meetings; probably why I am not much invited to meetings.

Not as well known as some bits, I love it just for the Dorian line.

Dirty uncle Bertie

He loved pretending to be German (and yes, studied the language)

Chris Morris: one of the few not to be too intimidated by Cook to spar well with him

On the importance of Latin

The three Ms

“He wasn’t just a genius, he had the genius’s impatience with the whole idea of doing something again. He reinvented an art form, exhausted its possibilities, and just left it. There is always something frightening about that degree of inventiveness… He didn’t lose his powers. He just lost interest in proving that he possessed them.”
~ Clive James