Distraction, procrastination, blocked words

It seems to always be the case that when my mind is procrastinating or blocked about a piece of writing I have to do, that the ideas flow for a piece of writing I don’t have to do. I’ve been fighting it this time but decided to raise the white flag and at least jot some of the ideas down as maybe, just maybe getting them out of my head will allow for a clear flow in what I need to be doing.

Is this what happens to everyone else?

What I end up with is an ever-growing collection of unfinished, unedited, unpublished posts. I find writing them in this interface useful as it’s often different to the one I’m stuck and staring at the screen in.

I do think it serves a purpose – especially when I’m blocked (not just distracted) in the piece I should be working on. What I write here is a brain dump. It’s what I’m thinking, as it comes out with little if any editing. It reminds me that I can string a sentence together (sometimes) so whatever issues I’m having getting the ideas out of my head on that other piece are temporary. The words will come.

Some of these unpublished posts are two or three times the length of the piece I should be working on, and they fell out of my head in no time at all. They’re not flippant little pieces like this but are often highly reflective, exploratory pieces that will probably sit hidden forever. That doesn’t bother me. They’ve performed their function which was to unblock the writing portion of my brain that had been doing its best to drive me nutty. Sometimes I like my chocolate without nuts.

Summer classics: u-turn on #1

Poor James Joyce. I’ve dropped his A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man from number one to number three at best in my Summer classics challenge. Nothing against Joyce or the book, I’m just easily sidetracked. I realised that Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was sitting on my shelf staring at me accusingly and I also located my copy of Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll which is coming up at the MTC. I’m thinking about tracking down the other two plays from The Doll Trilogy, hence Joyce possibly slipping further down the reading list.

I’ve finished The Bell Jar and will write it up soon but for now I’ve started on The Doll.

Summer classics from the bookshelf

Inspired by Literary Minded’s ‘20 Classics in 2011‘ project I’ve used it as a springboard to get around to an item long on my to do list. That’s right, read those classics. You see despite many that know me assuming I came from an arts background I flipped from arts to science come VCE (year 11/12 or high school senior years for those not from these parts). I put aside my paint brushes, charcoal, silk screens, sewing needles, history and language books two-thirds of the way through high school and switched to maths/science. Don’t ask. I still don’t understand all this time later. So yes, this meant I missed out on the fun subjects offered in those final years. I never did English Literature for one and lets face it – the more interesting choice of reading material (back when I was in school anyway) was saved for the literature class, not the standard English class.

So here I am, with almost twenty years having passed and I’m finally going to pick up some of those books I never got around to. I imagine my summer reading list will be a little haphazard. A mixture of books I did read (but oh so long ago) and some I wish I had. Others I see on high school and university book lists and get a little pang for, wishing I’d studied them. More still I found at second-hand stores and bought full of good intention; they made it to the bookshelf but never the bedside table. This I hope shall be the summer to fix that! Then there’s also the library. My local library is amazing and the cube of my bookshelf dedicated to library borrowing is always overflowing.

I’ll add my list as I go and I expect the project will continue once the summer is over at a slower pace when free time more scarce, but the loose plan is to aim for one book a week while the heat of summer is here to encourage me to hide under a shady tree, in a lovely park, with a good book and a cold drink. Ambitious yes. I foresee I rewrite to this plan quite quickly but for now let’s swing with it.

The rules, loosely speaking, are this: the book is to preferably come from the bookshelf, if not the local library or a friend’s bookshelf. One of the points of this pursuit was to remove the dust gathering on these neglected classics on the bookshelf.

The first classic I’ve picked from the shelf is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I’ve not read it before and it’s one I picked up at a local second-hand bookstore in the last six months or thereabouts. I’m aware that Joyce’s prose can make getting into the book a little more challenging but this is one of the classics I’ve long wondered why it’s taken me so long to pick up, hence top of the list for no other reason that it sprung out at me from the bookshelf demanding to be read.

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Before I begin I need to finish the book I’m currently wandering the streets with, miraculously not bumping into poles and other people, while my head is propped downward reading. I’m a little too attached to We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. No discussion of the film please, I won’t be seeing it until the book is complete.

The idea with this project is not simply to read the books but also write something about them once they’re read. So in that wonderful universe where all things go to plan (i.e. not the one I’m currently filling) there could actually be regular weekly blog posts about books I’ve devoured. Note: take this paragraph lightly. I shall attempt to keep to my plan of reading and writing regularly. I am after all doing this both by choice and for pleasure – what could possibly go wrong?

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A music soaked weekend, finally

I’m happy to report that after a lengthy hiatus, the weekend just gone was a flashback to times past – times past being music filled weekends! A long overdue scenario and one I’ve been aching for, so the onset of cold and flu-like symptoms wasn’t going to put a stop to the music.

Friday night required a coin toss between the Geoffrey O’Connor & Wintercoats album/ep launches. A tough one (Chaper/Mistletone…) but the winner of this round was Geoffrey O’Connor, an unfair advantage as I’d missed Super Wild Horses in the past and was rather keen to catch their support set. I didn’t find the instrument swapping midway through the Super Wild Horses set gimmicky as it has been rather cheaply described. It looked as though they were having fun and that’s the point, isn’t it? That said, I must say it was a strange night. I can’t recall the last time I went to a music gig with hecklers, but that’s what we got when Geoffrey O’Connor hit the stage. There was a group of guys near us very clearly at the wrong gig but the bizarre thing was they chose to stay. Even more unusual was a girl behind them that let herself be baited by their heckling. It was such a strange social interaction to watch. Admittedly the guys were amusing and harmless. They weren’t violent, or overly drunk and they weren’t even very loud. They got shooshed a few times, obeyed then mocked shock when no one complained about a louder heckler further back in the crowd. The lesson to be leant here – audiophile quality earplugs. They protect your ears at gigs prolonging your years of music enjoyment and dampen this idle chit-chat going on in the audience. I cannot recommend them highly enough. And in case you were wondering Geoffrey O’Connor, he was good too.

Saturday. We were all set to head on over to the Toff for Laura Jean‘s A Fool Who’ll launch. I even popped the album on in the store that afternoon to set the mood but a quick text after work and in the space of a few minutes Sigur Rós with their film Inni showing only three times this weekend at the Westgarth had leapfrogged into pole position for the night’s entertainment. I’ve seen Sigur Rós live and they’re spectacular. The chance to see this film in a cinema was hard to pass up, and I couldn’t. I know I’ll own the DVD but a full cinema experience must be taken when it’s on offer. The film does a wonderful job of capturing their live performance and the experience of seeing them live. Shot in black and white HD digital, transferred to 16 mm film then projected and re-filmed with various effects the finished look and feel of the film is perfection for the music its matched to. Your eyes fix on a slow steady close up then chase another image fading in and out of light. The detailed close-ups and lighting are magical. Watch a sample, decide, then go out and buy a copy. I will be.

xx

By Sunday I’d developed a nasty dry cough. Drinking was out. It all tasted pretty foul with a throat lozenge stuck in my mouth but more music was to be had. A dear old friend had long been preaching the need for me to come out and see Silver City Highway. I couldn’t count the number of times I’d let him down on this one and they were support to Ned Collette & Wirewalker‘s final Melbourne show for an age so off we went. It was great to catch up, have him watch me react to a band for the first time and visa versa. I liked what I heard of SIlver City Highway and can see and hear why he’s so charmed by them. As is always the case when this happens I wonder why it’s taken me so long to get out to see them. The guys have been to see them without me, I can’t recall what my excuses have been. Something trivial I’m sure but I’ll have to remedy that now. I found the new Ned Collette material intriguing. I had to leave before the set was through so didn’t catch it all but what I did hear left me wanting for the new album to hurry along. I place the blame squarely on that spanish guitar, it’s the anomaly, or new piece of the puzzle to their sound.

I always feel a little guilty when I’ve seen a ‘free’ gig. I know it’s my warped logic. It’s not like I’m a high or even middle-income earner so I need to embrace these free gigs where I can. By choice I have a very low income mixing part-time and volunteer work, still, if the gig’s free I always wonder how the band(s), the venue, mixer etc are earning a living. Sigh.

I know the weekend’s over but tonight in the Triple R performance space Montero are playing live to air during Local and/or General. So why stop the music just because the weekend’s through? I’ve only heard two songs from this new local project headed by Benny Montero and featuring members from Crayon Fields, Baseball, Cuba Is Japan and the TM Band but what I’ve heard I’ve liked. Should be fun!

Nights out seeing bands taking precedence over sitting in the cinema… maybe summer is on the way after all.

This Is Not A Film

The new documentary by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb This Is Not A Film is compelling viewing. The film may be simple but it’s why we’re seeing it that is so interesting, essential and infuriating. It is no secret that the film was smuggled out of Iran and into France so it could be screened at Cannes earlier this year.

While under house arrest we watch a day in the life of Panahi. He goes about regular activity while waiting to hear if the sentence handed down to him in December 2010 of six years jail and a 20 year ban on making or directing movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media or leaving the country has been lifted or altered in appeal.

We see a man who has been stripped of the means to do what he does best, what he has such passion for; make films. It’s heartbreaking. At one point Panahi is describing to his friend the last screenplay he put forward for approval (which was denied) and has never been made. He is so alive describing in such fine detail this screenplay, but also has the knowledge it will never exist.

This is a must see film.

This Is Not A Film is being released at selected cinemas in Australia by Sharmill Films on November 10.

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Postscript: In late October a Tehran appeals court upheld a six-year jail sentence and 20-year filmmaking and travel ban against Jafar Panahi. More on this at The Guardian or Yahoo7 (originally from AFP).

A top what? You must be joking.

I had a minor freak out a little while back when one of my colleagues at work mentioned that we each had to put together a top 10 list for the end of the year, and that this top 10 would then be on display for our customers, in store to pick and choose from.

So what, big deal. This may be the natural reaction for most but for me a top 10 list is something I avoid with all sense of irrationality. I just can’t do it. The closest I ever got was 2 years back weaning a ‘most listened to’ list of about 30 albums down to 15 – and that took all my effort and then some! Note that I didn’t order this list, it’s just an unordered most listened to list. Tactful!

It’s not that I won’t or can’t commit to picking a favourite (or is it and I just don’t know that yet…?) It’s that I never have just one favourite. My favourite yesterday or an hour ago can be different to tomorrow’s favourite depending on my mood, the weather, what I’m wearing, if I just heard something on the radio. You get the picture.

So how does one possibly choose just 10 albums from an entire year of output? And while we’re talking about difficult, how about remembering what was released in January all the way back here in October!

I’ll admit I enjoy perusing other people’s lists that float around in December and January. Not so much to see what they’ve picked but more as an exercise in remembering what I’ve forgotten from the start of the year. That’s the part I enjoy – revisiting the music I tucked back on the shelf a little too well and forgot about.

So, how’s this list of mine going? It’s a page full of scribble. The stuff I’m in love with now is easy to list, the music I was gushing over at the start of the year… well some of it I still gush over, other bits I need to spot to get the warm fuzzy. Then how do I choose? I’ll probably end up with two lists. One full of the things I really feel, that take me somewhere, and one that’s more work friendly – but for now here’s HTRK. I can’t get them out of my head and I’m quite happy keeping them there.

Geoffrey O’Connor – Vanity Is Forever

The new Geoffrey O’Connor album has been one of my most anticipated releases of late. That has a lot to do with timing. Just prior to the announcement that there was to be a new album I’d gone in heavy with a revisit of the last Crayon Fields release. The disc was off the shelf and in the car and was also on strong rotation on my iPod.

When the lead single Whatever Leads Me To You dropped I liked what I was hearing and was itching for the release of the full album. Perhaps that eagerness was to blame, but on first listen of the album I was underwhelmed. Excluding the single I felt like there was no punch.

Too much anticipation can destroy even the best of things but luckily on this outing as the tracks progressed so did my appreciation. By the time I reached Idle Lover I’d softened my assessment, by Now & Then it was very much growing on me and by Like They Say It Does and Bad Ideas I knew I’d be hitting play again for an instant repeat listen, and then another…

It’s funny. The opening track So Sorry that formed part of my original dispirited reaction to the album I loved the second time around. It’s fun and cheesy and like the whole album dripping with lashings of 80s fuelled synth-pop. As always with anything penned by Geoffrey O’Connor the clever lyrics alone keep you entertained. There’ll be something you missed, didn’t hear the last time, to bring a smile to your face.

So why the initial luke-warm reaction? Maybe I was expecting an album full of tracks just like the lead single. After a few days and some stretched out listens I’m happy there’s variety and I feel this album will seep into my summer, just as All The Pleasures Of The World did two summer’s prior. It’s currently sharing prime position on the listening post with HTRK’s Work (Work, Work), but I know there’ll be plenty of other great releases before the hot weather peaks.