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Archive for April, 2008

Surreal conversation of the weeeeek

Seeing an ad for Nintendogs on TV the other evening reminded me of this post…

My daughter’s got a Nintendogs game on the Nintendo DS. She had two dogs – a German shepherd puppy called JJ who’s always getting fleas and needs a lot of baths and sometimes wears a red fireman’s helmet, and a beagle called Jeff, who’s got a little flower behind his ear.

Recently our son bought a virtual boxer puppy called Crash. So, now there’s three dogs to take care of there’s a rota. Someone has to feed them in the morning, and I generally have to feed and water them at lunch time, when the kids are at school. Otherwise they run away, see? (The dogs, not the kids.)

Anyway, as she was getting dressed this morning our daughter called to her brother and said: “Can you feed Crash, JJ and Jeff, please?” He said he would. As he was going downstairs I called after him and said: “You might need to go and fetch some milk from the shop.”

He stopped and looked back at me. “What?” he said. “You mean in the real world?”

How I laughed. You can see why it’s all so tough for kids these days, can’t you.

STOP PRESS: Crash now has sunglasses.

The Digital Dark Age

UPDATE: since originally writing this post I’ve started to use notebooks, loose-leaf paper, a laptop and my desktop computer in various parts of the process.
UPDATE 2 (16/8/12): I’ve now sold the typewriter, and use a combination of cloud-based syncing of text files and a dead-tree notebook for developing ideas.

I listened to Andrew Marr’s Start the Week of 14th April, featuring Salman Rushdie, Bernard O’Donoghue, Mike Leigh and Margaret Reynolds with interest. Of particular note was a brief discussion related to use of computers for creative writing, and a brief touch on reviews.

I’ve recently gone back to using a manual typewriter. It’s a joy to use and somewhat romantic, if rather unforgiving of mistaks. However, the words I type on this machine – and be in no doubt, it is a machine, with springs and cogs and pulleys and a little bell that goes ting when I get to the end of the line – are concrete. When I’ve typed something, I have a first draft. A piece of paper with beautiful letters in black ink that are physically impressed upon it. When I subsequently type it into my beloved Mac, it’s second draft. I make decisions. Changes things. Improve. But that first draft remains, to be stored somewhere for future reference, mistaks and all.

With the computer we have entered a digital dark age. An age from which there is no escape in the short term, other than for a few analogue lovers such as myself. While there is no denying that computers are now essential to life, their impact is not wholly positive.

There are no first drafts of manuscripts with pencil scribblings to mark corrections or ideas that have popped into the author’s head afterwards. There are no hand-written love letters in stamped, post-marked envelopes. No correspondence between relatives. No address books. No diaries. We have text messages, emails, blogs, myspace, youtube, facebook, chat rooms and forums, for which we’ve developed new languages and methodologies to communicate with the minimum of effort.

But it’s all at the mercy of the delete button, and at the mercy of the sever on which the zeros and ones nestle against each other.

This relates not only to text, but also to the visual records we keep. No longer do we have photographs of people with the top of their head missing, or which feature some vague shape in the underexposed darkness: we take them digitally, then crop, zoom, and delete those we don’t like. This way we edit our lives, keep what we want and all remove trace of that which doesn’t suit us.

Through these processes we are distorting ourselves. In a thousand years’ time, when we’re all long gone and human society – if it still exists – has changed in every conceivable way, all that will be left of our brief rub along the surface of this planet is the fragments of plastic we’ve buried underground, and wonderment at our dependency on oil. Records of our thoughts and feelings will be minimal, and those that do remain will be untruths.


March 31st’s Start the Week featured Maggie Gee talking about going to university to study English, creative writing, and included discussion on whether or not writing can be taught. This kind of thing really pisses me off, frankly. The only way – the only way – you’re going to learn how to write is by sitting in front of a computer (or preferably a typewriter, then a computer) for a minimum of 15 years and doing it. And even then there’s no guarantee. University? Good for a laugh and treading the first steps towards adulthood, but other than that a complete waste of time and money in my view – most particularly for those who don’t know what you want to do when they finish. (OK, I’ll admit that if you want to be a vet, a doctor, a physicist or some such, then university might help – but not in the case of the creative arts.)

The Affirmation

by Christopher Priest is one of my favourite books of all time. I’ve just started reading it again – for the third time, I think – and the tricks and clues to what’s to come are quite breathtaking. If you’ve never read this fine book, I heartily recommend you do so.


As you can see, I’ve made some changes to my website and blog appearance. This is part of what will hopefully be a fresh start. And yes, that’s my typewriter, and yes, I really use it. In fact I love using it. Although it is rather unforgiving in the mistakes department. I mainly use it for first draft stuff, which I type up in the morning, then re-type into my Mac in the evening. That’s the theory, anyway.

Until next time, pop kids – keep to the beat.

More Radiohead Nude stems

OK, I’ve just listened to Nude (single) and all the stems individually. Wow. I’m in a band and we’ve done some recording, so I am in a position to appreciate what’s involved, but this is amazing. The subtlety, the skill, the musicianship and the thought that’s gone into this track – breathtaking.

I *might* have a go at a remix, but I think it’d have to be limited to making creative use of what’s there already rather than adding anything. Certainly not loops or beats. Why? Because neither they (the loops), nor I, are worthy.


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