Archive for the ‘graffiti living’ Category

Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the DreamChoose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream by James Altucher

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book.

I want James Altucher to be my friend.

James Altucher is a chess-playing, marketing genius and idiot savant with silly hair. The type of person you’d want to have a drink with. His story is fascinating. He made and lost millions in business and investing several times over before making it as a writer.

I am of course none of these things. But both of us are called James so clearly we’d have a lot in common.

The message of the book is simple: The world has gone to hell. If you want to succeed then you have to choose yourself. That means taking care of your physical, mental and spiritual health. It also means putting yourself first in business and having the courage to pursue your dreams.

Basically all the usual self-help crap that you saw on Oprah or read in a Tony Robbins book but were too lazy to put into action.

He summarises the daily practice as follows:

“For now, the Simple Daily Practice means doing ONE thing every day. Try any one of these things each day: A) Sleep eight hours. B) Eat two meals instead of three. C) No TV. D) No junk food. E) No complaining for one whole day. F) No gossip. G) Return an e-mail from five years ago. H) Express thanks to a friend. I) Watch a funny movie or a stand-up comic. J) Write down a list of ideas. The ideas can be about anything. K) Read a spiritual text. Any one that is inspirational to you. The Bible, The Tao te Ching, anything you want. L) Say to yourself when you wake up, “I’m going to save a life today.” Keep an eye out for that life you can save. M) Take up a hobby. Don’t say you don’t have time. Learn the piano. Take chess lessons. Do stand-up comedy. Write a novel. Do something that takes you out of your current rhythm. N) Write down your entire schedule. The schedule you do every day. Cross out one item and don’t do that anymore. O) Surprise someone. P) Think of ten people you are grateful for. Q) Forgive someone. You don’t have to tell them. Just write it down on a piece of paper and burn the paper. It turns out this has the same effect in terms of releasing oxytocin in the brain as actually forgiving them in person. R) Take the stairs instead of the elevator. S) I’m going to steal this next one from the 1970s pop psychology book Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No: when you find yourself thinking of that special someone who is causing you grief, think very quietly, “No.” If you think of him and (or?) her again, think loudly, “No!” Again? Whisper, “No!” Again, say it. Louder. Yell it. Louder. And so on. T) Tell someone every day that you love them. U) Don’t have sex with someone you don’t love. V) Shower. Scrub. Clean the toxins off your body. W) Read a chapter in a biography about someone who is an inspiration to you. X) Make plans to spend time with a friend. Y) If you think, “Everything would be better off if I were dead,” then think, “That’s really cool. Now I can do anything I want and I can postpone this thought for a while, maybe even a few months.” Because what does it matter now? The planet might not even be around in a few months. Who knows what could happen with all these solar flares. You know the ones I’m talking about. Z) Deep breathing. When the vagus nerve is inflamed, your breathing becomes shallower. Your breath becomes quick. It’s fight-or-flight time! You are panicking. Stop it! Breathe deep. Let me tell you something: most people think “yoga” is all those exercises where people are standing upside down and doing weird things. In the Yoga Sutras, written in 300 B.C., there are 196 lines divided into four chapters. In all those lines, ONLY THREE OF THEM refer to physical exercise. It basically reads, “Be able to sit up straight.” That’s it. That’s the only reference in the Yoga Sutras to physical exercise. Claudia always tells me that yogis measure their lives in breaths, not years. Deep breathing is what keeps those breaths going.”

Don’t worry if you didn’t get all that the first time. He repeats it repeatedly throughout the book.
Repeated repetitive repetition? Sorry, my head hurts.

Anyway, you get the idea.

James Altucher’s honesty is compelling and that’s what kept me reading. It’s why I signed up to his mailing list, listened to his podcast, and downloaded as many of his books as I could get my grubby little hands on.

Like I said, I wanted to love this book. But I came away disappointed. The basic idea of a daily practice, taking better care of yourself and the people around you, and pursuing your creative dreams is perfectly sound. But you could write it on a postage stamp. That’s a stupid analogy. Who would do that? Ok, you could write it on a post-it note. Let’s go with that.

This is the worst kind of ‘effortless prose.’ Lazy, repetitive and sloppily written. Riddled with grammar, spelling and punctuation errors that make it look like you’re reading an unedited first draft.

At one point he even gets bored and announces his word count.

In case you haven’t guessed yet I’m trying to put as little effort into this review as James Altucher put into this book.

I guess it’s harder than it looks.

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“First Thought, Best Thought.” — Allen Ginsberg

“You are a genius all of the time.” — Jack Kerouac

“Language is a virus.” — William Burroughs

A friend asked me for some links to stuff to do with the beats to help her with a creative writing lesson plan. I got a little carried away, so thought I’d share them here too.
Classroom resources / exercises we’ve used in the past include:
Jack Kerouac’s ‘Belief and Technique for Modern Prose’: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/kerouac-technique.html
And his ‘Essentials for Spontaneous Prose’: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/kerouac-spontaneous.html
Though in both cases you checked and edited slightly for language used. So definitely do that again before using them.
THE ABOVE TWO PIECES ARE ALL YOU NEED to teach students about the beats and get them hooked in a creative writing workshop.
That said, here’s some more links and background information on the beats.
The three who count are Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. All have colourful language, sexual content etc and I’d especially steer clear of Burroughs’ work, for younger students, due to its graphic violence and crude humour.
The main thing to convey to students is their approach to writing, and that a group of friends basically encouraged each other into pretending that they were great writers, by believing in and supporting each other, until they became great writers.
Wikipedia has ‘good enough’ bios and overviews:
And info about their most famous works:
On the Road is the most beloved of older and more rebellious students for obvious reasons.
Jack Kerouac
The official site for Jack Kerouac (managed by his estate): http://www.jackkerouac.com has some useful links to audio etc.
Kerouac.net: http://kerouac.net

Jack Kerouac – Writing Lesson: https://youtu.be/J7IeCEvT_CM

Allen Ginsberg
 
Allen Ginsberg.org: http://allenginsberg.org
Howl: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/howl-parts-i-ii (most famous poem, brilliant but graphic)
Small selection of Ginsberg poems: http://www.poemhunter.com/allen-ginsberg/
Howl (great film about his life and obscenity trial): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1049402/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2
The film ends with this genuine footage of the real Allen Ginsberg performing ‘Father Death Blues’ towards the end of his life: https://youtu.be/Ew6ef3nE-E4 (This breaks my heart every time I see it, I’ve been known to cry just watching it, and this is the exact version of the song that I want playing at my funeral)
 
Burroughs
 
Whilst I’d steer clear of teaching Burroughs’ work to young students it’s worth teaching them about 1) cut-up techniques and 2) the third mind (two heads are better than one)
Burroughs popularised the cut-up technique: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cut-up_technique (he took it from painter Brion Gysin and applied it to writing instead)
There’s lots of different methods and stuff written about this, but best not get hung up on the details.
For example:
Burroughs also wrote a book with Brion Gysin, including cut-ups, called The Third Mind: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Mind
One of the core concepts from the book though is that when you put two artists together (or two minds) their collaboration becomes greater than the sum of its parts (as though created by a third mind)
THIS is very inspiring to groups of students for obvious reasons.
Other Stuff

Naropa University has The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Jack’s honour: http://www.naropa.edu/academics/jks/about.php

And Saving the Best for Last
Naropa’s audio archives are AMAZING and include recordings of class lessons taught by Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, including ones devoted to Jack Kerouac: https://archive.org/details/naropa?&sort=-downloads&page=2
 
There’s a LOT of audio there. A small selection was released as ‘First Thought, Best Thought’ on CD. But it’s a great place to point students to if they want to be taught creative writing by William Burroughs and poetry by Allen Ginsberg!

2015 in review

Posted: January 1, 2016 in graffiti living

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,000 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Yeats, The Tarot, And The Golden DawnYeats, The Tarot, And The Golden Dawn by Kathleen Raine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

YES! YES! YES! Poetry is magick, not the other way round. Kathleen Raine’s wonderful overview of the occult influences of Yeats and his involvement with the Golden Dawn is easily the most obscure thing on my bucket list of things to read before I die and has sat on my reading list for many years. To my complete amazement, it’s now free to read online at JSTOR: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27541704

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“I want my rockstars dead.” — Bill Hicks