Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Is Older Better?

Raven, artwork by Simon Brooks
 © 2016
I'm not talking about me here! I'm talking stories!
There is much stress is made on the Greek Myths in education.  I suppose there is very good cause for this.  Many of the places in these tales are real places and can be traced and taught. But there are so many other cultures whose myths and stories we should be exploring and sharing.  After my own cultural mythology of the Norse Gods, I discovered the Native American stories. They really spoke to me on a deep, deep level.  And I have found the same with Chinese and Indian (Asia) tales.  Much of this I want to explore and research more.

The Old Tales were for grown ups, not children. Let's face it, Grimm's stories contain infanticide, murder, theft, cannibalism, and yet more murder, as do many folktales from other cultures.  Look at the Baba Yaga stories, and some of Australia's traditional stories. In Australia there are tales where babies are eaten, of people setting fire to each other and the animals killing each other in horrific ways.  Many European stories have been watered down over the years, more recently and heavy-handedly in the last 40 years.

I think the stories from former Eastern Block countries were able to keep their strength and power, as they were less touched, as it were, by the French Romanticism and the Victorian era idea of cleaning everything up prim and proper! Some of these are not tales to tell or read to children, at bedtime or other times! But they are great for adults. It irks me a little that the Norse and Germanic pantheon of myths are often overlooked.  Huge units are taught on the Greek Myths, why not the Norse Myths and Sagas? Why not the Indian and Buddhist, Hindu tales too?  I have nothing against the Greek myths, although if children were taught the full story of Zeus and his philandering, the tricks he played in spite, and fear of wrath from his wife Hera, they may have a little less respect for these gods. And Hera always took out her revenge on the innocent, who Zeus had already mistreated!  The Norse gods always held themselves accountable, they seem like real people - "oops, messed up there!"  Very human.

I love the older versions of the Old Stories and take great pleasure from sharing them.  They are so strong. The messages strike harder and deeper.  I love telling these stories.  With all the personal stories being told and being listened to on The Moth and the like, there seem to be few kindred spirits in telling folk tales for adults.  I think if people took the time to sit and listen to the Old Stories we would find a medium in storytelling that is more intimate than theatre, more powerful than the movies and just as healing at times as a much needed call to your parents, trip to the therapist, or a snuggle with your Gran!  As Cassandra Cushing put it in the Bay Express on-line: "...part of the appeal of these stories is how they provide more concrete and straightforward ways for thinking about life's complications."

If you want to explore some of these tales, check out my beginners list of books on folk and fairy tales, myths and legends by clicking here:

Monday, March 07, 2016

Watching people on devices

This is somewhat about story. It's part of my story. From a long time ago!

I have never really been into video games. Ever. To me Pong was interesting to play once or twice; by the time the Sinclair was set up with the tape machine, I was bored and ready for something else other than staring at a screen. I was never still for long growing up. Now I look around and it seems everyone has their heads facing down at a device.

I was talking to someone who seemed to me, spending a lot of time just racing and crashing a car on their phone. I told them that we did not have that sort of distraction when I was a kid - in the UK we had three channels, or stations to watch on the telly, and at 11pm (well, maybe a little later than that when I was a young whipper-snapper) they would shut down and a picture of the Queen appeared and the National Anthem played. And my Grandad always stood up when he heard it. Then t.v. ran later at night, then all through the night and we got Channel 4! The fourth t.v. station! Two (BBC1 and BBC2) were commercial free. So we had that, the movies, and playing for what we would do. I remember making a tube radio set. It wasn't very good, but I made it and at the time it was a sort of magic. We made forts. We made a go-cart and raced it with the one my step-dad had. I think that spurned a couple more on the street. My step-dad had a rel-to-reel Grundig tape machine which my brother Colin and I would play with for hours pretending to be police, or radio d.j.'s. When someone got a new bike on our street, we all rode it. That's how I got the chip on my two top front teeth (another story for another day). We walked everywhere, or I ran everywhere, and when it was too far to run, I would ride my bike or take the bus.
Forts and go-karts

I got to thinking about what I did on my own. I wrote stories. None from those early years are still around. Same with the first poetry I wrote. I would go on these clean-ups and thrown anything out I thought was rubbish. Apparently I thought most of it was rubbish, and probably was! But I would also draw and paint, and make things. I played the drums and fantasized about being in a famous rock band. I wanted the band to be mine. I came up with titles for songs and write sleeve notes about the songs. Then I would SOMETIMES write the lyrics to these imaginary songs. Then I worked with some musicians and we put music to some of the lyrics. I would also make fake album covers. I still have a few of them, and some other pieces of art which were concepts for these fake albums.

I was talking to my son about time being lost playing video games. They are fun, and they are stimulating, but there is nothing to show for it, apart, maybe, a score on the web which shows your best game, and rarely people know, or care, who you are. I pulled out one of my double album gate-fold covers  I had made - one of my fake album covers. (Yep, I did a daddy thing!) It was for a real band with real people - my friends and my brother. The band was short lived, but quite good and was called Grover Bass (as in base, or bass guitar). We never made it into a studio, and I think we played, in that incarnation about twice! But that's not my point.

With a 35mm Yashica camera (or maybe by then it was the Pentax Spotmatic), some Letraset (letter transfers - each letter painstakingly placed and transferred from the film to its its proper place, or rubbed out and done again), a photostat camera, an old typewriter, and scissors and glue, after a few prototypes I created this:
The front cover and...

The back cover
Yes, the chap in the white shirt at the front of the very top photograph is the same young man on the front cover - my brother, the latter photo taken around 1983. This work, to me, was something I loved to do - create. I loved my camera and taking photos and processing the films and printing in our cold cellar. It wasn't until I went to college when the art of printing came easy to me - it clicked one day, and I could print! And there was something I had created, something I had made. It was not just me, but other people around me were doing the same thing. Painting, pottery, writing plays, songs, poetry and stories. Creating.

Playing games on devices is fun, but you don't get time back. There is nothing added to your existence, or to the existence around you. You learn nothing but reflexes and hand-eye coordination. I have some mediocre artwork which I quite like (the inner photos of the gate-fold were not all that great!) which I made with friends and family. I can still hold it in my hand and show my kids. My son went and dove into his sketch book. I smiled.

There are still some songs/poems I have not written yet from the titles on this album cover. One day I might have them done!