Sunday, 4 October 2009

Word Dogs IX

Word Dogs IX

It came to my attention that I had been miscounting the Word Dogs when I advertised the 26th September performance on my Facebook. (There was a Word Dogs performance in August 2009 in Edinburgh which I was unable to attend, hence the confusion!) Which means the next performance from the Dogs of Hell will be the Tenth. Maybe we should go all out and book Madison Square Garden! Maybe not, but you don't reach ten every day.

Word Dogs IX was held at FRESSH on Cochrane Street, just off George Square in the heart of Glasgow. Due to our connections, we'd managed to hook up with The Decay of Lying: the 2nd Annual Merchant City Festival Writing, Literature and Cultural Conference. Maybe it was our boyish charm. Our notoriety. Our ability to out drink any writers to the nearest ten miles. Or, maybe it was because we knew Martin. The jury might well be out on that one. But booked we were, an hour slot was promised and it was up to our intrepid band of fellows to fill in the mix.

There was of course one scary prospect. Word Dogs VII, which, if I can say so myself, went pretty damn well last December, took six months to prepare. WDIX had two weeks to prepare! So thank the good lord we had the erstwhile Mark Harding and Ian Hunter on hand to speed edit, collect and form a junta.  They managed to do all the necessary work in the two weeks, which really puts to shame my organising skills last year! Word Dogs IX was the best of old and new. Our greatest hits and some new hits to boot.

And thankfully the open mic session ran late, else I'd have missed it. I blame Google Street View.

This performance also had one added edge for this intrepid performer. My mum was in the crowd! As was my mother-in-law-to-be and her new other half. The pressure was to, in the words of Voltaire (presumably), not cock the whole thing up.

We had some missing performers, most notably the towering Gavin Ingliss, the skilfully subversive Neil Williamson and the legendary Duncan Lunan. But we had a packed card to counter the loss of such fine talent.

So the show started. A packed crowd watched proceedings. So packed not even the performers had seats half the show.

Hal Duncan  started us off with an engaging performance of Scruffians Stamp. The story, which can be read at Hal's blog (see the link) is both a melancholic longing for the past, and a rousing call to arms. 'The Scruffian who never knew he was a Scruffian'. It's such a resounding comment: it resonates with old childs stories of our memories. It forms part of the ongoing realm where the mythical and the seemingly normal fit in side by side.  You need a strong starter to get the crowd going at an event, especially if that crowd have been around all day. We at Word Dogs are very lucky, we have one of the best.  Those who saw the performance though, will be unable to read the story without the rhyme falling into place exactly in their mind as the writer performed it. 

Mark Harding was up next. He had the unenviable task of being compere and having edited the Word Dogs show, a task I know all too well the size of! [Incidentally, I recently read Barchester Towers by Trollope, in which he includes one of his main characters, a Mr Harding. So every few pages Mr Harding appears, and my memory goes straight to poor old Mark.] Mark Harding is a first class writer from Edinburgh and a member of the GSFWC group. [Glasgow Science Fiction/Strange Fiction Writers Circle. For the record, everyone with the exception of GW Colkitto and Martin Belk himself at this Word Dogs are members of that shadowy Circle!] His stories include xLin and Don't Read This, personal favourites of mine. 

Here he read Art Attack, which had previously been read at Word Dogs IV, a Word Dogs that Mr Harding (Mark, not Trollope's character!) had been the compere of and on the Junta! In the three years since that eventful date, the story had been published by Future Fire. This was a much edited version of that story, for performance purposes, but it came across very well, and the audience responded in kind. Certainly Harding's performance skills have improved ten fold since January 2007 - as they do with every subsequent Word Dogs showing - and his story flourishes as a result. He even got a gasp from the audience at one or two 'subtle' innuendos. [Though, on reflection, I think I might be the only performer to not mention sex blatantly or as subtext!] There is a growing amount of Mr Hardings work available for perusal. We hope there will be more to follow in the years to come!

Then it was the turn of Ian Hunter. Ian is a strange beast of a writer (I hope he will forgive me saying that). The man has written multiple childrens stories, several supernatural tales and I have an autographed book of his, Fantastic Glasgow, which has a killer Sooty the Bear on the front cover! Ecleptic is the word. He read The Cutting Edge of Art here. A story I was very familiar with, as Ian read at Word Dogs VII, the show we edited together with Rich Mosses. It was a bloody good one then, and it was a bloody good one now. The audience loved it. His performance was accompanied by an almost continuous laugh track, the crowd had tears of laughter in their eyes as they listened. Ian Hunter is a very witty writer, and his wit stems out of knowing exactly what to do with his own characters. His artist, Duncan MacKenzie, is the latest in a rash of Tracy Eminites, with the satire gauge ranked up to a Spinal Tap eleven! Of course, when he goes for a new form of art, things never quite go as he planned. One things for sure - the Big Issue didn't like it! It was a delight to have Ian perform for us.

GW Colkitto was next up. Alongside Ian, he is a member of the Read RAW group of writers. His story, Outvasions, had been read at Word Dogs VII. It was read here again, and the crowd lapped it up. A nice short story with a punch in its tale. What more can you ask for? This story was my first introduction to Mr Colkitto. I look forward to my next one!

Some mad person was up next. Michael S. Collins. Nope, never heard of him either. I'd like to qualify the performance as a success, on account of not being hung, drawn and criticised afterwards. Or thrown to the dogs. Or heckled, which makes a nice change from some earlier times! Jimmy Boy certainly works better as a performance piece. I'll refrain from blowing my own trumpet, or looking like someone who has any form of ego. Let's just say I think it went reasonably well. Even my mum had a few good words to say, when she wasn't telling everyone in earshot how great Hal and Ian were!

Rich Mosses was our next performer. Rich is a Word Dogs veteran: a former host, multiple time Junta member and performer at nearly all of them. His performance of  Nelsons Blood at Word Dogs IV lives long in the mind of anyone who saw it. His reading of To Live and Die on Alston Street at Word Dogs VII was the headline act. Here he gave us another one of his specialities, mixing mythological and supernatural nasties with a decadent Glasgow urban setting. Rich reads his stories in quite a leisurely way, rather a juxtaposition with the rather horrific fates his characters seem to meet at times!

A nice surprise for all was next: Paul Cockburn, reading! Reading new fictions he had written! Hooray! Paul hasn't really written much fiction in recent years - to our great loss - focusing on his non-fiction journalism career. "I get to a hundred words of a story, then get bored" he claims. So, he gave us some examples of drabble fiction. One hundred word stories. And great they were! The economy of language cut down to its finest proportions, yet the quality shines through. Hopefully, so positive a reception will give Mr Cockburn's muse a needed aide in providing more delights like this in the near future. 

Penultimately, we had Martin Belk performing. Martin ran the Conference, and clearly enjoyed this chance to perform himself.  Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas, that's the lyrics he used! Martin combines semi autobiographical tracts with heavy streams of consciousness, loud biting satire and machine gun delivery. This story, a Word Dogs V one adapted in the wake of President Obama's reign, had the audience in roars and in pathos by the bucketload. Real performance art. Angry and bitter and twisted. Like Vonnegut's Ulysses on the Daily Show.  And despite my long running and well known disdain of all things James Joyce, that was meant as a glowing compliment.

And finally, back to where we started. Hal Duncan. He gets the final spot whenever he is available, because, quite frankly, the man is unfollowable. Apparently we were going to get something nice and fluffy. Instead we got  filth.  Sonnets for Orpheus (you can see them by clicking on the link, though beware: viewer discretion is advised due to the, uhm, suggestive nature of the poetry). They went down a storm, even if half the time some of the audience were gasping and saying "He didn't really just say that, did he?" But then, all good art makes us question. And anyone who has read the critically acclaimed Vellum or Ink knows exactly what they're in for with an Hal Duncan piece. Tore the house down. Finished on a high.

On a whole, I think we went not too badly. Everyone did well, the crowd seemed to enjoy us. I enjoyed it, both the performing and more importantly the listening to everyone else.

Until next time. When we get to the X!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Black Dog

Mandy got a book from the library she wanted to share with me: "Living with a Black Dog" (it's a picture book about depression!)

It may not have had the desired effect. My mood is the same, but I now really want a wee real black dog...

Trolling the Internet

Sometimes trolling has an unusual effect. Take, for example, certain members of the Deathlist forum. On one of their annual lists, the late George Melly was one of the fifty. So, they were looking into all things Melly. His official site had produced a new forum, so a bunch of the DL lot went over there to "spice" it up. What happened was this bunch of new posters created a mass flux of posters coming to the GM forum which couldn't hold up to it. But also, in the midst of this, the "trollers" all became massive Melly fans. They bought his stuff, they went to gigs, they exchanged pleasantries with the man himself and so on. So, when it came to his expected, but still sad, death in 2007, they were all gutted. Completly. By going somewhere planning to troll, they accidentally enriched their lifes for the better.

So warning - trolling may not have the desired effect.

Literature musings

Jane Eyre
Paradise Lost
In Memoriam
Virginia Woolf

As you can see, I have cut the pile down to a few here.

Jane Eyre everyone might as well read, and everyone might as well read it early. I have no particular love of it, though I admit to being in a minority in that regard. My lost masterpiece on how The Whicker Man was a complete rip off of Jane Eyre, is something I stand by or distance myself from, depending on the individual mood of the day. For the Brontes, it's either this or Wutherings as the best novel. I might give the nod to Wutherings, as whilst both are moralistic, that has a more ambigious outcome which is aesthetically more enjoyable, whereas Jane is more in your face, and not in an alltogether good way.

I have mentioned Frankenstein above in the thread. As long as you do not plan to have an asthma attack and collapse during a Presentation on the novel, you have nothing to fear from it. Apart from archaic language, but even from that the ideas break through.

I trust you will have already read some Shakespeare before now? Hamlet, Julius C, King Lear, Merchant of Venice, Othello (like Much Adu about Nothing, but with a much more pleasing ending!), something? MacBeth is his shortest and most well known, but by no means his best. (Personally, I recommend Richard III!) But even a weaker Shakespeare has its moments. Though watching a performance may suit better.

As for Paradise Lost: I know many people have trouble coming to Milton. A way around this "lostness" is to read around before the text.

So, if you read first:

[URL=""]Milton - Areopagitica [/URL]

And then:

[URL=""]Milton - Of Education[/URL]

Or at the very least:


To get the jist of it, then you can paint the picture in your minds eye of what this man was setting out to do through his words, not merely to entertain, but to change the entire focus and shape of his world as he knew it, by speaking out against what he thought was unjust, and in the days when you could well pay a price for that!

Milton can be a long, laborious read, and my! Doesn't he show off his far-read abilities! But if you understand - or at least, half understand - where he is coming from, its enjoyable enough.

Myself, I respect his stance, if not his politics. And his importance to writing, if not his writing!

In Memoriam - we are talking about Tennyson, yes? Fantastic. One of my favourite poets. In Memoriam is a great read, though you may well find it a bit heavy going in the one sitting. It kept Victoria sane the rest of her Albertless life, you know. And it got Alfie the post of Poet Laureute.

As for Virginia Woolf - To the Lighthouse is a bit heavy to start with. Maybe try Mrs Dalloway as an introductionary. Its very stream of consciousness, and tinged with more than a little shade of depression, but it is an enjoyable read none the less.

I started War and Peace - it's on my to finish pile one of these days.

I have read The Vindication of the Rights of Women. It's not half as bad as her husbands stuff, but read in juxtaposition with The Rights of Man, as we did, its clearly the weaker piece. With its sentimentality creeping in at every opportunity - thinking of her man as she combs her hair - its certainly not the piece people might expect it to be!

Paradise Lost - uhm, I read Book One. In 2004. I've managed to supress it now with Betjeman and Tennyson and Byron and Mary Robinson and all those poets I much prefer.

As for Popularists vs Literaturists...

Yes, the children should study that Dickens inste....hang on, he was the great popularist.
Oh well, back to SHakespe....hang on, he was a popularist too!

Chaucer? You don't write about sex in the way he did and be considered high brow, if high brow and low brow had even existed as terms in the 14c!

What is considered "Popular" is the stuff that tends to last, and is studied. What is considered "Literate", like, say Laurence Eusden, has been mostly forgotten.

So in 100 years time, Rowling will get studied and Martin Amis will be a footnote.


That's my message to budding Classical readers. The uni Joyce club started reading Finnegans Wake every Wednesday for 2 hours three years ago - they've got to page 50.

Dickens is great. People might not want to rush into Bleak House or Nicholas Nickleby, but one of the shorter pieces like Christmas Carol or even Great Expectations (well, 300 pages IS shortish) for getting into him. No one else has hypothetical dinosaurs rampaging down the London streets on page one of their novels. I think if they studied Page One of Bleak House in schools, Dickensmania would sweep the country like never before. Instead of "When Marley appears to Scrooge, what does the writer's use of alliteration tell us about the spirit?"

If we're going onto Melville, might as well read Bartleby. 30 pages where nothing happens, with an insane suggested ending that really is meant to sound far more impressive than it actually does. But it is nicely written, for all its insignificance.

Frankenstien vs Dracula

Frankenstien as a story has more going for it. I had a raging argument with someone earlier this year: he thought the whole thing was a delusion, there was no monster, it was a prototype Jekyll and Hyde.

My thoughts seem to be more of the line that, if you create an ungodly creation, then run away from it, and it gets all its morality teachings from Paradise Lost, and then kills a few folk, then you, as God and dad, should shoulder a sizeable brunt of the blame.

The arguement raged onwards for months, but no blood was shed.

Whereas Dracula is just about sex. Just like Carmilla. And unlike Le Fanu, Stoker was a bit of a clumsy hack. He has decent ideas ruined by a overclunky style.

Whereas Shelleys is merely a product of her time as such is Austen, but fits within both the satirical oversight of Byron and Percy, and the maternal influences of Wolstencraft in her writing.


Dogs are lovely. I miss having one about the place. Couldnt afford to have one in here though.

They are not, on the whole, very independent animals. They love company, and if you are the owner, they want YOU to be their company.

So I can see where the more independent minded folk might prefer the independent minded cat, that sods off to do its own thing, then comes back when it feels like it, having shagged who it feels like.

Then again, Mandy says in many ways, I am a lot like a dog. Heh.

Up to part 5 now of the first Sapphire and Steel. Steel's a right moody git. The kids are annoying. Some decent cliffhangers. Amazing what you can do with a nursery rhyme, an echo, a lampshade and some incidental music...
I've been reading a collection of Conan Doyle's short stories. Better than almost anyone, he GETS how to set up, confound and solve a crime within 17 pages. Amazing construction.

I've read Baskervilles when I was a kid (as I'm sure most have done, it was a staple) but this is the first I really sat down to read him, since he was never on any course or time. (I have a pile of reading to get through - just the ability to be to do so with needing to critique or analyse it for something after 7 years is so refreshing....just being able to read for the simple pleasure of reading is such a joy.

I have my Dickens, and more Conan Doyle, and even a Trollope (I'll give him another chance, Robert Grant was rather shocked I didn't really enjoy him back when we studied him!), some HG Wells, Kafka (the Metamorphosis, and The Trial), Brave New World and Rebecca.

Oh, and I'm feeling very ambitious, War and Peace/Anna Karenina.

I can tell how fast my brain is working by how speedy my reading is. I got through eight short stories today, so that's about 100 pages. (Then again, I did read The Phantom Rickshaw offline, but Kipling's story telling left much to be desired there, and I needed a break afterwards)

There's also some histories I could do well to read.

When I'm not writing, of course.
List of Chelsea signings in Summer 2004

Petr Cech, 12m
Robben, 7m
Paulo Ferreira 13.2m
Kezman 5m
Drogba 24m
Tiago, 17m
Carvalho 19m
Mourinho/Abramovich spent over 90m in one close season, bought the key members of the Chelsea squad, and straight away won the league.

Compared to Ranieri
Johnson 6m
Bridge 7m
Duff 17m
Cole 6m
Veron 15m
Mutu 15m
Crespo 17m
Smertin 4m
Makelele 16m
Half of those where on the fringes or left when Mourinho joined. The only Ranieri signing to have had an elongated presence was Joe Cole.

Blackburn Rovers title winning squad cost £20m.

That's mad looking back at it.

Lady from Shanghai

#1 Lady from Shanghai.

Welles Irish accent is appaling. But this piece of film noir is well put together, with some good acting spots, and nice direction. The twist, I saw coming, alas, but everyone holds it together quite well. And Welles, without whom the whole thing would be a mess, works well as the sympathetic lead. Not as good as Kane, but still a pretty good film none the less. ***

Minor musings on Hitch

I love Hitchcock, he's my favourite Director, quite probably.

Stuff like Rope is great where you just have long, undiluted takes, where he allows/trusts the actors to act.

My favourite films to date include The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window (all bonafide classics), but also the much maligned Stage Fright.

I do love that scene [The ten minuter in Rope]. Hitchcock apparently said before filming that shot: "You are my actors. I trust you. Just act, and I'll follow in."

Rope stands up so very well. I prefer that style of directing to films that seem so obviously choreographed. There's a famous example John Braithwaite pointed out to me, but I've forgotten it.

Two absolutely fantastic films [Rear Window and Strangers on a Train]. Robert Walker is so damned good and creepy in Strangers that its a shock, sad and annoying to learn he died right after filming: that was a man who would have become massive very shortly.

And Rear Window is in my top 4 Jimmy Stewart films (alongside Mr Smith, Harvey and Wonderful Life).

I love Stage Fright. It's a very well acted piece, and, despite Hitchcock's later regrets about it, contains one of my favourite twists in all of his films.

Though that be down to Alistair Sim's reaction to the reveal.