Thursday, November 20, 2008

Apres Comedy


This is me. The last two nights I've had little sleep. The first I was worrying about the countdown to my first ever standup gig. And for the second, I was happy it was over and so high on andrenalin.

The feedback I've received tells me the gig went well. The disparity between the way I looked (laid back and calm--of course I wasn't) and sounded (smooth and somewhat lugubrious) and what actually came out of my mouth caused a few gasps in the audience. There are no parentheses for the last part.

For the last 15 minutes before going onstage I went to the loo on average once every 3 minutes. Every gulp from my water bottle was followed a rapid exit. My main fear was: would everything in my mind exit the same way too?

Then there is the terrible realization the compere has said your name and it's time to take the tumbril to the stage. Thank god the lights were so bright I couldn't see the audience. Once I'd finished my wrestling match with the microphone stand I began to find my rhythm and the next thing I knew I was getting ready to wind up. I knew I was going to need a lot of rehydration, but not water this time.

Looking back and thinking about the last 10 weeks of the course and all the rehearsing we did, we all thought we knew the high spots of our acts. But once you are in front of the audience, it doesn't work that way anymore. Suddenly you hear laughs in places you considered, well, OK. And the high spots weren't quite so high. Strange creatures audiences and you have to think of them as an organic mass rather than individuals.

The eight of us who made it through out of the original 12 who started had a fantastic time. Chris Head created a great course. We arranged for the entire gig to be filmed and we think the DVD should be ready around mid-December.

Looking back you begin to see how that particular bit could have been done better, that bit could be shortened, and change that word. And then you start thinking about the next time...
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Countdown to Comedy


This is the countdown to my first ever (and last??) standup performance. It's on Wednesday 19 November and the details are below. If you click on the name of the pub you get a Google maps reference.

STAND UP SHOW
With graduates from Chris Head's stand up comedy course
Wednesday 19th November at:
Wilmington Arms pub
69 Rosebery Avenue
London, EC1R 4RL

Doors 7pm (show starts 7.30pm)

£4

Near Sadler's Wells.
Tubes: Angel/ Farringdon/ King's Cross
(15 min walk from each.)
And it's on the 38 Bus route.

Really good available in the pub pre-show


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Monday, November 10, 2008

More Writing


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Friday, November 07, 2008

Writing and More Writing


(serious image)

I agreed to do some research for the Bar Council on direct access to barristers. The report was due yesterday but I asked for an extension today. Avis Whyte, my colleague, and I eventually got it in. It was the result of poring over a huge pile of documents, interviewing various experts and users, and carrying out three web-based surveys. It was only a small project after all. But considering what the summer has been like, I enjoyed having this project around.

As with most writing projects the actual writing never occurs in a consistent stream. It comes instead in a mad burst as the deadline approaches and one optimistically says, "No sweat. We can do it." Hubris? Yes. It's surprising that one never really learns.

I was tempted to reflect on this after reading "How To Write Anything" on Tomorrow's Professor Blog. Actually I didn't want to reflect at all: I was hoping to get the answer.

It starts with a quotation from Peter De Vries: "I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning." In my case it's more likely to be ten o'clock and only then after at least three espressos for rocket fuel.

The diagnosis is clear:

Here's the situation. You're working on a big writing project-a proposal, paper, book, dissertation, whatever-and in the last five weeks all you've managed to get done is one measly paragraph. You're long past the date when the project was supposed to be finished, and you just looked at your to-do list and reminded yourself that this is only one of several writing projects on your plate and you haven't even started most of the others. If you're frequently in that situation (and we've never met a faculty member who isn't) we've got a remedy for you.
That's me...often.

The answer is enticingly lucid. Don't say "I am going to spend the next 14 hours sitting here writing and nothing else." It's not true. You won't. And you will beat yourself up afterwards for not doing something you could never do in the first place.

The answer? "Dedicate short and frequent periods of time to your major writing projects."

Richard M Felder suggests,

A much more effective strategy is to make a commitment to regularly devote short periods of time to major writing projects. Thirty minutes a day is plenty, or maybe an hour three times a week.
The result will be,

These short writing interludes won't make much difference in how many fires you put out each day, but you'll be astounded when you look back after a week or two and see how much you've gotten done on the project.
It comes with one proviso: "Do your creating and editing sequentially, not simultaneously."

Because,

Here's another common scenario that might ring a bell. You sit down to write something and come up with the first sentence. You look at it, change some words, add a phrase, rewrite it three or four times, put in a comma here, take one out there҆and beat on the sentence for five minutes and finally get it where you want it. Then you draft the second sentence, and the first one is instantly obsolete and you have to rewrite it again...and you work on those two sentences until you're satisfied with them and go on to Sentence 3 and repeat the process...and an hour or two later you may have a paragraph to show for your efforts.
So there is an answer, of sorts. And I know that I can be productive when I write a little each day. Why we want to kid ourselves that we can easily do the mammoth writing periods, I don't know. Is it because we think it's macho? Do I imagine Hemingway writing that way? Is it sissy to write in short spells? Who knows?

OK, having learned my lesson, how shall I put it into practice? Well, it won't be next week because the editor of a journal has just emailed me with "friendly reminder" that I promised them an article by the end of next week. But this was long ago in the summer and there was so much time that I didn't have to worry about it. I was so unworried I forgot.

I think I'm for a couple more mammoths before I can take on board Felder's ideas. So it goes...



(not so serious image)




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Monday, November 03, 2008

What and What Not To Do With a Ganglion

I think I've got a small ganglion cyst on my wrist, which I can feel pressing on a nerve. It's an irritating little bugger. I read one way to get rid of them is to hit them with a big book. It makes them burst.

I tried that on myself last week. Even though I've got some big books--let me recommend the New Oxford Companion to Law in which I've written an entry on globalization and law and it runs to over 1300 pages--I couldn't swing it hard enough other than to cause me to jump out of my chair screaming blue murder.

So I enlisted the help of a friend who is very strong. He's a personal trainer. We put a cushion under my wrist and he hoisted my copy of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe (prolific writer) over me.

"Turn away and take a deep breath," he said. Wham! God, it hurt.

It was still there. "Let's do it again," I suggested. Wham!! Missed the ganglion but hit the rest of me.

"Last try," I said. Wham!!! The hardest yet! "Shit!" I heard. My friend had hit both me and himself and was now bleeding profusely.

My wrist was numb and vaguely blue. I couldn't tell if the ganglion had burst or not. Sometimes I think it's OK, others it's the same as before.

I can't type very well today. And my friend took away several of my band aids for his injury.

Maybe there's a reason to leave it to the specialists. Wikepedia no longer recommends this way.
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Saturday, November 01, 2008

John Squared and the Time Doth Draw Near

There are two Johns in my class. About the only common feature we share is dimples. Aside from that we are completely different, especially our humour.

John T is lighter and more connected with what is happening around him. John F is darker with emerging anger. This has become clearer to him now that he recognizes that he was traumatized as a sperm. Freud missed a good one here.

Chris organized a show line up in the last class and we two Johns were first with me being the opener. After we did our sets Chris shook his head saying, "I meant to put you the other way round. John F is far too dark to open..." In other words, god help the punters.

The show is on soon, too soon for my liking but here are the details:

STAND UP SHOW
With graduates from Chris Head's stand up comedy course
Wednesday 19th November at:
Wilmington Arms pub
69 Rosebery Avenue
London, EC1R 4RL

Doors 7pm (show starts 7.30pm)

£4

Near Sadler's Wells.
Tubes: Angel/ Farringdon/ King's Cross
(15 min walk from each.)
And it's on the 38 Bus route.

Food available in the pub pre-show


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