Special Agent Alert… No Time to… try ?

“The name is Bond… Basildon Bond”…

Said the UK comic actor Russ Abbot back in the 90s referring to a highly reputable stationary brand, and his character, the said comedic TV secret agent.

With double ohhh Daniel saving the post covid box office with no time to die, conversely there’s never been a better time for Irish Writers to grab some real agents to figure out what to try.

Writers tell stories, especially from our own experience, it’s who we are and what we do.

Creative artists and narcissists are also top of our talking self / tellin’ ya tree while queued along branches we can find actors, musicians, producers, directors, screenwriters, playwrights, with the would be barefaced poets hanging onto the very bottom leaves.

Although as Friel so expertly observed there is usually a private and public personae involved with writing, waiting, and wanting. Show the one you need to show.

Yes we all agree that this is completely appropriate behavior for those working their way upwards within a hits based industry that is known itself as “Show” business.

Our show business has a long established Venn diagram intersection with our tech biz or technology industry, an intersection growing larger each year. Thus along with ‘traditional’ show business professionals listed above, excellent contemporary VFX supervisors, sound designers, game developers, narrative designers, coders, digital producers, VR, XR, platform executives and digital rights holders are among those offering their show n tell, interviews, or those of us partaking in ubiquitous zoom seminars or group meetings.

While compelled by life to multitask I virtually attended the aforementioned online event this morning, organized by The Writers Guild of Ireland and the BAI, in the sound company of that most rarely spotted species: Professional Working Agents.

The key takeaway from listening to all three professional agents, and it is the core of any success in any industry really, is that relationship building is paramount.

Among many years ago I supervised an MBA thesis on remote teamwork and newly developed tools being used to facilitate it. Anyone like me who has worked in theatre or computer games development, let alone TV development or education, understands the true value of cohesive and coherent teams and the truism that relationships are at the core of all truly successful collaborations. Having key relationships are…… key, yes that’s true.

Thus as espoused today, for many writers their first key relationship is with their agent.

bowl of freshly picked blackberries
Pick away but ideas, like Heaney’s Blackberries ,don’t stay fresh.

Kelly, Giles, and Peter, offered clear insights into the agent – writer relationship today, and attendance was certainly worthwhile for their good humored and professional candor, their sharing of proven experience and opinion. I underlined and offered that hypertext link in my text above to contemporary VFX supervisors, as it offers a link to an excellent article on the real life experiences of Chris MacLean & Mike Enriquez both VFX supervisors, while making their amazeballs AppleTV series ‘Foundation’.

The main overlap in both these professional success narratives is the importance of genuine professional connection.

What we’ve already known in Ireland for years: it is whom you know not what you know (i.e. once you have also attained the requisite levels of professionalism and skills) that gets you in the room. You almost must have already earned (or paid for) the right to be there, to be there. (Is there an echo – have you left your speakers on while you’re trying to use your mic ?)

Writers must also have earned the trust of those who guided you to, or allowed/invited you into, that room, that is if you are to have an actual career in writing or show business. The best way to earn trust is not only be that good person, a hardworking nice person, but the one that delivers. Being able to type and use a computer may also help too.

Cat Painting in Library
Different people can view various writers, the Internet, and ‘Digital Art’ very very differently.
Thus obviously it can be very risky using a term like ‘digital writer or artist’ to introduce yourself.

Part of some modern difficulties in early dealings with certain contemporary producers (apart from their refusal to show me their bank balances) is most know sort of what they don’t want, although every single one does want the next big thing. That dilemma for the writer can be solved with the spec script, for all the reasons insiders already know. Although among my highly classified experimental WIP at present is a very traditional screen adaptation of a biography, could just be easier to mash together a whole new format of screenplay and label it novelty, who apart from those french loopo writers seriously considers restraints are really creatives releases ?

In terms of any such writers’ novelty, the new, or innovation, a slack novel is no longer a surprise, I’ve historically created various stories in Basic, Excel, Tiddlywiki, Twine, Flash, C, Javascript, Bulletin Boards, various social media platforms, tools, watched the 1 million penguins from the inside out while doing a formal MA in Creative Writing & New Media, prior to earning my PhD in Creative Writing & Digital Literature, creating highly innovative pathfinding works that no one ever sees anymore unless there’s some far off obscure exhibition. New technology won’t pay a writer’s bills unless you are being paid to teach those experimental aspects of our ever evolving craft, a craft seemingly broadening and deepening into the future as more and more people convince themselves they can be brilliant writers just by doing a six week course ?

Alvin Toffler wouldn’t make a good agent, as most new technological writing formats or literary forms are to the current mainstream publishing industry as haute couture is to high street (second hand) mass market clothes shops. While there may always be some academic venues and literary aficionados supporting a small amount of cutting or bleeding edge work, few can make a living from creating it. The book industry is an international industry like the meat industry.

That second mouse’s cheese is not all the sweeter were a writer to assume they could learn from the technological mistakes of others, but erm nope, simply not true, but you’ll have to buy my next book to find out exactly why and what this sentence really means. Now.. enough with the humor already, seriously….

The core of any work is the work itself, and the work itself must always be it’s own reward.

If people ask you to do work ,and you trust them, enough to build a relationship, then there is potentially some kind of more there beyond the work, but it begins and ends with the work in the first and every instance.

For serious fully committed writers, before agents, producers, publishers, deals, or any kind of show or business the work comes first. For this writer the first key relationship is with the work. All other relationships are business and thus are negotiable.

The modern WGI, which was once upon a time ‘The Irish Screenwriters and Playwrights Guild’ when I first joined many many years ago, will be making today’s meeting available to members in due course, I hope you all find the time to have a look and listen to the three agents from the UK.

Children celebrating on a race podium.
Success and Achievement are both personal and entirely relative in terms of actual reward.

All writers Are readers – publishing is not writing.

Future Nature Nurture (Post Pandemic Poem by me from May 2021)

Welcome again to my little wholly independent corner of the writing, and therefore reading, world.

On this really sunny day here in Ireland, I re-read this illuminating interview with the amazing Margaret Randall and was compelled to share it with friends, readers, fellow writers, website visitors and (later) students.

In my view, the print books business here in Ireland often short-changes many of it’s customers or ‘real life readers‘ by really pushing and promoting that whole ’emerging’ and ‘up and coming’ writers paradigm, it feels like it may often be more about securing and promoting contracted (owned) talent than actually curating careers or offering genuine diversity to a reading public.

Current commercial strategies also sell these fixed agendas within an industry of cultural gatekeepers to the aspirants facing the very barriers to entry that industry erected. As I write here often, (or did for 20 years before the site got spammed out of existence) the book publishing and distribution industry is simply not ‘the writing life’ it is only (with a few rare and valuable exceptions) about commerce, money, and profit.

Margaret’s recently released Memoir I read.

I don’t want to offer spoilers here to Margaret’s interview so the links here should be enough for now, suffice to say I will be including some of Margaret’s work in my up and coming playshop sessions and I will be asking participants to read this interview as part of our discussions around memoir and technology, and the contemporary writer’s online life.

Stuffafizing should be up and running soon.. thanks to those who have already signed up.

“My word” #blibloading ; joy for twitter wreaders and not the usual social media epistles at dawn.

I created the hashtag and neologism ‘#blibloading’. There was no word to describe the act of downloading other people’s pictures of their books, allowing for checking them out and deciding whether any of them are must reads.

Perhaps only writers or true bibliophiles will understand that urge, (or sentence) and ‘my word’ blibloading could itself not be invented before 1996 prior to the www. Yes the phenomena of @bookshelfporn obviously exists but that’s a lot more impersonal and concerns a lusty aesthetics for book filled shelves, rather than a singularly gawking online snapshot into other people’s photographed reading or book buying habits.

‘My word’ was always a gentle expression of surprise I associated with English upper and middle class friends.

Not that I actually have any.

The word on the interwebs was that it promised improvements in information and communication democratization, long and longer tails of niche pursuits and some heretofore sharing of interests, however obscure, as not merely possible but crucial for ‘a web based newer form of communication’.

The early friendlier net already did remediated letters, scrolls, epistles, notes, memos, etc, in various electronic formats via listservs, bulletin boards, etc, but social media platforms of today better facilitate speedy synchronous exchange either night or day, or yes, even at dawn for that matter..  but only if we embrace such new purposes and altered uses.

Yes questions arise; If you can’t judge a book by its cover could you judge it by a social media account or a couple of its tweets ? Traditional or mainstream interests have swamped social media such that much of its true human value potential appears lost in impure pursuits of profit and profile. I mostly use social media to connect with writers and coders, artists, etc whom I want to learn from or more about. After an initial flourish I culled my FB connections down from 4K to 1K or so, I’ve kept my linkedin at around 1.5K but as @cleverelt I follow almost 4K people on twitter and will probably continue to follow more as I encounter them. I don’t use any of my social media as marketing tools as I to date have had nothing to market… or promote….

Others certainly do, and like Laurence O’Bryan (@LPOBryan – @SeeNewBooks ) appear to be making a fantastic job of it. However some wonderfully talented writers have come relatively late to these social media parties and as a consequence have had to sit back with small follower numbers while watching other strategy savvy social media makers stride center stage, brand in hand, selling books, raising their profile and the profiles of others, while others stuff schedules and scatter content, garnering and gathering large follower numbers proffering a valuable blend of virtue signalling and semi-soft sell. To them too I sincerely say ‘fair play’.

“We know cream always rises to the top, but sometimes it can curdle before getting there.”

Me (To some writers still waiting in the twitter wings)

Work not promoted by the mainstream publishing houses and their controlled promotional arms may not reach these long tailed parts a friendly personal social media can. Irrespective of their various accounts, money, media, people, and brand guises, most of my own book purchases come from recommendations from fellow writers and friends across social media, those with whom I am (& feel) connected.

I am not sure that it’s still there, but there was a notice backstage in the lyric theatre Belfast that spoke to me about relationships between writers, artists, actors, creators, performers and their supporters and friends:

“Please do not ask for passes for your friends, if they won’t pay to see you….. who will ?”

Lyric Backstage Notice

I recently followed the writer @andrewhankinson over on twitter and bought two of his books which are next up in my reading pile (see the image below). As you do, I flicked through the newly purchased books, basically because Bibliosmia always beats unboxing . Unlike flicking through older shelved books which may hold earlier secretly stashed cash from another era (We wish).

July / August To be read short pile..

In some senses blibloading is Twitter meeting Tsundoku I suppose, but serendipity and synchronicity are wonderful aspects of modern creative life. For someone like me who has spent much time and energy with technology and creativity mostly framed formally, theoretically, academically, or seen through some sort of pristine professional practice lens, in a pandemic world, honest human connection and the hairy edges of existence blend better into authenticity when the elements of luck or chance intrude.

I have been working on a couple of commissions lately and I am looking forward to writing about those and other activities. Like so many others I lost someone close to me during the Covid 19 pandemic, and normal service has simply not been resumed, I doubt it ever will. I want to write something about the incredible connections between two of the books above in the respective images of six covers and the seven in a pile, I will do that if I ever get the time to.

Finally do feel free to comment, I get lots of comments, mostly Spam, which now has it’s own uses for me, but I do enjoy genuine comments.

as they increase, once they hit the hundred+ (spam) comments, it’s time for me to write another public post..

I’d like to thank those of you who have kindly already signed up to my (ir)regular newsletter that’s about all sorts of stuff…. It is something that I am finally getting around to working on alongside all the other abnormal creative stuff, I’ve called the newsletter:

Stuffafizing

https://clevercelt.substack.com/p/coming-soon?

 

Documentary Review: The Road to Vrindavan

Entertaining while ‘engendering’ a vital debate about education.

The time limited link to watch this documentary is here:

Previous portrayals of the poor, street, and slum, life of places like Bombay as depicted in Shantaram, the 2003 novel by Gregory David Roberts, and perhaps like the novel itself, first appeared as an illuminating western perspective until it became quite obviously incredulous and lacking genuine context, even for fiction. The welfare of India’s poorest young girls is a topic the west and east have little discussed but still mostly disagreed upon.

This was most notable perhaps when the late polemicist Christopher Hitchens published his book “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice” in which Hitch criticized her efforts to alleviate the suffering of Calcutta’s poor and claimed, outside his assessment of her character, that those efforts since based in religious dogma and motives, ensured that the wretched situation there was actually compounded by such interference. Hitch went on to explain that the one thing that has positively changed life outcomes for poor young women is ensuring that they have sovereignty over their own bodies. The long and arduous route to that societal shift in the subcontinent of India must obviously traverse education.

A snatched still from a single moment of the journey in the documentary.

The Road to Vrindavan begins with its creator Ravi Chambers understanding that immersing himself in even the planning of the central arduous journey at the centre of the film may somehow echo his previous unintended exclusion of those most dear and closest to him, as he acknowledges the effects on others of his other journey to Vrindavan as a Hare Krsna monk twenty years previously.

Jeff Gomez has in recent years articulated the shift from Campbell’s heroic journey to concepts around shared storytelling, the collaborative creation of story universes to inclusive, transmedia, and an expansive equality inspired ‘collective journey’ this very personal documentary film by necessity requires a sort of simpler immersion in the individual threads of our collective imagination.

Interviewees along Ravi’s fund raising and fact finding journey introduce terms like ‘significant importance’ and ‘authentic’ with respect to Indian Culture, Indian Tradition, and the defined roles assigned to men and women in their society. Ravi conducts his interviews with a forthright sensitivity and perhaps because of the subject matter, the obvious emotional, intellectual, physical, and maybe spiritual investments he’s making in this documentary this ensures it becomes a rich tapestry of all these elements, from the natural splendour of the countryside to the sprawling human hubbub of various urban spaces, to fresh faces of young girls each of whom has her own individual special story, the vibrancy of colour, the texture of personality and ultimately the exploration of possibility.

Just as with the ideas within it, the film itself expands its intellectual, theoretical, and ultimately sociological breath to broaden the question beyond simply the education of young girls, it does so without ever resorting to becoming academic or abstract, issues with inheriting the wisdom within tradition, societal evolution without inherently damaged historicity swamping progress, become developing backdrops to the imperative questioning at the centre of the documentary.

Here I must confess my personal connection to this story as I am a long time family friend of Ravi’s parents, but this story while about cultural, societal, gender, community, and broader questions, is ultimately about these personal stories, and the relationships between them, it is about men and women, parents and their children, what is acceptable to us as individuals and as parts of our communities, what are our responsibilities to each?

The Road to Vrindavan is a timely and very well produced reminder about individual and collective bravery, gender roles, rights, and gender sensitization at a time when violence against women is on the National agenda in India. Unlike that book Shantaram, the truth and authenticity of ‘The Road to Vrindavan’ increase as the documentary itself evolves, ‘be inspired films’ has delivered a film really worth watching and certainly a documentary very much worth discussing. Go watch it and Enjoy…

Sharing an unsolicited Linkedin Secret….

Thank you for your unsolicited confidential message xxxxxx,

Rather than simply delete your message, I thought it might also be ‘nice’ to respond to you personally here on linkedin first, before deciding whether to post my reply below publicly on my own timeline or elsewhere, as a kinda critique.

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…. it’s secret…

I’m sure at one point this whole thing sounded like a really good idea in that room, I can tease using scarcity and exclusivity appeals via simple (& cheap) personalized direct linkedin message, invite a broad cross section of connections and filter later using three (reinforcing) questions to build community via our promise of exclusive value, intimating that my actual bog standard value proposition is so really good it needs to be ‘secret’.

That’s an old 1960’s advertising trick but hey that was 60+ years ago..

I can call the initial linkedin message ‘a confidential message’, to set tone and general expectation to message recipients.

I then basically create a standard linkedin group to help form a community which we can later migrate to our own branded platform and then monetize.. we will have plenty of time to come up with better branding, simply: Secret… XXXXX XXXXX group… is initially cleaner.. until we get some additional creative talent on board..

We could later do a hot takes handbook on our success building the group. Group content can also be repurposed with our new branding.. it’s a digital playbook waiting to be complied..

We could use the hottakes handbook as clickbait reward for newsletter sign up, it can be one pillar of our broader content planning.. inbound strategy dev is underway.. what about an infographic ?

One central omission from your initial collateral and your thinking xxxxxx is that to many human beings Secrets can be a damaging psychological phenomena.

Since before whispers were invented, secrets have caused suspicion, misunderstanding, disinformation, guilt, lack of trust, betrayal, in our current post truth age, where disinformation is causing unnecessary and major political, medical, and personal, difficulties for a whole range of people and societies globally, why would any genuine thinking person want to be involved with some cheap social media ‘secret’..

Why would anyone in their own proper mind be enticed to carry additional and unnecessary psychological weight ?

FOMO ? – STFU !

Does any ‘normal’ individual really want to receive a completely unsolicited ‘confidential message’ ?

In normal circumstances I would just delete both buckshot marketing message and the connection but with all the crap currently in our world, seeing this kinda stuff from a Harvard educated CMO, a consultant, is honestly disturbing.. I need to point this cheap trickery out.

I was blessed to bring three sons to adulthood, one of the main tenets of my parenting was to have no secrets, to advise my children that yes each person could and should have personal stuff that is their’s alone, and they correctly have the choice about what they share with others.. or what they don’t.. but never be forced to carry a secret for someone else.. anyone who would ask you to do that, really needs to look at their own motivations and expectations.. and the worth of that secret, before asking you for a reply..

That final bottom line (doorknob) NLP attempt in the message:

“And remember, it is our big secret 😏”

is simply infinitive wrong..

Having written the reply above to the message below, I decided to post it here for my regular readers instead rather than dignify the unsolicited message with any form of response, I chose to leave it unanswered… and deleted the connection who sent it.

BELOW the Text of the original Message with clear redaction so as to avoid unnecessary embarrassment. and below that again an image of my desktop with the message with lots of colorful redaction to protect other identities..

Hi, Michael!

You have received a highly confidential message 🔒

I see, you have experience and expertise in the XXXXXX area, so I thought it would be nice to give you an invite to our Secret XXXXXX group.

As a member of our group, you will have full access to: •

XXXXXX-oriented courses

•Fascinating interviews with XXXXXX experts

•Most recent XXXXXX news

•Quizzes, questionnaires and polls

•Discussions of pressing problems with XXXXXX leaders

•Funny XXXXXX jokes and memes

This offer will be valid for only some days, as we have a limited number of invitations.

If you want to be one of the lucky ones and get into our group, let me know about it, and I will send a short 3 question brief to make sure you can join.

And remember, it is our big secret 😏

I am starting to write a regular newsletter which is (hard to believe I know) more opinionated, considers more topics than presented here, in hopefully more detail with additional links of interest and references, that is if enough people sign up to it.. its about all sorts of stuff…. so I’ve called it:

Stuffafizing

https://clevercelt.substack.com/p/coming-soon?

Double Digit Trouble (1st Draft)

Happy New Year, bye bye double digit 2020…
Edited Version..

Two fingers to this year 2020
When my loving mother passed
And all that economic talk of plenty
was exposed as rich men’s lies at last
our fifth world war, after drugs and terrorism,
became a virus of normal people’s frontline heroism
politicians proved their lack of worth, dumb death 
of wisdom
disinformed, cerebral malnutrition from a spin filled 
kingdom
we the people look to each other and our burning 
earth around us
that us, this we, these common people, locked down, 
look up only to see
that double digit trouble becomes our starting price
of being frank and free
fingered fear and trepidation visited upon each nation
as a global planning spree
of dumbing down, rising prices, complex processes 
reducing critical capacity
inconvenient truths dismissed, slandered silenced 
theories of silly conspiracy 
don’t fall for them vote for me, vote, vote often, 
believe you have a voice, a choice
between the corporations and my mini me, 
the nanny state supported on all fours
by those who set the ceilings and the floors, of wealth,
access, and growing successful fear
that keeps you near, believing friends or enemies 
among their economic rubble
but when you burst that bubble, 
only then begins their real double digit trouble

I am starting to write a regular newsletter which is (hard to believe I know) more opinionated, considers more topics than presented here, in hopefully more detail with additional links of interest and references, that is if enough people sign up to it.. its about all sorts of stuff.. so I’ve called it:

Stuffafizing

https://clevercelt.substack.com/p/coming-soon?

Venus in our Castletown River

The raised concentration of trees in the distance above the river at the centre of the twilight image is Castletown motte, or Cúchulainn‘s castle. In simpler times it was part of our teenage playground, and where my friends and I first encountered the material reality of Irish mythology taught at school. My photo also shows the reflection of the planet Venus in my local river from a point on ‘the big bridge’.

Modern industries have created their own myths to serve their purpose of profit and shareholder value. We as a society daily participate, spread, and reinforce such market driven myths; the myth of efficiency, the myth of merit, the myth of equality. Societies solely driven by economics and market forces visibly stratify various groupings, Shakespearean Plebeians below their Patricians or an Aristocracy above born into a right to rule. As above, not so below. Today’s billionaire class are both figuratively and literally out of sight.

There is evident entitlement that accompanies being in a more economically advantageous ‘position’. Whether the offspring of a surgeon or clock-maker or child of an unmarried mother, one of the greatest myths to persist in Ireland today is the possibility and desirability of social mobility, the idea that we are born into one economic level in our society but can and should ascend (further compete) in(to) higher social positions, enjoying consequent improved personal prosperity. Were it true, might it be worth wanting ?

The American Dream was built on such a concept, European fairy stories are crammed with it, believing in the proximity of attainable prosperity rungs keeps a globalized lid on the archetypal parochial Irish begrudger while also encouraging various arms of the Irish civil service to intermarry one another. We love the idea that such myths are really truths. There is justice and fairness and people in power will do the right thing, despite so much evidence to the contrary.

The benefits of Success are no longer about a shared myth but just another hard commercial commodity to be bought and sold, listed and exploited, aligned and structured, a fact that makes me quite sad.

A recent press release from my local football club aligns them with a british gambling company through shirt sponsorship, I had already reached 100 meaningless spam comments on this website a number of weeks ago, those two unconnected facts prompted me to write this post.

Thanks for reading..

Write away right away………… My 21+ thoughts on writing in 2021 Ireland.

Disclaimer: Beware all proclaimed experts and advisers, like the three arriving above,
rumored to be Irish government advisers developing arts council policies.

If you want to make money writing, then write computer code.

If you wish to explore your humanity write poetry.

If you’d like to network in the writing world write short stories.

If you really want to destroy your writing soul, why not try crafting literary essays.

If you want to seek specific career advancement write academic material.

If you want to pursue your dreams write print novels.

If you want to connect, write journalism.

If you want to make enemies write reviews.

If you want to make films write screenplays.

If you want to make lingering mistakes write spiritual literature.

If you enjoy emotional purgatory write brand communications.

If you want to tackle social or societal issues write plays.

If you want to be helpful write manuals.

If you want to be accommodating write invited articles.

If you want to waste your valuable time and energy write a blog.

If you want to be depressed write comedy.

If you want to go into deep financial debt write computer games.

If you subconsciously crave creative obscurity write digital literature.

If you want to create value write business plans.

If you want to be a writer, read everyone and anyone who calls themselves a writer.

If you really want to be a writer, write anywhere, on anything, anytime.

If you want to be an original writer prepare for poverty.

If you want to be a popular writer befriend other writers, particularly those you don’t like.

If you want to be a truthful writer live freely inside and outside your writing.

If you want to be a successful writer, write, write a lot, and then get an agent.

If you knew you wanted to be a writer aged 12 years old start saving ‘therapy money‘.

If you regard writing as an art rather than a craft buy a paintbrush.

If secluded daily writing excites you, try writing curricula.

If you really want to be ‘just a writer’ then write away right away.

If you’ve read down this far, you’ve reached point 30 and already know you know but were just checking in.. just in case…

I am starting to write a regular newsletter which is (hard to believe I know) more opinionated, considers more topics than presented here, in hopefully more detail with additional links of interest and references, that is if enough people sign up to it.. its about all sorts of stuff.. so I’ve called it:

Stuffafizing

https://clevercelt.substack.com/p/coming-soon?

Culture Night 2020 – Free my Covid 19 Mind.

In Ireland, we have culture night similar to how fortunate children have Christmas. One day per year when we are allowed what our imaginations may (or may not) have desired.

Government appointed quangos decide what constitutes our national culture, and therefore which precise presents are officially available. The commodification of Culture in Ireland has become a successful thriving industry in itself. Brand Ireland sells. Brand managers and various administrative layers have become self proliferating, perpetuating.

Artists, Writers, Musicians, Performers are invited to participate in this very special night and consequentially further endorse this destructive commodification that entirely reinforces the market society Ireland has become in recent decades.

As others have observed once we begin to put a price on various community and social activities, we convert public good to public goods. Our greedy rooms of economic experts can then begin their projections of worth, value, and profits in these ‘markets’.

As we put a price on any commodity we also ensure that access to it is then governed by wealth levels. Markets are also fundamentally about competition. Participants become consumers. Money becomes central.

But it’s Free…. ??

In Ireland wealth can be directly linked to political access, in a country who’s cronyism and nepotism have always at very least bubbled about in the background, to be connected is really everything for some. Surely there is no deliberate irony in Culture Night’s tagline: Connect through culture.

As someone who has been independently creative and creatively engaged with the arts and technologies, within and outside commerce/business for about forty years, I really do understand the dilemmas and dichotomies facing any artist offered either a crust or the promise of wider exposure, having paid the price of being both broke and hungry as a result of my own (foolish ?) artistic ( & Life) choices, is it then ironically rich of me to suggest to any struggling artist they consider not uncritically taking part in this constituted culture market (the culture night ritual itself is now 15 years old).

‘Free’ today has become more marketing terminology than any kind of liberation, loss leaders and free downloads are hooks and flytraps for the less aware consumer, terms and conditions apply, as always.

Culture and Banks

The books on the right in the image above are (some of) the great writer Iain M. Banks science fiction ‘Culture series’ novels, ones I’ve already read, the pile on the left are the ones I have yet to read. I am not going to offer any spoilers here, except to say that ‘The Culture’ are an advanced amalgam of races which contain advanced technologies, higher intelligence and a lot of mind. A sophisticated Utopian civilization one in so many respects often counterpointing the vast swath of dystopian visions offered elsewhere in science fiction and other future focused fiction, it can be highly dense imaginative optimistic writing.

Culture (without reference to Iain M Banks or the likes of Joseph Campbell or Edward Burnett Tylor) is also fundamentally concerned with shared Values, Beliefs, and Rituals.

The great societal pause created by Covid 19 remains a (tragic) opportunity to find ways to assess and reassess these shared values, beliefs, and rituals. Surely our leaders would agree, now is a time to open our minds as much as our hearts ?

Imagine a vital debate making decisions about what all this arts stuff actually is, and to whom is it important? How and why any of this is called Culture, what that might really mean beyond the superficial, what effects arise out of these decisions long term ?

Imagine specifically questioning promoted and funded varieties easily found ‘free’ on culture night, yes the endorsed and officially rubber stamped varieties, the specific brand of ‘culture’ which on September 18th will seep out through our screens and devices, that agreed upon type of arts, endorsed and asymmetrically shared by what is ultimately a hegemonic few, Again what is it really ? and what is it’s actual purpose, is there any alternative view ? Well it is a debate that simply won’t happen in Ireland.

Such a debate isn’t happening because our entire arts and culture industries, the culture markets in Ireland, are currently decimated by Covid 19, the response for the most part has been vested and established interests clambering with begging bowls to government.

Plenty of people who get up in the morning and many many others state their cases for support and special treatment to survive in today’s highly competitive marketplace they actually helped create, continue to endorse, and help preserve, albeit perhaps unwittingly.

The temporary reduction in our national VAT rate is interesting because it should serve to remind all of us that anyone who pays for commodities, also pays tax, and thus participates in our various markets (or market segments) whether they happen to get up early or not.

Even when the Irish exchequer is borrowing money, it is all the people’s money if not our children’s money they are borrowing, the continued use of that money to impose a market ideology through the arts should also reside at the heart of any potential debate about how that money is spent. I’d like to write here about the GAA and my admiration for it and what it does at community level, however that would make this piece far too long, so another day perhaps..

What exactly constitutes our contemporary ‘culture’ and what effect does it have on the future direction of our arts ? No one I have seen or read in the media has ever questioned this aspect of policy in this specific manner ? We get lots of commentary in the organ of record but little actual informed analysis as to the longer term detrimental effect on various parts of our broader society.

It seems shouting about diversity or inclusion, droning on about access, counts as sufficient critical analysis of strategy. In business culture eats strategy for breakfast yet these efficient government agencies produce only focused ‘strategic’ plans, to which everyone and their mother are often invited to contribute, diluting the very concept of focused strategy. We love commissioned reports in Ireland, almost as much as we love the cans we kick down the road.

I am obviously aware that writing on this topic like this at this time may myopically characterize me as some kind of begrudging curmudgeon, ‘oh come on allow people to enjoy themselves and their arts in whatever manner they wish’. But to argue that is to miss the point of seeing culture commodified and economically mined to the detriment of those who probably most need the greatest access to it, the poorer in our society.

To consider this uninvited open contribution to culture night worthy of critical appraisal or rebuttal is to accord me more influence or attention than I want, merit or deserve, while my website in its previous form had hundreds of thousands of visits, I never promoted it outside my relatively small circle of friends, friends from across a broad spectrum.

Are there already enough middle class minds, or refusenic working class nogins like mine, wallowing in these cultural wastelands we create as we emulate our own personal hero or heroin ? I would like to imagine that if prompted the current gatekeepers and purse-holders could recognize the longer term value of reform to all parts of our society, or perhaps I am confused and really being Utopian ? Or should I just accept that as with all markets, there will be winners and their most certainly will be losers and it’s not my job to point that out to anyone.

Yet part of the joy of Arts and Culture is learning, education, exchange, participation is a broadening or deepening experience, it is absolutely vital that the poorer in our society have access to the arts. Will culture night offer them that access ? I very much doubt it, will culture night offer anything other than a back slapping celebration of the status quo, of the status of those arts sectors as a primarily promoted activity that strategically supports the continuance of a market society more interested in profits than participants, I again very much doubt that also.

I was lucky that the community arts I experienced were to me nothing to do with culture or organizations nor endorsements nor conformance, they were created by the community that enjoyed them, very very little if any funding was ever received and they were created with a view to allowing my then working class community to experience themselves as others may see them/us/me. I have made many friends through the arts… I have learned a lot from and through the arts, I have an enormous respect for artists and practitioners, and recognize that communities of practice tend to share certain values, perspectives, beliefs, they are a form of sub-culture in and of themselves..

But as Terence McKenna wisely said: Culture is not your friend….

So led by the least among us, until we ask for this debate, inform ourselves, share information, there will be no change and market forces will continue to erode the public good in favor of public goods, competition will continue to create Darwinian conditions and arts and culture will become fully and only elitist pursuits.

However I see a brighter future, perhaps not one so entirely different to what Banks himself wrote so extensively about, a future that imagines enlightenment, de-commodification, fairness, understanding, appreciation, where the most reported pandemic in history became a catalyst for positive, genuine, authentic societal change on Culture Night..

Again, Imagine that…

If you got this far, sincere thanks for reading, please feel free to share or leave a comment..

Nobody Knows Anything ? Imagine that ‘homo humbleless..

William Goldman famously informed Hollywood of this fact in his autobiographical guide to the movie business “Adventures in the Screen Trade“. Every writer is aware of that fact even if it serves only as an emotional rejection safety net. Scientists know this also…

First line Quote from Bantam Books edition 1988..

which is perhaps why there is such emphasis on reproducibility of results when it comes to theories, theorems, where proofs are essential for truth. The need to know is the need to have proof. I have proven, on many occasions that knowing a lot, however large that specific lot may initially seem to some, even relative to other smaller lots, is still infinitesimal if not entirely negligible when compared to what might be known. This being just one true reason why I’m often surprised and shocked at the lack of genuine humility shown by ‘homo humbleless’ i.e. certain academics, writers, business people, and artists. Human ego certainly appears to be one of the most destructive and unforgiving forces on our planet, fueled with these little pools of individual knowledge it’s an utter disaster for those unfortunate to encounter them.

“A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing”

Alexander Pope.. An essay on criticism..

As children our imagination and curiosity drive us to discover more about the world, in my own case it was taking all sorts of things apart, making stages, sets, and theaters from cardboard boxes, using such bits and pieces to create shows and epic linoleum kitchen floor performances for the captive audience of two older grandaunts and a very proud mother. When we grow up so many of us lose that ability to openly experiment in a non self aware way. Our society, despite what social media tries to say, does not suffer such fools gladly, and often being foolish is a true route to creative discovery and imagination.

When someone tells us new truths old books contain, that childish sagacity we once possessed can be driven from us by such convention.

‘Imagination is more powerful than knowledge’ is a quote attributed to Einstein, in my own limited view imagination is an under investigated human phenomenon, some years ago I read Anne Balsamo’s Designing Culture: the technological imagination at work, my own wip print book could quite easily be sub tilted / log lined as ‘the technical imagination at play’.

The difficulty with reaching an end with life long formal education, having experienced it’s primary versions reject me in my earlier life, is the actual perceived worth and value of that formal, formalized and institutional variety of education, learning by earning (or paying for) bits of exclusive institutional paper loses it’s sheen and relevance, particularly when so many of it’s corporatized advocates themselves belong to ‘homo humbleless.’

I lost my thinking, writing out loud (Louth) space when my old website was wiped, I am only reviving my mechanism of public meandering and web rumination. I am looking forward to getting back to making some art, digital art and all sorts of stuff I can only imagine.