Russell Kirkpatrick's Journal
Where's Johnny Cash when you need him? He'd do a good rendition of 'Line Editing Blues.'
My editor has done a fabulous job of picking out the problem areas, but it's taking me a long time to fix the problems she spotted. I should have been finished today.
Funny how different editors want different changes made. I used to write 'into the house' as opposed to 'in to the house'. The editors of my previous series made me change this. But I have to change them back for this editor.
I do enjoy this process. Editors do add a lot of value to a book.
I've read the blogs of interesting people. What I don't understand is how they manage to be busy and interesting at the same time. Gillian, Glenda, Jenny, I'm talking about you. I'm busy enough, but I'm not interesting enough to have a blog.
I don't live in an exotic country. Well, I'm constantly surprised by people who think New Zealand is exotic. To me, New Zealand spoiled the Lord of the Rings movies. I'd grown up with the exotic otherness of Middle Earth, and I couldn't suspend my disbelief when at the movies I saw scene after scene I'd seen, mountains I'd climbed, rivers I'd tramped beside. And it's so small here. It only takes three hours to drive from one side to the other. Actually, only two up here in Hamilton. I can't breathe.
I'm not part of some celebrated minority. I'm the archetypal W.A.S.P. A hard-working well-off middle aged white man. Hmmm, no stories there.
I don't have a dysfunctional family. Actually, nice as my brothers and sisters are, I have very little contact with them. We're all so different. I'm the oldest, the next in line (Mike) is a black-haired dark-skinned ex-bodybuilder who runs a graphic arts business and acts as a hunters' guide. A real rugged outdoorsman. My days of going outside are well and truly over. Next is Karen, a dedicated parent with a fascinating assortment of children. Finally the twins, James and Kerry, distressingly sensible and kindhearted, not wizened and selfish like me. My two boys are well-behaved and surprisingly normal. Not anecdote fodder. Certainly not when they know I blog.
The only interesting thing about me is the people I meet. And, in recent times, that includes lots of writers, professional and amateur. I'm constantly amazed by their dedication, their depth and breadth of knowledge and their strong opinions.
Ah well, I think I'll go back to editing my novel while watching the telly. On telly WEL is playing HBR. WEL is Wellington. They could well be playing the Hebrews, although I think it is North Harbour.
I'm grumpy because I want to be playing golf and listening to music and making my atlas and editing my novel and playing my guitar and writing my next novel and playing board games with my family and watching a movie and reading a book and watching the rugby and patting the cat and surfing the net and no-one has yet invented parallel lives.
I should have been writing, but I put this together instead. Here are some of my favourite music videos. Seen any of these?
1. Come to Daddy by Aphex Twin, directed by Chris Cunningham. A sinister horror video to accompany a frankly frightening piece of ‘drill ‘n’ bass’ techno. The Aphex Twin stars as a group of young girls, a homunculus and a young male victim. This video has won numerous awards, and established the Aphex Twin’s reputation. Plays with gender identities in an unsettling way.
2. Sing For Absolution by Muse, directed by Ark. A gentle science fiction twist on the ‘Planet of the Apes’ premise. Here the band are escaping a world about to be destroyed by an ice age. Superb graphics and production values enhance a passionately sung song. Won Kerrang’s 2004 video of the year award.
3. Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads, directed by Jonathon Demme. Brilliant and not dated, this 25 year old video was the first music video to be exhibited in an art gallery. Perfect showcase for the zany David Byrne, Talking Heads’ frontman, a sort of musical John Cleese.
4. Around The World by Daft Punk, directed by Michel Gondry. This catchy bass-driven techno piece has a brilliantly choreographed video which emphasises the mechanic/organic mix in Daft Punk’s music. Delightful fun. Gondry went on to direct The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.
5. Walkietalkieman by Steriogram, directed by Michel Gondry. New Zealand punk/rock group given the Gondry treatment. The song (but not the video) was used in an iPod commercial. The video features knitting, yes knitting, and lots of New Zealand’s most famous product. I especially enjoy the bit when the giant rips the lead singer in half, only for him to be sewn back together.
6. All Is Full Of Love by Bjork, directed by Chris Cunningham. Cunningham is a master of the medium; I love everything he’s done. And the elfin Icelandic wailer appears in a beautiful shimmery ballad, as eccentric and controversial as one would expect from the two main protagonists. Hugely influential, this video of one robot creating her lover paved the way for I, Robot among other special effects.
7. Itsu by Plaid, directed by Pleix. An unsettling spin on the ‘meat is murder’ theme; the title says it all. No gratuitous violence, but it does get its point across amongst the blips and beats of Plaid’s austere electronic rhythms. Not well known but a real gem.
8. Windowlicker by Aphex Twin, directed by Chris Cunningham. If you are easily offended don’t watch this. A long clip, it allows Richard James (a.k.a Aphex Twin) to parody the ‘white men can’t dance’ notion. After two minutes of offensive language as a pair of black men try to chat up two black women, Aphex Twin arrives to steal the scene. The trademark head-substitution and unsettling gender blurring. The music is a parody of smooth hip-hop. Fun, but I warned you about being offended …
9. Nice Weather For Ducks by Lemon Jelly, directed by Lemon Jelly. The Jelly run their own graphic arts company, Airside, so do their own videos. And this is a treat. A gentle, naïve Dutch children’s tune is turned into a rollicking salsa number as cartoon animals dance with the wise wizard. Totally psychedelic bliss-out fun.
10. I Wish I Had An Angel by Nightwish, directed by unknown. Nightwish are a Scandinavian goth-metal group with a slew of spectacular is slightly juvenile videos, and this is the best of them. Love the insane bassist. Interspersed with footage of some movie or other.
11. The Barry Williams Show by Peter Gabriel, directed by Sean Penn. Yes, that Sean Penn. Gabriel had really pushed the boundaries of the video form, from Sledgehammer in the 1980s through to today. This, off his most recent album, is a parody of a certain talkshow host that unfolds interestingly enough until a spine-chilling twist halfway through. Superb.
12. Televators by The Mars Volta, directed by The Saline Project. Like everything The Mars Volta do, the Televators video doesn’t make straightforward sense. It is gorgeous, however, an animation about a city man and a jungle animal. I can’t work out much more than that!
All these videos can be found on the internet, most on youtube.
What are some of your favourites?
I've just finished marking 70 third-year university research proposals, after having spoken to each one of the students individually about their proposal. They confirm - if it needed confirming - that students these days have developed far more impressive oral skills than those of my generation, but it has been at the cost of written language skills.
Before I trot out the Tired Old Argument, let me state my view that it's a good thing English is much broader these days. It's not just literature, grammar and comprehension. Kids get to orate, perform, work with film and experiment with a wide variety of media.
But, oh dear. If only it wasn't at the expense of written skills. How can a third-year university student possibly come up with this?
'This research proposal aim is to study thermal water been use at tourism industry which specific at Rotorua area, through this project it will going to look at what impacts will exist when nature resource been use to tourism. From this research it will star introduce Rotorua background begin.'
All but the best students evince little knowledge of spelling, sentence structure, the purpose of paragraphs, how to structure an argument and the other necessary skills for competent writing. One student has plagiarised five hundred words from a web site without attribution. A number of others have stolen sentence and phrase fragments. Do they think I can't see the contrast between what they wrote and what they copied?
And, of course, we University lecturers are complicit. Funding is structured in such a way that our employment is dependent on student numbers. It is in our own best interest to pass as many students as possible. I have never yet seen a student fail who has completed all the necessary work. We are almost at the point where students purchase their degrees with their fees.
I'm sorely tempted to fail a few this semester. I tried last year, only to have a student sit crying outside my office, announcing she would not leave until I reviewed her grades. Eventually the university ruled in her favour because she needed this pass to finish her degree.
So out she goes. Unemployable. And all the competent students are, in employers' eyes, tarred with her brush.
I don't care if people's English is not perfect. Mine isn't. But at the least I need to be able to understand the writer's meaning. And think of what great prose can do. Oh, for an Edward Gibbon and writing that inspires.
Writing that inspires? After four days' marking I can hardly remember what it is like.
The UK cover design for my second novel, In the Earth Abides the Flame, is out. I found out about it right here, just now. I wonder how my wonderful web goddess found out about it and put it up?
Go and have a look. I think it's a stunner. I'm a sucker for a strong image, and this one is certainly strong. I've long been an admirer of Steve Stone's work, and I'm delighted he's doing my UK covers. Just to have had Steve Stone and Greg Bridges involved in my cover design is almost reward enough for all the hard work.
Now, Fiona is going to have to explain to me how she finds out about these things before I do ...