Category Archives: Popular culture

why i don’t watch tv

yesterday i ate
a whole tin
of canned
laughter

hoping for a
full belly
laugh

but all i got in
return was a
blocked
art(ery)

and

a commercial
grade case of
the flaming
re-runs.

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The Ghost of Porlock’s Least Favorite Son

I’ve decided to name Coleridge’s infamous person from Porlock Bennett Channing. By way of background, for those of you who are unsure of whom I speak, the mysterious Mr Channing is that inconsiderate (and previously anonymous) personage responsible for rousing Samuel Taylor Coleridge (STC) from his slumber, at the exact moment the great Romantic poet had been busily composing his masterwork Kubla Khan, while under the influence of an opium-induced reverie.

Immediately upon waking (or so the story goes) STC had next promptly forgotten the greater part of what would go on to become one of the most revered poems within English literature. For evidently the poem as we know it is but a mere fragment of a supposedly more complete work of genius lost due to said misfortune.

Likewise, I too have experienced my very own “Bennett Channing”-moment this very morning. Hence, my obvious eagerness to “name and shame” that oafish interloper who would banish nocturnal poetic invention by visiting unbidden on business unspecified.

In my own case, I had been blissfully dreaming of my writing the perfect blog post, when I was awoken rudely mid-dream by the sound of the bedroom door creaking inward, as though opening of its own accord. Immediately whereupon all knowledge of the “perfect post” in question’s topic and content were completely lost to me, receding after the manner of mist being met by the first rays of the rising dawn sun.

With no logical explanation to account for why the bedroom door should have acted in such a way, I have since been forced to infer that I have fallen prey to the ghost of Coleridge’s selfsame person from Porlock, still roaming the land and looking for dreams of unusual genius to dispel.

There seems to be no other suitable conclusion that I can reach to account for my tragic loss. Which is why I wish to identify both Coleridge’s and my intellectual assailant, for evermore, as being none other than one Mr Bennett Channing. So that you too, who read this, should not suffer the same sorry fate.

But what of the “perfect post”, to which I have alluded earlier, I hear you ask? Alas, I remember nothing more about it other than, maddeningly, that it was truly perfect…

So, damn you, Mr Bennett Channing! Ghost or no ghost, you have no right barging your way into the sleeping sanctity of an inventive writer’s dream-life. Damn you, back to hell, sirrah, I say! For on the honeydew of the perfect blog post [I] hath fed, only to be next awoken and left with nothing but the taste of ashes remaining in my mouth! Good day, to you, most foul fiend!


Freshly Pressed — The Top 5 Facts and Fallacies About What It’s Like to Be (WordPress) Famous For a Day

Now, as the dust begins to settle, once again, within the greater Missing Zero Blog landscape, I thought it might be timely to share my impressions of the Freshly Pressed phenomenon, while it’s all still fresh in my mind.

I know, for instance, when I first started blogging, I looked at those select-few bloggers featured on the Freshly Pressed page as virtual Gods of the Blogosphere, as fabled attainers of the unattainable and as some of the luckiest S.O.Bs to ever submit a blog post, bar none.

But now I know differently. The fact is I was thinking fallaciously, all along. And hence why, in this post, I will now seek to clear up, once and for all, the many facts and fallacies surrounding this whole Freshly Pressed caper.

So, let us begin:

Fallacy No.1 — The Freshly Pressed Are Not As Others

I, sadly, do not consider myself a virtual (or otherwise) God of the Blogosphere, even now having since joined the ranks of the hallowed and select few that make up the Freshly Pressed. Moreover, my status within the human race, more generally, remains as one who is fallible as opposed to one worthy of fable. Household chores, like cleaning toilets and putting out the trash, still call me their b!tch, while even close family members maintain their strict refusal to genuflect in my august presence. Go figure?

Fact No. 1 — No News is Good News (ie You Don’t Want To Read The Email Telling You You’re About To Be “Freshly Pressed” 48-hours Prior To It Occurring)

This is the sort of email you want to find after the event, trust me. I was, like, “cool, I’m about to be Freshly Pressed. I better just check all my links are working and that my blog-roll is up-to-date etc. And then, like, for the next 48-hours or so, I kept logging in, every 15 minutes, to see if the Freshly Pressed miracle had actually happened yet. Think back to what it was like to be a child, when you stayed up all night trying to catch Santa Claus delivering presents on Christmas Eve. Well, it was nothing like that. Because I didn’t sleep, at all, for two nights! Aargh!

Fallacy No. 2 — If You Slavishly Copy The Latest Batch Of Freshly Pressed Blogs, You’ll Also Get The Nod

Believe me, I’d completely given up on the idea of ever getting Freshly Pressed. Instead, my primary focus, even now, is to achieve one post per day, for the whole year. I mean, if nothing else, your chances of getting noticed multiply significantly, when you write daily posts anyway.

However, beyond that, as a writer looking to improve his or her chops, no better workout exists than committing yourself to submitting a new blog post every single day. So forget about the imagined competition and embrace the sense of community. And remember, above all else, “to thine own self be true”.

Fact No. 2 — Everyone Is Entitled To Their 15 Minutes of Fame, So Why Not The Freshly Pressed Also?

You know, along with admiring glances, I must confess I tended to harbor feelings of extreme resentment towards those newly initiated into the Freshly Pressed inner-circle. I couldn’t help thinking they knew something I didn’t, so as to get recognized the way they had. Maybe they were part of some secret handshake club I didn’t qualify for. Or worse, maybe they were all supremely talented, and I was merely a self-published hack. Well, in news just in, I’m still merely a self-published hack, but I’ve somehow also made the cut for Freshly Pressed. And, if I can, anybody can.

BTW If there is a secret handshake, it’s so secret even the Freshly Pressed themselves aren’t allowed to know of its existence, evidently.

Fallacy No.3 — Getting Freshly Pressed Is Like Winning the Lottery

People say this all the time. And, by saying it, they mean, of course, that the chances of being picked for the WordPress front page are pretty much stacked against it ever happening. But, let me tell you, my bank balance is still missing more than a couple of zeroes, after being given the Freshly Pressed nod. So I know I definitely haven’t won the lottery in the conventional sense of the term.

Hell, believe me, I haven’t won anything in a financial sense ever! Not even $100. Yet, more importantly, in this context, up till now, I also haven’t ever had a single piece of writing feature in a journal or magazine etc, either. That is, even though, I’ve penned a novel and countless songs and poems and consider myself to be a writer, above all else. So, maybe, the idea of my having just won the lottery isn’t a complete fallacy, in this regard, on second thoughts, after all…

Fact No.3 — The Fame of Being Freshly Pressed Is Fleeting

As of last count, my featured poem has received roughly 100 “likes”. And over a quarter of those people who liked the poem also left comments. Sure, that might not seem like such a resounding achievement, in light of the 67,000,000 WordPress blogs that exist around the world (source for number of blogs http://en.wordpress.com/stats/).

But, trust me, it usually counts as a red letter day, any time a post of mine gets more than 10 likes. So, at the very least, my Freshly Pressed result represents a ten-fold increase in my blog’s normal popularity.

Of course, there are, no doubt, many power bloggers out there amongst you, who are regularly getting over 50 or 60 likes for everything you post. Not me, alas. In fact, each of the four poems I have posted since being Freshly Pressed have received significantly less than 10 likes a-piece.

Quite a crushing return back down to Earth! And if there has been any flow-on effect from my elevated Freshly Pressed status, it’s already slowed to a trickle. Hey, still, I’m not complaining! I’ve only been blogging for just under three-and-a-half months, so far. Plus, I did gain 60 (approx) additional followers, as well, over the past 48 hours, into the bargain!

Fallacy No.4 — Nobody Knows Just How Exactly the Freshly Pressed Are Selected

In all seriousness, there’s nothing that can’t be achieved through the power of money. A few Ben Franklins slipped to the right person, at the right time, and your Freshly Pressed eligibility suddenly becomes a whole lot less random. Know what I mean? 😉

If the idea of parting with actual cash to promote your cause causes you actual distress, as it were, then following the tips/guidelines provided by WordPress themselves regarding getting noticed are worth perusing (see here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/freshly-pressed/)

Moreover, as part of being Freshly Pressed, I was also made aware of the official WordPress Daily Post page. From what I can tell, this is a great place to become familiar with just who the editors of WordPress are, and therefore who exactly it is you need to catch the attention or eye of (Hint, hint! And, no, I’m not going to reveal any names, not unless we’re going to start talking, again, together, about my good friend Ben Franklin, if you catch my drift).
(See here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/)

Fact No.4 — We’ve All Probably Written Better Posts Than The One I Had Freshly Pressed

Don’t believe me? Well, go and check out my humble ode to anticipatory nostalgia and all things photographic and see for yourself. Please, do!
(see here: https://zeromissing.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/picturing-the-past-perfect-perfectly/

However, in defence of the WordPress editors, let me just add that I acknowledge, entirely, that my poem has a large scope for universal appeal, due to its varied subject matter and plain-spoken immediacy. It’s simply that typically my own preferred style and subject matter owes much more to the Beat poets and Bukowski, than it does to the mainstream.

And, therefore, my own personal choice of poem from amongst the various pieces of assorted poetry I’ve written over the years would vary greatly from the one I’ve just had Freshly Pressed. But then, I’m the first to admit to being a terrible judge of my own work. Let’s face it, I’ll take the compliment of being taken seriously as a writer, from everyone or anyone willing to give it, baby!

At the end of the day, it’s all about horses for courses, I guess. And, you know what, this poem just happened to win on the day, praise be! 🙂

Fallacy No.5 — The Sweet Taste of Freshly Pressed Success Cures All Known Ills

On the day I received word of my being Freshly Pressed, my cat of twenty years lay on a drip at the vet, with acute kidney failure. The prognosis is that she probably has about a week to live, although there is some talk about an experimental surgery option.

I also read of another blogger who realized his marriage was over the day he heard his Freshly Pressed news. And another again spoke about his being so swamped at work that he missed the whole thing and thereafter abandoned his blog, altogether, in self-disgust.

I suppose, my point is that life continues to throw us curveballs, even when we feel we’ve achieved something to finally crow about. Because, in the end, no one is immune to the suffering and ills inherent to the human condition, I regret to inform you, not even the Freshly Pressed.

That said, the taste of Freshly Pressed Success does linger on the lips very sweetly, without adding even so much as an inch to the hips.

Fact No.5 — The Joys of Being Freshly Pressed Notwithstanding, The Joy Of Blogging Is The Sense Of Community

Simply put, you couldn’t sustain the effort needed to keep a blog afloat, if the only reason you did it was to become Freshly Pressed. Instead, it is rather the sense of community that makes all the difference to your daily/weekly/monthly blogging experience. For, without the encouragement and support of other bloggers reading your words and offering up their opinions etc, the whole enterprise would quickly lose much of its appeal.

And so, in the spirit of continuing to widen my ties to the greater WordPress community, (*shameless plug alert*) I encourage you to come and stop by my Missing Zero site, any chance you get. Where, I can assure you, you are all most welcome!

Here endeth the lesson…


Picturing the “Past Perfect” Perfectly

Photographs, like honeycomb
Cells capture sweet memories
Of static moments
Too fleeting to be digested
At the time of composure
A stolen glimpse of carefree
Indolence with friends
Or family gatherings
Around age celebrations or
Announcements of magnitude
Some milestone achieved
And happy, smiling faces
Making a show of bravery
Come what may
Secure in the knowledge that
Tomorrow never, ever will be
A mere facsimile of today.


FYI What I’m Currently Reading

In light of my having just joined Goodreads, I thought I would write a quick post about what I’m currently reading, namely: The Elixir and the Stone by the co-authors of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail; and Faust, Part 1 by Goethe.

The first book is a fairly matter-of-fact history of Hermetic-thought and Hermeticism from the time of the Ptolemaic rulers of Alexandria through to the present day.

Whereas, the second title represents an erstwhile gap in my wider reading and appreciation of “classic”, capital “L” literature. Moreover, Faust is the archetypal magus figure within Western literature, more generally, and so on that basis alone I am intrigued to keep on reading further from where I’ve already got up to.

If you, personally, have read either of these books, post a comment with your thoughts. Otherwise, why not come over and friend me at Goodreads, where (as per usual) I’m a total newbie. Here’s my page link: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/21152606-lorem-ipsum

Awesome!


A How-To Guide to Breaking the Code of Viral Book Promotion

Earlier today, I ventured a little bit further into the shady world of viral marketing than I’m usually accustomed to dealing with. I suppose, it was partly due to my having an idle sense of curiosity, but also it was borne of my interest in boosting sales of my self-published novel, Missing Zero, more generally.

So, anyway, as authors, we’re all called on to build platform. Or a following or a fan-base or whatever it is you want to call it. Which is why we now all have blogs and set up social media sites and frequent writers’ conferences etc. Basically, whether self-published or otherwise, the modern-day author is expected to become a brand, just like any other corporate entity, fighting over an ever-diminishing marketshare of readers.

Whatever. Ok, now, apparently, in the dirty-tricks world of viral-marketing there’s what is called “white hat” vs “black hat” marketing techniques. These terms are used to describe the different approaches, say, to such things as SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO being ultimately where you or your book ranks in other people’s google searches against you or your book’s name/title. Essentially, you want to be the first thing that pops up every time someone even just mentions the word google.

Like with most things, though, the way to achieve higher SEO rankings, for instance, can be realized through fair means or foul, and hence the terms “white hat” or “black hat”.

The same goes for most other aspects of book promotion. From blackmail through to shameless begging, you can bet every single author worthy of their moniker has donned a black hat in pursuit of increased exposure/sales, at least once (this week, if not this very day).

Hmm. Well, my “black ops” mission today revolved around a hundred or so QR (Quick Response) code stickers I printed out that were embedded with the URL address of where my novel is hosted at Amazon. NB If you’re not familiar with what a QR code looks like, I’ve attached below the one I’m using to promote the Missing Zero eBook hosted at Amazon.

The idea is that by scanning these codes with their smart phones, complete strangers are redirected to whatever web page you have specified on the QR code in question. In the main, corporations typically use these codes for promos and freebies, when they’re launching a new product.

You’ve probably seen QR codes on movie posters and information kiosks and the like. But increasingly DIY enthusiasts, like myself, are printing off their own “urban-guerrilla” versions of said codes.

In any event, by randomly sticking your own QR codes around interstate bus terminals or university campus cafeterias or sundry public thoroughfares, as I did today, you can virally promote virtually anything you choose. I felt like a veritable Johnny Appleseed, in fact, as I sprinkled the QR-coded seeds of my novel’s Amazon URL across the urban wasteland.

Of course, the beauty of a person being directed to the eBook version of your novel on their smartphone means they can then instantly also buy and begin reading said work of impure genius (namely, Missing Zero, in my case), in less than five minutes.

What’s equally amazing, though, is that you can actually scan the QR code at the bottom of this post right off the screen. That is, if you have a QR scan-reader app already installed on your phone. But don’t worry if you don’t, you can download plenty of free ones from the App Store (I’m talking to iPhone users, at this point).

But how cool is this? I have a 15-year-old fan of my Missing Zero Facebook page, who lives halfway across the world, in the UK. Anyhow, as a type of beta test, I asked him if he could scan the Missing Zero QR code I’d just uploaded to my Facebook timeline. And, you know what, within thirty seconds he’d sent me back a screen shot of the Amazon page the QR code directs to. The world suddenly seemed a whole lot smaller…

All right, so you want to see how this all works in action? Well, this is what you need to do: download a QR code-reader app to your smart phone (if you don’t already have one); then point your smartphone/QR scanner at the QR code attached below; then be astonished as you next find yourself at Amazon, looking at the Missing Zero eBook purchase/download prompt; and, then, finally, purchase the blessed masterpiece of outsider art, as you see fit! 😉

Go on, I dare you to give it a go…

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Taking it to the Streets — Art By, Of and For the People

Despite my steadily advancing years — ok, so I’m not that old yet, in reality — I must confess I’ve got a real thing about street art. When it’s done well, that is. Yup, I’m a big fan, even though I haven’t the slightest clue about the subculture that drives it all.

To my mind, street art is like ground-level guerrilla art. Simply put, it’s art not ‘fit” to hang in any gallery. And, as the writer of a subversive novel, it’s probably not all that surprising I should therefore feel a certain kinship with those unsung poets of the urban landscape who use stencils and spray-cans to question the status quo.

At its most basic, the work of street artists is a form of anti-branding. In a world awash with corporate logos and the like, street art expresses a vision of dissent. However, on another level again, I would argue street art at its best can rival anything the established art-world has to offer. Basquiat being the obvious poster-child of the street artist as artistic genius.

So, anyway, while I was out walking through my own patch of urban jungle today, I happened upon a virtual treasure trove of sticker art hidden away in an alley doorway (see pics below). At a distance, as you can see from the first shot, it didn’t look like anything much to look at. But upon closer inspection, it soon became obvious each piece was worthy of closer scrutiny. My personal favorite is the Allen Ginsberg portrait with accompanying quote lifted from his poetical magnum opus, Howl. Having said that, the sticker that depicts an Ophelia-esque damsel in distress is quite haunting, too.

But don’t take my word for it. Have a look for yourselves, and let me know what you think.

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