My thoughts on Nick Cave’s Sick Bag Song, part I

[The following is part of an attempt at making an episodic blog. My collected thoughts on the novel Sick Bag Song and my analysis takes up way more space than I feel like I can expect the average reader to read in one go. The following, then, is an attempt at something which should give a clear indication of what I think of Sick Bag Song and why, which will be elaborated in further in future installments.]

  Nick Cave’s third book Sick Bag Song is perhaps his most personal yet, and in many ways also the most artistic of his books. The genre is that of the epic poem, and it centers around his 2014 tour of Canada and the USA. Being a poem rather than a story there really isn’t a plot as such, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting to read. Through the various poems, each originally written down on airline sick bags, the reader is treated to an inside view into an artist who is confronting something very peculiar, the fear of not being creative.

  I find it hard to be anything close to objective around the works of Nick Cave. His music and writing have influenced me more than any other ever since I saw him in concert at a music festival almost twenty years ago. Back then I’d only heard “Where the Wild Roses Grow” and like most everybody else I really liked it. But when a friend dragged me off at that festival to hear Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, I was struck by a obviously drunk Cave who, despite some stumbling and accidentally tearing out the cord from his microphone a few times (and blaming it on the “bloody Danish wiring!”), managed to blow me away with a simple song about a certain motherfucker called “Stagger Lee”. I got a hold of Murder Ballads soon after and was forever changed. I was in my late teens at the time and the thin man with the black hair who railed, and hissed, and spat at the world from his stage with his portrayal of dysfunctional masculinities and their destructive behavior. When I think back to those days my emotional life was very much mirrored in the works of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the young Nick in the white tee screamed songs of bloody murder and self immolation into my ears through my SONY Discman, and when I fell in love for the first time, Let Love In put words to all the conflicting emotions which stirred in me. As the relationship ended The Boatman’s Call carried me on it’s melancholic wings while No More Shall We Part made me believe that love could still be found. I even used The Death of Bunny Munro as the basis of my master thesis at university. As you may imagine his works are like portals into my emotional memory. All of my hate, despondency, hope, love, exaltation, my darkest and brightest fantasies can be accessed simply by putting one of his records on, or by picking up a book and reading his musings on matters of faith, love, masculinity, or social alienation. And now I can add creativity to the list of subjects I can turn to.

  There you have it dear reader, a caveat emptor; a full disclosure of my bias before you go any further. To be utterly honest there are songs which I skip on occasion, there are chapters which I gloss over while rereading others. Push the Sky Away for example just didn’t do the same for me as Dig! Lazarus! Dig! did and Grinderman 2 wasn’t, in my opinion, as good as Grinderman. I am utterly enamored with the works of Nick Cave, but it isn’t wholly without criticism is what I am getting at.

  The edition I pre-ordered and read (the unlimited edition as I couldn’t bring myself to spend the €1,035 required to obtain a limited edition) included a hardback with pictures of the various sick bags Nick Cave used to jot down the basics of the poem. These para-textual elements add to the feel of the book and positioned before each chapter (each of which is named after the city on the tour) they create a temporal superstructure to the book. This gives the reader a sense of being along for the ride, a sense which is only enhanced by the train-of-thought narrative which Cave employs to great effect.

  The book begins as any other with the often difficult introduction which will make the reader pay attention and which is perhaps the part any writer rewrites more than anything else. As the epic poem begins Cave ponders the feeling of insecurity of taking the very first step towards his current profession. This takes the form of a boy standing on a railway bridge in Australia with a train bearing down towards him, we are quickly taken from this childhood-memory and into a hotel where Nick Cave is being prepared to get on stage. The Sick Bag Song‘s plot isn’t so much a plot in the traditional sense as it is an idea. The idea of returning home to his wife. The thoughts which we are privy to throughout the poem centers around three main themes; longing, fear, and ageing. Twenty or thirty years ago the poem would have been full of drunken debauchery, drug fueled rampages, and anonymous sex, but as Cave is in his fifties and kicked the drugs and alcohol more than a decade ago (the only rock-n-roll element, apart from the music itself, which is still present is smoking) the poem is more about the reflections of a sober and adult man than the exploits of a young rocker.

[To be continued…]

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Mismanaging Kickstarter funds; a tale of two series

As some people might know, Knights of the Dinner Table Live Action has run into trouble. I don’t know exactly what happened; did Ken Whitman mismanage the money raised? Or, were there simply a bunch of unforeseen costs which made actually delivering on the promises made in the Kickstarter campaign impossible?

To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me, the fact is that so far, a year and a half after the fund-raising campaign, all I have to show for it is a publicly available video on youtube. Considering I pledged for much more, including tickets to a premiere event at GenCon 2015 (which I would have had to purchase from Whitman again, since he apparently lost the backer information… never mind that he and D20 Entertainment seem to know who ordered the DVDs) I feel very disappointed in how the project has turned out. Now, I won’t be making GenCon this year, although I had thought 2015 would be the year in which I made my pilgrimage, so in the end the tickets don’t matter, but it does ire me that my fellow backers had to pay, twice, for tickets to see something which, as it turns out, isn’t really done yet any way (to Kickstarter backers Whitman revealed, today, that episodes  two and three will be screened in a raw version – but hey, at least he’ll be bringing a blooper reel!). And it also means that I feel less than confident that I will ever receive the DVD and movie poster which I also pledged for. An after-party and Q&A session with the development team and cast was also promised, but apparently fell through, only to be picked up by disgruntled backers, who have also made sure that (some of) the actors involved in the series can attend.

Maybe it’s me, maybe I cursed this project. I certainly haven’t had the best of luck with Kickstarter campaigns supposed to fund movies and the like. First I pledged for a little project called the Uncle Ruckus movie (of Boondocks infamy) which failed to raise its goal, in part because – well I’m going to blame people being stupid, because it would have been awesome.

Then I backed Matt Yang King’s World of Steam, which made good on the physical rewards quickly (pins, props, and stuff), and has struggled to meet its movie goals, struggled not failed. The World of Steam made a bit of a mistake by not hiring an accountant and had to pay taxes on the money raised. The big difference between The World of Steam and KODTLAS is that I don’t feel swindled out of my money by mr. King, he has delivered on what has been possible (even if we won’t be seeing the six episodes they promised) and because he has been very clear in his communications about the problems and challenges surrounding the project. Unlike Whitman, he hasn’t blamed the writers and tried to get the backers to pay twice. In the end King and the rest of the people at the World of Steam (who are all working on the series in their spare time, and even adding their own funds to make it a reality) have my complete confidence. They’re Hollywood pros and actually give a flying cluck about the project. So while I wouldn’t hire Matt Yang King to do my taxes, I cannot say anything negative about his artistic vision. The World of Steam, so far, has been incredible.

KODTLAS on the other hand has had a more limited budget, and while I didn’t expect A-list actors, I was generally pleased with the actors’ performances, however the sound seems slapdash, and even the finished version on Youtube feels ”rough”.

Bottom line: if King needs another backer for a season two of the World of Steam, I would gladly float him a few bucks. Whereas I wouldn’t give Whitman or D20 Entertainment a single dime, even if he was selling pencils on the street.

The big difference lies in how the money have been mismanaged. King made an honest mistake and has been transparent and honest about it. Whitman, it seems, has taken a ”Do Not Disturb” approach.

The thing is that mistakes happen, and when you back a project on Kickstarter you aren’t guaranteed that it will be an awesome success, if that was the case the projects wouldn’t need Kickstarter to begin with. Plenty of decent people have had projects fail after a successful Kickstarter campaign, but, unfortunately, plenty of people have been fraudulent, misleading and criminal on Kickstarter as well.

So while I am eagerly awaiting the next episode of The World of Steam, I have pretty much given up on KODTLAS. I still hope to be proven wrong of course, and will edit and redact as needed if I should find myself in these circumstances.

Notes:

World of Steam: On April 17th 2015, King informed the backers on Kickstarter that the series will consist of three separate stories, one of which (named The Duelist) will be cut into three episodes. In the end the fans will get five episodes of steampunk goodness.

Links and sources:

KODTLAS Episode 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g41Dj-bEV4o

World of Steam ”The Clockwork Heart”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08–Ju_JI0Y

Source: KODT live action series Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/d20e/kodt-live-action-series/description

A Farewell to Facebook – Signing out of social media … sorta

Lately, social media has been bothering me. The concept more than the actual transmitters.

The core of my antipathy for Facebook and other social media is the way that it resembles a shouting match. Or rather a a hundred different protests and marches blended together with people waving banners and playing media clips which try (and succeed!) to dumb down any issue to something even a macro cephalic mineral/human hybrid with severe learning disabilities can understand. Dumb was the important word in the above sentence.

People – people I know, and often love in real life – are turning themselves into conveyors of ridiculous propaganda which only serves one purpose – to generate revenue for sites which feed off of the division we are causing in our own lives.

Sometimes people complain that social media sites, like Facebook, are akin to amateur exhibitionist emotion porn, but to me that is a good thing – and I’ll tell you why.

How often have you had a discussion in real life and somebody throws a book or newspaper on the table and tells you to read it – with no other comment?

Social media has become a vital tool in marketing – to some this is a horrible capitalist affront and they try to spread viral posts with pictures of kittens to counter this – but at the same time it has also become a prime hunting ground for scammers. But to me, the marketing – or rather the solicited marketing sent my way from companies I’ve actually “liked” – is welcome, I clicked that button knowing the consequences. The unsolicited adds are only slightly annoying, but what drives me insane are the people who get online and spend the first few hours of the day “liking” 100 different memes from the same page turning my newsfeed into a steady stream of propagandizing colors with inane ramblings printed in Comics font interlaced with pictures of assholes in Guy Fawkes masks (because blowing up democratic institutions to reinstate a tyrant to power is SO awesome) and half-assed political “comics” which are neither funny or manage add anything to any political debate waged by anybody over the age of twelve.

Or they share each and every news article they come across and then spur on a debate which never gets past the problem that 90% of the time; nobody bothers reading the actual article and just refers to any of the other comments or whatever was written by the sharer. Best of all, in relation to these “discussions”, is that nobody is bound by any form of decorum or social etiquette and if the privacy settings are right people who are “friends” with one or more will comment with their own fire-brand of stupidity turning what could have been a reasonable discussion into a 3rd grade word fight.

How often have you had a discussion in real life where somebody brings in an outsider to back their claims – or present their arguments for them?

Indeed it seems that the very foundations of rational, social and emotional discourse have been thrown out of the window in the pursuit of being right. Somebody not responding to your arguments by hailing your genius and casting away their own opinions? Simply reformulate what you have already written in the hopes that if they just understand your bias they will understand that you are right. Opinions are never opinions, certainly not yours, you alone know the gospel truth – and if a heathen, or heretic, is particularly belligerent in their misguided beliefs you can always tag in a choir of angels to agree and like your comments to make it seem like you are winning.

Social media is thus very much subject to social constructivism. Which obviously shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

We want to win the arguments, because we want to be right, to own the truth. Because that makes us feel better, because the people who profit off of the division which we have become constant transmitters off keep telling us that they know the TRUTHTM, that there isn’t two (or more) sides to every tale, that there is goodTM (them) and eeeeeevil (others), and that it is just THAT simple.

Why I don’t mind the social media click bait “which-something-are-you?/how-much-do-you-know?” BS and social media games.

The reason for the above is simple really – they are easily opted out off. I can just click a thing and perhaps another thing and I will never be bothered by how bored you are at any given time (which is the only thing there is to truly learn from those tests) it really isn’t that hard.

Frankly much of the griping that people usually make about social media, I disagree with. I WANT to know how your baby is doing and how your life’s story is playing out, not because of some voyeuristic perversion (much) but because the people in my life, even those who I’ve lost touch with over the years are still fascinating and important to me. I want to share the goings-on in my life because I hope you still find me interesting.

If I want a face-to-face discussion about politics or religion which then turns into a muddied shouting match where complete strangers weigh in with their opinions, I’ll call you up tell you which bar to meet me at and get drunk with you. I don’t need to spend a day and a half tapping away at a greasy phone without the added bonus of getting drunk.

Social media lets people stay in touch, even when they live far apart and their lives have gone their separate paths – it allows for people to come together, but more often than not it’s just used by divisive pricks who want our precious Internet traffic to make a buck and further themselves.

It’s not just that it makes people block and “unfollow” each other to avoid the strain of being annoyed by these people daily which is so awful; it’s the way that now we are always on. A billion bored, opinionated morons who cannot help but look at their laptops or phones every twenty seconds.

Opting out of “always-on”

In the end I have decided to do the above. I started off by turning off the various notifications to ensure that my e-mail wasn’t spammed by social media, and having caught my breath for the first time in years I went a step further and deleted the Facebook app from my phone – freeing my of the tyranny my bad manners and boredom had shackled me with. Because it is nobody else’s fault that social media is annoying and divisive other than the people who use it. WE have to show people, even people who aren’t an immediate physical threat, the same amount of respect we would like from them. WE have to stop before hitting that like and share button for another bogus “give-away” (it’s always 200 new something with broken seals, huh?) or what-ever and stop and think “is this necessary?”. Perhaps we should even consider if we have a persons current phone number to give them a call and let them know that “Hey, I went the extra inch and a half, happy birthday”, rather than chiming in with a hasty and mistyped “haopy birtday m8” on their Facebook wall (which I’m not sure it’s even called anymore) just because we were reminded and subsequently guilt-tripped into arbitrarily wish them a happy something. Nobody is keeping score. Social media doesn’t really matter, a sentence with your picture attached to it isn’t as weighty as the sound of your voice or showing up in person.

I’m not trying to say that I’m a better person because I deleted an app – I’m just a guy who had enough of unfollowing the lives of close friends and family because their proselytizing at any and all times seemed in my face, and was because I was always-on.