Beyond the Wings, July 2020

Business has started to tentatively reopen, but there is no end in sight to the covid crisis and the economic fallout has barely begun. Like millions of others, my professional future is deeply uncertain, but I will keep pursuing passion projects like music and writing regardless.

Output

My short story ‘Celeb’ will appear in an anthology by the Manchester-based Comma Press in the coming weeks. It will be my first published work of fiction to have no China connection. And the novel ‘Far from Strangers’ has nearly come to the end of another draft. I will be formally submitting it by the autumn.

I have also started trying my hand at sketch-writing. I have some scripts that I am happy with but will not be able to properly get going until outdoor gatherings are in full swing.

This month there are two new songs on YouTube, one Chinese

And one English

The latter mentions the late great Jack Charlton.

Activities

I am now a regular host on the Meetup app, a platform for finding kindred spirits. There is the Socially Awkward Sing-Song, which is held three times a month. And there is also the Mandarin Club, which I have just founded.

I am also trying t be as disciplined as possible in humour writing, but have little to show for it so far.

Wider World

This month I have been drafting an essay on-and-off that was set to take in the American election, China, Black Lives Matter, and other key issues of the day. It was more for the sake of getting my own bearings than for actual publication.

The most mentally unstable and morally unscrupulous man to have held the United States presidency since Andrew Jackson could be removed at the turn of the year. The only institution that can do this is the Democratic Party, an organisation that has fallen under the influence of a range of intellectually mediocre ideas, from ‘white fragility’ to what psychologist Gad Saad has called the DIE (diversity, inclusion, and equity) religion. In under a decade, these have gone from the fringes of academia to mainstream society.

It seems to be widely agreed now that Joe Biden is the favourite to win this November. The planned essay will not mention him at all, because, for all his faults, the fact that he is not lucifer is ample qualification.

Beyond the Wings, June 2020

After three-and-a-half months of forced solitude, the UK is slowly reopening. Pubs are set to open on the weekend of July 4th. The whole month of July could well be a disaster and businesses could be forced to close again by the end.  We’ll see.

I have been trying to keep somewhat productive and moderately sane.

Activities

I have started a comedy writing course. This has already resulted in dozens of jokes, some of which I’m quite pleased with, and the scripts for some sketches that I’ve been unable to film yet.

It is far from being a comedy, but I am revisiting my novel this week, hoping to finish a draft, and may even start submitting it, though it is still far from being the finished article.

Output

As well as keeping up with my miscellaneous covers of songs that I like, I have a brand-new English-language song, titled ‘Truth Be Told’.

I also have another classical guitar video, this time a rendition of ‘The Good The Bad and The Ugly’ by Ennio Morricone.

Wider World

Being moderately well read on the subject of The Cultural Revolution, the parallels between the woke left and Maoists, self-flagellating, censorious, and with a proclivity for tearing down monuments, are striking.

Online herds and offline mobs are unsettling, no matter how well-intentioned or just the cause. This November’s American election is starting to seem like a choice between which rabbit-hole of bad ideas the Anglosphere will disappear down.

Beyond the Wings, May 2020

‘TMItastic’ is now available in its entirety as a YouTube playlist.

The initial launch party was scheduled for Easter 2020, the eventual one might not happen until closer to Easter ’21, so I am tentatively working on new material and considering taking a very expensive (but seemingly very good) comedy writing course, to take that next step artistically and professionally.

Activities

It’s a douche thing to say considering all the misery that has been caused, but the crisis has had its positive side for those of us who practice solitary artforms. I uploaded my first classical guitar solo in ages, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ theme by Elmer Bernstein:

I finished another light rewrite of my novel, current working title ‘Far from Strangers’, as well as submitting the opening to a competition, the first time I have ever submitted a novel. There is still a lot that needs to be done on it, but I don’t think I can until the Manchester Central Library and other favourite writing locations reopen. This may be an amateur’s excuse, but it’s a true one.

Output

I have another article in ‘LA Review of Books China Channel’, this time a review of a short story collection from the amazing Comma Press. As heartening as it is to get reviews published, I think I prefer reviewing things non-professionally. That way it is not necessary to try to say anything ‘smart’. Recently, I have reviewed an anthology by Orton publishing, a novel by Julian Edge, an album by Robin Mukherjee, and more.

As well as making YouTube videos for several songs from the album, I am also regularly uploading miscellaneous covers, mostly of English-language songs, and also of Mandopop and Spanish.

Wider World

Well, just wow. Relations between the world’s two most powerful countries, which also happen to be two of my favourites, are at their lowest point since before Nixon’s visit. As the excellent Larry Salibra has pointed out, it is dishonest to blame China or the World Health Organization, since countries were given ample warning.

And as always, Trump is taking things to dangerous extremes, including terminating relations with the WHO. In presidential elections, the incumbent almost always wins. George W Bush did despite overseeing poor economic performance and starting two disastrous wars.

There are many reasons why Trump supporters can be confident of a second term. Unlike last time, he has the power of government, and the backing of most of his own party. Also, he has a gaffe-prone opponent who appears to be slurring his speech. But for the love of god, if ever an incumbent needed to be defeated, it is this year.

Beyond the Wings, April 2020

With much of the world being under near-house arrest, I am reminded by a quote from Clive James: “Rilke used to say that no poet would mind going to gaol, since he would at least have time to explore the treasure house of his memory. In many respects Rilke was a prick.”

However, despite being deprived of its big night in Salford, the songwriting has had some heartening feedback. This has given me a boost in all creative activities.

Activities

As with the rest of the UK, I have had to drastically change my habits. The gym has been replaced by jogging, the cinema by Netflix, and restaurants and bars by Zoom meetings.

I received excellent feedback from The Literary Consultancy on my work-in-progress novel. There is a hell of a long way to go, but I’m still on course to start submitting it by the end of the year.

Tutoring is also ticking along fine. It of course has all moved online. On the subject of helping others along, I am writing music and book reviews for anybody who asks nicely. Here is an example of a review I wrote.

Output

I have started recording a series of miscellaneous covers. I’ve always liked these songs, but it would be breaking character to perform them live, so this has been the perfect time to get them out there. These include ‘Mis-Shapes’ by Pulp, ‘Basket Case’ by Greenday, and ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ by Guns ‘n’ Roses.

On top of this, I did an interview about my Chinese-language songwriting with John Fleming, who has been described in The Skinny as ‘one of the most influential figures in British comedy’. The write-up for the interview is here, but I think I prefer the unedited audio.

I also received some very kind reviews of TMItastic and had another short story published.

Wider World

Even the most pessimistic predictions for the 2020s being made five months ago (increased climate catastrophe, growing hostility between China and America, another global recession) seem whimsical.

It is particular dishonest to blame China, despite all its social and political problems. Almost all Western governments handled the situation badly in the early stages, particularly the UK and the US, but blame-shifting is everywhere. Increased populism and xenophobic resentment could well be the flavour of  the decade.