Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Desk Landscape Aug 2010

My writing landscapes over the last few years, and the last few books. If you feel like sending us a pic of yours, we'd love to include it on the blog. I find writer's rooms fascinating, in fact all artist's spaces are interesting to me.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Culture Diaries - Guest Post Clare DeVries

Clare Floyd DeVries is an architect, a collage artist, an award-winning theater set and production designer, and, in her extra time, sometimes she writes a bit… She lives in Texas, USA.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

This morning I procrastinated writing my creative-process book by visiting the 2Dgoggles website.  These steampunk-comics feature the crime fighting duo Lady Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage.  In the latest episode street music is criminalized, evil is an organist, and there are not-so-flying monkeys.

More fun than honest toil!  And that’s before I built the on-line Thaumatrope kit.

This slacking was interrupted by my scenic design apprentice.  He’s been designing but wants to learn more so has voluntarily – for free! – apprenticed himself.  Ambitious.  Flattering too.  I have no formal theater training either, but with a hundred + shows and architecture…  I guess he figures I can give hints, if only of the “don’t make my mistake” kind.  He brought sketches for “Noises Off!”  Staging it is tricky in his theater as the proscenium is too short to fit a two-story set under.  Not just fit under, rotate-under, so audience sees front and back!
I gave architect-y advice on squashing and building this monster.  Afterwards,
a happy hour with books on Tudor half-timbered houses.

Finished notes on a new play, “Charm” by Kathleen Cahill, about Margaret Fuller and the Transcendentalists - mostly hanging out at Walden Pond.  A few scenes will be tough at Kitchen Dog Theater, which has no proscenium.  Would my apprentice switch theaters?  More research and scribble-y sketches for a first meeting with the director.

The director liked most of my ideas and had interesting angles.  A good start.  This is going to be a weird and wonderful production… all blues and watery colors except that RED tomatoes may become strangely important. 

Home late - no dinner though I got desert - to hear that the director of “Bach at Liepzig” (my other show a-building) called, but will leave an email.  Dread.


No email yet.  Continuing dread.

Sent 2Dgoggles link to the “Charm” director.  Margaret Fuller and Ada Lovelace were near contemporaries - fun to meet them at the same dinner party!

Finally got that email, a line in the rehearsal report: “Can we darken the set?”  Which I’d intended as we move from base to finish paint.  Wasted dread.  The best kind.

Attended an architectural lunch on designing theater and music performance spaces.  Cool bit: electronic systems exist that can mimic the resonance of a huge symphony hall in even a small, acoustically “dead” room.

Spent much of the day repairing the horn of a borrowed Victrola (a prop in an earlier show) so I can return it.  A passenger in my car unknowingly shoved his seat back into it - like exploding a lily!  As I glued, I re-watched Firefly, Joss Whedon’s fun western-in-space TV show.

Shopped for fabric to use in “Bach at Liepzig” but the only stuff I liked – right colors, period, and ecclesiastical look - was 20 $/yd.  18 $/yd too much.

Gossiped with a friend about the mass exit of the prop dept.from Dallas’s Big Important Theater.  She’s going to try for one of those jobs.  Is this wise?

Watched Anthony Hopkins’ Wolfman on DVD.   Melodramatic and needlessly gory.  Plus you’d think a werewolf would dust his evil estate a little.


Emailing with “Charm” director as ideas percolate.  The playwright mentioned Rousseau’s paintings.  Wonderful.  Also need to investigate 19th C botanical illustrations: I’m thinking giant ferns…  Finished Victrola repairs - gold spray paint the last step.

This afternoon I head for Fort Worth, stopping at fabric warehouses.  I hope to help paint the set – at any rate I’ll miss rush hour which turns the drive from one hour into two.  Chat with builders; paint or visit the Kimbell (the great museum by Louis Kahn housing Old and newer Masters); dinner; 6:30 production meeting. 


Leap in the car after discovering the producer expected me first thing in the morning.  Skipped fabric stores.  Gave up listening to Joyce’s Ulysses in the car as the sound is weird – it gets softer and softer while Ulysses needs all the clarity it can get.  Arrived to Circle Theatre at noon.  Consulted with carpenters and painter.  Scumbled: painted three shades of stone color together slap-slap-slap to create a lively wall finish.  BIG improvement on the pale base paint.  It also adds virtual depth to replace real depth lost in revisions.  Sword-fighters demand so much room!

Carpenters gossiped about their Big Local Theater… heading straight for the Hot Place.  Early pizza with writing.  Then the meeting - short - the best kind.
All is well until I got back to my car.  I’d brought the Victrola in case I got a chance to return it and the August day’s heat (104 F outside, hotter inside) slowly exploded it again!  Like a banana unpeeling itself.

I could weep.  I really could.

At home, to calm myself I read a chunk of D. E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle.  
A quiet village spinster writes a best-seller with her fellow villagers in it – funny.  British writers between the wars (WWI & II) often give the soothing feeling of an innocent time pressed between the pages like violets.  Bad stuff going on elsewhere, but within their books is a kinder world.  True even of the classic murder mystery writers: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngio Marsh, and Josephine Tey.  Her Bratt Farrar is my top favorite.


Did visit fabric stores. Found just enough tapestry and coordinating fabric:
1.50 $/yd!  Frabjous day!  Plus wonderful shimmery, watery green sheers for “Charm” (bed hangings, I think), but I had to splurge: 2 $/yd.

Listened to Michael Chabon’s Summerland in the car (lots of driving).  Love this quirky save-the-worlds quest.  There is a lovely description of baseball as a contraption to make you pay attention to a summer’s afternoon.

The painter and I finished the “Bach” set.  Looks good.  One area is now possibly too dark, but since that’s not easily adjustable, it will have to do.

Saw the new Julia Roberts film, Eat, Pray, Love; pretty scenery, not a lot of plot. 

Read a book on how to get your non-fiction book published.  This involves more “building your platform” (website, blog, tweets, public speaking, getting on radio and TV, becoming World Expert etc.) than I’d imagined.  Naively, I thought you had to write a good book.


Wrote on my non-fiction book – silly waste of time when I should be tweeting!

Watched Peter Sellers' Pink Panther.  Still very funny with masterful physical gags, but movies are cut to a faster pace 40 years later. 


Library books overdue.  Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit may make the fine worthwhile, however.

Prep for an architectural programming meeting tomorrow.  A civic theater may relocate and I’m helping evaluate buildings.  First we have to learn their space and function needs.  Their existing building is too rambling to make a good guide, so I’m making square foot comparisons.  And agendas.  Agendum?  Agendi?

Procrastinating re: Victrola repair to write this.  What else can I do?  Email my apprentice about Tuesday.  Museum field trip?  Book store?  Too hot for outdoor sketching: it’s 103 F, I think, again today.

Reading Carl Hiaasen’s Stormy Weather.


Spent most of the day prepping for the architectural meeting.

Spent most of the meeting arguing local politics re: this project...
…almost none discussing the (wonderful!) potential of a new facility.  I think I can design something special, but am now sure politics will get in the way.  Sigh. 

Looking forward to tomorrow: a nice quiet day of Victrola repair.  And designing “Charm.”   Life is good at my drawing board…  

If you are a creative, ie. A writer, artist, musician, film-maker, photographer, actor, reader etc and would like to contribute your cultural diary as a guest post, please get in touch with us through the main website. Please have a good read round first to be clear about the ethos of the sites.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Cheeks on Dr Laura

All this talk of cultural input has me yearning for some wise words from the spiky, sarcastic, but always humane CHEEKS and his very mobile face and voice.. - Thanks to Jane Espenson to introducing me to the Cheeks phenom..

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Brain Salad Thoughts

Pic by Frank Chimero 
'the moon's an arrant thief, and her pale fire she snatches from the sun' -
'Timon of Athens' - Bill Shakespeare
'A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.' - George Bernard Shaw
Keep your friends close, and keep your enemies on Facebook – Anon

Is no one interested in Literature & Art for  the ART, rebellion, humanity, struggle, sex, meaning, understanding, reflection, passion, exploring the relation between light and dark, and achievement anymore? Are they just part serving of the economy? Is this what lives are worth now?
(After weeks, months, years of following the so called culture debate, there are some very basic questions to answer)
I love the road and the people you meet on it. If someone would have told me when I was just starting to write of the adventures ahead, it would have seemed like some kind of myth from someone else's life..
The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time unlike, say, brain surgery. Robert Cormier
priest's hole

Monday, 2 August 2010

The Culture Diaries - Guest Post by Nicolas Vayle

Nicolas Vayle aka Wytchcroft is a lower case valley dweller, frequent scribbler, sometime mentor and tutor and occasional storyteller and closet slide guitarist who has been found lurking on the Internet since the heady days of compuserve and the Lit forums of the early 90s. Please send medicinal doses of whiskey, codeine and cigarettes to Wytchcroft

Thursday Jul 29
Went to the library to use the computers. Typical me I went to the wrong town on the wrong day and the library was closed.
So… I flapped about the town for a while before coming to rest at a second hand bookshop. Struck gold with replacement copies of Vurt by Jeff Noon (funny, I haven’t thought of Jeff and the Manchester mob for a while, not even when I went to see Peter Hook recently – which was a riot), The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (and I’m still hunting for the movie on dvd or a rip at least) and Shakespeare’s Pericles. I’ve always been drawn to the play of Pericles and lately I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a puppet adaptation.
Arriving back in The Village (that is home) I went to the local library and uploaded some content to my live journal – the diary from last week which was my first attempt for John’s blog here.
Spent the evening at a friend’s house – playing guitar and croaking about. She is a warbler, I am a croaker. She wins no contest. Felt a bit guilty because my friend plays and sings a lot of folk type stuff – and I’m on a big Joe Meek kick right now. Not a circle easily squared.
Something must be bubbling in my subconscious because later at home I dug out my dvd of Jarman’s The Tempest and watched it in rapture.

Friday 30
This is the way my ideas clot:
Dream last night was interesting – mad mix of Angela Carter and Pericles, might be useful material for a story or some kind of writing piece anyway.
 In the play, Pericles loses his wife to the ocean. Apparently dead, she washes up on the beach at Ephesus and is brought to the attention of Lord Cerimon a healer and magician. Miraculously she awakes and is then cared for by him and his household. Eventually he reunites her with the grief stricken Pericles. For some reason one simple line from the play kept booming around in the wind, in the dream, “How fresh she looks! They were too rough who threw her in the sea.”
I think my mind was associating Cerimon with Derek Jarman and his late period flotsam/Jettsam art.
Now though I’m haunted by the idea of the sleeping figure awaking under the eyes of the eccentric Cerimon. In the play this resurrection is almost immediate but there is a gap of time before the eventual reunion. In either case there is time enough for some sort of dynamic, some sort of relationship to have formed. Carter would have made Cerimon a minor Prospero with the mad inventive skills of her Dr Hoffman or Phillip the puppeteer from The Magic Toyshop.  Thaisa as sleeping beauty, as reluctant marionette. Would Pericles then represent freedom – to return to the husband and the old life? I doubt it. Carter would have never settled for that, not without some sort of friction, some sort of twist.
Spent the morning listening to an audio version of The Tempest starring Ian Mckellen.
“He bears a tempest which his mortal vessel tears and yet he rides it out.” Pericles Act iv scene iv.
Back to the library to check my emails and responses to the journal post.
Went to the Bookshop and ordered a copy of Like by Ali Smith which is the only book of hers I have yet to read. She has such an economical and pellucid style of writing – something I always admire in other writers, Amelie Nothomb for example. Talking favourite authors, I noticed there’s a new edition of Jane Bowles’ Two Serious Ladies and Ali Smith has written the blurb. A neat coincidence.
Home - and needing an Olivia Williams fix I watched Rushmore again. Sigh.

Saturday 31
Picked up a cinema brochure for August. Lord o’merci - whole buncha French movies coming along I notice. The Gainsbourg bio might be fun – but I can’t imagine it without thinking that Charlotte should play Jane Birkin, Andrew Birkin should be the director and the whole thing should be some sort of associational sequel to The Cement Garden. I now have ‘Rock around the Bunker’ lodged in my head… can’t exactly get away with that in the shop so I’ll play Charlotte’s IRM album instead, the new one with Beck, J’adore. If I keep the volume low enough no/one will notice how scarifying it is.
Anyway, the cinema, I very much want to see White Material the new Claire Denis picture starring the extraordinarily intense Isabelle Huppert.
Huzzah! Some cds in the post – I asked a friend to grab some of the internet radio stuff I’m really missing, the various Firefly related podcasts, RiotGrrl Radio and the sci-fi themed DJs from DigitalMeltdown. I grew up listening to pirate radio so the Net feels like a natural extension of that. I don’t really do terrestrial but Radio 4 has a fantastic series just now using old court transcripts to examine the lives of those illiterate working class adults and children otherwise considered lost to history. Hearing these people ‘speak’ so directly about themselves, their experiences and the world of their time is a wonderful experience.

Sunday Aug 1
Talking with Jess about art nonsense. She has a new studio space. Told her some of my dream and related ideas and hearing them aloud I was relieved because they didn’t sound too outlandish or hackneyed.
Lent out my copy of the Sigue Sigue Sputnik album to a local shop and watched the workers therein bopping about to that old skool elctro-clash. Time flies like a brick through a window sometimes.
Finished reading The Magic Toyshop. Watched I Monster (starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing) I got it last year as an AVI off a public domain website.

Monday 2
Some interesting conversations on a theme –
Talked to a Guardian journalist about the demands on a writer and I was surprised to hear that copywriters and freelancers (et al) are being flooded with work because there aren’t enough of them. The freelance commercial writers that I know personally have often complained of tight deadlines and heavy workloads but I just thought that was them, somehow.
Later I fell to talking with a woman in town who randomly turned out to be a commercial writer – and they echoed the journalist’s comments completely. I’m still surprised – why are there so few writers? I always assumed there were too many!
My brother is actually a copywriter (based in London); I’ll have to interrogate him on the subject ASAP.
In the meantime however, I have the lurgy to contend with. Some kind of virus thing and it feels like I swallowed a stapler. So, lemon and honey, pain killers and comfort viewing for me then! The Jane Austen Book Club, Ghostworld, Godzilla flicks and Black Books here I come!


If you are a creative, ie. a writer, artist, musician, film-maker, photographer, actor etc and would like to contribute your cultural diary as a guest post, please get in touch with us through the main website. Please have a good read round first to be clear about the ethos of the sites.