The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

October 2006 Archive

October 02, 2006

In principle, I do not blog from blogging conferences that I am attending. Not that I am attending so many blogging conferences. I do tend to violate those principles, however, if some presentation is interesting enough. On the other hand, if I am not blogging anything, this doesn't mean that there was no interesting presentation. It just means that I couldn't be bothered, which is a symptom I get from time to time and nothing to worry about really.

Posted by Horst at 08:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

October 03, 2006

Post-conference parties at which bloggers turn into werewolves sure are fun.

Posted by Horst at 02:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 04, 2006

I said what?

I said what?

Talk in the presence of journalists and this is what happens. I'm talking about the myriad of different voices that are articulating themselves via weblogs, and they say that I said weblogs are one-sided? Give them Q-tips to clean out their ears.

And who gave them the permission to use this photograph anyway? I certainly didn't.

Posted by Horst at 08:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

October 05, 2006

The French Connection, Sat 7 Oct 2006 from 9pm, Cafe Frame, Jaegerstrasse 28, 1200 Wien

If you like French music and/or jazz, come to Café Frame this Saturday.
The French music will be from 9pm to 11pm, the jazz from 11pm to 1am.

Posted by Horst at 12:03 AM | Comments (3)

October 06, 2006

The following image (click to enlarge) contains one error:


Or at least I was asked to change something about it, because as it is, it was not deemed suitable for use on the VU library website.

Can you guess what's wrong with it?
(I'll post the answer as soon as ten people have posted a guess.)

Posted by Horst at 01:12 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)

October 12, 2006

Messages from the Lost Continent    The Happiest Guy in the World

I realize now that working on two book projects at the same time has a somewhat adverse effect on the inspiration needed to keep up writing a weblog.

So if you were wondering, the above two books, hopefully in shops by early December, are currently keeping me from updating this site more often. I am currently in the final stages of revising them and expect to send the manuscripts to the publisher next week or so.

Messages from the Lost Continent is the printed, edited version of the fiction weblog (now offline) that Richard, Mig, Gina, Sabine and I wrote from June to December last year. The book will have 396 pages and will cost €24.90.

The Happiest Guy in the World and Other Stories About Sex and Pain is the short story collection that I have been announcing to everybody since October last year, but never got around to revising and layouting. It is now done. I have added two more stories to come to a total of nine, and the book will now have 160 pages and cost €11.50.

As I said, both books should be available by December. Expect me to keep you updated as soon as the books are available from online bookshops such as Amazon or Libri.

Posted by Horst at 06:25 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

October 13, 2006

This is the first in a series of articles on writing which were inspired by talking to too many people about the very same thing lately, so in order not to forget what I said, I am posting summaries here. The articles will be collected in a new category called The Poetry Workshop. They are my thoughts and opinions on the matter, and are probably not compliant with the academic Truth that is being taught out there, so peruse with caution.

One of the most important things before you start writing a poem, a short story or any piece of fiction is the correct attitude. What's most important is that once you are sitting down to write, you should not even for a moment think that you are now going to write a piece of literature. Think that you are now going to write. Full stop.

That is because first of all, you don't know yet how the text that you are going to write is going to turn out. It may be totally useless. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It just happens, all the time. Allow it to happen. If you force yourself to write a good text, all that will ever come out is a bad text. Every text will feel as tense and as strained as you are while writing it, so the best attitude is usually to be relaxed and just see what happens. At any rate it's a bad thing to force yourself to reach certain standards before you've even started writing.

Especially if those standards are not your own. That is the second problem with trying to write literature rather than just writing. Not only are you forcing yourself to reach a standard, you may also be defining that standard by the wrong terms. As in, what makes literature "literature"? This is a question that shouldn't bother you at all. Try to tell your story, bring your point across in any way that feels right at the moment.

Don't ever worry about conventions. The way in which the text comes out has precedence over the way the text ought to be. You can always rewrite and/or revise it later.

Posted by Horst at 11:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 15, 2006

From the series "potentially disgusting mysteries":

Every time I leave a men's room and the door handle is wet, I ask myself whether it's wet because the person who left before me washed his hands, or whether it's because that person didn't wash his hands.

The question is slightly more disquieting if paper towels are actually available.

Posted by Horst at 11:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

October 16, 2006

This is part 2 of the ongoing series The Poetry Workshop.

How much research does a story need? Not necessarily a lot.

Your readers buy and read your story as fiction, so it's safe to say they won't be disappointed if they find out that not everything you write actually happened that way. What matters is not whether the things you write about are true; what matters is whether you present them in such a way that your readers are ready to believe that they could be true; or merely in such a way that you can easily coax them into suspending their disbelief.

This of course means that you should not make a fool of yourself; while meticulous research may not be necessary, you also should not appear clueless, i.e. water should still boil at 100°C in a normal environment, and at somewhat less on the peaks of high mountains.

Some writers try to impress their audience by stating how much time they spent researching their backstory. Don't take that too seriously, they might just be trying to fool you into believing that writing a story is more complicated that you thought. Others claim they do it without any research; that is probably to make you think they're geniuses. Some say that doing too much research tends to impede their imagination. This might in fact well happen if you start to believe that your story ought to be an exact representation of the real world. Which is not true.

What this amounts to is basically that you yourself need to develop a feeling for which things you should research before writing, which you can just write about without checking anything, and which you should perhaps check at some point after you've written them, just in case. Just don't think that writing a story requires six months of research beforehand. It doesn't.

Posted by Horst at 12:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The photographs from the ill-fated photo marathon have arrived and are now ready for your edification on my Flickr site.

I have provided extensive annotations for each of them. Your comments &c. (on the Flickr site) are appreciated.

The winner's photographs can be found on the official site. As expected, the list of winners reveals that almost all of them used digital cameras. I rest my case.

Posted by Horst at 04:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 17, 2006

This is part 3 of the ongoing series The Poetry Workshop.

My attitude towards revising has changed somewhat during the past twenty years. When I started writing regularly, I never revised or rewrote anything. Everything that flowed out of my fingers seemed to be just like it was supposed to be. Revising seemed to be a very foreign, potentially tedious concept. I did not revise because it would have felt wrong to change anything. Basically, I thought my writing was either perfect the way it came out, or I felt that it "didn't flow", in which case I usually abandoned it altogether.

Over time, I started thinking less categorically.

First of all, it turned out that some of the poems/stories that had "flowed" weren't that perfect after all. I remember once submitting a poem for discussion in a creative writing class and totally not understanding the criticism it received. Funny enough, the bits that I still remember from that discussion seem to make perfect sense in retrospect. It wasn't a particularly good poem.

Second, unless you're a genius there's almost always the possibility to make a minor correction somewhere, or a correction that looks minor, but which can drastically improve the entire poem or story. Don't let that opportunity slip.

Third, there is no need to abandon an idea simply because it doesn't seem to work out. Very often the problem is only in the execution, not the idea itself. My short story "An Anxious Man in the Moon" went through three complete rewrites until I was happy with it, and by "rewrite" I mean rewriting from scratch with different narrative techniques, different characters even.

The correct moment to revise is: (a) immediately after you write the poem, to correct minor oversights, (b) again about a month later, when you've forgotten the text sufficiently enough to be able to notice minor inadequacies or things that could be more to the point, and (c) again a year or so later, when you have enough emotional distance to take a rational look at what you've written.

(I realize that step (c) is somewhat difficult and will barely ever happen, especially if you want your stuff published, but it's actually the most helpful step.)

The correct moment to rewrite is: when you like the idea, the basic concept of your story or poem, but feel that it's not mediated in an adequate manner. In that case, stop writing, jot down what you think you want to say and put everything away for a few days. You should sleep over it at least twice, but you may find that more is necessary. If you can't come up with a new way of expressing your idea, do some brainstorming and take notes. Don't worry if these are totally disconnected. Put them away, wait for a few days. In fact, never use the notes that you made in the process -- they are meant to rewire your brain, not help you with your writing. You will find that at some point you will simply start writing the text in a different way. In the process you may even find that you are not just writing differently, but are also adding new aspects and ideas, which can further enrich and improve your text.

Of course, this does not just apply to entire poems or stories, but also to sections of a longer text.

Posted by Horst at 06:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

October 19, 2006

On the tram home from work I was stuck behind a moderate weirdo who, every time the tram stopped at a station, asked everybody around him several times if this tram was going to Mariahilferstrasse. He kept asking it at every further stop, even though everybody around him kept assuring him it was.

After the routine had been repeated for eight times and his stop was approaching, I started becoming increasingly doubtful whether he would actually get off the tram at the required stop.

By the time we got there I was certain he wouldn't.

He did.

Posted by Horst at 07:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

October 23, 2006

This is part 4 of the ongoing series The Poetry Workshop.

The poet T. S. Eliot once said something like what makes literature different from any other kind of text is that the author manages to compress emotions into it in such a way that the reader will be able to decompress them and experience them in a similar manner.

Eliot didn't say anything about dumping a pile of emotions in front of the reader's feet like a pile of garbage. Which is why, let's face it, most confessional writing, particularly that written when the writer was feeling really depressed, is so bad.

The worst thing you can do is write about something that you are experiencing in the very moment of writing about it.

Paradoxically, to really mediate emotions you must be at a distance from them, not right in the midst of them. Metaphorically speaking, you can't mix the dough and put the cake into the oven while you're in the dough yourself. As a writer, you are something like a chef who transforms emotions into sizeable and digestible pieces that have a discernible (pleasant or unpleasant) taste. To prepare that meal, you must know what all the ingredients taste like and be alert and distanced enough to give them a form that your readers will be able to connect to. If you manage to do that, the taste will be rich and plentiful; if not, it will never quite lose the whiff of emotional vomit.

Some writers go to the other extreme, practice complete emotional detachment and never write about anything personal. While not as potentially embarrassing, the result will be some very bland writing if the only emotion that has been compressed into a text is detachment.

The best writer is the one who knows about emotions, has been through them and can put them to use, not the one who wallows in them or the one who shies away from them.

Posted by Horst at 08:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

October 26, 2006

I once read somewhere that men will only ever engage in friendship or indeed any kind of social interaction with women that they would want to have sex with (regardless of whether sex is an actual or only very remote possibility). Basically, what this boils down to is that what men really want from women is sex, and that friendship (or indeed any other kind of social interaction) is little more than an act of compensation when sex is impossible, unfeasible or socially unacceptable.

I always thought that this theory was bollocks, little more than one of those "theories" that you "read somewhere", but recent events have led me to rethink my stance on the matter. I am now pretty much convinced that it is actually true.

Posted by Horst at 03:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

October 27, 2006

As you climb the Lindkogel, an 847m (2780ft) hill near the town of Baden south of Vienna, you pass two wooden benches at the side of the footpath about 20 minutes before you reach the Eisernes Tor (Iron Gate) which marks the peak of the hill. Interestingly, inscriptions have been carved into the wood on both benches.

The inscription on the left bench says "Haserl-Bank" ("bunnyrabbit bench"), and I have no idea (nor do I really want to know) what this is supposed to signify.

The other bench has a longish text on it, a commemorative inscription in honour of somebody named Franz Nussbaumer, who in the year 2001, at the age of 85, apparently "defeated the Iron Gate" for the 8000th time. Which I take it means that Mr Nussbaumer climbed that hill (essentially a three-hour hike) 8000 times.

I calculated that this means that Mr Nussbaumer either first climbed the hill at age 20 and then returned every third day; or that he first climbed the hill at age 42 and then returned every other day; or that he started climbing the hill at age 63 and then climbed the hill every day. Either option has a somewhat spooky dimension about it.

Frighteningly, unless he was the postman delivering the mail to the inn at the top of the hill and decided to do it on foot, the last and spookiest option seems to be the most likely one since you can only climb hills on a daily basis once you're in retirement.

Of course Mr Nussbaumer's feat (and no doubt his physical condition) is rather impressive, commendable and certainly worthy of receiving a commemorative inscription on a bench. Still, trying to figure out the exact motivation behind climbing the same hill 8000 times over a 20-year period is a perfect enigma, at least as far as I am concerned.

The Iron Gate, by the way, is the most disappointing thing I've ever seen on top of a hill.

Posted by Horst at 08:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 28, 2006

I always buy two tubes of toothpaste, mostly because for some mysterious reason I seem to be out of toothpaste a lot. The strange thing is that while I can remember opening the first tube after buying it, it always seems that the second tube has mysteriously disappeared by the time the first one is empty. Which is partly the reason why I seem to be out of toothpaste such a lot.

Do I open the second tube and forget about it immediately, or is there a secret hiding place for all the second tubes of toothpaste? A gate to a parallel universe in my bathroom even? Beginning Alzheimer's? Haldur?

Posted by Horst at 04:06 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

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