This week, Monday 27th May 2013

The Incredible Value of a Long Weekend.

Space PeopleWhoosh. I have been pressured into taking time off work. I am happy about this. I left work on Thursday and don’t have to go back till tomorrow. I have, naturally, squandered the time granted me. Until this morning I have done little except for sleeping, going to birthday parties and making birthday cards for those birthdays. So it’s been nice – I’ve seen lots of my favourite people, even had a few drinks and had much silly chatter. It has been lovely.

Today though I have to pull my scribbling socks back up – get this, and the rest of the week’s posts sorted and hopefully grab some Lego time later on.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankerrific: Poems of Despair

It’s good to let it all out isn’t it. Isn’t it?

Wednesday Lego Blog: The House in the Weird Jungle

It’s taken ages to build. Was it worth it? Yes (for me).

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part Ten: A Grisly Adventure

The plight of the airship intensifies.

Friday Book Review: Ghosts of War by George Mann (2011)

Thrilling steampunk / horror fiction.

Updates on my thrilling life

Writing

I have realised that some folk may take me for a pessimist, as what I write does tend towards the bleak and angry. (Does it? Please say no…) I hope last week went some way to reassure you! The Gig Report: Knickerbocker Glorious and My Marmalade Badger got more readers than almost anything else I’ve written! I suppose the internet is about cats. I feel like an optimist who is surrounded by darkness; I’m certain there’s a light switch somewhere nearby, but I’m damned if I can find it. I did enjoy writing about my Merly-boo; a friend commented that he thought I’d been hacked. Bastard. I shall write more Things I Love, but I shall likely add a Things I Hate to balance it out.
Last week’s scribbles

Desert Crystals1

Lego

I need to return to the book on advanced building techniques because I keep sticking bricks together, making nice arms or legs and find myself unable to sensibly join them. It is annoying. I did make a nice robot…

More importantly I have spread the adult love of Lego further. Hold on, that sounds really weird – in a non-sexual way. Mind you, there must be someone out there with a brick fetish; I shall resist the immediate allure of Google. So, yeah. For a friend’s birthday present from her work colleague I ran off with the pennies and got as much Lego as I could for it. The result? One of the new Lego Friends bags with the hedgehog (awesome, is so at the top of my must-have list) and a vastly reduced Gandalf Arrives LoTR set. Pretty sweet. Oh, and she was also pleased.

Improv Comedy

The MissImp Improv Beginners course is going well. We have a week off with the bank holiday so I need to send them some homework later on (!). Parky and I have fallen into a natural complementary rhythm of teaching; I’d forgotten just how much you can find to say about a scene and about improv in general. I find that slightly challenging because I am not a cognitive improviser at all. Some of the gang do a good deal more thinking during scenes than me, but I just can’t. We re-blogged a post by Heather from @MusicImprov this week which talks about ‘being in your head’ – that familiar experience of trying to work out what to do with a scene rather than just doing it. It also talks about ‘rolodexing’ as a way of flipping through your related thoughts and ideas. I can’t do it, which makes me abysmal at warm ups which rely on relating concepts.

That’s okay though, as a trainer and learner I’m very aware of how I learn and it’s not through Q&A, or formal learning. For me everything comes alive when I’m talking – discursive’s where it’s at baby. Damned Parky continues to mock me for being unable to do the Pointless questions “words ending in -ice” (for example). I tend to say something like “ice” or “spice”. It would take me literally hours to get to his daughter’s instant answer “prejudice”. The more I think about anything the harder it gets (no, not like that). If I stop thinking about it (which is difficult once he’s put the bloody thing in my head) and just talk, or write I’ll find one pretty quickly. Have you ever tried concentrating really hard on breathing and thinking about how you actually do it? It makes me struggle to breathe at all. Autonomic functions do work best when you don’t think about them. I need to kick back, relax my brain and let it run out of my mouth (or fingers) – the silt it dredges up often proves useful.

My experiences of ‘rolodexing’ are awful. I get the first word, then the next sheet is blank, and the next one, then the next. After a few of those I’m panicking and my mind is now associating with ‘blank’, ‘failure’, ‘doom’ and so on. I find it hard to plan rhymes. A lot of musical improvisers are able to plan out their rhyming schemes and then fill in the lines as the sing. I envy their joyous mental fluidity. As soon as I start to do that it fucks me up. I doubt I shall ever be able to do a Hoedown. My preference for dealing with suggestions and ideas is to bury it in my mind and leap into action. Once the mind is primed with a suggestion, which we then kick away from, it’s bound to come back to it, or at least inform the consequences.

Something that I’m finding I emphasise while teaching the beginners is opening ourselves to the range of possibilities. Many questions and situations appear to be black or white – yes/no are the instinctive answers. For beginners the instinct is often to say no. It’s easier, it shuts down opportunity and it feels safer. But there are a literal infinity of possible answers or responses for any situation. Making those available to us, and quickly, can for me only be accomplished by thinking as little as possible. Everything I think of shuts down a thousand alternatives; everything I do opens up a million possibilities.

Media Intake

Books

I finished Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner last week – I liked it very much but I still have no comprehension of Bridge; I feel Ihave failed the author. I’m having trouble choosing books – I just don’t know what I want. I maintain a small heap of books I am really looking forwards to and I pace those out with books I either know nothing about or fall into an enjoyable but undemanding category of reading. The Cardturner was in the “umm, what’s this?” pile.

I then remembered that I’d downloaded Transformers More Than Meets The Eye volume 3 a few weeks ago. That made everything better. The writing is pretty snappy, the stories are almost unrecognisable from the merchandise comics of the ’80s and I like the clean art from most of the contributors. They are also funny, consistently funny. I’d recommend ’em. The story is split into two parallel comic runs: More Than Meets The Eye and Robots in Disguise – the first adventures in deep space with a misfit crew, the latter remains on post-war Cybertron where maintaining the peace proves… tricky. Terrorism, despotism, assassination, religion, politics, mental health – all subjects up for grabs and used in both series. Transformers? Hell yeah.

I’m about to finish George Mann’s Ghosts of War, a steampunk horror series. It’s great – I’ll review it on Friday.

Films

We’ve hit the cinema in the few waking hours I’ve had this weekend, though nothing has been particularly good.

Epic

Not epic. Very much blah throughout. I hear it’s based on a book series which suggests to me that they’ve taken the first and last books and crudely hammered them together, which would explain why it doesn’t make much sense. The comic characters were the most enjoyable – wise-cracking slugs, although that’s only in comparison to the deadly dull voice talents of Colin Farrell and Steven Tyler. Oh, and Beyonce’s was terrible. The voices frequently seemed at odds with the style of the film. It didn’t even look that pretty. When we saw the trailer in 3D it gave me a headache, and seeing it in 2D was weird and fuzzy. One to skip.

The Hangover Part III

It’s incredible the series has made it to a trilogy. Sadly they should should have stuck with the sequel. The well-practiced formula of starting with a night out and cutting to the wreckage of the morning after and having to retrace the chaos of the night before is abandoned. This is a huge mistake. Instead they turn the previous two films into the story of Alan’s (the tubby, bearded loon) mental breakdown and invent the crime related consequences of their previous misadventures. No one cares. It wasn’t particularly funny. Oddly, they end the film with the carnage following another wedding night: a huge machine gun in the middle of the room, a motorbike embedded in the wall, a guy with breasts… Now that would have been a great start.

Welcome To The Jungle

I re-watched this while making cards. It is splendid. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson – it’s hard to know which name is sillier) and weasel-faced Sean William Scott spend 90 minutes getting beaten up and smashing things in the jungle. There is nothing to dislike here. I’m fond of the opening scene where The Rock takes on the whole ‘defensive line’ (or something, American Football is less important to me than cucumber) in night club. Inventive fight scenes, good action, comedy banter (plus punching in the face) and Christopher Walken’s diamond mine owner/lunatic make a good film, substantially better than either film we saw at the cinema this week.

Events and Excitement

MissImp in Action – Friday 31st May

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.

Weeks That Have Come Before

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