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Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

The NSA and Angele Merkel

In morality, politics, satire on November 9, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Fresh from the files of Julian Assange come certain earth-shattering revelations of the precise content of highly secret conversations Chancellor Merkel has been engaging in over her cellphone. Unlike the selfless releasing of government secrets in bulk by Assange several years ago, the conduct of the NSA (National Security Agency) is unforgivable: spying specifically and directly on a head of state who is known to be above reproach. With Germany threatening unspecified retaliation against the United States for listening in to the private conversations of the recently re-elected beloved leader, I have been able to access just a small slice of the damning evidence against the NSA: that which is most provocative to German sensitivities. (New Zealanders will remember the bomb attack of the government of France on the Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior in port in the 1980s, resulting in the death of a Greenpeace officer. This might account for the French government not being quite as vociferous in its complaints against spying by allies.) Anyway, here are just the most revealing snippets of the fruits of this nefarious activity:

Angele: … and 400gm of sauerkraut from the delikatessen.

Mr Merkel (The First Lady): Is that the one on the uberstrasse oder die unterstrasse?

Angele: Oh, use your initiative, pfiffikus. Hier I am the proud leader of individual liberty and the privilege of wealthy Aryan countries in Northern Europe and my man isn’t man enough to decide was his tummy wants, never mind go one round with a Greek wrestler! If the French, Spanish and Portuguese ever get wind of this… [line clicks off] Blutig dummkopf!

……………….

Hairdresser: Es Frau Merkel? Ah… I was thinking maybe more of the little-girl cut to make you more appealing internationally, maybe even innocent looking.

Angele: Nein, nein! Es far too sissy! My people will be taking me for die supermodel instead of die ubermadchen. Just make sure you have all the latest gossip ready when I come in for my appointment.

Hairdresser: Ja, ja… I hear and obey.

………….

Spin Doctor: The anti-American liberal media around the world are on your side. Their story is that because you were raised in East Germany among the Stasi secret police you are permanently traumatised by any reminder of it, even one so oblique as phone-tapping by the NSA.

Angele: Yes, of course we civilians never cooperated or collaborated with the Stasi. We were oppressed. But they had the good taste never to spy on us in the toilet, not like Amerikaners. Still, we were able to pick up some pretty good dirty tricks…

Spin Doctor: No, none of that — just the violation of privacy. And some more, bitte, of “Allies don’t spy on each other. It’s a sacred, ever-lasting bond closer than any human relationship.” It will bring tears to the eyes of the Brit and French Conservatives. It would help if you say the words “Dunkirk” and “liberation of Paris”, but without mentioning The War if you can — especially the part about us being on opposite sides.

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BUY MY BOOKS, DAMN IT!

In literature, music on August 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

Once upon a time in London, centuries ago, before Fleet Street became a synonym for the journalism of daily reportage, there was Grub Street. This was a catch-all for the work place and social milieu of the hack writer, hundreds of whom hired themselves out to write bits and pieces great and small. The famous Dr Samuel Johnson started like this, lucky to be able to afford company at a coffee shoppe, compiling his dictionary in the 1750s with assistance from emmanuensises, sponsored by wealthy “patrons”. After the best part of a decade the dictionary was finished and when his patrons came a-calling he could afford to kick their asses. Don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say here, but if you buy my books as a patron of my work I promise I won’t kick your ass…

Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer, The Vicar of Wakefield) was another habitue of Grub Street and friend of Johnson, who was finally acknowledged but was forced to sell his classics cheap to publishers, was continually hounded by creditors and died young of privations already sustained. Johnson himself didn’t escape multiple afflictions from his imposed lifestyle. And Richard Savage was another notable acquaintance, a talented poet who never made it and starved to death.

But I’m quite comfortably off, though it’s normally two months between moca bowls (at the NZ Herald Proofreaders Old Boys Gathering, Cafe Liaison, Pompallier Tce, Ponsonby) — So, sorry for laying the guilt trip on you. The thing is, I don’t care at all for the marketing that goes into being “an author” these days and being a shameless self-promoter rubbing shoulders with get-rich-quick grifters and self-improvement freaks. But if I’m doing this once I might as well try the hard sell.

The series "Sixties Whiteboy Rock" is based on my 2007 book "Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music" -- revised and expanded.

The series “Sixties Whiteboy Rock” is based on my 2007 book “Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music” — revised and expanded.

To buy ($9.99) or borrow (about $2.50) an ebook go to Amazon and look up “Sixties Whiteboy Rock”. There will be two available in the series to choose from, but since you’re there you might as well buy both — featuring everything you ever wanted to know about Sixties Music up to around mid 1965; though black music will be featured more fully in its own volume later. Each volume is about 65,000 words plus 60 photos. The next two volumes, due out in the next few months, will cover the second half of the Sixties. Even if you don’t like Sixties Music there are some good polemical chapters/passages arguing for authenticity in art. And if you don’t care for early rock music or argumentative criticism, I should have my first short novel up in the next half-year or so, of the gritty-street-life variety and set in Auckland.

PROGRESSING PAST VOCABULARY: The Three Essential Adjectives in Modern English

In anthropology, art, generational/fashion, Humor, literature, satire on June 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm
A little scholar of tomorrow, aspiring to fill her head with at least a dozen words for all occasions.

littlescholarIn days of yore, say back as far as the 1960s, there were massive tomes called dictionaries. Though it was known that the average person might have a vocabulary of some four thousand words or less, even “simplified” dictionaries would have as many as 65,000 to 75,000 words — so at least 60,000 too many for even the most talkative people. Those compiled by ancient, outdated educational institutions like Oxford and Cambridge Universities dating back to medieval times might include double that number in their more than comprehensive, overgrown volumes that contained the origin of the word, umpteen different meanings and senses, and examples of how these nuanced usages might be utilized in sentences by show-offs.

The language built up steadily, out of hand for over two thousand years, expanding to something with virtually infinite turns and twists. It came to be admired by so-called brainy people throughout the world just for its exquisitely descriptive value, unparalleled logical definition and finnicky grammar that qualified shades of meaning. All this was appreciated by just a few thousand elite around the world out of seven billion. If it had been confined to just one person’s head, like the maths in Archimedes’ this surplus knowledge could have been easily nipped in the bud as his was by his timely assassination by that Roman stud, cut and buff in his form-fitting battle dress making him look so hot.

But those dudes with their jive-ass — sorry — runaway egos painstakingly designed what they grandly called works of art based on this language, using imaginary imagery and tricky devices conjuring poetic beauty from a blank page — that went over the heads of everyone but a few of their own. When everyone knows that a work of art is something you can see in front of you like an awesome multicolored tattoo, mass produced so tried and true, with heaps of symbolic meaning, by a proper tattoo artist, or a nice mosaic coffee table with pretty colors, or hear, like a vocal on American Idol that can spread one syllable across eight notes. It all snowballed and got “stink”, to use a well chosen descriptive catchall in common New Zealand usage. So I say — All the more credit to recent generations who have simplified the language and made it accessible to a great many more people who are now able to be admired for their fluent speech, even their gift of the gab.

Those best at the art of simplification have invented an abbreviated written language too for text messaging, now coming into more general use and far more concise than the spoken word — an outmoded form of communication just begging to be clipped down to manageability. Soon we will all be speaking in grunts and moans, sighs and snorts, hand gesticulations and facial contortions that served our primate forebears so very well. Human communication is said to be 93% nonverbal anyway, so why not take this important lesson from our ancestors?

The biggest corporates, teachers and other cultural leaders are not doing too badly though. If we look at just one part of speech, the descriptive adjective, the necessary vocabulary for anyone speaking English can be boiled down to three words: “awesome”, “not okay” and “inappropriate”. The word awesome is not the awesome that used to be, that is, inspiring awe — a word that has no useful meaning whatever — but more like the “fab” or “groovy” of yesteryear. It is therefore an ideally leveling word that exalts all achievements and accidents of birth alike. Where we might say a man who has developed the ability to smoke a cigarette with his lips and drink an alcoholic beverage through his nose on the same breath is truly awesome, we could also courteously apply the term — though we don’t really mean it — to a steady, admittedly boring researcher with nerdy hornrim glasses (actually a geek to be honest), progressing by inches towards a cancer cure, in order to make him feel good about himself for a moment and caringly bolster his self-esteem with a white lie.

Inappropriate is hardly at all like the inappropriate of before, meaning unsuitable. Inveterate diners used to say, “It is inappropriate to drink red wine with fish, and white wine with red meat.” But to dance a rhumba to a chacha rhythm is no longer inappropriate but creative, original and maybe freaky to those with an extraordinary vocabulary expanded to take in impressive technical jargon according to their specialization on tv shows, cooking, music or dancing. Today inappropriate should be applied only in those situations where a cover-all adjective is needed for “anything I don’t like.” In this way “inappropriate” is a useful conversation stopper and final judgment that precludes all debate on or enquiry about a particular subject that is probably unnecessary in the first place, maybe involving abstract concepts which don’t even exist anymore in everyday life; only in the minds of over-intellectualized dweebs.

“Not okay” is perhaps the most versatile compound adjective, handy for almost every occasion. A bereaved family member interviewed this week about the searing effects on the loved ones of his 15-year-old nephew being punched and kicked to death by two rugby team mates at practice was able to summon up composure enough in his grief at the funeral to say straight from the heart, “Violence is not okay.” The same well-spoken, obviously well-educated Kiwi, probably in a high-flying occupation, in a different circumstance might rightly apply this adjective to a gauchely misapplied dessert sauce on a television cooking show, thoughtlessly dolloped on the plate instead of tastefully and aesthetically drizzled.

MOVIE REVIEW — MacKenna’s Gold a remake of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World?

In film, literature on October 13, 2012 at 1:39 am

JulieNewmarWhen I first saw MacKenna’s Gold (1969) I was 13 or 14 and thought it was a classic — great special effects and sound effects for the Sixties, visuals for the earthquake at the end that buries all that gold. And it had other elements a kid moviegoer wanted. Even kind of a happy though cheesy twist ending reminiscent of the Sixties’ James Bond series, where the guy and the girl survive to live happily ever after with saddlebags full of gold. These days the romantic charms of Julie Newmar and Camilla Sparv are about the only ones that stack up, along with the theme tune as sung by Jose Feliciano and narrative by Victor Jory. And their fights over Gregory Peck with knives, whips, cat-wrestling in a big pond, show a piquant hint of sado-masochism (though admittedly I didn’t think about lithe young women in those terms then).

Six-foot-three Greg Peck — here dwarfed by six-nine Ted Cassidy of “Lurch” fame in tv’s The Addams Family — was always good for an epic, as was Omar Sharif. Both had worked with director J Lee Thompson before early in the decade on earlier epics (The Guns of Navarone and Taras Bulba). Telly Savalas tended to pick his pictures for blockerbuster appeal too — sheer Sixties commercial potential. The cast included a host of older guest stars, all along for the ride and underused: Edward G Robinson, Raymond Massey, Burgess Meredith, Lee J Cobb, Eli Wallach, Anthony Quayle. Sharif probably gives the best performance, at least tries the hardest. Most of the rest of the cast looks demoralised (but for Julie, who’s crazy) and I can’t blame them. Amid all this, stupid back-process shots, carelessly speeded-up film and gimmicky horse’s-head-point-of-view mounted-camera shots are too much to take.

Meantime, Missouri-born screenwriter William Rose had spent the Fifties in Britain creating truly classic screenplays like Genevieve and The Ladykillers before returning to Hollywood for It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) and going on to another in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!(1966). Carl Foreman was writing Champion, Home of the Brave, Young Man With a Horn, The Men, High Noon, A Hatful of Rain — all worthy, topical subjects — before settling for the epic if-somewhat-bloated war movies Bridge on the River Kwai and The Guns of Navarone. Who would have thought he would be found resorting to cribbing from another screenwriter — Rose — just at the peak of his reputation?

I’d long since forgotten the gist of MacKenna’s Gold unlike It’s a Mad Mad… World, that I first saw when I was eight but have watched a few times since. Now, having just watched the western right through for the first time since 1969, the formula format is far too obvious to miss. Both stories are centered on the search for a lost treasure told of by a dying old man. Its_a_Mad,_Mad,_Mad,_Mad_World_Trailer9In both the rumor spreads until multiple factions join the search — in the western, a marshal, bandidos, Indians, townspeople, cavalry — and run across each other in a game of attrition, picking each other off. Old partnerships are summarily dissolved too, as when Telly, as a cavalry sergeant, shoots two of his own men in cold blood in his lust for gold. The dust-ups are way funnier in the comedy, between Terry-Thomas & wife Dorothy Provine, father-in-law Milton Berle & wife Ethel Merman, along with the expert hijinks of Jonathan Winters, Sid Caesar & wife Edie Adams, Phil Silvers, Dick Shawn, Paul Ford, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney and many more.

It strikes me there’s nothing expert at all in MacKenna’s Gold aside from maybe a knife vs belt duel between Sharif and Peck (he’s helped by Camilla) — attractively choreographed, probably worked out themselves. No thanks to Foreman or Thompson. Note that this takes place between two other pointless pieces of business: climbing up a sheer thousand foot cliff, then climbing down again to fetch their horses. Maybe I should have left my teen illusions of a classic western intact…

MOVIE REVIEW — SCREEN WRITING: SCREWING OVER BETTER WRITERS

In film, literature, television on August 16, 2011 at 11:44 pm

This theme has been brewing in me for a while. How to explain to screen fans what good writing is? It is not George Lucas in Stars Wars

What sticks in my craw most is two worthwhile actors like Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law lending their talents to what is supposedly meant to be a Sherlock Holmes movie. Arthur Conan Doyle is not considered on the highest level of writers, rather among the best of the “nonserious” writers. But he was among the greatest mystery/detective writers and went to a great deal of trouble to create a character who is still the most memorable of all sleuths — Sherlock Holmes. Try looking for him in this latest film, which will corrupt the character for an entire generation of film-watchers wanting to know who Sherlock Holmes is.

Maybe to this and recent generations it doesn’t matter — just like the dumbed-down cardboard-cutout portrayals over the past 20 years of the original 1966-69 Star Trek characters. The original writers were thinking people who came from theatre and the Golden Age of Television in the Fifties and early Sixties. They knew what it was to conceive and create characters and genuine Science Fiction concepts and relate them to reality. The line between Science Fiction and soap opera fantasy is the difference between Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock and whoever it is playing a cutesie nonhuman called “Data” in that more recent series and the banal lines Data is called on to utter and the faces he pulls.

Since I began this piece, so-called writers of the screen have gone far past the point of even trying to maintain a facade of integrity or nodding acquaintance with creative truth. A prime example of this is Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter — which poses that the 16th president of the United States had not nearly enough on his plate and trained himself up to Ninja standard with a silver axe, all the better to slay those pesky vampires that are everywhere these days, and apparently always have been. Worse, this turns out to be merely one of a series that has old Honest Abe concerned with everything but preserving The Union and freeing the slaves.

Marvel Comics and their many modern colleagues must be licking their lips at the trend to breaking all fidelity with character and the coming bonanza in modern art, as a steroid-pumped Albert Einstein travels forward in time to take on and lock biceps with The Terminator; Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela team up to use their native arts to quell the next rise of the zombies; and Stephen Hawking rides forth on his nuclear-powered wheelchair to deal to a werewolf pack — the evil ones not the good ones.

BOOK REVIEW — BEATLES BOOK: Can’t Buy Me Love

In celebrity, literature, music on August 1, 2009 at 12:54 am

Can’t Buy Me Love by Jonathan Gould (Piatkus, 2007) is one of those religious books about the Beatles that starts from a standpoint of unquestioning admiration for the Liverpool pop group and ends in total devotion, as in devout worship of a single entity, monotheism. And they were a single entity, as proven by their desultory solo careers in the post-Beatle era, when none of them could foot it for creativity and cohesive output without Brian Epstein to push them along and producer/arranger George Martin to fill in the many gaps in their songs and make each one into a finished product.

In this 400-page love letter to an act, nay, an industry easy to endorse — Didn’t they sell the most records? — Gould doesn’t let tweaking of facts and half-truths stand in the way of a good myth that rates in commercial potency with Harrypottermania and Lord of the Rings, and matches them too in fictional blarney. My question is, Why even bother to write such a book when the Beatle legend has already been so insidiously planted and firmly cemented in people’s minds over the past forty years as the be-all-and-end-all of the Sixties?

The Beatles, mid 1964: The Beach Boys had already proven themselves far and away ahead of The Fab Four by self-producing the single 'I Get Around'/'Don't Worry Baby', released in May.

The Beatles, mid 1964: The Beach Boys had already proven themselves far and away ahead of The Fab Four by self-producing the single 'I Get Around'/'Don't Worry Baby', released in May.

Gould’s total lack of imagination or enterprise in even choosing a relevant title — after all, he doesn’t spend much time covering the Beatles’ Hamburg sojourn when the Beatles did buy themselves ‘love’ from the Reeperbahn prostitutes — reminds me of the pathetic titles chosen by Television New Zealand whenever it wanted to screen a retrospective on the Sixties in general: All You Need is Love, Hello — Goodbye … All done because everyone knows a Beatle title will sell more product.

Among the many fictitious assertions made by Gould in a superficial book are several I have selected in relation to the Beach Boys, the acknowledged Sixties mainstream rivals to the Beatles. I explore these since the American group is one I have studied in depth: see my book Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music.

Assertion 1) — “Brian Wilson accounted for nine tenths of the talent of the Beach Boys”–Gould contrasting them with the supposedly uniformly, mega-talented Beatles.

This is bizarre. Has Gould heard nothing of the immense composing, producing and blues-singing talent of Dennis Wilson? The singing, composing and producing of Carl Wilson? The culturally-relevant lyric-writing and universally-admired bass voice of Mike Love? Al Jardine had measurably more creative and performing talent than Ringo, whose ‘singing’ of lead vocals has been a politely overlooked though glaring debit in the Beatles column.

Assertion 2) — Brian Wilson’s voice wasn’t in the same class as Paul McCartney’s.

McCartney was adept at imitating a rock’n’roll screech — as taught to him by Little Richard. He had a sweet but bland voice on ballads. As for expressiveness and purity, and genuine versatility in turning his voice to any mood, Wilson takes the nod hands down.

Assertion 3) — Brian Wilson’s songs were characterised by “cloying sentimentality.”

Gould doesn’t know the difference between pure emotion expressed in music, in which Brian Wilson is surpassed by no one in mainstream music, and the Beatles’ cloyingly sentimental ‘luv’ cliches regurgitated from Music Hall. McCartney cites his father, a music hall musician, as his major formative influence.

and maybe the most ludicrous statement of all:

Assertion 4) — By 1966 the Beach Boys’ level of production, arrangements and group singing had almost caught up with “the innovations of the Beatles.”

This one sentence contains at least five blatant untruths that I can name and refute:

a) The Beach Boys produced their own recordings from early 1962 on — therefore were ahead of the Beatles in production from the start. This was readily apparent by the time of Surfin’ USA, Surfer Girl and Be True to Your School/In My Room in 1963 and became bleedin’ obvious the following year with I Get Around/Don’t Worry Baby and Little Honda/Wendy. According to the people who recorded the Beatles, including George Martin and Norman Smith, the Beatles continually clamored for the recording technicians to get more of an American sound, i.e. similar to the Beach Boys, Motown, etc–not the other way round. b) The Beatles didn’t produce their records — George Martin did. According to Parlophone/EMI recording engineer Norman “Hurricane” Smith the Beatles barely listened to their own recordings — didn’t even wear earphones in the recording booth. c) The Beatles didn’t arrange their songs — George Martin did, and according to Martin they knew almost nothing about non-rock’n’roll instruments. d) This is laughable. When did the Beatles ever dare to expose their ‘group singing’ via a-cappella? — as the Beach Boys did on occasions from the start. e) What innovations did the Beatles themselves introduce, except watering down rock’n’roll, country music, Eurocafe ballads, etc, etc, and turning around the rock direction of Motown, Atlantic, Vee-Jay, Philles, the Beach Boys, to bring back songs from musicals like ‘Til There Was You’, ‘A Taste of Honey’.? By the end of 1966 their music was more and more electronic, deserted by George Martin to leave a novice electronics wiz in charge of their recording.

MEDICAL REVIEW — THE THERAPEUTIC EFFECT OF ARTISTIC ACTIVITY FOR PSYCHIATRIC SURVIVORS

In anthropology, art, literature, music, politics, psychology/psychiatry on March 21, 2008 at 2:41 am

By G. A. De Forest, presented 4th October 2007 at the ‘Planting the Seeds’ Conference, Wellington, New Zealand

Artistic endeavours are one of the few ways people enmeshed (and often emotionally entombed) in the mental health system feel free to express themselves on their own terms. That is, if the artistic effort is not closely monitored by an NGO [‘non-governmental organization’, in the form of a charirable trust, incorporated society or business that is deemed to be providing services for mental health ‘consumers’]. There are cases of NGOs appropriating the work of ‘their’ artists for promotional or other purposes without asking permission of the artist or even attributing the work to the artist. An attitude of such disrespect would not be tolerated towards artists in the commercial world outside the mental health system, where an artist’s intellectual property is definitely his or her own—created by the artist and owned by the artist, morally and legally.

Comedian Spike Milligan -- might have been lobotomised in the South Pacific for his irreverent bipolarism

Comedian Spike Milligan -- might have been lobotomised in the South Pacific for his irreverent bipolarism

The aloneness of the dedicated artist, especially an eccentric one, is emphasized in a society where the Pacific priorities of family and wider social hierarchy are highlighted and conformity and ‘team play’ are foremost. The lumping together of culture and heritage in the same government ministry has cemented tradition as a prime societal objective, when the genuine artist might have as his goal to change culture and damn heritage. Overtones everywhere of cultural-political correctness and the economic importance of the tourist trade make it plain that to be exhibited in Te Mana, our national showcase to the world, is to make it big in New Zealand’s contemporary art world.

Too frequently clients are fed a diet of conformity by providers in the guise of helping. A wounded psyche, already disinclined to complain for fear of some backlash from the system, is encouraged to ‘think positively’. Genuine and deeply held opinions may be brushed aside as symptoms of the person’s condition by staff—who may lack a great deal less insight about life, about the possibilities and potential of the mind, and about simple person-to-person ethics.

This problem has unfortunately not been eliminated by including more and more ‘highly functioning’ former clients among staff, who are often picked for well developed logical functioning and who perform administrative tasks competently and efficiently but might understand little of the artistic process. Moreover, for fear of being seen as ‘a little loopy’ themselves by health authorities, many tend to err on the side of conservatism. The phenomenon of the professionally distanced client advisor or peer supporter is a recognized problem. Just as there are cases of ‘supporting’ NGOs exploiting their artistic clients, so there is no shortage of former clients, now staff, who censor their own kind for fear of being thought of as a collaborationist in nonconformity. It can be seen, then, that artistically inclined clients are stuck in an environment where opinions and emotions unpopular in society at large might be better expressed through fictional works, visual imagery and music.

I have learnt from experience as a writer that an article telling the unvarnished truth—with first-hand facts and statistics to back it up—should probably not be circulated within the so-called ‘The Consumer Movement’ (which actually shows very little if any movement). The result can very easily be vilification, even victimisation. A ‘nonfiction’ writer wanting to be heard by other mental health clients should go into satire, where the names and specific situations are changed to protect the guilty; or preferably fantasy, where the creative spirit is allowed free rein and there is no real risk of a backlash rebounding on a sensitive individual with the anguish that can cause.

Salvador Dali, super-eccentric Spanish painter

Salvador Dali, super-eccentric Spanish painter

The therapeutic effects of a healthy fantasy life have long been recognised as far back as Freud and beyond. These fantasies, however frowned upon in polite conversation, are of course essential to the human condition. Most are safely tucked away in dreams, even daydreaming. It is the dedicated artist’s job to bring them up from the unconscious and expose them to daylight, where in art form they are allowed to be openly appreciated—though no matter how skilful and insightful, even inspirational, still the artist might be the butt of disparaging remarks from those who have no insight into their own human condition.

It is no wonder that music in whatever form is the most universal of all pastimes—either performing or listening. Its rhythms were first engendered in the womb from our mother’s heartbeat, and after birth our mother’s tone of voice—hopefully singsong baby talk—assures us that all is right with the world. A baby learns to sing—wordless tunes in pure music—long before it learns to talk. In times of stress through teenagerhood and full adulthood what better resource to turn to when the world around us seems to be spiralling into chaos? It is no wonder, either, that many of the most ground-breaking musicians and other artists have been victims of mental disturbances—and found that artistic activity was their one reliable outlet and friend in times of real crisis.

Too often thrown back on their own inner resources, the artistic client must maximize both the quantity and quality of his creative time. For visual artists and writers this will inevitably mean more solitary time—which could create problems of its own if taken to extremes. For performance artists it means more time socialising in their most rewarding activity, generating much-needed feelings of wellbeing. For all, the time spent engaged in their chosen field will usually bring a feeling of satisfaction, often at least moderate pleasure and sometimes elation, even ecstacy. Hence the well-known catchall term for the creative process: The Agony and the Ecstacy.

It is a paradox that onset of serious mental symptoms leaves a person less inclined to perform music, while driving oneself to vocalise or play his or her instrument could very well act to somewhat relieve a depressive mood. It is in this way that structured daily sessions provided in various arts and crafts by NGOs alleviates the need for a high level of motivation on the part of the participant. Once in the class the creative instinct takes over and the therapeutic value gained will be related to how much is put in.

The generally high and in some instances exceptional standard of art works seen regularly at exhibitions sponsored by Auckland NGOs can be matched by those who choose to remain totally independent of umbrella organisations or attend ‘brushing-up’ classes to hone their skills and share fellowship with other artists. The proportion of visually creative people (and other artists) making up mental health clients as a whole must surely exceed that of the general population. Many completed art school as young people only to suffer a serious breakdown interrupting their career. The slow and often painful return to art brings their life back on course to where it should have been, and the return of competence in their chosen field boosts confidence greatly.

The emergence of worthy singer-songwriters from the ranks of mental health clients, some gaining national attention and acclaim, has been perhaps the most impressive success in the arts. Among those less musically gifted, informal vocal and instrumental groups allow essential expression of primal emotions. It is obvious, from observing the dynamics of an informal musical group coordinated by myself, that simply expressing oneself musically is a freeing experience, enabling a quantum leap into a deeper mental and spiritual personal state than, say, polite conversation, even among friends. Someone who has been almost totally silent during a social gathering for two hours immediately previous, will burst forth with torrents of forceful communication. It is a painful paradox then, at least for performance artists, that they feel least like singing or playing when they are going through a bad patch. It is then that friends and supporters should guide them back into their art to reintroduce and sustain a habit of self-therapy.

For the visual artist, it can easily be imagined that the first stroke of paint on canvas brings forth creative possibilities. There is a fast rush of creation stimulated by the activity itself. On the second and third strokes more ideas suggest themselves and on the fourth and fifth maybe already a pattern is emerging. A direction steadily coelesces into a theme, or the work is finally abandoned. But either way the stimulation of higher mental processes has brought many hours of hopefully undistracted, undiluted spiritual pleasure for the artist. Any wider appreciation by friends, supporters, recognition by the mental health community, even general public, are bonuses which can boost general confidence but does not match the ultimate high: the very act of creation.

It has been said that the future of the world depends on its most creative, free-thinking individuals; certainly not those living by ‘the rules’ and striving for consensus. If this is true—and I believe it is, it is a shame that more research has not been done into the higher workings of the mind.

The Thing About Writing

In Humor, literature on December 11, 2007 at 11:51 am
A resolute G. A. De Forest (Garbonza) intent on writing to the end

A resolute G. A. De Forest (Garbonza) intent on writing to the end

… Is that you’ve just got to keep going. Only beginners or fakes ever plead “writer’s block” to explain lack of motivation, absence of ideas or sheer amateurism. With modern word processors and computers, no longer is the old cliched image of the tortured soul tapping away at the keys on his typewriter, stopping frustrated after a few words, tearing the page away, screwing it up and throwing it in the trash can next to his special “writer’s desk” even comical. It just doesn’t apply, and serious writers would always have found that chronically constipated tragi-comic figure impossible to relate to anyway.

There’s no choice, if you’re truly compulsive about it like a real writer must be. In the supposed lag period after one book has been published and beginning another book there must be no lagging at all but simple continuity. A ‘vacation’ away from writing for me is more like torture. I’ve tried it before and it feels like my life has been put on hold. Always, by the second day, I am taking notes, writing passages, sample dialogue… The day after I completed my book, making the final touches to a 450-page monster that had been ten years in the researching, developing, writing, rewriting, editing and formatting, I was setting about polishing up projects I had put on the backburner for years, in various states of development. The project that was nearest completion I decided should take a back seat for now.

My thing is I like to, like many people, order the world around me to understand it better. And I do this by drawing up lists, seeing patterns in those lists and pointing out inconsistencies. This has long been just a hobby of mine: drawing up popularity lists of old movie stars; biggest-earning movies under each year of release; biggest-earning stars from whatever era; best songs, or songs I can remember from my childhood under various years. I can distinctly remember recordings that came out and were popular before my third birthday. When I mention these, other people assume I am a lot older than I am — I suppose because they most often remember songs from their high school era. Or maybe I do look older because I’m worn out from the frustrations and worries of being a writer, trying to do justice to the calling, and being distracted by normal everyday life intruding.

Years ago I figured out how to make my hobby into a profession of sorts — at least a vocation — and started writing pieces about pop culture history. Now it’s expanded into other interests, like philosophy and morality. Currently, I am planning and outlining a ‘top 10’ list of things that are wrong with the world, on which to base a book. It’s not exactly an original idea, but I’ll do it for my own piece of mind, just to make my own order from the world. There is always the hope, I think, for a serious writer, that if it is sufficiently well written and readable — and engages a sizable public — he might change the world in some way. I’m a pretty contented sort of guy, actually a little complacent now that my first major book has been published, but under the momentum of my compulsion there is no doubt I will generate enough material to fill out a book of a hundred pages or so. Look for it by the middle of 2008.

When Reality Strikes: One More Midlife Crisis

In celebrity, Humor, literature, philosophy on December 3, 2007 at 11:00 pm
G. A. De Forest in his study/junk room, January 2009

G. A. De Forest in his study/junk room, January 2009

When I reach a certain age, I keep telling myself, I will be able to accept all that life sends me with equanimity — that is, with a balanced attitude, in a state of zen-like indifference. My spirit will be whole, highly developed and impervious to any petty slights of this material world. Doesn’t seem to work that way. My experience in having my first real book published has delivered me more ups and downs in a few weeks than any other single year of my life.

There is nothing to compare with the sheer exhilaration of being accepted by a publishing company — in this case an e-publisher — who tells you they reject more than 90% of submissions. It was the first time since leaving school and doing particularly well in a few university papers and assignments — and that was thirty years ago — that I was told I was in the top 10-percentile in ANYTHING. Former lovers please note. This was acceptance, even praise, in the grown-up world, which — maybe because so long coming — has to count for more than a teacher’s opinion/encouragement of a student.

Quickly following this was great support from friends; the usual misunderstanding/ misinterpretation by family members; then the welcome distraction of getting the cover designed; tweaking the text until it’s just right; finding out the 15-page index I’d just compiled painstakingly has to be ‘automated’ (still don’t know what that is and don’t think I ever will) and so is left out, with an appendix too I thought was rather key.

But proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating — which might have been relevant if I wasn’t doing a book, because not many people want to taste my pudding. Of a potential readership of around six and a half billion on the planet — most of whom seem to have been captured by J K Rowling with seemingly very little effort or signs of outstanding skill or originality — it is amazing the near unanimous consensus they seem to have come to in staying away from my book.

I’ve come to the realisation that when ego is involved — and I do have one — and as long as one considers oneself even marginally a social being and is therefore striving for and dependent upon positive feedback and reinforcement of your efforts from fellow beings, then one is always somewhat at the mercy of likeminded people and market forces: likeminded people for that essential reinforcement of spirit and purpose; the market for some reassurance that one’s book isn’t being bought just by friends. Always in the knowledge that the market for ebooks tends to be hogged by bestsellers with names like ‘Boys Have Penises; Girls Have Vaginas’ and ‘Your Parchese Evening: 101 Ways to Success ‘.

“BEACH BOYS vs BEATLEMANIA: Rediscovering Sixties Music”

In celebrity, Humor, literature, music on November 29, 2007 at 5:07 am

garydeforest

Garbonza is proud to announce that after many years in labor his imagination has borne fruit in a 448-page, 1lb 2oz book, name of BEACH BOYS vs BEATLEMANIA: Rediscovering Sixties Music. It includes a Foreword by Fred Vail, the legendary Beach Boy promoter and manager through the 1960s.

It’s not only about the two groups mentioned but about how we see the world and the fact that the best is not always recognized, never mind rewarded — even how history has been changed by the mass media, by the mass media making itself the news. A whole lot of other great (and not so great) bands, girl groups and solo acts of the period are mentioned in context as well as detailed in separate chapters.

The book is available from November 27th 2007 (that’s 36 hours ago — and how come no one has bought it yet?) at Booklocker.com for a very reasonable $19.95 paperback and $8.95 download copy. It is listed under the pseudonym G. A. De Forest as author: Garbonza is loathe to attract the undoubted ensuing opprobrium to himself in taking on such a controversial subject. Who dares to unseat the Beatles from their bogus 40-year reign? Garbonza, he answers modestly.

Make sure you read the two free sample chapters first — there are eight more you have to pay for, probably in multiples, for those Xmas-New Year gifts. Also, the freight gets cheap if you buy more than one copy of the paperback.

See my book published November 2007, ‘Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music’, available from Booklocker.com (offices and printers in London and Bangor, Maine) and Amazon outlets everywhere including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Japan.

Be sure to tune in for a future post, which will include excerpts from reviews of the book written by reputable magzines in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and my beloved Italy.

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