Muse musings

In days of old, it was not uncommon for artists to have a muse who would inspire them to achieve even greater heights in their chosen field.  The artists tended to be male and the muses female, and often of less than difficult virtue, so I suspect there may have been an ulterior motive and gland games were probably involved. It seems high time, after more than four years of GofaDM, that I provide some explanation for the term “gland games” that I tend to bandy about – usually in the context of my own lack of interest therein.  Readers may wonder what I have against having a little fun with the lymphatic system or a couple of rubbers of Contract Bridge with my pituitary.  The simple answer is nothing, except in the case of the ratites (birds of the infraclass Palaeognathae) in which the males use lymphatic fluid to raise their standard (as it were).  The phrase “gland games” comes from the 1984 movie The Last Starfighter and so I have been using it for some thirty years now.  It is coined by the beta unit – a simulant left behind to cover for the ostensible hero while he is off fighting Xur and the Ko-dan armada – while seeking to repel the amorous advances of the hero’s girlfriend.  In my view, Beta is the true hero of the film – he gives up his artificial life to save the day and create the conditions for victory, but his sacrifice is completely ignored by the rest of the cast.  If, in the future, our artificial children extirpate the human race it will be incidents like this that will have driven them to it – you mark my words! Suitably invigorated by that little diversion, let us return to the A-road of this post with the risk of falling asleep at the wheel much reduced.  Many of you may have wondered whether some muse sits behind the scenes, perhaps in a state of some deshabille, helping to inspire the relentless production line of foolishness that is such an integral part of GofaDM.  In all honesty, I must report that this person does not exist – or not yet, though applications from suitably qualified candidates will be considered. To date, GofaDM has relied solely on the slow decay of the brain of its author.  He has to hope that events in his life or things he has seen, heard or read will spark some slight glimmer of light in the slowly darkening twilight of his mind.  On a good day, a couple of neurones will stir from their torpor to induce some threshold level of axonal excitement and another post will burst forth to plague humanity.  On a really good day, the Muse will descend, from her Mount Parnassus based pied-á-terre, in guise of fire and deliver the precious gift of inspiration – but as regular readers can attest, such visits are rare indeed (usually, I just find a card through the letterbox to say she called while I was out). However, recently matters have changed.  I have started dipping the tip of my toe into the shallows of the ocean of social media and as a result the comments section of this blog is alight with input from beyond the author’s own empty head (well, assuming anything exists out there – but this is not the time for such philosophising).  I have even started commenting on other blogs – in a clear attempt to sabotage the opposition and reduce them to my level.  The written thoughts of others can be amazing and they go to such strange places: places I could never visit unaided (or not without the ingestion of proscribed substances or huge red wine intake).  The joy of the blog format is that ideas come in much more manageable chunks than when reading a whole book (for example) and can develop through interaction – something I believe I was hoping for in An Opening Salvo, but have done little to encourage heretofore.  I cannot see how the sentence “a statuette of the crucified Christ has yet to laser me in the forehead” in reference to St Rita of Cascia would ever have happened without this interaction, and the world (or my corner of it) would be a lesser place without it. As a result of finding my blog soul brother – check it out now! – in the last couple of weeks, inspiration has come not as single spies but as battalions (to abuse both Hamlet and Fatboy Slim in a single sentence).  I am now viewing even more of my life with a writer’s eye thinking: can this be shoe-horned into a post?  I even fondly imagine that my writing is improving with less of the purely diary-based filler and rather more of the conceptual killer.  If nothing else, my productivity has improved significantly which could be viewed as a good thing (I would suggest this viewing is probably best attempted from a distance – I believe EGS-zs8-1 is lovely at this time of year – and through heavily smoked glass). If any other reader wants to join in – and is not afraid to shoulder some of the blame for the consequences – I can assure you that I very rarely bite (and if I do, these are all my own teeth).

The pressure to be funny

Despite the ever growing body of text standing in mute testimony to my continuing failure (I tend to view my own writing as a hostile witness in this context), this blog is supposed to be funny (and funny ha-ha, rather than merely funny-peculiar).  I shy away from blogging endless photographic evidence of my food intake or my ageing phizog.   I have (generally) chosen not to share inspiring stories from my life (unless you, dear reader, take inspiration in the most improbable of places) – largely due to the absence of such stories or my obliviousness to their occurrence.  When I do try and make a more serious point, there is always supposed to be an attempt to leaven it with a pinch of the yeast of humour.

Spinning the straw of daily life into the fool’s gold of this blog is aided by my innate childishness – and while I fear that many posts are just a diary-based attempt to inflict my taste on the wider world, most do make me laugh when I return to them after a suitable cooling-off period.  Occasionally, other people (sometimes even strangers!) are kind enough to report that they find something I’ve written faintly amusing and my heart swells with the affirmation (and my head with overweening ego).  So, there is usually a little performance pressure afflicting yours truly when preparing content for your indifference – however, over the last week or so this pressure has been dialled up to eleven.

In a vague attempt to upgrade the social element in my interactions with the concept that lies behind the phrase “social media”, I decided to comment on the blog of another (if I’m honest, I have mostly treated it as “broadcast media” to date).  This has many advantages, as “the other” has to do the hard work of coming up with some ideas (the hard bit) and I can then play with them (it’s a process not wholly unlike finishing someone else’s crossword).  This seemed to go down quite well and so I continued and we have now reached round four.  Far more mental effort is now going into continuing this comment strand than all other elements of life: though that isn’t quite as impressive as the casual reader might imagine.  Whilst I feel under a lot of pressure to be amusing – and top my previous remarks – I keep doing it because it’s enormous fun!  Who’d have guessed?  The fun in “social media” is in the social bit – what a fool I’ve been!  Should you wish to view the evidence of how I’ve been two-timing you (my loyal readers) I think you can find it here, though you’d do far better to read Dimitris’ work as he is a much better writer than I.

Having listened to some 120 episodes of the Comedian’s Comedian podcast by now, I am fully aware that concern about the ability to be funny is shared by those that do it professionally.  For stand-up, the product is generally the work of a single mind (or perhaps a duo or small group) with a little input from friends or colleagues – and I think this tends to generate a stronger, more piquant, result (and sometimes more dramatic failures) than where comedy is subject to a committee and endless focus-grouping.  The latter is often the fate of comedy films and, in particular, the genre of rom-com.  I suspect this is (at least partly) because too much money is both involved and available – it’s much easier to try things out if it’s just your own time you’re wasting and a few tens of quid.

Very few romantic comedies are properly funny – but last night, I was lucky enough to see one.  Yesterday evening I went to Brixton (like London, only more so) to see the closing film of the SCI-FI London Film Festival at the Ritzy.  Not, you may think, particularly fertile ground for either romance or comedy – but stereotypes are not always your friend.  Superbob is a properly funny, British independent film: I can’t remember the last time an audience laughed so much at the cinema (and groaned and buried their heads in their hands when Bob shot himself – figuratively – in the foot once again).  As the title suggests, it is a superhero film, but light years from the Marvel/DC Comics universes (duoverse?) – being set in Peckham and with our hero a former (slightly dull, if rather sweet) postman.  The film is an unalloyed joy, but you will struggle to see it – it lacks general release and so appears only at festivals.  This seems to be the fate of rom-coms that I actually like, the last one was Dead Cat – which again could only be caught at festivals.  Why do decent British comedies find it so hard to get a release?  In these modern times, when bands and comedians can cut out the middleman and go straight to the public, it seems oddly backward that it is so hard to see a decent range of films at the cinema (or even at home) outside of London (and often not even there).  I wonder if Ourscreen might be an option (though it offers neither of the films mentioned above), but even in a small screen one does have to recruit quite a sizeable audience before they will screen your chosen film – and we members of the public tend to lack the marketing budget of even an arthouse cinema.  If only I had fifty or so local minions (or even friends) I could call upon.  Perhaps this is another project for my social media life – to form my own little film club!