Category Archives: Writing

What Would This World Look Like? #Trump #BoJo

It only took a little over three years…

the textual silence project...

Here’s a very short post, for a change. It may be nice to pause, amidst the political goings on of the moment, simply to ponder the following. In a world where it is possible, although not altogether plausible or desirable, for Donald Trump @realDonaldTrump and Boris Johnson @BorisJohnson to become head of state, respectively, what would such a world look like?

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Would it look like this? Might The Donald reach across the Atlantic and smack a big wet one on BoJo’s fleshy lips? Worse things could happen, don’t you think?

#VoteWhatever (it probably doesn’t matter anyway) #PoliticsIsDead

(ooh… Soul II Soul)

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Definitely not Normal: More Reflections Following Reflections on The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) and then The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

Just to offer some perspective on the shift I have experienced in getting on and off planes, and the bit in between (@ #DFW19), here’s the Uptown Circle area of Normal, Illinois:

And here’s the High Street of the town I live in:

Perhaps best to hold on to the following sentiment, though I’m not sure what good that’ll do me:

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And just think, the whole thing started with this post: The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal

There’s no place like home, eh?


Reflections on The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) and then The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

A by-product of being able to attend the #DFW19 (David Foster Wallace) Conference at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, was the chance for me to visit the site of The Warehouse, 206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago, considered by many to be the birthplace of House music, or at least the place where House music began commanding audiences, as opposed to just being shared around privately. Anyone with an interest in finding out more can just follow this link.

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The experience of visiting a building that means a great deal to me (because without a place like The Warehouse my teenage years would not have been so much fun – and I would not have begun to understand the bigotry I had grown up with as a child (nothing wildly overt, but the usual racist, sexist, homophobic stuff prevalent in the UK media, which then filters down via one’s parents)) was, as indicated in previous posts, akin to that of a pilgrimage. I only hope that the message of love and shared connections, so often promoted in the lyrics of House music songs will continue to thrive – and on that point, happenstance that Chicago Pride weekend is the time I get to visit.

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Fortunately for me a group of young teenagers (mostly dressed in rainbow colours and seemingly having much fun with one another) happily and politely answer the questions I have about how far it would take me to walk here and there, and generally advise me not to walk in the direction of the inner city ‘hoods (their term, not mine). The atmosphere in the city was amazing, and 50 years on from Stonewall (though there’s still much work to be done to foster understanding and shared connections (both within and outside of the LGTBQ+ community)) it seems like we can begin to imagine a Promised Land: “Brothers, Sisters, one day we will be free, from fighting, violence, people crying in the streets…” (Joe Smooth). At least that’s the optimistic view I’m taking given the young people I have encountered both at #DFW19 and on the streets of Chicago.

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The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

Where to start in trying to sum up the #DFW19 (David Foster Wallace) Conference at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois? Perhaps with the attendees at the conference? Perhaps the topics of conversation? Perhaps the countries from which people travelled?

 

 

The age range was fairly impressive, with presenters as young as 18 years of age, and attendees one might describe as senior, but those are merely numbers (or hinting at numbers), not conveying the breadth of knowledge possessed by the youngest, nor the enthusiasm shown by the eldest. The male/female split (if we must do such things, and I suppose we must given the ‘LitBro’ conversations around Wallace) was around 66.66%/33.33%, fluctuating on certain days due to late arrivals/departures. And a cursory read down the list of presenters speaks of visitors/presenters from Australia, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Canada, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, along with Eastern/Western and Northern/Southern States in the US.

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Another feature was the number of independent scholars in attendance – those who share a passion in discussing literature and culture, and who were willing to make the journey, and to mingle with academics. The overall effect was, in my mind, spectacular, and if this in any way speaks to the readers of this blog post, that, perhaps, you, or someone you know who has an interest in Wallace, or contemporaries of Wallace, or even in contemporary literature and culture as a whole, or creative writing, or indeed many other things, then there is a real need for you to act upon this and to look to attend and/or present at future conferences (at ISU or elsewhere – the main thing would be for you to make contact with the broader David Foster Wallace community, and to seek out such opportunities – my email is at the foot of the page if I can help facilitate this for you). And that doesn’t mean you must necessarily be on the ‘Saint Dave’ side of the fence – straddle the fence, or even kick that mother/father over (metaphorically, for I am not advocating violence).

 

 

But why? Well, the overriding sense of this conference is that we are now moving into more challenging conversations arising from a discussion of Wallace’s works – and that’s not before time. In recent years the inclusion of diversity panels have brought about a focus on issues of gender and race, respectively, with this year’s panel turning the attention on LGBTQ+ issues, and/or the lack thereof in Wallace’s works. Wallace, just one writer from a list of thousands, left a legacy in his writing that speaks of the beauty and poetics of carefully crafted prose, but also offers a specific cultural moment for us to reflect upon – and some of it is f***ed up and/or just erring on the side of cringe worthy (the HIV/AIDS essay, the use of vernacular particularly with respect to minority and/or disenfranchised communities, the prevalence of sexual violence, the essay on rap music, the exploration of infinity, and the list goes on…). Have you something to say on these (I’d imagine you would)?

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Taking time to analyse our current cultural climate, wherever that may be, seems more pressing now than at anytime in recent memory. So, as a parting shot, let me reflect on the things I have experienced this year, not all of them academic in nature, but more personal, things that shape the way I think and feel…

Talking to very young people who make me feel inferior because they are so switched on (Andrew, Tyler, Matt, Reilly, Elena, Kristin, Ben, Ryan – if any of those are spelt incorrectly, sincere apologies), but who are in no way contributing to my inferiority complex (that’s all my own sh*t going on).

Generally being listened to and given time to speak and communicate my thoughts, and then receiving communication back, whether in the form of comments, suggestions, and/or questions.

Meeting people I genuinely felt a sense of affinity with (all of those listed above but also Ryan, Emilio, Denys, Kristie, Amy, Brian, Jane, Allard, Vern, Tennis Andrew, John, Gen, and Swiss Andrew).

Not plucking up the courage to ask questions because the right moment never came up/my own inhibitions got in the way (Grace, JoAnna).

But getting to talk to people and feeling a sense that they too see a need to change the ways in which we currently live, and the ways in which society has operated in without any real sense of critique, let alone the possibility of change.

I didn’t see any ‘LitBros’ at all. Just genuinely affectionate, and thoughtful, human beings. Some dressed formally, some dressed informally – doesn’t matter. All good.

And then it’s over and I get to fly home, stopping off at 206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago, on the way, of course (see original The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) post. “Brothers, Sisters, one day we will be free, from fighting, violence, people crying in the streets…” (Joe Smooth).

*Classic mistake – forgot to put my email at the foot of the page first time round. Here it is: Matthew.Alexander@liverpool.ac.uk

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The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal)

206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago. The Warehouse. Pilgrimage (is that the right word?).

As someone who never really liked The Hacienda, Manchester, because it always seemed too aggressive (and probably too male???), but who can walk past the old site any time I please, I am beside myself with excitement at the prospect of being able to visit the site of The Warehouse in Chicago on Sunday 30thJune 2019 (driving back to ORD from Normal, with a few hours to spare (post DFW19)). I have already emailed the legal firm that resides at the premises to see if I can get any information about the state of the building, and whether there is actually anything to see when I get there – a commemorative plaque, or something similar?

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For me, it will be akin to the sporadic visits I pay to Sylvia Plath’s grave in Heptonstall – a form of worship, and just something I’m compelled to do without quite knowing why (or even knowing what to do when I get there). In my head, the visit to the site of The Warehouse will involve being able to park directly outside, selecting an appropriate song from my playlist (at this point in time that song will be Joe Smooth’s ‘Promised Land’ (but then again I’ll probably also have to play Frankie Knuckles’ ‘Move Your Body,’ as it would be rude not to (and probably also Jaime Principle’s ‘Your Love’))), and leaning against the car with headphones on for however long it takes for the song(s) to play, then I’ll maybe try to find a place for coffee, so I can sit and reflect on what this club meant to my life growing up as a teenager in a relatively down-trodden (certainly at the time) Northern ex-mining town. Notably, it will be the way that, unknown to me at the time, ‘black and Latino LGTBQ+ communities’ affected my white, working-class existence in ways that are truly immeasurable. Long shot this, because this is not the most widely read blog, but I’d be super keen to meet anyone who actually set foot inside The Warehouse – I’d buy you a coffee and probably a cake, so…

As a side note, it’s funny that some of the most profound feelings can be found in the most innocuous looking places.

 


Pondering [the food at] the #immersivestorytelling Symposium @ljmu – a fill-in-the-blanks festive entry (fun for all the family)

The golden rule of attending any event as a ________ is to go prepared. Either eat before you go, take a packed lunch, be prepared to have to search around for food, or go hungry for the duration (admittedly, things are getting easier for ________ as the turn to a ________ diet attracts mainstream attention). Gather my amazement upon return from procuring a cup of coffee to find that the food had been laid out with thought and care – long table of animalised protein* items, then a table with feminised proteins,* and finally, a sufficient distance from the animalised proteins so that the overpowering smell of decomposing flesh was not an issue for my nasal receptors, a table of ________ food, each tray with its own handwritten tag spelling out what each item was, and for whom it was suitable – examples from this final table included pea-mint hummus wraps, aubergine and roast veg on ciabatta slices, and my personal favourite, a nutty/mushroom filling in pastry.

It’s a coincidence that the symposium was timed between two major celebrations, Thanksgiving and Christmas, respectively, where the consumption of animal corpses (predominantly turkey) passes in most households without a thought for the processes involved in the industrialised “factory farming” of animals. So, after sampling some wonderfully tasty ________ items at the symposium buffet, it seems apt, as a ________ to post the following comment from Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory:

“[W]e refer to meat eating rather than to corpse eating [as] a central example of how our language transmits the dominant culture’s approval of this activity” (48)

The question I’d pose, here, is: Just how tasty is the corpse in your mouth as you sit round the table with loved ones?

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* Phrases taken from Adams’ book.


Pondering the #immersivestorytelling Symposium @ljmu

Not a direction the #immersivestorytelling symposium flagged up, per se, but one that springs to mind of being of interest due to references of “doing things in different ways” and Future Thinking, is the thought of relying less on traditional, conventional, old-world models connected with funding, finance, and commercial concerns. If wonderful new applications and uses of technology (AR, VR, XR, AI) are just around the corner, and it seems they are, and we don’t yet know just how much of an impact they will have on human evolution, which undoubtedly they will, then why would we shackle their development by confining them to purely profit driven activities? Won’t pressures of profit for shareholders, and the wish for ever more growth, etc., lead us back to the same old results, where exploiting an idea for profit is the sole motivating factor (meaning that the full potential of an idea may not be reached if it is not commercially viable, for example)?

A term I particularly liked was Julia Scott-Stevenson’s “seeking preferred futures,” and at this point in human evolution shouldn’t we all be attempting such a thing? Phil Charnock’s reference to the Whole Earth Catalog and the idea of democratised knowledge and access to information speaks to new ways of future thinking that we’ve been theorising about but have not yet been bold enough to bring into actuality. Perhaps these evolving technologies could be the spark that ignites such a flame…

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