Newest addition to The Skull Collection

Small Dancing Skeleton

Earlier this week I spent the day with Gary, an old friend and travelling companion.

He gave me what he described as “A dancing skeleton“, a 9cm plastic jointed marionette that was part of a Day of The Dead hoard we’d collected while in Mexico City and Oaxaca State in October and November 1993.

Jointed plastic marionette. height 9 cm. Collected by G. Ruddick Mexico 1993. Donated 2015.

Jointed plastic marionette. height 9 cm. Collected by G. Ruddick Mexico 1993. Donated 2015.

Gary recalled the guy who sold it to us making a line of the little fellas leap and dance, but…more…

Oh Brother AX-10!

I recently acquired a lovely late 1980’s electric typewriter. A Brother AX-10 , all for a fiver, with ribbon and erasure tape easily available online.

I bought the typewriter, not in a pique of retro-inspired luddite-ism, but to shake up my writing process and to accommodate my lack of a printer for my laptop.
For many years my usual writing method has been to start writing longhand, drawing from notes, scraps of paper and innumerable notebooks that I carry, keep and plunder.

When I feel a writing project coming on, I gather together the longhand notes and begin reworking and writing them up in different colour pens on plain sheets of A4, I work and fiddle with them until the whole is practically illegible.

At the point of illegibility I type what I can decipher into a word processor (desktop or laptop) and print off a hardcopy, which I,  again, rework in different colour pens until it’s illegibility forces me to stop and use it to re-edit  the document in the word processor.

I call this my “first draft” and it forms the basis of all subsequent re-writes, obviously culminating in a final finished draft. Being without a printer I have often found myself floundering , I find working directly onto a computer distracting and frequently unproductive – notes that flourish under the coloured pens often look like dead  gibberish on the plain flat screen. With my new 1980’s typewriter I can type up the notes from the first run of coloured pens giving me a clean legible hard copy to work with the coloured pens a second time – only typing into the word processor to produce the “first draft”. This is how I am writing  this piece – at the moment I am copying from a virtually incoherent multi-coloured manually typed sheet – inputting it as a “first draft” into my laptop and hoping that I don’t lose this particular sentence in the re-edits!

Dream Machine 1980's stylee

Dream Machine 1980’s stylee

But there is more of co-incidence and strangeness about this typewriter  – the truth is the Brother AX-10 is an old-time dream machine of mine.

Back in the late 1980’s my parents offered to buy me an electric typewriter. Up til that point I’d been taking my writing aspirations out on a typewriter borrowed from an ex-boyfriend – an incredibly compact (that is dense and heavy) pale-blue portable Ollivetti – very mechanical, very physically demanding. I pounded on the Ollivetti in my parents spare room over the summer break,  then I went back to college, taking the Ollivetti with me. At the impending approach of the christmas break my parents suggested I leave the Ollivetti behind – they had been driven to buy me a modern light-touch electric portable. Needless to say I researched the subject of electric portable typewriters profoundly. A task of inconceivable  complexity and physical legwork in those pre-internet days, it  involved the forgotten arts of buying magazines, visiting local towns,  picking up brochures, walking around electrical shops and talking to the expert salesmen there. By mid-December I had come up with two potential models – the one I eventually chose was a basic no-name machine, chic in black plastic that most accurately reproduced the functions of the Ollivetti – plus, being modern, it had deletion-tape built-in. That typewriter served me well for many, many years  and, in spite of the fact that I never learned to type gently, no-name  was still functioning beautifully when I switched to computer word-processing in the mid-1990’s.

Close-up of Dream Machine

Close-up of Dream Machine

The other potential electric model I came up with that winter was identical in functions, came in fashionable grey and taupe plastic and cost £200 more than my chosen no-name.

Dream Machine with open flaps

Dream Machine with open flaps

The other potential was, of course,  the Brother AX-10.

So, this posting was worked up and generated using the manual typewriter method, and in terms of ease of writing it has proved thoroughly successful for me. Which just goes to show that sometimes you really do have to go backwards in order to go forward.

POSTSCRIPT – the final sentence above has remained unchanged from the initial note-taking through all subsequent revisions. Some things never change.

Sequoias Resurrected

A new post on Jean Dark and Her Writings site

Sequoias Resurrected

Muffled up and walking in the park, that bright harshly cold midwinter morning I was horrified  to see what had happened to the Sequoias.
I’d identified three Sequoias, or Redwood trees,  in my local park a while back. I’d recognised them by their yew-like needles, their tall regular ovoid profile and red spongy bark, and I checked them out,  spoke to them, whenever I passed through the park. But the needles of the Sequoias that winter morning had turned an  awful lurid orange, the colour of the underside of a slug, or the nasty neon of cheap orange squash. It was as if they were shedding their needle leaves, yet as far as I knew Sequoias – Coast Redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens)  and Giant Redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum)  –  were all evergreen…read more…

Before the Millennium…

Year Zero

Year zero, like moment zero, output zero, countdown to nothing zero, arbitrary zero.

Horrendous in these moments, long hanging-on moments, sinking down inside, not thinking about nothing. There seems to be no output from imagination. I just can’t push out of this.

I switch the buttons
Adjust the eyepieces
Year double zero
Colours
Triangles
Colours that fall between colours.
I fade out to let the flickering take over.
This is what they call Lifetools.

I am in North Beach, praying to Burroughs and Ginsberg.
A sign on the park says No Unaccompanied Adults.
No Loitering.
On the internet I run a search on my own name. Nothing comes up.

RTS, Trafalgar Square. It felt like we were dancing in the ruins of their culture.

Some months ago I was constantly channelling Burroughs; I needed some sleep, so I visualised a shelf, with a pen and notebook and candle. And I said write it down, stop bothering me, I’ll read it in the morning. I’ve not written a word since.

I’ve got a wooden dish of silver coins to pay the ferryman.
I been across the river Styx.
I looked into the mirror at the end of Hades Hall,
I read the hieroglyphs imprinted on your brow.
I’m just shaking, shaking,
Spiningly
Ripped bare, naked spiritually.

Year zero
And what have I got to show for it?
A handful of myths and a bucketful of morals and a trail of persecution and betrayal.
And in the Exploratorium a live locust is wired into a monitoring machine that records its electrical impulses when a child frightens it, endlessly. When one locust dies it’s discarded and replaced by another. The only legal locusts in California said the scientist.
So No, No,  I don’t see nothing to celebrate. Nothing to gain.

I tried Hinduism in the pall-light of an almost forgotten memory of a bar in San Francisco.
Maybe I read it in a book.
Where to cut out, where to cut in
Frozen stiff from the aridity on The Golden Bough.
Fire worship – an eternal wish.

And please send some of the remembering away.
Something sickening,
Some sickening memory
Where I am being loud and hopeless again.
Red and blue flashing lights
Herald a crystal skull
Clouds of verbiage
Flaming orange at 24Hz.

The sound of a pneumatic drill in the street.
I think it’s in my head.
My eyelids snap open.
And the sound stops.

I gaze out of the window, winter night falling always too early. Neon turns the colour of cars sickly in their own light-beams. (1999)

Strawberry Fair Armpit Hair

…Similarly, the radical lesbian photographer, Della Grace, championed this theatrical masculine posturing during the drag-king craze of the early 1990’s. If I remember aright, drag-kings were gangs of beautiful light-hearted lesbian women who invaded clubs dressed in mens suits. They greased back their hair, stuffed paunches under their shirts, packed dildos in their pants & faked or grew facial hair. They were playing with notions of gender identity, & having a laugh. Della Grace immersed herself in this scene & photographed it from within. When asked how she came to grow a moustache herself, she replied that she just stopped plucking it….READ MORE