Monday, 31 May 2010

Top 10 concerts

I've been to a few concerts, so I thought it'd be a good idea to compile this list. I am excluding classical concerts. If they were included, a few of them might make themselves into this list too. While compiling this list, I felt pretty torn about what to leave in and what to leave out, but I am pretty satisfied with what I chose in the end.
10
65 Days of Static
Sheffield Plug
May 2007

Hadn't heard of them before at the time, but figured I should go. The crowd was pretty ecstatic, and my recollection of this gig consists as much of the assortment of lights thrown at the audience as the music. The music was brilliant, too. Intricately assembled Math Rock with a beat which makes you want to move.
9

Kirk Lightse
y

Sheffield Crucible
November 2006
I look nostalgically at the period of time I saw this music - it was when I became an angry recluse, and it was when I stopped socialising altogether. This concert was very intimate; the seats were placed above the musicians, so you could see down on them as they played and sweat. The leader of this jazz piano trio, Kirk Lightsey, is a legend who has been playing jazz for decades, having performed for trumpeter Don Cherry in the past. He was a bit crackers in the concert as well, laughing maniacally whenever someone addressed him. The gig varied between be-bop and more freeform stuff. Lightsey also played the flute while wandering across the room, and the drummer had an assortment of interesting percussion with him as well as his drum set. Jazz really has to be seen live to be appreciated fully.
8

Napalm Death
Sheffield Corporation
April 2010

I've been to a fair amount of death metal concerts (I like going to this sort of thing to subject myself to extremes), but this was quite easily the best. Fucking intense, fast, loud, involving grindcore. Had my feet tapping frantically at the sheer speed of this wonderful, wonderful racket.
7

Acoustic Ladyland
Sheffield Harley
April 2010
Due to it being performed in a small venue, the sheer volume of this really assaulted your ears. A. L play a really fast fusion of jazz and punk. Their songs used to be quite short and ephemeral, but now they are longer and considerably abstract. These are really skilled musicians, and seeing them live is a rewarding experience.

6

Isis

Sheffield Corporation
December 2008
Isis play what could be termed 'progressive metal'. They produce an intense wall of sound that keeps builing up. In this concert I found myself enthralled in the concert so much that I had a Proustian moment, where I lost my sense of time. I'd seen them before, but this time was better.
5

A Silver MT Zion


Sheffield Corporation

May 2007
Long, progressive post-rock songs played by oddballs and attractive women with hairy armpits. This was a beautiful set of songs, and everyone in the audience knew it was something special.

4

Ornette Coleman
Southbank Centre, London

June 2009

I was very excited about this, travelling all the way to London to see it. Coleman is the most well-known exponent of free jazz, and he was joined by luminaries like guitarist Bill Frissel and singer Patti Smith. The concert was a reflection on 'The Shape of Jazz to Come', but he delved into all parts of his career for this monumental occasion.
3

Kayo Dot
A venue in Lancaster

September 2009

I was incredibly excited to find that this musical act were coming to UK. They were playing in Lancaster, which is where my mother's side of the family lives, and on a Saturday! I was quite worried about my ears at the time, fearing that if I subjected them to this they might burst. But, fortunately, most of the band members were stopped at Customs and couldn't get into the country so Mia, Tobi, a clarinet/keys player and a drummer from the audience played renditions of the quieter moments in their music. It was mostly improvised, so it was a huge privilege to be there and witness it. The music was very subdued and sparse, often sounding like a Morton Feldman composition. The fact that there were only 2o or 30 other people made this gig all the more special.
2

The Fall
Sheffield Boardwalk

November 2006
I liked The Fall around this time, but I wasn't a gruelling fan... This concert changed that. Mark E. Smith has an incredible stage presence. Seeing him as a Fall fan is like seeing Hitler as a Nazi. He mumbled and groaned incoherently, as he staggered across the stage. I even caught his eye once, but nervously looked away as he did so.



1


The Magic Band

A venue in Stoke

May 2005
My first concert is also the best I've ever been to. I was a Beefheart-obsessed 14-year-old, and I pressured my parents to take me to Stoke just to see The Magic Band reunion. They played instrmental versions of their more complex material found on Trout Mask and later Drumbo stepped up as vocalist, accurately imitating the captain's growling voice. He gazed at my eyes for long-stretches of time, amazed at the sight of a fourteen-year-old at a Beefheart concert!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

4 New short stories

Now that I have completed these four stories, my book Juvenilia: An Unacknowledged Literary Prodigy is now ready... But I'll wait til my A2 exams are over til I start to put it together... I should really be 'revising' now, but I stayed all night to complete 'Erotic Violence' and put them all on the Internet...

As usual, they aren't readable because I don't know how to fucking format them... I'll send them to Doug via email, as he is the only person in the universe who has the remotest interest in reading them... and he wouldn't like them anyway. If you really want to read this shite, email me...

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From Dreams to Reality

I thought it'd be interesting to have a female narrator for a change, and to prove that I'm not that much of a misogynistic scumbag.... Is it succesful?.... I think not.

The Moon of the Mirror

My homage to Borges.

Anxiety Attack

Another true story.

Erotic Violence

My homage to Bataille and Ballard.

Friday, 21 May 2010

My contact with these writers

This blog post is about writers I've had some sort of metaphysical 'contact' with, where I seem to actually make a connection with them despite them being dead or far away.... My mind was pretty fucked up when I had experiences with psychosis, so this partially explains me having contacted them.... Otherwise it might be new age voodooism, I don't know.

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J. G. Ballard

Around November 6th of 2007 I stayed up for three nights in succession and, as a consequence, had very little control over my actions. My mother gave me a highly potent pill which had a strong effect on my brain. I became very anxious to know something, and rubbed my head desperately to reach a conclusion until I shouted out "CRASH, CRASH, CRASH," the title of a Ballard novel. My mother then told me that my English teacher had killed herself after hearing this and that her husband, a mathematician, was willing to receive some sort of answer. I wrote gobledegook until, amazingly, my hand moved without my control and it was Ballard's writing. What is amazing is that it didn't seem like my words; it was something along the lines of "I was trying to show [with 'Crash'] what young people such as Simon are capable of" until I intercepted this movement and wrote my own fucking gobbledegook... After writing this shite relentlessly I kept wanting Ballard's hand movement to return so that I could see what he would say about me, but it never happened... What's strange is that I have another memory of this night, but I don't know how it meshes with this incident, but I also remember that after having taken the potent pill my English teacher and a girl I had a crush on in school came in after I touched my penis. I thought that Ballard was controlling us and that he was going to make us have some sort of depraved sex... They were sat in two chairs in my room and I was in my bed; we remained in silence until the girl suddenly leaped out of the chair, closed her eyes and left the room. I got up to see what this was when the English teacher said "Don't". I felt the urge to piss, but seeing as I couldn't leave the bed I let it all ooze out.
When I was in an intensive care unit in Derby, I got a phone call and I shouted out "Who's there???" and I heard Ballard's voice say "Your long-lost friend." This voice sounded weak, cracked and wearisome... It sounded like someone in his deathbed. Later I found that he had prostrate cancer, so the fact that he was actually ill seemed to confirm that it was him then.

Julio Cortázar

In Cortázar's novel Hopscotch, there is an Argentinean writer called Morelli who carries out correspondence with readers from different parts of the world. One of them is a 'young man from Sheffield'. I am from this city, and I always have a tendency to seek out obscure art... What's more is that one of the main aspects of Cortázar's fiction is that coincidences and unequivocal, arbitrary events; he said that he always had some sort of 'contact' with the reader, too.

Sera cuestión de tiempo. Pero me siento bien, se acabaron los problemas con la portera. Nadietrae correspondencia, ni siquera la de Nueva Zelandia, con sus estampillas tan bonitas. Cuando se ha publicado un libro que nace muerto, el único resultado es un correo pequeno perofiel. La senora de Nueva Zelandia, el muchacho de Sheffield. Francmasoneria delicada, voluptuosidad de ser tan pocos que participan de una adventura. Pero ahora, realmente...

Paul Auster

The next night after the Ballardian incident, I was rushed off to a room in a psychiatric ward. My parents were next to me and I lied on the bed. I felt shattered, there was no hope. Then a person who looked just like Paul Auster and sounded just like Paul Auster came into the room with a woman who looked just like his wife. He handed me a white pill and said "Take this." One of the things I really kick myself in the head now is that I forgot what he said, but my dad said "I don't know much about Paul Auster, but I think he says.." and then Auster quoted somebody else. I was left on my own with an old woman guarding me... but that's another story.

Franz Kafka

I once wrote in a website "The four people I am truly genetically derived from are Mark E. Smith, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar".... Amazingly enough, I was flicking through a Kafka biography in the library and found that he also chose a list of four writers he was genetically derived from... I read this after compiling the list!

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In my episode I also came across William Burroughs and polymath/director Alejandro Jodorowsky, but I should really be going to bed now...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Chilean football team of writers

Seeing as I chose an international football squad of writers, here there's a team of 11 Chilean writers. I have read a few Chilean writers, but I haven't read 11. This list will be completed with Internet assistance. Poets will be included as well as prose writers, because poetry has always been Chile's forte.

The current Chile squad is a 3-3-1-3 formation, so this squad will also have these tactics. The manager for these writers won't be me - it will be the current Chilean Manager, the great Marcelo Bielsa.

1. Gabriela Mistral (Goalkeeper)
2. Jorge Edwards (Defender)
3. Isabel Allende (Defender)
4. Hernan Rivera Letelier (Defender)
5. José Donoso (Midfielder)
6. Antonio Skarmeta (Midfielder)
7. Eduardo de la Barra ( Midfielder)
8. Pablo de Rohka (Attacker)
9. Pablo Neruda (Attacker)
10. Roberto Bolano (Midfielder)
11. Vicente Huidobro (Attacker)

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa

Friday, 14 May 2010

Football team of writers

I have always thought that it'd be a nifty idea to write a book of a football world cup of writers, where each country has a team of their best writers and they play each other. There's a funny Monty Python sketch where philosophers from Germany and Greece play each other.

This list of writers is international and is based on my own preferences, though I have only included writers who are deemed to be 'classics' and not contemporary. To avoid repetition, I won't choose all of the 10 writers I included in my recent list 'Top 10 writers'. It's a 4-4-2 squad.

1. Albert Camus (Goalkeeper)
2. Louis-Ferdinand Celine (Defender)
3. Aldous Huxley (Defender)
4. Samuel Beckett (Defender)
5. Georges Bataille (Defender)
6. Vladimir Nabokov (Midfielder)
7. James Joyce (Midfielder)
8. Jorge Luis Borges (Midfielder)
9. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Attacker)
10. Franz Kafka (Midfielder)
11. William Faulkner (Attacker)

Manager: Me.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Artist of the month #3

J. G. Ballard


After Freud's exploration within the psyche it is now the outer world of reality which must be quantified and eroticised.

J.G. Ballard is, as people who have read this blog in the past know, a writer I greatly admire and appreciate. Although my interest in him has waned since his death, he is still of great importance to me.

Ballard was born in Shanghai in 1930 to British parents. Ballard's childhood in the East is one of the main aspects that imbues his fiction, and it could be argued that his fiction is a recreation of his childhood memories. Shanghai was technologically advanced for the upper classes, an archetypal city of the 20th century. Ballard would often go in his bicycle on his own to explore the city, and he was driven around it and visited cinemas which fuelled his imagination and writing. As the Second World War came to fruition and after the invasion of Pearl Harbour, Ballard and his family were placed in an internment camp. It is also around this time that he witnessed a lot of carnage most Western children don't see; one of his memories was seeing a Japanese soldier been beaten to death, and he often saw corpses on the street. Ballard would later argue that these sorts of environments are in fact more typical than the serene comfort of suburbs in the West. Ballard endured about three years in the internment camp, where he adapted to the constraining environments and he ultimately came to enjoying it and even admired the Japanese soldiers. All these experiences were later to be written in the semi-autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, which was later to be filmed by Steven Spielberg. His novels he was to write principally deal with characters adapting to constraining environments and developing an affinity for them. This is an obsession which was formed by his War time experiences.

In 1945 Ballard, at the age of fifteen, moved to the United Kingdom. At the time, he felt quite depressed by the ambience of the country. He felt that it needed change desperately and argued that, while having won the war, people acted as if they'd lost it. After living in the highly modernised Shanghai, he found Britain to be a regression.

Ballard initially wanted to be a psychiatrist, and to get a degree in this he needed to study medicine. He dissected corpses, which he found to be an incredible experience. In his second year, he found the urge to be a writer too strong, so he abandoned his studies to pursue this ambition. He flew aeroplanes - a childhood ambition - with the RAF in Canada, and later worked as a Convent Garden porter. However, the most illuminating experience of this period was the discovery of science fiction. Ballard was bored by the Hampstead novel and by the excess of realism. It was this newly emerging medium that he found most exciting and most appropriate for his style. Yet he also found the conventional notion of SF tedious, because he wasn't interested in 'Outer Space' but, what he coined, 'Inner Space'. His first short stories, which are very original and are a landmark in British fiction, were published in SF magazines. A few readers saw him as an interloping cipher who didn't even write science fiction, but Ballard kept producing a highly powerful body of work.

Ballard's short stories at this time fuse the psychoanalysis of Freud, the surrealist paintings of Dali and science fiction. From the late '50s to the late '60s these stories appeared in numerous magazines, and he became editor for a science magazine. He got married and had three children at this age, and became a full time writer. His first novel, The Drowned World, is in the tradition of the catastrophe novel and is post-apocalyptic. After the polar ice-caps melt, London is inundated and turns into a primeval swamp. Scientists return to it, and the protagonist eventually sets off to the South towards self-annihilation. Ballard also explores how these surroundings affect the unconscious mind, and also how descendants from centuries ago have an influence on our actions. Two more catastrophe novels were written in this similar vein: The Drought and The Crystal World.

In 1964 Ballard's wife died, and he was left on his own to bring up his children. This affected him and was to change his writing drastically. His short stories now preoccupied themselves with different themes, and they were much sombre and darker. His literary aesthetic changed. As the 1960s came, he at last saw change and excitement coming to Britain. He also reached the conclusion that the way we view reality had changed. With the introduction of television and other media, we live in a world of fiction. Now Freud's distinction of inner world of the psyche had to be applied to reality. His fiction could be so dark now that it could be very depraved and include explicit sex. All this reached his culmination with his experimental novel The Atrocity Exhibition. This novel tried to make sense out of a world that had become increasingly psychotic and ambiguous.

One of Ballard's main preoccupations was the future. The future he was to imagine in a trilogy of works - Crash, Concrete Island and High-Rise - is very similar to the current society we inhabit. In these novels he foresees huge apartment blocks and modern highways where the dark side of humanity breaks loose. With Crash (later to be turned into a highly controversial film by David Cronenberg) he explores how people attain sexual orgasm from car crashes, Concrete Island sees a man stranded between two converging highways and High-Rise shows anarchy and chaos breaking loose in an enormous apartment block. Unlike his earliest novels, these aren't set in the future but in the immediate present, and they make suggestions of how the future will end up like through these settings. This approach is exemplified by the title of one of his short stories, 'Myths of the Near Future'.

He keeps writing excellent novels and short stories (among these, my favourite of his works The Unlimited Dream Company) until the publication of Empire of the Sun. This work is a recreation of his experiences in the internment camp of his youth and, while it upset a few of his devoted readers, was received with enthusiastic praise. Within a few months, it surpassed the sales of all his other books combined. His popularity increased with Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the novel, and Ballard's previous works became modern classics.

In 1996, Ballard starts a series of works exploring human psychopathology structured like detective novels. These novels are almost as dark as Crash. Cocaine Nights and Super-Cannes are set in British holiday resorts in foreign countries, Millennium People is about the revolt of the middle class and Kingdom Come is an anti-consumerist novel which shows how consumerism leads to fascism. While these books aren't deemed to be on a par with his earlier work, they are still deemed to reveal a profound insight into the human condition.

Around 2006, it was revealed to Ballard that he had prostrate cancer. This prompted him to write the beautiful memoir Miracles of Life. He died on April of 2009.

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Blogger has once more fucked up one of my posts... this post wasn't intended to be in this large font. Also, if no-one leaves a comment (I bet that one of those fucking Japanese spammer-cunts will, though), it will be the 9th blog post in succession not to receive one... *sigh*

Friday, 7 May 2010

Review #12

The Atrocity Exhibition - J. G. Ballard

Following the tumultuous and hectic upheaval of 1960s social panorama, Ballard captured this time brilliantly in his novel The Atrocity Exhibition. Although defining it is a novel could be seen as inaccurate: it is a series of seemingly disparate and unrelated miniatures. Ballard called these "condensed novels." Like Julio Cortázar's Hopscotch , this book can be read in any order. Each sentence is allocated with a title, and you can go through the book in any order while reading these sentences until cohesion is formed. The most remarkable aspect, I find, is that the book can be cohesive in any way you choose to read it. It is equally rewarding in multiple readings, and it is a book I keep returning to again and again because it keeps revealing new dimensions.

There is little (some might call it nonexistent) plot in this book, but the most recurrent thread is that of a doctor having a mental breakdown. Ballard uses this as a springboard to dissect a number of preoccupying problems: the celebrity phenomena, psychopathology, the application of sexuality to practically everything, the Vietnam war, pornography, etc. Despite all these preoccupations, this book is far from dated and is in fact very prescient; everything here is applicable to our current society.

Ballard at the time was considered a science fiction writer before the publication of this book, and this work sees him breaking from this mold. He always saw himself as a writer dealing with 'inner space' rather than 'outer space,' and the publication of this book makes these themes and preoccupations even more explicit. Its free-associative structure and its bizarre occurrences prove it to be a work dealing with the unconscious mind. The way this is dealt with, like the primeval swamps of The Drowned World, makes connections to painters like Dali and Ernst. Whereas Ballard's previous experimentation with the unconscious concerned itself with the settings, here he fractures the structure of the novel too.

The novel uses the celebrity counterculture as one of the obsessions of the protagonist. Names of the chapters include 'You: Coma: Marylin Monroe,' The Assassination of 'John Kennedy...' (this chapter considers his death as a 'Downhill motor race', and upset numerous American readers) and 'Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagen' (where Ballard predicts, amazingly enough, that he will be president). These celebrities work in the novel as a centre where the protagonist's obsession revolve around, and they provide an aspect of the 'outer world' which are the cause of the character's breakdown.

The register of the novel is very scientific and analytical, even when describing sexual intercourse. This is akin to William Burroughs, another writer who also wrote in a fragmented, scientific register. I don't think you should look for 'emotion'; the text is deliberately cold.

Ballard himself says in the preface that the novel is easier than it seems at first glance. If you read it as a series of fragmented abstractions, it works. But if you approach it linearly it fails because characters will sometimes change names and the reader is constant diverted. If you try reading it like a conventional novel, it is really frustrating. It needs to lure you into this strange cocktail of perversity, strangeness and perversity where mental patients are shown hardcore porn and housewives are subjected to watching executions.

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Seeing as it's been a whole year that I've been writing reviews, here's a list of all the reviews I've written in chronological order. I think it'd be good to keep a record of this....

1. Trout Mask Replica - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band (Music)
2. Absalom, Absalom! - William Faulkner (book)
3. Vivre Sa Vie - Jean-Luc Godard (film)
4. Pedro Páramo - Juan Rulfo (book)
5. The Second Heimat - Edgar Reitz (film)
6. Aguirre, The Wrath of God - Werner Herzog (film)
7. On the Corner - Miles Davis (music)
8. The Drowned and the Saved - Primo Levi (book)
9. The Savage Detectives - Roberto Bolano (book)
10. Scott 3 - Scott Walker (music)
11. Civilazation Phaze III - Frank Zappa (music)
12. The Atrocity Exhibition - J. G. Ballard (book)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

My state of mind #13

I've felt frustrated over the last hour or so after breaking my mp3 player... Just when I'm using it the most, too... I was also going to start a new regular entitled "MP3 Shuffle," but that won't be possible just yet... *Sigh* Moving on...
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Music, music, music.... I don't get as much out of it as I used to, yet I still listen to it compulsively... I wish I wouldn't, actually... There are far more constructive ways of spending one's time than music... Anyway, the reason why I mention it is that I went to three concerts in April. These concerts demonstrate the sheer eclecticism of taste...

Acoustic Ladyland

This was loud. Highly skilled musicians, A.C. play a fusion of punk and jazz played really fast. From the records I've heard by them, they play short, ephemeral vignettes... But the songs they played on this gig were were really progressive and long... I'd seen them once before, in 2005, but this time was much better... Perhaps because of the rock venue which suited them more. They have switched from keyboards to guitar, and I was initially sceptical of this because I always thought that their instrumentation should be that of a jazz ensemble, but the guitar was perfect for their style... The kid playing it was a real wiz, too... He played just as maniacally fast as the rest of the members, produced loads of otherwordly sounds, and it was his first concert with them... Ladyland's songs have become progressively abstract than before; it was very dissonant and abrasive... The sax player would often announce a song that was a single and they'd go ahead to produce the same sort of thing they'd been playing all evening just when you were expecting a nifty pop tune.

Napalm Death


This was fucking intense - the best death metal concert I've been to.... I didn't participate in the moshing at the front, but I stayed at the back frantically tapping my foot at the fucking velocity and intensity of the wonderful racket these fine people produce. I went on my own, and I looked considerably different from the hoards of people clad in black clothing and wearing long hair... There were a few amusing anecdotes: a person left their keys which had a Metallica key-chain and everyone booed; Barney attacked religion of any sort and everyone cheered; Barney started talking about political prisoners, and said "this is the theoretical part of the concert"; he introduced 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' by saying "the ethos of this song is very simple"; he remarked "Comes and goes that one... comes and goes" after playing 'You Suffer'.... This night rocked!!!!


Dmitri Shostakovich
The night after Napalm, I went back to Sheffield city centre for something totally different: a triple bill of Shostakovich pieces. The crowd was really different, too... I was sure there weren't hoards of little old ladies in the Napalm Death concert... It was surprisingly repleted with people... Originally, the composer's son, Maxim Shostakovich, was going to appear, be he was unwell... This proved to be a terrific night without him anyway. 'Festive Overture' was cheerful and splendid. Natasha Paremski, the piano player, came onto perform 'Piano Concerto No. 2, which I'd already seen performed live on another occasion. She was a real stunner to look at, and the second movement of this piece always gets me... 'Symphony No. 5' is easily the more complex and multi-layered of the three pieces, and I was engaged by it throughout its lengthy duration. What I like about Shostakovich is that he doesn't fall into the category of late romantic or early modernist - he eludes both.

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I haven't got the guts to say "I want to be a novelist." I always get people asking me "SO WHAT DO U WANT TO BE WHEN UR OLDER,"but I always feel embarrassed and say I don't know.

The World Cup with Chile and my A2 examinations are coming up very, very soon... It is apt that they are at the same as I've always been associating Chile's rapid rising success with football along with my rising success in education. Hiring Bielsa was like me getting into A level: an unknown quantity which was a gamble, but a big name nonetheless... Since then, Bielsa's Chile finished second place in the qualifying rounds and I got AAB for my AS results... Both of these reuslts were unprecedented and no-one could have predicted them... But this June is when we've really got to go for it, and it's going to be difficult... I really hope I get my grades and that Chile at the very least progress to the second round (where they'll get beaten by Brazil).

There are one or two students in my collegewho know how to produce an A piece of work... I'm far more erratic, I can only do it when I'm inspired... That's what's so nerve-racking about these examinations... I don't know how Chile will fare; I hope they won't be as bland as Argentina were in '02 when Bielsa was manager for them...

The Easter holidays were surprisingly productive.... Well, with my leisure activities at least... I didn't do any college work at all, which is quite worrying. But I wrote a couple of short stories and I finished my Vargas Llosa novel.

I live a double life... No-one I see - be they teachers or students - knows about the world I live in... I deliberately keep it a secret. Often people see a hint of it and try to permeate into it, but I try to prevent that... This double life is almost like the superheroes I used to read in my earliest youth...