Diary

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Bart’s Bash in Seaford Bay, Sunday 21st August

Bart’s Bash : Photos from one of the security boats

From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14
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I am apolitical. My in-laws used to laugh, saying they cancelled each other out: Tory, Labour and Liberal. (That’s, mother, father and grandmother). I never asked and could never figure who voted which way; they kept their politics to themselves. I have voted in all directions from green through blue to yellow and red – I cancel myself out. I often vote different ways in local and national elections only voting for the person, not their party. In fact I wish political parties could be banned, so, I guess like Tony Benn, you can be your own person rather than being forever held to and subjugated by the party thinking.

That’s me on politics – an agnostic in religion, indifferent in politics.

Here though to pick up on a phrase used on the BBC obituary yesterday regarding his fifty years of keeping a diary (written, then audio). His view, probably expressed to a journalist to keep things short, was that ‘something happens, you write it down, you re-read it, then realise that you were wrong’.

In the aggregation of events, and musings, self-analysis is surely just as capable of creating such an aggregating of similar events and thoughts that you become entrenched, rather than transformed? Surely a bit of both is the reality. Or does it make any difference at all.

I’ve kept a diary and blog and relate to several others who do the same – the diary/blogging thing is part of who you are or have become, you do it out of habit, like saying your prayers at night. I cannot see across any of these people, especially those published diarists, that suggests that in any way the act of keeping the diary changed them. I rather think the opposite, that those who keep a diary are very set in their ways.

There’s barely been a module across the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education (MAODE) that hasn’t expected students to blog. I wonder if this though isn’t for purposes of reflection, but is a learning journal or portfolio of work, a accumulation and aggregation of course work and themes upon which you build you knowledge. In these instances reading over does adjust your thinking, you become fluent in the language of your subject and wise to the ideas rather than ignorant of them. That should be self-evident in the diary I have kept here for four years.

An early morning walk on a beach 5,600 miles from home …

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I had no expectations as we set off from Sausalito, California to check out Stinson Beach early yesterday morning but immediately fell in love with it. The bizarre twist was to come across a handful of people looking at a 42ft fin whale that had washed ashore. Within a couple of hours there are two TV crews, a couple of print journalists and a radio reporter on site. We watch as a JCB digger attempts and fails to pull the whale ashore – the strap snaps.

As I returned to the car I wondered about the Tsunami Warning signs and the possibility of earthquakes.

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With the teenagers joining us again after their trip with friends to the fairground and surfing of Santa Cruz we head back to Stinson as a family to hire kayaks and surf boards only to find we may not enter the water due to sharks being spotted 300yds offshore. I know all this as I recognised the Park Ranger from the whale drama and asked him; a natural educator he happily explained it all.

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For this reason we bring our second visit to the giant reedwoods of Muir Woods forward. With the extremely rare beaching of a whale and then sharks on the beach perhaps our good fortune – or misfortune – will have us turn a corner and find a bear. Reality is one teenager car sick from the winding roads and the other craving an activity that requires an engine.

REFERENCE

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Why do whales wash ashore?

http://www.wdcs.org/stop/strandings/story_details.php?select=94

The Oxford Theatre Group on the Edinburgh Fringe, August 1982

Thirty years ago I took a Sony Betamax kit to the Edinburgh Fringe and shot all the action around the Oxford Theatre Group as they set up, rehearsed then put on five productions: Titus Alone, Edward II, The Thirteen Clocks, The Oxford Review and The Hunger Artist.

The clips above are random grabs from the video. The playback quality suffers from drop out. There are several hours of rushes – putting up the stage, putting up posters around town, rehearsals in a sunlit hall for Titus Alone and the Oxford Review, and rehearsing Titus Alone outside on Arthur’s Mount. The cut ‘documentary’ features several copyright music tracks that I need to replace before the entire video can be shown, for now those featured can view by providing their email address.

For three decades the original Betamax tapes have been in a box, carefully stacked, in an attic or garage.

Nicky King, who produced Titus Alone wrote and voiced the ‘documentary’ with Matthew Faulk the editor – all achieved mixing between a Sony Betamax and VHS player.

I’m keen to put together the complete crew and cast list – I had or have programmes and posters somewhere in a large box.

The above include:

Patrick Harbinson, Nicky King, David Tushingham, Nigel Williams, Humprey Bower, Mark Ager, Rebecca Rosengard, Jack Latimer, Carrie Gracie … Stefan Bednarczyk.

Other productions I have from Oxford include: The Taming of the Shrew (OUDS) – hours of rehearsals, Abigail’s Party (Directed by Anthony Geffen) – the entire production, as well as various clips from other Oxford productions I am yet to identify.

Vomit Bobbins

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As a child whenever I was going to be sick I dreamt of bobbins drifting through the sky like clouds, as if my head was upside down in a brightly lit drawer of the things.

I saw bobbins yesterday and my mind took me back to the 8 year old who felt unwell – it turns out that my system can’t abide certain things: too much chocolate icecream might have done it, or just a Cadbury’s Fudge Finger and a Coke.

Curious is it not how the brain first constructs such an image and then tags it?

When in Rome

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Watching a drama series has become like reading a book – in the case of ‘Rome’ it is something of an epic. Though produced in 2005 it has the qualities that make a series for the era of Netflix. It is a lesson too from HBO and the BBC. A cracking pace, without becoming vulgar or repetitive (though there is always violence and sex, and sex with violence), the ‘upstairs/downstairs’ balance has two complementary and intertwinned strands. The conflict and jeopardy is relentless. At times the casting is a touch weak – Cleopatra is no Elizabeth Taylor but the strands wrap around eachother in a way that is Shakespearan – as is some of the language. And the last words of the series leave you with a smile on your face – a clever twist that must have been planned early on so that the two stories effectively roll into one – the son of Ceasar and Cleopatra actually that of a bull of a soldier.

The contrast with other series I have tried to watch is telling: V and Battlestar Gallactica are like badly written trash mags in comparison – after a few episodes it not only becomes repetitive, the same events and dilemmas repeating themselves as if on a loop, but the internal dynamic constantly trips itself up with the original need for commercial breaks every seven minutes or so.

My own efforts at the TV Series include ‘Escape from Alien Zoo’, ‘The Little Duke’ and ‘CC and Susie’. The first got me through the door at the BBC to develop the scripts, the second secured me an agent, third was too kid’s TV. Tessa Ross saw me about a TV film version ‘Rewind’. I will work on the paper version of ‘The Little Duke’ as it concerns the Normans in France in the 10th century and has enough violence and power struggles in it to think of it as a cross between ‘The Vikings’ and ‘Rome’.

On reflection

It has been refreshing not to blog for a month. It is easier to reflect. 

Had it become compulsive? A necessity to post whether I had something to say or note?

Now qualified with a Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education am I inclined to be more circumspect and scholarly?

Is this ‘jazz writing’ as I call it resistance to or an alternative to ‘proper’ writing, whether academic or storytelling.

I miss what I have missed and the need to catch up. I have been busy with a trip to walk in and out of the old line along the Western Front at Ypres. I have read copiously and widely on psychology, neuroscience, e-learning and history. I have seen a movie a day.

On reflection I am better off WITH rather than without the regular habit of capturing thoughts and ideas as they are experienced. I gain from the e-portfolio, the aide memoire, if nothing else.

Stumbling upon the work of Baroness Susan Greenfield, for example, prompted by a radio talk has had me reading her take on neuroscience.

 

 

31 Years Ago – Oxford 1982 on video

Fig.1. The author/auteur with his Sony Betamax out. My study, Staircase 11, Balliol College, Trinity Term 1982

31 years ago I was an undergraduate at Oxford University.

In my second year, eager to develop my interest in TV production I managed to get myself a Sony Betamax Camera. It was semi-portable – a backpack and cable. I’ve had the 20 tapes digitized. The pleasure for me and for those featured will be to see themselves and their friends in a way that will have quite escaped them. You are faced with the spatial disjointedness of seeing and hearing yourself as others presumably saw you and the temporal disjointedness of seeing a 19 or 20 year old from the perspective of a fifty-something. There’s some 17 hours of content. I got through it at x18 in a few hours yesterday afternoon.

Fig.2. Rehearsing in the Oxford University Drama Society (OUDS) production of Taming of the Shrew. I played Baptista.

These are the obvious observations:

  • How young we looked. Look at the fashion (hair, clothes) and the cars.
  • Did I really look like and talk like that?
  • Even an idiot could see that I couldn’t grow a beard, so why did I try!
  • Why did I buy that shirt?

The more nuanced thoughts and realisations are:

Fig.3. The Oxford Lightweights Crew, Henley. My purpose had been to video them in training.

How amazing it is that watching a blurry clip of a team of rowers an image no bigger than a pea tells me quite quickly that I know one of these people, a few moments more and I have their name. The ability of the human brain to identify faces is remarkable. (The above is far closer and clearer than the silhouette tat initially gave me the location, purpose and person).

There are events I covered, even moments where I appear, that I simply cannot recollect at all.

Being behind the camera can do this … you’re cut-off from the moment slightly in any case as you should be tending to the camera (on a tripod), lighting and sound. There’s a good deal that I didn’t cover – the camera often went out with others.

Then I see a person, and it does ‘come flooding back’ – this personal emotional tie to a person or event is vital.

Just a few seconds of a person and I feel warmth and longing for a lost love. I know the name, when we met and the times we spent together. But what unintended hurt might I cause even these decades later? Or others who had no inkling of my interest? Or is this just part of being who and what we are at that age? And we have, of course, move on … so far beyond that the past really is a different country. And we are not those people who populated it.

Getting myself back into the head of a 20 year old feels like a kind of lobotomy – it had might as well empty my head of everything that has happened since. The perspective makes you realise just how naive and inexperienced you are even at that age.

There are inevitable technical issues:

  • The tapes, stored for three decades, are damaged.
  • The lighting, anything in doors or when it was dreary, is atrocious.
  • The sound, through the directional mic on the camera is pretty dreadful too.

Fig. 4. In conversation somewhere, with someone – but I don’t know with whom, and can’t even tell what was on our minds.

What next?

Just a screen grab shared with a handful of the participants has produced glee. It is a reminder of how friendships are formed, a bond and trust that slips into place between strangers after they’ve got to know each other and then spend more time together doing things and making fond memories. This is its value if nothing else. None of the video will go online. I’m even reluctant at this stage to store content online and offer a password to people. I know that it is too easy for content to ‘leak’ which at this stage I feel is too unfair to those concerned. I’ll start just by sharing the moments with them.

  • How much do we need or want to remember?
  • Doesn’t the brain, for those of us who are and remain physically and mentally well, do a perfectly adequate job of forgetting?
  • Is it not better to see the past through the prism of narrative, anecdotes and recollections. To feel, either good or bad about people and moments rather than getting this ‘in your face’ absolute?
  • Twice I spotted people who were lovers.
  • Twice I spotted people I ‘fancied’.

Is it not healthier and correct to reinforce my marriage of twenty years with memories of equal strength of her and our children?

Wherein a wedding and some holiday video footage may have served a purpose. On graduation I never, or very rarely, have ‘gathered’ amateur footage like this. Perhaps understandably I want to work with a team of professional broadcasters and filmmakers.

There are fictionalised stories I want to tell about this age group.

This content is an invaluable record and reminder of all that we are at that age. It is also noticeable, even in the streets of Oxford on May Morning, how the student population dominate, while of course cast and audiences of students productions are for the most part students too. For a period, or for some weeks, you live away from your family, without a family – most people around you are your age and possibly, its weakness in the 1980s, amongst those from a white caucasian middle class background. This too would reflect the bias of whoever was behind the camera, and the events covered.

Fig.5. Oxford Theatre Group (OTG) rehearsals for the Oxford Review. I have several hours of footage of setting up, the hall and rehearsals for three out of the five productions: Titus Alone, Edward II and the Review.

Best of all, and the fullest record, is the Oxford Theatre Group on the Edinburgh Fringe in August and early September 1982. As well as our edited highlights from this, behind the scenes, rehearsals and productions, there are several hours of ‘rushes’. There is also coverage of an Eight’s Week (College Rowing Event), the Oxford & Cambridge Ski Trip to Wengen, one May Morning (May 1st, 1982 I presume) and Lightweights and Woman’s Eights at Henley … and some ‘Student News’ from a single edition of ‘Oxford Television News’. I didn’t need three tapes of rushes for an English Language School for Japanese Students.

In a world where such images are so easily gathered are we even more inclined to bin or wipe them?

Do most young people live in a world of image overload where the recording and broadcast of content is instantaneous so little thought needs to be given to what is recorded, how it is stored, how it is shared and who sees it? In thirty years time will my children be able to look at content the way I can?

At my mother’s funeral my God Father presented me with a couple of DVDs containing digitized 16mm footage of my mothers age 17 from the late 1940s. Would this have lasted sixty years on tape? In sixty years time will people want to or need to see clips of themselves in their youth? Isn’t it too easy, even expected to dip back and forth through your timeline?

Fig. 6 I know the people in the line and the person who recorded the footage – rain damage put the camera out of action for several months, perhaps worth it for several minutes of frivolity during May Day celebrations, May 1st 1983 (or 82?)

How will people change if they cannot forget and are not allowed to forget?

I’m sure we’ll become more accepting of the human condition – that politicians who ‘had a life’ may be preferred over those who did not? That we will be accepting of a good deal more of what we do and how we were and how we change, that we have different personas in different settings and at different times.

Fig. 7 My study – second year, a study with separate bedroom. In College. The key to this era, should I wish to explore it, is the diary on the shelf in the background. Whilst the video record is selective and patchy, the daily journal is complete.

What though the value of keeping a diary? I understand the academic value of reflection, but a record of what you did, what you read and maybe who you saw and most especially what you thought back then? Digitised, a process I started patchily two decades ago, others insights – some best left in the past. Devices that capture your day, sensecams and wearable devices … how much more are these a record if the data they provide can be analysed for you or does a memory need and deserve the filter and effort of being recorded as you experienced  and felt it?

Several edits into the above I realise I have failed to sate the obvious – after a part-time Masters Degree in Distance and E-Learning (MAODE) I am now applying to undertake doctoral research. The youth of these images didn’t have postgraduate study on his mind largely because he didn’t understand who he was – deeply curious about people and learning. If an education is wasted on youth, then I’d say this is even more the case with postgraduate study.

A plague on my underpants!

Playing Mercutio in ‘Romeo & Juliet’ 1983

Thirty years ago, possibly to the week, I performed in a university production of Romeo & Juliet as Mercutio. I’ve just been watching, to my horror, a digitised copy from the Betamax original.

That’s me with the spindly legs in the white tights.

Not suprisingly, more so than a diary entry, this takes me to the moment. Minutes later the large nappy pin holding up my hose (the stuffed, bulbous pants) comes undone. I complete the fight to the death having pulled up my hose more than once – laughter and awareness rather spoils the moment and more liek Franky Howard than Shakespeare I die on the line ‘A plague on my underpants’.

Fascinating that even in silhouette I would have recognised my teenage son in how I move.

My wife tells me I don’t speak like that any more.

Cruel and revealing to me that I was so dependent on the director –  in this amateur production I minch about more like Malvolio from Twelfth Night.

My fascination in memory is pricked by this.

There is value in forgetting and not having a record of past events yet wearable technology is gradually making it possible to keep a record of everything we do – both visual and audio. Our perceptions are altered by the recalling of a memory. Though of course, this particular memory is still not my visual memory as my perspective will always be caught up in this scene.

 

I keep getting this crazy panic that I can’t know enough soon enough to ‘make a difference’

Fig. 1. Testing ahead of an MBA Webinar

I keep getting this crazy panic that I can’t know enough soon enough to ‘make a difference’ – the learning bug has set off a tempest in my brain

Just as well that neuroscience is next on my list of conquests … or should that be psychology?

Or courtesy of e-learning and blended learning an MA in both simultaneously part-time over two years.

The mind boggles, but this is what the Internet permits like never before – degrees like A’ levels, even like GCSEs, why ever give up a subject you loved – like History … and … Music and … and Fine Art … and Sports Science … then who employs you? A tutor of multiple subjects to the super-rich? Oh, and an MBA.

If only I could be 28 forever.

The University of Oxford offers a combined MA from the Said Business School and Oxford Internet Institute – that’s two MAs taken simultaneously over two years. They’ve already had postgraduates through.

I’m thinking this way having recently wrapped my second degree, the MA in Open and Distance Education with The OU. Though on another ‘traditional’ e-learning module with The OU currently – Practice-based research in e-learning (H809), it is the second MOOC of the year that has my head spinning. We were introduced to various depositories of Open Educational Resources. The MIT offering was the clincher as I came across first undergraduate and then graduate content on Neuroscience.

This, currently, makes more sense to me than psychology.

To see and understand what happens when thoughts are formed or our senses perceive the world. Its like going behind the desk of a Magician to see how they do it (I did that at a friend’s birthday party age 6 or 7 … I can feel the carpet beneath my toes, see the little table and the drop down slat with the bag attached to it … ) I’ve created ‘tricks’ in camera and in post production when making videos. It isn’t hard to trick the brain. We want to see what isn’t there. This is possible because of how our brains connect – the chaos couldn’t be designed. Gun polish takes me back to another boyhood moment. Another the very first time we had marshmallows roasted in the fireplace.