Rage Against the Machine

You might have noticed this is the first post in three days. I’m no Luddite, but there are times when I really get fed up with machines and technology. Two nights ago the computer and the printer decided to have joint hissy fits. A simple job of setting up some new business cards (done it several times before) and then printing them should have taken perhaps half an hour tops. Instead we were still battling the confounded machines nearly three hours after we started.

The old opinion that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over when it obviously doesn’t work” was totally ignored and we battled on in a combination of ignorance and brute insistence. It wasn’t exactly that we beat the machines into submission; more likely they just got tired of the joke. Do I believe there are evil little green meanies hiding in the back niches of machines and appliances? Damn right, I do! I don’t think they’re as ‘at home’ in Apples as they are in PCs, but they’ve certainly also managed to colonise Steve Jobs’ little toys.

Back in the day when we acquired our first computer, it was a PC. Through several generations, and at least one complete re-build, I struggled to do anything at all without having the whole system crash on me. I’m sure I was a candidate for entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the idiot who managed to crash a computer every time I sat down to the keyboard. Without the very able assistance of my wife, and later on my daughters, I would probably have petrified before the VDU before ever figuring out how to make the viciously recalcitrant gadget work.

There came the moment when it was necessary to buy a new computer, the old one having finally worn itself out in its constant campaign to thwart any attempt by me to make effective, productive use of the thing. In desperation I accepted someone’s opinion that Apples are much more user friendly. (By this time I think I had come to believe the moon is made of green cheese; all basis for rationality had disappeared from my universe.) So we got ourselves our first Apple computer, a bench-top iMac. And suddenly I entered a new world, one in which most of the time I could get the result I desired from a session with a computer! However, as Monday night demonstrated, I may have entered a new world, but not yet paradise. There are enough of the green meanies hanging about that my efforts can still be seriously sabotaged.

I must reconfigure my mind and focus on more positive things. Let’s try this poem for a change of view.

Poem for the New Day

The sun rises from the dark earth
Light seeps slowly across the land
Birdsong cracks the sky in joyful sound
Children drift from caverns of dreams
To the hours of rowdy frivolity
Everything fits its purposed design
And we can be, just be, one more day.

Ruari Jack Hughes

Party Time

Bar in Dublin 2009
Dublin 2009

You win some, you lose some. The ALP just won back the WA State seat of Fremantle (predicted) and lost the overall election to the Liberal/ National alliance (also predicted). I live in Fremantle, so, like I said, you win some, you lose some.

This was all happening while I was enjoying being at a concert with the Kill Devil Hills at the Freo Arts Centre. A good night. The band has improved enormously since I last heard them live some years ago.

It’s late and the brain has largely gone to mush so no more chat, just this:

Everybody looks pretty on Saturday night

Can I get you a drink, she asked, taking me by surprise

She’d come in about six or seven minutes ago

Took a stool a metre along the bar from where I was

Slowly working through my third beer for the evening

There aren’t many men who would reject that offer

And I certainly wasn’t among them, not this night

When I reliably expected to spend it alone

Just talking to the bar attendant and maybe my beer

A nod of appreciation was enough, she called for another

Of whatever I was having, moved closer bringing her arm

In touch with mine, smiling quietly while raising her glass

As the next round of beer arrived, I raised it in reply

She wasn’t in any hurry, sat sipping at the green concoction

In the long stemmed tube she held between finger and thumb

I thought I’d wait her out, let her set up the conversation

As she’d already set up the drinks, casual and confident

There are several possibilities for the direction things could go

The years had taught me that I wasn’t much at prediction

Added to that, I’d lost the knack of initiative if I ever had it

Whatever was going to happen would take its own time

Her drink was almost finished, she turned to me again

Don’t talk much, do you, she wanted to know, eyes wide

I suppose I don’t have much to say, I answered round the rim

Of my beer, then smiled at the silliness of it and that was enough

Well, talk’s not always necessary, she told me in the moment

Before she leaned in and kissed me full on the lips, lingeringly

When she stopped, I still didn’t say anything, though I understood

Very well where our conversation was going, and still waited

I called for another round of drinks and set money on the bar

Everyone understood these were the last for the evening

We dawdled over them in comfortable silence, not talking

Just letting our proximity say what little needed to be said

Did the night develop into anything of consequence, did it go on

Not really, it seldom does work out like the movies pretend

I hadn’t anticipated that it would, and so wasn’t disappointed

Yet I hoped as we left the bar, hoped that tonight it might.

Ruari Jack Hughes

Another Day But Not Another Dollar

View across the groin
Sculpture by the Sea 2012

I don’t really believe it’s as hard to get published as a lot of people claim. But it’s for sure you’re very unlikely to ever make any money out of writing. There are probably no more than a couple of dozen novelists and playwrights who make a full-time living in this country. If you write short stories or poetry, give up now if you’re doing it for the money.

So let’s assume you write because you’re driven. I attended the Writers Festival within the Perth International Arts Festival this year as I have in most previous years of its existence. It was a bit re-jigged this year in terms of the spaces employed within the University of Western Australia, but the format was essentially as it’s been for a long time. Mostly panels where a selection of writers who’ve had recent publication are interviewed by someone with a few clues about them and their books. Oh, and there is also a series of workshops which you can attend to learn various skills and techniques in order to publish your own best-selling blockbuster.

For the most part it’s all very enjoyable and there are hundreds of people attending, many industriously making notes in response to what’s being said in the panels. Not many of these people will ever see their writing published. It’s not a cynical comment, merely support for that assumption that people who write are driven to the activity. I do think it’s highly unlikely that anything you hear in a Writers Festival will be the key to finding the way into successful and profitable writing, but there’s no doubt the observation of those who have found that success is an encouraging motivation to keep going.

Even so, at the end of the day, it’s that old formula of talent + sweat that’s the only real road to becoming a successful writer ( and it still doesn’t mean you’ll make any money!)

I think I’ve got some talent. I probably need to sweat some more. And I’m going to keep writing because really,what else is there to do?

See what you think about this:


Turning Point

Turning and turning,

I turn, the earth spins.

Which revolution can be counted on?

The earth, this timeless thing,

Has spun so long as time is.

Has Man turned about

Any the less?

And who can distinguish circles

Whose central point is the same,

Unless it be by some measure

Of distance from that centre.

The earth spins on its axis,

And circles (more or less)

The same fixed point

It has always related to,

While I, I am constantly

Turning to find my origin.

What point then is the earth’s fixity

If it holds no comprehensible relation

To me? You may say I have

Missed the point,

That the earth and I are the same substance,

That it and I move together,

Have always done so, and will always.

That is true only in part.

The earth changes / it is sure,

But it is a natural change;

My kind is contrary —

Its circles bring it repeatedly

To the same place:

My gyrings make me at once

The centre and the circle —

It is a vanishing condition,

A special kind of terror.

Ruari Jack Hughes