Friday, 4 June 2010

May Medley

“This is it, this is pure Gonzo. If this is a start, keep rolling.”- Scanlan's Bill Carduso reviewing Hunter S Thompson's Kentucky Derby piece.

For those unfamiliar, the term “gonzo” generally refers to anything that has been done off cuff. You may have heard it used to describe an article written at the scene of an event, then handed straight to an editor for publication with minimal editing. Thompson himself was probably the biggest name in that field. You may also have heard of “Gonzo porn”, but I'm not getting into that.

One of the benefits of gonzo: it doesn't take up loads of time. There's no feedback session, no re-write, and the piece itself is written as quickly as possible. And as I have a writer's meeting at Oldham Library later, I don't have much choice but to conform to this style. So here's May.

Earlier this month I was photographed by The Oldham Advertiser. As mentioned in April Ridiculousness, I am part of a group of writers who have just had a book published. Local newspaper The Advertiser covered the book launch, and came to snap us at the writer's meeting a few days later. The following week, I appeared in the paper, circulation 87,000. Move over, JK Rowling.

Moving on. In May, Britain voted in a general election. Labour were ousted. The Tories and Liberal Democrats now share leadership of the country. Interesting. I voted Lib Dems. The reasons for this: Labour have made a giant balls-up of Higher Education, and have allowed every Tom, Dick and Harry to get a degree without checking whether there were any relevant jobs for them to move into after graduation. They have allowed courses to be ran that did nothing to improve the job chances of those attending- like the course I did. They also let crime to spiral out of control, and are punishing sensible drinkers like me for the mistakes of drunken idiots by hiking alcohol prices. In short, they are a party of incompetent morons.

The other reason for voting Lib Dems- the Conservatives have done nothing effective to modernise their image, other than sticking a “young” man in charge (David Cameron was 40 when elected party leader) and have him ride a bike for the cameras to show he's doing something about pollution. Woo.

The other parties don't really get mentioned much, except for the BNP. And I would rather piss molten lead than vote for them. So effectively, I had to vote Lib Dem by proxy.

Here's where it gets interesting. We have a hung parliament. We have a right-wing Prime Minister, and a slightly left-wing deputy. Now. Here's a letter that I wrote and sent to the Manchester Evening News. It was published in the “Postbag” page, 29th June 2009.

In this piece I propose a “Devil's Advocate” system. Somebody high up in the power structure has the job of finding fault and challenging the leader's plans, where necessary. This person is on the same side as the leader, and not in the opposing party. But they still offer a “pull” when the leader wants to “push”. That's not a million miles away from the scenario we have at Westminster, with the current shared leadership.

Political forcaster? Or confused young blogger who's stab at “grown-up writing”, coincidentally, wasn't far off the mark? You tell me.

As the Monty Python team would say... And now for something completely different.

The 38th Annual Saddleworth Beer Walk was held Saturday, 29th May. It was bigger than ever before, with 2400 people taking part. The event is an all-day fancy-dress fundraising walk through the many hills- and many pubs- of Saddleworth.

I went as Tony Montana in Scarface- basically in a suit and waistcoat, carrying a giant fuck-off plastic rifle with a laser sighting and firing sound effects. (Worryingly, someone copied this idea in Cumbria a week later, only with a real gun, and killed twelve people. It's not been a great week for Britain.) I even carried some bank bags filled with self-raising flour for “comedic effect.” Hmm. Other walkers included a group of schoolgirls (men), Scotsmen in kilts, a troupe of cheerleaders, cowboys, a gaggle of Where's Wallys and some sumo wrestlers (fatsuited young men who were, underneath the outfit, probably skinnier than most people).

The strangest outfits were worn by some young lads: morphsuits are basically gimp outfits made of spandex, available in an array of different colours and designs. There's a discreet zip up the back used to put it on, but other than that, they are completely sealed. The wearer can see- and drink- through the material. One morphsuit wearer mentioned that going to the toilet was the only hassle. From the slight stain around the back of his suit, I believed him. I never found out where he kept his money. I did see two of them try to clear a horse-jumping obstacle that we passed on the route. One made it clean. The other did not, and got an arseful of horseshit.

First-time walkers, expecting a quick stroll around a few Uppermill pubs, were in for a shock- the route was 11 miles, and included some steep moorland trekking. We started walking at 1pm and didn't finish the route 'til around 7pm. The soles of my shoes were more battered than Ken Clarke's.

At least I had the common decency to bin mine when I noticed the next day.

Book update: this month I read Chuck Palahniuk's Rant, a novel about a very strange serial-killer junkie- a man who gets high off the bites of various wild animals, and goes on to start a rabies epidemic. It starts off really interesting- the main character is only seen through monologues from other characters, and the people of this world can upload their own entire experiences to the internet by “outcording”. Imagine a multi-sensory homemade video taken straight from a participant's brain, and that's what these people buy and sell. An interesting nod towards Youtube, and the way TV industries “buy up” the cream of what they find there. The ending of the novel, however, is very far-fetched and a bit of a let-down.

As mentioned earlier, this is a quick-fire blog (albeit one that has taken all fucking day to finish due to distractions.) I have previously searched for feedback on most of the blogs below this one, in an attempt to tighten up any weak spots and make my writing the best that it can be. Another person's critical eye can be really helpful when writing fiction- a genre that must have a payoff to the reader at the end. Blogs, however, are more difficult to find advice on- how are people to offer suggestions on a writer's descriptions of their own life experiences?

I became so reliant on feedback that I'd get nervous uploading something to my blog that hadn't been checked and criticised. What if people don't like it? What if I'd made some really dumb factual error? Well, if they don't like it they should stop complaining, get off the net and go and get some exercise. Secondly, factual errors could be missed by numerous people. Nobody on the review sites spotted one particular error in “Modern Woman Has Shot Herself in the Foot”, my article on sexual equality. I mentioned that Annie Kennie, the suffragette from Oldham, died for women's rights. She didn't. She died of old age, at home. Emmeline Pankhurst, another suffragette, was killed when she threw herself under the king's horse. I'd had it reviewed maybe seven times, then I uploaded it to my blog. Someone commented within hours correcting me.

That time I spend searching for feedback will now be used only for pieces I want to send out for publication. I have cured myself of my feedback obsession. I might also try and- crazy notion- get out more...

I will now keep rolling, as Scanlans suggests, in the direction of my bed.


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