The home of the haikulator

 

Links

My Stand-up & gigs
The Coding Craftsman
BurberryAndBroccoli
MarkInventions

The Musical!
Incredible Productions

apostrophell
backlash
incredible
haiku


Previous Posts

I Know What I Did This Summer
Funny Old Week
The History of The Haikulator
There Must Be 50 Ways To Make A Gig Difficult
History Repeating
Hi, we’re calling from Some Criminals.com
An Open Letter To HSBC
Pay What Now?
Outro
Hearing the music

Blog Archives

October 2001
November 2001
December 2001
January 2002
February 2002
March 2002
April 2002
May 2002
June 2002
July 2002
August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002
December 2002
January 2003
February 2003
March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
August 2009
September 2009
January 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
October 2011
December 2011
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
May 2014
July 2014
January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016
July 2016
August 2017
January 2018
August 2018
September 2018
July 2019
August 2019

Global Domination

Locations of visitors to this page

Monday, August 19

I Know What I Did This Summer

It’s time for my annual August blog post. I used to post far more regularly, but... you know... life and stuff.

I always believe I’ll come back from the Fringe fizzing with ideas and just, kind of, shit out a new show, or at least 20 minutes of zinger material. There’s something about the Edinburgh bubble that activates my comedy synapses and also the bit of me that imagines I’m funnier than I actually am.

I am quite funny...

... mainly because of dogged determination and practice. I’ve been a stand-up comedian for nearly 17 years FFS. If I hadn’t learned how to be funny, I’d probably have stopped.

So, as is customary, this is a blog post from a train to a blog I seldom update and nobody but me reads. Hello me from the future... turgid, isn’t it?

Anyhoo, the lady across from me on the train has just opened a banana the wrong way. But she hadn’t fathomed out how to open her coffee cup lid either, so I’m not too surprised. It was one of those cups where you have to tear off a flip up flap - a flip-flap - to open a mouth hole; the flap is then reflexively secured by plastic jaws to the lid. To be honest, it’s a pretty unfeasible system and hard to guess at. It’s also a real waste of ingenuity, given the fact that the cup and its lid won’t compost and will kill us all.

Anyway. The point is that this is the journey back from Fringe number 18.

That’s a number derived from last year’s. Let’s double check the maths.

I went to two Fringes in the nineties. 1994, and 1995. During these I saw the likes of Lee and Herring, Greg Proops, Mark Little, Mervyn Stutter... you know what, I can’t really remember. There was definitely Richard Thomas in the mix, with a character I can’t remember, but a song I can. Peter Baynham too... It’s been a while.

I resumed going in 2002. Performed for the first time in 2003. Did “The Musical!” In 2004, “The Great Big Comedy Picnic” from 2005 onwards. Hannah George and I did “The Seven Deadly Jokes” in 2009, year one of “The Seven Deadly Sings” was 2010, in 2011, I did a rework of the show and also got married (not at the Fringe). 2012 was my last year of doing shows with Discograffiti. I’d been to 11 consecutive Fringes, performing at 10 of them.

We started visiting the Fringe again in 2015 doing what is now an annual long-weekend - Friday afternoon to Sunday night (with a guilty slink back on Monday morning to our waiting children - we leave them with my parents, not just in the left luggage at the station). So that’s 2015, 16, 17, 18, 19 - 5 consecutive years.

So 2 + 11 + 5 = 18. My wife’s at 9 years of this.

It’s not really about keeping score.

I’m definitely keeping score.

This year we saw 18 shows. That’s a pretty respectable hit rate. I remember bygone years of doing 9 show days, but my memory may be faulty, and I didn’t stop to eat as much then as I might do now.

To have seen 7 shows yesterday was made all the more impressive by the fact that we crossed town a ridiculous number of times into the bargain. The Edinburgh North/South or New Town/Old Town divide was in full force this year. We wanted to see things which involved nipping from The Assembly Rooms to Bristo Square - the home of The Gilded Balloon Teviot site and The Pleasance Dome (among others).

These old legs can walk, apparently. Recent advances in my fitness (or reversals of my unfitness) have stood me in good stead. Edinburgh is a city in which I often feel I have boundless energy, and that’s not all caused by the Irn Bru.

It’s odd to be messing around in a city when the country is falling apart and the narrative around environment is much the same. This is a place where you can be both informed and distracted from the awful truth of the world. Maybe it was ever thus, maybe it’s the end of days...

I’ll answer that in next year’s post...

...maybe.

Sunday, August 11

Funny Old Week

It's been a funny old week. So much so that I'm onto my second post of the year on this blog.

If the truth were told, I'm clearly not blogging on here like the diarist I once was. I've gone from an almost religious zeal to tell each day as it happened, or at least blog about the major appointments in my diary (I'm pretty sure I wrote most of 2005 retrospectively like homework).

Last year: 4 posts.

This is post two of 2019.

Highlights of the week:


  • Did two gigs
  • Went to a circus (today)
  • Got rained on randomly a lot
  • Was offered money for the rights to my online training course
Whatta week!

If ever there was a moment's thought that my life is glamourous and going well, let's quickly establish that I was offered a mere $100 for the unlimited distribution rights to a training course that's supposed to sell on Udemy.com at $9.99 per student. I declined. Offers like that are as much insulting as they are ridiculous.

Similarly, the trip to the circus was interesting and fun, but somehow not quite the exciting thing it could have been. Call me a jaded old performer, but the crow work and structuring of a circus show seem thin and transparent and for me take away from the skill of the performers. That said, it's a matter of taste.

I for one, don't like it when the staff start applause breaks every 15 seconds or so, and I also really despise shows which run on the basis that the audience want to stand up at the end, sing along and dance... and especially I abhor shows which end with the audience on the stage.

If I'm going to go onto a stage, I'll do it because I'm the performer. Otherwise I'd prefer that I sat and enjoyed something inventive and entertaining which I can't see through.

Talking of paper-thin performances... I closed a new material night in Hereford this week and it was fun. Some of the new acts were exactly what you'd expect of new acts. There were a couple of brilliant older comedians from Cheltenham, who were a complete delight to watch and had me roaring with laughter. As a comedian, when you're cheek-achingly laughing at an act who is earlier on the bill than you, there's always a part of you thinking "how the hell can I follow that!?" but that's insecurity at best. 

Every comedian can follow the previous ones. Go out there and do your best!

Last night I opened at a gig I thought I was MCing. It's a regular show I do in Bristol. Last week I opened, the first time I'd done a set there. Warming up last week's crowd took more work than MCing them, but by the end I'd dissolved their resistance and dissolved my own sense of decorum. I found myself riffing on something or other which sort of worked, but was half formed.

On the way back to the car last week, I did a what I should have said in my head, and decided to incorporate that into the bit of the set where it had happened. I tried that out on Thursday and it worked (enough to try again, at least).

Where last night I was expecting to shoe-horn it into a non-set bit of my MCing, arriving at the venue it seemed there were two MCs and no opening act. Great... a quick rush back to the car (20 minutes of power walking - good for the weightloss) and I'm back as the opening act.

So a week after making it up on that stage, I'm doing the corrected version of a bit of silliness, and to be honest I felt both delighted and cheapened by the reaction it got. Delighted, because this is how stand-up works: perform, invent, refine, perform, perfect... but cheapened, because my Sodastream Knob bit is hardly going to go down as a bit of literature!

It's all daftness... and that's worth the driving, walking and getting drenched in the British flash monsoon season for.

Saturday, July 20

The History of The Haikulator

A recent tweet after someone discovered The Haikulator has rekindled my love of the old thing.

There were 7 versions made. I suspect they varied mainly in the number of phrases they contained and I think one of the early increments added a counter so that the haiku generated was given a permutation number out of the maximum number of possible haikus. It started out as 100,000 or so and rose to 350,000.

To call it a haiku generator is a little bit of a misnomer. It's really a haiku fruit machine. It comes with a bunch of first, second and third lines, each of which was written in isolation, with the idea of evoking abstract ambiguous feelings. The real generation of a haiku happens in the reader's head, where the three lines are put together and you can't help but try to make sense of them.

I followed up the haiku generator with some other sentence generators; I've written loads of them over the years, but the Haikulator is still a favourite.

I'm trying to find some research on Haikus that I helped with. The paper, written by David Platt, is cited in this article on Haiku analysis. I provided two bits of help to David. One thing I did was provide him a tool to turn his Haiku analysis numbers into fake 1D Gel Electrophoresis images so he could abuse an analysis package of such images to create Dendrograms showing the relationships of his Haikus.

The other bit of help I provided was giving him the Haikulator. He used the machine-generated haikus as a control group with his analysis. If I track down the exact article, I'll be able to clarify my original memory that the machine-generated poetry came up as an outlier in the analysis... perfect!

I have some plans for the Haikulator in the next few months - why not rekindle an old friendship for today's generation!?

While I have the facts in my head, it's probably worth recapping the history of the thing.

If David Platt wrote his article for June 2000's issue of Blithe Spirit, which I believe he did - reference "Fingerprinting Haikus: Help, Hindrance or Heresy?" - then this means I wrote the Haikulator in 2000. Early 2000, perhaps. My own records suggest that it first appeared on this site - which was both a blog and a set of static web pages - in around January 2001. However, it's quite clear that the January 2001 version - still available here - was an update. It was version 3.

Earlier versions are lost in the mists of time, I suspect.

The Haikulator got me through some tough times. In May 2002 my life was turned around by a long-term relationship ending and a new life starting as a consequence. As part of rebooting myself, I threw myself more and more into the things which entertained me.

I now can't remember which year it was that I had three polo shirts made with Haikulator'ed haikus on them. It may have been 2002 it may have been 2003. I remember rattling round the Edinburgh Fringe with my haiku shirts and attracting some attention as a result. The girl in Starbucks who leaned over the counter to read my breast made my day. Let's just say the feeling was somewhat mutual.

Forgive the younger me!

I remain fascinated by the way that meaningless words, interpreted by a human, create such glee.

My most recent foray into computer-generated text is the slightly flawed Excuse Generator.

I think the Haikulator is due a renaissance. Watch this space!

Friday, September 28

There Must Be 50 Ways To Make A Gig Difficult

Ask any comedian for a list of things that might make a gig difficult, they would probably tell you some of the following:

  • Free entry - the dearth of the stand-up gig - nobody cares/has committed
  • No separate room - it's almost like people went out to the pub and a comedy club happened among them
  • Nobody knows the comedy is on
  • Nobody in the venue is organising the show - they're too busy doing other stuff
  • People are being distracted by being served food or drink during the show
  • The comedy risks getting in the way of someone's dessert
  • The seating doesn't naturally make everyone face the stage
  • There's noise coming from something else - music, other people, the outside world
  • There are other distractions - TV, fruit machine etc
  • The people present are of the wrong age - too young, sometimes too old
In short, if the person staging the night at the venue hasn't thought it through, or hasn't created an environment in which comedy can happen, then the comedy won't happen. Comedy is not about comedians talking into a PA system, it's about creating an atmosphere and environment in which people can share a joke.

In case of any doubt, the criticism here is aimed at non comedy folk. Any comedian or promoter with any amount of experience would know this.

Today I suggested to a hotel manager that he might be better paying me not to perform rather than paying me to antagonise some unsuspecting patrons in his bar.

He acquiesced and sent the comedy night into a separate(ish) space.

Thus one of the most stressful days of my comedy career ended in laughter.

Monday, August 20

History Repeating

History is unreliable. Stories through the telling take on a truth of their own, quite different to the objective facts of the time. Often this is gradual, though sometimes it’s a very deliberate act of one’s own psychological survival to quickly recreate the narrative with yourself as the valiant hero.

Let’s just say it’s been an eventful few months.

Sitting there, as a weird lighthouse in the sea of my life, is the Edinburgh Fringe. My relationship with it is deep and complex, but always lovely. I’ve never had a single year where I regretted being there for the reasons I went there. I’ve always had sensible expectations and always met or exceeded them... or so the story goes.

This year’s trip is, if records are to be believed, my 17th. The Fringe itself has been running in some form or other since 1947, meaning this is the 72nd. I’ve been to more than a quarter of them!

My wife has just finished her 8th Fringe. I’m the sole reason she started coming to them...  I think it’s fair to say she’s as fully invested as I am!

The festival seems to be a constant across time, with the same venues reappearing out of the mist each year, only to disappear at the end of August as though they were never there... but it is changing. The biggest change is the market.

Audience expectations move year on year. This year, the expectation is that you can pay for free Fringe show buckets using cashless payment. The “kids” have different sensibilities and different ideas of what a festival entails.

Most importantly, though, the market in Edinburgh is heading towards its own ultimate destruction. If you had a decent touring show, you’d be better touring it. If you’re making one, then Edinburgh is still a good place to rough it into shape... This means there are some, but not too many real diamonds hiding in the programme. There are plenty of great shows, though... but the economics of doing a show in a saturated market, where a huge phalanx of performers is competing for the same audience and accommodation as you, means you need to run several shows. Each performer staging multiple shows saturates the market even further, growing the number of venues, the number of other show spots to fill, consequently the size of the supply, while the demand is not growing at nearly the same rate.

At some weird future extinction event, there will be one performer running around 500 venues, doing a few seconds in each, chased by an audience of 3, who have each paid 35 quid per show minute for the privilege, while a bunch of young people drink themselves to death in astroturfed concrete car parks at 20 quid a pint, served in reusable bendy plastic cups.

I’ll probably still be going to the Fringe when that happens.

Saturday, August 4

Hi, we’re calling from Some Criminals.com

Having recently set up a company, I understand that it can be hard to determine your best business model, and hard to perfect your attack on the market. One company that is really pushing itself hard is best called “Not really BT”. I say that because they ring us up relatively frequently, claiming to be BT when it’s quite clear that they’re anything but actually BT.

I’ve had some minor adventures with them in the past. Sometimes they claimed to be calling from Microsoft, telling me they’d detected a fault on my computer. One one occasion I pretended to have a Mac (living the dream, eh) and tried to do what they were telling me, complaining that my screen didn’t have on it what they were asking me to click on. I wasn’t at the computer - I’d made it up. When I said I didn’t have Internet Explorer, but could use Safari, they asked “Don’t you have Windows” and I said “Well, you told me you’d found a problem with MY computer; don’t YOU know?”. They hung up.

One guy claiming to be from Microsoft told me he was called Martin Short, so I launched into a tirade around how much I loved his movies, especially The Three Amigos (great film). He hung up.

The other day a woman claiming to be from BT spouted nonsense at me about hackers and servers and when she paused I said “Look, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to ring people up to try to exploit them. You could get a better job that’s not so dishonest.” Without missing a beat she told me to go fuck myself and hung up on me. Seriously, it’s hard to give careers advice in IT these days.

I’ve always wanted to explore these scams deeper. I say always, I mean I’ve kind of wanted for some time... so after my careers advice call was so rudely terminated, I went onto my Mac: yes I have a real Mac now, not a pretend one - don’t worry it also dual boots to Windows, so I’ve not entirely sold my soul to Apple: also Microsoft... I went onto my Mac and I installed a fresh Windows within VirtualBox. In short, this simulation of a computer is running a Windows with nothing installed on it except a web browser. It knows nothing about me other than my name and has no access to any of my private files... but it lives in a sandbox on my computer.

Having created the pretend computer, I took a clone of it and called that the honeypot. I fear I may have misnamed it - it should really be called honey trap. Honeypot sounds like a euphemism for something naughty, but I’m not going to google that in a hurry to check.

The honeypot can be compromised as many times as you like and it can be wiped in 20 seconds and rebuilt from the original in 5 minutes. In other words it’s a playground where I can watch hackers trying to fool me, knowing that they’re wasting all of our time. Similarly, as it’s not real and has never been used in the real world, there’s zero chance of it having caught any viruses or having been compromised in any other way.

On Tuesday another hacker called. I ran up the stairs giddy with excitement and quickly started up the honeypot computer on my real computer and turn on screen recording with my phone on speakerphone.



What occurred is a play in three acts.

In act 1, there is the ridiculous attempt by the scammers to blind me with science and take control of my computer, the situation and my confidence. We’ll come to try techniques they use in a bit. In act 2, at around 36:46 in the above video, I reach a point where I no longer want to play, partly because it was taking so long, and partly because the request they made would have genuinely compromised my security, so I reveal that I’m an IT specialist and that they’ve been trapped in a virtual computer all along and that I can see through their lies and bullshit.... it took a lot of pushing from me for the fellow on the other end to accept that the game was up. In act 3, the human behind behind the scam - someone who has a shitty job in a criminal call centre in a deprived country - spoke to me as a human, with no script, with his own feelings and fears, and I shut up and listened... or at least backed off enough for him to be heard. He may even give up this game one day as a result.

Before I explain the con (briefly - watch it to see more) I should say that I came into this aware that some people go for jobs in what they think is genuine IT support, then learn during induction that they’ll be exploiting people for criminal gain... some walk away, some have no option but to stay and probably some feel entitled to skim money off whom they imagine are wealthy foreigners.

The con seems to be tiered. The first person you speak to is a robot asking you to press 1 for support. The idea being to filter out people who don’t answer, or who don’t think they might have a computer problem that needs support.

The next person is there to ask you to do stuff. When it’s clear that you’re pliable and will follow instruction, you’re passed onto the next person who walks you through setting up some software that gives them control of your computer. Bizarrely they use two tools at the same time. Any Desk and Team Viewer. One of the things they try to minimise is your perception of what these are and what access you’re handing over to the people on the other end.

Finally you are handed over to a hacker. This is the person who will ramp up the social engineering claims, suggesting how important it is to catch hackers, and who will also be driving the control of your computer while, and this is the clever bit trying to convince you that you’re doing it. My hacker “Mark Robinson” probably not his real name, was getting me to do all manner of silly things including typing the command “I want to know how many hackers are activate on my server” into a command prompt... and when I hit return, he pasted in a command to make my machine actually appear to do stuff. Luckily he pulled the trick twice so I saw what he was doing as it flashed past the second time.

So you think there’s a problem (they have you look in spurious error logs to start the process), you think BT are fixing the problem for you by telling you what to do, and you’ve forgotten that they’re watching and controlling your computer during the call.

After they earn your trust they will eventually hold your computer to ransom unless you pay them.

People fall for this.

I hope the above video, in which I deliberately slow them down and waste their time will be useful to show people about the dangers of being scammed/hacked. Similarly I hope people will look at the victim on the other end of the phone - he deserves a better life than this, but has fallen into something quite wrong.

The best defence against this is everyone being wise to it. Then they will stop as there’ll be no market for it.

Share!

Monday, January 15

An Open Letter To HSBC

I'm truly sick of the antiquated services offered by HSBC. They recently reskinned their online banking experience and attempting to use it has cemented how truly out of touch the organisation is with the modern information age.

Here's a letter to them which I can't send by email as they don't provide email support, having opted for "Live Chat" or Twitter. While you might applaud such a modern idiom for support, I can't help but think that it's probably motivated by cost-saving, rather than forward thinking.

Dear HSBC,

I've had the misfortune to be a customer of yours for the last five or so years. Given that you still own much of my house, and your mortgage rates aren't too extortionate, I don't see that I can escape this relationship anytime soon.

While nothing has gone wrong with any of my accounts or security, nothing you have provided can be described as excellent in any way. There were a few moments when one of your live chat representatives explained how I could pay a lump sum off my mortgage, which was helpful. Apart from that, banking with you has been a massive inconvenience.

I've complained about this before, but let's start gently with your insistence that I should pay money in at a branch using your automated machines. I'm all for automation. Especially when you try to prevent me from seeing a cashier - hiding them in hard to reach corners of some of your branches. The thing is I'm expected to fill in a form to pay money in via a machine. Then input that same data into the machine. A form!? In 2018! If your automated machine just a front for a 1970s paying in slip?

That would be fine, but the machines tend to be very fussy about paper that may one have slightly bent, rejecting attempts to use them.

My solution to this these days is to go across the road to the Lloyds branch where I still have a minor account, paying in the money via their machine which just works and doesn't require me to use a pen and then transferring the money across to my HSBC account if I need to.

Look what you made me do!

That's just my warm-up complaint. The real problem is with your online banking. I don't know where you got usability experts from, but you need to replace them. Allow me to describe the annoyance you put me through last night while I tried to pull some figures together for a tax return.

In order to calculate the expenses that are allowable for tax, I need to read historic transactions from 18 months ago. I can't search for them by name as the search is limited to 12 months. To read transactions for certain dates I need to work out which statement they would be on. This involves setting the statement year, looking through the list of statement documents, which are dated for the last day of the statement, trying to augur which documents I've read so far, and which one covers the right date range, clicking into it to review transactions and then, when done, clicking on a button to return to the list of statements which adds a few seconds of delay as the whole user-interface re-loads.

That "Loading..." box is the thing which destroys my concentration, makes me lose my place, makes it harder to remember which statement I now need to drill into and slows down an already clunky workflow. Did I mention that the choice of on-screen layout, which seems optimised for giant square screens that don't exist, reducing the likelihood that anything I want to see is on the screen without scrolling?

I should point out that I work in IT, so I'm immediately aware of some of the reasons this is the way it is. Your underlying data model involves documents, not keeping the transactions kicking around, hence the date limited search and the document-centric browsing of historic data.

I can't believe, however, that in a world where people can scroll comfortably through terrabytes of news feed data on the likes of Twitter or Facebook, that a bank can't provide me with a timeline of every transaction that's ever occurred on my account in a way that's seemlessly usable. Any excuse you might come up with about what's technically possible is eclipsed by the fact that there are countless examples of ease of use online proving you wrong.

Talking of ease of use, it's time that you got rid of that annoying secure key. The idea may justify some security expert's sense of self-worth, but you can't honestly expect your customers to either carry around a losable flimsy bit of plastic, or wait until they're near it to conduct their transaction. Yes, I know you can do a lot without it, but not everything. It honestly beats me why on earth you think that my mobile phone, with more compute power than a moon launch, and dedicated encryption hardware, is less secure than your silly little random number generator.

To conclude I'm trapped in this abusive relationship with your inadequate information technologists. To move bank would be problematic, to remain leaves me banging my head against the desk in despair.

Yours, a disgruntled customer.

Monday, August 14

Pay What Now?

I’ve charged for shows at the Fringe in the classic paid-venue model. I’ve run free shows, which are horribly named after the venue cost to the performer, rather than the expectation on the audience. There’s nothing Free about the Free Fringe. The recent Pay What You Want model seems to be the most confusing of all, though.

If a pay what you want show is being charged the usual guarantee on box office sales that a paid show is being charged, with similar commissions and ticket printing costs, etc, then the pay what you want element is really a way to give out additional comps in the hope of receiving tips in a manner pretty damaging to business. Surely the point of the non paid venue route is that you reduce your risk as a producer?

The pay what you want model offered by “Heroes of Comedy”, at venues like Monkey Barrel, is a lot fairer. The venue takes a modest registration fee and a small cut of any box office sales. The show gets the rest, including anything that goes into the bucket. Great, right?

I reckon not.

A quick overview of the model, first. The performances are ticketed. The tickets are not 100% of the seating allocation, but probably close to that. Tickets are maybe £5. If the show sells out, you have to wait outside in the hope of getting in, but you’re also effectively told the show is full, so you may not. If the show is not sold out, you can show up without a ticket and get in. At the end of the show, the bucket speech is there to ask non ticket holders for a voluntary contribution.

This seems to make sense. It’s confusing when there’s a sell out, since you feel like you can’t get in, and might decide to leave on that basis, except in both shows I chanced my arm at waiting for, I got in.

I think it’s actually wrong… if your show is good.

Let’s take Phil Nichol’s show as an example. Most people had paid £5. I was in for free. He did the bucket speech, including asking for a tenner for a USB stick of cool stuff. I gave him a tenner. Most of his audience would have given him £5 a head for that show, and some of those would have given him the tenner, but since they’d all already paid, most people walked away from his bucket.

My view is that the model limits the audience members to a minimum payment and limits the size of the audience to the ticket allocation… by default.

In other words, to prevent the risk of being underpaid, or having lack of commitment from audience planning to see your show, you forego the opportunity to be paid nearly twice as much.

When we saw Stuart Goldsmith in 2015, his free show bucket speech put a clear price on the ticket, way above the average for a free show. The show was good and he got paid its worth. More than you’d dare put on a ticket price for a “reservation against a pay what you want price”.

Pay what you want bucket speeches are generally more awkward than free venue speeches, because you have to accept that ticket holders are already under no obligation to pay and probably shouldn’t.

I think the model doesn’t work. I also think it doesn’t NOT work. It’s more of a Five Pound Fringe with a Free Fringe stand-by queue… confusing for punters.


That said, the venues are very nice!

Outro

Here I am, fighting the Blogger app on the iPad on the train back from the Fringe. It’s time like this that I remember why I don’t like travelling with other people. I’m surrounded by some squawking tossers who don’t seem to know how to find their seats, how to carry their luggage, how to keep their children occupied, and some of them smell mysteriously of carrot and coriander soup.


I guess the obvious answer is that some people eat soup before they travel and it takes away most of their common sense.


Ignoring a possible trip to a Fringe show as a child, I’ve been to a lot of Fringes. I came twice when I was a student (94 and 95, I think). Since then, I started coming again in 2002, performing from 2003. My daughter was born at the end of 2012, so we missed 2013 and 2014 and then picked up again in 2015. No, you’re right, this isn’t that interesting a collection of raw data. What’s the final answer? Well, this year is my 16th visit to the Fringe.


A lot has changed in the course of the Fringe in the time I’ve known it, but some constants remain:


You can’t see it all.

There’ll always be some tosser spoiling something or other.

The city is full of naive young people.

Some oddly posh person is examining their fellow man as though specimens.

Some people are learning the craft in a most embarrassing way.

There are examples of utter genius lurking around the corner.

Genuine true-blue performers are always going to be appreciated…

… except the unlucky ones who accidentally land somewhere obscure.

Edinburgh’s geography will take its toll.

Time will temporarily cease to function correctly.

Emotions fluctuate.

Money is an abstract concept.

Keeping score is pointless.


All of which means that commenting on a Fringe visit is pretty tricky to get right, so I won’t try to capture the essence of this one.


We saw 16 shows in the time between arriving at 3ish on Friday and our last show on Sunday night - 11.30pm. That’s not a personal record, nor is it a bad showing.


I delightedly bumped into various folks I know from the stand-up circuit, and wished to have said hello to even more old friends and colleagues, some of whom I spotted, and many of whom clearly had better things to do than stand on street corners in the hope of bumping into me.


These visits are not long enough to fill the Fringe shaped hole in my year, but they are the best we can do, and they’re great.


Wednesday, July 20

Hearing the music

Creativity is a funny old beast. There are some people who make a living from generating ideas and writing high quality drafts of things. There are some of those who can make the magic happen to order a little each day. Then there are those who go through a boom and bust cycle where either inspiration or motivation are lacking, and then suddenly the tap is full flow and won't switch off. The latter can be caused by a looming deadline.

Professionally in my non creative side, which I'm quite creative with in my own way, I can just about force the little each day approach, or indeed a lot each day. In general though, I'm the boom or bust sort. Either I'm in the zone or I'm not.

I've a lot to get a handle on in the next week or so. Some decisions to make, some events to prepare for... Much to do!

I couldn't muster the inspiration. I've used my trick of making it happen to me by attack of the diary. This works to a point, but it doesn't quite turn on the tap.

Then, this evening, as time was running out, ideas started coming to me. Silly nuggets of stuff, edits, fresh takes on things. Even a shopping list of old things to revisit...

It's a bit like the radio was turned on and I could hear the music coming from it.

It's nice when your thought processes kick in.

Perhaps I had made it happen too. Yesterday I went swimming to find inspiration. I found water and cool water at that. I also found aching muscles that had been hiding, dormant. Novelty breeds novelty, I guess.

If I were a better writer, I'd know how to end thi....

Saturday, July 9

When to quit

If you're in a situation where:

  • You have to beg to get the slightest of things done
  • Your contribution is undervalued
  • Efforts around you go into things of arguably less importance/urgency than your work
  • The default answer to your any suggestion is no
  • You feel like you're doing all the work
  • When you go the extra mile to reach out to the others, they act as normal

Then get out of that situation.

It's a case of change your circumstances or change your circumstances. Maybe you can make things better, or maybe making things better means giving up.

On balance, a recent decision I made to stop doing a project has proved to be the perfect outcome for me.

All content ©2001 - 2012 Ashley Frieze