Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be

The best gifts I have received recently have been books passed on from special people. Books which touch and affect you in a certain way, and make you want to pick up the giver in a big squeeze of thankfulness for being kind enough to think of you and pass it on.

‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’ is Paul Arden’s mini wonder book about making the most of yourself. As the sub-line says, it’s ‘The World’s Best Selling Book’, and that is exactly the author’s case in point. Although written for those in the creative industry it applies amazing well to life in general by being full of positive advice that you already knew deep down, but had somehow lost along the way.

“Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you… Ideas are open knowledge. Don’t claim ownership. They are not your ideas anyway, they’re someone else’s. They are out there floating by on the ether. You just have to put yourself in a frame of mind to pick them up.”

People are always anxious to be doing the right thing (whatever that is anyway!). One of the most important ideas to take away from the book is to avoid looking back into the past; we should always be concentrating on the now. Sometimes it’s hard not to look back into the past wondering ‘I shoulda, coulda, woulda’ (cannot express more thanks to little Eds for that one). Equally as hard is not to have some kind of outlook for the future. 

But worrying is futile; what does it achieve, apart from a splitting migraine? Worried about a future job? Concentrate on doing things now that can get you there: don’t think “We’ll make the next [job] good. Whatever is on your desk now, that’s the one. Make it the best you possibly can.” As Arden also says: “Being wrong isn’t anywhere but being here. Best place to be eh?” As a self confessed worrier, I have found this to be the best piece of advice to soothe a worried soul and it rings true with another book, ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, which preaches similar ideas.

As with life and all advice, we have to negotiate a myriad of contradictions. But life isn't supposed to be easy: "Failures and false starts are a precondition of success". Arden, regarded as the top dog in the field of advertising before his death in 2008, was himself fired five times. 

As a book that can be easily read in a single hour sitting, Arden encourages us to aim for our highest goal. If a stranger and a piece of work can remind me to try my best and quit worrying in less than an hour then I hope to pass this book on to the next special person.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Concrete Circus

Too often lately, I’ve been reduced to banging my head on the coffee table as I’m forced to watch another episode of (insert one of the following here), Jeremy Kyle, Jersey Shore, X-Factor, Holyoaks, as I ‘catch up’ with friends. Just when I’m about to throw the remote across the living room in a rage about the feces on TV, I stumble onto a programme like this and my faith is instantly restored. 

Channel 4’s documentary ‘Concrete Circus’ aired last Monday and showcased some of the world’s best up and coming urban sport stars who have teamed up with four uber-talened film makers (Stu Thomson, Brett Novak, Claudiu Voicu, Kendy Ty). The result of this artistic combination? Jaw dropping, awe inspiring footage and editing which is both a thrill and joy to watch.

Recent news has been stuffed full of the sickening ignorance of those participating in the London riots. Commentators and young rioters themselves have been quick to jump on the band wagon by complaining that today’s ‘yoof’ are bored out their minds; trapped in an ugly urban landscape which has nothing to offer them. This documentary is living proof that you CAN make the most of whatever environment you are born and brought up in and not all hoody wearing adolescents are looting yobs.

While social commentators have attacked the internet and social networking sites as stoking the flames of the London riots, pro BMXer Keelan Phillips is one of the many urbanites from Leicester who is riding on the international success of his YouTube footage. Danny MacAskill, on the other hand, born and bred on the Isle of Skye (population 10,000), has gone from the un-concreted, picturesque jagged backdrop of the Inner Hebredes to one of the world’s top BMX riders.

If anyone else was shocked to hear about the BBC’s decision to broadcast a radio programme under the heading “Is there a problem with young black men?” following last week riots, then Paul Joseph, the professional Parkour or free-runner, would be the young black antithesis of this. Joseph’s performance (these are, after all, creative displays) are seemingly unreal, as he twists and turns through London’s concrete maze. If there was one critique to be made with director Voicu’s film in which Joseph appears, it would be that the dark and violent undertones of gang culture sit uncomfortably in the post-London Riot context it will now be watched in.

These young directors and sports stars have heaps of raw creative talent, and are articulate even whilst donning hoodies, god forbid. OK, so we can’t all become professional skaters or free runners, but this documentary definitely inspires to get out there and make the most of whatever you have got. Check out Stu Thomson’s earthy ‘Industrial Revolutions’ featuring Danny MacAskill below. (Beautiful music by Ben Howard, who, incidentally, rocked out this Saturday at the Boardmasters Festival in Newquay and made our weekend.)

Watch the whole documentary on 4OD:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

'Cat's Dream' Pablo Neruda

How neatly a cat sleeps,
Sleeps with its paws and its posture,
Sleeps with its wicked claws,
And with its unfeeling blood,
Sleeps with ALL the rings a series
Of burnt circles which have formed
The odd geology of its sand-colored tail.

I should like to sleep like a cat,
With all the fur of time,
With a tongue rough as flint,
With the dry sex of fire and
After speaking to no one,
Stretch myself over the world,
Over roofs and landscapes,
With a passionate desire
To hunt the rats in my dreams.

I have seen how the cat asleep
Would undulate, how the night flowed
Through it like dark water and at times,
It was going to fall or possibly
Plunge into the bare deserted snowdrifts.
Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
Like a tiger’s great-grandfather,
And would leap in the darkness over
Rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.

Sleep, sleep cat of the night with
Episcopal ceremony and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams
Control the obscurity
Of our slumbering prowess
With your relentless HEART
And the great ruff of your tail.