sally potter and the best time to start is now

The best time to start is now (don’t wait)
Take responsibility for everything (it saves time)
Don’t blame anyone or anything (including yourself)
Give up being a moviemaker victim (of circumstance, weather, lack of money, mean financiers, vicious critics, greedy distributors, indifferent public, etc.)
You can’t always choose what happens while you are making a film, but you can choose your point of view about what happens (creative perspective)
Mistakes are your best teacher (so welcome them)
Turn disaster to advantage (there will be many)
Only work on something you believe in (life is too short to practice insincerity)
Choose your team carefully and honour them (never speak negatively about your colleagues)
Ban the word “compromise” (or the phrase “it will do”) (the disappointment in yourself will haunt you later)
Be prepared to work harder than anyone you are employing
Be ruthless – be ready to throw away your favourite bits (you may well be attached to what is familiar rather than what is good).
Aim beyond your limits (and help others to go beyond theirs) (the thrill of the learning curve)
When in doubt, project yourself ten years into the future and look back – what will you be proud of having done? (indecision is a lack of the longer view or wider perspective)
Practice no waste – psychic ecology – prevent brain pollution (don’t add to the proliferation of junk)
Be an anorak – keep your sense of wonder and enthusiasm (cynicism will kill your joy and motivation)
Get some sleep when you can (you wont get much later)

– Sally Potter

I think I first happened across this list when the choreographer Theo Clinkard posted it on FaceBook many years ago.

the dead

What would the dead want from us
Watching from their cave?
Would they have us forever howling?
Would they have us rave
Or disfigure ourselves, or be strangled
Like some ancient emperor’s slave?
None of my dead friends were emperors
With such exorbitant tastes
And none of them were so vengeful
As to have all their friends waste
Waste quiet away in sorrow
Disfigured and defaced.
I think the dead would want us
To weep for what they have lost.
I think that our luck in continuing
Is what would affect them most.
But time would find them generous
And less self-engrossed.
And time would find them generous
As they used to be
And what else would they want from us
But an honored place in our memory,
A favorite room, a hallowed chair,
Privilege and celebrity?
And so the dead might cease to grieve
And we might make amends
And there might be a pact between
Dead friends and living friends.
What our dead friends would want from us
Would be such living friends.

— James Fenton (for Andrew Wood), from Children in Exile: Poems 1968-1984

reliable source


… while other platforms are mired in debate over the borders between free speech, propaganda and trolling, Wikipedia has taken a different route from the onset: community-driven fact checking. One of the platform’s three core policies is “verifiability, not truth”, and it requires every claim on Wikipedia be attributed to a reliable source. Any question on the meaning of “truth” is deemed moot: either you have a source for your claims, or you don’t. (Wikipedia editors have even debated whether the claim that the sky is blue needs a citation or not.) The resulting debate is much less politicised than the one taking place on social media. Wikipedia’s community standards have created the conditions for a shared reality.

civic responsibility

From Roger McNamee’s book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe:

The internet platforms have harvested fifty years of trust and goodwill built up by their predecessors. They have taken advantage of that trust to surveil our every action online, to monetize personal data. In the process they have fostered hate speech, conspiracy theories, and disinformation, and enabled interference in elections. They have artificially inflated their profits by shirking civic responsibility. The platforms have damaged public health, undermined democracy, violated user privacy, and, in the case of Facebook and Google, gained monopoly power, all in the name of profits.

curing affluenza

Richard Denniss is an Australian economist and his book “Curing affluenza: how to buy less stuff and save the world” is well researched, clear and compelling. Here’s a taste of his thoughts on the absurdity of using GDP as a measure of nation-state success:

Collecting data on production, consumption and investment is a great idea, but determining the success of a country by reference to GDP is like judging the success of your kid’s birthday party by measuring how much you spent on the catering.

And a few other bits that caught my eye …

On culture vs policy:

those who want to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, reduce deforestation or increase the ability of people to spend quality time with their friends, families and communities will need to spend as much time thinking about the cultural drivers of the problems they seek to solve as developing ‘policy solutions’ to them.

Income inequality:

But redistribution relates to tasks as well as time. When a company sacks administrative staff and pays its middle managers a bit more money to work longer hours, it increases income inequality in a society in which it is often claimed that no low-skilled jobs are available. The fact is there are low-skilled jobs that need to be done, but increasingly we expect more highly skilled workers to perform them, along with the high-skilled aspects of their jobs. (A side effect: this makes high-skilled workers less productive.)

Culture vs economics:

Most of us could work shorter hours, and it would benefit all of us to do so. Our decision not to do so is as much cultural as personal. It has nothing to do with economics.

Negative externalities:

But in the whole history of economic debate the idea that a good way to create jobs is to allow, or to even subsidise, activities that do harm to people and the planet (sometimes called ‘goods with negative externalities’) is an entirely new one. I am even going to go as far as to say that the argument that harming the environment is a necessary or effective way to help the unemployed isn’t even an economic argument, it’s just complete bullshit.

Economic growth:

Voters are increasingly hostile to claims that the economy is growing strongly when their own experience is one of stagnating wages or rising local unemployment. They are right to be sceptical. Talking to people about the average rate of economic growth across their country is no more meaningful than telling them what the average rainfall across that country will be tomorrow. Even if the prediction is accurate, it won’t be very useful: knowing the average national rainfall won’t help anyone decide what to wear or whether to cancel their picnic.

Choices made by people:

Do you want your economy to have a big education sector or a big shopping mall sector? Do you want it to have a booming arts sector or a booming finance sector? These are choices that, over time and around the world, citizens have shaped. They are not choices made by ‘the market’ or ‘globalisation’. They are choices made by people.

Change is possible:

As long as people doubt that change is really possible, they will leave the shape of the future in the hands of those who have so ruthlessly cut away those parts of the economy which many people say they want more of. As Bertrand Russell said, ‘The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.’

Here’s an extract from the book:

And here’s another:

the dirt

Look for the dirt behind the shine

— Naomi Klein’s grandfather (in the acknowledgements to No Logo)

overton window

I was reading something recently (but can’t for the life of me track down the original source) about politics and policy and read of The Overton Window. Since then, the Baader-Meinhof effect has kicked in big time and I’m seeing it everywhere.

First line from the Overton Window Wikipedia entry:

The Overton window is a term for the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse, also known as the window of discourse.

Later in the entry it says this:

In his “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua, New York, in 1857, abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass described how public opinion limits the ability of those in power to act with impunity:

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”


I’m curious about the Overton Window in relation to what people are ready to see and watch in performance or on screen. What is tolerable? How is tolerance changed? How might the choreography or construction of performance or film consider the ways in which the work itself might slide through different tones of being popular, sensible, radical, unthinkable, and back to sensible …?