Creative Storytelling: Five Ideas

lahikmajoe:

Wow, I really like these ideas. While already employing some of them, I plan to incorporate even more. Thanks The Daily Post. Good stuff.

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

Itching to do something different on your blog? Want to tell a story in a new way? Here are five quick ideas:

Use pages and links in fresh ways.

The bear blogging at Hello, I am a bear shows how you can use the standard features on your blog — posts, pages, links — to experiment with digital stories. Consider “You are a bear,” which uses links and pages in a choose-your-own-adventure tale. In the story, you make decisions from the point of view of a bear. The blogger — er, bear — cleverly creates various paths and different endings depending on your actions.

Combine forces with someone else.

We love the writer-artist collaboration between Virginia-based blogger Shelley Sackier and Sweden-based cartoonist Robin Gott on Shelley’s blog, Peak Perspective.

Illustration by Robin Gott, "Give Me the Straight Dope," Peak Perspective

Illustration by Robin Gott, “Give Me the Straight Dope,” Peak Perspective

Shelley’s humor and strong voice and…

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Patio Design Ideas

Screen shot 2014-03-13 at 15.00.37

This is a screenshot of http://lahikmajoe.com…I went there so you don’t have to.

If you went looking for the writing of lahikmajoe and found yourself browsing through patio furniture, here’s the skinny on what happened.

Originally the .com address took you to the tea blog. There was plenty of traffic there, as it was an irreverent and comical attempt at a blog about tea drinking. It was a lot of fun, and it’s entirely possible that I’ll find myself writing about tea again in the future.

However, it won’t be happening at the former address. That url has been bought by pirates. Well, I don’t know the correct term for such people, but pirates is how I’m going to refer to them. Ostensibly, it’s a site selling patio furniture. Click on any links provided and it’ll immediately become clear that they’re not selling any patio furniture.

The only reason the url was bought was to then sell it back to me. Although it was my mistake not to renew the account, I’ve got no intention of spending what they’re asking for the address. It’s simply not worth it to me.

Let me make this very clear, though:

I am not selling patio furniture. 

If you’ve gone looking for the writing of lahikmajoe and/or Ken Macbeth Knowles, it’ll become clear that there’s the patio furniture-related and non patio furniture-related content. This page will continue to focus on the latter.

Incidentally, I did not come to this decision lightly. When my former page was originally bought by the patio furniture pirates, I briefly considered accepting this as a fortuitous twist of fate. I hadn’t been a patio furniture expert, but maybe it was time I became one.

The first thing I could do would be to fix the atrocious English on the patio furniture pirates’ page. The text was clearly written by a translation program. Or simply really poorly written.

So I could clean up the content, link to real pages where actual patio furniture was being sold. Then I could get some Google and Facebook ads and become some sort of patio furniture mogul. Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it? You’d buy patio furniture from me. I’m certain you would.

But, alas, it’s simply not to be. I’d send you in the right direction to such a site, but I simply don’t know any.

I do know a site that looks like it’s selling patio furniture. It’s got nothing to do with me.

Nothing at all.

all we’ve got

IMG_0087

Courtyard at the Picasso museum in Málaga

‘ “The  past,” he said, resting three fingers across the mouth of his cup to keep Bea from pouring yet another refill, “is a gravity. It holds you to the earth, but it also keeps pulling you down, trying, like the earth itself, to reclaim you. And the future, always looking that direction, planning, anticipating – that’s a kind of freefall, your feet have left the ground, you’re just floating there, floating where there is no there.” ‘ from Salt River by James Sallis

Sometimes, you simply can’t help yourself. You’re reading along, minding your own business, and the author’s voice somehow comes off the page, out into the air and whooooosh…it opens something up inside you that wasn’t there before. That’s roughly what happened when I read the above passage.

One side of the spectrum drags you down – back to the ground. Or even lower, actually. In the other direction is a kind of emptiness. You’re still there, but the ground isn’t. You might not be falling yet, but the sense of anticipation might as well be dropping the bottom out from beneath you.

No clue if this speaks to any of you. It might not be nearly as profound in your ears as it was in mine.

The extremes that’re laid out in this description: the groundedness of what’s past and the groundlessness of what’s to come – yet another argument, quite compelling even, to stick with right now. This very moment. On some level, it’s all we’ve got.

do what you love

Playing the guitar surrounding by sixties design wallpaper in Lisel's front room

Playing the guitar surrounding by sixties design wallpaper in Lisel’s front room

This is one of my photos from London, and I’ve been considering different ways to continue blogging about those two trips.

See, for those who haven’t been following at home, I went to London to see Robert Godden and hang out with my friends Nigel (this blog’s London correspondent) and @elaine4queeen this autumn, and then a short time later my mother was going to be in the UK, so I went back again.

I could’ve simply flown to Manchester, where she was going to arrive, but the flights were prohibitively expensive, so I flew back to London, had some meetings with people in the tea business, and spent some more time with the above-mentioned friends. Additionally, I met @vsopfables at Heathrow on my way out of town, and she and I agreed we’d have to spend a bit longer together next time. It was simply too short a visit.

So, why have I included this photo? What’s my morsel of wisdom I’d like to pass onto you today?

It’s quite simple actually.

Most people look at this, or other blogs, or twitter or social media in general as one big swirl of narcissism. Although I believe there’s a great deal of that going on in the places I’ve listed, I’d be willing to argue that it’s not all we’re about.

My message in this blogpost is really one of the bigger truths that I’ve happened upon. One of those things I’ve figured out during my brief time on this earth. It’s so simple and so obvious that the more cynical of you will likely say, ‘Was that really necessary? Did you have to make such a production of this? You’re simply proving that you’re the narcissist we’ve always taken you for.

Well, I’ve got two things to say to that. One is: some people like my photos and whimsical posts and some prefer when I wax philosophic. Some like both, but not many. Quite a few of you have expressed delight when I lay off on the text and stay with the images that make you laugh. Others could do without the filler, and respond positively to my more serious attempts.

The blogposts that take a few days of pondering and writing and rewriting…those seem to make some sort of difference. At least if I’m to believe the comments I get here and the conversations I have with people after I’ve written them. No matter how lacadasical I sometimes might appear, I take this blogging thing quite seriously.

Why?

Years ago someone said to me, ‘If you’re a writer, you need to be writing. You can’t wait for that gig to come to you…you need to keep your writing skills honed and you can use your blog to do so.

I’d toyed with several blogs, none of which I’ll bother mentioning by name, but they had no direction. They were self-indulgent to the extreme. They had no interest to anyone but me.

Then I tried my hand at teablogging, which I still do inadvertently, but I found myself talking about anything but tea. It was great fun to weave tea into these other topics, but at some point it became essential that I find another outlet for my thoughts.

Enter the Dachshund Blog, which you’re now reading, and all the whimsy that’s fit to print. It was designated as the Dachshund Blog by our good friend Lisa Galaviz  over at The Best Self-Help T-Shirt Catalogue Ever in the early days of this endeavour back in the Year of Our Lord 2011, and it took me FOREVAH to stop posting photos of Dachshunds and stories about Dachshunds. I did it eventually, but it was really difficult.

After that, I moved on to real topics that needed to be discussed. Things like poop in postboxes in you’ve got stool and less serious topics like circumcision in Germany, which I covered in getting a baby’s consent is no easy matter.

Back to the photo above. What’s my nugget of thoughtfulness?

Do what you love.

That thing – that when you do it – time stands still. Or appears to.

For me it’s writing. Or playing music.

Or planning the overthrow of a certain Eastern European government that’s been rather anti-democratic lately, but I’ve probably already said too much about that.

If you know what that is for you, do it more often. With vim and vigour.

If you don’t know what that is yet, then find out. You’ll be glad you did. I promise.

six months at The Munich Times and then The Munich Eye

This week at enemy grounds in Ingolstadt

  • People hear again and again that print journalism is dead, but when it comes right down to it, some people just want to hold the paper in their hands.
  • You’d think that being a journalist opened doors for you, but often the worst thing you can do is say, ‘I write for a newspaper.‘ (I knew this one already, because I’ve been working for my wife’s journalist office for a decade now…however, I’ve seen it repeatedly while researching my own stories in the last six months – no one wants to talk to a journo. Unless they’re in PR and in that case they have nothing I really want to hear.)
  • Being a professional journalist sounds impressive, but it isn’t. Writing for The Guardian means something in my book. Having been published by some two bit publication? Not so much. Over the last half year, I’ve heard repeatedly, ‘He’s a professional journalist.‘ You know what that means? He says he’s a professional journalist. Nothing more. It’s a real profession, but very few people are making a living at it. Very. Very. Few.
  • Some say the future of news journalism is at the hands of bloggers. I certainly hope not. Don’t get me wrong. I love reading blogs and write a few myself, but do I really want Lucy’s Football giving me analysis on the European Debt Crisis? She can’t handle her debt crisis.
  • The Münchner Merkur isn’t a bad paper. I had no idea how well written it was and have used it as a gold mine to find ideas for stories. I’m still a snob about reading the Süddeutsche, but my horizons have expanded to include news source at which I’d previously scoffed.

The last week has been mostly about the Oktoberfest here in Munich on the old Miscellaneous Blog de Lahikmajoe. I’ll be getting back to that soon enough.

Realised this week that I joined my paper (then The Munich Times, whose name I preferred, and later The Munich Eye) exactly six months ago. What a way to celebrate the half anniversary, right? With an assessment of what I’ve learned.

Here’s to another six months of sometimes quality writing and covering the news and events going on in Bavaria’s capital. Hope you’ll be along for the ride.

a visit to the The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment

 

look…ukuleles in the window!

There was a time when we were begging for an instalment from our London correspondent, but luckily that is behind us. After publishing his recent  piece on the London Olympics, he appears to have been bitten by the writing bug.

We here at the Lahikmajoe have been so wrapped up in our own idling lately that we hadn’t bothered to write anything here for the last few days. As a result, we’re very grateful to have received the next instalment from Our Man in Notting Hill. And may I reintroduce you to Nigel:

As the 205 flames of Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic Torch parted, sank and finally died, so did my heart and those of many Londoners around me. I for one shed a tear or two, and woe betide anyone who may have tried soothing me with platitudes in the vein of ‘all good things must come to an end’. For those people I harboured secret plans to make good use of the still dormant missiles strategically placed around London.

The morning after was as it sounds. London had a hangover, whether or not its constituent parts had been drinking. Even the sun refused to shine. So what better course of action to take than to do absolutely nothing? (editor’s note: we like where this is going).

There is an Art to doing absolutely nothing, its fundamental premise being that you actually have to do something which you can tell yourself isn’t doing anything at all. Even thinking about how you are going to do nothing is walking on thin ice as it prevents you from thinking that what you are thinking is absolutely nothing. Avoiding these paradoxes and conundrums is the entire reasoning behind the creation of a pastime known as idling.

mug of the snail

I fancy I hear a throng cry out that I am writing about idling ergo can not be idling as writing is clearly an action; but I beg them turn their mis-led souls and blinkered eyes to the words of Alfred Jarry, author of Ubu Roi, who quite rightly claimed that idling was ‘designed to upset the mundanity of being’ and transform it into ‘the eternal dream’. So actually I’m dreaming. And you can’t get more idle than that.

I may have been at a loss as to how to continue floating comfortably in a dream bubble were it not for the fact that an equally idle friend of mine had told me of the existence of the Mecca of idle pursuit – The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment – and that it lay practically on my doorstep. So I set off to Bayswater to find it (although with some trepidation, lest an aficionado of René Descartes’ philosophies be lying in wait there in order to leap upon me and prove that I was not dreaming at all).

I needn’t have troubled myself with the apparent reality of moving shadows as I couldn’t actually find the place. I was told it stands opposite The Westbourne Tavern in Westbourne Park Road and is number 81. Now London is notorious for making things up as it goes along, particularly when it comes to house numbering. Under normal circumstances, the numbers should go up or down depending on which way you are walking and be even on the one side and odd on the other. Not so with this road. There was no number 81. On either side. There was most certainly a number 80. And an 82. But 81 was obviously a figment of my friend’s imagination.

It seems to be a golden rule that you will only find something once you have given up looking. I had abandoned my search and was walking disconsolately homeward when the The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment suddenly appeared like something out of Alice In Wonderland.

Entrance of The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment

I stood on the threshold faced with a cross between a bookshop, a library and Ye Olde Tea Shoppe on the seafront of every coast town in England. Something about it reawakened the smells and aura of my old school and of childhood holidays simultaneously. One wall was lined with well stocked bookshelves, the other adorned with curiosities; the front an Edwardian full-length glass shop front and the rear a desk with a till and a tea-making table, replete with cake, standing before a sash window. Behind the till was an open door to the garden and stairs leading down to a dark and mysterious place. I wanted to ask what lay down there but was afraid of the possibility of mundanity encroaching upon my dream, so I headed instead for the tea table.

the tea table

As I crossed the wooden floor, partly covered by a thinning faux-Persian rug worthy of my former headmaster’s study (and his head, if the truth be told), an old rumple-suited man began to expatiate to his long grey beard, teapot and anyone else who may have chosen to listen upon the subject of rationality as it relates to the philosophy of economics and the improbability of the Impossibility Theorem. I thought it best to ignore him and concentrated on the delicious selection of teas displayed on a hand-written blackboard leaning against the tea table.

Our Man in Notting Hill peruses the merchandise

From a selection including Oolong, Pua Mai and Fresh Mint I chose a Himalayan Orange and sat at one of the oak fly-leaved tables to peruse the bookshelves. And what was the very first thing that caught my eye, sitting there amongst The Iliad, Will Self and Blood & Mistletoe? What other than Bertrand Russell’s In Praise Of Idleness?

At this point the rumpled man, who had become a low monotone soundtrack to the Academy, suddenly said very clearly;

Kenneth Arrow, of course. You are familiar with Kenneth Arrow?’ My tea arrived and I stood up at once and stepped towards the bookshelf, my mind searching furiously. Then it came to me.

Yes, I believe I heard him mentioned on the radio this morning,’ I replied, pointedly looking at the books, my revelation being that Kenneth Arrow was in fact the gay policeman who had stood as a candidate in the election for the Mayor of London.

I very much doubt that,’ he retorted and launched into a torrid invective of the man so torrential that my mind and ears automatically shut off, my hand instinctively reached for Bertrand Russell and I quickly turned to the lady behind the till brandishing the book and saying;

How can I resist this? I’d like to buy it if I may.’

And I would like to sell it to you,’ she replied, ‘ but I’m afraid the till’s broken. There’s always something broken here.’

As suddenly as they had been aimed at me the rumpled man’s attentions returned to his beard, teapot and whoever else was choosing to listen and he continued to ferociously pluck Kenneth Arrow feather by feather. (I have since discovered Arrow was the man who came up with the Impossibility Theorem. I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out why the old man insisted his theorem was improbable).

What was I to do now? Well, as a means to my idle ends I had brought a book along with me (I never leave home without one). A detective novel. An intelligently written detective novel, but a detective novel nonetheless. Now, having been deprived of the possibility of reading Russell, the obvious thing would have been to have made do with the exploits of a gumshoe, but instead of reaching for the novel I panicked. How could I be seen in the company of Ovid and Darwin’s Ghosts reading a mere detective novel? How trite is that?

The Lady of the Till

Before beads of sweat could form on my troubled brow I was mercifully saved by Joanna the Lady of The Till who must have noticed my disappointment, or panic, or both, for she said;

Why don’t you give me £10 and I’ll write a receipt and you can settle any difference there may be next time you’re in?

I fell in and out of love with her in the time it took for relief to wash over me and for me to dig out my wallet and fork over £10.

So I sat back down, sipped my Himalayan Orange tea and begun idly leafing through Russell’s pages. The old man finished his tea and tutorial, mumbled something about how the Idler Academy was always re-using its tea pigs and shuffled out. I was left to enjoy the fulfillment of the promise inscribed above a snail on the glass over the entrance, ‘Libertus per cultum’, and to conclude that idling was indeed the best way to beat the post Olympic blues.

interior of The Academy

What would you do if you had a million dollars?

look of excitement

Wanted to do something special here for my hundredth blogpost, and little did I know that the subject would be chosen so perfectly for me. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that one of my blogging compadres is the blog lady over at Lucy’s Football.  Well, her life in general and her job in particular has been getting to her lately. Just last week, she wrote If I had a training company, you know I’d call it “Pulling a Train”, right?

While I was reading that, part of me considered, ‘Hm…I hope Lucy’s Football‘s superiors at her J.O.B. don’t read this blog. Or if they do, that they have a sense of humour.‘ Well, the answer to the first one is that they did. And the second? Apparently they don’t.

Earlier in the day, this appeared out of the blue over on twitter:

And my response? I think it’s great. Truly one of the best pieces of news I’ve heard in a long time, and my life is full of good things happening right now.

So in honour of the unceremonious sacking of one of the good guys, I’m dedicating this hundredth blogpost to the people over at Lucy’s Football. By people, I mean that wild-eyed, unruly-haired wonder. The first thing that came to mind when I sat down to fashion her a response was the scene in Office Space where they talk about what you would do if you had a million dollars. For those of you who haven’t seen this Mike Judge movie from 1999, go fire up your Netflix account or however you access media and watch the damned thing. Really.

For the rest of you, here’s a little reminder:

Peter Gibbons: Our high school guidance counselor used to ask us what you’d do if you had a million dollars and you didn’t have to work. And invariably what you’d say was supposed to be your career. So, if you wanted to fix old cars then you’re supposed to be an auto mechanic. 
Samir: So what did you say? 
Peter Gibbons: I never had an answer. I guess that’s why I’m working at Initech. 
Michael Bolton: No, you’re working at Initech because that question is bullshit to begin with. If everyone listened to her, there’d be no janitors, because no one would clean shit up if they had a million dollars. 
Samir: You know what I would do if I had a million dollars? I would invest half of it in low risk mutual funds and then take the other half over to my friend Asadulah who works in securities… 
Michael Bolton: Samir, you’re missing the point. The point of the exercise is that you’re supposed to figure out what you would want to do if… 
[printer starts beeping] 
Michael Bolton: “PC Load Letter”? What the fuck does that mean? 

For the more sensitive among you, I should go ahead and apologise for that foul-mouthed language. Wait a minute: you’re accustomed to accounts of sneaky fuckery and you’ve got stool. No need for walking on egg shells with you lot.

Now that she’s going to have all of this free time, I’d like to give ol’ Lucy’s Football a task. There’s a story behind it, and I aim to tell it to you in all of its glory.

When I was a younger man, I went through a bit of a rough patch employment-wise. There came a point where I decided that working was for chumps, and I resolved to cease even searching for gainful employment. It was a courageous decision for which I was not fêted to the degree I was expecting.

The way my friends would rub it in that I was in such an unfortunate predicament was that they’d simply ask me questions about the daytime television schedule. They assumed, and were quite right, that my leisurely day allowed me to become rather well acquainted with what was on offer while they were slaving away at their 9-to-5 positions.

When do they replay the Daily Show on Comedy Central?‘ they’d query. And I knew. I knew all too well.

Now, let me be quite clear here. I’m sure Lucy’s Football will find something better rather quickly. According to her  telling, almost anything she finds will be more fulfilling than what she was doing. My hope is that she’ll hold out for something that really utilises her..ahem..unique charms.

But in the meantime, ‘Hey Lucy’s Football…what’s the best thing on television at 11 am on a weekday?