Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Dear Robyn,

OK, here are my answers to your 20 questions.

1). What was the naughtiest thing you did as a kid? How did this impact on your life now?

I think the naughtiest “thing” I did was just being generally stubborn, questioning everything and not automatically doing what I was told! I was one of those kids who is always going “Why? Why? Why? Why? But Whyyyyy?” and if any adult could not give me an intelligent answer why it was fair I had to do something then there was no bloody way I was going to do it just because they told me too. (After all, I figured blindly following “authority” without questioning it might be a bad thing since it might be unreasonable or dangerous).

How does this impact me now? I haven’t changed!!! (I only care about rules that are fair and will challenge any that are unreasonable).

2). How many times did your mother break the wooden spoon on you, and what did you do for that to happen?

I think she only did that once and I can’t remember what it was for (wow, must have been really effective!) We think it is hilarious now. I could always tell if I had been really bad by the sound of “STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP” followed by the wooden spoon drawer opening. We still joke sometimes that if I misbehave she will get the wooden spoon out!

But I do remember once when I was in primary school (I think), I wouldn’t eat my vegetables so my mother threatened that if I didn’t eat them she would put them in the fridge and I would have to eat them the next day. I didn’t eat them. So the next day guess what I got to eat for breakfast? COLD hard vegetables. I still didn’t eat them. It’s a wonder my mother still has hair. Poor woman.

3). What is the best book you have ever read, and why do you rate it as your best?

There are a few:

Einstein: The General and Special Theory of Relativity

It’s just fascinatingly beautiful and thought provoking and Einstein had a great way of explaining himself as well as possessing an absurdly fun sense of humour. Anything by him is fascinating and fun – even his writings on the surface tension of water!

Jung: Psychological Types (Psychologische Typen)

My favourite of Jung’s works and where my interest in personality theories started. Whilst it’s not actually a theory and hasn’t been validated as true I have so far failed to find sufficient evidence that either it or the Myers-Briggs Indicator that was inspired by it to be untrue. And newer theories that are now taken more seriously seem to somewhat validate it.

Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth

Chosen simply because it is his latest offering but anything this guy produces is brilliant. This is one of the most intelligent books I have ever read. What he doesn’t know about science probably isn’t worth knowing. After reading this I can’t see how any intelligent person could refute evolution as a scientific fact.

4). What was the animal that most influenced you as a child?

The horse. I love them. They are beautiful to look at, gentle, noble, strong and make intelligent companions for humans either as friends or workmates. As a child my friend had a gelding called Amigo. He was awesome. If we went “camping” in the back yard he would have to come too – even going so far as to sit in the tent with us and share our tea and damper bread and join in our silly games. And he did this “thing” with his feed bucket just to make us laugh (by sticking his hoof in it and biffing it around the paddock.) I am sure they have a sense of humour and love the way they “test” you when you first ride them to see what they can get away with. There is no zip in the back of a horse’s head that is for sure!

5). Have you eaten anything really stupid?

No, but I’ve tried smoking something stupid. When I was 12 a friend of mine and I decided to try making roll your owns. Only problem is we had neither roll your own papers or tobacco. So we improvised by using eucalypt leaves from a tree in back garden and A4 typing paper! They came out like giant sliffs, were a stinker to light, smelled like roasted koala bear and were about as horrendous as those awful menthol cigarettes you can get when you are trying to fool yourself you don’t really smoke. They didn’t exactly inspire me to never take up smoking but they didn’t inspire me to want to start either!

The most unusual thing I have eaten is jellyfish which I am rather partial to and eat whenever I can find it in Japanese restaurants.

6). What has been your most embarrassing experience in your life?

Well, I am shy so I could say the whole thing so far!

7). What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in the last year?

Running around the house playing games with Lia and Glyn’s 3 year old son Zac under strict instructions not to make him laugh too much otherwise he might throw up. After much giggling and more running around I threw up! So now the instructions go more like “Zac, don’t make Aunty Morgan laugh too much or she’ll barf!” I love kids. We have so much in common….

8). Who was your first boyfriend and why didn’t it last?

A super intellectual nerdy Mensa member who regularly devoured 4 books a day. He lived further down the country. We were only about 14. We spent several years writing very long intellectual letters to each other and sending them via the post 3 times a week and sometimes visited each other! I still have them somewhere. Particularly cool is the one where he had decided (at the grand age of 15) he wanted to marry me. But he wasn’t sure how I’d react so he made a hidden compartment in the letter and said to only open it if I really want to know. Our long distance communications didn’t last because he eventually moved up to Auckland and I decided I wasn’t so keen on his party animal side!

9). If you could have anybody in the world as your life companion, who would you choose and why?

A Burmese cat like your Kass. It would be cool to have such a loyal companion and be able come home at night to millions of hugs and someone who would listen for hours to your philosophical ramblings without complaining they are bored! I just love the way cats are always content just to be with you and don’t make any judgements about how much housework you’ve done today.

10). What is the gadget you would most like to buy and why?

Considering I have absolutely no sense of direction a Navman wouldn’t go a miss. Only my model would need to be able to give me really specific instructions – like how to navigate to the bathroom in a restaurant and find my way back safely to my table! I kid you not. Twice in the past few months I have gone to the bathroom in restaurants and ended up getting back to my table via the kitchen much to the surprise of the staff!

11). If you could live in another country for a year, which country would you choose and why?

Germany. I have always felt an affinity with Germans and when I was in Germany I loved the way it is organized so efficiently, that train timetables makes sense and they turn up on time, that it’s so clean and tidy you can lick the roads and that the people are so thoughtful (and above all else MAKE SENSE!)

What I love about the German people is that they are really honest and mean exactly what they say. So for example if they compliment you, you know they really mean it and are not just hiding the truth to keep the peace, saying what they think you want to hear or to manipulate you so they get what they want. And they tend to think of doing things in a way that will be helpful to other people. Like planning a project effectively so everything is well thought out from start to finish or designing windows for tall buildings that open inwards so occupants can wash the outside of the window from inside rather than having to clamber up the outside of their dwelling on a dodgy ladder (like we do in New Zealand!)

I also speak German so having the opportunity to speak completely in a foreign language for a year would be interesting! (Which incidentally should explain the occasional lapse into strangely Germanic spellings of Englisch words and capital Letters imposed on far too many Nouns!)

12). What would you study at university now if you could?

Hmmm, well in the past I have seriously considered studying Psychology, Philosophy, German, Computer Science and pretty much all the other sciences. But realistically I am interested in EVERYTHING (see question 18) so I get more fun out of watching Uni lectures on YouTube without spending any $$$ to change my mind all the time! (I find this guy’s lectures on Steganography really fun).

13). If you suddenly won or came into a lot of money – what would be the first three things you would do with it?

1. Come visit you

2. Stick the rest in the bank and live off the interest

3. Use it to help other people

14).What was the turning point for you which made you realise you were Atheist?

When I was seven I thought it might be worthwhile trying out church since my friends went and it seemed to be about nice morals I believed in like “love your neighbour” and “god is love”. When I got there we learned that God is vengeful and jealous and will throw anyone who does not obey his draconian and unfair laws into the eternal fires of hell where they will be burned alive forever…. It was at that point I figured the Christian God was a horrendously cruel entity, probably didn’t even exist and certainly didn’t deserve followers!

So when I say I am an Atheist this means I am 99.9% sure the probability that there is some spiritual entity in charge of the universe is incredibly unlikely (.1% is for the off chance I am wrong). But I am 100% sure that the Gods of organized religion are no more real than tooth fairies or Santa Claus.

15). If you could write a book, what would it be about?

Personality Theories or Aliens.

16). What has been the saddest moment of your life? The one that has affected you most of all.

I can’t think of any particular personal one. But in general it makes me sad that on the whole humans are not always very supportive or understanding of each other. Especially when things go wrong. I’ve been surprised when people criticise me for supporting things like the Auckland City Mission because “you shouldn’t give money to those homeless bums. Why waste your time caring about them?” My answer is always “why not? That could be to you one day”.

17). What would you most like to achieve in the next 10 years?

1. Become an A grade photographer like you

2. Record some decent songs

3. Get good at programming

4. Still have a job that contributes something meaningful to society.

5. Spend lots of quality time with friends and family

6. Get a Burmese cat!

18). If you could choose a complete new career – what would it be?

Web Developer. Though I can think of lots of others that are completely impractical and won’t be done in my lifetime:

Alien Hunter for SETI, Professional Skeptic, Songwriter, Poet, Photographer, Philosopher, Jazz Drummer, Hermit, Theoretical Physicist, Astronomer, Evolutionary Biologist, Robot Inventor, Programmer of Artificial Intelligence for Robots, Mathematician, Artist, Writer, Psychologist (in which case I would want to be the Richard Dawkins of Personality Theories and come up with a VALID one or crack what consciousness really is), Sound Engineer (take two as already been there, done that) and start something called “The Alien Abduction Company” that produces humorous but intelligent games with alien vs spy themes.

19). If you could change any part of your body – which part would that be?

I wouldn’t. I like me the way I am, although it would be quite cool if my eyelashes and eyebrows were naturally darker. I am so pale that without makeup on I look like the White Witch from Narnia! I have the kind of Scottish complexion that Billy Connolly refers to as “Pale Blue” (or “Pale Bloooooo” in his accent!) A friend of mine used to joke that I shouldn’t be allowed outside in the moonlight because I glow in the dark.

20). Write me two paragraphs of an opening of a ghost story…

Er, well I am not very good at this sort of thing but here goes.

Mando was relieved. Finally he could sit down beside the freshly lit fireplace with a good book and relax after a day of hauling boxes into his new abode – a cute little cottage in the countryside, right up on the hill. It had been wet and windy all day which was a bit depressing but Sally would arrive tomorrow and he knew she’d love the place and brighten it up with her laughter. He opened the book and paused to listen to the sounds of their new home – the fire crackling, the rain outside, the trees scraping up and down outside on the window pane making a squeak, the wind swirling around making howling and whimpering sounds… whimpering sounds? “That’s strange”, he thought. “I’ve never known wind to make that sort of sound before. It almost sounds human. How creepy”.

He ignored the uneasy feeling something with a tortured and unwell soul was creating the noise and resumed reading his book. But he couldn’t concentrate. He began to feel increasingly like there was something glaring at him from the hall. “Don’t be silly Mando”. The whimpering sounds became more elaborate and deep like growling. “Definitely not the wind then. Maybe an animal?” He started feeling distinctly uncomfortable and wished he had turned more lights on now. If Sally were here she would ease his fears and convince him it was just his overactive imagination, just what he needed because now he was petrified and reluctant to look and see if anything was really there. But he had to, just to reassure himself.

He stared into the fire for a while longer hoping the warm glowing colours might help him muster up more courage and that the noises would stop. They didn’t so he decided to bite the bullet and just do it. That is what Sally would do with her logical mind. He cautiously glanced down the dimly fire lit hall. A creeping sensation passed through him. “What the hell is that hunched over in the corner?” He let the flames play over the emaciated looking object, animating it slightly. “Did it … move? Surely that is just a pile of dirty rags. It’s just my mind playing tricks with the firelight”. He grabbed the torch he had been using earlier and pointed it down the hall. Two beams of light at floor level shot back at him from within the pile in an angry glare. Definitely eyes! He dropped the torch. “Shit! What is that? A starving dog?” He fumbled around for the torch while his mind started racing “What the hell do I do now? I can’t look. But if it’s an injured animal I have to do something, I can’t just leave it to suffer.”

He started making his way gingerly over to the doorway to look for the light switch. The eyes seemed to follow him. He felt around nervously on the wall for the switch and found it just as he stubbed his toe on a toolbox. “Ow!” The eyes suddenly rose up to a height of seven feet and started coming at him. “FCK! What sort of dog is this big?” He flicked the switch. Then he saw it, whatever it was with its hideously thin limbs and protruding ribcage, its drool covered mouth and wild eyes with pinpoint pupils boring into him.

At that precise moment the whole village of Devonsmire was woken by the blood curdling screams from the cottage on the hill. And that was the first and last time they ever heard the voice of Mando Alexander.

Sorry! I can’t count. So you get a whole intro instead of two paragraphs!

Morgan 🙂

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Dear Robyn,

I did a naughty thing this week. I splurged some cash on a CD. Not sure if you have ever heard Crowded House or Muse before but being two of my favourite acts (and Neil Finn and Matt Bellamy my favourite songwriters), I thought it about time I bothered to review their latest albums. This year has seen new releases from both of them – “Intriguer” from the House and “The Resistance” from Muse.

The albums have a few similarities. Both Matt and Neil own recording studios and the albums were recorded therein, releases came with great DVDs, both have stunning artwork and both are written by excellent songwriters who are articulate, intelligent and have a knack for extracting emotions from the dark fringes of your imagination that you didn’t know resided in you (the whole point of writing songs in my opinion). Being a recording nut of course I have to have a serious drool over any studios… I like Matt’s the most being all neat and tidy and seriously “pwoper” and all but Neil’s looks very “intriguing” with an oddball artsy touch you don’t expect in a studio. I hear it’s world class and the website is super cool.

Years ago when Crowded House didn’t even exist, I was a teenager in highschool and Neil Finn had only just taken over at the helm of Split Enz, I somehow accurately predicted that he was going to leave and do something big with his next band – whoever the hell they were. And I turned out to be right – which is just as well because I went on and on and on and on about it in our music dept ad nauseam and drove all the teachers bonkers. I have to say when I saw Neil Finn recently and that he had apparently grown a small rodent on his top lip (is he competing with son Liam for a prize in facial hair pet growing?) I started wondering about my judgement. And then he started on about the Intriguer;

“a mythical character that we have felt his presence for quite a number of years now whenever life has become difficult and problematical but strangely fascinating, you sense the Intriguer’s presence and you only catch little glimpses of  him, in fact it’s very hard to say who or where or what he is but when he’s not there life becomes boring, predictable and plain.”

I did start to think that perhaps Crowded House had lost the plot. My intuition about musicians is usually spot on but thankfully for once I am completely wrong. Crowded House have not lost it even if the musings of their frontman are a little out there. The album is brilliant.

Neil Finn’s lyrics are always a mesmerizing encounter – like sitting out in the sun beside a river and watching the water gently flow past in an endless stream of fascinating reflections and shapes. They are gorgeously crafted and lack the jerkiness of poetry with lines that jarringly rhyme at the end of every cadence and break your reverie. I’ve always been fascinated how he can make words appear to flow together with a circularity that simultaneously remains coherent and structured whilst painting the vision of something distinctly ethereal and formless. But the most fun about them is they lead you off on a journey of blissful random imagery and just when you get comfortable jolt you back to reality with some poignantly personal line that Paul Hester remarked once would always make the band say to him “Neil, do you really want to say that?!” upon first hearing it at rehearsal. I love those moments.

You arrive like a dragonfly
Float above the grass
Trembling still
Think you might
Open up your heart
One day you will
There’s always a way
To end this isolation

The music is great too. It doesn’t exactly smack you in the face with some wild revelation that leaves you dazed for six months, but it is charmingly magical and addictive to listen to. If you don’t care about having your mind wander absentmindedly off into la la land (not looking at anyone in particular) then this is the album for you. The most intriguing thing comes in the song Isolation, most pointedly in the video of the live version at the Auckland Town Hall (my favourite local haunt for gigs). All is going swimmingly fine in the usual Crowded House way until the second verse when suddenly the voice of a Goddess appears out of nowhere and immerses the hall in wonder. This is Sharon, Neil’s wife who is shyly hiding behind a speaker cabinet on the side of the stage like a session musician who has been hired by a small band to fill out their sound live while remaining firmly sequestered in an unlit portion of the stage! What a pleasant surprise. She has a youthful and unique voice which seemlessly melts together with Neil’s. In my opinion this is the prize moment on the album. Perhaps if we are lucky there will be a Mr and Mrs Finn album sometime.

While Neil Finn will take you on a journey akin to floating down a river made of elegantly constructed poetry and tangental hook lines, Matt Bellamy will remind you there is every reason to believe you should be feeling paranoid and looking sideways at everyone above you. Muse’s new album “The Resistance” comes from a guy who has two years supply of freeze dried lasagne, 50 cans of beans and an axe stored in his basement for that “just in case” moment when “THEY” – the upper echelon, or chosen few who are plotting to suppress the masses, take over. And his preparedness even extends to killing his own chickens. (But at least they can be comforted by the thought that when he executes them it will be with the same talented hands that created masterpieces on the guitar like the riff from Plug in Baby he is so famous for. So they will be honoured chooks). It’s easy to scoff but when the universe collapses down a super massive black hole, or there is a carefully constructed zapping of half the world’s population from the HAARP site we will all descend upon him in a starving heap – the guy who planned so efficiently for every imagined eventuality (See – must be another paranoid INTJ with a wild imagination…).

The Resistance is an album about Romeo and Juliet quality love, liberation and sticking up for the right thing with a vengence. I give this guy full credit for alleviating the nagging, apathetic feeling induced by reading 1984 (which he read as part of the inspiration for The Resistance). I am sure there are many other people like me who have read 1984 and gotten excited at the moment Julia and Winston discover each other and make passionate plans to overthrow Big Brother’s hold on them. I remember reading that as a teenager and being excited by the idea that they were going to win big time and the book would have a liberating, driven ending. Instead it ended depressingly with Winston spinelessly screaming “Do it to Julia, Not me! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me!”. A reminder that when the moments like this come many of us are spineless wimps and will abandon each other – at least according to George Orwell. Apparently this is not good enough for Matt Bellamy and the album boasts of a neverending commitment and loyaty – and with the idea that love is the most powerful force in the universe, ascends in a neverending conquer the world vibe instead….

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious!

Well, it does end with sending a lone guy off into space who will never be able to return and who must rescue humanity from a dying planet … but that guy is victorious also. Unlike Crowded House this album has more of an epic quality complete with Floydish sci-fi cover art, a conquer anything plot and Dr Who synth sounds. The nice thing is that for all the seriousness on there, Muse are also adept at taking the piss and there are lots of hilarious moments embedded in the song too – like their screaming Queen harmonies for one.

Adam Clayton from U2 recently remarked that Muse are a tight operation and would give them a run for their money at Glastonbury. That’s true. I thought many bands were superb until I heard Muse. And then I realised those bands actually are superb – but Muse really needs a word invented of it’s own for “way the hell above everyone else”. You don’t really notice this until you listen to them for a while and then go back to something you thought was excellent previously and discover the gaping chasm. This is their best recorded album and remarkably they did this one completely themselves, learning about much of the technical process on the way. Add to this feat a symphony recorded with a real orchestra and the last 3 tracks of Resistance (Overture, Cross-Pollination and Redemption) become a vast expanse of inspiration that soars off into the future, sending Mr Man off on his mission to save us all…. may he win.

In short, both these albums are fantastic and deserve an 11 out of 10.

Morgan 🙂
To listen to or watch either band;

Muse: www.muse.mu
Crowded House: www.crowdedhouse.com

Howdy Robyn,

Hope everything is going well with your foot and you are managing OK as hoppy, haven’t become dizzy, tripped over the cat, choked on the cat or worse, died of boredom!

Just in case you are going spare while you are unable to galavant all over the countryside like you normally do (you’re not I hope!) I thought I’d tell you about the fun site I found today via a fellow Muser*. It’s called Wordle and it takes a bunch of words and makes them in to an artwork or “word cloud”. Looks awesome. You’re a writer so I figured you’d love it. The crazy Muser posted up some of Matt Bellamy’s lyrics and they looked quite profound like that so I thought I’d have a go at posting two of my songs (No One Will Know and Centre of Gravity) through the Wordle machine and see what it made of them. Here’s the result:




Looking at them like that is weird. Now I can’t imagine how I crammed all those words into one place. If you would like to have a play here is the link to Wordle

Morgan 🙂

*Muser = obsessed demented Muse fan who lives online on the Muse Boards. Not to be confused with regular “Muse fans” who resemble normal sane people. According to singer Matt Bellamy, Musers are completely crazy and he would definitely want to be one if he weren’t actually in Muse himself. I am a Muser, therefore this must mean I am crazy and also not a member of Muse …. Good to know…