Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Birthday Neanderthal, half an MA and Time

I was given this Neanderthal for my birthday, and those fossils and that terrifying stuff from the stygian crevices of my head. James Fraser made this picture for me. James, you are officially the King of being able to judge a person.

I might have half an MA Creative Writing. A 'M' I suppose, or more properly an 'A'; I’m certainly not a Master - but then I hardly qualify as an Art either.

Whatever, the taught year of the degree is over and when I met the Author who is Writing about Neanderthals for my first dissertation tutorial she intimated I'd passed the last two modules; the exam board meets in October. Schrodinger's cat is completely out of the box – the marks aren’t confirmed - but I’m never, ever going to average 70% or over for the year. Oh well, I don’t exactly want to top myself. Although actually, a bit I do…

The dissertation is to be twelve thousand words with a three thousand word commentary. I’ve form for being ungovernable regarding word count guidelines; the short-story I wrote for the fiction module grew to be over eight thousand words long and was a nightmare to edit and make coherent because I couldn’t actually read it all in one go (grim to mark too I imagine). Consequently I’m planning to write six, two thousand word pieces, a mixture of fiction and creative nonfiction, based on some of the statements from my 20+ Things about me-meme; me, me, me, me. I'm hoping some unifying theme will emerge.

When I spoke about the three short-story ideas I've got so far:

  • Alternating male and female perspectives of an affair over forty years;
  • Changes wrought by a transfer from a mobile forager/hunter existence to sedentism and food production;
  • The impact of dementia;
the Author who is Writing about Neanderthals suggested Time as a theme. I dunno why I didn’t think of that because I am already a Time-Nerd.

In an earlier post, That’ll be different, I referred to shifting perceptions of time through moment and culture. For example, during the 1940s an anthropologist, Evans-Prichard, lived amongst the Nuer, a pastoralist people of Southern Sudan.

Evans-Prichard reports that Nuer don’t have Time; that is they don’t have any expression equivalent to Time which means that they can’t speak of Time as if it is something actual, it doesn’t pass, can’t be wasted, can’t be saved and can't be made up. It pleases me to think of people who live without Time; of Time as an artificial construct.

How I feel about time is - in the short term everything matters but in the long term, geological time, nothing matters.

If my infant mother hadn't survived diphtheria in an era before antibiotics I would never have been born.
'No great loss!' My other reader might reasonably exclaim. 'You're a
narcissist, you produce ungovernably long short-stories and you're morbidly attached to Neanderthals.'

Okay, that is all true - but, what if Charles Darwin's mother
had died of diphtheria or Alan Bennett's mother? And anyway, if I wasn't born who would my childrens’ partners be marrying at those pretty damn special weddings I've written about; the weddings that are going to happen in the near future? And who would be here to submit bridesmaid gowns to the YMCA test? Unsettling thoughts.

Yet in terms of geological time, nothing is really significant, not whales, not poor darling infants choking to death, not the threat of redundancy, nothing.

I think to be kind and attentive are the most essential human characteristics. I try to occupy the moment and believe that everything equates. But mostly I live in a geological-time mindset; a mindset where nothing matters; except maybe MA marks and interesting facts about Neanderthals (my favourite hominin, thanks again, James).

Yes, I know I’ve used stygian twice recently. Stygian has taken over from trope as a word I bandy in an attempt to appear clever.

ps I've borrowed the 'What if my mother hadn't survived? None of this would have happened,' motif from Kathleen Jamie (Findings p. 112). Jamie's mother survived pneumonia and my mother really did survive diphtheria.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Syphilitic Nature of Blogging (Part Two)

I’ve just had the curious experience of stalking a stalker.

A while ago a friend gave my blog a nice plug on her blog. Afterwards she asked if I'd noticed an increase in traffic. I explained that, unless someone left a blog comment or emailed me, I'd absolutely no idea if there's been any traffic at all.

Following said friend's advice I installed a Statcounter.

On the first day I was astonished to see I’d had twenty-nine visitors to my blog, that's twenty-nine.

Statistic counters tell you a lot more than how many visits your site has received. You can learn where in the universe the visitor was when they viewed pages, the IP address of their computer, which pages they viewed, how long they lingered and what in particular they did whilst they were visiting (in terms of searching, downloading images and leaving comments, I mean; not what they were actually doing whilst they were looking).

When I investigated the visitor paths it was obvious that all my visitors were, sadly, me.

I’d logged in to correct spelling mistakes, I’d logged in to adjust paragraph spacing, I’d logged in because I’d decided, after long deliberation, to replace obtained with got, to be more faithful to my roots, and so on…

To begin with, checking your visitor numbers is a little bit addictive.

‘One visitor! From Plano, Texas! Yay!’

‘How did they find you?’

‘They did a Google search for ‘Doktor Hotfingers’.’

'Great Cripes*! That's Smashing.'

'I know.'

‘And how long did they linger?’

‘Well, only 0 seconds, but they came, and they saw. It’s A Start.’

'It certainly is just that, A Start.'

Last night I check the Statcounter – sure enough, I’ve visited myself aplenty. I’ve also currently got another visitor; someone on a computer in Glasgow.

Gratified, I take a few moments to look at the visitor number(s) for my other, newer blog. The blog where I’m keeping pieces of my (proper) writing; when I say pieces, I mean piece. There’s one (Joint) award winning poem there at the moment, and a self-important meme and something my daughter pointed out to me that still makes me laugh.

When I return to the statistics for this blog there are several more page loads showing…

It’s that same Glasgow visitor; still looking. Page to page, He (I’m picturing a He) loiters over postings and moves on. He follows the link to my (Joint) award winning poem then returns to my Second person and research post and downloads a photograph. That photograph of Ellie fancy-dressed up as the Tin Man. Already disorientated, I start to wonder if I should feel uneasy.

This is absurd. For months I’ve been effectively saying.

‘Here! Over here. Listen, listen to this!’

‘You, yes you - look at this! I’m dead funny, me.’

And here I am feeling uncomfortable because somebody is doing as they’re told, He’s reading my words, checking out my poem and He's downloading a photo of my twenty year old dressed in silver leggings.

For thirty minutes I watch in snowballing horror as (in my head) the drug-addled pervert in his seedy tenement riffles through my stuff. I want to shout at him.

‘Oi you! Yes you - Deviant-Dougal with your swivelly-eyes and your bagpipes. What do you think you're playing at looking at my pictures? Don't think you can get away with this. I’ve got your (Temporary IP) address you know!’

But, as I’ve written before, blogging is such a queasy paradox.

On the one hand I’m self-effacing and I don’t want people to think I’m vulgar or pushy; on the other hand I’d sell my foot to a transplant surgeon if I thought it would encourage a readership.

Vulgar and pushy wins out every time, of course.

I start to rationalise that it probably isn’t a pervy druggie who is working His way through the pages. It’s most likely a nice lady who is interested in poems; She
, Fragrant-Fiona, is doubtless a Kelvindale matron searching for fancy dress ideas for her own grown daughter.

In light of this edifying insight I’ve started to wonder if it might be a good idea to use Ellie in her Tim Man outfit as my blog banner. If that’s what people demand, scantily dressed... no, I mean fancy dress outfit tips, so be it.

Incidentally, I don't really think blogging is like syphilis, have a look at The Syphilitic Nature of Blogging (Part One) for how I arrived at the title. In the comments for that post my reader suggests that the dysphemism 'self abuse' is a more accurate analogy and, naturally, she is right.

Thank you AGAIN, James Fraser, for the Tin Man image. The soundtrack accompanying the slideshow of his doodles at that link are James and David Wright playing Anouman by Django Reinhardt. Incidently, David and his band, New Zealand Story, have a new album called Show Your Workings.

Check out the witty Madeleine York at Déjà view: television reviews & analysis, I like her blog.

*My new favourite expletive comes from Flann O' Brien. I've been listening to Jim Norton reading The Third Policeman. Listening to The Third Policeman half makes me want to give up writing altogether and half makes me want to plagiarise all his best phrases. Three guesses which I'll choose.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The YMCA Test for Bridesmaids' Gowns and being a Creep

There are going to be some pretty damn special weddings in the near future. My youngest child has been asked to be a bridesmaid, which is grand, and frocks are under discussion. One suggested dress is an asymmetrical style. It has rose petals or foliage all around the top and clambering over a single strap.

My youngest child is hesitant about this style.
‘What’s going to be under those petals climbing over the shoulder?'
'I'm not sure.'
'Will it be a shoe-string strap?'
'It could be.'
'You know what'll happen if it is don't you?'
'Will it dig in?'
‘Will it be annoying because it’s not equal and balanced?'
'Not that.'
'Will the other shoulder feel left out?’
'No, not left out.'
'What then?'
'The second I start doing the YMCA it’ll snap. There'll be petals flying everywhere.’

I’m not sure how to put it to her that this celebration might not be a YMCA kind of a do. It might not even be a
(brace yourself) Oops Upside Your Head kind of a wedding-do either.

I'm not going to let on just yet. It's going to be much more fun shopping for bridesmaids’ outfits if we're assuming we have to submit each gown to the YMCA test.

I discovered yesterday that the Author who is Writing about Neanderthals (my favourite hominin) will supervise my MA project. This is a very good thing but I’m also a little bit sad that it isn’t going to be the Writer with the Writerly Name.

At least I can now write sycophantic comments on the Writer with the Writerly Name's blog posts without appearing to be a creep. But then, what is the point of writing creepy comments, if it’s not going to get me better marks? Only kidding. Oh man, I think I’m only kidding, I hope I'm only kidding.

Had two mentions and
very fine link-ups in the last week.
Valerie O'Roirdan at not exactly true is about to start
an MA in creative writing at the University of Manchester (she's keen to hear from others doing the same or similar). There are links to some of Valerie's smashing stories from her blog.

Kate Feld at Manchizzle is hard at work adding blogs nominated for the Manchester Blog Awards to her blogroll.

And on the topic of the Manchester Blog Awards Dave Hartley has written a story a week for the last twelve months (just two to go). If you haven't read his tales yet you're set for a lovely treat.

Thank you, James Fraser, for my YMCA bridesmaid.