Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The space race

Or, possibly, claymation masturbation.  Either way, it's all poetry.

I've been invited to take part in an email poetry exchange, for which I have to summon up twenty friends.  Well, my email address book is packed with acquaintances, business contacts, addresses beginning 'info' or 'help', and so on, but I've struggled to find twenty email-able friends for whom poetry doesn't involve a marker pen and a toilet wall.  I know it's essentially a chain letter thing, which sit in one of Dante's circles of Hell somewhere between avarice and Donald Trump, but, hey, it's poetry...

So I'm throwing this open to the planet.

Simply send out an email with the subject line 'Poetry Exchange', following the instructions below - as if the text in bold were the email you've received:

Dear friends,
I'm involved in a collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting poetry exchange.
It's a one-time thing and I hope you would like to participate. 
We have picked those we think would be willing and make it fun.
Please send a poem to the person whose name is in position 1 below (even if you don't know him or her). It should be a favourite text/verse/ meditation/quote. 
Don't agonise over it…

1. Richard Earl

2. Robert Bagnall

After you've sent the short poem/verse/quote/etc. to the person in position 1, and only that person, copy this letter into a new email.
Move my name to position 1, and put your name in position 2 . Only my name and your name should show in the new email. Send it to 20 friends BCC (blind copy). 
If you cannot do this in five days, let us know so it will be fair to those participating.  Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new pleasures. The turnaround is fast, as there are only two names on the list, and you only have to do it once. How nice to receive a load of poetry on a dreary weekday morning!


Robert xx

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Big in Japan - not

Looking at who's looking at me (very postmodern), could somebody tell me why, in the last 48 hours, my blog is suddenly big (relative to its popularity worldwide, which is not very much) in Israel?  Not that it's not great to have you guys along...

(You've managed to push Ukraine down into sixth place, by the way)

Take comfort: they've only got our eyes and ears

Stumbled across this delicious nugget in a review of a biography of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown: "Fashion moved on briefly to the picturesque - a dark wood, a tangled briar, an artificial ruin - but it didn't last: the sublime could only work if it were a real gorge or tumbling waterfall, decreed the tastemakers."

You know those bits in CGI-heavy movies, where the producers try too hard, thinking more-is-more?  That's exactly what they were saying, back in the late 1700s.  You can't fake it: the audience are too intelligent.  There's something innate that makes us bridle, whether it's at an unnaturally natural landscape or one explosion too many at the local World-of-Cine.

Which got me thinking: the film-makers have only got our eyes and ears (and nasal passages and subcuticle nerve endings for those novelty 4-D shows).  And, with those, they're aiming for an emotional impact.  It's a bit like traditional horticulture - hope you've thrown the right rootstock and shrub together to bring the best of the two plants' characteristics together.  But it's essentially trial and error.

Except now we have GMO (which I'm all in favour of) - rather than guess, spot the fundamentals of the plant that give disease-resistance and high-yield and bring them together, minimising the chances of unforeseen consequences.  Pick from a menu with your eyes wide open, rather than play blind man's buff in the hope that you haven't gone for red wine with fish.

What if film-makers could do the same?  Rather than hope the auditory and visual inputs brought the desired emotional outputs, what if they could plug directly into the neurotransmitters (as a sci-fi writer, you'll note that the hokum level in my terminology is rising) that make us laugh and cry.  Saying that 'The end of Casablanca always makes me weep' may eventually turn out to be literally true...

Or will great writing always prevail, and a weak script still be seen for what it is?  Will the audience still see through the smoke and mirrors?  I truly hope so.


In other news, Fuzzy Hedgehog Press have picked up my story 'Where do all the Accountants Come From' for their forthcoming Beyond the Hedge anthology.  Inspired by a throwaway line in Robert McKee's 'Story' about him wanting to write a screenplay about an ageing bank-robber, my tale veers wildly off-piste to take in the Devil in a Laplacian universe.  Which, I don't think, McKee had in mind...