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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Statement of intent

During my recent trip to the United States I had a friend lament the fact I don't really blog anymore. And when I say "lament" what I mean, of course, is "make a passing comment about." My friend made a passing comment about the fact I don't really blog anymore.

"I follow your Twitter a bit," he said. "But I don't really know what you're up to these days."

In hindsight, this was probably more a means of getting conversation flowing -- something that is always a little difficult in the first minutes of meeting up with people you haven't seen in 2.5 years -- rather than any sort of suggestion that I spend more time talking about myself on the internet. But I've chosen to interpret his comment as the latter, so here I am.

Again. 

Promising myself that I am going to blog more. 

I do this sort of thing every quarter year or so, because as I get older life seems to slip by a little more quickly. Without any good documentation of said life I start to feel it is all pretty meaningless, that I have fallen into an inescapable malaise. I get really grumpy and start to flop around like a fainting waif in an Edward Gorey illustration, feeling my entire existence has been a tremendous waste of resources.

To some extent, I can't really argue it hasn't been. But it is very challenging to live under such circumstances. Maybe (probably), the truth is that I am incalculably insignificant in the grand schemes of history and space, but I need to dupe myself into thinking otherwise if I want to live without a depression so crushing it hurts to breathe.

That, after all, was the point of the vlogging (video blogging) thing I used to do. For a year, I recorded every day of my life and put it on the interwebs. It turned out to be a pretty good year to keep track of because within that year my relationship with Jenn blossomed and I eventually proposed -- an action I would list first and foremost if challenged to explain why mine was a life worth living. You'll note, however, the absence of a link to said vlogs. I've since taken them offline.

I did this at the behest of my wife because she was concerned, firstly, that one or two of our friends weren't terribly happy with how they appeared in the vlogs, and secondly, that things she said might somehow be misinterpreted in that ridiculous way that managerial types almost always misinterpret things and wind up having a negative effect on her professional aspirations. And I get that; I'm 98-percent sure that the simple existence of my blog once killed my chance at getting a job (a)

Indeed, one of the reasons that I fell out of blogging was that I didn't like that strange mix of frustration/embarrassment/awkwardness that comes when an email from a friend would show up in my inbox saying: "Hey, I really don't want to infringe on your creative spirit, etcetera, etcetera, but could you please not talk about me ever?"

I am an open-source kind of guy. Not everyone else is.

And not everyone wants to be a character in a story. That's another reason I fell out of blogging, and vlogging. Many moons ago, this blog was far more active, and I couldn't help noticing that people sometimes responded to it as if it were a long-running narrative. Obviously, this had a lot to do with my writing style, and my habit at the time of giving people nicknames. For example "the child bride."

Sometimes -- especially in Wales -- I could sense an oh-so-slight disappointment from people who read the blog upon meeting Rachel, because she wasn't the thing they had created in their head. What I was writing  on my blog accidentally encouraged people to engage in character creation for the people in my life. I mean, remember this? The music in that clip is added, and it's all slowed down, but the video is the same as was used by the BBC. The child bride reaction shot is really just video of her waiting to do a mic check several hours after I met Sian Lloyd.

Sometimes I think that Rachel's discomfort at being perceived as a character was one of the (many) things that induced her to leave. My unwillingness to put anyone else in that situation, to turn loved ones into cast members on The Chris Show, is why I'm always very uncomfortable even mentioning Jenn. She's not a character; she's not a creation of my imagination; she's not a person playing a role. She's my wife. I love her and think she's awesome, but perhaps it's best if I generally keep that to myself. 

The twisting up of trying to determine what is and isn't acceptable for public consumption -- what's a notable event and what's just an anecdote that portrays someone in an inaccurate light -- can take a lot of steam out of a guy's desire to blog or vlog or even journal. Perhaps this is why Charles Dickens had all his diaries burned upon his death.

But, see, I like doing those things. I like being able to look back and show myself that I am not as pathetic as I feel. I am the type of person who struggles to see beyond the immediate. I too easily fall into the line of thinking that all days lead in linear fashion to the point I'm at. If the point I'm at isn't very good, that means that none of the points leading to it were all that good, either. So, I look out the window and see that none of the cars on the street are mine, because I don't own one -- I can't afford one -- and that makes me sad. The various acts of my 38 years have not even accrued to the point that I can buy a car. I become miserable and at times downright suicidal because I can only see what's right in front of me (or, rather, what isn't in front of me); I can't see all the days that end in Y.

Documenting my life gives me something to fight that with. It is a hard fight sometimes, but at least it's something. I can counter a materialistic complaint about the lack of a car with: "OK, that's true. But you do have a motorcycle, which you earned through writing skill alone, and which took you up to Scotland recently (b)."

Or even when it's not some big adventure. Just the reminder that I was alive on such and such day. That the immediate is not the whole.

Finding the balance -- and within that/despite that, maintaining any sort momentum -- is the challenge, though. 

I told my friend I would try to start blogging more often. Maybe I will...


____________________

(a) I am consoled by the fact the company went bankrupt only a few weeks later, so I would have had to get a different job anyway.

(b) Documented in four parts on my motorcycle blog: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

This

Guy finds himself alone in an airport, records music video. as you do.


All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Days 80-102

I suffer these waking sleeps: long periods -- days, weeks, months -- in which nothing really happens. I just go about a sub routine, I live another day, but nothing really happens. Especially in terms of creativity. Then one day I'll wake up and all the time that has passed since I last really used my brain, last really attempted to create anything, will overwhelm me. I'll feel disappointed and angry and panicked and sick. I become obsessed with the idea that at any moment I could get a brain hemorrhage and that my little dream of being a professional author will not only have gone unachieved but also un-attempted. 

That's what happened to me this week. On Sunday I was hanging out with my friend Laura, whose band will be performing live on 6 Music next week, and her boyfriend Clint, who is a professional stand-up comic. The next morning I woke up and in my sleepy hungover haze a great wave of rage swelled up within me at all the things I haven't done.

I have since been both angry and in fear of slipping back into the walking sleep. I feel somewhat energized to read, write, think and act upon my desire to be a professional author, but I am fearful of losing that, of falling back into the mind numb. 

Today, however, I sent a submission to a local publisher that had been suggested by Laura, and I feel strangely optimistic. I feel that I have a good manuscript and that if I can just get someone to actually, really look at the damned thing it will get published.

Here's hoping.



Monday, May 19, 2014

Days 46-79

Nothing. I want to be angry at myself, but the mere fact that I can't even build up the energy to do that is, I think, indicative of some greater burnout. Which is probably at the heart of why I have so much trouble writing.

But I was up in Scotland last week and that, along with the hours of riding my motorcycle up there and back gave me a little time to think and maybe, hopefully, I can start to refocus on this goal of being a professional author. A succession of things helped to spur that feeling:

1) Firstly, I was in Scotland to attend the John Muir Conference, in which person after person stood up and invoked the spirit of the Scotland-born "father of the national parks," whilst quietly admitting that he'd probably be pretty disappointed with conservation efforts in his native land. Thoughts of Muir, of his finding that Great Thing he wanted to do (preserve huge swathes of land for future generations), and pursuing it rekindled that feeling within myself that I can be a great writer if I actually try. 

2) Sometime during that same week, I received a rejection email from an agent to whom I had submitted my manuscript. It was the first rejection I've gotten out of a large group of submissions I sent back near my birthday. Yes, it is shit to be rejected, but getting a rejection letter/email means at least that someone has taken the time to look at what I've sent them. In most cases, I'll send stuff and never hear back. It can feel that I might as well be printing out copies of my book and tossing them into the sea. Getting a rejection, in a strange way, helped remind me to keep trying. Though, I've yet to send off any new submissions. 

3) I have, however, submitted a short story for the Rhys Davies Short Story Competition. I'm actually pretty happy with what I've submitted. I'd like to win the £5,000 prize, of course, but, honestly, I'd be happy with just some level of recognition: a something that can lead to something.

4) Meanwhile, I was listening to a podcast Saturday in which David Shoemaker offhandedly mentioned the fact that, as a professional writer, he is frequently asked for advice on how to become a professional writer. And his answer is simply: "Read more." That's advice my friend Heidi gave me more than a decade ago, when I showed her a short story I had written. I took that advice and, I think, got better. But if you look at the list of things I've read this year (over there on the right), you'll see I seem to have forgotten that advice. It's that deep burnout, maybe. But I have told myself that I am going to try to read 15 minutes a day. That's not much, but it's considerably more than I've been managing.

5) I was at a barbecue this past weekend and one of my friends who has various BBC connections was encouraging me to try writing a script for radio. He even gave me a script to a programme that is set to be produced, so I could get an idea of what producers are looking for.

6) I have been offered another opportunity to write a motorcycle-related piece. So, score more points for my motorcycle blog. At last count, that thing is getting 18,000 pageviews a month. People really like reading about motorcycles, I guess. Who knew?

7) And those above two points lead to the frustration I feel toward myself of not adequately using my resources. I feel defeated and exhausted by my long-term lack of tangible success, but equally exhausted by my inability to properly use the tools I have. I guess because the former makes me feel there is no point in the latter. 

While I was in Scotland I found myself wandering in Cairngorms National Park and there is a certain part of Glenmore that reminded me oh-so-slightly of the Lake Tahoe basin area in Northern California. I lived by the shores of Tahoe for a summer, so I suppose the experience of being reminded of it in Scotland managed to reach into that part of my brain that is so desperately homesick and always searching for anything that reminds me of home -- anything to connect me to what I know. And even thinking about it now I feel that overwhelming feeling of sadness and tiredness and hopelessness that is being homesick. I feel like crying.

At the John Muir conference there was a doctor who talked about the fact that long-term inactivity, poverty, unemployment and other such things can lead to actual physiological change in your brain. Not having a job makes you stupid, in other words. I have to imagine that missing home so much starts to ruin your brain, too.

But maybe that is just a cop out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Days 36-45

I feel so upset with myself because the stuff I want to be doing is not getting done. I am not reading; I am not sending submissions to agents. But if the goal is to be a professional writer that earns money and things from words, well, I guess I'm doing that.

First there was an article for Visit Wales. That was a tremendous bit of luck that came out of nowhere and earned me a little bit of money that immediately disappeared because Jenn had forgotten we had to pay council tax this month.

Far more exciting, and also last week, was a huge adventure to the Midlands to ride motorcycles, drink free beer and score a free set of motorcycle tires. I wrote about the whole thing on my motorcycle blog, which I think was very much one of the reasons I won the competition.

And certainly I'm happy about all this. I mean, I'm pretty sure the value of that Michelin launch (free tires, a day on a top-level motorcycle, an evening in a shockingly expensive themed hotel along with food, booze, and tickets to Alton Towers) pushes me safely past my goal for this year of earning 10 percent of my income from writing. But, you know, you're not going to end up in Paris Review writing about motorbikes.

I don't know. Maybe I'm incapable of actually being happy. The correct way to look at things is to say: "Chris, you're solidly working toward your goal and it is resulting in your getting money and super awesome stuff. Stop lamenting that it won't earn you a Pulitzer and just keep moving forward." But emotionally that's hard to do. I' not being the awesome person I want so much to be.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Days 23-35

Nothing. I read a tiny bit of Jeeves and Wooster, I wrote a few posts for my motorcycle blog. But by and large I have done nothing toward my goal of being a professional author. Until today. I'll get to today in a moment.

I hit a long slump after the night I went to the storytelling circle in Bath. Riding home that night was exhausting and I felt like hell the next day. After that, I never really recovered my energy. I have been mentally sluggish, uncreative and an all-round dullard. This is a symptom of depression, I think. I slip into these phases when I just become so woefully boring and listless. 

There has been at least one instance in the past two weeks or so when I've been talking to Jenn and suddenly become aware of how terribly boring is the thing I'm saying. I'm talking about engine displacement and torque in motorcycles, or some such thing. So I've just stopped mid-sentence, said "uhm, uh, ah" a few times and claimed to have forgotten what I was saying.

More classic signs of depression are the fact I've been really tired and inclined to speak (about motorcycles, probably) in an unintelligible mumble.

I don't really know what set me off. The weather, the fact that we are struggling so much financially, homesickness, or the self-perpetuating cycle of not working out as much as I'd like. I don't know. I think another part of it is not hearing from the agents to which I've submitted. It's bad getting a rejection, but it's somehow worse not hearing from them at all. You think: "Did they get my submission? Should I send it again? But if I send it again, and they have already received it, that will make me look pushy and they won't want to work with me. What should I do?"

Anyway, I've been hovering just above miserable for the past little while and feeling that I am doomed to be the literary equivalent of Chris Kanyon.

I don't know if I'm out of my funk, but today I got a chance to write a piece for which I will get paid. And that makes me happy. Chalk up another victory to the motorcycle blog for that one.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Days 21 - 22

We'll call it a weekend, methinks. Jenn and I were out of town Saturday and Sunday, so it was difficult to do anything toward my goal beyond the always vague "gaining life experience."

We went to Devon for the weekend firstly to celebrate the birthday of Jenn's uncle and secondly to celebrate my birthday. For my uncle-in-law's birthday celebrations were held in a not-that-fancy pub in Exeter. I spent most of my time talking to an extended family member who likes motorcycles. Through that conversation I've found myself even more convinced that I want a Harley-Davidson Low Rider, but that's discussion best saved for my motorcycle blog.

That evening, Jenn and I drove north to Exmoor National Park and the tiny hillside village of Lynton. For dinner, we walked down the hill to the village of Lynmouth and ate at a pub on the water's edge. The village is nestled in a small cut of a valley that empties into the Bristol Channel. Walking back up the hill we were able to see across to Cardiff.

On Sunday morning, after a big breakfast at our B&B, we went for a short walk to a rather blustery Dunkery Beacon. On a good day a person can see four national parks from that point: Exmoor (of course), Dartmoor, Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast. This is assuming you have binoculars. 

In the afternoon, we went to Dunster, which is an awesome little village on the edge of Exmoor. I was delighted by it if not simply because it is an ideal place to take my parents next time they come to visit.

I didn't think to take my camera this weekend, but here are a few pictures I took with my phone:

View from Dunster Castle.

View from Dunster Castle.

Jenn crossing a bridge on the grounds of Dunster Castle.

Wandering the grounds of Dunster Castle.

Atop Dunkery Beacon.

Jenn, wrapped up warm atop Dunkery Beacon.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 20

I got another rejection today. That is comforting in the sense that it means people are at least receiving my emails. I had started to wonder if perhaps my submissions were going straight to people's spam folders.

As a response to the rejection, I sent submissions to two more agents. I have a deep feeling that I am going about all this the wrong way, but I genuinely don't know how to gain traction, how to go about getting this book published.

I started thinking about this recently when I was mentioning my 183-day initiative to a friend of Jenn's who is a professional painter. Painter of portraits and the like, not houses. When I mentioned sending submissions to literary agents he seemed surprised, as if he thought it might not be the best way to go about things. Since he is someone who can actually pay his bills with his art, I feel this desire to defer to his wisdom, to assume that he knows more than me despite operating in an entirely different medium. So, I have been endlessly second-guessing myself but always arriving at the same question: "Well, what else would I do?" I don't know.

I have also had the thought that perhaps he just thinks I'm an idiot and not at all very good. I frequently lament internally that I don't really come off as an author or the sort of person who would write anything worth reading, because in dinner parties I so often talk about motorcycles and professional wrestling and other things that no one I seem to know cares anything about. So, perhaps he didn't think it was a bad idea to submit to agents but imagined my writing (which he's never read) wouldn't be good enough to be represented by anyone. Or perhaps he was just surprised that someone so dumb as me should manage to think of an intelligent way of pursuing a goal of becoming a professional author.

I don't know. I have low self-esteem. I tend to feel that everyone thinks I'm an idiot. So maybe (probably) he wasn't thinking any of the above and I'm just a bit crap at reading people.

Days 18-19: Gorillas in the Brist(ol)

I did a fair bit of reading on Day 18. It turns out the punctured tire I had a week ago was an actual punctured tire. I've not had the time to go get a new inner tube, so I took the train to work, thereby allowing plenty of time to read. This is how things used to go with me: I got most of my reading done on the train.

Woe to me that it is cheaper, easier, healthier and less frustrating to cycle to work. I miss having all that time to read. But at least I got a little done on Day 18. And that was the only thing I got done. A particularly mental-energy-draining day at work made me unwilling to do anything else. 

Day 19

I turned 38 years old on 20 March. And one generally doesn't work on one's birthday. Jenn and I went to Bristol for the day because in my view there are no six words more depressing than: "I spent my birthday in Cardiff."

We went to lunch at Grillstock, a barbecue stall in St. Nicholas Market. Barbecue is suddenly the "in" thing these days in Britain. Bristol has a few good spots and even Cardiff has Hang Fire, which is a strange sort of pop-up BBQ experience that takes place at the Landsdowne in Canton. Bristol's St. Nicholas Market is really cool. There is a section of it that consists of two long rows of stalls selling really good food: pies, Middle-Eastern food, Indian, Caribbean, pasta, sausages, Portuguese, pita wraps, and Grillstock. On a weekday at lunchtime the place is packed with people, the smell of delicious foods almost overwhelming.

Jenn and I both had pulled pork sandwiches covered in barbecue sauce. The Texan in me is keen to point out that it lacked a certain authenticity but I think you just have to accept these sort of things when you are 5,000 miles away from a cuisine's regional origin. Barbecue in Britain by nature is going to suit British tastes. And for me, any barbecue is better than none. Besides, this was really good. I mean, really, really good. So good that it again stirred up my desire to move to Bristol.

That became the running theme for the day. Jenn and I started this year talking about moving to the city but soon agreed we should park the idea until summer, after we have returned from visiting the United States. My grandfather's 90th birthday will be in June and we are focusing all resources into being able to pay for the trip (if anyone has £400 they want to give me, t'would be much appreciated). So, we can't even really think about the cost of moving until after that.

But wandering around Bristol, and having its superiority over Cardiff effectively waved in our faces (Unique shops and restaurants! Unique pubs! A really beautiful, posh part of town! Zoo! Clever street art! Fewer chavs! Thoughtful accommodation of bicycles and motorbikes! It's not Wales! It's closer to Jenn's family! It's closer to the few friends I have in this country!) reminded us of why we had decided to move there.

After barbecue we walked up the hill to Bristol Zoo, home to the seagull-throwing gibbon. Any gibbon that throws seagulls is alright by me.

Bristol Zoo is a clever little place because they tend to feed animals when people are actually there. Which means the animals are often moving around a bit, which is what you want to see. No one wants to see a gecko just sunning itself, you want to see a gecko slowly, meticulously tracking a bug with its weird eyes and catching the bug with its tongue.

Jock, the gorilla.
The zoo has a new gorilla space called Gorilla Island, which is the bee's knees because it sort of places you in a large plastic box amongst the gorillas. So, you're there face to face with them and you find that they stare at you as much as you stare at them.

Gorillas are interesting things because they are obviously more cognizant than any other animal you'll see in a zoo. They are clever enough that a zookeeper can verbally ask them to move into one part of the enclosure so she can close off the other part and tidy it up a bit. Just that bit was blowing my mind.

The enclosure has a load of different little sections that can be closed off with big metal gates. No doubt to keep the gorillas from fighting over food, each of them is fed in their own private section of the enclosure. The gigantic male of the group, it seems, prefers to eat in a main part of the enclosure, where the whole family likes to hang out. So, in order to place food out for him the keepers first had to ask all the gorillas to leave that room. Which they did.

Once they were all out of the room, its doors were automatically shut and a keeper was able to walk in and tidy up some of the wood shavings and such before setting out an enormous tray of fruits and vegetables. Then she left the room and the door was opened to allow the male, Jock, to saunter in. The door was closed behind him to allow him to eat in peace.

He went up to the pile of fruits and vegetables and peered at it the way you might when shopping. I'm pretty sure he didn't actually put his finger to his chin in a "Hmm, let's see now, what shall I have?" pose, but that was very much the nature of his body language. Eventually, he tossed two apples, a banana and a pot of yogurt into his massive left hand before shuffling to spot that was right next to the glass.

Yeah, a plastic pot of yogurt with a peel-back lid. This item was blowing the minds of those of us watching. Is that a mistake? Surely you don't give an animal a plastic container –– they'll eat it. Is that what he's going to do? Just eat the pot? Or will he squish the yogurt out like Popeye eating a can of spinach? And the banana. How is he going to eat that banana? He has enormous gorilla hands, how could he possibly have the dexterity to peel a banana? Or even the mental wherewithal to know to peel a banana?

He ate the apples in two bites: one bite perfectly splitting the fruit in half. And yet there was delicacy in his eating, measure and appreciation of the food. He wasn't just shovelling crap in. He had chosen specific items and was enjoying them. With the banana, he peeled it with an almost grace. He ate the banana then ate the peel, holding it up for us to see –– as if to say: "I could have eaten the thing whole but I peeled it to amuse you."

You wonder if zoo gorillas have a sense of performance. Obviously they understand that they are being watched. They get their situation on some level. Freedom is a subjective and high-level concept that the vast majority of humans even struggle to understand, so I don't think the gorillas of Bristol Zoo have any complaints about their situation or are wholly cognisant of it. But you wonder: how relevant to them are the hairless underfed apes that squeal with delight when they peel bananas? And do they make that connection? And do they have any appreciation for that? Does Jock know that peeling the banana rather than just chomping through the thing will make all the sickly apes go nuts?

Maybe he has an element of showmanship, because he saved his best trick for last. He produced the yogurt that had been nestled in his massive palm and... I don't know, did he look at us? Did he offer a sly glance? Maybe. Either way, he deftly peeled back the lid –– knowing to hold the cup upright. We went nuts. He licked the lid. We went nuts again. Then he used his enormous forefinger as a spoon. He ate the cup of yogurt in two or three fingerfuls, then held the cup up and licked the inside. Then he set the cup and lid aside, knowing those things are not food. Compare this to the meerkat I watched later who kept trying to figure out how to eat a rock.

After the yogurt, Jock returned to the food pile and selected three heads of lettuce, a broccoli stalk and two red peppers –– all of which fit into his right hand –– and picked another vantage point from which to eat. And on and on through his whole meal. Jenn and I were transfixed. It is amazing to think of an animal as making choices, as deciding: "I'll have this, then I'll have those..." And you wonder what those choices are based on. Did he go with the stuff he liked most first? Or is lettuce actually his favourite?

Anyway, gorillas. Them things is awesome. As were the meerkats and red pandas and gibbons and other monkeys and penguins and seals and lions and lemurs and so on. The typical thinking is to see zoos as a place for kids but I find them to be far more enjoyable as an adult, now that I am capable of watching and pondering all the little things an animal does.

Oh, another thought on the gorillas: are they English? Jock was born in London Zoo; all but one of the other gorillas were also born in English zoos, most in Bristol (one female was born in France). So does that make them English? Compared to many football fans, they're certainly better representatives for the country...

After the zoo Jenn and I walked to a pub for a few pints before heading to the Relaxation Centre, which is a wee spa tucked into the Clifton neighbourhood. Cue more pining to move to Bristol for stuff like this. For me, the highlight was a sauna right next to an outdoor plunge pool. So you could get intolerably hot then fling yourself into icy cold water. On paper that probably sounds like no fun, but I assure you: it's amazing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Day 17

The storytelling circle I went to last night turned out to be a disappointment. That's me being diplomatic. I don't want to do a little poop on anyone's special thing, but I ended up glad I turned up late, and felt no guilt about leaving at the halfway point of the evening.

Roundtrip, I rode 120 miles for the sake of the event. Which included navigating the A46 at night –– a curvy road with no street lights. So, you'll be hopping along at 60 mph when all of a sudden: CURVE IN THE ROAD WITH NO IDEA OF HOW SHARP IT IS OR WHERE IT ENDS. 

That sort of thing is hell on a motorcycle because if you hit your brakes in a curve you put yourself at extremely high risk of going flying. On a motorcycle, handling curves involves physical interaction –– placement of weight and lean and throttle and a bunch of other tedious things that are hard to just sort of pull out of your ass. Or, at least, they're hard for me to pull out of my ass. So, when I hit one particular corner too fast my brain froze as I drifted out too much toward the oncoming lane. Those Isle of Man TT dudes probably could probably have hit the same corner at 100 mph, but I'm not them. I just got scared and didn't make adjustments as I should have. Things turned out OK –– I didn't even cross over the line –– but it's annoying to come out of a situation knowing that you handled it very poorly.

Anyhoo, that was on the way to the evening, and perhaps that put too much a weight on things. A sort of: this had better be worth risking my life for. It wasn't. 

It was an event that... Well, first of all, it was an event that resulted in my not getting to bed until 1 a.m. I had to get up for work five hours later and I have passed the age when such things are easily done. As I write this, I am looking at the clock and wanting desperately to go to bed, so I'm not sure how much I want to go into what I didn't like. 

But in short, I have a bachelors and masters degree in Welsh. The masters degree has an emphasis on creative writing. And the very keystone of Welsh literature is the Mabinogion, which is a collection centuries-old tales handed down from the oral storytelling tradition.

So, my point is: I've have read and written about and studied and listened to and even taken part in a great whopping lot of oral storytelling tradition. And last night just wasn't up to par. Not close. Because the goal is not just to recite a list of nonsensical occurrences in a falsely important and breathy voice ("And then the giant turned himself into a fork. So, the knight ate a bowl of porridge and asked the golden harp to come with him to find a pool in which dwelt many spirits"). It is to tell a story. The clue is in the name: storytelling. 

All these folk tales were at one point relevant to people. They made sense to the audience and were of interest to them. The craft of the storyteller, who was after all doing this in exchange for food and lodging, was engaging the audience. This would have meant changing and adapting the tale as needs must, to suit the mood and the atmosphere.

So, with something like Mabinogion, I am certain the stuff that is written is effectively bullet points. It is not the story. The story would have been told in the moment and may have contained all or only some of the story we see written.

Fans of the oral storytelling tradition, though, too often treat it almost as scripture: unchangeable, unadaptable. Last night was an example of that, worsened by a collection of particularly weak storytellers. It was the sort of thing that made you understand why oral storytelling died out.

Although, it didn't really. Not at all. If it had died out, it wouldn't cost so much to go see Henry Rollins. Or Jello Biafra. Or Scott Ian. Or Chris Jericho. Or anyone else who does spoken word tours. Oral storytelling has just changed, that's all.

And what I'm saying about it is rushed because I so desperately want to go to bed.

Meanwhile, today, I did some actual work toward writing a short story. As a matter of fact, I wrote it. The whole thing had come to me as I was cycling from work. I have a complete story now but it is very rough; I'll come back to it on Friday.