Dublin is in Black and White


I have been busy, for want of a better word, over the past few months trying to give my Instagram account a bit of content and identity. I suppose it’s more for the likes and followers than for any greater good to society, so don’t expect me to reveal something worldly there.

Some time back when I was still in Korea I thought it would be a neat gimmick to just post photos in black and white, or monochrome. It was a thing, and I’ve kept at it. Of late I’ve been focusing a lot on Dublin’s streets, and have been trying to get some shots which could be recognised as street photography, but with my phone and not my Nikon. It is not as easy as you’d think, because regardless of the quality of the image your phone takes it will never replace the speed and accuracy of a SLR.

But it is doable. All you need to do is:

  1. Be patient – find the shot, frame and wait a moment or two until you have the right level of human activity. Don’t stand around being creepy holding your phone up waiting for people to arrive or react to something. If the shot you want doesn’t come, move on and try and find another elsewhere.
  2. Be different – look for a way that you can make your shots stand out from others. Tilt your lens, shoot from the ground up, find a perspective which most people are unfamiliar with, or just find your own way of standing apart from other instagrammers – which is harder than it sounds.
  3. Be curious – I walk around just taking random shots with my phone around the city, and every so often a shot comes good. You can’t win them all, and there’s a chance you’ll take some pretty awful shots but as you take more shots and take more chances you will be surprised at what comes out.
  4. Crop Cleverly – When you take your shot use your regular phone camera and don’t shoot inside the Instagram app, as this automatically takes you to the edit and post menu. Shoot away with your normal camera, then when it comes to editing you can use the 1:1 frame to both crop your image in the desired area, and also to move around, zoom in, and even rotate the frame until you are happy with the shot you’re about to post. This might seem like a no-brainer but I personally feel this step is vital to the image and could be overlooked (or maybe most people just take it as a given).
  5. Ignore advice – whatever anyone tells you about doing street photography, just ignore them and do your thing. You shouldn’t really be listening to advice anyway, you should be walking around taking photographs, or at the very least looking at other people’s photos.

Of course these tips are purely my own opinion, and what do I know – I’ve only got 298 followers on Instagram.

Anyway, here are some of my favourites from the past few months, all tagged with the very cool #dublinisinblackandwhite hashtag.

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Find your own moment #vscocam #dublinisblackandwhite

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Procession #vscocam #dublinisblackandwhite #inthecity

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Typical

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The specials

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Take a good taste there now

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If you do find it within your heart, you can follow me here. Or not.

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Notebooks


I’ve been going through my old computer files and notebooks lately hoping to find some encouragement. It’s always interesting too look back, be it in a diary, an old collection of photographs, or even old posts on a blog. Pages and photographs fortunately have a stronger sense of permanency than timelines or twitter feeds, and even if you can find everything online, the nostalgia is physical when leafing through the old pages written in slightly different handwriting and in faded pencil or ink.

Aside from my newest Moleskine and a collection of my newest fascination as a writing medium, yellow A4 lined paper, I believe it’s called legal pad, I have all kinds of paper and notebooks scattered around the bookshelves and packed in boxes around the home. All of these have served some function in my scattered and impotent career as a Nobel laureate.

I don’t really write much here about poetry, as it’s something that I consider myself far from an expert on. But it drives me crazy to the point that sometimes I lose sleep over it, or I am a useless conversationalist. More than anything, I’ve always looked to excel at writing poetry, as to do it well is more than art, it is pure craftwork.

My poems to me are mostly biographical, at least in their instance, and reading back over them reminds me of how I was thinking at that time.

The thing is, I’ve never been one to keep a diary, and this blog certainly doesn’t serve as one – it least not in the day-to-day sense – so reading through notebooks I’ve written in serves odd reminders of what I’ve done in my life over the past few years. There are peculiar connections and many of these start with the actual medium itself, be that the notebook or the loose sheets of paper I wrote on.

Many pages are neatly organised together and appear like a final draft, or as close as I got to one, and then many are roughly folded with the edges frayed from being kept too long in the bottom of my bag. Some I recognise from the time I wrote them, such as white printer or copier paper, which often suggests to me that I wrote this while I was teaching in class (say nothing), or possibly at my desk on a break. Of course I can’t recall when and where I wrote whatever it was, but these scattered sheets are equally scattered memories.

Unity comes from between the binding of my notebooks. Each starts with a flourish infected by the desire to spoil the freshness of the recently freed paper, and ends slowly and unconvincingly as enthusiasm wanes with the final few pages, and I look to start a new notebook before the older one is even finished. This has always been the way I’ve used a notebook, from my primary and secondary school copies to my newest much underappreciated Moleskine which I seem to needlessly carry with me everywhere.

Every page in these old and new notebooks of mine is like an old cryptic diary arranged around some thoughts I had at some stage. Often these memories are vague and cliché, with nothing more than the impression that I was living in a big city and I was utterly appalled by the post-modern condition of urban habitation, or something unoriginal like that. Sometimes there are bits worth keeping though.

I have one of those cheaply made notebooks with plastic covers which you see being sold on the side of the street in Seoul. They are always too big even for the most ambitious writer. I bought mine back in 2007 at the top end of Insadong and I ended up writing in it right up until 2010, and maybe even 2011, but there’s still room for more. It wasn’t my only place to write, but it is without a doubt the one notebook I will reach to if I am looking to raid my memories for new material, or a simple dose of nostalgia.

But there are glimpses of the moment too. There are times when I travelled around the country with herself, there are poems from our honeymoon, such as this one which was published by Wordlegs:

“Foça”

“The wind has been blowing here
for three thousand years
and it will not stop
just for your honeymoon”
the fisherman told us,
soaking and shivering
from the gust laden tides;
the Aegean not as warm
as the guidebook
had optimistically implied

(As a gesture of goodwill and decency, please give Wordlegs a visit and have a read of some of the other excellent poetry and prose on their site)

There are poems from the creative writing module I took while doing my masters in Southampton, and there many, many poems and stories and comments on all other aspects of life. There are also a few poems I wrote to Herself, although I won’t post any here. There are notes for articles I wrote for magazines in Korea, and even the first couple of drafts for a post which still attracts a certain amount of attention here (just checked the super-sexy and detailed WordPress statometer and it’s ranked #8 all time most clicked post – what the fuck is up with that?). There are doodles, lists, phone numbers, and even email addresses for people or places I have no memory of. This is all just from one notebook, and I’m sure there’s more elsewhere.

If I were to stack all my notebooks up I’m not sure how high they would reach. If I combed through every page I’ve written I don’t think I’d fill even a small notebook with anything worth keeping. But as a good friend and mentor explained to me, undoubtedly as we were drunk in Itaewon late at night back in the day (or night), for every piece you’re happy with there is bound to be ten more you’ll never look at again but you have to keep writing because you’ll only know the difference if you have plenty to compare them against. The same ratio is probably true for anything I write which would be deemed good quality by an editor other than me – even here.

But that’s what writing is all about. The more you write the more you put down into a more permanent and physical kind of memory that can be actually picked up and looked back on. Unlike a photograph, words written down in an apparently random situation force you to think and force you to remember and recreate that situation. For me this is essential for any and all future written efforts.

Right now I’m half way through a new chapter of memories like this. There may be less words, but there are other things which act as a flint, such as a wireless password for a guesthouse in Langkawi, a picture of me that looks nothing like me drawn by a friend of Herself’s, and a several lists of things I should have done but I seem to have crossed very little off. That’s just me. Soon I’ll finish that and move on to the next one and soon those pages will be vague memories for rekindling. I look forward to the fire where I will bring this notebook and all those other notebooks too.

 

Things you should do to make your writing more effective.


1. Write about yourself.

2. Don’t write about yourself.

3. Cook dinner.

4. Don’t describe anything.

5. Remember stuff you can’t recall.

6. Don’t write about stuff you don’t care about.

7. Don’t write about stuff nobody cares about.

8. Everyone cares about something. Write about it.

9. Check your spellings.

10. Don’t use fucking metaphors.

11. Be bizarre.

12. Be straight.

13. Write drunk.

14. Be addicted to something.

15. Sign up for facebook/twitter/tumblr/pinterest/linkedin/wattpad etc.

16. Delete your facebook/twitter/tumblr/pinterest/linkedin/wattpad etc. account.

17. Have sex with someone you shouldn’t.

18. Go without sex for years.

19. Break your heart.

20. Hate everything.

21. Travel.

22. Look at stuff.

23. Walk.

24. Read stuff that annoys you.

25. Listen to music loud all day in your bedroom with the door closed but the window open.

26. Take sentences and rearrange them.

27. Copy people.

28. Smell stuff.

29. Examine the contents of your hair, and I mean all your hair.

30. Sell something important to you.

31. Lose something.

32. Hurt yourself.

33. Hurt someone else.

34. Read.

35. Don’t read.

36. Don’t use punctuation.

37. Manufacture new words.

38. Rhyme every word/sentence.

39. Find out what syntax actually means.

40. Learn how to spell words you can’t spell.

41. Write with a black ink pen.

42. Write in circles.

43. Draw pictures.

44. Smell the paper.

45. Fix the keyboard on your computer.

46. Vomit in an alley.

47. Touch yourself.

48. Touch someone else.

49. Eat old yoghurt.

50. Watch television all day.

51. Buy a subscription for a magazine and never read it.

52. Steal free stuff.

53. Look at yourself in the mirror before you shower.

54. Leave your home.

55. Learn a new language.

56. Soil yourself.

57. Burn the tip of your index finger on your good hand.

58. Wear no socks.

59. Get married and start a family.

60. Read poetry.

61. Grow a plant.

62. Have too many pens and notebooks.

63. Be sick.

64. Have friends who always let you down.

65. Choose your favourite font.

66. Read the fine print.

67. Move to a cabin on a mountain.

68. Drink too much coffee.

69. Drive all night to get somewhere.

70. Turn off the lights late at night and sit there, wherever, watching the room turn bright as your eyes adjust to the light.

71. Sing out of tune.

72. Listen to a person’s story.

73. Question.

74. Clean something.

75. Pick your toenails.

76. Write a blog.

77. Read a dictionary.

78. Find a comfortable place to sit.

79. Ask someone to read what you wrote.

80. Read what someone else wrote.

81. Edit.

82. Delete everything.

83. Tell someone you love them.

84. Ask the way to get somewhere.

85. Eat too much.

86. Read a ‘how to’ guide.

87. Eat a whole lemon.

88. Roll a joint and smoke it all to yourself.

89. Pray.

90. Talk on the phone with a friend for a long time.

91. Sit in a bar alone.

92. Read the spam in your inbox.

93. Like/Retweet something.

94. Buy a nice suit.

95. Keep a secret.

96. Grieve.

97. Be cynical.

98. Be incessant.

99. Be old.

100. Be young.

 

What Motivates You To Write?


It’s probably a little cliché to write about what makes me want to be a writer. If you ever happen upon any websites that promote writing and offer advice on becoming a writer, you’ll probably not struggle to find a page of quotations about why such-and-such a writer writes, as well as a long list of links or articles about why people write, and all of them essentially say the same thing. They write because writing is just something they have to do. I would share the same sentiments.

Not everyone is a writer, but everyone can write, and some people can write better than others, which is a no-brainer. Becoming a successful writer definitely doesn’t need as much effort as becoming a quality writer, an acclaim which requires the 10,000 hour (or more) treatment. To spend 10,000 hours focusing on anything requires a lot of determination, although I won’t deny that some people just end up having to do it. But when you are making this effort on a craft you love, then I think the effort counts for something different.

The Beatles may have played for 10,000 hours, or at least close to it, when they were in Hamburg.

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Some Blogging Talk…


I like my blog. I really do. It’s fun. But then again, so is drinking until 5am. It’s something I like to do, but it’s not something I should do too often. Why? Well because as much fun as it is, it’s very distracting. Now, loyal readers (and new readers) that is not meant as a slur against your good taste and fine choice in character, more as a finger pointed at my own lack of self discipline outside of my regular contributions to this column.

WordPress blogs are great because they have wonderful statistics sections that one can peruse over for days, matching the number of hits against the popularity of some posts against others. This is one of my biggest distractions. Now, back in the day when this blog started I used to complain over the difference between a fourteen hit day and a sixteen hit day, these days it’s more like …eh, 34 against 36…maybe. Anyway, the hit count is a distraction. The only way I see my hit count staying regularly high is to post regularly, and that’s another distraction.

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