whimsy


[Reposting to put it back in its rightful place in the timeline, and for minor edits occasioned by removal of erroneous copy/paste text]

Last week was a short working week thanks to Bank Holiday Monday off. Though still, regrettably, a working week, locked into this global pyramid scheme and unable to extricate. The seemingly effortless genius of the Childish Gambino event for This Is America pretty much set the mood for us.

It’s quite remarkable in its commitment and range of ideas, in any of its various contexts.

Was glad to discover Liz Phair continues to rock.

Need a planet without cars and wars… I wish it could be true.

…got riled by newsletters that just post links and click bait.

Listened to a great podcast, The Horror Self, Conner Habib in conversation with horror writer Brian Evenson. I haven’t had chance to read Evenson’s works yet, but he had lots of interesting ideas. A chance comment they made about Beckett had me wander off dabbing madeleine crumbs from my chin (yes i kno thats Proust) and thinking about the time I saw John Hurt in Krapp’s Last Tape. I am convinced it was one of the stages at the Barbican in London, but… the details are hazy.

Also stirring memories of previous selves this week was the unfortunate Scott Hutchison of band Frightened Rabbit, who went missing in the middle of some personal problems, and whose body was later found by police. Variety’s report on the story gives a fuller picture, though his tweets, first reported in “concerns grow for the safety of” reports, take on a kind of tragic, obvious significance in the light of what happened.

Difficult, allusive thoughts on responsibility, on treating people badly, a judgemental tone, a pervasive sense of personal failure, a combination of contrition, abandonment, resolve and futility… I recognise it all. His words had an eerie resonance with things I have thought, written, expressed, fucked up in the same way. It made me quite emotional, glad I had the great fortune to be able to recognise support from friends, to be able to make it over that great forbidding bulk, to learn from the experience, and not to perish on its exposed flanks.

My sympathies to his friends, followers and so on. And yes, hugs to all your loved ones, perhaps especially the ones you think you’ve failed.

Thank god that’s all done with, anyway.

– Krapp

Finally, this week I’ve been forging new working methods (words and music). The nascent schedule was interrupted by our youngest child developing a comically unpleasant sickness bug, reminiscent of The Exorcist. Full-on, handprints smeared across walls, ankle deep in body horror bathroom nightmares sort of stuff. With that and the day job, it was difficult to establish the rhythms I’d intended… but I got going, if a little syncopated.

One of the things was a writing challenge, for which I missed the deadline… and now I am having bother locating the precise origin of the prompt… but anyway: the task was to go to the New Releases section of Project Gutenberg, pick a title that you liked, then write something riffing on that. Here’s the title I fell on:

Illustrated Horse Breaking

At Wyatt’s Stable Yard, the so-hip-it-hurts hangout of the moment, one of the horses is going through his warm-up routine.

Planting one hoof firmly, with a swagger he floats the other to the ground, a succession of freeze-frames, each movement accompanied by a change in expression: rolling eyes, fury, mugging, a comic tongue lolling, ears flattened, a wide-mouthed grin sheer delight, slack jaw aping the watching press pack. Legs still tense, splayed, he swings up a hoof to close his mouth, his stance relaxes and the spell is broken as he snorts with laughter.

“You’ve got to play around,” he says, and this statement encapsulates the wanton abandon of one of the brightest stars of the post-dressage firmament, Re-Drum.

The unforgettable moment that this heavily tattooed former Olympic champion shocked the precise and exacting world of dressage with a jaw-dropping interpolation of street dance moves is the stuff of internet legend. Clips of that routine – where he first transitioned from Piaffe to Jackhammer, bouncing off one hoof immediately to Change of Direction into a sequence of apparently never-ending Air Flares – stunned the watching crowd and has been seen since by millions.

“The Horse That Broke The Internet, yeah, yeah!” His infectious laugh is as genuine as his self-effacement. “Well, it turned into this thing, but we’d been talking about it, and we knew we just… the time was right, y’know? I mean, we were disqualified, remember?”

Although his easy patter is disarming, this final comment has a barbed quality that suggests his career since has been motivated by more than a love of play.

The idea of classicists becoming energised by urban motifs is nothing particularly innovative. One recalls with indulgence Nigel Kennedy’s football hooligan persona, and insistence on matey abbreviation for composers (Viv) and equipment (Strad) alike. There have been others: the line of RSC actors that have moved from Macbeth to the Marvel universe stretches out to the crack of doom. Yet Re-Drum, formerly Neuschwanstein II, cites his own journey from the Standard Arena to the worn flagstones of Wyatt’s Stable Yard as one of “coming home”.

” For sure, we’re all from the stables. Sometimes gees get used to the horsebox lifestyle, the nosebag, if you nose what I mean?” He feints a hoof past one briefly flared nostril. “But we all come out on to straw. This being born with silver stirrups idea… I never knew my sire. Neusch and me haven’t ever met. Everyone thought I’d do what he did – which was win everything, twice – but I wanted to go somewhere different. I know the old fella’s watching, he reads your paper.”

Re-Drum tips a heavily-accented wink as abruptly he changes direction again. He is keen to recommence practice, and while his candour is genuine he demonstrates an impatience any time the conversation lingers too long on history.

His choreographer – former rider Chantal Wyatt, herself a member of a proud lineage, having inherited the Yard complex from her late father Robert in the early noughties – is certain that there are further changes of tack to come.

“He’s only just started. It’s all Re, no doubt. He’s the originator.” Asked if she feels sidelined, she is quick to demur. “I’m there for balance, but he’s all about the solo stuff at the minute. I’m happier running the keyboard stuff, calendar and so forth?” She waggles her fingers. Without breaking stride, Re-Drum, passing in a wide circle with ostentatious steps, waggles a hoof at eye level. More laughter, and the interview has to conclude.

Across the yard, all around the pair are similar exiles from the formalised restrictions of traditional dressage. Jetset and Stella H are already household names. With more and more talent arriving to go through their paces with Re-Drum the originator, his game could be getting serious.

————————————————————–

Y’know. If there are zones of the multiverse where anthropomorphic whimsy, punning and horses are a mystery, I hope our timelines never cross.

Perusing the dictionary in search of inspiration, I happen upon the word yoicks.

>exclamation used by fox hunters to urge on the hounds

Of course – of course! – the first thing I thought of was Scooby Doo.

…although I realised I was likely conflating “Yikes!” and “Zoinks!” in relation to usage by Shaggy or Scoob.

Yet… yikes is listed as a possible variant of yoicks, and the notion of a word being used “to urge on the hounds” turning up in a cartoon about a dog has a nice continuity about it.

I am delighted further to find that etymological discussion on this issue has been exercising internet scholars for some time.

Tally-ho! It’s Z on Monday.

Perusing the dictionary in search of inspiration, I happen upon the word yoicks.

>exclamation used by fox hunters to urge on the hounds

Of course – of course! – the first thing I thought of was Scooby Doo.

…although I realised I was likely conflating “Yikes!” and “Zoinks!” in relation to usage by Shaggy or Scoob.

Yet… yikes is listed as a possible variant of yoicks, and the notion of a word being used “to urge on the hounds” turning up in a cartoon about a dog has a nice continuity about it.

I am delighted further to find that etymological discussion on this issue has been exercising internet scholars for some time.

Tally-ho! It’s Z on Monday.

Xenophon examined the xiphoid markings left by xylophagous insects that had been at the xoana lining the xystus.

Inspired by this exotic dust-gatherer from the shelves:

… soon to be Ex Libris: another volume for the charity box.

What to do for W?

Writing something for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge every day has been a good exercise but also a chore on occasion. Workload at work work (y’know, getting paid work) has increased as we reach mid-term, and it’s a week before a bunch of end-of-year exams pile the hyphens and stress on for everyone. Weightier matters of the world seem of distant concern, somehow.

Waxing Gibbous, Wibble, Woo, Wormwood, WWIII, and WWW: all topics commenced, considered and consigned to File 13, probably never to be seen again.

When in doubt, quote someone with greater wit… Within the pages of The Chickens are Restless, A Far Side collection by Gary Larson, lurks what I am fairly certain is my favourite cartoon (apart from “Cow Poetry”, of course).

“Well, sometimes..”

Why not set a reminder now to read next year’s W post, Welease Bwian?

This month’s A-to-Z blogging challenge has been a bit of a distraction, from one point of view. I have fallen off my reading schedule because of the evening time spent composing these bits.

Then while I was trying to get this one down I was seized with the sudden absolute necessity of trying to set up Google assistant on my phone to see if I could get it to call me “darling”. (It wouldn’t seem to let me…)

There’s usually something to impinge or assist in a prevarication. As I suggested in that first paragraph, it depends on your perspective. It could be argued that my return to regular reading was getting in the way of a more prolific writing schedule.

Tonight I finished Wishful Drinking, the late Carrie Fisher’s brief autobiographical stage show-turned- book. Laughed out loud quite a few times. Found myself nodding in agreement. She is well known as a drug fiend, although she doesn’t glory in it or self-flagellate about it. Maybe a bit of both? There was a pertinent line about wanting things to be good all the time, the unrealistic need of an addict, that struck home particularly.

I found myself turning the endpapers, hoping there’d be more from her.

A propos of which… today is my 67th day without a drink. That figure is courtesy of the Loop habit tracker, by the way, which I recommend for your positive self-intervention needs.

That doesn’t mean I feel I’ve won, or that I’m living moment to moment in fear of the Demon Drink… Somewhere between? It’s maybe something I might write about more, maybe not. Depends what else comes up.

Feels great, though, thanks.

OK Google… How do I UNINSTALL you?

I’m sorry darling… I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Q3: Analyse how the writer uses language and structure to interest and engage the reader. (15)

In this text, an examination board is stating a task for candidates to complete. The question begins with an attempt to engage the reader directly with an imperative (“Analyse”), which leaves no doubt as to the action required.

Two pairs of components then offer further detail of the task to the reader. First, the reader is informed that they must discuss how the writer uses “language and structure”. The conjunction “and” in this noun phrase is perhaps intended as a signal to the reader that they must address both linguistic, and structural, features of the text in their response. There is an implicit point made here that failure to mention one or the other may be important, but why this might be is not made clear.

Furthermore, the terms used are themselves quite vague, which may also impact the engagement of the reader. It could be argued that the terms offer open-ended scope for reader interpretation, which is potentially engaging. However, students unfamiliar with the exam format may not be entirely sure what aspects of language or structure they are supposed to discuss, unless explicitly coached on what they will have to discuss in the exam.

Given the wide parameters suggested by the vague terms of “language” and “structure”, different readers may respond more generally, for example, commenting on the use of English and the question format, rather than specific technical details of the content.

Following this, the writer has provided another pairing, this time in a verb phrase (“to interest and engage”). This offers a range of actions to complete. The conjunction here could also be important, although the use of near-synonymous words may lead to some confusion, hence causing disengagement. It is possible that a reader may interpret this phrase to mean they should not address ideas that fail to be both interesting and engaging, and in not doing so lose further marks.

The question closes with a reference to “the reader”, which in this text clearly refers to an examination candidate. Although the word “engage” can mean “occupy”, which the simple of act of reading the question achieves, the idea of a “reader” being interested by the bland terminology is not particularly convincing.

In addition, there is an implication from the wording employed that the student is expected to know how to respond to a question phrased in such a generalised way in the exam. This suggests that such knowledge is presupposed by the exam board (“the writer”), with a logical inference from that perhaps being that teachers are expected to make this mechanical awareness the point of their lessons, rather than, say, making words and reading fun activities.

The number “15” appearing at the close of the text, isolated in parentheses for emphasis, may be a mocking final note reflecting the idea that the only truly important outcome of any interest to the reader is how many marks they need to get.

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