August 28, 2006
GETTING THERE SLOWLY AND SURELY
I hope you've noticed my absence. It's good to know that one is missed but even better to be celebrated for one's presence. My reasons for not turning up to blog have been entirely worthy. I have been keeping my nose to the grindstone, or rather to the screen, all day every day far into the dawn hours and the twilight zone, resisting almost all distractions except for eating and sleeping (for the briefest possible time) and fast-browsing my regular blogroll-call. I wouldn't go so far as to say I've overcome that wily devil of procrastination but progress has definitely been made. In case you don't know, said progress is towards the gargantuan task of preparing the God Interviews for printing and publication. The reason it's gargantuan is that a) I'm a perfectionist and b) I'm a fool. The fool is the one who forgot to keep high-res versions of each original strip and therefore has to digitally re-draw, re-compose, re-colour and re-size every frame in the fifteen strips in order to turn it all into a stunning, joy-inducing, philosophical picture-book the likes of which you and the rest of the world has never ever seen. Well, that's the plan. And it must must must be out before Christmas. That's the firm plan. The book is divided into chapters and the thumbnails below of some finished pages (each stands alone, they're not in a grid) gives no idea of the meticulous work involved - I have to complain or you won't believe how much time it's taking.
As an unexpected boost to my already self-basted self-confidence, I was recently contacted by someone at BBC television who said they (this person and colleagues) had visited Blaugustine and thought it beautiful and interesting. He was working for the series Imagine and, as he was doing research for a programme on creative bloggers, could he ask me some questions? So we had a long telephone conversation and I was only too happy to hold forth on the why, what and wherefores of this blog and sundry other relevant issues. My interviewer was taking notes and asking good questions and it was evident that he had done some intensive browsing of the various rooms of my home on the web. In the end, he said he would contact me again when the plans for this programme were more advanced. I'm cool, not too enthusiastic, since maybe nothing more will come of it but anyway it was fun to be boosted by the BBC over the phone. I'm lying: I am enthusiastic and counting on something being said/shown about Blaugustine on Imagine.
Before going into full-blast monastic concentration I did take time to read my friend Beth Adams first published book Going to Heaven: the life and election of Bishop Gene Robinson . The many fans of Beth's blog, her crystalline writing style and power of sympathetic observation, will not be surprised that she has applied these gifts to the difficult task of presenting a three-dimensional portrait of an ordinary man who is also an extraordinary bishop and also the first homosexual to be consecrated as a bishop in the Anglican church, causing world-wide ripples of controversy which have not yet abated. Whether or not you are involved with issues that church circles consider to be of vital importance, this book is definitely worth reading as a sensitive and thoroughly researched biography of an honest man, dedicated to a life of service as a priest while struggling with the repercussions of being completely up-front about his sexuality and committed relationship with his partner. Congratulations Beth, and Bishop Robinson, for all that you have achieved in your lives and your work. I hope to read an autobiography by Beth, one day.
Since I'm handing out the Oscars/Augustines, I can't believe that I've waited so long to acknowledge the publication of a book by another bloggerfriend, Dem Stimson, he of the uniquely hand-drawn guild of ghostwriters His children's book, Petunia Petalbum and the Quest for Knowledge is a delectably quirky delight, studded with the visual and verbal punning humour that characterises Dem's comic strips. He originally created this book as a gift for his little daughter but this final version (printed by Lulu.com) would appeal to any child and stimulate their own creative imagination. Dem is a natural-born comic-stripper and I'm proud to have been instrumental in encouraging him to develop this innate talent which I recognised when I first saw some his "doodles" about three years ago. Dem came to visit me (see Sept. 19 post in the archive for September 2004 ) and was a member of my defunct Bloggers Parliament online project. Order his book and, if you're not already a regular visitor, go and discover his lovely illustrated blog.
Now back to work. Next post will be another installment of the autobiography.
August 15, 2006
So I'm following those instructions in Getting Things DONE that are more or less relevant to my situation and collecting *everything* in my workroom that needs doing now, is unfinished, might be done one day, is doubtful, etc. and dumping it all, without pondering each item, into "IN" baskets on the floor and there's a big black binbag into which I'm gleefully throwing stuff long past its notice-me date and iTunes is playing my very own compilation of favourites and everything is going swimmingly when, right after Joe Cocker's raunchy Delta Lady, the high-pitched sweet voice of Josephine Baker begins to sing J'ai Deux Amours and my eyes happen on the photo of my mother which sits on my desk next to the technical manuals and suddenly tears are flowing and my mouth contorts into that grimace like an upside down smile, the inconsolable grief of missing someone you will never see again.
At this time in August five years ago she was fading slowly and I was with her every day, no time for procrastination, eyes and ears on guard even during sleep to catch and soothe her little moans, adjust her pillow, and in the morning prepare the oatmeal, cooked just the right amount of time, just enough maple syrup on top. Holding her, holding close her bird-boned body, so light, ready to fly away. Ma Blanche, ma jolie, ma maman, she called me "adorable créature", that's what she said when I held her at that time. Try it with the French accent, don't say "aDORable" but "adoRAble" and not "creeture" but "cray-ah-ture". It's important that you share this memory with me precisely. During those last months I played her CDs of the nostalgic French songs she loved. She had been there with Sacha when Josephine Baker sang J'ai Deux Amours on stage in Paris, wowing the audience with her banana skins costume. Ma petite Blanche died on August 19, 2001 and it's for her that I will stop procrastinating. You have to do it because somebody thinks you are an adorable creature. Do it for love.
The sound-file of Josephine Baker singing "J'Ai Deux Amours" has been moved here
August 12, 2006
Time for public confession. My name is Augustine and/or Natalie and I am a world-class procrastinator. Don't try and soft-talk me out of it, don't tell me I'm okay you're okay we're all okay and everything's okay in this most okay of all possible worlds because you know it's not true and I know it's not true. Never mind the world for a moment (if it's possible to never mind the world) while I tell you what I'm doing to deal with - nay, to eradicate completely, pull up by the roots and throw into the fire - my very own procrastination which you can see illustrated here in all its shape-shifting trickiness. Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with the long history of my multidimensional procrastinations. I will concentrate on the Here and the Now like all good positive-thinking people do. In the hereandnow which has been going on for about three...four...five?...never mind, years, procrastination has immobilised my progress on two major works-in-progress which you, my faithful fans, already know about:
Having fully admitted, confessed, taken full responsibility for my procrastination and its deleterious - no, I'll say it plainly: BAD - effects on my life and work, I have decided to take action. Correction: I am taking action, not deciding to take action because that would be another thing to procrastinate about.
I have done something. I have ordered two books, received them and partly read them. One is by Neil Fiore, a psychologist: The NOW Habit - A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. (Guilt-free play is what I do best, by the way). The second book is by David Allen, a "personal productivity guru" and is called: Getting Things DONE - The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. ( No, I'm not stressed at all, just procrastinatory). I know what you're thinking if you think like I think and yes, I did consider throwing both books out the window or sending them straight back to the Amazon. But I gritted my teeth and after spitting out the indigestible corporate-executive-high-flyer-talk and the fluffy psych-stuff, I did extract some useful tips.
Dr. Fiore's book, naturally, goes into the inner whys and wherefores of procrastination - helpful if you're new to this sort of thing but hey Doc, I'm an expert self-analyst from way back and yeah yeah it's all true what you say but what I need is recipes, how-to-do-its and I did find a couple, like the Reverse Calendar and the Unschedule. Thanks for those, I'll keep them in mind.
On the other hand, Mr. Allen-the-productivity-guru, though irritating the hell out of me with his board-room jargon and self-promotion does give a lot of down-to-earth, practical and immediately feasible instructions for clearing the decks of actual stuff which bolsters procrastinators tendency to, um, put thing off. As a result of both these annoying books, I'm going to spend tonight and tomorrow preparing for my new procrastination-free life. I'm going out right now to buy a stack of folders and a labeller.
Oops. The stationery store will be closing in about fifteen minutes. I'll do it tomorrow.
August 8, 2006
MUST SEE THIS
To read non-mediated accounts of what life is really like in Beirut and Baghdad and Palestine and Israel, go to the bloggers on the ground. Thanks to Velveteen Rabbi (USA) for the link to Mazen Kerbaj (Beirut). Then there's Rafah (Gaza), riverbend (Baghdad), Allison (Israel; many other Israeli blogs are listed there). And this item: "American Jews call for ceasefire in Lebanon", an essential reminder but not one you'll find in mainstream media or politics.
UPDATE: I've just found another blog, Cold Desert where Ahmad in Beirut and Saida writes, with desperate humour, a day-by-day report of what this war is doing to ordinary life. This is what he says about leaflets dropped by Israeli planes telling the inhabitants of Saida to leave:
Maybe if bloggers worldwide get to know each other as human beings, beyond the glut of received opinions, ignorance and misinformation, there might be a chance, eventually, for peace based on genuine friendship, across the barriers of geography, culture, religion, ethnicity, nationality and the politics of revenge.
The never-less than excellent online magazine qarrtsiluni has, I'm pleased to say, again posted an image of mine, Incognita. I forgot to mention my three-in-one which appeared on July 18. If you haven't already done so, bookmark qarrtsiliuni and keep up with all the exceedingly fine poetry, prose and art which meets the editors' high standards. Why not contribute to the next edition?
Somehow I didn't hear until too late that there was a big stop-the-war demo in London on Saturday so, instead of being there, I was in Brighton for the day - a pre-birthday treat, courtesy of a friend. We went to see the World's Biggest Sand Sculpture Festival on the Brighton Marina. This year's theme was the Roman Empire, last year was ancient Egypt. Certainly the biggest sand sculptures I've ever seen (come to think of it, the only sand sculptures I've ever seen are the castles I used to build at the beach with bucket and spade). This was something else entirely and not even on the beach but under a metal hangar to keep the rain off. Special sand - not round but angular grains - was brought from Holland. I was fascinated by the creativity and originality of these anonymous and ephemeral works (they're demolished at the end of the season). Some were far better than many "legitimate" built-to-last, big-name contemporary sculptures. Maybe it's because these sand-sculptors don't care about permanence or fame (I assume) that they have such enviable freedom of execution. Here are a few of those I particularly liked. They are surprisingly apt for these troubled times.
August 7, 2006
BIRTHDAY PROOF OF IMMORTALITY AND WISDOM
For many years, even B.C. (before computers) I made a point of taking a photo of myself on my birthday. This ritual has something to do with trying to prove that age does not wither me etc etc but the illusion is getting harder to maintain since obviously noses get bigger and eyes get smaller every year that passes. That's okay because wisdom increases and this proves that the wiser you are, the better your sense of smell and the less you can see the flies in the ointment. And the correct year.
A great big collective and individual THANK YOU to all of you for your most welcome and life-enhancing good wishes and simply for being here.
August 6, 2006, 11:43 pm
At midnight it will be my birthday, 7th of August, so I should say something memorable or cheerful or funny or something. But I'm blank from head to toe, nothing. I'll leave it blank for now and hope tomorrow something will appear on my blank slate.
August 3, 2006
To those of you who feel, as I do, that something must be done to stop the carnage taking place in Lebanon and Israel, please go and sign the petition. And mention it on your blogs (thanks for the link, kim). Here's the message we're asked to spread as far and wide as possible: