“Why exist?” An interview with Bruce Lee, ‘the most depressed fish in the world’

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The Siamese Fighting Fish known as Bruce Lee had no idea he would find himself at the centre of a global conversation about fish depression. When he woke up for his morning fish flakes on Monday morning, he was shocked, perplexed and, yes, a little anxious and depressed to see his shining blue face and gills effervescent on the smartphone screen of the woman staying in his hotel room – also known to Bruce and his imaginary aquatic companion Ralph the Japanese Wrestling Toad as ‘the Great Beyond’.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Bruce confides during an exclusive interview with Nothing in the Rulebook. “When that New York Times reporter started taking photographs of me, I just assumed it was for their Instagram account. And the questions they were asking – about whether I had a loving relationship with my parents or if I believed in God – well they’re just pretty standard, really. A lot of guests at Holiday Inn hotels find themselves having existential questions with fish; it’s really not uncommon.”

A staunch supporter of fish rights, Bruce has been on at least three circular swims around his bowl in the last half hour alone – all in protest at the way fish so regularly have their photographs taken without their permission, gaining no financial reward when these images are then shared worldwide.

“That David Attenborough and his Blue Planet series – he’s just the worst. I regularly commune with a Tiger shark I met on the fish internet called Terry, who hasn’t been able to get a job since David and his BBC crew filmed him eating a baby seal. They call him “baby killer” and “seal muncher” in interviews. He’s been losing weight; his wife left him, taking their pups with her. And what did he get? Not a dime from the production company. When he goes too close to the shallows now, people start screaming at him, they even bring in helicopters, chasing him away with harpoons and speed boats. They recognise him from the TV show, you see. It’s really not right what these pornographers – and they are pornographers, there’s no other term for it – do to us. We have rights, too.”

But what does Bruce think about the core subject matter of the article about his supposed depression? On this, the Betta takes a complex view.

“All I see is grey”

“You see, the thing is, I’m not what you would call the sort of fish who gets depression,” he explains. “Sure, there are days when I wake up and all I see is grey, and it feels as though I’m moving through liquid, with a strange weight all around me. But then, there will be others where everything is new and different and exciting. You look down to the bottom of your tank and you see there’s a new pebble that’s been overturned and it has the most beautiful pattern like nothing you’ve ever seen before. So I guess that’s just the nature of life in a way – it has ups and downs.”

“But of course, fish depression really is the silent killer. And a big problem in the shoaling communities is that you lose touch with your friends as you get older. They stop coming to visit your tank; you stop making the effort to go to the fake alligator or meet them in the plastic plants, because hey, you’re not fry anymore and you’re spending each of your days busting your gut down by the filtration system, so you just want to go back to your corner and drift along by the floor of your tank and maybe watch Netflix if one of the guests is into something decent like Stranger Things or Hannibal. You just don’t have the energy to keep up with all these young guppies showboating with the cash they’ve been flush with since Thatcher privatised all the old state industries and deregulated the financial fish market.”

“Too many fish just sort of disappear”

“I’ve known too many fish who just sort of disappear this way. One day they’re there – the next; bam! Floating upside down in a toilet. Of course no fish asks for this. But nobody ever knows where to go. They never talk about it. And that’s the most important thing. You need fins to cry on; you need folks to turn to; you need to speak up. So yes, in that respect I suppose it is a good thing that this article came out when it did – it’s just a shame that journalist didn’t ask my permission to use my photo, and I don’t see why some of those sweet internet royalties couldn’t find their way to me somehow.”

Speaking to Bruce, you can’t help but get the impression that he’s trying to deflect around something that is otherwise gnawing at him. He’s all pomp and bluster and good natured conversation – offering you as many fish flakes as you like and never flinching when you accidently tap the glass of his tank. But this is a fish with a very real wall around him, blocking him off from the rest of the world. As though in a move to combat this impression, he pre-emptively moves to forgo further questioning about his personal feelings by offering us un-inhibited access to the personal diary he has kept for “somewhere between one hour and four years, depending on time and my life expectancy, etc – what ever that is,” he says.

Reading the diary is a far more revealing experience than, perhaps, either Bruce or this interviewer expected.

Diary of a lonely fish

Diary entries range from the elegiac; “I spent three moons deep at rest beneath the swirling stars of the hotel guest’s laptop screensaver. The quickening slivers of colour warping around each other seemed for a moment to mirror the beating of my heart, and with each movement of water through my gills it felt as though, for the first time, I could feel the intrinsic separation of oxygen from hydrogen molecules as the liquid passed back into my tank, and the sweet elixir of life filled my lungs. And in the ecstasy of the moment all I could think of was how infinite the world was, how perfectly beautiful it is to be mortal and small and unimportant in something so vast.”

To the worryingly short; “why exist?”

But perhaps the most interesting diary entries are those focused around a particular week in the summer of 2016. It is during this time that Bruce’s diary entries are most vivid, at their longest, and filled with an intense optimism about the possibilities of the future.

Donald Trump and a new love interest

Crucially, it is also at this time we are introduced to a new hotel guest – described by Bruce as “An overweight orangutan with a bad toupee and tiny hands”. This guest – who hotel records confirm to be no other than US President Donald Trump – had a habit, the diaries indicate, of setting up mirrors all around the room. While Trump apparently used these mirrors generally to investigate suspicious moles on his back, as well as to stare at his genitalia shouting “It IS bigger than Barack’s, it is!” the truly interesting thing is that in the mirror closest to Bruce’s tank, Bruce first spots “the most incredible vision – a fish more beautiful than words can describe”.

Pressing Bruce to expand on who this fish was, he averts the question, talking about how the animated film Shark Tale is the most racist-against-fish film to have been produced this side of the millennium. Yet other diary entries are more illuminating.

On the second day of Trump’s residency in the room, Bruce notes: “I am yet to build up the courage to talk to her – but I know I must. Never have I felt such a passion stir in me.”

And then, on the fourth: “Feelings! My heart leaps and my world is turned around. For we have the most incredible of all things – an instant, life affirming connection. And this all the more fantastic for there being no words spoken between us. But who needs words when the connection is so strong? After hours of pondering, of second-guessing my best move, I approached this beauty, and as I did so, she turned to face me, too – entirely directly, our eyes meeting, and in that moment, the world stood still. We stayed there, transfixed upon each other’s gaze. Galaxies exploding in our heads, the infinite possibilities of love in our hearts. Every move I made she made too – at identical times, as though we were not two creatures but one; two parts of the same whole. It is true what they say, that souls do have their equal partner. After so long waiting, I have finally found my own.”

Finally, though, disaster. On the afternoon of Trump’s last day in the room, Bruce’s love interest disappears. That evening, Bruce writes: “Oh woe is me my love, for banishment hath found my heart and ripped it from my chest. I cannot think but think of you – I cannot swim but drift to the bottomless depths of despair. How can I carry on without you beside me? What is life without you? What is…”

There are no further diary entries for a period of seven months, until a fresh one appears, signalling a key sea change in his tone of writing: “Fish flakes. The synthetic substance made of my peers. Each mouthful is cannibalism. My life is a lie.”

With a deadline looming, one final attempt is made to persuade Bruce to speak about this period in his life. And to find out what transpired in this Betta’s mind during those ominous seven months of silence. But he is unmoved by our requests and signals with a dorsal fin for us to leave the room. Our exclusive interview with the fish who shot to fame is over.

UPDATE

Two days after this interview was published, Bruce was found on the floor of his hotel room, dead. The apparent cause of death? Suicide by drying out on the carpet.

One day later, a cheque arrived for Bruce from the New York Times.

The NYT have not been available for comment.

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Between stations: exploring the art of subway tracks

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Looking somewhere between an electric circuit diagram and a Mondrian painting, subway – or underground – maps are exemplars of ways to present difficult information in an accessible, visually engaging and, crucially, easy to understand, way.

Londoners may well be familiar with the story of Harry Beck’s famous ‘diagram’ of the city’s underground system in 1931, which presented dozens of lines that both criss crossed a few miles of central London, but also spanned dozens of miles outside the city, stretching out into the suburbs.

Beck’s approach – plotting lines on a grid running vertically, horizontally or at 45 degree angles – meant that it was not possible to tell the distance or precise geographic location of stations at a glance. However, Beck reasoned this was unimportant: what passengers needed to know was how to get from one station to another as efficiently as possible and where to change between lines.

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Beck’s 1931 ‘diagram’ of the London Underground system

Beck’s design revolutionised the design of underground maps across the world. A traveller from London will be able to read the subway or metro systems in New York or Hong Kong just as easily as if they were travelling between Elephant and Castle and Harrow and Wealdstone back in their home city.

Unsurprisingly then, the design of tube maps is a source of inspiration for artists and designers, as they offer clear examples of how to present complicated data effectively, and creatively.

A fascinating new project from Nicholas Rougeux, the creator of the inspired ‘literary constellations’ suite of visualisations of the opening lines of famous books, has now taken the humble tube map a step further.

In ‘Between Stations’, Rougeux breaks down famous subway systems into the segments between each station and rearranges them to fill a common simple shape: a circle. Each diagram shows every segment in a subway system while maintaining geographic orientation (no segments were rotated). Some segments serve multiple lines, like in in Chicago where the segment between the Washington/Wells and Quincy stops serves the Purple, Pink, Orange, and Brown lines. In these situations, a segment was included or each using that line’s colour.

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Rougeux breaks down famous subway systems and rearranges them into the simple circle

Explaining his methodology and process behind each of the new maps and animations, Rougeux says: “Arranging the segments this way reveals geographic identities unique to each city. For example, Chicago is a grid-based city from north to south and east to west so its diagram has more mostly horizontal and vertical segments while London’s segments appear more curved because the city’s layout is less ridgid. New York City’s layout has grid-based areas but they’re on an angle from true north, so most of the lines are diagonal.”

Explore the art of subway maps for yourselves. Check out Rougeux’s project.

National Poetry day: the best of Twitter

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28 September marks National Poetry Day. Across the UK, poetic events are being hosted as part of the annual celebration that inspires people throughout the country to enjoy, discover and share poems. Everyone is invited to join in, whether by organising events, displays, competitions or by simply posting favourite lines of poetry on social media using #nationalpoetryday.

Days like this harness the power of the humble hashtag to great effect. As such, we have spent our days hard at work not quite working; but instead scrolling through the annals of the Twittersphere to compile some of the best Tweets of National Poetry Day.

Enjoy!

  1. Downing Street’s Larry the cat tries his hand at poetry…

Larry the cat

 

  1. Technically Ron reminds us of some home truths…

Technically Ron haiku

 

  1. The problems of autocorrect…

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  1. Poetry can be confusing…

Joe poetry day

 

  1. SPOILER alert: Tyrion on the ending of Game of Thrones…

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  1. Advice on how to live on a narrow boat…

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  1. Blackadder’s Baldrick could be a greater war poet than Wilfred Owen…

Blackadder.png

 

  1. Skelator really doesn’t like He-Man…

Skelator.png

 

  1. Poetry from the London Underground…

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  1. Professor Snape loves combining poetry with Harry Potter puns…

Professor Snape

 

Want more poetry? Why not check out our poems created from the verbatim comments of Donald Trump

Thank you for listening – Donald Trump poetry

Listen you mother fucker,

There are no mixed messages.

We are backed by everybody

Even the haters and the losers

 

Please don’t feel stupid or insecure

I’ve never had any trouble in bed

I always insist on being politically correct

You have to treat women like shit

 

I could be dating my daughter,

Ivanka,

Look at that face!

We have a very good relationship,

Believe me.

 

I have the highest I.Q.

I am a really smart guy

Very, very, very intelligent

All I know is what’s on the internet:

  1. We could use a big fat dose of global warming
  2. You can never be too greedy
  3. Pregnancy is certainly an inconvenience for a business,

 

Sometimes –

I wish I was a black,

I have a great relationship with the blacks.

I have black guys counting my money

So I am the least racist person,

 

It must be a pretty picture,

A great, great wall,

Nobody builds walls better than me,

Believe me,

I’ll build them very inexpensively,

Thank you for listening.

Anonymous 

 

A note on the above poem: 

All the lines of ‘Thank you for listening’ are taken, verbatim, from Donald Trump speeches, Tweets, interviews or recorded comments. For a fully referenced version of the poem please send the NITRB team an email!

Why do we pay any attention to apparent ‘rules’ for writing?

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Elmore Leanoard on writing rules: illustration by Joe Cardiello 

If there is one feature of humankind that clearly defines our civilisation, it is, perhaps, the written word. All of human imagination can be found within the walls of our libraries – the perfect sanctuaries for books – as written language has emerged as the perfect means of cataloguing our thoughts, our discourse and our histories.

While other species of animals have been shown to communicate with one another, it is our ability to form complex language that sets us apart. This in itself is one of the things that unifies us and brings us together as human beings, regardless of our background or birthright: Everywhere on earth, human languages use the same kinds of grammatical machinery, such as nouns, verbs, auxiliaries and agreement.

Yet despite these defining features of our language, the way in which they are used has never been fully formalised. Of course, there have been prescriptive rules of how to “write well” and “speak properly” for generations; yet how each individual writes and speaks is unique to them.

Despite the obvious idiosyncrasies innately tied to the way one writes and expresses themselves, there has never been a shortage of people seeking advice on writing – nor of people looking to share their tips and “rules”.

Perhaps this is because, as Harvard psycholinguist Steven Pinker wrote in his wonderful modern guide to style, “A crisp sentence, an arresting metaphor, a witty aside, an elegant turn of phrase are among life’s greatest pleasures.”

And it is, of course, a natural human inclination to find ways to improve oneself, particularly in the way we express ourselves. Quite simply, this is because human beings want to be heard and understood by others.

It is the way in which we approach this self-improvement that is interesting, as it proves what many of us no doubt suspected all along: that the rules and advice people give on how to become a better writer or a better communicator are just as unique and idiosyncratic as the writing or speaking styles they seek to improve.

Take the approaches of two great writers as one example here. On the one hand, the late, great, David Foster Wallace advises a deep studying of one’s use of language, practically applying the rules of a faithful usage dictionary to ensure your writing is applied correctly in meticulous detail:

“Get a usage dictionary… you need a usage dictionary, you have to be paying a level of attention to your own writing that very few people are doing… A usage dictionary is [like] a linguistic hard drive… For me the big trio is a big dictionary, a usage dictionary, and a thesaurus.”

On the other hand, F. Scott Fitzgerald describes good writing as something that comes naturally, from deep inside us – and is expressed through our pens (or typewriters, or laptops) in a way that cannot be overthought:

“If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.”

What this all teaches us is that language and writing can be ever truly mastered, because they are not static things bound by real rules; but rather living and ephemeral, ever evolving over the course of time. At any moment in time a style of writing could be dying out, and, simultaneously, another may be born. This is because language is defined not by rules of syntax or grammar; but by the human mind that creates it.

World-class literature courses you can study for free right now

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“We should learn to treat literature as doctors treat their medicines, something we prescribe in response to a range of ailments and classify according to the problems it might be best suited to addressing,” say the creators of an excellent video explaining what literature is for.

Centuries previously, Galileo observed that books have an uncanny power to transport us, across time and space, into the mind of another person. And suggests that we are drawn to books, and derive such pleasure from reading, because literature is a means of connecting human beings and human ideas across boundaries – and is, in this way, a means of both time travel and telepathy.

For those passionate about reading, and who wish to take the study of literature to new levels (but at their own convenience), we’ve provided below a list of dozens of online literature courses you can take for free, right now, from the world’s leading universities, including Yale, Oxford, Harvard, and Warwick.

You can download these audio & video courses straight to your computer or mp3 player. 

  • This Craft of Verse: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures – Free Online Audio – Jorge Luis Borges, Harvard

 

“My Box of Tricks”, Dougie Dodds


 

 

 

 

About the artist

Dougie DoddsDougie Dodds can be seen as the embodiment of indecisiveness, but currently considers himself to be an illustrator and writer, with a keen interest in medieval and viking sagas. He has a BA in English Literature from UEA, and is currently working towards an MA in Authorial Practice: Illustration at Falmouth University. He is a self taught publisher, being the founder and currently soul employee of DoubleDeckerBooks, who have successfully published two poetry compilations and two children’s books. He also dabbles in journalism, having previously co-run the SPA winning student publication VENUE, and really hates beetroot.

NITRB launches monthly web comic from illustrator Dougie Dodds

Nothing in the Rulebook launches a new web comic series from illustrator Dougie Dodds as he embarks on the choppy seas of a postgraduate education into the arts. Come see the artist as a young man do battle with his old foes; fusty student accommodation, impending deadlines and that old hair-puller, writer’s block. Here, Dodds introduces his NITRB column and why anyone in their right mind would commit to such a thing – Billy the Echidna 

For the last few days I have been engaged in what seems like futile attempts to not only tidy my room, but maintain some form of order within it.

It impresses me that, despite numerous attempts to put things away in their rightful places, (a concept still fluid it seems) there remains countless items that do not seem to belong anywhere. This mess is predominantly down to me finishing my degree in English Literature at UEA, and the unavoidable move back to the family home, where me, my degree, and the surprising amount of stuff I have accumulated over the past three years now reside.

The mixing of ‘pre-degree’ clutter and ‘degree-clutter’ has been made worse by the steady increase of the new, ‘post-degree’ clutter.

This new clutter comprises of a large amount of pencils, an even larger amount of pens, a cutting mat, watercolours, very strong glue, and a dauntingly large amount of empty sketchbooks.

 

To those of you wondering what this all has to do with the study of books I very happily reply: not much. I, much like the items scattered around my room, did not belong in the academic world of literature, and after three years of examining the written word to an inch of it’s life (and mine on a few occasions) I’ve finally made the apparently inevitable leap from books to art.

Come the end of September I’ll be travelling down to Cornwall to study the impressively titled Authorial Practice: Illustration course at Falmouth University.

Illustration seemed like the logical option, bridging the gap between literature and art. My time at UEA has not being without artistic opportunities, as in my last year I co-ran the university’s culture magazine, where I would lend myself to the occasional illustration, more often than not in the last few hours of publication.

A few of my modules as well actually gave me the opportunity to write a story and illustrate it myself. It was repeatably drilled into me that ‘you shouldn’t spend too much time on the illustrations, as they will not be marked,’ being solely reliant on the quality of creative writing as well as a critical commentary that went along side it. I however, with slight consequences to my final mark, blissfully ignored their warnings, and devoted, almost obsessively, myself to drawing.

The project that started me on this dangerous spiral was my retelling of the medieval Arthurian tale of Sir Launfal, which I translated from Middle English into modern prose, specifically aimed at younger readers. This project showed me that my interest in medieval literature and illustration do not necessarily have to be two worlds apart, and it was possible to combine them.

This is something I plan to do a lot with my work, to bring these dangerously close to being forgotten, medieval and viking sagas into the modern day. Consequently, my dissertation contained various illustrations where I had translated Shakespeare’s The 

Tempest into a wordless graphic novel, something that broke the monotony of writing and actually made the 9,000 word piece enjoyable. I also ended up illustrating my girlfriend’s creative writing dissertation, something I nagged her to let me do ever since she started writing it.

Despite the waffling nature of this article, this is not a biography into the life of Dougie Dodds, a fascinating read I’m sure, but rather an introduction into the type of content I will be bringing you.

Once a month there will be a comic strip giving you snippets of the life of an illustration student in Falmouth. A hopefully humorous account of experiences I have had, and one that plays around with the idea of a student moving from one discipline to another. I hope to bring the two worlds together as best I can, making sure the three years of literature were not wasted, and I will take you along with me.  

Read Dougie’s first web comic here

About the author of this post

Dougie DoddsDougie Dodds can be seen as the embodiment of indecisiveness, but currently considers himself to be an illustrator and writer, with a keen interest in medieval and viking sagas. He has a BA in English Literature from UEA, and is currently working towards an MA in Authorial Practice: Illustration at Falmouth University. He is a self taught publisher, being the founder and currently soul employee of DoubleDeckerBooks, who have successfully published two poetry compilations and two children’s books. He also dabbles in journalism, having previously co-run the SPA winning student publication VENUE, and really hates beetroot.

So that was my words – Donald Trump poetry

I am a great man,

Big, big, big,

The beauty of me is that I am very rich,

And my fingers are long and beautiful,

I have farmers coming up to me and kissing me,

Smart strong guys love holding my hand,

I live in the White House,

It doesn’t matter what the media write,

They don’t know how to write good,

As long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass,

You can do anything,

Grab them by the pussy,

Just start kissing them,

Don’t even wait,

That’s politics,

You can do anything,

So that was my words.

Anonymous

 

A note on the above poem: 

All the lines of ‘So that was my words’ are taken, verbatim, from Donald Trump speeches, Tweets, interviews or recorded comments. For a fully referenced version of the poem please send the NITRB team an email!