Monday, November 30, 2015

In depth look at physical comedy

"Welcome to the All Fall Down blog, an exploration of all aspects of physical comedy, from the historical to the latest work in the field, from the one-man show to the digital composite, from the conceptual to the nuts & bolts how-to. Be prepared for a broad definition of physical comedy (mine!) and a wide variety of approaches. Physical comedy is a visual art form, so there’ll be tons of pictures and videos, but also some substantial writing and research, including scripts and probably even some books." 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ideas? Suggestions?

I'll preface this by stating I know generally what my problem is. I used to chug along at about 75% creative efficiency. I took my momentum for granted. A series of events took me to 0% and I'm finding it very difficult to move forward.

Now I'm married, cursed, gifted with this car. It was Robert Nelsons and he gave it to me. He was OK with me selling it at some point but I simply can't do that. It's a clown car and I'm not going to shit on it's history and Ju-ju.

I've put over 5 grand into it, New Head, master brake cylinder, headlights, clutch, a complete original spec new floor.

But it sits in a covered garage with it's engine, transmission, radiator and drivetrain out and has done the last 6 months. The new floor panels are in a box beside it and I've paid for their installation. [but that money may need to be allocated to extended garaging fees]

It needs a new transmission, new tires, a new radiator, [the old one works but at about 50% and why not fix it if everything else is cherry?]

It needs a tiny bit of body work for surface rust and a repaint.

Earlier this year I did my last gig in Dubai and then blew out my next gig in Perth due to lost luggage halfway there. Then I had a $5000 gig go south.

These things happen but I was crawling back and only at about 35% of momentum at that point and so for the last 6 months I've been inert.

I'm not short of ideas

*write pieces for performers, gags, scripts etc

* try to get a resort residency

* Market my last book or compile another from my gibbering backlog

* Get gigs. explore new gigs like the hybrid 'circus/variety' module that various go-getters are coagulating towards.

But I'll admit that I'm finding it difficult to produce momentum in a vacuum. All my own fault but that said I'm still looking for help.

Because in six months if I haven't sorted this car out I'm going to offer it to clowns on the mainland or beyond to ship at their expense as the only cost.

And I really don't want to do that. It would hurt me a lot to have so demonstratively failed.

So obviously money by itself is not productive. I'm looking more for some applicable, actionable, no budget ideas and suggestions. I need some support.

Ideas? Suggestions?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The fact of the matter is..

As collective primate cusping interstellar bipeds on a collective rock we should dispense with politics by way of collective digital boolean logic. Good luck applying salt to the slugs.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Steve Reich, Music for Eighteen Musicians - Synergy Vocals - Ensemble in...

I've had about 8-9 hours of it but I'm bucketlisting a 24 hour cumulatitive period  of intrinsic instrospection iframe width 480 height 270 src frameborder 0 allowfullscreen> /iframe>

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Johnny Rotten s Tour of London

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Potential for Evolution of Structured Theater, Street, Stage, Online.


So I'm not what is called a 'digital native'. I've been observing the internet since the beginning.

I remember tell a friend mid 90's that shortly everyone would have their own online diaries. Then blogging happened.

I've known since it's conception that the internet, in street theatre terms, is the newest, largest pedestrian boulevard on the planet.

Similar rules apply, you have to create a stage, create an audience and do a show, traditionally with some semblance of a beginning, middle and end and traditionally a donation would be asked to conclude.

I watched bloggers blog and then vbloggers vblog. Watched the editing that was experimented with. The durations. I'd never witnessed such mindless enthusiasm.

I watched the colonialization of public spaces by street theatre expand in the 80's and 90's then retract as retailers reacted. In the non digital world the street performance meat-space, often lean for all but the best at the best of times has now a anorexic sheen.

I purchased 'IDPAYADOLLARTOSEETHAT.COM' in the 90's sometime. I'm not proud. I make a lot of mistakes.

I knew the long tail benefited clown and variety, I just couldn't find an applicable interface.

Meanwhile Cirque was visual cabaret with a pronounced street theatre mischievousness but another top down corporate paste-maker, a 19 century idea with 21st century budget.

Corporate contrivances brandish ridiculous terms and fees. The US and Britain are shutting down any memory of the public commons. Malls and ...well more malls in high end parts of the planet have acts curated for them by agencies which isn't all bad.

New stages are managed, 'festivals of street theatre' provide welcome harbor.

I wonder to myself.

 Given the manipulation of time and space that lies at the heart of street theatre, and the creation of genuine spontaneous moments of shared comic discovery that provides the fuel for the performer and joy for audiences is what sets it apart from indoor or outdoor cabaret..  

"What is a succinct way to transfer street theatre creativity [ethos] onto the interwebs?"

 "How do you own and operate an online interface that preserves a live atmosphere?"

Here's where I think we could be going.

Shep Huntly put on an international sideshow festival in Ballarat a month or so ago.

It took him two years of work to produce, he got some big name sponsors, did a kickstarter, all the usual graft.

What was most striking to me, in what may be a revolutionary sense, is that he got assistance from a digital crew who had developed their own very interesting online streaming software that replicated a live theater atmosphere.

Tickets were $7, you became one of many icons in rows under the screen, there was an applause button that corresponded with an 'applause-meter' and you could make comments during the show which briefly ballooned from your icon and you can run live polls and get feedback during the show.

Demo here

I paid and went to the premier show and it does have a live event quality to it youtube lacks.

It also has huge, I mean massive potential to reconfigure realisable metrics for sponsorship.

Ballerat has a population of under 100 000, I'm sure the hall was full, just as I'm sure posters went up all over town with the sponsors on it and radio pimped it locally and there were articles written. The usual.

But the potential to gain and maintain loyal online audiences larger than the venue offers for the event itself and also on sponsors behalf I find very intriguing. It's the type of 'crowdbuild' that translates across well.

You produce performance, you attract crowds based on whether you're any good and there's no upper limit to your potential audience.

Amy Saunders show is one that could translate seamlessly for example.

But the applications are wide. Outdoor shows could work as well as indoor.

Shep's advantage was he was working with the original crew who developed this. Technically they had many years experience but this things still in it's infancy.

But, given some consultancy with them built into your budget, and camera-people and a real time streaming editing unit there's no way you couldn't rent out your local hall, sell tickets internationally as well as locally and then have a cast of epic proportions come visit you and put on a show that was economically viable.

I'm investigating possibilities to achieve what has always been my goal, to convince the worlds best street performers to come hang out in Kona Hawaii for a week or two and put a night or two of shows on.

But even if that doesn't happen I'm posting this so in a couple of years I'll be able to point to it and say "Told you so"

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kabuki meets Punch and Judy meets Disney the Nazi.

What I find hilarious is that the TPP got fast-track this week. Meaning it can't be abridged when it comes before the senate. A corporate rapist bill designed to sodomise all opposition to corporate profit. And the courts also decided this week that the torture report, containing scenes of rape of children since purged by the CIA, will never become public. Thus negating any opportunity for the public to have any say about torture in their name. But the big story this week was one lone convenient political pervert among many. The righteous juice flowed, not only huffing but also puffing transpired. Business as usual. I feel it used to have the dignity of Kabuki, political theatre, but now it's simply a punch and Judy show for indignancy junkies happy with the next cheap fix.


Oh and I can hear what your thinking [if you're like me.] "you are just a recursive whiner sucking of the indignancy teat at a level below the usual simply because you were afforded a classical education like all the other aspiring white middle class males of your generation who puff themselves up on their molehills and beat their chests between trips to Target." Tis true, tis true. However there's this... Good old Ireland, famous for exporting close to diabolically cheerful alcoholism throughout the world and famous also for breeding heavily and sending every runt into the priesthood to fiddle the books or children for voting overwhelmingly to let people of indiscriminate genders commit themselves into unions recognised by the state and the tax dept and divorce lawyers. I will overindulge in the alcoholic porridge you call stout and vomit into the nearest gutter just to proclaim my humility and your moral superiority... and because I need to rationalise my behaviour on a daily basis.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Live streaming arts

Starting in 7 hours the Happy sideshow freak circus, now known as the World Sideshow are performing a premier of their impeccably wry, mischievously ironic and genuinely spectacular show in Australia and are selling internet tickets and streaming the show.

What a grand experiment! Tickets $7

click here  to watch the intro film, buy a ticket and watch the show live.


Monday, May 11, 2015

21st century dangers

It used to be once you hit your bedroom alone you were safe.

now, as every-ones connected to everyone, dependent on RSS or passive facebook spoonfeeding there's the danger of babbling to a presumed audience.

I'm trying to control them but refuse to regret them.

I'm getting on and I have to pay my dues. I have debts that can never be repaid. Bob Maclaren was an early friend, I've known him from teenage on, he cared for me. He would quietly follow me as a friend as I took walks while we were both on tour, about 20 meters behind me just to make sure he could fish me out of whatever suicidal impulse I gave out to. I only recognised this after turning round after a long walk to find him there. It astonished me to have earned a guardian angel. I was a funny guy who never recognised I was loved. Later on Nick Nickolas and I toured NZ and I can remember regretting that if I wasn't heterosexual and we both weren't such smelly pointless fuckups we'd have made a good couple. I lent on people, I've always lent on people. I was unique but I've always needed foils. The street theatre world became my greater foil and I subverted it and succeeded. Nick and Bob admired that however they had either work ethics or larger plans. I just wanted strangers to love me and laugh and it was an easy science. Over decades i realised the laughter of complete strangers only ever brought me back to neutral, which was to me a form of joy. I had no-where else to go but the best friends in the world. You can't imagine having friends who bent the world cheerfully to their ends on a daily basis. My definition was whatever was invested in me was a waste of time. I was a romantic masochist and my friends had their own lives to lead. I would like to acknowledge that they, and many other secondary fellows, are the foundation of what I am today, whatever that's worth. Cheers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What insurance is

The guy who invented insurance was a thin guy who monetized fat to other thin people.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Regarding Bostons Busking Kerfuffle


Faneuil Hall/ Quincy Market has been a busking institution for over 50 years, one of the few American venues.

The latest development is that management want amps down to round 70 decibel level.
A $2500 yearly fee
One stock money line shared and parroted by every performer.

This is both a gambit and a bait and switch. It's been proven in court a number of times I believe that in America it's illegal to charge for busking permits. 

But a Golden Goose is a Golden Goose and freedom of speech means buskers have to let the psychiatrically impaired rant about Brian of Nazareth or beat a cows skull with a succession of pre-frozen squirrels or simply stand on the pitch for 30 mins grinning as they remember their last firm bowel movement. 
That's what Disney and Rocky Balboa enshrined when they wrote the constitution. 

The corporate pros don't like this and the performance pros don't like it either. 
The bait and switch kicks in the moment fees of any sort are applied because at this point, whatever excuse is used it can be very quickly established that performers are performance vendors and as such no better or worse that the other vendors with actual tangibles rather than hooks, stock lines and finale sinkers. 
You are either individuals expressing yourselves in public as the law permits or you are engaged in business and the moment you cough up a fee you are implicitly agreeing that it takes money to make money and lose all those privileges you need to continue the only argument you have. 

The gambit here is pretty straightforward. The $2500 is an initial negotiation position. 
In the wine and coke world of the third tier real estate management world where you have to either throw someone off your balcony who you hadn't previously paid for sex or get a series of articles published about your laughable half-brain and it's interactions with the actual world the ideal way to manage is to use a big broom. 
$2500 is a big broom. 

Fact of the matter is $2500/ $1000/ $500 will leave one or two or three still standing. Those people will bargain the price down, and then move onto the next item on the agenda which is the mind-meltingly absurd idea that everyone use the same cloned hatline like imperial performance stormtroopers some corporate bedwetter surrounded by yes-men and his drug problem thunk up between the inhale and wiping his nose. 
Guy's a genius, a legend in his own bathroom. 
Why not just automate performance? 

So that indicates that some of the hatlines are getting annoying, like bilking annoying, just as the amplification thing indicates the noise levels are getting annoying. 

As much as performers at these high end semi-corporate venues think they can manage each other, they can't, they have no authority, they lean on security who lean on whatever the problem is. 
There are exceptions but in most cases an unregulated envirionment degrades and convulses in a cycle. 
This is obviously a convulsion and the only way to deal is to manage the convulsion. 
The management have gone for an adversarial position. As templated and unimaginative as a third of the street shows that annoy them. 

Far better to embrace the street element and produce a festival that gives locals something to aspire to or copy. 
From our perspective the sad truth is you can't stand on principle if you've given them up for short cash and convenience and from the corps perspective the best of us are a unique feature but outnumbered by selfish shitheads with amps and bad attitudes. 
and so it goes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Feet on the Street: The Grounded People

 Sometimes I see a hedge that's been cut back. It only takes a couple of days before it flowers [here in the tropics]

The Flowers remind me of street theatre, good luck killing a convention older than the Romans.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Dubai, Day Two, Post three, Peer groups.

The prime reason I went to Dubai was to reconnect.

The gig itself had an alarming number of red flags, new market, no contract, first additional request asking if I could fly myself there, payment being 10-15 days after the gig.

Normally most of these, even in isolation, would be enough for me not to bother.
I'll admit I'm a career masochist. I'm proud of my mind melting gigs inflicted from within and without, however variety is key and your ideal trainwreck of a gig should catch you somewhat by surprise rather than being a series of obvious guillotines strewn in your path.

What countered all these misgivings were my peers who all spoke well of the company. Peers are powerful that way.

We are all tribal Apes, street performers form short-term tribes for cash and fee and various over-lapping peer groups form with the performers themselves

Rugged individualism is admired but without social skills no tribe will take you. You offer them nothing.

My peers have all failed more than your average person.
You don't get a reality-manipulating wrinkle-exploiting street show out of a box.
It takes a thousand shows, each containing mistakes made and lessons learnt.
Mistakes that teach us we're at best 49% full of shit rather than the average 51%
Additionally shared pitches and shared focus let you learn via others mistakes as well as your own.
Leaving some of us happy with our success but mindful that ignorance was a constant companion and that life was ongoing.
Man were we ever merciless towards the brittle though. Ego annihilation was the way we shook hands.

Nothing eclipses the rush of bathing in applause.
The best of us recognised that didn't mean much other, with certain tricks, you could reproduce that effect.
The worst of us equated that with a missing childhood nipple and made camp upon that tit to dispense wisdom.
Me? I'm a vacillator, I aspire to be half full of myself.

So end of day three there was a get together, three festivals, three casts, one Irish pub.
Todd Various, Windyman, Jay of the Jay-Show, Gazzo, the Atari show dude from Argentina and myself got there first. Just a knack we have coupled with innate social enthusiam I guess. I bought the first round, Atari didn't care what i chose so I got him a cider, lesson learned, a teachable moment. Know what you want.

The anecdotal olympics began. We joined tables together on the astroturf, there were increasing numbers of us, a pond and a Duck.
I met some new people who's names I've forgotton but who's faces I remember, Stuart, the producer arrived earlyish with his wife and they hung for a modicum before presumably retiring to whatever  lavish batcave middle eastern clients afforded them. [Jesus martin, be nice, BE NICE]

Flying Dutchmen arrived, as did Gavin Hay and the subterraneally droll Kim Potter who's dry wit is so powerful he has to avoid produce sections at supermarkets lest he dehydrate things via proximity.
Chris Lynam, the pent-up-rage-Clown was there, he's mellow in real life. Silver turned up and that was a treat because we worked out we hadn't seen each other in 23 years, [which is just over three generations in clown-years] I gave him a memory he'd forgotten which is always satisfying. Andrew Elliott appeared out of no-where. We had both been weary philosophers decades ago and it was pleasing to see we'd each survived and grown more comfortably into ourselves.

It didn't get messy, it was just a bunch of guys and gals at a bar who'd worked out making your own reality was more fun that renting.
Jovial, pleasant, however this evening was the reason I'd taken the gig and my heart soared like a duck. That's a metaphor, the actual duck was still there and represented if anything insomnia and entitlement and total lack of flying and so was kinda useless.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nick Drake - Fly

 Exceptionally talented and little known

Please give me a second grace
Please give me a second face
I've fallen far down the first time around
Now I just sit on the ground in your way

Now if it's time for recompense for what's done
Come, come sit down on the fence in the sun
And the clouds will roll by and we'll never deny
It's really too hard for to fly

Please tell me your second name
Please play me your second game
I've fallen so far for the people you are
I just need your star for a day

So come, come ride in my street-car by the bay
For now I must know how fine you are in your way
And the sea sure as I but she won't need to cry
For it's really too hard for to fly

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

52nd Birthday of me.

In an hour and twelve minutes I'll be 52.
Who would have thunk.
Having spent my life as an extended adolescent i had no idea I'd make it this far. I longed for some eclectic premature passing that relieved me and inflicted others. I didn't want to be a passive aggressive asshole but recognised it suited me.
A week ago I was jetlagged and homeless between gig A and gig B, which sounds exciting but isn't.
I also ran out of puff somewhere between 46 and 51 and sheltered in the only place that would take me, a rehab center, because while I wanted simply to die, to cease existing, something drove me to seek a solution that involved processing oxygen and perhaps understanding myself better.
So I stopped being curled up in a lava tube in Hawaii with my back to the world trying to starve to death and staggered back into life.
I rescued myself, i went through the hoops hopeless people are allowed and got certified as a poly drug abuser and put into care.
I lived with ex addicts and ex prisoners for two years and then, because I'm fucking special and it's a curse i can barely manage I was employed at the same place to help others.
All this time I ignored all my friends and family. I wasn't sure whether I was technically dead or not.
One person, out of left field, unbidden befriended me. My response was to do that thing I'm gifted with. To expose them and their motivations to themselves. They left me alone for six months. After that we've spoken very day the last 5 years and I now owe them everything.
Because I'm back in the mix. I know what I am and I know who I am and if the world and I don't get on then it's nothing I haven't dealt with already.
It's now 17 minutes before my birthday and in 17 minutes I'm going to dive into the pool and re-emerge a 52 year old. The world is just going to have to deal with that.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dubai- Day two

Jet-lag has bled out. For me it's a three day gig but for most it's approaching the end of a 10 day gig so their rhythm given first shows are late afternoon consists of day adventures, indoor skiing, beaches, highest building venturing, meandering generally.

Experience has taught me that for the first few days in a foreign culture I need to stay quiet and bleed out that invisible green radiation only apparent to vendors, taxi drivers, pimps and pickpockets.

It's hot but meh, about as hot as the coast of the tropical island I live on. [Which is why I live at altitude] and about as hot as Perth in summer so no real drama there.

Only having three days I give up on the touristy aspect and focus on the matter at hand.

Not so much 'How do I construct shows in a marbled retailed colosseum?"

more  " what's the most efficient way to fulfil the clients unspoken brief."

Beginning in Japan, then later China and now the economically exploding middle east, Clowns and Variety performers with a street bent are used in newly constructed commercial ventures as talismans, social fabric softeners and disposable income laxatives to provide morphing generations safer passage between their times passed, where every cent was devoted to the basics in life, to their new condition where non essential spending is encouraged and the purchase of social signifiers and do-dads replaces the prior focuses of three square meals and the education of ones children.

Corporate heads know and bank big on 'quality' being subjective. That's why marketing is the carotid artery of commerce and why it's accepted as reasonable that the $200 tshirt is legitimately $190 more valuable than it's $10 cousin.

Clowns have little to do with this particular hypnotism, we are used at a later stage, our commercial function is to engender corporate loyalty. The people laugh, the people smile, the people get happy memories.......and the people return. The returning is our function and our worth.

So given I'm so articulate one one hand and so professionally mute on the other and given I've refused to be framed into doing 'shows' like an obedient 21st century vaudvillian and given my 11ft reality is a thing unto itself I enjoy a certain freedom. I'm trusted to simply 'do what I do.'

So by day two I'd figured roving and being at atmospheric fixture was one efficient aspect of my function and posing for between 100-150 photos with customers in the mall was the other.

So that's what I did.

I did a tiny bit of corner work, the basis for my street show, but just in passing and just to see if it had potential to be developed. It did but I'd need longer than three days to play with that and still be effective at the other stuff.

Day one I was depressed, combo of jet lag, the constant irritation of concrete dust in the green room and the vague disgust I have for my profession.
But day two I wasn't the least suicidal.

I had been warned that there were young entitled unsupervised brats who knew nothing but bullydom about the place. They were distinct from the sugar saturated brats that are an international fixture, [usually peaking at 4-7pm--the sugar saturation zone as it's known]
No these guys were just brittle young assholes I was told.

I met one on my third set on my second day.
I entered the mall and he swaggered in a belligerent bee-line towards me.
He was big for his age, more fat than muscle and he gave me his best approximation of a dead-eyed stare as he invaded my space.
I stopped, I've been on pegs 30 years now, I can stand still.
The fact that this little shit DARED to try and intimidate me filled me with a sudden rage the strength of a thousand dieing suns. His miniscule imagination would implode with the weight contained in the variety of ways I could fuck him up in that moment.
He sensed something in my contemptuous stare and broke contact and I turned my back on him, compounding my dismissal of him as a threat and walked onto an escalator, upping the stakes, making myself vulnerable but I'd already broken him.

However in reflecting and amplifying his hateful arrogance I had to spend the next three minutes bleeding out his essence, else I became him, which I found interesting.

That was day 2, It contained a social side which came after and I'll leave for the next post.

Advice from producer to festival applicants.

Via David Aikins Buskers hall of fame site.

Kelly Shea writes a piece on some basic rules of thumb.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dubai, day one.

I know nothing about this place apart from my own unfounded prejudices.

I had always thought it evolved via sudden cash influx through it's own cultural perspective.
Like an Amish teenager suddenly given 20% of the worlds currency.

It's very civil and safe, I haven't been here 24 hours yet. It's hot, Perth hot. 100+ degrees daytime [and with first show 4pm-ish I'll have to remember to hydrate bigtime.

Socially there's old and new. I like me my old school peeps.

This mornings buffet had something labelled 'Foul Medamass'  I passed but after the jetlags worn off I may try it tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Packing a sad or spitting the dummy.

A New Zealand idiom is 'To pack a sad'
It means to rave discontented about something.
I think Australians use it too.
Although Australians have their own brilliant idiom for the same thing also.
to 'spit the dummy.'
The inference being that's what a baby does before screaming.
So 'To pack a sad' or 'spit the dummy' same same.

I got a nice friendly letter from a festival person today but I knew better.
Paranoia is a gift. Life is a cruel hoax, an immense intergalactic mechanism designed over billions of years to focus hardship in a very narrow band that's coincidentally my lifespan and me.

If I can put stilts on and whiteface and a helmet that all goes away.
I'm idiosyncratically self medicating that way.
There is a tribe of us. Differing methods, same application.

I mistakenly research and foolishly presume I'm scheduled for a roped off stage.
I spend an hour on a letter more mischievous than venomous but still pretty swashbuckley, [I'm doing this gig no written contract as presumably a cultural concession but they've bought the ticket]

I'm interrupted by a friend congratulating me and sending a link to a page I missed that outlined my performance perfectly.

send was never sent. I was saved. I had selected two friends to run it by first for 'tone', the first sent me the link.

Waste of time. Except for this bit. and the word happenchance.
Packing a sad/Spitting the dummy

"I would rather do what I do well, as found theatre or some form of happenchance and build audiences than inhabit showcase platforms for 21st century vaudville. Nothing against it, some of my best friends have best friends who are 21st century vaudvillians."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Street theatres cultural worth.

What theater is essentially is manipulating time and space for effect. It could be said that it’s a conceit in which certain incomprehensible truths are alluded to and felt on some barely fathomable level.

One of these truths is simply this; we simply don’t have a clue what’s going on. We take direction and call it individuality. We succumb to rituals and conventions that define us and occasionally if we’re lucky some canny technician will temporarily remove our bedrock and yet we will be too entranced to be frightened.

What I love about street theatre done well is that this collective wonder is produced in that endangered environment known as a public place.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Love this guy..

"In the world today we have the resources not just to feed everyone, but to give them a decent life, with education, entertainment, and housing that is warm in the winter and at least not unbearable in the summer.  We can cloth everyone well.  We have had the ability to do this for at least a hundred years or so, in theory, we’ve had it in practice since the recovery from World War II.

To do so, however, we must believe that we should, and we must be willing to act on that belief.  There will be sacrifices (a lot fewer billionaires, a lot less McMansions), but in the end even most of those who complain would be objectively better off, because inequality is robustly associated with worse health and less happiness, even for those who are the richest.  The top .01%, if they were still the top .01% but had far less money and power, would be happier and healthier in such a world.

As such, the battleground of belief; of ideology, is as important as that of technology. It is belief, mediated by power and turned into behaviour, which determines what actually happens in this world."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

As close to a primal sociological statement as I've found.

Ian Welsh wrote this and it's very wise.

"Reasonable accommodations of people’s needs will be made. If they are not, unreasonable ones will be.
Those who cannot understand that will have blood on their hands along with those who decide they have had enough.
Too many have spent too long with generations raised in affluence, scared of losing what they have. They do not understand the lessons of history. And so they will reap what they have sown, though some will be lucky enough to die first.
Their children will see what they have wrought and pay the price of their greed, stupidity and selfishness.
If we will not make an honest attempt at societies which work for all, this future will arise.
Take this as prophecy. And if you are wise, understand that it is prophecy that those who created the social welfare states after WWII were trying to avert."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Failed Rat Utopia Experiments

Been into sociology forever, crashed sequential lectures at various universities, saw Oliver Sacks lecture at Ithica. Sociology, Psychiatry and Psychology were snippets I used as an exalted street scum communication device.
This rat study is mindboggling. If you can process more than 500 words at a time, lost art of the internet.

How do you design a utopia? In 1972, John B. Calhoun detailed the specifications of his Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for Mice: a practical utopia built in the laboratory.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why not?

This was attempt at 'make one free then we charge you out the ass' usage of free digital actors. I'm pretty sure I'm good for one of these a day.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Scientologic L'esprit de l'escalier .

I remember working in Dublin in a scene with Tom Cruise in a Ron Howard movie, Far and Away. Mr Cruise kindly initiated some small talk between shots, I nodded smiling and replied. "Scientology in religious terms is a spiritual crack whore who worked out no-one notices the running sores if you charge enough to drive a lamborghini." He laughed and nodded and winked. I don't think he heard me. also I made a lot of the above up. Call it 25 year old latent L'esprit de l'escalier .

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Thoughts on mortality and general stupidity.

I'm becoming interested in post mortem topography. There's not much of it about. Dante did a commendable job mapping hell yet I cannot come across any detailed pan-cultural description of heaven. Virgins are a big deal with some, lending a used car salemans promice to a major terrestrial mindset. Catholics didn't know what to do with unbaptised newborn death and so invented 'limbo', a place where innocent children could be aware of God and blissing, but not as blissing as anyone else. Then they disinvented limbo. Sometime 60/s 70/s So my point is, and thank you for persevering, How many dead babies are potentially promised virgins? A map would be useful.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Miss Hatchwell

A Different Kind of Life The author L.P.Hartley begins the Prologue to his novel The Go Between, with the now widely quoted first line, ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’ If the quotation is over-used to the point of being a cliché, it is because like all clichés it also very apt.
The line makes me think of life in the Lyttelton of the late 1800’s and succeeding decades.

 In 1966 as young marrieds, we moved to Lyttelton, knowing little about the place, other than it was the port for Christchurch, and the terminal for the inter-island ferry. I knew also it was the point of entry to New Zealand for the settlers coming on the First Four Ships from England under the auspices of the Canterbury Association.

 It was clear to me, that jammed in between high, towering hills and the waters of the harbour, Lyttelton could never have developed into a place of any size. It was always destined to be in thrall to the younger, but rapidly growing settlement of Christchurch that had the room to expand, and the productive flat land beyond. But otherwise, I knew nothing of the rich history of the town and the prominence it had once enjoyed in Canterbury, and indeed New Zealand.

 The rail tunnel, hewn by Cornish miners brought over for the purpose, put an end to the difficulties of moving people and goods between the port and Christchurch. The steepness and precipitate nature of the tracks and roads limited their use, and the journey by sea around the coast and over the estuary bar was long and at times dangerous.
 From 1867, residents had a quick rail journey to the centre of the city. We, in turn, were benefiting from the opening of the road tunnel.

We bought a house part way up the Bridle Path, that same steep track taken by the first settlers with their children, carrying or dragging their chattels over the top of the Port Hills to their promised new settlement.
But for us, the Bridle Path now began above the road tunnel portal instead of down near the water, and it had become a sealed road in its lower, settled part but it was still challengingly steep.
Directly opposite us was number 10a with a sign ‘Devonia’ on the gate.
There was a tantalising glimpse, at the end of a long, narrow access, of an early house on a rise, almost a promontory, with a commanding view of the inner harbour and the settlement rising up the hill from it.

 It was the first house we had owned and we were busy getting the house and garden the way we wanted them, and absorbed with the imminent arrival of our second child, so quite some time elapsed before we met the elderly owner of the house opposite, Miss Margery Kate Hatchwell.

Miss Hatchwell (we were never invited to call her anything more familiar even though we got to know her well through the 1960s and 1970s) had fine white hair pulled back in a bun, and red cheeks. Her voice was low-pitched and she spoke beautifully with the natural dignity that was very much part of her character. She carried herself very straight and dressed conservatively in subdued colours.

When we met her she had been living on her own for some time and apart from a few close friends of her own vintage, kept very much to herself. She was pleasant to us in early meetings but took her time before becoming more closely acquainted. If I am sketching a picture of the type of person who used to be called a ‘gentlewoman,’ that is intended.

 It was on the Bridle Path itself that we first met her. We had noticed how accustomed the locals were to walking up the steep streets, and we were open-mouthed when we first saw how some varied their trip by walking up backwards to use other muscles and at the same time to look out to the view.

In those still-busy days the port always offered something to see.
 On the Bridle Path, the only differentiation between the road and the footpath was a stout, galvanised pipe handrail carried between ancient totara posts, over which hikers would drape themselves to catch their breath, and locals would lean while chatting. We met her there, while resting our 3-year old.

 Though in her eighties, she still walked everywhere, even carrying her groceries up the steep incline. The house had been her home all her life and as she said, she had always walked. A woman friend might drive her to Sunday church services, but otherwise she was wary of accepting a lift up the hill and she would bend down to check first who was in the car.

 Initially, to us Miss Hatchwell was just an old, single lady and it was some time before we knew much about her. Gradually we learnt that she was the younger daughter of a deceased master mariner and well-known Lyttelton identity, Captain Robert Hatchwell.
Like many of his calling, upon marriage and starting a family he ‘swallowed the anchor’ and found a position ashore. More information emerged. ‘Captain Robert Hatchwell arrived in NZ on Ionic in 1883; he was the local manager of the NZ Shipping Company…The Hatchwells conducted a navigation school for officers and cadets in the Navy over almost 50 years at the family home ‘Devonia’; his daughters taught signalling here where they had panoramic views of Lyttelton’s harbour.’

 Later, after we knew her better, Miss Hatchwell told us that she and her sister used semaphore to communicate with ships as they approached the inner harbour. We had a mental picture of young women outside their house in long drab dresses vigorously waving brightly-coloured flags about to attract the attention of men on sailing ships. It sounded daring for the times and it did not fit our image of Victorian propriety. There was obviously a lot we didn’t know.

Sometimes when we spoke, she would give us other little snippets from the past. But being a young person, I didn’t feel able to question an old lady for more information than she gave me. I became interested in the world she grew up in, but not sufficiently so to pursue it very far.
Later, we moved away and later still she died.

 It seemed clear from my subsequent reading that Captain Hatchwell’s position would have been a demanding one. Lyttelton was a busy, bustling port. Photographs taken in the 1870s and 1880s show a forest of masts and rigging in the harbour such that it is not easy to distinguish one ship from another; it was the time of the graceful clipper ships taking our wool and wheat to Britain. They were fast but the voyage could still take up to 100 days.
In time that forest would gradually yield to the stout, no-nonsense metal funnels of steamships. The opening of the graving (dry) dock in 1883 provided the opportunity for more maritime industries and the reclamation area created with the spoil from excavation provided more urgently needed flat land and more jobs. But the rail tunnel, as well as making the port more accessible, also made the town more of a place to pass through. However, it was still prosperous, it had a good number of shops, supplemented by ships’ chandlers, giving a better selection of goods and services than was available in a non-port town of similar size and almost all the needs of the residents could be met locally.

Always self-contained, the community of those who stayed became ever more tightly knit. But John Johnson, in his The Story of Lyttelton quotes Millicent Kennedy: ‘In her interesting account of early Lyttelton, Miss Kennedy makes the point of showing how all the early colonists had to rough it at the beginning; but before long, differentiation in the work of the several ‘grades of society,’ as they imagined themselves, had begun to make its appearance. “But,” she says, “in Lyttelton there has never been any wide separation between the different classes.” ’

Johnson goes on to say, ‘The population of the Port has been, and still was when she wrote, drawn chiefly from the lower and upper middle classes, as so known in England. In 1876, there were neither any slums, nor any distinguished aristocracy.’ Nevertheless, humans are programmed to form groups within the whole, and even in Lyttelton, a community of under 4000 people, social groupings established themselves. While those people with aspirations to gentility and higher places socially moved onto Christchurch, Lyttelton had its own social order.
The Mayor and his Councillors, local Members of the Harbour Board and the Harbourmaster, the Bank Managers and Postmaster, the Shipping Company Managers, all were written prefaced in capital letters, and regarded in a similar fashion socially; they with the local lawyers, doctors and more prominent merchants were the leaders of the local society.

Captain Hatchwell was a member of this group. He was a man of standing in Lyttelton; as well as his position with the NZ Shipping Company, and his navigation and signalling schools, he was also a Justice of the Peace, and newspaper reports of the day report his work on the Bench dealing with various miscreants.
He was appointed in 1904 as one of the Trustees of the Lyttelton Public Cemetery where all deceased, other than Anglicans, were buried. He and his schools were certainly well-regarded in the community.

The Press in 1912, mentions his writing a ‘small volume…that explains in simple form the stereographical projection of the sphere …a most useful nautical projection…by the well-known principal of Devonia Navigation School, Lyttelton.’

We had grown up with nation-wide radio, and television had arrived in New Zealand a few years before and was quickly becoming part of our universe.
After listening to her occasional remarks, we wondered how the local people like her family entertained themselves, what recreation and social life they had in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Various accounts refer to the ‘visiting’ – calling on each other in their homes - and the parties and balls, right from the first months of the settlement. For others, it may have been as Geoffrey Rice notes that, ‘The hotels provided not only refreshment but also what little recreation was available in early Lyttelton: the Robin Hood advertised “a Good Dry Skittle-Ground”.’

Things were better in 1865, when the Colonists’ Hall opened. Rice records that it had ‘committee rooms, library and reading rooms, and a grand concert hall on the top floor.
This became Lyttelton’s venue for amateur theatricals, concerts and visiting entertainers…’ Dance halls and billiard rooms were established.
By the turn of the century, or shortly after, a band rotunda was constructed, and there were three cricket clubs.

From the beginning, men associated in their various groupings. There were several Freemasons Lodges, as well as Oddfellows, Foresters, Druids, temperance lodges and friendly societies.
 For its size, Lyttelton seemed almost oversupplied with such bodies. But if the men were well catered for, it was not so for the women.
Apart from the churches and church-linked organisations, there were various charities to assist with, and a few other bodies such as the Choral Society (which was one of the earliest organisations.)
 The Y.W.C.A. started in Lyttelton about 1917 and for thirty years provided its range of activities, but I did not know if the Misses Hatchwell ever took part. Those women who were married attended official functions with their husbands, and these functions were numerous and lavish.

But Scotter records that the opening of the dry dock was marked by a magnificent banquet for 700 gentlemen, thirty of whom made speeches. It cost £533, of which £240 alone was for assorted wines. By his mention of ‘gentlemen’ it seems women were not part of that assembly.

 Always, however, the harbour was a popular recreation area for all, not just for the town but for Christchurch and beyond, providing interest and attractions.
Early on, the Lyttelton Borough Council provided bathing facilities (including a shark net!) at Sandy Bay which disappeared under the reclamation area near where the oil storage tanks now stand.
There were small steamers and other excursion boats and launches providing trips to Diamond Harbour, Purau and Corsair Bay for picnics and outings around the harbour.
 Early photographs show, for example, watersiders about to set off on their picnic on a small steam boat crammed with mostly men, everyone of them wearing a hat and a tie.

Miss Hatchwell spoke several times of the annual Regatta Day.
Held on New Year’s Day, it attracted immense crowds from beyond Lyttelton.
For example in 1896, the Railways Department announced it had carried no fewer than 25,000 people to Lyttelton on that one day.
 A photo of Oxford Street on Regatta day, 1911 shows the street crowded with people, the women in their long dresses and huge hats; everyone is wearing a hat, even the children. The Maori from the Rapaki pa, who didn’t appear much in Lyttelton in those earlier days, regularly did well in rowing events After many boat and yacht races, the day would finish with an underwater explosion – a strange event to people of our generation – and a fireworks display, both of which thrilled the children. Miss Hatchwell told us that her father had taught them to sail, and they had a launch, the Onawe, and they participated in Regatta events.

Visits by important vessels - particularly naval ships – drew huge crowds to Lyttelton as did a succession of Royal visitors who of course came by sea.
Like the rest of New Zealand then, Lyttelton felt British and was intensely patriotic.
Queen Victoria’s Jubilee brought crowds of people to Lyttelton and they watched both processions on land and events on the water. Departure of troops for the Boer and 1914-18 wars were witnessed by equally huge numbers on the wharves.

It became very apparent to us that in those days, perhaps because of a lack of other diversions in their lives, people took every opportunity to come together as a community to celebrate or mark every occasion they could.

 Many people have an immediate image of a port as a rough place with seamen coming ashore after a spell at sea, and getting drunk and disorderly, with or without equally rough women.

 One of the features of life in Lyttelton was the interaction between people in town and port.
On the one hand, residents told me that they, as their parents had done before them, kept their families, particularly the females, away from the wharves; ‘the only females down there are ship girls from Christchurch’ they said But on the other, particularly in the days when loading and unloading was more leisurely, ships could be in port for up to a month, and locals working on the wharf or for the harbour board, made friendships with seamen and took them home for meals and home comforts.

I learnt elsewhere that Devonia, known as such by all and sundry, attracted many young men both as students, and as visiting ships’ officers. Even so, two daughters, Winifred and Margery, died spinsters. That may have been in part because they were required to keep a formal distance from those they were tutoring, and it would not surprise me if their father had been a dominating, intimidating figure.
Victorian men ruled the family roost, and a ship’s captain would be even more autocratic. The social mores of the day were strict, and this persisted at least up to the 1914-18 war and beyond.

I was interested in the social life that someone like Miss Hatchwell experienced. She told us fascinating little anecdotes; more I found for myself. Church attendance and official functions formed much of the social life of this group and they ‘called on’ each other, and families had recitals, singing and musical evenings. Visiting ships provided an opportunity to host the officers and quite formal dinners were held in homes. As the ships’ unloading sometimes took weeks, many deep friendships developed with local families.
 Histories of Lyttelton recount stories of ships’ officers joining local families for a singsong around the piano.

Perhaps because there were limited opportunities, important arrivals and departures generated huge interest. People flocked to Lyttelton for Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s farewell, the crowd estimated at up to 50,000, of whom 6000 went as far as the Heads to see him off.
Visits by members of Royalty were very popular and various anniversaries were celebrated with gusto; Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations being on a large scale.

Through the late 1800s and early 1900s the harbour was a hugely popular recreation area drawing great numbers of people. The largest regular event was Regatta day with thousands coming by train from Christchurch. Hundreds of people were on the water in launches and small steamers which also took people on other occasions to Purau and Corsair Bay where a jetty and bathing sheds had been built.

Miss Hatchwell spoke of Sunday school picnics and other organised trips on the water to the above places and Diamond Harbour. Miss Hatchwell’s father taught his daughters to sail she told me, and I have wondered since, now that I know more about the times and their conventions, whether that was a somewhat daring thing for young women of the day to do.

One of the sights at that time was a school of seven whales which regularly came up as far as Quail Island, though by 1930, only three remained.
The family’s launch, the ‘Onawe’ well known in the port, and later became one of the Diamond Harbour ferry service vessels.
 She told me of the times they sailed to Quail Island to visit the lepers, taking food treats, new reading material and other ‘comforts’ as she called them. They stayed for some time talking, for the lepers received few visitors and their days were long and monotonous, but the Hatchwells were always careful to keep a safe distance; there was a fence beyond which visitors did not go. Quail Island, after previously being a human quarantine station and a convalescent station, was used to isolate and treat people with leprosy. The numbers of afflicted people on the island began with an unfortunate solitary individual and grew during the 19 years until 1925 ‘when the eight remaining lepers were transferred to Makogai Island, Fiji’. Given the universal fear that existed at that time of this disfiguring, disabling disease, one can only admire the moral courage of the family who, with a few others like them visited the lepers regularly.

The Hatchwells, as most people of the time, were very committed church goers, and their practical Christianity showed through in this and other activities. The mother, Mrs Ellen Louisa Hatchwell, was a volunteer nurse during the disastrous 1918 flu’ epidemic, believed to have been brought home by returning servicemen.
 The family were prominent in St John’s Presbyterian Church, and mentioned in its centenary history 1864-1964. Margery’s name appears in the Lyttelton Times as a prizewinner in the Sunday School awards.

She had told us a little about the family entertaining officers from visiting ships, the talk and the singsongs around the piano, but perhaps because of her natural modesty, did not reveal that Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton had been regularly entertained at their house. It was only through my later reading that I discovered this. A paper by Jane Ellis, University of Canterbury records that (Ernest) ‘Shackleton spent about a month at Lyttelton overseeing the restowing of the Discovery, and became known in the community. Hospitality was provided by local citizens such as the daughters of Captain Hatchwell who ran a navigation school with their father, and entertained Shackleton at their home in Lyttelton, Devonia Cottage 10a Bridle Path.’

 Miss Margery Kate Hatchwell had lived through times from the heroic polar exploits of Scott and Shackleton to year-round life at bases on Antarctica; from the invention of the motor-car and the aeroplane to nuclear power and the computer; yes, from the Wright brothers to round the world jet travel and men walking on the moon.

It is inevitable that we look back on the simple, unsophisticated pastimes of her youth with condescension and superiority. But if she had been still alive today in the 21st century, what would she have thought of our equivalent of her time’s entertainment and recreation, our almost desperate need for distraction and diversion, our requirement to have amusement provided for us rather than doing it for ourselves?

We were invited into Devonia (named after the family’s home county of Devon in England) on a few occasions and I have the recollection of a flagstone entranceway, of dark timbered walls, of furniture and furnishings probably unchanged from the time when all the family was alive. I can recall on the wall a large framed photograph full of incredible detail; the picture clearly taken on a large glass negative.
 It showed the huge crowds on the wharf for the departure of one of the Polar Exhibitions.
There is a young woman in a long dress standing on her own in the foreground: it is Margery Kate Hatchwell herself.

 I remember ‘Cocky,’ a cockatoo in its large cage. It had been left with Captain Hatchwell by a seaman who was off to sign up for service in the 1914-18 war, the ‘Great War’ as it was called.
He never came back, and no-one knew how old the cockatoo was at the time, but over sixty years on, Cocky was still there, imitating everything and everyone. He was an embarrassment at times to Miss Hatchwell; she couldn’t stop him copying exactly the hacking cough of one of her friends, or taking the end off any finger foolishly poked into his cage, his territory.
And I can’t escape the memory of ancient cockatoo and solitary gentlewoman declining together in a large, mouldering house; deathly quiet but of the memories of laughter and music and deep conversations and bright repartee.