... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

465: November nearly over

Every time I hear this song by Katy Perry it makes me think of this song by G.G. Allin. Perhaps we should introduce Katy and GG so they can satisfy their disgusting fantasies together. Perhaps if GG wasn't dead... and a filthy excuse for a human being... Anyway, forget I mentioned it; it was just a reoccurring thought I needed to get out of my system.

We are nearing the end of the month, and that means the end of National Novel Writing Month. I am ashamed to say I have failed abysmally. In the first week I got a huge amount done – leaps forward in terms of word count and general development of plot and character. The second week I was exhausted and feeling burned out – not only did I stop working on the novel, I also neglected the blog. The third and fourth weeks I have become excited about writing again, but have been concentrating on research and note taking, with a bit of time spent on actual writing. I have also tried to catch up with blogging again but am still limping a little behind.

These last couple of days I have been obsessed with following and taking a small part in this Burzynski cancer quack blog war. It's very exciting to see how quickly it has snowballed, and people whom I have great respect for have taken up the cause on twitter: Stephen Fry (@), PZ Myers (@), Simon Singh (@), Dara O Briain (@), and Ben Goldacre (@). I think it very important to stand up in support of a cause like this and, to use the cliche, say 'I'm Spartacus' even if I'm not really. Very excited to see how this develops. And amused by the random string of coincidences that drew this burgeoning mini-revolution to my attention.

Lately the dry and dusty conditions of my day job have lead to really badly cracked skin on my hands, and as a result I enjoyed an exfoliating and moisturising hand massage, using hemp hand cream, and gifted to me by my wonderful fiancee. Tomorrow we will go to the cinema and perhaps Yo! Sushi. Stike that: definitely go to Yo! Sushi. Yo God, I love Yo! Sushi. So instead of churning out the seven blog posts that'll put that important "(30)" beside the month of November in my Blog Archive, I'll be out enjoying myself. Sometimes when I'm writing I forget about life. Unless I'm actually writing about my life, which I find embarrassing and try not to do. Plus it's boring. If I was an explorer of the ruined Antarctic city of the Elder Ones, or the latest drummer in Judas Priest, I might write about my comings, goings, and doings a little more often.

Had a really good idea for a novel, or long short-story, today. It's safely recorded in my notebook; I'm glad I started taking that to work with me. Don't worry, I'll finish the first novel before I start on the third.


Monday, November 28, 2011

464: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
-Article 19, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Burzynski Clinic - The Streisand Effect continues to snowball, and bloggers and tweeters continue calling 'I'm Spartacus' in a stand against bullying, quackery; a stand for freedom of speech, libel reform, and scientific honesty. I blogged about Burzynski yesterday, and have no further comment to make on his clinic, other than these quotes from reputable cancer charities: 

At the moment, there is very little solid scientific evidence to show that antineoplastons are effective at treating cancer, and virtually all the research in this area has been carried out by Burzynski and his team – a red flag to the scientific world.
The fact that no other labs have managed to replicate Burzynski’s apparent success with antineoplastons or are interested in developing the treatment raises questions.
As well as the doubts around the effectiveness of the treatment, the whole manner in which the clinic is offering treatment is unusual.
Furthermore, the scientific community expects the results of clinical trials to be published in the medical literature. As far as we can tell, Burzynski’s team have not published any results since 2006 which raises questions about exactly what kind of clinical trials they are running, and when we might expect to see the detailed analysis of their results.

Antineoplaston therapy is a complementary/alternative cancer treatment that involves using a group of synthetic chemicals called antineoplastons intended to protect the body from disease.
Thousands of patients have been treated with antineoplastons, mostly at a single clinic, and clinical trials are under way there for many types of cancer. Published clinical trial results are available for a relatively small number of patients, and the effectiveness of antineoplastons as a cancer therapy remains uncertain. Most cancer specialists believe there is insufficient evidence to recommend use of antineoplastons except perhaps in the context of clinical trials that will provide reliable information on the safety and effectiveness of this treatment.
Can't argue with that. Except recently a number of bloggers have decided to raise the issue due to the fact that there has been a number of uncritical reports in the mainstream press about charity fund-raising to send terminally ill cancer patients to America for treatment. It is inevitably portrayed as an amazing, experimental treatment that the NHS refuses to offer; people are rightly disgusted by the discrepancy between the actual facts and the mainstream press' interpretation/ignoring of the facts.

The reason this is becoming such a hot issue is because a representative (Marketing & Sponsorship of the Burzinsky Patient Group) of the Burzynski Clinic, a man named Marc Stephens, who appears to be pretending to be lawyer, but clearly isn't one, is sending vicious, bullying threats to any and all critic of Burzynski. This is entirely inappropriate, and not at all the actions of a reputable medical/scientific, or even legal, professional with nothing to hide. Reasoned and respectful criticism of scientific work is perfectly legitimate, and in fact is the very way in which scientific method progresses. Bullying attempts to stifle freedom of speech is entirely against all that is right and good.

To Andy Lewis of Quackometer, Marc Stephens sent this:

Be smart and considerate for your family and new child, and shut the article down..Immediately. FINAL WARNING.

To Peter Bowditch of Ratbags.com, Marc Stephens sent this:

Since you are apparently suffering from Munchausen Syndrome, which is usually diagnosed in females, so it is interesting that your first name is Peter, I would like to give you some attention. I hope you didn’t get offended. I am only speaking the truth, supported by a reference. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/munchausen-syndrome/DS00965 “Munchausen Syndrome is an attention-seeking personality disorder which is more common than statistics suggest. Munchausen Syndrome, named after a German soldier renowned for exaggerated tales, is a predominantly female disorder in which an emotionally immature person with narcissistic tendencies, low self-esteem and a fragile ego has an overwhelming need to draw attention to herself and to be the centre of attention.”
So here is the plan Mr. or Mrs. Bowbitch [sic][...]

And to Rhys Morgan, a 17-year old schoolboy, Marc Stephens has sent googlemap photos of Rhys' house, and sent this:

Please confirm your mailing address, which I have on record as [Rhys' address]. If you do not cooperate an official legal complaint requesting punitive damages will be mailed to that address. I will be contacting your school as well to inform them of your illegal acts.

Rhys' response was considered, well-researched, and assisted by professional advice ("Alan Henness, Simon Singh and Robert Dougans, associate at Bryan Cave"), and worth quoting in full here (I was going to edit it down, but it really is fantastic):

You continue to threaten to bring a claim against me for defamation.

In the event that such a claim is brought in the USA I will rely upon the well-known authority of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan 376 U.S. 254. As you may be aware, this would require your client to show proof of actual malice before they could succeed in any libel claim. My postings are clearly not malicious. I believe in their truth, and I have sought to obtain a comment from your client, or else at least ascertain any objections to specific items within the posting. I am willing to listen. I would certainly reflect your client’s position if asked.

I think I come within the circumstances envisaged by the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Underwager v Salter 22 F.3d 730 at [14]:

“…actual malice” has nothing in common with “ill will.” A person who concludes that a public figure is a knave may shout that conclusion from the mountain tops.”If the claim is brought in the English courts, you ought to be aware that in the light of the well-known decisions of Rookes v Barnard [1964] AC 1129 and Broome v Cassell [1972] AC 1028 you will not be able to bring a claim for punitive damages on these facts. You also ought to follow the procedures set out in the Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation which require you to, amongst other things, set out precisely what your client objects to and why.

This is an issue which you have failed to address. I am not asking for a legal lecture from you. What I am asking for is clear information of what your client objects to, and why. As things stand, I have heard nothing substantive; I have just received threats.This speaks volumes.

I would remind you and your client of another aspect of the well-known decision of Underwager v Salter, to which I refer above, which was expressly adopted by the Court of Appeal in England in the decision of Lord Chief Justice Judge in British

Chiropractic Association v Singh [2011] 1 WLR 133:“[Plaintiffs] cannot, simply by filing suit and crying “character assassination!”, silence those who hold divergent views, no matter how adverse those views may be to plaintiffs’ interests. Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation. … More papers, more discussion, better data, and more satisfactory models–not larger awards of damages–mark the path toward superior understanding of the world around us.”I also note that you threaten to mention my “illegal acts” to my school.Notwithstanding the fact that I have committed no “illegal acts”, the threat to involve my school is wholly inappropriate. If an English solicitor was to make such a threat they would be in breach of their professional obligations and subject to disciplinary proceedings by the SRA. Please inform me which US bar association you are a member of so that I can draw their attention to your threats.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

463: Sunday stuff

Waves of folk from a vast array of this wonderful world's ethnicity's have just passed by my window, singly and in pairs, for the last twenty minutes; all of them wielding a black bin bag and a pair of tongs each, and wearing a yellow high-visibility waistcoats with something about a church written on the back. They must be doing a litter sweep, I suppose, but I can't report on that action having not seen any being picked up. Our street is, at the moment, wonderfully free from litter; the only detritus is that left by god himself, the fallen leaves of autumn. The churchy tong-wielders don't concern themselves with leaves.

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was speak out loud the content of my dream: I can't decide if kisses are Xs or Zs. For that moment between sleep and wake this seemed like a vitally important distinction, and it seemed like an argument that had been raging for decades between sectarian camps of believers and dis-believers. This momentary thought seemed to have an entire history behind it, backed by the activities and thoughts of an entire world's population and culture. I'm over it now.

What other whimsical Sunday observations are there to be made? Oh I don't know... int it gettin dark early these days? What's music coming to? Where does the day get to? No, sorry, I'm just not feeling any of those. Oh, here we go, here's something almost worth mentioning. There was a dreadful film on this afternoon about some sexy women dressed as school girls and something something man in a dress something something Stephen Fry something something girl with a pearl earring. It was called St. Trinian's. It was on in the background being watched by my partner and occasionally glanced at by me. Meanwhile I was at the computer reading Comment is Free and all that sort of stuff.

I relented and eventually moved onto the sofa to eat my soup and watch the end of X-Factor, but again my attention was short. I pulled a book, The Illustration Handbook, off the nearest shelf and opened it random with the intention of looking at some drawings. A black ink drawing of a cat towering over a city – The Coming of the Great Cat God – with a red and yellow glowing sky, caught my attention. It was by Ronald Searle, and I began reading about him in the text beside the image. When I got to the sentence "...however, he is more famous for having created the St. Trinian's schoolgirls in his books Hurrah for St Trinian's [etc]..." I yelped with surprise. Coincidence spotting seems to be becoming a minor hobby of mine.

462: a word about football

Ancient Greek football player balancing the ball.
Depiction on an 
The roads around here yesterday, as I arrived home from my first Saturday at the day job, were spilling over with cars; on yellow lines, pavements, corners. I guess there was a big crowd for the football. I then noticed 'Old Trafford' trending on twitter, and could hear the roars, oohs and ahhs, of football fans doing stuff. It always strikes me as odd that the activities of some people in shorts playing about with a ball, so close to my house, can be such a big bit of news. Newcastle United were awarded a penalty against Manchester United.... at Old Trafford! Wow! Still, United are, for now at least, my local teams so: Go Uniteds! Up the Red Devils! Etcetera!

No one wants to read me going on about football: it's bad enough having to listen to someone who knows what they are talking about, let alone a complete ignoramus like myself. But still, it sometimes creeps over the border into my thoughts what with living between the stadiums of the two biggest teams in the country; living in a city utterly obsessed and proud of it's football heritage (rightly so, I suppose). The football is like the weather – you need to know what is happening before you head out, or you might get stuck in traffic for a very long time. We have digital road signs telling us when there is a match on. Very useful.

Today brings the sad news of the sudden death of footballing legend Gary Speed, and on twitter there are reports of Shay Given crying on the pitch during Swansea vs Aston Villa. (unimportant aside: I met Shay Given during his time at Man City, in a previous job in my capacity as a menial worker in the service industry.) This two days after Stan Collymore tweets openly and bravely about his bouts of depression – read his full post here, a wonderful account of his suffering under the illness. What is going on in the footballing world? Maybe I'll watch Match of the Day for a clue.

That has exhausted my take on this weekend's footballing news; I'm going to have to turn down all the incoming offers of Sports' Correspondent for various international news agents, newspapers and television stations. Shame really.

Going to the Match (1928), L.S. Lowry, owned
by the Professional Footballers' Association

461: I am Spartacus (allegedly) #Burzynski

WPA poster, 1936-38
The blog world is all a'twitter about Stanislaw Burzynski, and the Burzynski Clinic; and while I have no desire to be set upon by Burzynski's semi-illiterate ragin' PR-man-posing-as-a-lawyer Marc Stephens, and his insulting and threatening emails; I do want my voice to be among those speaking out against pseudo-science and those preying on the vulnerable.

Let's start from the start. Stanislaw Burzynski is a doctor (of questionable credentials) who claims to be trialing the cure for cancer. However due to the fact that he does not have the cure for cancer, he is not legally allowed to offer his 'treatment' as a medicine. Therefore he has rebranded his treatment as a clinical trial; his patients are not being treated, they are taking part in a clinical trial. However this trial has been going on for over thirty years and he his rate of published research leaves a lot to be desired.  According to Cancer Research UK, this "raises questions about exactly what kind of clinical trials they are running, and when we might expect to see the detailed analysis of their results."

His business does not have the appearance of an honest scientist or medical man, whether by intent or incompetence I could not possibly know. He is (allegedly) in the business of masquerading as a medical pioneer being hounded by Big-Gov and Big-Pharma as he jus' tryna do some good for the poor suffrin' people. His disguise is thin, but his (alleged) intended (alleged) victims seem less inclined to be critical due to the pain and desperation of being a cancer sufferer, or being a close friend or relative of someone with cancer.

The latest round of Burzynski-bashing has bloomed due to a superficiality of celebrities in the UK doing their bit to raise money for the desperate family of a poor little girl. Tragically she has an incurable form of brain cancer. Her family, and many UK fund-raisers, have been duped by the Burzynski (alleged)scam, and need £200,000 to buy a little false hope. There is nothing sadder than the death of a child, but some people (quacks, psychics) will always see it as a great opportunity to make some money and boost their status.

William HogarthMarriage à-la-mode:The Visit to the Quack Doctor
You're entitled to disagree with me, of course, and if you do you can find (just as non-impartial) information about the miracle and hope of Burzynski's treatment here:
or if you're in Manchester tomorrow night (Monday 28 Nov) you can go to a fund-raiser at the Comedy Store:
or you can make a donation here:
It is right and good to raise money for this family, I just hope they can use the money to provide comfort and well-being for themselves, rather than wasting it.

It is the tragic and personal nature of the story that has lead to such unquestioning support from celebrities and even from reputable newspapers like The Observer. There is another side however as illustrated by the experiences of Wayne Meritt who attended the Burzynski Clinic and documents what happened in his website, Burzynski Scam. Of course, this is just another anecdote (as is this on Lymphomation.org), I just wonder why the fund-raisers are so eager to read the positive anecdotes, while ignoring the negative ones, and the lack of supporting evidence for Burzynski's treatment... anyway...

What I want, and what the world needs, is one of two things; either:
1) That Burzynski stops pretending(allegedly) to be a doctor in order to (allegedly)extract money from vulnerable people to further a pseudo-trial that produces no results.
2) That Burzynski conducts his trials with absolute transparency so that other laboratories may replicate the results he claims to have. If he does have the cure for cancer he owes it to the world to allow proper exhaustive, controlled, double-blinded research to be carried out.  If, after all the accepted (because they work) rigors of scientific research, Burzynski is proved to have been right, and "antineoplastons" do cure cancer, I will immediately change my mind.  And apologise for my foolishness.  I suspect I will never have to do this.

In the meantime we can do some genuine good in the fight against cancer by donating to one or more of the following charities:

of particular interest is

Thursday, November 24, 2011

460: The Great Stanisław Coincidence

November 2011 is, for me, the month of the great Stanisław coincidence. First on Tuesday I started reading The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem. A legendary Polish science-fiction writer who I have only just discovered under recommendation from this guy. The very next morning I turned on the laptop at 7am, fired up the browser and was taken to my homepage, the endlessly useful google.co.uk (you may have heard of it). I like having google as my homepage because I enjoy the occasional surprise of a google doodle; yesterday was the most incredible day for google doodle spotting. It was an interactive game/animation depicting scenes from The Cyberiad (and possibly other stories by Stanisław Lem; I'll find out the more I read). I honestly thought I was dreaming; the coincidence was too high and it set me off for the day convinced all was not quite normal with the world.

Stanisław Lem, as an author, was new to me, and the very name Stanisław (pronounced Stanis-wav) is entirely new to me. Might make a good name for my wee future baby boy? The great Stanisław coincidence continued today. At work I read the free papers from cover to cover three or four times. Monday to Wednesday this is just The Metro, but on Thursday and Friday The Manchester Evening News is free too. The letters page in today's MEN featured a letter, from a Manchester resident called Stanisław, informing a previous correspondent about the time, location and price of a local tea dance. Then, upon coming home I began reading online an interesting series of tweets by Ben Goldacre (Bad Science), and articles from the wonderful Quackometer blog:

The Burzynski Clinic Threatens My Family.
The False Hope of the Burzynski Clinic.

These posts were inspired by something called the Burzynski Clinic (that much is obvious thus far). Burzynski exhibits many typical traits of your typical quack, and in order to avoid the kind of hassle that quacks give their critics (read the above link about threats) I'm going to stick to describing him using quotes from wikipedia:

Since December 1976, Burzynski has administered peptides and their metabolites, which he calls antineoplastons, as treatments with alleged anti-cancer activity.
Another Stanisław
There is no convincing evidence from randomized controlled trials in the scientific literature that antineoplastons are useful treatments of cancer and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these products for the treatment of any disease.[1] The American Cancer Society has stated that there is no evidence that antineoplastons have any beneficial effects in cancer and recommended that people do not buy these products.[2] A 2004 medical review described antioneoplaston treatment as a "disproven therapy".[3] Oncologists have described Burzynski's research on antineoplastons as "flawed" and "scientific nonsense",[4] and independent scientists have been unable to reproduce the positive results reported in Burzynski's studies.[5]
In other words there seems to be an consensus amongst experts that his methodology is flawed and his results are ineffective. At best this means he gives false hope to dying people as he takes their money while contributing to the public mis-understanding of science, at worse he, well I won't say. To make matters worse The Observer have just done an unquestioning puff-piece (The worst year of my life) about the sad case of a four-year old cancer patient and the hopeful and desperate parents attempts to raise £200,000 to pay Burzynski. It's a terribly sad story, and one that loads of celebrities have helped to raise money for. That money should go to Cancer Research, who do real work in the fight against cancer, not a quack running a private alternative clinic. Click here and here for information on Burzynski from Cancer Research.

Burzynski's first name is... you guessed it: Stanisław! And that brings us to the end of the great Stanisław coincidence of November 2011. And remember readers, fight cancer and quacks, not cancer with quacks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

459: a bit of writing and some pictures of people

There was a problem saying the word 'cauliflower'. It kept coming out as 'California': Caulifornia, Califlornia, California cheese. It was a stuttering-stammering loop of messy California cheese. Still, it tasted lovely. The problem word was mine, but the cauliflorniower cheese was a joint effort. It accompanied toad in the hole (vaguely following this recipe, but using self-raising flour instead of plain, vegetable oil instead of groundnut, and rosemary along with the salt and pepper; didn't bother with the onion gravy this time); forget California (I'm sorry I mentioned the godforsaken place now), this was good proper English food. Or British; or European; or Homo sapiens.

Last night, after that fantastic feed, I slept like I haven't slept in years. Asleep fast by half-past nine and waking up slowly and ill-feelingly at 6am. Aches, concrete-sinus, headache, and a proclivity to moan and complain, greeted me this morning. I wanted more than anything to stay in bed and melt into sheets in a sleepy shuffling shed of slop and sleep. Never happened; soon I was back on the bus, spreading my germs to the very people I got them from in the first place. One annoying-phone-music-person was listening to some terrifically annoying weird sort-of fast electronic salsa with a highly repetitive hyper-horn line and some tippy-tappy drums. Every time a new identical-to-the-previous song started there were many groans and heads held in hands spreading around the bus. This is the second time in the last few weeks I, and my fellow commuters, have had the hideous misfortune to be on the bus with this horrible idiot with an mp3 phone. Blah.

I have the feeling it is winter now. I wore a scarf this morning. Then I wrote this boring blog post. Then I went to bed; or will do soon. Anyway: snore. Here are some pictures of humans:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

458: what is snot for?

Human Enigma and friends

I have a non-specific cold in which I sort of feel fine, yet my face is like a tap, if snot came from taps, which it doesn't. It comes from my face. I'm pretty sure I've felt like this for the last two-hundred and sixty days, or thereabouts. It's not fun, I can tell you; obviously you didn't think it was fun. I don't imagine there was any envy expressed upon reading my opening sentences. In fact it's a fairly sorry state to be in. I don't know how I will cope in the dusty, poorly-ventilated atmosphere of the work place. Pop along and see the human tap easily ooze a sort of gloop; bring along a jar and collect your own specimens to keep and treasure for as long as you both shall live. Please pay in man-size boxes of tissues; for an extra special collectible bonus gift pay in Kleenex man-size Balsam tissues. I can't afford them, sad face.

Responsibility for the destruction of the rainforests personally rests upon the broken bridge of my streaming nose. The tissues are now gone and I have moved on to the pile of napkins lifted from fast food restaurants over the last few months. I knew they would come in handy for something today or one of these other days. Don't mind me, I'm just having a little episode. My eyes are glazed like disgusting doughnuts and the computer screen is a jumble of pixels and bullshit. I've taken the day off work as a compromise so I can work late on Friday and come in on Saturday, usually a day off. It's going to be the high street's busiest weekend apparently.

My day off was supposed to be a constructive one with hours of writing and coffee drinking. Instead, I've managed to make my tiny little office space habitable again; then I've sort of gazed into space through twitter, listened to a bit of music, made some important long overdue phone calls to the kind of numbers that put you on hold for extremely long periods of time, eaten a sandwich, read some of The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem (thanks Matthew Pearce for the recommendation), and written a paragraph about snot. I then started writing this paragraph about today, eventually arriving right here, now.

If I had some money, today would have been further wasted, and probably irretrievably, because I would have bought, downloaded, installed, played the new Telltale Games episodic adventure: Jurassic Park: The Game. I love Telltale and am happy to pay for their output. I'll be forever grateful for their continuing of the Sam and Max and Monkey Island games. Anything that drags and updates -kicking and screaming- my childhood interests into adulthood is alright with me. More Monkey Island please, please. Quick, before I grow up again.

457: trapped in comics

Adam went on a business trip. After a week longer walk Eve in the garden all horny and thinking, who would it be able to satisfy both. In the mammoth and he launch sees to nemu. Mamut the scare, will begin to run and crash into the abyss.After running around the baboon. Eva after clawing, but the baboon jumps on the tree,and Eve will remain only a handful of hair from paviánovej cluster fuck. Again nothing...Goes on around the river and finally gets the right idea: jump into water, then picks up the fish and take it with her.And what then?As the mammoth died out - we know.Why are baboons bare ass - I know.But as before voňali fish - We will never know...
-Joke told in Slovak, as translated by google

Hilarious, eh? That's now my favourite ever joke. Even funnier than "Knock, Knock" "Who's there?" "Interrupting cow" "Interru-" "MOOO!" I like the bit with the paviánovej cluster fuck. That was really funny. I don't get it, but it sort of looks funny if you squint a bit and ingest some magic mushrooms. Then- HAHAHAH look at the curtains HAHAHAHA.

I just yawned and leaned back and caught sight of an old book on the shelf behind me. Its a pulp paperback of Spy vs Spy: The All New Mad Secret File on Spy vs Spy, by Prohias. It's an American thing: perhaps you've heard of it. I only knew it as a difficult and weird, but fun, Sega Master System game from a great many years ago, and didn't know it was an old comic until I found this book, wherever and whenever I originally found it. I loved it because each image takes up an entire page and there is no dialogue at all.

It reminds me of other similarly Beckettian comics – like Krazy Kat and Ignatz (Krazy loves Ignatz Mouse, but every strip ends with Ignatz hurling a brick at Krazy, and Krazy interpretting the assualt as an act of love), Drunken Bakers (two hopelessly alcoholic bakers spiral never-endingly down into perfunctory and inevitable self-destruction), Eight Ace (another Viz alcoholic: is always entrusted with £1.49 for some vital purchase, but always spends it on eight cans of Ace lager). In fact most comics/cartoons have a certain amount of repetition indicating capture within a hopeless never-ending cycle. From Simpsons, to the Beano, to Tom & Jerry, this is everywhere. Why are they called comics when they are so sad? Maybe the writers can only come up with one punchline and must recycle it forever.... that's pretty sad too.

click image for a closer read

Monday, November 21, 2011

456: Divination from the books

Borbonicus Codex

I have grabbed a pile of books from the shelf – mainly religious ones and reference books – and have an urge to pull passages/entries out of them at random and see what happens. Maybe a thread will emerge, a theme. Maybe I will be able to divine the future. Worth a try?

8 Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats / Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.[180]
The New Penguin Dictionary of Quotations, pg. 348
William Shakespeare: Hamlet
5 Yea, how quick to be lifted up in apride; yea, how quick to bboast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity ; and how slow they are to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to cwalk in wisdom's paths !
The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ
Helaman 12:3-19
a Prov. 29:23
b TG Boasting.
C TG Walking in Darkness ; Walking with God.
genetics, n. the branch of biology concerned with the structure, location, abnormalities and effects of the GENES. Medical genetics is mainly concerned with the expression of abnormal genes or gene combinations in the production of disease. Knowledge of such matters allows useful GENETIC COUNSELLING.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine, pg. 254
lexical-decision task An experimental technique for evaluating the manner in which verbal information is stored in memory. The task simply requests the subject to decide as rapidly as possible whether a string of letters presented briefly is a real word or a non-word. The pattern of response latencies that the subject produces is a sensitive measure of ► lexical *memory. Also called word-nonword task.
Penguin Dictionary of Psychology 2nd edition

The atom bomb is a paper tiger which the U.S. Reactionaries use to scare people. It looks terrible but in fact it isn't. Of course, the atom bomb is a weapon of mass slaughter, but the outcome of a war is decided by the people, not by one or two new types of weapons.
"Talk with the American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong."
(August 1946), Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 100
Quotations from Chairman Mao, pg. 140
6 Blessed are the death-defiant, for their days shall be long in the land—Cursed are the gazers toward a richer life beyond the grave, for they shall perish amidst plenty!
The Satanic Bible, Anton Szandor LaVey, pg. 34
saddlebags 1. n. Labia, piss flaps. 2. n. Scrotum. 3. n. Leathery receptacles on bicycles where testicles are stored.
Roger's Profanisaurus, Viz Das Krapital
5 Remember his wonderful works that he has performed, His miracles and the judicial decisions of his mouth.
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
Psalms 105:1-32
53. They ask you to hasten on the punishment (for them): had it not been a term (of respite) appointed, the punishment would certainly have come to them: and it will certainly reach them – of a sudden while they perceive not!
The Meaning of The Holy Qur'an
Surah 29: Al-Ankabut
BLOOM (In alderman's gown and chain.) Electors of Arran Quay, Inns Quay, Rotunda, Mountjoy and North Dock better run a tramline, I say, from the cattlemarket to the river. That's the music of the future. That's my programme. Cui bono? But our bucaneering Vanderdeckens in their phantom ship of finance...
James Joyce, Ulysses, pg. 452

A journey I've taken through wisdom and wit, both ancient and modern. Dubious sources all of them, yet all playing their parts well; all mean something to someone, if only the author or his fans and followers. Shakespeare warns me to remain thrifty in preparation for my forthcoming marriage; how did he know? It's almost as though he speaks to me, and me alone, over the vast human stretch of centuries; approximately half a millenia after Shakespeare wrote those words and here I am, getting married ; what an amazing coincidence.

The reference to genetics tells me to consider breeding – starting a family – and perhaps warns me to consider the risk of genetic disease. Considered alongside the passage from the Satanic Bible it is a reminder that the continuation of the genetic line is the only real source of immortality; of life after death. I am the current final link in an unbroken chain of successful reproducers stretching back four billion years to the very beginning of life on this planet. Don't be the end of a four billion year chain.  The reference to saddlebags is also an obvious call to breeding.

The lexical-decision task is about my writing, and my novel. It is also about this blog post. The important detail to be gleaned from the Mao quote is the idea of people winning battles – struggles – not weapons or tools. It is I who will write the novel, not my laptop and not the internet. It is ...

...and the rest of it.... you get the idea. I'm tired ; it;s past my bed time.

Note to self/P.s.
Yesterday I had the following for tea, and I post it here just to remind myself, so I can have it again in the future. Smoked haddock fishcakes with wasabi mayonaisse, stir-fried rice vermicelli with garlic and onions, and a rosemary poached egg. And plenty of soy sauce. That was so delicious I may just make the whole thing again right now. Fortunately there is enough of everything left to have the whole delicious pile again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

455: Shame on you

I rarely have the time for these police brutality videos which are so often reposted on twitter; are so often blurry, lacking in context, or carefully chopped to make to police look like aggressors; are so often hyped up by anarchists, conspiracy theorists, and silly little fools as incontrovertible evidence of a global conspiracy. I hardly ever have an emotional response, as the videos and the comments by people who can't possibly be impartial or knowledgeable, provide no factual information with which to form an opinion.... But...

Today a video called 'Police pepper spraying and arresting students at UC [University of California] Davis' is doing the rounds, and to me this video stands out for many reasons. It still lacks a certain amount of context, but what happens in it is clear to see: an armoured police man stands before a row of students seated on the path of their university campus; he raises his arm displaying his weapon, a large can of pepper spray (or other similar chemical weapon), very much in the manner of a professional wrestler playing to the audience, armed with a 2x4 wrapped in barbed wire, standing over a prostrate opponent (I'm not joking, watch the video). He then walks up and down the line spraying downwards onto the faces and heads of the peacefully protesting students.

What then follows after a couple of minutes of confusion, (in which it appears a small number of arrests are made i.e. some people are dragged away), is one of the most inspiring and beautiful acts of peaceful rebellion I, or you, are ever likely to see. Somehow the students form a semi-circle around the police officers, I suppose they are kettling them whether by accident or design, chanting Shame on you, shame on you. The police begin a tentative retreat, furtive glances, some grasping tight their strangely-shaped guns of some description.

The chant then changes to Whose University? OUR University, Whose University? OUR University, and then a peaceful invite to the police: You can go, You can go, You can go which finally results in what appears to be the police moving off the university pathway and back onto a public highway, and cheers from the protesters. It is a wonderful, tear jerking moment; one that has to mean something and should be remembered.

It doesn't really answer any questions, but it does show that small-scale peaceful protest can have some affect, and should be repeated. It doesn't provide any evidence that the US is fascist or evil, and is still just a video of one nervous, vicious, or stupid cop doing something disgusting, while his colleagues panic and try to salvage the situation. Whoever called the police onto the university campus needs to face some consequences. The university should sue the police, especially if it was uni staff who called on the police. There should be severe laws against using chemical weapons on peaceful protesters (I can't believe I actually had to type those words in that order).

If ever there were proof needed that the US was not some evil, fascist all-controlling dystopia, it is the free and easy distribution of the evidence against this police officer's crime. The video disseminates across the globe easily, and we rightly judge this as an atrocity committed against individuals, and against us all. Just remember that the world has many genuine fascist dystopias, where the pepper spraying of some students would be a minor everyday occurrence; where genocide, rape as a tool of oppression, and disappearing are the big news, but where no evidence of this can spread because the citizens are subjects without freedom; where big news is no news.

We, the comfortable people of the West, see the policeman's crime as offensive, disgusting and wrong, and this is a sign of how far we have come; how advanced and free we are; not a sign of how oppressed we are.

I have no knowledge about the facts leading up to the events of the video, nor do I know anything about what happened and will happen afterwards. I know nothing about the events in the video, except for what I think I can see, and what I conclude based on my own observations and emotions. As much as I wish I was, I am not impartial, objective, or in any way able to offer useful information; and neither are you. This is a confusing mess. I have no idea how often things like this happen, but judging by the amount of cameras filming in the video, and the speed in which the video gets out, I suspect it doesn't happen very often. But that's all I can do: suspect, wonder and worry. And be proud of the reaction of the students; proud of the free society which allows this video out; upset that one human being could treat others like insects to be spray away as an unpleasant inconvenience.

Here's the video. Watch it in full. Form your own opinions (and remember that they are only opinions; just because you think something doesn't make it true. Only conclusive evidence can make something true). (I suppose my confusion lies there – in my instinctive disgust at the policeman's crime, yet my unwillingness to view the video as evidence of a global evil; a conclusion I expect a lot of people to reach; a conclusion I view as being the opposite of the truth. Anyway, it's time I shut up.) Here's the video:

454: blog recommendation refute.me.uk by @pearce_

I'd like to recommend another blog to you all. Find it at refute.me.uk. It's written by Matthew Pearce, my university bestie who I don't see nearly enough. He holds the distinction of being among the smartest people I know and the only person who reads things properly properly. As a result of that there are posts in his blog about things that fly over my head. His blog is considered and researched, and although it doesn't have enough attribution links to papers and articles (hint, hint, Mat), and contains come technical posts clearly not aimed at me. You'll get no bullshit on refute.me.uk, but you will get factual articles rooted in the real world, and thought experiments designed to illuminate, with a weight towards economics as real-world phenomena. You know... numbers n that.

A recent post discusses the impact of a sudden influx of Star Trek technology dropped, deus ex machina, from the sky by a passing mischievous alien or time-traveller. It would improve our lives immeasurably (or is it measurably...) yet it would send many systems and structures we rely on into chaos and collapse. Useful? I don't know, perhaps. Interesting? Definitely. Numbers are another language; an almost incomprehensible barely forgotten second language from primary school. But that's my fault and my problem.

Numbers and statistics are the language of the way the world works. To understand anything true one must necessarily deal with the difficult, the obscure and the counter-intuitive. Statistics and the results of the scientific method can often produce results we wouldn't have expected, and that's the exact reason we need them. Throughout history the things we have imagined or wished to be true have mostly turned out to be myth and misconception. Then we got scientific method and the mass collection of statistics, and we finally started doing stuff right.

Damn, I'm so annoyed at myself for ignoring mathematics when I was young, for frying my brain with youthful indulgence and arrogant laziness. Now numbers make my eyes hurt. But everything in this life worth having, seeing, doing, knowing, is worth working for. Worth putting in the effort for. I want to understand the world around me; the way it really is, not the way is most comforting or the most convenient. I must remember not to confuse that which I'd like to be true, with that which is actually true. Difficult, but absolutely essential.

What was I talking about? I suspect when Matthew is writing his posts for refute.me.uk he remembers what the first paragraph was about by the time he gets to the fifth; he looks back at what he has written, rewriting and redrafting in order to achieve the clear objective he was aiming for. Good work if you can get it, but not for me. I'm not ready for that yet: further study is needed.

453: something something i forget...

Manchester Syline by Glenn Clarke

Reach to the heavens and cry out good morning sky! I would do were it not for the ceiling and the cloud cover; that was the gist of the sentence that popped into my head this morning as I walked to the bus stop. It's not the exact wording, which is now lost to time. However, the way I composed it originally was better; sparser, more bathetic, poetic, beauteous, better. It may have been all those things, but time cannot tell – time hides it from me. I didn't note it down, having forgotten my notebook, and now it is gone. I can only fool myself unintentionally into believing I had composed something wonderful, and then perhaps I could shut up about it.

I had an idea, but I forgot it, oooh, what was it, what was it... is a fairly tedious way to conduct a conversation. It's almost up there with the twin giants of tedious conversation: I had this really weird dream last night... and Someone I know (or someone who I know, knows someone who knows someone...) saw a ghost, went to a psychic, did a Ouija board, felt something I can't explain; how do you explain that?... Snore. Not interested. There are real more interesting things out there, and I shouldn't have to listen to the tedious fantastical, nonsensical meanderings of your dreams or ghost stories. Of course I'm too polite to say so in so many words... Oh wait, no I'm not.

Here is the occasionally wonderful Tim Minchin to express similar sentiments to those touched upon in the previous paragraph, and to do so in a way clearer and funnier than I could do if I was a million monkeys with a million iPads:

I think I will never tire of that. I am already tired of his lesser stuff, that fucking dreadful song about dancing bears, for example.

I now keep a notebook with me at all times, unless I forget it obviously. I had a hardback A5 one which I could just about squeeze into the pocket of my work trousers causing and uncomfortable and inconvenient rectangular bulge. I now have a small pile of incredibly flimsy but much more useful 15p-each-from-Wilkinson beauties. I can whip them out and jot a thought or sentence at will. It's tools and tricks like that that will play a deciding in role in the ongoing battle between me not being a writer, and me being a writer. One day victory will be triple underlined in the signed edition of my novel.

Good afternoon world!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

451: Time and puke

Time has conspired against me to create mild confusion at the bus stop one morning. I'll explain. First my alarm went off, on my phone, as usual, waking me up and sending me into getting ready for work auto-pilot. After whatever it is that gets me from my bed to the bus stop, I looked at my watch expecting to see a time in the region of a quarter to eight. What I actually saw was around about a quarter to nine... was I an hour late for work? I doffed to the authority of my phone for the time. It said the time was a quarter to eight, phew, but it also told me the day was Wednesday. It wasn't; this all happened yesterday on Tuesday. I check my watch repeatedly throughout the day and know for a fact the time was correct on Monday. Today – Wednesday – my watch has suffered total battery failure, so it's time to get the little kit and spare batteries out of the tool box. Oh, the endless minutiae of everyday drama.

I bought a pile of cheap watch batteries off eBay. They were very very cheap. And I bought a special key for twisting open the back of my watch. The life in the batteries is approximately one year, which isn't long for a watch. But the price was good. It once cost me about ten quid to get a watch battery changed in a kiosk in the Trafford Centre, and it is about the same at Ernest Jones, so I said to my self, I said, riddle me that, I'm never doing that again. What did I say Derek? You said fuck me, you're never doing that again. I never said that Derek, well I never. So now I change my own watch batteries. True story. Tedious, but true. And apparently things that are funny are true, and/or vice versa. So that's good.

A mind – my mind – is not built to cope with such levels of mystery and confusion at that time of the morning. It leaves me convinced that those around me are actors in a prank against me; Jeremy Beadle or The Truman Show come to wreck vengeful havoc on my petty little carboniferous bod. Then, after getting off the bus in Manchester city centre, and walking the one minute to work down one of the busiest streets in the whole entire world (probably, or not), I noticed that there are three piles of dried up vomit running down walls and across the floor. These are in three separate locations: one on the front window of Dawson's musical instrument shop, one just on the side of some faceless building, and one right next to a Natwest cash machine. Each of these has been there for about a week and shows no sign of being washed away. What happened to the I heart Manchester clean-up mentality? It's disgusting... they wouldn't allow this in Japan. They clean up the puke over there.

450: flapping about all over the place

I think a baby bird has crawled into my inner ear canal and in its confused death throes it occasionally beats its wings on the tiny trampoline near my brain. The bird-brain little birdy, or biting lickle insectivore hurts my head occasionally. It swims in mucoid mucus and strains to breathe over bubbling vents of ear juice. I can hear you; then I can't. Sorry what did you say. No, I'm sorry, you'll have to say it again. Nope, missed it again; my last recourse is to smile and laugh, and hope it's the best reaction for the job. If it's not, pull a face, or write me a note explaining your sadness or your sins.

Perhaps a slight early-winter cold has penetrated the battlements and battalions in my blood stream; white blood cells whip up an improvised defence against birds, bacteria, botulism and bigotry. The bird in my ear appears to have succumbed to the attack from my leucocytes. For three days in a row this sporadic weird attack occurred in my inner ear; now it's calmed down, and the very minor cold which struck me sideways seems to be abating.

Last week I was wall to wall exhausted, having run out of steam after writing all week, and working full time during the day for the first time in some time. Yes, I'm rambling but at least I can just about scrape the energy together, this week, to write a bit. Speaking of writing, I have massive doubts about being able to finish National Novel Writing Month i.e. writing 50,000 words by the end of Movember. I will however finish with a huge amount of work done; more than I would have done without NaNoWriMo, and a much stronger work ethic than I started with. I have also advanced hell of a lot in terms of plot and character. It's exciting stuff.

Speaking of Movember, it's the month when men everywhere grow a moustache to help raise money and awareness for "mens' problems"... ass cancer and the like. I'm not doing it this year, because I had never heard of it before. Apparently it was started about five or six years ago by some drunk Aussie doofuses (Mo is Aussie slang for a 'tache). I hope to give it a go next year. Just as long as someone reminds me. If I my main job is writer next Movember, I promise I will do it to the best of my facial hair growing abilities. If my main job is minimum wage shop assistant I may not be so inclined to get all facial-hairy. We'll see.

In summation: ear-thing, novel-thing, face-thing. The end.

452: Trout Mask Replica 16-21 | Well to Orange Claw Hammer

Well floating red blood blocks out night life. Shiny bat bug fighting free from shiny carapace. White horse house brings silver hearse to me and my veiny life hollow horror. Swarm the ocean. Hear the click. Sense the silence, silent dreaming scream. Hot sealed custard woollen rolling wooden wheel. Chromium plastic beak-faced bleached haired hollow dustbin basket shadow. Well, well. Well, well, hoi, hoi.

Ha ha trap the tapping top hatted tipple of tent peg Pena laughter – penicillin popping pat cat, whistle Trent River Replica – wobble the soil, liquidification. Hum the housefly harmony and hang the hanged hung head of Harry the hepcat McGregory. Big bad bag bog Joan has big bad hands and a head too small. Born in naked pen topper tragedy on tiny small hands beach. She can't reach. Lent. Ack! Leck! Soy koi soil erosion, feed the pigeons, pass the carp past the car park. Hoi, hoi, change the record sonni, chank thank rank sank. Sad cat bring forcefeed flatulence to the fore. Fight to free four five six sax soprano squeal, rewind forewarned about every even enterprise. Trapped in longest song sweep along the sudden stop.

Click about the rocket and stop the rewind Rocket Morton, been bean lazer lazy beings. Lonesome moaning home alone, too bad, top cat. Stole my can, kept my bank against me. Fought in the ditch and fell up tea tree, haven't got to take my time, hadden gotten taken time. Fallen calamity talkin' turkey. Sweeten and beaten and poked and spiked. Spoken to in harsh terms. Treated to a monotony of diversity. Taken about a trance; taught to take away expected aural afterthoughts. Don't do time to punch a grown man. King bling, blank drachma, got mah honey bee, fly to Mars, Mrs Ray Hooker. John Lee Drummer, boy I gotta stoppa hippa potta. Bark weasel bark.

Hwa, bwa, lwa, bwa; Hwa twa twa bwee, fat man see, ampan man, be man can can. How do you do this, why set us free, hurt hurt hu-hurt man hurt bee, antennae truck stop honey boik tsah tsah tash-tah. Goose steppen on lawn, goose steppin til dawn, drawn along with a million march, taught to take for granted all those obvious bigotries, goose gackle, goose tsah-tsah – Understanding eye contact; open sourcing egg omelette – stamping goose egg tramping goose grass, tampering with golden glass, enamoured with electric eye glass.

Paper papper, pepper pot, pull leggy horse hobo trap top. Filth pig, slop slap, lapped up letters. Leather lather grey paired up socks. Gingham watch strap happy heat up orange rabbit breast. Claw hammer, band bang bummer watter, slap around with roundhouse pole popper. Send samples of semen, says Simon. Dimple pumpernickel, kick a klacker, nick a knicker, forcefeed father's left right leg – pirate moustache trained to bring bananas back on trireme. Try and try again and burn house roundhouse down.