Christmas Jukebox: Christmas Tree

The year 2008
The singer Lady Gaga
The song Christmas Tree

Great Christmas songs have undercurrents. For example, ‘Fairytale of New York’ is about a couple figuring out if what they have is worth it. There are multiple levels to songs, some physical and other spiritual. Straddling the line between physical and spiritual is the sexual and hence today’s entry, ‘Christmas Tree’.

Written and recorded in 2008, this song did not chart very highly. It was not released on an album and so was download only. It has made it onto a Now Christmas album so is not perhaps totally unheard of, but it is a bit of a risky choice because of its subject matter.

The tune heaves with a synthpop rendition of ‘Deck the Halls’ providing the meat of the music. Lady Gaga borrows from ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ with a sensuous rum pa pa pum. It is undoubtedly a Christmas song as it plays with traditional compositions in this way.

Where it draws some criticism is from the naughtiness of it all. It drips with innuendo.

The only place you’ll wanna be
Is underneath my Christmas tree

Saucy.

As a result, it has been criticised for not being especially family-oriented. Maybe.

But as I said yesterday, ‘Fairytale’ is about two substance abusers tearing lumps out of each other, and I distinctly remember it getting a lot of airtime. Why is a song about a relationship on the rocks at Christmas fine but a song which camply plays around with sex in a very loose way non grata?

Perhaps it’s a little on the nose (“oo-er, missus!”) since she directly talks about taking off clothes, but the song is redeemed by one salient fact.

It rocks.

In fact, if you go back into the annals of history, you’d find the holiday Saturnalia in the Roman calendar. For a whole week, they didn’t work. Instead, they danced and drunk, and there was an atmosphere of carnivale. The slaves became the masters, normal social rules were turned on their head. It wasn’t till the Christians got their hands on power and remade Saturnalia into Jesus’ birthday that these traditions went out.

But they are still lingering. Christmas is a time for the cold to warm up. For the word ‘faggot’ to be temporarily acceptable as we all sing ‘Fairytale’. It is a time for us to come together and have a bit of fun.

Though be aware of your company and use your judgement.

It absolutely deserves its place on this list. Come back and join me tomorrow for another song!

The writer of this piece should eat dinner

 

 

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Christmas Jukebox: Fairytale of New York

The year 1987
The band The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl
The song Fairytale of New York

This song perhaps doesn’t scream Christmas in the same way that some other songs do. By which I mean it isn’t in your face about Christmas. It only references it a few times. Nevertheless, it’s the type of song that you hear and cannot think of anything else. The rising wintry introduction just positions it right at the start of the season. It’s time for decorations to go up, wine to be mulled, and to dust off the well-worn records of yesteryear.

Hi, my name’s Fraser. I like Christmas and writing about things. This month I’ll be writing about Christmas songs. Because, to me, they are more than just background in a shop or a soundtrack for a work party. They are part of the ritual of Christmas, the tradition of seasonal love.

I am definitely the person to write this. I have worked in shops and I have served as a waiter throughout multiple festive seasons. I have listened to the same album day after day, sometimes twice. As a result, I plan to shake things up a bit and have enlisted the help of my friends in finding more songs, not just the staples. I’ll do what I can to include these. But first things first….

Fairytale of New York is an absolute classic of the genre. There’s something in its Irish roots that makes it fit the season. It’s a danceable tune, as long as the dance is a ceilidh.

It’s nourishing and it really warms the cockles, but it’s also a bit subversive since it’s basically about these alcoholics with a love hate relationship. They trade some classic insults.

On that subject, and especially for my Yank readers, there was a whole controversy around this song. Understandable when he calls her an “old slut on junk” (heroin, by the way) and she calls him a “faggot” (contrary to popular belief, still a slur). The BBC decided to remove the offensive parts in 2007, but had to back down after mere hours because of some vociferous feedback. From then on, the song has been untouched.

A very good call, if you ask me. While I understand that putting slurs in songs could lead to to them being used more, I’m pretty sure the incidences of “faggot” caused by this song are rare. It’s sung as a dialogue, and that’s how people sometimes talked. It is permitted because it is a piece of history.

And this is what Christmas songs are about. They are the intersection between traditions and rituals as well as a celebration of love and goodwill towards all.

Thank you for reading, and come back tomorrow for more!

The writer of this piece is not sure on a good follow up song but will surely manage.

Why I have (primarily) switched platform

It was with a heavy heart that I started a WordPress in the February of 2016. Opening up is painful and though I intended to keep it travel oriented, it quickly became my everything blog. A place where I could get personal, or talk about what I was cooking, or even some political noise. I built up my posts and got a bit of a readership, but now have realised it’s time to move on, slow these pastures to mellow as I explore fresher ground.

WIll I return? I will indeed! I will get into that shortly. But first, here is why I have moved to Medium.

Different strokes for different folks

WordPress is okay as a platform. It’s easy enough to get one and simple to share. There is 0 complexity in formatting or adding media to posts. It has the basics of being a platform down.

Where it fails is in really amplifying voices. In order to get your piece read you need to advertise repeatedly and draw in readers from your own social networks. Eventually you can build up a following, but it is a very slow process.

I’ve been on Medium 1 month and I’m already gathering a small number of fans, and garnering a decent number of views and reads beyond my own profiles. It’s a nice feeling. Which leads me to…

We live for the applause

Medium’s best innovation is giving people a clap button instead of a like button. This feature allows you clap up to 30 times for a post if you really like it. This lets users amplify the voices that they think really should be heard. This elevates those voices in an algorithm and spreads that writer’s piece further.

Responses on Medium are easy, and feel far more valuable than comments on WordPress. As WordPress is older, many accounts never respond. On Medium, comments mean higher rankings and so writers are incentivised to react to responders. It’s a useful system.

More eclectic fare

As I’ve suggested, my writing is eclectic. My topics are picked depending on what comes to my head first, and it therefore makes it harder to build an audience. Many people will only follow a person so they can big themselves up in that area.

Medium has an advantage in that it calculates what will reverberate wih you best based on what you’ve said interests you and who. You can follow a person for one thing but still see them for others. It’s a useful tool.

What I’ll stick with WordPress for

Regardless of my criticisms there are a few areas where WordPress is obviously superior. From what I can see, Medium’s openness facilitates easy movement between writers. Well, what if I want to keep them all in one place?

Perhaps there is a function that will perform this easily, but as far as I can tell it’s not automatically done like on WordPress.

The openness of the platform can sometimes feel eviscerating, as though the belly had been cut and the insides removed.

So for that reason, I will probably maintain a presence and some series’ on here. One benefit of the internet is that you don’t have to pick only one website for everything.

Coming up: 25 days of Christmas songs, what they mean, what they tell us, and why they make the season.

The writer of this piece is on Medium. You can find him here.

Shout a Bit

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Of course Johnny appreciated the blistering array of starlit expanse and the possibilities it seemed to offer, but he declined to mention this to Kathryn. It would be too much of a hassle to tell her that she was in a part of Scotland where sharing dreams was a bit like sharing needles; it seemed like a good idea at the time but it only served to fuck you up. – Glue, Irvine Welsh

When you’re looking for some modern Scottish wisdom there’s are few better places to look than the denouement of an Irvine Welsh novel. He captures so much of what it means to be Scottish, to have an uneasiness with the world. As a people, we’re actually pretty closed off most of the time. To my friends this would probably seem impossible, I talk quite a lot given the smallest provocation, but the truth is that, as with I hope everyone, there’s a lot more ticking away behind the eyes.

I shout from time to time to get things heard.

This is why I was so pleased when my old family friend Becca wrote a post on here. I can remember her talking about writing when we were younger, she was thinking of journalism at that point, but life gets in the way. It has this horrible habit of providing different ideas and inspirations, but then also dropping some immediate rent pavement or credit card bill through the post. Just when you want to do something great, an election or a family issue happens. Sometimes it’s your responsibility to do something else. It’s always gratifying to see people press on regardless. To shout in a world or a culture which suggests silence more often than speaking.

Maybe it’s a hangover from that whole Victorian idea of kids being “seen but not heard”. For women, it might be because they are told they are chatty and some of them don’t want to be stereotypical. For me, I probably keep some things to myself because that’s what being a man is, as I was taught. Guys are more often taught to be angry than say they are sad. If you’re sad, then you’re Some Crybaby or something, but if you’re angry, but the right kind of angry, not the silly sort of whinging angry, then you are being assertive and reasonable. Think Tony Soprano struggling with his anxiety attacks and turning it into anger because misery isn’t the sort of thing you express if you’re a boss.

It’s the same with dreams. They aren’t considered the right things to talk about in some parts of Scotland. In certain culture there’s a silence about that whole part of a person. It doesn’t feel like we talk about our wants and desires nearly enough. And so my reaction to this is that we all need to shout a bit more.

We need to do something.

There’s something about seeing others doing stuff that is inspirational. It’s the feeling that you aren’t alone, that whatever question you’re asking is also troubling someone else. It’s not schadenfreud, a love of another’s misery, but more of a kind of understanding, a spiritual connection with people searching for meaning. That’s  why people read. People absolutely should read, as well as possibly creating work for people like me, it also gives you so much more than it takes. And if people should read, then it also follows that they should also write. People should shout a bit.

Fortunately, we live in an age of mass production as well as mass consumption. Mass distribution is at our fingertips. For sure there are some people who create a lot more than others and some people who consume a lot without feeding back in, but we’re essentially now all at the level where we can easily use loudspeakers that connect us to a hundred plus people. We can share what we like and build each other up. We can shout together. This is the good side of social media. It’s now easier than ever to get your message, your world view, out there. It’s thrilling. The rush of shouting for the plain fun of it.

There are some massive downsides to it, of course. Things said on the internet don’t often go away, unless the company hosting that information goes bust and nobody saved a copy. But really this is a bigger problem for those who are viciously mean online than for others. If you’re not some dick you should shout!

Use these lungs that the internet gifted you and cry out!

Of course it’s terrifying at first to put anything out there. The fear of criticism is real. Worry less about other people. The biggest problem is usually the fear itself.  And conquering that fear is the prize.

The writer of this piece likes writing things telling people to write things but tries to only do it once a month.

A Spooky Story

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The sun sank, the clock struck 6, and Francis Blythe rose from his coffin.
“Feeding time, at last!” He whispered into the night.
He stood up, dusting off the English soil that lined the inside of his coffin. It was an additional security measure. Should his ancestral land ever stop existing, at least there would be a small corner of a foreign field that would be forever England.

He strolled through his ancestral manor, towards the den, towards the night. The furnishings could do with some replacement, he thought, but he considered modern styles too gauche. Better to wait another few decades for the antique market to improve. That was one of the key benefits of immortality: long-term style decisions could be made with confidence.

Blythe settled in an armchair, snapping his fingers to ignite the fireplace. It was necessary to wait some time before leaving. So he read, largely works of Victorian fiction and histories of old Kings. Blythe had noticed a change in the local population. A couple of centuries before, they had woken with the sunrise and gone to bed soon after the day’s end. Gradually this had been replaced with alarms that woke them unnaturally at 7 every morning, the people worked till 6 or later, then they fell asleep beyond the witching hour. Their days had grown harder, their leisure time had shrunk. If he could’ve converted more to his way of living he might’ve considered it, but he had to consider the strength of his family.

Many of his previous converts had flown from him. They were making their own lives, their own lines. They were in the New World, and the antipodes. Some of them had made good during the Empire and were living on the subcontinent. But Francis stayed where he was. There were risks away from home.

In England, he was just viewed as a bit of an eccentric. He was rarely seen. He left his house only to find books to occupy his waiting hours. Fortunately, the style in suits had not changed substantially in almost a hundred years so he could still get by without shopping. His voice sounded a bit dated but not enough to cause concern. Most importantly, he knew the customs well enough to avoid detection. He had to occasionally feast, but Francis covered his tracks. He picked on people who wouldn’t be missed.

Francis Blythe glided into the streets, the twelfth bell having been met. Tonight he had his eye on a small blocks of flats on the periphery of the town. The area had been dubbed Little Warsaw due to the Polish population there. Francis’ feeding times were rarer now, blood these days often richer in nutrients, but when he needed sustinence he used his other abilities.
“43, London road.” The postman had told him under hypnosis, “A single one, was living with a bunch of ‘em but he’s earning good money now. Ball, or something.”
That would suffice, and so he released the postman back into the neighbourhood.

He found the block of flats without a problem, one of those run down post-War concrete nightmares in a horrible state of disrepair. Francis scoffed, he wouldn’t keep his animals in such a place. This would be a mercy killing. He found the name ‘Balan’ on the intercom and reasoned it was correct.

Every now and then he’d found it necessary to lie. Though vampires traditionally like to be invited in, and he would be touched by the trust, these days everyone was much more closed off. So he roughed himself up a little before using the intercom.
“Hej,” came Balan’s voice, “Who is it ringing?”
“‘scuse me, mate,” Francis started, “eh’ve left me keys insoide, goin let us in?”
It was a mishmash of accents, but over the intercom it sounded more approachable and friendly.
“Ne problem, pal,” and the buzzer rang. In the grand court of vampiric rules and regulations, this would constitute an invitation.

Francis became mist and flew up the stairs. When he had first changed that was always one of his favourite powers to use. The misty flight. He had to stop on each floor and see if he could find the right flat. At the third level he saw it. Balan. He was getting hungry now. He was going to devour this man as soon as he saw him. Francis knocked politely, three times, with the knuckles.

Balan opened the door and found himself thrust backwards immediately. This thing had a hold on him and was pushing him backwards into the wall. The flag of his home country, a blue, yellow, and red tricolour, fell down as the beast stabbed his throat with its teeth. He died and it continued sucking his life force to the last drop.

Francis felt incredible! This was some of the finest blood he’d ever sampled and it coursed through his veins as a sprinting horse over an open field. The familiar rush and pleasure was unreserved. It sated him as nothing else could. With a kick of spice too.

But the spice was too much. What had moments ago thrilled him suddenly turned hot and bitter. It hurt his exhalations. He could feel his inner self twisting. He threw up. But it did no good. Francis tore the fallen flag off his head, stood up with himself last ounce of strength and looked around the room. He saw bread, next to a bowl containing a white spread. And the room smelt of garlic. His blood was now garlic.

Several weeks later police would be confused to find a Romanian man drained of blood and a weird, dead, ulcerated mess of a man in an Edwardian suit.

The writer of this piece has a sore neck. Not from a vampire, but sleeping on too many pillows. Happy Halloween!

When narratives break – Thoughts on the Czech election

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PRAGUE, Czech Republic – As the dust settles and clears following the recent Czech election, nobody looks especially cheerful. This is part and parcel of the normal Czech attitude to life. The country is pretty good, it’s culture satisfying and beer cheap, but corruption is an acknowledged issue, and there are complaints about the food quality and relatively low wages by European standards. Still, people don’t walk around with big smiles and don’t shout their political affiliation from the roofs.

Looking at the newspapers it could be tempting to look at the recent election gloomily. Indeed, ’Is the Czech Republic Turning On the West?’ by Jochen Bittner in the New York Times is keen to fit the Czech election into the narrative of Europe veering to the far-right and anti-establishment figures taking hold around the world. Though the ascendant far-right is a problem in Europe, the Czech Republic is neither distinct in this category nor especially pronounced. The far-right AFD got more of the vote (12.6%) in Germany than the far right SPD got (10.6%) in the Czech Republic. Furthermore, there is a real problem in how newspapers are reinforcing a broken narrative – that of the anti-establishment.

It happened in America with Donald Trump. He framed himself as somebody different and the news ran with that angle. Where was the criticism about the billionaire schmoozer sucking up to all kinds of political power? That gets hand-waved as “Just business”. He got painted as anti-establishment despite the fact that he’d made fat stacks from that very system. Where is his motivation to change it? A true anti-establishment candidate would have fewer riches and less grease on their palms.

This is a problem with Bittner’s take. He tells the same story about Andrej Babis (last name pronounced Babish), the winner of the Czech elections, framing him as an anti-establishment underdog. How Bittner accomplished this feat while noting that he’s a billionaire and the former finance minister is anybody’s guess. In truth, Babis is as establishment as Emmanuel Macron. He’s as connected to the political elite as anybody. Just because the guy under investigation for corruption says he is against corruption, doesn’t mean you should agree with him.

In fact, journalists more than anybody should be prepared to speak truth to power and call out politicians when they attack the status quo while embodying it.

Too many news sources have gone with this angle. The Guardian and The Independent have also fallen for this narrative. It is an extremely narrow read of the situation. The Financial Times is much more measured.

In addition, Bittner is extremely uncharitable towards the Czech people, most of whom didn’t vote for Babiš or Tomio Okamura of the SDP. Bittner is prone in his NYT piece to suggest the election results are some failing in the Czech electorate. He makes out that they are somehow unequipped for democracy and have illiberal minds. It’s a particularly offensive mischaracterisation of the Czech people, a people for whom freedom is so important. If the Czech seem not as eager to grasp further EU integration as others it probably has something to do with their history under Communism. The Czechs have fought vigorously for their democracy and independence and are hesitant to give it away quickly.

As it stands, I can only comment so far on this subject. My Czech skills are limited to finding simple objects and basic conversation. This being acknowledged, I can see a narrative and can smell when it’s wrong. It’s evident that even newspapers that are normally very good are pushing a narrative of right-wing and anti-establishment victory, probably owing to the current US situation. More people should counteract this because it’s spreading mistruths and making right wing dominance seem an inevitability. It is not an inevitability and people need to rise up and create a non-horrifying political party that can win votes.

A Bad Night’s Sleep

Vladimir: Suppose we repented?
Estragon: Repented what?
Vladimir: Oh … (he reflects) We wouldn’t have to go into details.

– Waiting for Godot, Beckett

There’s a guy in my building. He yells. It’s just past 12 and he stands in the staircase yelling. Maybe that’s why I’m awake when it’s gone 3. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been sleeping well. That doesn’t feel convincing.

So this guy, who I regretfully confess I hate because, though I feel sympathetic of whatever he’s dealing with, I cannot abide by him yelling up the place and tanning the post boxes in with his fists. It’s not very neighbourly of him. Sympathy is a fragile thing and can be crushed when a guy leads you to existential angst.

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Find attached for your amusement an eye selfie. To wax poetic, it is a blue eye, quite light, with touches of green and a little yellow around the pupil. A healthy pond eye. When it’s night and I try and visualise it, it turns murky. I feel like a stagnant pond lives in my head.

Being up a little later than normal brings on this kind of existential anguish. That place when you’re in bed and trying to relax but then you’re brain asks you to replay a bunch of scenes from your past and think about whether or not what you did was right.

They have a nasty habit of branching and twisting, turning into gnarly roots and thorns of doubt and self-hate. It makes me feel very small. But then they crash into each other and I see a path out, a light!, a way away from the torment and into sleep. I pursue it in my mind – darting between branches, sometimes up, sometimes down. In the end I just get more scratched up, bruised and stuck somewhere else. And it’s darker still.

Why? Why does my brain do these things? I’ve come up with a few pet theories and borrowed some from other places. Basically, I’d say I’m fairly mentally healthy. I’m happy with the people in my life and think I deserve them. It wasn’t always the case. As happy-go-lucky and carefree as the image I present, sometimes interactions get hard. Despite being a “perfection is a myth” kind of thinker, I set and hold myself to fairly high standards.

Okay, I’m almost good enough for this world and the people I know in it, but am I really good enough? Consciously, yes. They are all rational people who’d ditch me if I wasn’t bringing them value. But unconsciously, well, I know myself quite intimately.

And I don’t think I think I’m enough.

Full disclosure, I haven’t got any mental health issues as far as I know. My head maybe got knocked about a bit from a vehicular incident way back when, but they provided me with a possible laundry list of symptoms and I don’t have any of them to a significant, measurable or medicable, degree. I don’t really trust people who claim to know or understand the brain anyway, it seems far too complex. It’s a great way to sell stuff to say you know how to fix it.

Diagnosable mental health problems not being an immediate factor, and having a fairly high esteem of myself, I struggle to discover the problem. Carl Jung wrote about the “collective unconscious”, a concept that I think I understand without actually reading. Our brains have this kind of societal and cultural memory, a primordial database of experience. It’s a great idea and it does feel mollifying, a fantastic word for “makes feel better”, to know that these pains are understandable. It sucks that other people have to do this, too.

I wish there was some quick fix. If I could just whip myself, or pray, or confess to some virgin in a box, but I have the very real feeling that redemption is a myth. You can apologise for something. You can perform acts of atonement or reconciliation. Redemption, though? That’d take time travel. You can’t make things that’ve happened not’ve happened. It’s why if a rapist apologises it doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t magically heal up emotional scars when somebody owns up to what they did. They shouldn’t’ve done it  in the first place, but people can only try and get better. And they need to grow from their pain.

Another bit from the collective unconscious, I think I’m riddled with Presbyterian Calvinism despite not going to church. It’s like that guilt that Catholics say they have, but Calvinist guilt sticks. Maybe that’s the source of discomfort. I’m a Scottish guy living a life of moderate comfort in a world I’m not supposed to think exists for pleasure but to be saved by grace.

Fuck it.

Maybe I just hate that guy’s yelling.

The writer of this piece feels not exceptionally well right now.

A Pumpkin Patch in Prague

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That “don’t touch the pumpkin” sign was a good idea but a bit in vain. Kids touch everything

The weather has turned autumnal and the leaves have gone fallish and so we went to the botanical garden to look at the harvest. Pumpkins, of course, are not native to the Czechs Republic, or even the entirety of Europe really. They are as American as pumpkin pie. Therefore, if you’re looking for images of the best pumpkins you could ever see I implore you to get an Instagram account and look up #pumpkins #pumpkinpatch #us #idontuseinstagramsodontknowpreciselyhowthetagswork. If, though, you are here for some pictures of nature and probably a bit about love and babies then do stay. Pull up a hammock and settle in for my tale.

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There’s a snake in my introduction!

The botanical gardens in Prague are up by the zoo. It’s a very strange bit of Prague because it has that sort of geography like you’re always going uphill. Uphill to get in and uphill to get out. Still, it’s a nice part of the city to get a panoramic view

[Imagine a panoramic view of Prague here]
{Caption: Somehow it’s uphill over there too!}

Prague is essentially a bowl, all the outlying parts are higher than the centre.

 


{Caption: Artist’s rendering}

The pumpkins were a lot more impressive than I was expecting, really. I’d seen pumpkins before but not with the sheer variety of those on display here. They ran the gamut of size, colour, and shape. It was like one of those Dove natural beauty adverts where they are selling soap by showing pictures of different sized women’s bodies, but with pumpkins and dirt instead.

While I liked the display, my fiancée took exception to the overly bumpy ones.

The main reason we went to the botanical gardens was of course for the pumpkins. To my Scottish and other non-Americans readers, did you know pumpkin patches are a huge thing to Americans? I really can’t remember us having them. Then again, they are one of these traditions that are quite fun to graft onto our own traditions as it’s surprisingly entertaining to look at what are essentially lots of squashes.

Her: “I like having someone to go places with”

When my fiancée said that it took me by surprise, in a sense. On the one hand, why wouldn’t she be pleased, I’m a catch. But on the other she does a huge amount of the thinking about our activities so it sometimes feels more like I’m some kind of event parasite. But nah, turns out I’m good to be around for her. And she’s brilliant for me, too.

[All right, all right, save it for the squashed pumpkins, you’ve done your mushy bit this month]

So yeah, I love her very much and want to stick with her.

One thing that I got thinking about in the gardens, other than how pleasant the air was and how I should get out of the city more, was how it seems everyone had a pram and two toddlers. Some of them had a pram, two toddlers AND a papoose. It really reminded me how much I want kids.

Strange thing for a man to be talking about, I’m sure, but I’d properly like a couple of kids and preferably in the next few years. I can’t be doing with the current vulgar habit of fucking around for 20 years. I fucked around for 2 or 3 years and it felt like too long; the occasional burst of pleasure punctuated by long sullen dry spells. Quite boring when hardly anyone commits to anything, just like diplomats or civil servants too afraid to pre-guess the aims and intentions of the decision makers who just smile vaguely. Not my cup of tea, really. I’d prefer to get started on life already.

There’s this view going about around millenials and kids, like we don’t want them or something. It’s identical to most theories about millenials in that it ignores the most pertinent root cause: millenials aren’t having kids because millenials don’t have money, basically the same reason we don’t own a lot of diamonds. Instead we have student debt and increasingly pricier rents as buy-to-let landlords convert a lot of housing stock to AirBNB. There are loads of external reasons why millenials aren’t having kids, but I think, personally, we’ll just have them anyway.

Just like how Sheryl Sandberg said that women who wanted to get ahead in their careers and lives had to “lean in” to additional responsibilities and work priorities, millenials who want kids need to have them regardless of any help we’ll get. The situation isn’t perfect for having kids? The situation is never perfect for having kids. People have them in all weathers and situations, however. People have them in wars and famines. If you delay having kids because of the economy or not owning a house there’s a very real chance you’ll delay it too late.

So today’s lessons; pumpkins are wonderful, they are a good tradition which is very entertaining, and if you want to have your own little pumpkins you need to lean in to the additional work they require. I think it’s a good nutritious balance of information for a Sunday.

The writer of this piece’s fiancée is doing yoga right now and it’s quite entertaining to watch. If you, or anyone else you know, have pictures of pumpkins, do share them in the comments section below.

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Widdle pumpkins

The Centre of Light – Signal Festival 2017

Going to write two of these things as there are so many photographs of light shows and I want to do them justice. Catch part II, maybe tomorrow or something

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“Constrained Surface” – Ryochi Kurokawa

One of the most fun things about city life is the sheer variety of events. The week just past was Signal Festival 2017. The Signal Festival is an annual exhibition of art installations, all of which are centred around their use of light and sound.

My fiancée and I were actually shushed during the above display, which was funny as the sound was primarily a type of industrial-ambient, the clanking of chains and the sound of a nut being thrown into a metal bucket. Eerie stuff. It’s somewhat like asking somebody to be quiet because you can’t hear the rain on the window.

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“#glass” – Tets Ohnarib

Before anyone gets to thinking I’ve become conscious of marketing, that hashtag was part of the title of this piece – I do my research.

It’s a really cool concept. So the two pillars look like they have shattered and spilled all over the ground, but the breakage defies physics. After all, it wouldn’t break in a full circle, that’s crazy talk. In addition, the pillars are still intact. It made me reflect on how things are not always as they might appear.

That’s the power of misdirection.

And the point of misdirection is normally stage magic. And what could be more magical than your audience becoming the performers?

This piece, “Heardt” by Anna Feyrerová, Bára Anna Stejskalová, Richard Dobřichovský and Tomáš Bukáček, performs precisely that. A piano connected to the lights to create different patterns based on the music played. Anyone could sit in the piano and create the show, though it seems most people who tried had at least some skill when we were there.

They also weren’t that drunk because, and this will surely shock some Prague people, did you know we can no longer buy drink in Prague 1 after 10pm? What is this, Scotland? I tell you, this city is changing. Not necessarily for the better.

Anyway, here’s a idea of me dancing with two tins at the “Beyond” (Playmodes) exhibit in Old Town Square.

You know how I like to tell a story, well what’s the story here? The story is that the true story is the light show you find along the way. Like, check this out –

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Prague Castle from across the Vltava

And to conclude, the festival is really cool, sadly a little short, and my bird likes expensive tins, but more on that next time.

The writer of this piece is a fan of art and light and hopes that he brightened your day.

How to work with people

Yesterday I had a wee chat with my friend Roisin who told me that she has worked with me more than anyone else. Here is a song to celebrate.

Thing is, just the other day my friend Teddy told me that he’d worked with me more than anyone else too.

Am I uniquely easy to work with? Not really, but there are definitely a few principles that make me a useful and easy person to work with which you can cultivate in your own life.

1) The work in itself

So a bit of critical theory here, I believe an infinite number of things can be created. Some of those things are better than others. Though objectivity in your own creations is extremely difficult, it is of absolute importance. You already know what the fuck ups are. It is already in everyone to solve them. Sometimes it needs a nudge.

What I mean by that is that in every creative endeavour it isn’t hard to see the fractures and flaws. Some of these are structural and necessary. Style is another name for mistakes. Other times problems should be ruthlessly cut out.

Working from this base is the foundation of collaboration.

Understanding that an objectively better piece of work is possible from whatever you’re reading is fundamental to providing decent, usable feedback.

2) Letting visions meet

Part of working with people is understanding that you have your own idea and they have their own idea about what should happen. It depends who is helping who.

If they are helping you; respect that they are giving you their time to make your work the strongest it can be. Also understand that you can make mistakes and their input is valuable to fix some of them.

(I’m not brilliant at this sometimes, one time I wrote that a horse had cloven hooves then refused to correct it because I liked the sound. Horses, famously, do not have cloven hooves.)

If you are helping them, it is important that you understand where they are coming from then be respectful in elbowing them in the right direction.

One time, I advised Roisin on taking the cannibalism out of the first scene as it’s kind of unrealistic when the guy ate only a few hours ago. She did and I believe the work benefitted.

If either of you are to make the best piece of work possible from the material, it takes respect and honesty.

3) Seperating people from perspectives

If you look in a mirror for a while you can sometimes notice the image reflected back does not concur with your own vision. There is a good reason for this involving bending light and the ocular nerves of the brain but I think it suffices to say that true reflections are sometimes more evasive than they appear.

Inscribed above the oracle of Delphi was the expression “Know thyself”, the first part to wisdom is to know where you are coming from. Sun Tsu said something similar, about battle being between knowledge of yourself and the enemy.

When it comes to working with people, you must be able to divorce their perspective from them as an individual. The fact is that our relation to every person on the world is different, there is a different energy to every connection. This can impact how you take on their feedback. It can also impair how you give it.

Most people don’t want to hurt or be hurt by those they hold close.

Accepting that there is a better standard of work just out there which they can help you secure, you must find a way to seek it uncoloured by predispositions.

And that is how you work with people. You form your vision, let your vision and theirs mingle, and then you decouple personality to truly let your minds merge. It is a magical process at the end and it’s always an honour to be involved so intimately in the process.

The writer of this piece could do with a tin and a cigarette