Friday, 26 October 2007

Do not adjust your set

Apologies for the radio silence, pessimism watchers. I moved house at the weekend and my life is slowly emerging from its boxes and black plastic bags, like a very slow audit of my existence.

And we haven't got internet in the new place yet, so here I am posting from Starbucks, where it costs a thousand pounds an hour (only payable by credit card) plus the cost of a bucket of green tea that's not as nice as the one I'd have had at home.

But I want to plug you before I disappear back to the horror of bill payments and transferring of direct debits: I'm doing a show! A week from today!

Sanctuary is a new ten minute play for two performers and a church. It can be seen five or six times during the course of next Friday evening, in the Holy Trinity Church on Goodramgate, York. For those of you who are in the area, come. For those of you not, come to the area. It's an extravagantly ambitious piece about global warming and the nature of faith and stuff like that, and it really oughtn't to be missed, not least because I've succumbed to hubris and am "writing" it as well as directing it. Writing is in inverted commas because more than half of it will be done in the rehearsal room. With which in mind: keep your eyes peeled next week, once BT have pulled their fingers out, for a nice long post about combining directing with other activities in the same process.

Back to the binbags.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Dear Will Kemp,

Someone got here recently by googling "Shakespeare's relationship with Will Kemp", a subject I addressed here. I bet you wondered if people would remember you after Shakespeare booted you out, and here you are being googled.

Regular readers will know that the next Strange Bedfellows show is going to be about you, and your relationship with Mr WS will certainly obtrude, painful though that may be. That show is well over a year away, so this being no doubt the first of many missives I'll keep it to one thought:

It can't have helped your relationship with Shakespeare when, in one of the first plays to be presented after your ejection from his company (Hamlet), the main character experiences a significant life moment while clutching the skull of a dead clown:

"I knew him, Horatio. A fellow
Of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath
Borne me on his back a thousand times. And now, how
Abhorred in my imagination it is. My gorge rims at

For many years you bore him on your back, and this is how he repays you. My gorge rims at it.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Our Friends in the North #1: Sheffield, 21:35, Monday

(The first in an occasional series)

It's always alarming, that moment when a drunk starts bearing down on you in the city centre at night. This one was no different. Mid forties, hoodie, bald as a snooker ball and lugging a Lidl bag presumably stuffed with the booze that's causing the lurch.

I have this terrible habit of making eye contact with people. Once that's done, you have to smile. And who knows where that might lead?

He nods. "Alright, fella."


"How you doing?"

(I'm going to miss my train.) "Really good, thanks. Yourself?"

He's unmistakeably lunging towards me now.

"I shouldn't be drinking," he slurs. No shit.

"Night in tonight, then?" No chance.

"I'm going to the pub." He points to the pub in question. I doubt they'll let him in with his goodie bag, even if his demeanour doesn't put them off. He's definitely swaying and spit comes out when he talks. He's going to carry on talking to me first, though.

"What you up to?"

"I've just been working at the theatre." Please god don't make me have to explain a physical comedy workshop. This guy is a physical comedy workshop.

"I went to the theatre once."

"Oh yeah?" I hope this doesn't sound as sceptical as it looks in type.

"Just once in my life I went to the theatre. What do you think I saw?"

Cinderella? Babes in the Wood? I hazard no guesses and just ask him what he saw, but he's drifted back to the sotten world in his head. I ask again and he tells me.

"Swan Lake." That was unexpected. He continues: "Swan Lake. And do you know what it made me do?"

I definitely don't want to know the answer to this, but I figure he's going to tell me. I wait for him to negotiate his way through whatever thought process allows him to speak.

"It made me cry." Now that was unexpected. Then with a lurch of logic to match his gait, "how old are you?"

I tell him, and he reciprocates by asking me to guess how old he is. Why do people insist on doing this? There's no way of coming out of it well. I once worked at a drama group peopled by asylum seekers and I guessed the age of an Afghan called Khan at 45. He was 28. I don't think booze has quite the same effect as war, but I decide to play it safe anyway.


"I'm 45. You've got everything, Dan" (when did I introduce myself? I suppose I must have done. Come to think of it, that explains why he's got hold of my hand at this point.) "You've got everything. I've got my dinner here. Bread, baked beans and sweetcorn. You've got everything. Go out there and give 'em hell."

He shows me the contents of his bag. Wholemeal bread, baked beans and sweetcorn it is, multiple cans of Stones it isn't.

"Go out there and give 'em hell."

"Um. Cheers. Have a good night." And I go off to catch my train.

For the five years I've been going there regularly, Sheffield has maintained a minimum of 90% building site. It's looked like someone's lost a tenner and is systematically uprooting the whole city in its pursuit. But now it's finished and a light show of mirrored steel and waterfalls illuminates the walk from the theatre all the way back to the station. It's not always what you would expect.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Are you starting, like?

I just can't stay away, can I?

The occasion for my precipitate return is the announcement by Channel 4 that my hometown is the worst place to live in the UK.

Difficult to know how to respond to that sort of abuse, really, except with a dignified silence.

My Friends in the North

Just back from a weekend in Newcastle. I went up to see Our Friends in the North at Northern Stage, and The Pitmen Painters at Live. Both have had excellent reviews (Our Friends in the North; The Pitmen Painters). It's nice to see my native Northeast riding so high in the regional theatre stakes.

All the more disappointing, then, that I didn't see either show. Saturday night's performance of Our Friends in the North was cancelled because a bit of set had fallen on an actor. And Live put the tickets for their Sunday matinees on sale from noon the day before, and when I phoned at twelve thirty they'd sold out.

Still, not an entirely wasted weekend. Stayed with a friend who's a qualified physiotherapist, so he had a look at my knee. He reckons I've irritated the bursar, which sounds like something one might do in an episode of Porterhouse Blue. Fortunately it's not too serious and another few days rest ought to see it usable again. The even better news is that it turns out that Benet, who I've known for ten years, also does a bit of running and has similar times and goals to me. So we're going to work as virtual training partners and target Paris in 2009 as our sub-3 marathon. Buy your tickets now.

Otherwise, it might be a quiet week for me online. I've a lot of words to write this week, as well as some very ugly accounts to sort out and a couple of small projects to start casting. Also, I'm moving house on Saturday. We're gradually edging closer to my spiritual (and, I suppose, actual) home, by moving thirty miles further north, to York. After nine years almost entirely living in Leeds, it's time for a change of scene. York is a very pleasant scene, especially if you like very old buildings, real ale and easy access to some of Britain's most beautiful countryside. I like all of these things, so expect to be hearing from a contented Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will in the not too distant future.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Good News?

Good news, I think. It's always difficult to penetrate the minutiae of Government funding strategies, and judging by the slapdash grammar the BBC writer hasn't spent a great deal of time doing so either. But it appears that, despite DCMS receiving only an inflation-level increase in its budget, the department has been able to announce a slightly above-inflation increase in the budget for ACE. It's not whooping and tossing of hats into the air stuff, but it's good news - not least because it goes some way to proving the thesis that James Purnell is a genuine friend to the arts.

Of course, a fair chunk of that money must go into funding the Cultural Olympiad. But artists needn't feel particularly threatened, as it seems increasingly likely that those responsbile for disbursing the cash will use it to fund the sorts of projects that would have got funded anyway. And I predict that in the next round of ACE policy reviews, the criteria will be re-adapted to place a much bigger focus on excellence. Call it a hunch.

But we're not in the sunlit uplands yet, because there'll be an election in 2009 which, the way Brown's going, the Tories are in serious danger of winning. And how do you think they'll fund their massive cut in inheritance tax?

Friday, 12 October 2007

The Dreaded Accordion

The music in devised theatre is always the same, isn't it? I went to some of the Light Night entertainment in Leeds library and art gallery earlier this evening, and there was a super burlesque-cabaret-bunch of stuff going on. But I've heard it all before. Chris Goode's mooted moratorium, mentioned earlier today by Andrew Haydon really ought to incorporate the whole musical aesthetic implied by the dreaded accordion.

Don't get me wrong. There are episodes of The West Wing that I've seen a dozen times or more without my geekery thinning out. I like this stuff. But will someone please create a piece of devised physical theatre using something else?

Who's to blame? Brecht? Shockheaded Peter? Answers on a postcard.

It must be possible to create a piece of theatre using a different musical tradition as its pulse. I'd like to see a show soundtracked by Vin Garbutt, if it has to be folksy, or maybe, radically, something involving neither guitar nor accordion. My next show for Strange Bedfellows is going to be a sort of life of Will Kemp. Part of its artistic mission, I've now decided, is to make the lute cool.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Staring at the Coalface

There was a time when novels were written predominantly for those with sufficient time on their hands to read them. Tolstoy might have been an emancipator in spirit, but do you think War and Peace was read by even one of the 80% of Russians who ploughed out their existence in the serf-and-peasant-ry? Alright, maybe one. But not many. And as literacy started to climb, so more and more novels were written in instalments, in a generous acknowledgement that the idle rich were thinning out and the not-so-idle middle-classes who formed your boom market didn't have time to gobble down all eight hundred pages of Bleak House in one sitting.

When did that start to change? When did it become de rigeur to deliver your novel all neatly packaged between conclusive covers, as if we can be trusted to read responsibly and not let it interfere with our other responsibilities? There's a point, maybe a hundred or two hundred pages into a really good novel, when the world of that novel permeates the real world utterly, and the only way to resolve or collapse the resulting confusion is to get the damn thing finished. This is fine when the novel's only three or four hundred pages, you can usually knock it on the head on a Sunday, but when it's War and Peace you're saying goodbye to anything constructive being achieved for the best part of a month, assuming you're still obliged to clock in and out and can't just plant yourself on the sofa and guzzle it down like Mr Creosote. Instalments, like rationing, would keep everything under control if, like me, you can't be trusted to behave responsibly when caught in the magnetic field of a good book.

Aside: just because The West Wing was released in weekly instalments doesn't mean that I haven't lost weekends - weeks! - tearing through the DVD box sets of seasons I didn't see the first time round.

I'm currently devouring John Banville's The Sea which, though short, has the added problem of being the sort of book whose sentences you frequently want to read again. It has no chapter breaks. Putting it down is almost impossible, so giddy are the pleasures it affords. I succeed in manfully tearing myself away to do some work, write 500 words or so, then find I'm stuck in a terrain determined by Banville, attempting to write a thesis on his terms, when who knows, he may never have read any Brecht and certainly has little interest in clowns. So I've come here instead to get some of it off my chest.

The range of temptations the modern world offers to put dents in one's productivity are endless. I'm in the midst of endless games of scrabble on Facebook and have somehow also got embroiled in three games of chess, a game I've no taste for. I regularly check some twenty or so blogs on theatre and politics, not to mention actively participating in the Runner's World forum.

I've written about productivity before, and I suppose by most external measures I count as a fairly productive person. Inventory: I just had two new shows on in Edinburgh, both of which I produced as well as directed. I'm currently running projects in Oldham, Sheffield and York, alongside various one-off freelance engagements in Leeds, York and elsewhere. I'm writing two plays and a PhD thesis, I'm going to Newcastle this weekend for meetings and to see two shows and I'm moving house next weekend. Meanwhile I'm trying to get and stay fit and yet today I'm sitting around reading novels and writing a blog on the internet for the benefit of a readership the majority of whom I'll never even meet. What am I playing at?

I have a fantasy life in which, yes, I'm creatively busy and fulfilled, making work in various media as and when it takes my fancy, but in which I am perfectly able to keep up with my reading. The defining question of each day is "what do you want to do today?", not "what must be done today?" Yes, my life's ambition, as a chippy working-class boy from Teesside, is to be a gentleman of leisure.

I also notice that I've been more positively productive and taken more pleasure in my work in the last couple of weeks than for much of the past couple of years. Sure, I've done work in that period and some of that work has been good, but the pleasure of it has been drowned out by the grind. A brief look at the balance sheet quickly reveals what's been missing for the last couple of years: regular running. And the reason I feel a slowdown this week is because a knee twinge prevents me from pounding the trail of a morning. There's nothing like flushing the system with oxygen before getting on with one's work, there really isn't. The resultant rise in energy levels and productivity is astonishing. I haven't been out since Sunday, no wonder I'm languishing.

Go running, people. It's the only way to create time to read more novels.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

A Gloria Gaynor moment

I've occasionally been the among the first in the theatrical blogosphere to bemoan the latest degredation to arts funding, but I have to say Lyn Gardner's trounced me this time. There was me still plashing about in the shallows of what information I could find. Meanwhile Lyn's waded right in to the deep and said everything I was going to say. But with less semantic gallimaufry.

In my earlier post (below) I urged Brown to be bold. I expect he's pondering my words as we speak, wondering how best to take my medicine. What I didn't mention then was the arts, which are, quite frankly, skint. A bold move would be to give them a huge booster injection of cash and see if it's true that we stimulate the economy like Will Hutton says. Even I don't expect that to happen.

As Jon Spooner says in his comment at the bottom of Lyn's blog, it's going to be an interesting month. Guaranteed, though, is that the emerging companies, the ones you haven't heard of yet, will be the losers. I emerged at just the right time, in a period of unprecedented feast between one biblical famine and the coming period of Herodesque child murder. The big organisations currently receive the sort of funding they could only dream of ten years ago, and rightly so: we need healthy standard-bearers, and I don't propose to advocate redistribution. But if we want the bold artists of today to be the standard-bearers of tomorrow, we need to support them, and that's what standstill funding (especially as it's standing still having been cut back) doesn't do.

So it's going to be an interesting few years. Companies who are just starting to establish themselves, companies who are just out of college, even some more well-established companies, are going to fall off.

Unless we are bold. To survive, companies are going to have to estalish new models, new frameworks in which to create work. They are going to have to form partnerships with universities, schools, corporations. One of the more idiotic statements made in that Work Foundation report (linked to above) is that "Shakespeare required no subsidy; his work was self-supporting and arguably the stronger for it." No it wasn't. His company was The Lord Chamberlain's Men and subsequently The King's Men because the gentleman in question paid handsomely for the company to perform for him; the equivalent of a benefit gig or a testimonial. On top of that, Shakespeare wasn't alone in anonymously penning doggerel for mooning lovers desperate to impress their beaux. Of course he needed subsidy. It just wasn't paid for by income tax, which wasn't invented for another two hundred years.

I predict that companies working in intelligent partnerships with larger institutions, and with one another, is going to be the future. Witness the wonderful things being done between the Bolton Octagon and Bolton University. Masses of students are gaining experience in all departments of the theatre, the theatre has become an increasing part of its community, and audiences are up. Thanks to a generous initial investment from the University, the Octagon has been able to upscale its ambitions, and thanks to the spirit of friendship between the two the University has been able to trumpet all sorts of successes.

On a much smaller scale, touring companies can bring great kudos and valuable expertise to any number of institutions, and those institutions can be a valuable life-support machine to the companies even without pumping in the sort of cash Bolton University gave the Octagon. The lowering of the overheads alone would be enough to keep some from going to the wall. But of course, the worry is that this affects the kind of work done by the companies: if Unlimited were to suddenly take up residency in a hospital, wouldn't they end up making a moribund series of shows warning us to give up smoking?

Of course it will affect the work. If the partnership is the right one, it will affect it for the better. I for one can imagine Unlimited, whose previous shows have tackled teleportation, quantum physics and the science of coincidence, making some magnificent, provocative work about the ethics and sociology of human health. It'd be a farsighted PCT that took them in, for sure, but the opportunity to have a theatre company working with its patients could benefit everyone. Surely it would be healthy, and not just financially, for any number of companies to plant good firm roots in any number of community settings?

And if there's not enough money to go around from the central pot, it's in our interests to go out and make the case that we can really bring something of value to whatever institution we happen to find ourselves in. Because yes, art does stimulate the economy, and yes, art needs money to survive. But no, art is not reducible to economics. There is another way through.

Brown is the new Yellow

So Brown blinked first. I fear that if he wanted to win, it was now or never. Let's assume he wanted to win.

David Cameron played his first good hand in months by saying "bring it on" and making us believe it. In folding when he did, Brown lands himself with a hatful of "bottler" tags and ends up on the back foot. If he'd played out the hand and called an election, he'd have had to hold on through fearfully gritted teeth, unless he'd managed to find a way of re-raising Cameron. But how could he have got the stakes any higher? He'd've had to declare that the election would be decided by unarmed combat.

So he has to convince us all that he's not a ditherer or a bottler, and the first thing he does is present us with a grab-bag of diluted Tory fiscal policies. That trick worked for a couple of months, when he could steal Tory policies simply because no-one noticed they'd had them (and that, in any case, "policies" was a bit strong). But when a massive part of the Tory turnaround is based on their "policy" of taking less money in tax from those who've loads of money anyway, then stealing that might be a bit obvious. It's all very well me nicking your new jumper, but if I do it just after you've said to everyone "do you like my new jumper?", they're going to notice.

What's Brown's tactic to be, then? When we've noticed that he was the chief architect of New Labour so can't dissociate himself all that much with the last ten years, when we've noticed that his (delightful) injections of cash into ailing institutions like the NHS have been fatally compromised by PFIs swallowing that cash, when we've noticed that he voted for all of Blair's most hated activities and has ceased, um, none of them, that his famous stability just led to the first run on a British bank in 130 years and that he might not even be the strong leader we all thought he was, what can he do?

He has to be bold. Tactically and strategically he has no other option; politically a change of personality is not proving sufficiently refreshing; and crucially the country's governance needs a rethink.

He says he's a conviction politician but he's not prepared to tell us what his convictions are. Conviction politicians risk their popularity on their convictions. Lincoln risked losing half the country. Brown's only conviction is that the people want a conviction politician.

So why not do something that will actually make a difference, instead of Ranieri-esque tinkering? Why not renationalise the trains or knock PFIs dead and have the NHS run by an independent trust like the Bank of England? Why not abolish grammar schools and introduce a whole new practical and vocational pathway in secondary education? Hell, why not re-introduce the death penalty or have a troop surge in Iraq, declare war on France rather than face them in the rugby or just abolish democracy altogether? Why not do something that will wake us all up?

Why do you think?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Sound familiar?

And just in passing let me add: If anyone’s
Not for me he’s against me and has only
Himself to blame for anything that happens.
Now you may vote.

- Bertolt Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Monday, 8 October 2007

Time for Blogging

So, where the hell have I been for the last six weeks? At least George Hunka told us all he was going away.

Well, like Alex Ferguson I spent a while feeling a bit down and like I didn't have much to say, and like Chris Goode I am unutterably, spectacularly, broke (although unlike Chris my album collection is too much like everyone else's to be able to sell any of it). All of these things are, of course, down to Edinburgh, which was a great success, but when you follow it with a three-week London transfer and subsequent Yorkshire tour, it went on too long and I was tired. Fortunately the indefatigable Andrew Haydon has been posting enough for the lot of us.

So I've spent the last few weeks trying to get body, mind and credit card back in serviceable shape. I'll tell you about that in a bit, but like Bill Hicks with social comment and dick jokes, I'll butter you up with some thoughts about European theatre first of all. So.

European Theatre

If you're interested in European theatre, you must go to see Don Quixote at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. You may hate it - a shuddering majority has done exactly that - but you must see it. Why?

There's a lot of guff spouted about European theatre on these shores, some of it on this blog. The broad argument, which I endorse, runs like this: ours is too much of a text-bound tradition and we could benefit from a more imaginative approach to space, visual effects. We can, in short, be a bit more crazy.

Don Quixote is utterly bat-shit crazy. If a book falls from the sky, the relief at such a normal thing having happened is palpable. There's a scene on space-hoppers. There's a bit where they do a cover of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn, with a bloke dressed as a wizard among the assorted finger-snapping backing vocalists. If you want to see Greg Hicks gyrating to Madonna's Like a Prayer, this is the show for you. It's nuts.

And this is what European theatre looks like. I've seen contemporary theatre on main stages in Austria, France and the Netherlands, and read texts from a good handful more countries. This is what it looks like. It's properly mental. It is not about storytelling. It is not about sustaining dramatic action or tension. It is about a quasi-choreographic agglomeration of more-or-less surprising coups-de-theatre.

I saw a show in Austria, which I later directed in an English translation. There was a bit in the Graz production where everyone threw noodles at each other for a bit, and a bit where they projected some cartoon porn for a few minutes. When I was studying the text for my own version I was trying to remember when all this had happened. The cartoon porn was easily discoverable, as there was a bit where some porn comes on the telly (if only for a few seconds) by mistake. But the noodles were nowhere. All I could figure was that it must have been one of the bits where everyone shouted at one another. Fine. But I'm not sure that was reason enough to leave one of the characters festooned in noodles for the remainder of the show.

Every time someone complimented me on the craziness of my own production, with its gradually inflating airbeds and repeated duckings in various buckets of water, I giggled inwardly at how much less bats it was than the premiere in German: at least all of my stuff was inspired by an image or occurrence in the text. Don Quixote is as crazy as the stuff you get over there, and we've no stomach for it over here.

I quite liked it.

So hurrah to the Royal Court for its current season of European plays. Due to the aforementioned credit card situation, I won't get down to London to see any of them. But I like the sound of The Ugly One, and I like the sound of Ramin Gray's production. But I bet they didn't do it anything like that in Germany.

Credit Card

If you're not interested in what's going on in my life, in those thoughts of mine which don't look for the wider issue, stop reading now.

In by far the worst state of my body, my mind, and my credit card, is the latter, which has taken some hammer since I last earned in early July. Compounding that is my bank account being well over its overdraft limit. No, not well overdrawn: well over its overdraft limit. I went to give blood a couple of weeks ago and they had to stop, because my BMI is so low I don't have any blood to spare. That's what my financial situation was like about a month ago, and they haven't stopped the pump and given me a biscuit.

It didn't help that my car died last week, or that I'm moving house in a fortnight.

So I'm working every hour god sends, in order to pistol whip my accounts into shape. I spent last week running endless workshops on The Merchant of Venice. I'm running a weekly devising class in Sheffield and a writing class in Oldham. I started work at the weekend on my latest show with my fantastic youth theatre in York, a new adaptation of The Trojan Women. It doesn't leave much time for blogging.


I'm also trying to finish my PhD. It'll be news to lots of you that I've even started one, as I don't tend to advertise the fact very widely. Lots of the blogosphere during my hiatus has been preoccupied with discussion of the relationship between bloggers and critics, which itself grew out of a discussion about the proper relationship between critics and practitioners. I've a post brewing on the relationship between academia and practice in the theatre and it's going to be a humdinger.

So there'll be a good deal more on this subject over the next few weeks: if I don't finish the thing by the turn of 2008, I'll be shot, so I'm trying to get a serviceable first draft done for the end of this month. There, I've said it in public, I'll have to do it now.

And with the help of that, I'm starting to feel mentally fresh for the first time in - I don't know - over a year. I've been on a bit of a treadmill hurtling past one major production and the next for some time now and I've not been able to really capitalise on any of them as a result. Having given myself permission to slow down for a wee while and plan some bespoke productions, rather than setting everything up along the same lines as the last one, you can expect a quiet couple of years from me in terms of big splash - just a few pebbles tossed in the pond here and there - before I empty it of water completely sometime in late '08/early '09.

And the freedom afforded by not being a producer means I'm writing again, developing a few little bits and pieces which will constitute the abovementioned pebbles. It doesn't leave much time for blogging.


And finally, if that diet of post-Edinburgh restoratives makes me look like I'm slacking, I'm trying to get into shape again. Before a nasty injury in 2005 that finally got operated on in February, I was doing some pretty good times on the old pins: 37:40 at 10k and 85:51 at 1/2M, for example. I had a feeling there was plenty more in the tank, but then my leg burst open in a game of football and I had rather a long enforced absence. So I'm now following a long, slow training programme to build up my mileage again over the winter before starting some serious training in the spring. Last week I managed just over 30 miles, with a long run of 9, which is peanuts when you consider Paula was doing 140 in the buildup to her GNR comeback last weekend. So I'm gunning for 50/week by January.

But now my knee feels a bit dicky, so I'm going to be doing all this week's miles on the bike (at a ratio of about 4:1 that means I need to cycle about 120 miles this week) to make sure it doesn't get any worse. It's a long, long road back. But Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will feels cocky today, so considers it appropriate to set some targets in public, so as to remove the possibility of somewhere to hide:

In 2008 the 10k time will go under 35 minutes and the 1/2M time under 80. In 2009 a marathon will be run in under 3 hours and 2 1/2 more minutes and five minutes more will come off the other two respectively, at the very least.

For the moment, though, I'll settle for not getting injured again immediately. It doesn't leave much time for blogging. But I'll try not to neglect y'all so badly in the future.