Saturday, 31 October 2009
Friday, 30 October 2009
the kind of grey wet day which makes you very glad someone invented the
go on word surprise me
so here we go...
hyderabad here we come
for 160 days in India
we have flights, visas, backpacks, novels, laptop, bugspray, mosquito net, etc etc... and the innocent-looking wannabe-tyrant of the lonely planet ...and are flying into hyderabad... and we're off
for five-six months... a longtime yeah?
with no great plans for where we go and what we do when we get there... to circle around hyderabad?... or head north west?... or slow west to hampi?... or straight east?... or north east to beaches?... or south, or south east?... cos we could go anywhere...
what glorious freedom yes?... to have no plan... no destination... no necessities... just 160 days of wandering and writing... for we both have shows to write
what absolute freedom, yes?so its ...patnem beach in goa, almost definitely... hampi... sikkim... kathmandu... varanasi again... kolkotha... pondicherry maybe
or maybe none of them
so here we go... yet more roaming... i've already stayed in 53 different places this year... so here we go with more in a year than ever before
GO ON WORLD SURPRISE ME
and the last time i went to india
when i left Edinburgh for India
peace of mind is cowardice
enlightenment is self-delusion
oneness is moral abandonment
because peace of mind can only come from shutting out how awful the world is for most of its population
enlightenment is the product of being deluded enough to think you're enlightened
and oneness is like peace of mind, only possible if you shut out how terrible, how unnecessarily terrible, the planet is for most of the people on it
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Slams Either Side Of The Pond
So here i am back in London, the English one.
London Ontario was... nice. I had a lovely billet. I got to hang around with Jayson Macdonald and Jeff Colbert and their respective very nice girlfriends. I walked down their Thames in the Greenery. I let myself be surprised by the number of ex-businesses lining many of the streets.
And my two shows there felt very good.
So I will certainly apply for the Fringe for next year.
Plus I went to a slam.
The London slam was good to see, though no-one was terribly friendly. And four days before that I’d been to the Vancouver Slam. Which was great, and super-friendly.
I remember the effect my first Vancouver Slam had on me, back in Sept 03… Because it was me who started Poetry Slams in Scotland, back in 2001/2. Which were great events with shedloads of audience and bucketloads of press . The crammed punters went crazy for it.. the media couldn’t write enough about it… and they went off like a bomb.
Part of the reason I remember those slams so fondly is cos they broke the back of my eternal skintness. Cos up till then, at the age of 38ish, I’d always been broke. I was less broke than I used to be, but I’d always been skint. Money was building up, and I was good at living on nothing, I could live in London on less than ten quid a day, but it was always tight.
And then… after decades of profound skintness… our second slam was so successful we, two of us, made 385 quid each in profit. Because we weren’t funded to run the slams. So we were perfectly entitled to keep the profit. So we did.
And I’ve never been skint since that day.
So I remember them fondly.
As I said earlier in blog, my wallets had always been sad and tragic, had died at length of anorexia… but, ever since then, they’ve been bulimic.
Ultimately though, the Scottish slams were a ballsup.
For a few reasons, which are all down to me, they were a cock-up. I was running them with someone else, but as all the good ideas were my idea, and I take the credit, so were all the ballsups.
And the real ballsup it that they were going so well… They had a real possibility of turning into something much much bigger…Cos in Berlin these days, their Slam finals have an audience of over 10,000 people in one weekend… 10,000!... and we had a chance of achieving some small version of that, but we didn’t, and I’d put the mistakes down to me, the actual doer.
Trouble was that I’m a performance poet. And I think performance poets should get paid to do what they do. So Slams, live poetry competitions, where the acts don’t get paid, were, I thought, not the way to go, and could be regarded as exploitative.
And I also think that new acts …developing, improving, going-to-end-up-good/great performance poets… should have longer than the 3 or 2 or whatever minutes the slam format allows them. So I didn’t focus on slams. I focused on the cabarets. Which might have been ok-to-good, but were nothing like the gorgeous raging beasts that were the slams… frequently close to pandemonium with greats acts bursting out the woodwork and crazily positive Scottish audiences...
However, despite the above logic being good logic, it was wrong.
I reckon it would have been much better if I hadn’t worried about paying people 10 or 25 quid, or the small amount of stage-time involved.
I reckon it would have been much better if I’d gone for well-organised Scottish national poetry slams. With heats in the Autumn, semis in the winter, and finals in the spring. Which could have truly grown into something. With the slammers going for it, competing, getting better and better towards a visible potential victory: Scottish Slam Champion.
That would, I believe have been better for performance poetry in Scotland.
And it was ballsed-up because I, me, this blogger, had too many inhibiting principles.
So, part of the reason I write about this now is because of the Vancouver Slam. Because, when I went to it in September of 2003, I remember being knocked out by the way they do it. Ten or so slammers, 3 minutes, great positive vibe, lovely, and run by a collective.
And I remember thinking, when I get back Scotland I will rejig it on these lines. Because the whole Scottish format was my idea, [a modification of Marcus Moore’s] … Twenty-five poets with two minutes each in heats, ten in semis, and three in final.
But by the time I got back there I was completely shattered by my first 100 day tour, the headache/ woman I was running the show with was barely speaking to me, there was various rogue acrimony pustulating out all over, so I never got round to it.
Which is a balls-up.
But on the other hand, I see the London Ontario slam, and how samified all the slammers are, particularly the good slammers, and I think… maybe not.
Because they’re great positive events, but the process is a terribly powerful homogeniser.
I mean, I’d rather see a night of British performance poetry than of American. Even though every one of the US slammers might be better than the UK slammers.
Because the UK slammers would be so much more diverse. Would be funny, heavy, light, dark, political, trivial, fast, slow, wilfully oversmart, wilfully overdumb.
Which would make for a much more entertaining show. Because variety from each performer, and between the performers, is such a vital part of a quality show.
While pretty much every good US slammer i`ve seen has been in the same style.
Like the good slammers in London Ontario.
That high-energy jacked-up Ginsberg style with a hiphop lilt.
And very well written.
Frequently marvellously written.
Except all the North American slammers have got that style.
First you see one, its like wow, amazing.
Fifth time you see one, its like wow, amazing.
Fiftieth time you see one, its like, wow, this is amazing but you`re more frustrated than you are knocked out.
Cos they`ve got that Ginsberg hiphop litlting energy thing like a virus.
All of them.
And it ain`t easy to get that thing. It takes serious craft and the writing has to be shithot to shape up. To pull that off you have to be very together, and only for very few people does that come easy.
And yet they`ve all got it. And half of them seem to have a list of issues they`re ticking off as they go. Which gets very frustrating, cos half the time you feel you could write the second half of the piece yourself.
I mean, half the best acts i`ve ever seen are women who came out of New York Slam. Tracy Morris, Stacy Ann Chin, Sonia Sohn. And the best guy i`ve ever seen is Shane Koyzan, who came out the Vancouver Slam. And these people are marvellous.
The slam phenomenon is of course, incredible. Has unleashed a huge wave of untapped energy into poetry. Has been one of the main ways, if not the main way, poetry has been taken away from the usual wasp-academic ivory tower bullshit of yore`s yore.
But Jesus Christ, the samification. The intense, unhealthily incestuous genepool, deformed-grandchildren level of samification. Of homogenisation. Of commodification… [now that’s the word]…
What a strange thing for all those classy minds to do with all that talent… to do to themselves ... To get so intensely samey.
Cos it takes hours and hours, lots of hours and hours and days and days and weeks and months to get together enough to pull that off live... The breath the rhythm the energy the commitment the voice the writing the language the wordplay.
And that don’t come easy.
And just the writing is plainly a real endeavour… Cos a slam is a field of intense scrutiny and your writing has to stand up next to some shithot writing, so you have to be class else you ain’t getting anywhere.
And all that ain’t easy. And it produces some very classy performance poetry.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Its Roget’s Adventures in the Land of the Fanciful Inkling
Its An Annual Docking At Port Nowhere
With A Lifelong Expert in the Art and Science of Self-Doubt
So… is it Square Metaphors in Round Holes …
Or Square Words in Round Metaphors?
Whatever, the line tips up at one end, and all the words fall off
Whatever, it’s streaming out words making meanings, like a jesus lizard running over a pond ...and what happens now the lizard has suddenly stopped?
Whatever, its fistfuls of mercury
Whatever, it will be Neither Consonant Now Vowel
[Norwich, last blast of Indian summer
sunny trips to Holkham
where Gwynneth lands at the end of shakespeare in love
for sarnies in the downs and blue sea and a flat land's sky less huge than the Prairies
to Southwold for pier and chips and fishing boats and egrets
and the bold autumnal light
and the cathedral, a wholly new one for the Canadian]
FAST AND GRUBBY
I lived in London for fifteen years. From 86ish to 01ish.
It was my city. And I liked it more and more each year.
And did not want to leave.
But ran off to Edinburgh with a Russian Jewish Diamond Heiress Novelist.
Which all went pearshaped pretty sharpish, but is all right by me cos it got me out of London. Which is the best move I ever made. And considerably improved my life.
Whether I was such a good thing in her life is another matter. I severely doubt it, though I did try.
In fact I sometimes wonder if I stole her luck… she’d always been pretty privileged and lucky and maybe I nicked her luck from then on.
So I never missed London. And when I come back here I find it way way too unnecessarily fast and grubby.
I think that, when I lived here, I liked the fact it was so fast and grubby, but now, after living in Edinburgh and trotting nomadically around the world, it just don’t seem necessary.
Anyone know what i mean?
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Friday, 23 October 2009
So this is the opening programme for a new support group myself and some colleagues in Edinburgh and Copenhagen are going to be setting up.
The support group is for the endlessly cheerful and incorrigibly happy amongst you and is called
[and in Canada i would say... i do think we're going to find a fertile market in Canadia ... cos lets face it when it comes to positivity you Canadians can certainly teach us Europeans a thing or two... and in fact, if any of you are considering a big change in your life, you could consider moving to England and starting a new career teaching Positivity As A Foreign Language... but don't try it in Scotland... they will kill you
its a bit unfair on the Scots that bit... cos after a while in Scotland you realise they are, in general, more positive than the English, particularly Londoners... they just don't look it from the expressions on their faces... ]
Born with a smile on your face
Adept at seeing the bright side
Feeling happy, full of beans and generally jam-packed with new and better reasons for liking yourself?
You must be ready for…
More than a bit grim…
In fact annihilatingly awful
All other pessimisms are outed as rosy tinted la-las
Because this is
[There are now more people living in poverty than ever before]
THE TWELVE STEP ROAD TO
Ten thousand years of culture so we can wander braindead round the mall
Is this what all the long hard struggles for thought and freedom were for?
Just think of all the titanic efforts of mind and body that have created everything we have
And just look what we’re doing with it?
[OK, that wasn’t so bad was it?
However, that was Depression Lite
or perhaps Shite Lite
and it is going to get worse]
All centuries are born old.
And the Twenty First century was born older than most.
The Twentieth, whose product we are, was the human race’s worst century ever.
Only the Fourteenth comes close
The Twenty-First, can’t be much worse
but we can all die
which is much worse
The crux of the twentieth century was that power realised the revolution was not going to happen,
the forces of change could and would be contained,
and it was going to be business as usual from here on.
Our current wealth in the developed world derives from the massive suffering of our crushed forebears who were dispossessed during industrial revolution and slavery, and worked to an early grave
It is their utter immiseration which has legged us up to all we have, and our every luxury and plenty has their blood and suffering shot through it
Of course, one might currently ask, how much current benefit, we are currently deriving, from the current, immiserated labour of hundreds of current, millions
The western world has always progressed gun first
Almost all scientific and technological developments have been generated by the constant drive for new and better weapons
Except perhaps, for gunpowder.
For the Eleventh Century Chinese monks who invented gunpowder were in fact Taoist alchemists, who were trying to discover the secret of eternal life
So there they were, mixing powders, like no-one had ever mixed powders before, trying to concoct an elixir of eternal life
Bit of sulphur...
Bit of charcoal...
Bit of saltpetre...
Lot of saltpetre...
When, whoops, they accidentally invent gunpowder
And whoops, there goes the next twelve hundred years
And whoops, there goes hundreds of millions of lives
Could this be described as the greatest failure of all time?
Well... we’re not going to live for ever... but we can blow a lot of people up.
Robot aircraft... already massacring unarmed civilians
And... coming soon... Robot soldiers!
On sale, around the earth.
Just like the movies, but with added torture facility as an optional extra
Will the hackers of tomorrow be imprisoned in Guantanamao Bays for treasonably hacking morality viruses into military hardware?
The Missile Defence Shield.
This is that arer thing, a wholly new phenomenon in human history.
Yet its very name is a deception.
For the essential thing is to have the Missile Defence Shield
Intercontinental Ballistic Weapons.
This is the wonderful double-whammy of Total Defence and Total Aggression.
Meaning you can hit them, but they can’t hit you.
You can annihilate them, but they can’t annihilate you.
This is wholly new. Never before has one nation, except perhaps the Mongols, been able to destroy any other with such impunity.
The British could and did bomb your ports with impunity until you signed the trade deal, but that’s some way from total annihilation.
Has all of human history been leading up this sudden cut-off point where suddenly one group of human beings can destroy all and any other without fear of coming to serious harm?
At this point we could wonder if God, yes God, is going to come down and save us
But lets face it…
He hasn’t done so so far
And you know what they say
You can’t teach an old god new tricks
Obviously, no-one can say how disastrous global warming might be.
Despite this there are, as we know, people on this earth dedicating their entire, well-paid, lives to maintaining current energy policies.
Is it not excruciatingly depressing, that so many of us find it so, excruciatingly depressing, that these people cannot say for certain they are not dedicating their entire, well-paid, lives to ensuring the death of literally billions.
The main coming alternative to Imperial US Power is Confucian Communist China.
Whose cynical brutality does not well compare with those of their rivals.
Of course there is Europe but, in the light of events, no-one is in a hurry to let Europe have another go at World Domination.
Is truth dead?
Well perhaps nothing is BIG T TRUE, but some things are more true than others
And if truth is relative then it is, like democracy, buyable
So, is truth dead...?
Truth is alive and well and living in Washington...
Preparing for the move to Beijing
There are people who deny that any or all of, Auschwitz, the Gulags, the Belgian Congo, the Rape of Nanking, or even Genghis Khan, actually happened.
Ask yourself: did they?
We might prefer to live in a world where they didn't
but only a very very few of us get the world we deserve
And one more, for bad luck
By the time the meek have inherited the earth
it will be a dry desert and resourceless husk
and the last of the rich and powerful will be leaving
on the last spaceship
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
So that’s two Londons in a month.
London, Ontario, which also has a River Thames, and an Oxford Street, and a Covent Garden.
And this one.
Giant. Forever. Endlessly sprawled.
And everywhere is somewhere.
Toronto is big. But lots of it isn’t anywhere. Has no name much, or reference.
But most of London is somewhere. Means something. Has history. People are from there. They say they’re from there. And there’s so many bits it would take you a week to mention them all. And years to bring up every personal and historical and whatever connotation.
Cos, even if you’ve never been to say, Wallingford, or Chingford, or Bromley By Bow, they’re encrusted with details and people and events and buildings and buses and names and faces and songs and bands and books and ...
Cos I’m here with Priscilla, who barely knows it. And we’ve stayed on Kingsland Road and in Stoke Newington and been to the Southbank, Covent Garden, Dalston. Camden Market, Hampstead Heath, Kings Cross, Caledonian Road, Soho, Brick Lane, Bethnall Green, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Angel.
Which is hardly anything, hardly anywhere. Nowhere.
But whoops, I was trying to talk about Antichrist, the Lars Von Trier griefpaindespairfest.
Or rather, not trying to talk about it… because… it’s a gruesome bullshit conjob.
Priscilla hated it more than almost any movie ever. And I found it bloody horrible. It ruined our day, our Friday. Everything was coloured with gloom and trauma from then on.
And it didn't help Saturday.
His movie Dogville is one of my ten favourite movies ever. I loved it to bits. It was a great Euro-American novel that never got written.
And maybe he thinks he was mining the rich seam of Dogville. Maybe he thinks it was the bloody horrible side of Dogville that was the best thing. When the best thing was the strength of out-there idea and the resolve to carry that idea through in every visual-character way possible.
Cos I also liked Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves and The Five Obstructions. But this … Blimey I hated it.
So yes, I am not improved by the ejaculating blood, the wallop in the ****ies, the *****, the hobble, the ********ectomy, the any of it. And no amount of great photography is going to make up for it.
It ruined my day.
And I am not improved.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
I always say, the only nice thing about Camberley is my parents. Who are still here. In the house of my youth. And well, I still agree with that, they are the only nice thing. Otherwise it’s a fairly non kind of living.
Camberley itself is very military. Its Sandhurst Army College, Camberley Army College, the home of the officer’s of the British Army
MY SCHOOL UNIFORM
There was a school uniform
But no-one wore the school uniform
Because no-one owned the school uniform
Because you couldn’t buy the school uniform
Because none of the shops in town would stock the school uniform
Because they didn’t want the
Kind of parents
Of the kind of kids
Who went to my school
In their shop
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
So its… THE NOMADIC POET BRIEFLY AT REST
Well its three short/long varied weeks since I wrote the last blog.
And I’m a third of the way around the world from where I wrote the last one, Vancouver. About to hop far further round the globe: to India, for five or six months
And Boy, Jesus and his Brother, am I still tired. [Though my girlfriend says I should stop going about being tired all the time, cos its boring, so from now on I will asterisk out all synonyms for *****.] And I’ll be ***** until we find an Indian beach or hillside to come to a long halt on.
So its Camberley in Surrey. Very England. The parental fold. The house I grew up in. Whitehill Close. Number 38. Early 60s, weatherboarded, brick, detached.
With a bright Autumn day outside. Clear pale-blue skies lined with Heathrow’s vapour trails. Bold sun on the yellows golds and greens of the leaves… the fallen scattered on the lawn awaiting the rake… and those still up in the Silver Birch trees in the back garden .
Not bad at all.
Though it’s been pretty grey and grim and dismal and autumnally English for most of the over-active week here.
And I am ***** still.
So, since the last posting I’ve been in London Ontario [more below], Winnipeg to reunite with my sweetheart Priscilla, Dauphin Manitoba, Brandon Manitoba, Calgary with Priscilla’s brother Clinton for the first flurries of impending snow, here at Camberley [via Gatwick], Henley, Oxford, Long Wittenham on the Thames in Oxfordshire, Wittenham Clumps , my brother Chris’s at Finchampstead in Berks, Farnham Surrey with some spins along the yellow- green- gold- and red-leaved country roads towards Hindhead and Elstead, my brother Tim’s at Teddington on the outskirts of London, Worminghall in Bucks, and now I’m back here… before London tomorrow to try and get our visas for India as fast as possible… and then, hopefully, India within two weeks. Hyderabad, I reckon.
We saw a lovely sunset behind the Harwell Nuclear Power Station from Round Hill… one of the Wittenham Clumps… a very old iron-age fort south of Oxford above the Thames… and I doubt Harwell or maybe any other Nuclear Power Station ever looked so good… broad beams of yellowing sunlight from above the silver-cream clouds.
So, it’s been slow, or at least much slower than the 110 quick-slow-quick-quick-quicker days of full-on energy which preceded it. And I am ******, ********, recovering, getting ****and zest, maybe just beginning to regain zeal and zap before the next throw of our bodies out into the world.
So, blimey I’m still *****. More ***** than ever before. I mean, I’m 47 and I feel it. The summer of full-on fun and serious hard work is well behind me, I have my bags of stashed booty, I am **********-out, and I am kinda quiescent [*********?]. Am *******my *****ish head. Am rediscovering TV. Am examining the growing web of crow’s feet around my alarmingly sunken eyes. Am eating tinloads of my mother’s cake. Am listening to BBC bloody Radio 2. Am walking over the fetchingly purpled heath… the heather and straw and bracken of my youth is all still there in the Armyland over the back of where I grew up.
And it’s business as usual there. The beagles barking in the distance. The gunshots going off in the further distance …there are army rifle ranges in the woods because the woods are connected to Sandhurst Army College … which is only a mile from where I now sit.
So I didn’t originally intend to keep this blog going … but… Deborah Wilson from CBC on Vancouver Island suggested it… she is the mighty helpful one who’s sorted this first-ever blog for me up till this point… and I did have a great time writing all the stuff below… and I’ve now had the prerequisite instruction from a teenager [my nephew Eddy Rolls, who turned 18 today]… so I’ve learnt the very simple process of posting a blog on Google… and I’m away.
Let’s see where it takes me.
I plan to write it for a year… Or 16 months… A year or so in the life of this performance poet… This English geezer who quit having a stable home 43 months ago and has been wandering ever since.
Oooh, I’ve come over all pastoral, I have.
Oooh, it’s all gone a bit peripatetic, it has.
Oooh, I’m reinventing the enduring tradition of the wandering poet, I am.
Oooh, I’m just like they ever were, I am… The wandering minstrel poets of yore… But with aeroplanes. And no stringed instruments.
Cos a number of people have said, your life is pretty unique so why not tell the story?... And they’re kind of write, I mean right: in some ways of looking at it, the world is its diversity and the world is its limits. And part of the fun of being in the world is getting the full range of that diversity, knowing about it, reading about it, even reading a blog about it. And part of the fun of being in this world, being human, is learning about the limits…
So here we go.
Not that I’m at a limit. Life could be much more extreme in many ways. But whatever… I never meet anyone who does what I do… So…
Here we go.
Cos that’s me. Making a living, yes a living, as a poet. Without teaching. Without selling anything. At all. Not one single thing. Not the slightest demi-atom of paper or ink... Just performing. And making a decent living doing it.
I mean I’m not wholly flush, though October is the flushest month… But neither am I starving. Or skint. Not even in early June, which is when the cash starts to roll in again.
And all this whilst having no home, or base, or stable life. Or possessions, much. Or home city.
And no essential possessions. I mean I now have a laptop. But if I lost it I could buy another one. And I have three or five shirts I like. And a pair of DMs I like. But it could all go. Easily. So, like I say, no essential possessions.
Whilst doing pretty much what I want. Going where the whim takes me, us, apart from the four months of the year when I am very seriously nailed to the fringe trail across Canada.
Which is the most fun.
Wnd which is where this blog started.
And where it will end. Next year.
After Vancouver. The end of the pastoral trail. The annual cycle. The year’s nomadry.
Here we go. I hope you enjoy it.
Sunday, 11 October 2009
Vancouver, September 22, 2009
Well it all got a bit emotional.
And me I got a bit huggy.
So I have now sorted this year's Fringe artists according to weight.
For I hugged the clammy, the plastered, the emotional, the philosophic, the bringiton.
And most of them are not as heavy as you might think.
Though my back does hurt.
I think I did contact improv with both jonno and sarah edwards. Simultaneously. Which is an odd way to do your only dancing of the year so far.
So the gang has split to the four winds.
Various are heading for Seattle for a sketchfest run by Andrew Connor from the cody rivers show, where various live … becky poole, keira mcdonald, chris bange … and where lana, jonno, dan, anders and more will be washing up
While I'm off to London, Ont., for a couple of shows. I have to learn 20 minutes more stuff but it won't be too hard.
Harder is trying to remember what happened on Saturday night … specifically, the crazed end of the cabaret.... This, to be honest, is a tad beyond me...
Here we go with my best and worst moments of the summer
Best moments of the summer:
• The first Friday of the Winnipeg Fringe. Those poor Manitobans didn't have a summer till July 15, so the first two days of the Fringe were uncharacteristically quiet, but then the sun came out and it was like they'd all been hanging around inside by their windows so, at the first big summer sun, they poured out of their houses in huge numbers … a teeming swarming mass of the beautiful punters ragingly up for it … and suddenly it was my favourite Fringe again.
• The night of my review in the Edmonton Journal. The whole summer had been tricky till then, though Edmonton was certainly feeling good … and suddenly, yeehah, I was made. Yabberdabber.
• The Winnipeg Cabaret … Doctor Caligari's Cabaret of Desire, at the King's Head. I produced, Jonno Katz directed, we sold out 130 tickets in eight minutes, and the event was plain marvellous. It is every year. The audience is so very crazy up for it, it's a joy to behold.
• Leaving Calgary. And then, when I wrote a letter of complaint three weeks later, I instantly got an apology and half of my Fringe fee back. Not bad. And so did everyone in my venue. Who all owe me a drink.
• Thetis Lake, outside Victoria. Twenty of us had an afternoon out, with picnic, and all jumped in Thetis Lake. Great people, good times. Sooke Potholes the day before was not bad. The Orcas the day after were OK, too.
• Throwing Jayson McDonald out of the Fringe box office in Edmonton. Come six one afternoon we both had a dozen or so tickets left to sell and so we were flyering like crazy to sell out. Jayson got there first and, when I found he had one ticket left to sell, I grabbed him by the belt and collar, took him to the door and literally threw him out. He bounced off down the way, dancing for joy.
• Seeing Chris Craddock's show in Toronto. A killer show. I never saw it again because I could never get in, it was sold out. My next favourite show would be Straight From That… which I saw three times because I could always get in. Because she never got a bloody audience. It's flawed but it has so much going for it and me, I found it inspirational: it reminds me to not back down from going for a strong out-there idea. To go for it.
• The white morning sun on the wet autumn streets of Vancouver.
• My biggest audiences in Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver. So much fun.
• Really getting into writing these blogs. Which made Victoria and Vancouver so much better.
• A thousand of my chats whilst flyering the line-ups in every city, even Calgary and Ottawa. So much fun. The volunteers, punters, Fringe staff in every city, even Calgary and Ottawa. So many nice people, so many lives, so many smiles, so much fun.
• Arriving in Montreal at the start of it all. I love that city. My favourite place in Canada. Notre Dame, the 13th Hour, Portuguese Chicken, Chinatown, ice cream down on the harbour, St. Laurent late on a Friday or Saturday night.
• The Vancouver Cabaret, mister kinski's CABARET OF BS, last Saturday. See blog below. We had no idea what would happen, especially if there would be any audience … I directed and it was very like the Winnipeg Cabaret we run. The audience lit it with flashlights and were crazy for it … and we all ended up taking the bows with twenty marshmallows stuck to each shoe. And, one day after, the last night of Vancouver, of the whole tour, of the gang, the once-only never-again beautiful gang. High emotions and less drinking than usual. I was almost last to leave. I'll never see some of those people again.
• That I won't have a winter. Because I'm off to India for six months. So my summer will keep going.
Worst moments of the summer:
• Losing my voice in Toronto. See below. Oww. And argh.
• The day of the Winnipeg review. Ouch • It was sticky from then on, though in the end I still did pretty well, and had a killer time with the audiences.
• Priscilla my girlfriend flying back to Manitoba at the end of Edmonton. Five weeks apart.
• Cat's Crushes … A kind of awards ceremony in Ottawa where the press officer chooses her "favourite people." The single most obnoxious event I have witnessed in Canada … A new excursion in unctuousness, an uber-obnoxious foray into the far reaches of sickly cliquey s**t. Just hideous. I left, broken, the next day.
• A certain amount of electroverbal vitriol being thrown at me.
• Realising, after ten days pointless struggle, there was no worth going back to Calgary.
Which all means, I hope you realise, that there were far more good bits than bad bits.
So that's it for this blog. Writing it has made the last month much better and, if you've read this far, thanks for staying.
Next stop a beach in Karnataka. Or a hillside in Orissa.
Vancouver, September 20, 2009
Lost my shirt, though.
And blimey, what a night … and what a long long day.
I spend the day flyering like crazy, singing Chuck Berry and imbibing a lake of coffee … and see Catherine Montgomery's show for the third time … She's still getting not much audience though Vancouver has probably gone better than anywhere else, though still rubbish for a show that good.
Then it's my last show and it is beautiful, truly beautiful, the audience are in for everything, like everything, like all of it like every last bit of it, like every nuance and facet of every facet and nuance of every last bit of it... and it's a great way to end the tour. I could have had a few more punters than the 140-150, but I can't complain and blimey, it was lovely. Superlative adjective after superlative adjective after... Best show of the tour. And the biggest turnout. Not bad.
Then I have to restrain myself from diving into a lake of beer … and it's not like I don't deserve one … but I'm running the Cabaret, the running order, etc … and we've run them before here but, not quite like this, in the Performance Works, with the Fringe communication machine behind us and … WOW … INSTANT BLOODY CLASSIC … IT WILL HAPPEN EVERY YEAR FROM NOW ON … long after all of us have stopped fringeing.
So it was, mister kinski's CABARET OF BS, see blog below for its superswift inception. We had no idea what would happen, especially if there would be any audience. I was first there and it was obvious from the moment I saw the line-up it would be a raging success. Wow … 200 gorgeous punters? … two whole hunred... Wow … It was very like the Winnipeg Cabaret me, Jonno, Chris, TJ and the Pajama Men have run … the audience lit it with their own flashlights and were crazy for it.
Dwayne Morgan, Jonno and Sarah Edwards, Peter'n'Amitai, had particularly good ones … (I detected the hand of Jacob Richmond in the excellent writing of their piece) The wild Gordon Campbell finale, featuring Eric Davis, Lana Schwarcz, Chris, and Jonno dressed as Red Bastard, was like some cathartic Greek theatre piece with a certain fundcutting BC politician meeting a very sorry scapegoatish end indeed … Wow...with fake blood, custard, an edible member, and a thousand marshmallows sticky under the feet when we took the bows afterwards.... Wow... [though, to be honest, i'm not quite sure what hapened in what order...
They were working on it all evening and I could sense a growing excitement amongst them as it got bigger and longer and more people got involved … till Dan and Anders suggested it should be the finale.
Wow... Those clowns maaan, they're so free … and make me think that when I'm being brave on stage, I'm not being anything like as brave as I might be.
An intense palpable excitement you can reach out and grab. I'm not sure I'd want to eat or drink or inject or snort or smoke that excitement, but I can imagine plugging it straight into my neural circuit.
One more blog, Tuesday, before I fly.
And it's a good thing the tour's over. Obama has made the bit in my show about the missile defence shield, in "The Twelve Step Road To True Pessimism," kinda redundant. It might be good for the world, but it's bad for my bloody poem. Boo.
Still, the essential depressing dynamic goes on. "American Empire" is based on the biggest military machine the world has ever seen. This machine has to be manned. And therefore American society has to be so harsh that the military seems a good idea for a million or so poor souls. (European societies couldn't have affordable militaries that big because their societies just aren't that ugly.) Therefore a health care system for all is a threat to a harsh society. And therefore to Empire.
And that's still suitably depressing.
Vancouver, September 18, 2009
Yes the gang. It's good to be part of a gang. The gang. The other performers, my fellow tourers, my comrades-in-arms, my mates, the others.
The whole damn fringe tour would be impossible without the gang. They're what keeps you sane.
The Canadians the Americans the English the Aussies. The actors dancers technicians poets comedians singers directors writers musicians puppeteers and more. The newbies and the old hands: the young and the no longer young.
As someone said, stand-up comedians go from hotel to hotel to hotel to gig to gig to gig to bar to bar to bar to café to restaurant to café. Maybe for weeks on end. Often all by themselves.Which is notoriously tough and wearing and lonely.
Well, we don't have that. Thank God. We have The Others. The gang.
The gang changes every year and frequently, after the tour is done, you never see or hear from people again. Like never. You've spent months weeks days hours with these people and that's it.
So some disappear, and some come back year after year. And many of these people are good mates. Great mates, superfun people, all sorts.
Because this is truly supportive. Is not a competition. Is not a competition at all. Even when you're on at the same time as someone else, and you are effectively flyering after the same punters. Because there is no mileage in acting like it's a competition, you have to live with everyone else for the tour and everyone gets to know what people are like … If, for instance an act is taking down other shows' posters in the prime spots, to put up their own: as happened three years ago.
And whatever goes wrong for you, well it won't take you long to find someone else who exactly the same thing happened to … only worse.
And whatever goes right, well that's happened to someone else as well.
And there's no triumph in doing better than anyone else at the same time. Because there is no equality. One show has had better reviews, is in a better venue, has been here before, has just been on CBC, is a hard uncompromsing drama while the other is a sketch comedy show, etc, meaning there is no equality of expectation. And well if someone else got an audience of 150 when someone else got 50 at exactly the same time, well, what does that prove? Does it conclusively make one a better show? No.
Everyone knows pretty much how well or badly everyone else is doing, and everyone knows the score. Knows how tough it can be. Knows how it can go well, then badly, then well, then badly, then well, then badly, then … until you're a nervous wreck. Knows how some people do great from start to finish without having to work too hard at getting an audience … Chris Gibbs, Chris Craddock, Red Bastard. Some people work their butts off and end up doing well … Jonno Katz, Gemma Wilcox, me … some people struggle out east and end up doing well as they get further west and they strengthen their show … some people do well at some Fringes and less well at others … And some people do pretty badly from city to city across the green vastness …
And, as Jonno once said to me, everyone on the tour is a doer, is a proactive person. For, if you weren't, you wouldn't be doing this. 'Cos this is tough, is long and involves a serious commitment of pretty much every part of you. Physically. Time-wise. Emotionally. Creatively. There are no half-measures and you have to truly go for it to get anywhere, especially on your first tour.
So yes, the gang. The fun, the laughs, the meals, the beers, the wine, the shots, the walks, the massages, the talks, the encouragements, the hugs, the analysis, the help, the suggestions, the critiques, the very handy pointing out of the suddenly blindingly obvious. And probably the shags.
Except I wouldn't know, I've never actually shagged a fellow tourer. Mind you, my girlfriend is probably touring next year, so my chances are looking up …
The Tour is so supportive that some performers, appalled that a mere fact like cash flow is deterring an excellent act from trying certain festivals, have been known to lend other acts the six or seven hundred bucks of a fringe fee for a whole year.
Like I say, the gang. It would be too hard without them.And this, here, Vancouver, is the gang's last gasp, our final hurrah … While many have already got off the roundabout … Jonny P here … Rob Gee, Craddock, Sage, Jayson McDonald, Jimmy Hogg and more after Victoria … Martin Dockery way back after Winnipeg … Chris Bange, Keir Cutler, Randy Rutherford, Tamara Ober, Celeste Sansregret, Hannah PumpkinPie, Ray and Sterling G-Man, Dave Dawson and Kevin Gillese, and more after Edmonton …While some of us have been going since Montreal and Ottawa … Jonno Cat Chris Sharon Lana Candy Amy Alicia Darren John Ann Gemma and more …And some were there at the start and rejoined us at the end … Dan and Anders and Eric and more … and some have just got on … New York Sarah, Cara, the Afterlifes, the Caberlesques, Dwayne Morgan …And Sunday will be the last of all of them … Ryan Tara Becky LisaHaas Collette, the Lysistrating Ernests, and all of the above.
Some of them will be back next year, some I'll never see again.
Its going to be emotional.
Aah … the peripatetic circus-wagontrain, first hitched together back in Montreal in early June, heading ever west over farflung horizon after farflung horizon … Aaah the talent the energy the creativity the originality … Aaaah from concrete atoll to concrete atoll across the sea of green … Aaaaah the long hours, and Aaaaah the weeks gone in a flash … Aaaaaah the fun and the struggle, the success … Aaaaaaah the fringe tour, nothing else like it on earth, wouldn't miss it for the world … Aaaaaaaah the goodbyesAaaaaaaaah …Its going to be emotional
and yes the cabaret …
something looms in the murky swirl
pieces and ideas form like beings from the primordial swamp of ideas
so its … something like … mister kinski's CABARET OF BS
Featuring Eric Red Bastard, Gemma Honeymoon, Jonno Accident, Candy Afterlife, Lana Grandpa Sol, Becky Murder Hope, Cara Reckless Abandon, Jem Flops, Chris Ignorance Gibbs, Tara Lavignia Travis, Sharon Caberlesque, Amitai GasHeart and Peter or Chris from Peter'n'Chris, and more. Special Guest TJ Dawe and hosted by Dan Uncalled For and Birthdays Anders.
Performance Works, Granville Island, doors 11:20, show 11:30, five bucks, 10 bucks supporter price.
it will be very good indeed
Vancouver, September 17, 2009
So it's a quiet Tuesday at midnight and I'm sitting outside the Fringe Bar with Cara Yates … and we're spraffing about that and this … and she casually raises the idea of a Cabaret here … 'cos I co-run the Secret Midnight Cabaret in Winnipeg, a brilliant event which sells out 130 tickets in eight minutes … And within 30 seconds it's all totally agreed that we're going to run a late-night cabaret at the Performance Works on Saturday.
And after another five seconds it's a fundraiser for the Fringe.
And after another ten it's the Cabaret of Bulls**t (now mister kinski's Cabaret of Bulls**t)
And after another two minutes it's provisionally Eric Red Bastard, TJ Dawe (not in the Fringe), Gemma Honeymoon, Jonno Accident, Candy Afterlife, Lana Grandpa Sol, Becky Murder Hope, Cara Reckless Abandon, Me, Chris Ignorance Gibbs, Tara Lavignia Travis, and maybe the Caberlesques (who can't make it.)
A killer line-up. A ridiculously good line-up
So b-boom, within three more minutes we've provisionally confirmed it with David Jordan, Fringe Director … and we're away.
So that's Saturday, mister kinski's Cabaret of BS, Performance Works, Granville Island, doors 11:20, show 11:30-ish, five bucks, 10 bucks supporter price, bar.
B-Boom, it's gonna be great, killer, what a lineup. That was quick.
And my show? Its going great. Lovely audience yesterday. Well up for it, I always have a good time here because it's a sophisticated bigcity audience and, as I've done the show 57 or so times, it's very together indeed.
So, two shows left. Just two shows. And then I'm done, bar the little matter of two ninety-minute shows in London Ontario next week. Where I have to learn some extra material.
So, two shows left. It's gonna be a great weekend. This is when the big audiences come out and I can't wait.
Two shows left.
Vancouver, September 17, 2009
As I've been implying, the Fringe tour is bloody exhausting … like frequently shattering … the show, the sell, the blagging, the line-ups, the late nights, the beer, the ups the downs the crash bang wallops.
So I never sit at the front at shows, because I'm much too tired to laugh and even the funniest show is going to leave me stony-faced … So I might be thinking that's really funny … that's hysterical … and that's really funny … but I'm rarely going to actually laugh out loud because I'm just plain knackered. In other words, I do not make good audience and usually sit near the back.
But even worse … is the shows I've loved where I was actively yawning when the performer looked at me … Which is undoubtedly bad form. Of course the stage lights mean that quite possibly none of them, except the first one below, saw me, but still, it's a crap solidarity.
So, with due apologies, here is my list of … GREAT SHOWS I HAVE YAWNED DURING, WHILE THE PERFORMER WAS LOOKING AT ME.
my favourite show of the year
just plain brilliant
but yes I visibly yawned during the show
while Chris Craddock was looking at me
and as I was in the front row
where I never normally sit
I'm sure he saw me
Jimmy Hogg - Like a Virgin
funniest show of the year
but I have a decent excuse for yawning while Jimmy was looking at me
I was exhausted from all the laughing
yet, ahem, sorry
fortunately me and Tamara Ober hadn't properly met when I yawned during it so she didn't know who I was
but still, sorry
and it wasn't during the gorgeous butterfly bit
Rob's an old mate of mine, we did Edinburgh together for years, and I love to take the piss out of him
though it is of course too easy
but I'm still cringing about yawning during his second-ever performance of the blockrocking Fruitcake
I strongly doubt he could see me with all the lights, but still, it's the lack of thought that counts
It felt suitably abstract to be yawning instead of laughing during the this offthewall deadpan hoot of a show by the New York duo Harrington and Kauffman. I also stroked a wooden frog with a stick instead of laughing but, in this show, this practice is normal and even encouraged.
Straight from That Side of Town
I loved this show
Which, as I said before, must be the best show in years to tour the Fringe to sod-all audience
what is happening?
but yes, I even yawned during the hysterically funny sex scene
this brave show by the
elephants wish to be nimble
which one am I?
I managed to squeeze a good hearty yawn into
The Seven Lives of Louis Riel
Ryan bloody Gladstone hadn't even finished writing his script when I saw his show … and it was still bloody funny and everyone loved it … he even had to ask his lighting guy, Jonny P, for a few prompts and they loved him even more … If I did that I'd dry up and it would be horrible … 'cos I can't ad lib at all, and I mean at all … I have to rehearse an ad lib for two weeks and it still always goes wrong first time 'cos I forget where I am after I've done it … the show is programmed into my head in a particular order where people like Chris Gibbs and Ryan can muck about as much they like … Chris Gibbs likes to get as far away from his script as he possibly can, he actively wants cellphones to go off, kids to cry, people to come in late, people to fall off their chairs laughing, 'cos he can deal with anything … where me I have enough trouble dealing with the original plan … Bastards.
And yes, of course I yawned during it, it was the start of Winnipeg and I was already shattered
Even Inanimate Jungles have Clocks
Jolene Baillie's great dance show in Winnipeg.
I actually wrote half the text for this show, but still managed to yawn during some of my own words while she was looking in my direction. Which shows I'm not biased. I even liked the words. Well, they weren't actively bad.
She didn't know I was there, and I was a few rows back, but still, sorry.
Sorry Eric, but I didn't actually yawn during your show … it was early in the tour, Montreal, and I was still good and fresh and well-slept and well-fed and unjaded, and fitting my trousers and not having to extra-notch my belt, and capable of a conversation about something other than myself, and even still able to read a book without large pictures and even read a book with text, and small text at that … But I thought I'd mention your show because it sits so nicely in this list of killer shows.
Only Red, Straight, Murder and Louis Riel are here in Vancouver.
Vancouver, September 17, 2009
Meanwhile, I was reading a book about Warren Buffet and I worked out his secret.
I mean he's absurdly successful, inhumanly successful. And he's tried
to convince people it's because he's a superbrilliant trader. But that's
just a smoke screen for the real truth.
How come he's been so remarkably successful?
Because he invented a time machine, yes a time machine, at some point
in the late fifties/ early sixties … And he decided to keep the secret
to himself and pop forward and back to nicely aggrandize himself like
no one has ever aggrandized themselves before.
Because he's in the money. He's got the dosh. He's got the readies. He's feeling flush. He's made of money. He's laughing. He's rich as Croesus. He's much richer than Croesus. He makes Croesus look like a total bleedin' non-starter. He's in the money.
He's not short of a bob or two.
I mean, if you invented a time machine and were making billions from
forays into the future which furnished you with the bestest juiciest laughingest information, and
you didn't want anyone to know, then … YOU WOULD DO EXACTLY WHAT WARREN
BUFFET HAS DONE, wouldn't you?
I rest my case.
I mean, he's just too successful for the straight explanation. It's like
Shakespeare: according to Mark Twain, for him to have written all the
works of Shakespeare means he would have to have had THREE TIMES THE
VOCABULARY OF ANYONE WHO EVER LIVED. Which is simply not possible, is
it, not THREE TIMES? … So, therefore, he was a pen name for a bunch, a
pool of writers, one of whom was a lawyer.
Same thing with Warren Buffett. So, it's a time machine baby, gottabe.
Where is it?
Vancouver, September 16, 2009
Reviews are a very tricky part of the Fringe experience. It's very
difficult to talk about them. And to know exactly what you think. And
as a performer, you don't want to queer your pitch with any one
publication or reviewer by complaining about them.
Yet they are an essential part of the fringe equation. Good reviews
make you. Bad reviews break you. And I know this very well: I've been
made by them, and I've been bust by them.
And I've spent sleepless nights, sleepless weeks even, being exceedingly hacked off about them.
Generally though, I've been made by them: I'm a poet, meaning my show
is a harder sell than most� So I need good reviews, and when I get them
I plaster them and the stars all over my posters and flyers.
But reviews all matter in different ways and, as I don't want to hack
off any particular publication, I'll have to speak generally, because
please remember this is my living.
Because the reviews in the Montreal Gazette, Montreal Hour, Montreal
Mirror and The Ottawa Citizen all matter. As do Eye and Now and the
Star in Toronto, the Winnipeg Free Press, CBC Manitoba, Uptown, The
Calgary Herald, Ffwd, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Planet S, the Edmonton
Journal, the Edmonton Sun, Vue Magazine, See Magazine, the Times
Colonist, Monday Magazine,The Vancouver Sun, the Westender and last,
but certainly not least, the Georgia Straight.
Some matter more than others, some much more than others. And three of
those reviews make or break your run at that fringe. As in Good review:
you do good. Bad review: you do bad.
Because a three star review, or less, in a influential publication for
a show that is not a comedy or sex-based show means that show is
probably finished. There are shows whose success has been exceptions
to this, yet it's broadly true. Three star reviews finish dramas, or
poetry shows. Two star reviews likely mean no one will buy a ticket
for that show from then on.
By which I mean I can think of a show that got a two star review from a
big paper in the Prairies. Sales had been going well, but from then on
they sold only seven, yes, SEVEN, more tickets for their entire run.
My reviews this year in Eye and Now in Toronto were great positive
reviews, yet they were three star, so they blew my run right off course
and I went from audiences of 100-130 at the start to 50-60 by the end.
They were extra annoying because both reviewers came to rocking shows I
was mighty pleased with.
Mind you, I got my worst-ever review anywhere from Now Toronto in 2007
and I still sold out once more and did fine. And I got a killer review
the following year and sold out my last three shows.
Reviewers frequently get things wrong: where you're from, names of
pieces, characters, the plot, etc. But when it's a good review you do
not care at all and when it's a bad review you have to stop yourself
from walking round spitting getting mad as hell.
The ones I like the best are the publications where a good review helps and the bad reviews don't matter. Those are nice.
Comedies are different. I've known good comedies get two-star and three-star reviews and still do excellently, though it will have taken them
longer to start selling out, because of that review.
There's an awful lot of luck in all this of course. Right now I'm dead
lucky because both Colin Thomas (Georgia Straight) and Peter Birnie
(Vancouver Sun) both came to shows that went great. But on the bad luck
downtip, I'm nothing in Ottawa because the last review I got, in 2005, was a horrible review from the Ottawa Citizen … who came to a
pretty horrible show.
But there's a lot of luck in the whole Fringe process. Which is why it's
good to do a bunch of Fringes, because your luck tends to even out in
the end: venue-wise, time-slot-wise, review-wise, etc-wise …
And it is a hard job, reviewing, and I'm glad I don't have to do it. I
tried to write a great review of Straight From That Side Of Town for
this blog. But it soon turned into one of those badly written clunky
reviews you see a lot of on the tour, so I stopped. And it is a
responsibility, one I'm glad I don't have. And most reviewers do try to
be fair: as Colin Thomas said to me the other day, I sometimes review
friends' shows and I write them bad reviews …
So what do performers want from reviewers? Intelligence and consistency
would be high on the list. And a number of the reviewers across the
tour are good intelligent writers in search of ideas to write about.
What performers do not want is some nineteen-year-old intern in his/ her
first reviewing job. And they do not want the Cooking Editor.
They'd probably not want the star system at all. But we're kinda stuck
with it. And they'd really rather not have just the stars reprinted
every day without the review. But apparently we're stuck with that too,
in the places which do it. Most notably in Edmonton, where a show with
a sub-four-star review gets hit over the head every day by the review,
and never gets to properly stand up again.
And it gets pretty tragic when someone you know has a one-star review. When you know they have a good show. When they sit down over a coffee and candidly admit that, "I'm dead, I'm finished", and you know it's true.
Reviews are a bit like the weather. They are good and they are bad and
they happen. Some are intelligent and sophisticated, some are more
folksy, depending on publication.
Whatever, we'd all like it if every reviewer knew the consequences of
their actions. That if they give a show a three-star review or less, no matter what they write, thy are ensuring, or trying to ensure, the
abolition of that show's chances…
Meanwhile … rumours are … swirling in the … murk about … a possible …
putative … speculative … hypothetical … maybe … peut-etre … what-if? …
why-not?? … midnight cabaret … of BS? … somewhere on the island on … Saturday … no
details are … clear … because … as yet … not one person actually knows …
Slowly, however, destinies are forming … a show is being born in the … primordial ooze of … enthusiasm and talent