Tag Archives: SA4QE

April fools

This week’s April Fools’ Day is already starting to look like old hat (my excuse for not posting on the day itself being that I was in London – working, not protesting, although sympathising with most of the protesters, while thinking it was a shame that Barack Obama’s first visit to the UK couldn’t have been more of a celebration).

Even so, my favourite was the Guardian’s story that it would no longer be available in print but only on Twitter, with every story compressed to 140 characters. This included its 188-year news archive: “JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?” The claim that “Currently, 17.8% of all Twitter traffic in the United Kingdom consists of status updates from Stephen Fry” may well not have been a spoof, and the paper gets extra marks for its combination of the Guardian and Twitter into “Gutter” and then with WordPress into “GutterPress”.

Later in the day the Guardian also published a useful round-up of April foolishness (I didn’t spot the upside-down YouTube pages, probably because every time I tried getting on to YT on Wednesday my T-Mobile broadband blocked it with its new content lock feature which I had to unlock by entering my credit card details – quite why YT content is classed as dodgy I don’t know).

My second favourite fool was the BBC’s item on the rising cost of tea, which, being the BBC, was so well done (or just so conservatively done) it was frighteningly plausible. The only other “may actually be true” candidate I spotted was a report on a comparatively obscure website that the Leonard Cohen songs Suzanne and Bird on a Wire were coming soon for the Guitar Hero video game (maybe next year I’ll remember to do a spoof combining the game with my version of Hallelujah and call it Ukulele Hero).

I’m sure there were many more but that’s all I saw. Oh, and apparently over at SA4QE there was something silly about a new dating service for Russell Hoban fans called SA4QrelatE, but I shouldn’t imagine too many people were taken in by it…

Happy birthday, Russell Hoban!

As The Times admirably notes, today is author Russell Hoban’s 84th birthday. (The interview the Times piece quotes from is here.) As Thoughtcat readers will already know, 4th February is SA4QE day, when fans of Russ leave their favourite quotes from his books in public places – usually, but not always, on sheets of A4 paper. SA4QE stands for the Slickman A4 Quotation Event, named after Neo-Futurist Chicago actor Diana Slickman, who started the whole thing off back in 2002.

I should be leaving my own yellow paper quote somewhere today, if I can (a) make up my mind which of the many great quotes to use from Russ’s 50+ books, and (b) dig myself out of the snow.

Posted via email from thoughtcat’s posterous

New SA4QE website

While everyone else has been stuffing themselves with turkey, my colleague Gombert and I have been hard at work over the festive period creating a brand new website for the Slickman A4 Quotation Event (aka SA4QE). This is the site we’ve run since 2002 recording the annual celebration in which fans of the author Russell Hoban write favourite quotes from his books on pieces of paper and leave them in public places. The site has amassed a substantial amount of content which was formerly arranged and displayed in a pretty limited way, plus the old site had all sorts of features that were just so 1997 (as they say), such as frames and odd little GIFs all over the place. The new one does away with all that by treating contributions as blog posts which are all labelled according to various criteria including date, book title, media, location and contributor – plus you can subscribe to the blog in any number of ways, and add your own photos and videos.

If you’re a fan of Russell Hoban, rediscover his words at www.sa4qe.com and perhaps consider dropping a favourite quote of your own on SA4QE 2009 on 4th February.

If you’ve never heard of Russell Hoban, you’re in for a treat – there are 350 fascinating quotes on the site from over 30 unique books, dropped by 70 people across 14 countries. So whichever way you cut the content, you’re bound to find something there that tickles your 4ancy.

I am by the way posting this to both my blog and my Facebook profile by sending an email to a single Posterous address. Posterous has a new feature called AutoPost to Everywhere which looks intriguing. Let’s see if it works…

Posted via email from thoughtcat’s posterous

Go 4th and 4qate

Today is SA4QE day, or the day on which fans of Russell Hoban select favourite quotes from his books and leave them in public places to ‘spread the word’. I’ve been a participant since the activity started five years ago but I don’t believe I’ve blogged my 4qations before. Here’s what I’ve posted to the Hoban forum The Kraken and what will also be appearing on my page on sa4qe.com at some point in the next few days. Happy birthday Russ!

With a two-week-old baby in the house (just what is it with me and this time of year, eh?), I haven’t had as much time to prepare a 4qation as on previous years, and this has only made my ‘normal work panic’ about choosing a quote from the many thousands of words in Russell Hoban’s many books even worse. However, the problem has happily suggested its own solution. The new arrival, Charlie, has, in the tradition of his Thai side, already been awarded a nickname. His elder brother Joe (born March 2005) being dubbed Squid (Thai: ‘Mg’), we felt something similarly oceanic and possibly Hobanesque was called for, and so Charlie has become Turtle (‘Thou’). Thus I narrowed my search for quotes this year to Hoban’s superb early novel Turtle Diary (tragically out of print at the moment, but some copies are still available from Amazon, and Bloomsbury are promising a reprint at some point). After some searching – punctuated by assorted changes, baths, feeds, plays, tellings-off, naps, and even a bit of attention to my children – I settled on the following three quotes. They’re from chapter 3, narrated by William G., and from adjacent pages, so not strictly separate quotes, but can be read that way.

“There are green turtles whose feeding grounds are along the coast of Brazil, and they swim 1,400 miles to breed and lay their eggs on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, half way to Africa. Ascension Island is only five miles long. Nobody knows how they find it. Two of the turtles at the aquarium are green turtles, a large one and a small one. The sign said: ‘The Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas, is the source of turtle soup…’ I am the source of William G. soup if it comes to that. Everyone is the source of his or her kind of soup. In a town as big as London that’s a lot of soup walking about.”

I liked this passage firstly because it sets out the turtles’ incredible quest and achievement, which in itself seems to me a metaphor for the human condition – we spend so long working towards something, not always knowing why or how but only knowing we have to do it, and without any guarantee that we’ll succeed or that the turtle-eggs we lay even if we do get there will survive. Secondly I like the way Hoban takes something negative about the turtle experience – the sacrilege of being turned into soup – and makes something both positive and amusing out of it. As a father now for the second time I’ve naturally spent many hours lately contemplating the kind of future I’ll be able to give Charlie, and the kind he’ll have anyway regardless of my influence, so this passage also suggests to me some good advice to him: We’re all our own kinds of soup; be proud of your Charlie soup, and for that matter your London roots, and don’t be put off by the fact that millions of gallons of other-people soup is sloshing around the world at the same time: your variety is unique.

The second passage follows directly on from the last:

“How do the turtles find Ascension Island? There are sharks in the water too. Some of the turtles get eaten by sharks. Do the turtles know about sharks? How do they not think about the sharks when they’re swimming that 1,400 miles? Green turtles must have the kind of mind that doesn’t think about sharks unless a shark is there… I can’t believe they’d swim 1,400 miles thinking about sharks.
“…I think of them swimming through all that golden-green water over the dark, over the chill of the deeps and the jaws of the dark. And I think of the sun over the water, the sun through the water, the eye holding the sun, being held by it with no thought and only the rhythm of the going, the steady wing-strokes of flippers in the water. Then it doesn’t seem hard to believe. It seems the only way to do it, the only way in fact to be: swimming, swimming, the eye held by the sun, no sharks in the mind, nothing in the mind.”

Turtle Diary centres on two people at a crucial point in their lives and confronting their own situations, which, despite being pretty mundane, are nonetheless troubling to them. I can relate to the story and characters partly through being a bit of a worrier myself (and even if I wasn’t, I daresay most parents would admit that having children makes you worry anyway) and this beautifully cadenced passage with its Zen-like idea of ‘swimming, swimming [with] nothing in the mind’ provides me with some reassurance that there is, in fact, a way through, a way forward.

My last selection also follows on directly from the last paragraph, in fact is the final sentence of that paragraph, but I feel deserves separate consideration:

“And when they can’t see the sun, what then? Their vision isn’t good enough for star sights. Do they go by smell, taste, faith?”

I’m not a religious person and I despise the way that some people use religions and ‘faiths’ to mess up the world. Nonetheless I do retain a great deal of respect for people who manage to have faith (in spite, indeed, of the way faith is regularly abused and misused) and put it to good use, and one of those good uses is simply, as Bob Dylan put it, keeping on keeping on. I believe – or I’d like to believe – in a turtle-god, in turtle-faith, something that keeps you going despite the darkness, the sharks, the chances of getting lost.

Well, I thought it was funny

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a bar with some colleagues having a drink after work, when one of them – I forget the exact context – compared the noise of something to “A skeleton falling down a flight of metal stairs.” Not unreasonably, I asked him: “Under what possible circumstances might you have come to know what a skeleton falling down a flight of metal stairs sounds like?” “Ah,” he said, “because I used to own two of those Sound Effects records.” He then proceeded to approximate several intriguingly-titled sound effects such as “Mob rioting”, “Man washing up”, “Wet footsteps”, “Miscellaneous Screams 1-17” and of course the skeleton falling down the metal stairs (which incidentally nearly got him thrown out of the bar). Anyway we had a laugh and the topic was forgotten. Then on Sunday I was sitting in the bath – the place where many of my greatest ideas come to me – and for my own amusement started improvising a list of some of the more unlikely sound effects you might “hear” on a Sound Effects record, thus:

1. Crowd of people wearing dayglo underwear, chatting

2. Fake fur coat tumbling down escalator

3. Telephone not ringing in a lonely person’s apartment

4. Van Gogh canvas being eaten by killer whale (one of a series of impressionist works being fed to ocean beasts)

5. Occasional table being painted (gloss)

6. Occasional table being painted (matt)

7. Occasional table being painted (watercolour)

8. Tony Blair being hit by gooseberry thrown during press conference

9. Mime artist faking orgasm in charity shop

10. Stenographer mis-spelling antidisestablishmentarianism

11. Bedroom door opening, being shut, opening again, being shut again, opening again and then being beaten to matchwood by long-suffering owner

12. Sheet of yellow A4 paper being dropped in the London underground (Mornington Crescent station)

13. Sheet of yellow A4 paper being dropped in the London underground (Knightsbridge station)

14. Skirt being looked up

15. Thai restaurant being bought by cigar-smoking businessman

16. Harold Pinter’s stunned silence at being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature

17. 91-year-old judge breaking wind discreetly during high court libel hearing

18. Cat being put among pigeons

19. A person when they were nothing but a twinkle in their old man’s eye

20. Bowl of porridge

I then had the brilliant idea that estimable humour webzine McSweeney’s might like this list for their very funny Lists feature, in which clever people contribute amusing lists of things – among recent ones are “Subjects of ‘light bulb’ jokes that will probably lead to boring punch lines”, “Fruit drink flavours that never took off” and “Ways in which the disinterred corpse of silent-film actor Lon Chaney would be a better vice-president than Dick Cheney”. I checked the McSweeney’s site today and found that four new lists have been published in the past week – but than mine is not among them. Okay, so maybe my “Twenty Rarely-Used Sound Effects” lacks the topicality of the Lon Chaney/Dick Cheney one and is somewhat longer than “Leonard Cohen’s Seven Immutable Laws of Business”, but that’s no excuse for giving me the cold shoulder. I even sent my list from a different email address than my usual Thoughtcat one so they wouldn’t think I was cynically contributing a piece just to promote my own site. I mean, honestly.