Monday, December 31, 2012

In With the New

So.  With 2012 out of the way, it's time to welcome 2013 (not a prime number by the way - 3*11*61).

I've stated elsewhere my new year's resolutions but here they are again:

1) Write a publishable novel;
2) Record an album;
3) Learn Polish; and
4) Do more than four gigs in 2013.

There's also other stuff going on in my life during 2013, so let's talk about that...

In the first week in January, I need blood tests at the North Middlesex Hospital for heart, liver, pancreas and prostate problems.
At the end of January, I have a second x-ray to look at the shadow on my lung.

On the 2nd February is John Giltrow's Wedding/50th Birthday celebration, when I'll be performing something or other in Wood Green.  I'm tempted to use the stylophone but daresay it'll be guitar or dulcitar.  Let's wait and see.

At the end of the month, I'll be taking some time off work to use up leave at Eleanor's suggestion.  I hate when that happens and we'll see.

My court case against the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis has been postponed until 22 May.  Let's hope it actually happens this time.

Other things will arise but those are the fixed points at the moment.

Nanowrimo - let's use this even if I've managed to write a novel this time.

So, how will I do it?

Write a publishable novel
I'm actually good at writing scenes, poetry and writing to order, for example when I've been on writing courses, but the problem comes when I have this huge expanse to fill and no signposts to show me where to fill it in with Story.  That was the problem with Sodium Light/The Void/Moth, which I completed back in 1997 and failed to place.  Similarly with the screenplay The Rapunzel Ship/The Promised Child which I created in 1999-2001.

It follows that I need a map or framework to hang the set pieces onto.  If each set-piece is about 500 words, I will need, say 200 such scenes and then another 20,000 words of frameworking to hold them together.  I think the way I will do this is to mine the Mongol Gallery as well as the piece I've been working out as a paper copy (working title - The Songs I Shoulda Sung) for set-pieces and then mould them into a framework.

I also plan to take the opportunity to do some more writing courses this year.  I can't afford a BA or MA in Creative Writing (both run into thousands of pounds) but I can try the third term of John Petheridge's Creating Fiction course at City Lit (I did the first two terms a few years ago and found it bot5h helpful and enjoyable) from April to June.  I'm also thinking of trying the Writers' Workshop Getting Published Spring Jamboree Programme in March.  That'll cost me about 400 quid altogether but I think it may be worth it.

At base though, my plan is to write a scene of around 500 words as often as I can but I'm aiming for five times a week and then writing the framework to hang them on.  That should take 40 weeks followed by a rest and then I can write the Framework in November for Nanowrimo and then have a month to think about getting published.

Record an album
Before doing this, I have promised to produce toplines for a Gothic Rock project of which I'll tell more when it comes to fruition.  I also have an issue with my chest, which I hope will be sorted soon.

That aside though, there are two considerations:  lyrics and tune.

For Lyrics, I need to go back to carrying around a notebook, as I did from 1978 to 1983, in order to write down ideas that I can put into poems.  During that five year period, I produced over 300 poems or fifty a year (it was actually more like 80 a year for 78-79 and 35 a year for the rest.  I need ten to a dozen decent lyrics over the year, so that means one a month.  I can do it or I can't but I believe I can.

For tune, I can work the melody on the stylophone and then add chords, riffs and lead breaks on the guitar, vocals and perhaps xylophone and percussion.  Maybe then I can get Dave and John to help out on bass and rhythm.  Either way, it means recording a track a month, and putting the album on, Amazon etc. in December.

I need to practice working with audacity so my recordings can be worked into something usable.  This is a learning process.

Learn Polish
If I don't find a course, I won't do it, so I'll try this.

Do more than four gigs in 2013
I'm actually pretty good at getting gigs, so I'm guessing the way to do this is, stop procrastinating, keep practicing, find a band and get gigging.  Simples???!

This means some things may be on the back burner
I still plan to stand for election in 2016 but for now, what I need to do is look for a patron.  Anybody interested?  In the meantime, I note that I have a rival, Christian Wolmar, who is seeking the Labour nomination in 2016.  I wish him luck although obviously, I hope to beat him.  I hope 2014 is not to late to campaign in earnest.

I had hoped to revive my alternative worlds micro-fiction blog but I will not be as prolific as I hoped because  the other plans have priority.  Let's hope I am able to do some stuff though.

And there's 2013 - In with the New.

New Year Revolutions

It's the end of 2012 and the world failed to end so the time has come to look backward and look forward. Let's start by looking backward to the year just gone.  Highlights, Lowlights, Spotlights and Limelight.

Highlights of 2012

Well, let's begin with the aforementioned failure of the world to end on 21 December.  I was at work when the moment passed.  We knew that it wasn't going to happen but, ever since 1973 when copies of Awake and the Watchtower (and Peter Knowles of Wolverhampton Wanderers) had convinced me that the world would end before I reached 14 years old, I've always found a hint of superstitious dread bubbling up from the arachnid part of my brain whenever the world is supposed to end.

Of course, the Many World's Theory suggests that every possible universe happens and that there is one universe in which I live forever (whatever forever means) so, as time goes on, the probability that THIS is the universe where I am the Observer and so the Immortal increases until, some time in the late 21st century, say 2080 or 2090, it approaches certainty.  Certainly, if I am still self-aware in 2100, I will consider it safe to assume I am the immortal.

Then there was Mastermind, when I stepped into the Limelight.  I'll leave the details of that to come below, but there was also The Voice.  I didn't get through the audition for the Voice and so there was no limelight, but nevertheless, it was a heck of a lot more fun than a previous attempt to get on the X-factor.  Instead of queuing up for 14 hours to have a chance to sing in front of someone who knew as much about music as I know about leveraged buyouts of former Soviet banking utilities, there was a much shorter queue with no random filming to use us as free extras (and then having to do the whole thing again for six hours at the Emirates).  When it came to my audition, there were about a dozen of us being seen by a vocal coach and a record company executive, both of whom seemed to be engaged with the process.  We began, not with launching straight into song but with vocal exercises and relaxation exercises, just to ensure we could all sing in front of an audience.  Then we came to do our songs.  The vocal coach was visibly pleased when I chose to do "We're In This Together" by Nine Inch Nails but I didn't get through.  This was partly because I forgot the words, partly because I let my voice drop for the verse, and partly because I'm 52 years old and have to try much harder.  They were right to reject me because I wouldn't have lasted five minutes on the vocal battle on that showing.  Must try harder.

Of course the other highlight, given I live in London, was the Olympics and Paralympics.  To be honest, they seem like they were years ago.  I understand team GB did rather well, but can't remember it well.  I can't even remember who won the the European Championship.  What I remember of the Paralympics was my wife taking young Tashai to Jamaica while I got on with trying to study up on Alice Cooper and the History of Poland for may Mastermind appearance.

My wife also went back to work after over a year off sick with damaged rotor cuff muscles.  I'm glad to see she's better.

The Lowlights

Some shitty things happened in 2012 as well.  On 29 February, I played my last gig for Vaccination.  At the time I thought the gig (at the New Cross Inn) was awful, with only Richard Winstanley (Beats/Guitar), Chris Renison (Melodica) and Me (Dulcitar/Vocals) on stage and I walked off about five minutes before the end.  In retrospect, now that I've heard the recording, it was a good gig, but I was so pissed off already by nobody turning up for a soundcheck that I guess I was predisposed to flounce.

Sadly, Vaccination continued for only two more gigs and the band itself split up in April but band members' other projects (eg. the Serota Tendency, The Transmutations, and Passionate People) are still going strong.

As some of you may know, the Police kicked down my door in June 2010 and I'm suing them for compensation.  We finally had a date for the case on 13 December but the Court called at the last minute (afternoon of the 12th) to postpone it.  We now have a new date in May 2013, almost three years after the original raid.

I also developed a chest cold in November 2012, which kept me off work for a couple of weeks and from which I have not yet fully recovered.  I had an x-ray, which showed a shadow on my lung.  This needs to be repeated in January.  I also have some blood tests coming up.  The doctor initially thought it was COPD, but after another examination says my lungs are actually healthy.  She is now considering congestive heart disease, diabetes and liver problems.  We will see.

In The Spotlight

As well as the last gig with Vaccination, I also performed with the Sweet Smelling Swampies.  The gigs I want to highlight were Miranda's fourth of July Party and the November gig at Guy's Hospital.

The line-up for Miranda's gig was Mike Fleming (banjo, cajun accordion, harp) John Giltrow (guitar), Laura Koonjean (guitar, vocals), Ken (Ukulele banjo) and me (vocals).  Ken also filmed bits when he wasn't playing.  Highlights included American Pie (the only time I've performed it in public), Laura's version of Jolene, and Alexander's Ragtime Band (which we introducd in honour of Miranda's son, Alex, who is five).

Like all our gigs at Guy's it wasn't just a Swampies gig but included a fluid collection of musicians on stage at various times.  On the night the Swampies were (more or less) Mike Fleming (Banjo, Accordion, Harp, flute), John Giltrow (guitar), Laura Koonjean (vocals), Francis Dickinson (Fiddle and vocals), me (Vocals) and at one point my friend Sara Shipton joined on fiddle.  Besides the Swampies, Francis played with his wife, Laura played solo,  I played with Joe Neanor, and Mike played with Pat the barman (singing And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda).

My own performances on the night were (with Joe) Innocent When You Dream, Hurt, and Dancing Barefoot, (and with the Swampies) Big Rock Candy Mountain, Cripple Creek, Mack the Knife, Lilli Marlene (in German) and Sympathy for the Devil.

Then we rounded off the night with everybody doing Lilli Marlene in both German and English.  A great time was had by all.

In the Limelight

And of course, there was my moment in the Limelight where the BBC showed my performance in the first round of Mastermind. I answered questions on Alice Cooper and won the contest by one point.  The semi final has also been filmed, but is yet to be shown on television, so I can't tell you the result yet.

So, that's 2012 - Out with the old.