A policy statement on controlled crying issued by the Australian Association of Infant Mental Health (AAIMHI) advises, “Controlled crying is not consistent with what infants need for their optimal emotional and psychological health, and may have unintended negative consequences.” According to AAIMHI, “There have been no studies, such as sleep laboratory studies, to our knowledge, that assess the physiological stress levels of infants who undergo controlled crying, or its emotional or psychological impact on the developing child.”
It was 5 years ago today that I made the pilgrimage to Stonehenge with my family. At the time we had been home schooling our two daughters, then 5 and 8. The stone circle had become a topic for us because of quite fantastic episode of Doctor Who. At the time many of those Matt Smith episodes were historically themed and provided excellent jump-off points for learning. Van Gogh was another one with rich avenues to be explored.
What I had intended to be a momentous and inspirational visit turned out to be quite something else. Within minutes of arriving on site and passing the tool booth I stuffed my camera in to my wife’s hand, stepped over the little red rope and took ten paces towards the stone circle. I reached up in awe at the unexpected scale and pressed my hand on to what felt like craggy moss, similar to the barnacles you find on a sea-break — hairy and green. The stone was cold. I turned with a grin to have my photo snapped.
The tourists mulled slowly around the set track and I stepped back over the rope to join them. Moments later I was approached by a young bearded man with a walkie talkie who said:
“I want you to leave”
I should have responded:
“I want you to do the same — and take your fences and gift shop with you.”.
I did leave and my devastated children followed behind streaming with tears. My wife was furious. You are not allowed to step over the rope. You are not allowed to touch the stones.
I was quoted an ancient law regarding the protection of historical monuments or some such which on reflection was not enough to eject me from the premises — but it was the attitude and authority with which the men with walkie talkies an luminous jackets spoke with that intimidated us to such that we submitted to their request without protest. They could see my children were heartbroken, they didn’t care. It was my fault. After all, I had broken the rules.
Except you can. If you know the right people and you pay the right price.
Whilst my wife was rightfully lambasting me in the car we witnessed a group of teenage girls clambering over the fallen stones, dancing with gay abandon within the circle and way beyond that red rope.
A man with an luminous jacket and walkie talkie flanked them. They had ‘after hours’ access. They knew something we didn’t know. And for just a moment the hypocrisy caused my wife to pause her tear strewn tirade.
They have never forgiven me. My children. The idea of returning to Stonehenge fills them with dread. It is laden with painful memories. But it was a potent experience for me. It reflects my thinking about ‘the rules’.
“Reality is negotiable” ~ Timothy Ferriss
Those made up bits of nonsense separate ‘us’ from ‘them’. The men with walkie talkies that convince you to beleive what you can and can’t do.
The irony of the date of our visit has not been lost on me. Had we ventured out 1 day later we would have milled amongst the drummers, druids and revellers and walked freely round the stones. June 21st. A day when the Sun reaches its highest point relative to the equator.
For this 1 day of the year they remove the rope.
We went on the wrong day.
For the past couple of years I have attempted to sway my family to re-visit Stonehenge. On that day when the rope is put away and the people that ignore the men with walkie talkies turn up. There are of course far more people without walkie talkies. On the day when there is an exception to the rules. That’s the day I want to take them. My girls. One day I can take them and maybe they will forgive me for jumping over the rope.
That evening in the campsite when everyone was asleep in the tent, with their little whimpering breaths from too much crying. I stepped out in to the night and was hit by the breathtaking beauty of the sky. Scratched with hundreds of shooting stars and awash with starlight. I walked around in awe, pulled out some device from my pocket and tapped away the following words:
The closer we approached the henge the more my contempt grew for the present guardians of the site.
The tour bus, the cafe, the rock cakes and ticket barriers and insincere spotty pubescent staff and audio tours and snapping tourists. And the terrible barbed wire fence and the ultimate insult — a scar on the landscape. A busy a road scorching it’s way through the area bringing with it the coke drinking all you can eat buffet of tourists hungry for their photos and sunglass tinted view of some stones. The National Heritage disgrace cuts through the site which is so much more than a circle of stones, it is a network of burial mounds and stones scattered far around.
The irony of touching the stones and literally stepping over the line during office hours is that we hung around the site after hours to witness the privileged hot pant wearing girls cartwheeling and clambering on the stones. This brought home to Susannah the lunacy of the rules and their enforcers. They made the rules up and they will break them apart as and when they choose too. They can do that.
There are many theories of why the henge was built, it’s quite possible they already know the reason but if they publish an answer there goes the mystery. Who will pay to see a bunch of rocks in a field? One thing of which I am certain is that the architects intention had nothing to do with selling ice creams or branded erasers made in China.
Stonehenge is man’s best attempt to create a monument to the permanence of The Universe. A little circle of stones surrounded by burial mounds to scratch a mark in the earth — and ‘I woz ere’ for later generations.
In the infinite space and time this monument to infinity is a grain of sand in comparison to the vast mountain of everything else in existence outside of the circle.
Stonehenge is not the attraction. The attraction is what is seen through its windows.
If they published that then there would be no point in making the journey and paying the entrance fee. You can see the magic and wonder from where you are standing right now. You are already at the centre of your own circle of wonder, the mystery of the why and how this was built are red-herrings. Simply the base of the mountain. You are standing at the summit of the answer. The journey of a thousand miles ends without a single step.
Stonehenge has mistakenly become a point of focus when its purpose is to be a point from which to focus from / an un-focusing point, to magnify the hugeness of the outside of the circle, the circular horizon, the dome of blue sky and ever-changing lava lamp of clouds and stars, the circle my eyes are carried on as my head travels around drinking in this panorama, green and blues and yellows. In to my spherical eyes.
Stonehenge is a lens to realise the real mystery and vastness and wonder of the universe.
I still want to go back. To join the party. When the drums are beating to my rhythm. To jump the invisible red rope and to wipe the tears from my children’s eyes so that they may clearly see the beauty all around.
And maybe even forgive me.
“We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
—World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.”
from ‘Ode’ by Arthur O’Shaughnessy
I believe that the purpose of the teacher is to draw out the best in her pupil, it is in this unique exchange that both pupil and teacher help reveal their true selves.
Every week for the past 3 years we took our daughter Ella to see Bella at the summit of Beacon Hill in Newark. Some weeks I would drive Ella but mostly my wife had the pleasure. The weekly dash from school to Newark could always be a little stressful but you could always be sure of a welcoming sofa and a warm cat on your lap.
Bella had an extraordinary ability to connect with our daughter in a way that is very rare.
My family and I were all extremely sad to learn that Bella had passed away in March after a very brief but intense illness.
The magical thing about music is that it transcends our physical forms. It is sustained through the magic that travels between people. I know that Ella will carry some of the music Bella shared with her.
Although Ella will eventually find another teacher to help her learn to play the piano there will not be another person that could take her on the flights of fancy that Bella Conn took her.
I know Ella loved her, they were good friends in spite of the age difference.
Bella revealed some of Ella’s potential and for that I am grateful. Our youngest daughter Rosa was equally sad. Bella happily allowed Rosa to tinkle away on the piano each week and I know Rosa was looking forward to fun sessions learning to play with Bella as her teacher. Rosa remembers with delight the time we were sent outside to pilfer as many ripe plums as we could pick from the tree in the garden.
Music lives on…
Here is a recording I made on my phone one evening not long before Christmas last year. I had completely forgotten about it! It was one of those lovely impromptu moments at the end of a lesson where they would ‘play’ in the proper sense, this time Bella asked to hear what Ella had been learning in singing lessons at school and off they went!
I am sorry about the poor quality of the recording, I had little idea at the time how significant this would be on so many levels. I think you also, will hear some of the magic I heard happening that evening, whilst that cat sat purring on my lap…
“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever come to sit by it. Passersby see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on the way.” ~Vincent van Gogh
‘Disruptive Culture’ was my first blog set up in the heady days of 2007. I had jumped in to blogging feet first. Claiming my premier personal soapbox on the internet. My very first post was an interview with Tim Ferriss on the brink of launching his publishing sensation ‘The Four Hour Work Week‘. To say the ideas within the pages of the book had a profound and life-changing impact on me is an understatement.
The tag line for Disruptive Culture was a line from the film ‘Fight Club‘: You are not your job.
At the time I had dabbled in self-employment and over-workaholism. Many of the ideas expressed in Ferriss’ book I had realised through painful lessons but the philosophy and sheer belief in unrealistic ideals resonated at such a frequency that this weary entrepreneur was resuscitated with such gusto that I embarked on such a massively creative and daring attack on my business, personal and physical lives. The price for which I am still paying for on a daily basis (more on this later).
Today I visited the ‘Way Back Machine‘ on the Internet Archive to read what was going through my mind at the time. The blog post was the first and last that appeared on the site and I have this niggling feeling that I only set the blog up as a ploy to have direct access to Tim and ask him the smartest questions that I could think of at the time.
The blog post marks a milestone for me. Due to hit 30 decades orbiting Sol and a ludicrous self-made deadline for an unrealistic goal. Nothing could stand in my way – not even me. Except, I did.
I repeat the post below, along with comments, both for posterity and prosperity. I no longer own that URL.
Maybe when I hit that blue glowing ‘Publish’ button this time, it will flap the embers that are still glowing somewhere within.
Monday, May 14th, 2007
The 4-Hour Work Week
Anarchist and self-styled 9-5 iconoclast Tim Ferris is on a mission to wake us up from our zombie sleep. The deferred life plan is a un-workable in the information age, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You must WAKE UP. Now!
The saying goes ‘that success leaves clues’, well Ferriss’ new book apparently gives the wholeÂ game away.
Using the blueprint in his new book The Four Hour Work Week. He spells out how to get the split right and asks questions to challenge you – with clear pointers on how to get what you want from your work, life and if you still have one -your boss.
The revolution will be delegated
I sent a few questions to Tim Ferris. His answers are below.
What is the most inspirational thing someone has said to you?
“The surest way to fail is to try and make everyone happy.” It can’t be
done, and it’s the most liberating thing in the world to realize this.
Who is your biggest influence?
My parents, who exposed me to a richness of experience instead of material excess.
What effect do you hope your book will have on people?
I want a huge national backlash against overwork ethic. Being busy instead of productive is no way to spend life.
If you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
What was the last thing that made you laugh till you cried?
Shaun of the Dead
Anything else you want to say?
Big dreams are the only dream worth chasing. Don’t let others convince you to be mediocre. It’s a slow and painful fate worse than death.
The marketing campaign for 4HWW is a phenomenon in itself, meticulously strategized and implemented with aplomb manipulating social proof with the skill of Alistair Campbell. His ideas are spreading like a virus every now and then being boosted with a jab of an offer of a free round the world ticket or a nice Diggable blog-post or two. The book is rich in humanity and I challenge you to not let it change you for the better in some small way.
Where now? try never get a job.
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‘The Art of Sway’ is a phrase I mis-heard yesterday when a friend actually recommended a book entitled ‘The Artist’s Way’ but we joked that my mis-hearing was a fun title and I thought for a moment that ‘Sway’ was the word that captured the feeling I get when I am in the right ‘mode’ to create something. But I’ve observed this Sway many times, its in all things. Its a little like the feeling you get when you strum a guitar chord that’s in perfect tune.
My children have ‘Sway’, I see it when they dance. They are not planning their moves they just flow with the music, they feel the sound and it comes out in their movements. Uninhibited. We have to unlearn the form and structure that we use as a safety blanket, it can be more of a constricting scaffold. Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
When I had the opportunity to meet Quentin Blake a few years back to video him for The School Children’s Book Awards, I quietly watched him manifest an illustration of a ditty I gave him and as he drew it he explained that for a book he would usually sketch something spontaneously then use a light box to draw more controlled lines over his original idea on a clean sheet of paper. It was in his relaxed spontaneous state that the marks he made on the first sheet of paper captured the character and essence of the piece and I believe this is visible in all his work.
In his book ‘Getting Things Done’ David Allen discusses a frictionless state called ‘Swing’:
“Recall the pure joy of riding on a backyard swing: an easy cycle of motion, the momentum coming from the swing itself. The swing carries us; we do not force it.”. I think creating or expressing oneself is a case of not forcing it, just letting it flow.”
My friend John has sailed since he was a young lad and I was on his boat a couple of months ago intrigued to learn about navigation and enjoying all the linguistic parallels with goal setting (especially enjoying The Circle of Uncertainty ). John showed me all the complicated instruments and sails and how to tack and ‘this’ and ‘that’ and I said it all seemed pretty overwhelming. So much information. “How do you actually control this boat? It looks so complicated”. “Well”, he said “You just get a ‘feel’ for it, its quite musical. You know how it is when you are driving a car and you take a round-a-bout perfectly, you just swing round it – when you’re sailing well, well its just like that!”.
In learning martial arts over the past 5 years I have come out of a training session least damaged when I’ve gone in relaxed and with a clear mind, not trying and not thinking every move. Block! Punch! No. Its best just to have an attacking defence, relax and just let myself respond instinctively. Trusting that the idea of which response is best will just flow is the hardest thing, letting go and swinging with it.
Learning style and technique is about shaping and tidying up the ideas but the most important thing is to just let the ideas flow. Tidy up later.
Dead Beat poet writer Jack Kerouac had his Spontaneous Prose, (which is defined in its entirety here) that is grounded on a Mental State which he describes in his own words :
“as writing “without consciousness” in semi-trance allowing subconscious to admit in own uninhibited interesting necessary and so “modern” language what conscious art would censor, and write excitedly, swiftly, with writing-or-typing-cramps, in accordance (as from center to periphery) with laws of orgasm, Reich’s “beclouding of consciousness.” Come from within, out-to relaxed and said.”
Neil Gaiman speaks about his role as a writer as being a bit like a brick layer, building a structure. I found this idea initially terrifying, not being a bricklayer! Writing as if laying words down like bricks seems too much like hard work. I thought he meant that each word laid down was essential to the structure and each of equal importance but I think my original interpretation was wrong. If you have ever sat and watched a bricklayer at work and seen the way they move not in separate mechanical movements but with ‘sway’, scrape the cement up, slap it on a brick, flip the brick down, position, scrape excess cement, tap tap with the trowel and on to the next brick, its all in one flowing motion, the bricklayer is in an almost trance-like state.
Einstein regarded time and space as an undivided solid object, Alan Moore suggests our consciousness travels through this solid, “all time exists in a single infinite moment”, he says. If this is the case then Gaiman’s bricks become a flowing river and our words are the things we are travelling through. Creating and flowing is just a matter of jumping in the river and observing.
It was some time ago. I don’t remember the year but I was working at The Odeon in Camden Town whilst holding down a degree at London Guildhall University. The job was the best ever. Watching films and being paid. A strict diet of popcorn, washed down with coke followed by Haagen Dazs icecream was on the menu almost every night and when Wagamamas opened around the corner no appearance of James Lavelle or Jonathon Ross would tempt me away from the tub of Yaki Udon fat noodles for £5.65. For only a pound more than the local Chinese takeaway’s chow mein I soon spread this new habit amongst the rest of the staff.
But beyond the late night staff screenings, clocking-inout machines and high sugar low nutrition diet, I was attempting various forays in to the music scene. DJing, promoting, starting a radio station, writing for the university rag and College Music Update under the moniker D77. On reflection I don’t know where all the energy came from.
I’d befriended a handful of music-industry people through the relentless blagging and found myself one day outside the poster covered frontage of EMI records on Goldhawk Road. It was like some sort of magic doorway. The glass frontage was plastered with pictures promoting the next big thing. It seemed as though the only way to enter was if you wore rollerskates and sped blindly in to the wall. But I found the sliding glass pane and it opened for me.
I tried to act cool, like this was normal but it was the first time i’d been there. I was slightly awestruck by the Beatles platinum discs and huge TV’s with MTV silently playing. But ultimately it was an office building. Housed inside was an office that my music business pal walked me to. He had established a safe haven for artists to develop, something of an independent label but a smart venture that would negate the need to buy out an indie label for the sake of one cash-cow and all the expensive and inconvenience that would go with that. He called it Regal Recordings. Not boasting, just businesslike he said he’d just come off the phone from T-Love’s manager, arranging flights to the UK. He wanted to sign her to the label. I’d heard a the female MC, T-Love track just a couple of days before at Mr Bongo on Poland Street and liked it enough to ask who it was.
As I sank down in to the big black leather chair and noticed the stacks of CD cases on the desk, floor and various other surfaces. I became aware of how the room was more of a lounge than office and the separates sound system and little monitors were the centre pieces.
“Take a listen to this”, he said as he pulled a silver disc with blue marker pen out of its crystal case with three words scribbled in capital letters ‘PUSH IT OUT’. “They just biked it over”. Then the swirling heavy rain started landing on the cymbal and the room began to hum. I was all ears and electrified by the moment that I was one of the very first people to hear The Beta Band’s newest song. What did the lyric mean? “push it out” over and over again. The words repeated and lost their meaning then wove amongst the piano, cymbal, drum, growing layer by layer building something fantastic. A timpani drum now. Swirling and building up to an acoustic melody and more layers of vocals. The volume seemed far too loud for an office but this was the music by business. Music is supposed to be played loudly. You have to feel it. And it ended. I didn’t understand it but I knew I liked it.
Ah. The energy came from the music.
About 4 years ago I volunteered at the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature. It was a wild 10 days and a massive amount of fun. I had the good fortune to survive an encounter with a very real child of Davros from the ever popular Doctor WHO mythos. In the short time I had speaking with the Dalek I was able to ask some questions, and in the dark dry-ice filled chamber I scribbled away the tin-covered monsters answers.
For posterity and fun I recount the interview right here!
It was my privilege to do the reveal, and peel back the curtain to the thundering theme tune of Doctor Who – with thick dry ice, lightening strobe flights and screams of delight from the kids… THE DALEK. “Exterminate, exterminate, we are the Daleks” etc etc.
But before the rambunction I was confined to actors left, backstage with my captive audience – who surprisingly, for a Dalek was quite friendly.
Do you ever worry about being typecast?
Well it does look good on my CV and thankfully I don’t get stopped in the street.
What’s your motivation?
Well, the way I see it is that it’s a rather confined space and quite uncomfortable and hot I take it as an opportunity to take revenge on the world.
How do you audition for this type of role?
Well about 12 years ago a friend of mine was on the crew and they needed an actor. Years later my name was discovered on a sheet of paper when they were starting the series up again and I got a call.
By this time nerves of my big role started to bubble I thought I’d leave the Dalek to get in to character. “I’ll leave you to meditate then”, “nah, it’s okay – I’ll just send some text messages”.
Insomnia is my Kryptonite. For various reasons i’ve battled with insomnia for the past several years. Get sleep right and everything follows: discipline, energy, creativity, inspiration feedback loops, more energy and action to make things happen. Here are some of the actions and ideas i’ve experimented with to overcome insomnia and get a good nights kip.
1. Cold Baths
1 Hour before bed take a 10 minute (time it) ice bath or freezing cold bath. Immerse yourself gradually – its uncomfortable to begin with but really really effective! Apparently a brief warm shower afterwards (as the japanese do) also helps but as we haven’t got a shower (yet) I missed that part out. The science explanation is that it tricks your body in to releasing the right brain narcotic to knock you out. The first time I tried this I slept like a brick for just 4 hours and awoke revitalised.
2. Recognise Night-time Wakefulness
Realise that night-time wakefulness is actually a normal phenomenonononon. Some scientist somewhere (possibly writing for a Sunday newspaper supplement) coined the misnomer that we need at least 8 hours sleep. Fact is that 8 hours continuous sleep will give you the false guilty wake-time in the early hours. There is nothing wrong with waking up in the night. Nothing at all. All mammals do it, there is a hypothesis that suggests that night-time wakefulness evolved as a defensive reflex to guard against predators.The minute you get over the guilt that you should be asleep, the minute you get over forcing it. Get up for an hour, walk about, read a little.
3. Avoid bright lights in the evening
Don’t look in to bright lights, don’t surf the internet. bedside lights should have 40w or lower bulbs in them. Ideally, avoid switching on the lights altogether. Don’t watch TV after dark, most TV is rubbish.
4. Protect your senses
Wear an eyemask and ear plugs. Noise and light stimulate the brain – protect against it.
A note on eating in the night. Don’t do it. The minute you start the habit, the minute to are setting your bodies alarm clock to wake the following day. I’ve read you can reset your body clock when travelling through fasting. This phenomena is called anticipatory waking. Some of us become alert 2-3 hours prior to eating. If you eat in the night your sabotaging your sleep. This was a big mistake for me as I find it hard to load up enough calories in the day time. Routine. Mealtimes at set times. Let the monkey brain know who’s boss.
6. Avoid stimulants & depressants
Speaking of calories. don’t eat/drink stimulants up to 6 hours before bed. Coffee addiction leads to withdrawal during nighttime fasting and twitchiness. Wine/Alcohol reduces the amount of REM sleep attainable so that rough feeling after a night on the town is also attributable to the low quality sleep even if you were comatose. This isn’t an issue for me because i don’t drink. And Im not telling you to become a monk. Just don’t binge out every night. Keep it down to less than 2 nights a week.
7. Waking up with a clear head
Have a small low glycemic index snack before bed. Some carrots or something. Not fruit, biscuits or sweets. Use an alarm clock to wake you in the morning. Go to bed when you feel sleepy at night – time may vary but listen to your body.
Your results may vary but please share anything else that works for you.
According to the Big Bang Theory, everything that exists has been around in one form or another for about 13.7 billion years. Measuring the age of individual components within the Universe is a bit of a joke as technically we are all 13.7 billion years old.
It is a little known fact that the celebratory song sang on the anniversary of an individual member of a species’ orbit round the nearest stellar object shares the same melody anywhere in the galaxy and probably universe.
One particular planet of note is Jabar-el-tezz-E-79-Alphabeeta where the tune is sung through out the 482 continents, what is peculiar (peculiar in this instance as it was awarded ‘most peculiar fact of the year’ 18 consecutive years in a row at the Bejazzle Gamma Delta Annual ‘Interesting Facts About the Universe Awards’ for being the gross mis-understatement [sic] of the year) is the fact that none of the natives of these countries had ever made contact with the other due to the vertical acid seas unique to the planet.
The prize was not awarded a 19th time as an independent adjudicator of the Universal Guinisss Book of Records noted that at the 18th Annual Awards a representative from each of the 482 countries’ national birthday song institute attended the after-show party at the Bejazzle Gamma Delta bi-centennial awards – united for the first time ever (through innovations developed by the Alkaline Interstellar Corporation).
All 482 representatives joined together in an impromptu rendition of ‘Harp-EEE-Beerth-Deayi-tewyoo’, at which time an accident involving a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, a bit too much Beerth-Deayi Cake and a hat led several representatives to experience temporal existential crises inextricably causing a local temporal event returning all the guest to their native lands precisely 482 years (years being relative in this context) prior to the date they left.
Guinness Book representative Nor-EEs MaRg+Wirrrrtah hypothesized that the origin of the anniversary melody coincidence was the after-show party sing-song. Though this does not explain why or how the tune has been observed on one spectrum or another on every single inhabited planet in the galaxy.
In addition, the melody has also been heard on uninhabited worlds such as Blarg-Tar-979 where it is generated by light refracting off the crystalline rock falls and Shamshal-Tello 4 and by the winds blowing through the 482 mile Glelty-Flarl canyon.
The significance of the number 482 is something that Intergalactic Orbital Anniversary Anthropologists do their best to avoid thinking about.
Apologies to Douglas Adams