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

Monday, October 31, 2011

442: Semi-colons

Semi-colons are wonderful; in fact, I love them so much they give me a... actually, no I won't say that. Perhaps I should start again. Oh, I do so like those semi-colons. They are a challenge to use properly; a middle-ground between the full-stop and the comma; a tool for balancing sentences that contain more than one complete thought; a way of separating elements in lists where a comma just wouldn't cut it; a way of drawing together two sentences where a full-stop is just too severe. I use semi-colons too much, but I strive for perfection through experimentation and personal preference. I expect that whenever I am satisfied with a particular usage there will always be a pedant somewhere to tell me I have misused it.

My dad once told me an anecdote about his university days. He submitted an essay about something (Shiva is to Giant Haystacks, as Vishnu is to Big Daddy. Discuss. ...probably.) with not a semi-colon to be seen. Now the lecturer in receipt of this essay was particularly fond of semi-colons, and advised my father that he should think about taking them up. As a hobby, or whatever. The next essay he submitted (Sid Waddell and the Bhagavad Gita) was a blizzard of semi-colons. Randomly sprayed, landing in places appropriate and inappropriate alike. I suppose he was trying to use them for their aesthetic quality as opposed to properly as punctuation. They are a bit of a mystery to me; I think language should be creative as opposed to proscribed.

I have been reading about the whimsical, clandestine, creepy, litigious, horror show that is Scientology, particularly the series of articles 25 People Crippling Scientology on Village Voice. In the article about their megalomaniacal leader David Miscavige (I keep wanting to call him David Miscarriage) there is an anecdote about the time, four years ago, when Miscavige reworked some of the sacred texts of L. Ron Hubbard. The reason they needed reworking was not because they are full of imaginary, dangerous bollocks, but because the transcribers had used too many semi-colons. Miscavige announced he had replaced nearly four-thousand semi-colons with commas and full-stops, and was met with a standing ovation (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, front row centre). The audience applauded their grand dictator for allowing them to buy the books they already own, but now with new punctuation, woohoo! The less said about this weirdness, the better.

That is all my thoughts on semi-colons. I love them, and I hope you do to. I love them even more now with the knowledge that David Miscarriage hates them.

441: Books

I cannot live without books.

Books are the carriers of civilization.
Without books, history is silent,
literature dumb, science crippled,
thought and speculation at a standstill.

Thank you Stephen Fry for Fry's Planet Word, and as episode five draws to a close I feel a surge of joy, reading the above quotes and hearing the poetic nasal whine of a young Bob Dylan. The love I have for books – concept and object – is fetishistic, worshipful, and comforting. Books are best. Books are beautiful. Holy, sacred, sexy, priceless and precious. Throught the course of the programme, which has taken me all day to watch in stolen moments, I have accumulated books around me, like works of art and comfort blankets. Ulysses by James Joyce, Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, the Captain Beefheart biography that has been keeping me busy, and my often present notebook. It's a party with the worlds most wonderful folk, beings and deities.

I'm often told off (in the nicest possible way) for owning books I have never read. And it's true: take for example the top shelf of the nearest bookshelf to where I am now sitting. The ratio of books I haven't read to books I have read is 13:28. They are there providing warmth, insulation, ballast, decoration, inspiration; they gently and patiently wait their turn. When their turn comes they will get the intimate experience of sleeping with me and being carried around in my bag or pocket for a week or two. Some may be re-read, some many many times; some may be given away, but most will remain as reference; building blocks in my own private library. (Have you seen My Fair Lady? The doctor in that has a library: that's what I want.)

Some of the books on my shelves exist in a middle ground between read and not-read. There are three challenging epics which I am happy to dip in and out of, probably for the rest of my life, and may never finish, e.g. Ulysses by James Joyce, Don Quixote by Cervantes, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Other's are anthologies like the Complete Stories of Hans Christian Andersen and The Heath Anthology of American Literature which are not necessary to read cover to cover. Then there are the art books, encyclopedias and art books. All come together to form a small portion of the world creativity and knowledge, all bound and preserved with tactile paper and ink. The covers are beautiful to hold, look at and touch; the pages smell new or like the mouldy cellar they lived in for forty years.

Books are best. The book is dead; long live the book.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

440: Notes, elves, dwarfs, shoemakers, etc

a lovely notebook; not mine
All the little details I keep and contain in my notebook and in the recesses of my mind (in lieu of a notebook to hand... note to self: must get a smaller notebook I can keep in my pocket during work hours); disparate ideas and threads slowly becoming entangled into a fictional world; places, events, names, characters, history, hearsay, fact and fiction within the fiction. Where are the shoemaker's little elves who can pop in, sit down and cobble the pieces together into a well-crafted shoe... story? In their absence I suppose it's my responsibility.

I've just had a quick read of The Elves and the Shoemaker by Brothers Grimm and, as always when revisiting the originals of these familiar stories, am surprised by the details. It's such a short story but I suppose that's to be expected; usually they are enhanced with pictures. The scene where the shoemaker decides to stay up to secretly observe the mysterious helper who makes his product in the night hours: I remember their being a whole small army of tiny friendly little elves. This is what actually happens: 'As soon as it was midnight, there came in two little naked dwarfs; and they sat themselves upon the shoemaker’s bench...' Two naked dwarfs? That really is an entirely different image to the one recently evicted from my mind.



Also at no point during the story does the shoemaker ever actually make any shoes, except for tiny pairs too small for human feet. He just cuts leather and spies on naked dwarves (dwarfs?). The ending features the shoemaker and his wife make little costumes for the dwarf/elf indeterminate hybrids, which they excitedly don, then jollily caper out and away. A vaguely remember this ending, but the initial nudity still escapes me. The ending reminds me of the biblical story in which Adam and Eve become aware of their nakedity and begin experiencing shame for the first time; good work, god, you prick. Anyway, the dwarfs don't give a shit about their little peckers swinging back and forth until the sanctimonious shoemaker's wife, and the non-shoe making shoemaker, give them clothes. All of a sudden they are joyous. I just don't get it.

I like short stories, and I like novels, but I'll leave it to Harry Hill to sort out which one's best. The pressure would be off if a fight could reveal once and for all that novels are softies and short stories are hard bastards. Not sure how, I'm just working harder on turning subtle confusing excuses into a craft, instead of just properly working on the novel. And blah and blah and blah some more blah.

439: Scary films

What with it being Saturday night on Halloween weekend, and us being entirely skint (moths fluttering out of our pockets and all), we decided to turn off the lights and raid the cabinet for a scary DVD to rattle our teeth and shudder our bones. Unfortunately neither of us are big horror film fans, except of the masterwork trilogy Evil Dead, and the only remotely scary movie I could find, not including a Universal Dracula box-set on Region 1 DVD that won't work on our player, was Ichi the Killer.

Left over from my student days, and only watched once due to its relentlessly grim nature, Ichi the Killer is a brutal psychological thriller/hyper-violent art film about a pathetic sobbing sadist who is tricked into barbarous attacks on underworld figures, and a torturous masochist who smokes through the self-inflicted wounds in his face and intimidates others by chopping off his own tongue with a samurai sword. It's as nasty as it sounds, and has a bit of sexual violence thrown in to force itself and the viewer further into the pit of sorrow.

The first half of the film has a lot of modern camera-work; speeded up bits, jerky cuts, the dirty neon backstreets of Tokyo; the majority of the second half takes place in the rooms, walkways and stairwells of a sparsely populated grey towerblock. Visually this half reminds me strongly of the stereotypical Eastern European oppressive cinema that exists mostly in our imagination. No one in Ichi has any redeeming features at all, and the characters experiences range from unpleasant to horrific. Despite all this, it's still a proper film, with considered themes and is extreme cinema as good art, so I don't class it with Saw or that awful-sounding centipede thing.

After the depressing nightmarish experience of watching Ichi I called out for something to lighten the mood. The wise and ideal solution was put forward by the special lady I share life with; she suggested Mary Poppins. The perfect antidote to Ichi the Killer. Mary Poppins is pretty creepy in its own way (what the hell is she supposed to be, some kind of witch? Who the hell cast that odious little boy?) but its jolly fun, or as Disney would claim it, magic.

I just found out, in one of those aimless half-fact finding expeditions through wikipedia, that the actor who played that vile creepy little boy in Mary Poppins died age 21. Sad, but in my mind that makes him 100% more creepy; he will forever be that weird jug-eared little twerp, dressed in tiny old-mans' clothes, gurning away at every opportunity. I singlehandedly blame him for ruining what would otherwise be one of Disney's finest films. Bedknobs and Broomsticks isn't generally considered as good; more a rip-off of Mary Poppins... the combination of live action with animated vignettes and a magical story. But to me Bedknobs and Broomsticks is miles better, chiefly because the children aren't as annoying.

438: The eventual pay-off

Johannes Gutenberg's great innovation was to combine the Chinese innovation block printing with typography, the art and technique of arranging type movably. Movable type freed the written word from the drudgery of hand-scribing and allowed it to take flight in printed texts.
There is something magical about a bound volume of printed text. I can never forget the moment I first saw a novel that I had written that had arrived from the printers. I put it on the table and I looked at it, I lowered my eyes to its level, I sniffed it, I opened it, I walked and circled it. I simply couldn't believe that something I had written could end up as that magical thing, bound printed text. A book.
Printing would, after Gutenberg, unleash knowledge and new ways of thinking that would change everything.
-Stephen FryFry's Planet Word4. Spreading the WordBBC

Oh to have a novel I have written, but as I slide inexorably towards the self-imposed October deadline I prepare to meet abject failure face first, headlong, man to man, head to head, face to face, man to face and head to man. Crumbs, scraps, thoughts and ideas does not a story make, and graft, slavish adherence to ritual and routine, essential as they are, are just things that don't come naturally to me. I have to work hard to work hard. Working hard... I was too lazy to study for GCSEs, too lazy to choose a decent higher education subject, oh self pity. What a load of bollocks, Kevin, get over yourself. I'm just hungry and become an arsehole when my stomach is empty.

It's actually not nearly as bad as that previous paragraph would have you believe, but I had to get it out of my system. There is a lot of self-doubt in the atmosphere; I think that's a good thing for an artist. It stops you turning into Tom Cruise or Simon Cowell. The main problems I am facing in this project are simply finding an allotted slot, a daily spot in which I have no distractions or responsibilities other than just writing. An hour or two. In episode 5 of Fry's Planet Word he quotes an anecdote about James Joyce. Joyce is looking pleased with himself and a friend assumes the writing must be going well: have you written a chapter today, no, well a few pages, no, a paragraph? No; a sentence? No, replies Joyce, I wrote the sentence yesterday; today I put it in the right order. A lovely anecdote that says a lot about the artistic process, the attitude of Joyce, and the high quality of his work. I'm just guessing Joyce was relatively untroubled by deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise.

In one day from now November will earn its place on the wall, as the calender page turns and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) commences. This is a month for hammering out words like they are going out of fashion (where cliches are ok because the focus is on completing sentence after sentence), until 50,000 words minimum have been completed. Then one can worry about the details. Picking the good bits, finding the loose ends, researching what goes in all the TKs*; in other words, turning 50,000 words of furious bullshit into half a half-decent novel.

I think I'm at a stage where I'm going to have to print out the bits I have, double line-spaced, spread them everywhere... attack them with a red pen, a black pen, a pair of scissors and a roll of sellotape (other brands are available). But .... that's what I should be doing after November. I'm very confused... as Captain Beefheart apparently liked to say, you've had too much to think....

* TK is useful shorthand meaning insert fact later. Use it so as not to interrupt the creative flow. It stops you disappearing into dictionaries, encyclopedias, reference books or the Internet every time you can't think of a detail, fact or word.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

437: Europe and the United Federation of Planets

Just because the Euro zone is in monetary crisis (as it seems, is everywhere else) is no reason for terrified and confused jerk reactions of quick, let's get out of the European Union, we need a referendum. Apparently the countries of Europe have never been in such danger, disagreement, turmoil, etc (don't mention the war... it seems not to count...), and the Eurosceptics and xenophobes that comprise corners of the Conservative party (freaky fringe parties like UKIP and BNP, and vicious post-football firms like EDL) seem eager to use and abuse the financial uncertainty to kick-start a period of National Isolationism to rival sakoku of Japan's Edo period.

To be clear, if we were to have a referendum on the United Kingdom's European Union membership, it would be indicative of faddism, weak-thinking, and fear in the Houses of Parliament. If the British public were to vote in favour of leaving the EU, this would be disgusting and terrifying beyond belief; for once stories of the decline of Britain would be true. International co-operation and unity is one of the strongest signs of progress we have. Look at the world of Star Trek; the United Federation of Planets is a socialist utopia where all are equal and free to strive for self-improvement in a world free from economic struggle. They didn't build that world and that union by jumping ship at the first sign of trouble. Back in the real world and the European Union is facing a major challenge; one that needs to be overcome, and can be overcome given time, and the collected efforts of its member states, of which I am proud to be a resident of one.

On a personal note, I worry about the legal status of friends, neighbours and work colleagues from across Europe who have chosen to make Great Britain their home, as is their right as citizens of the European Union. If Tory back-benchers and who-ever are successful in their petulant fits to stir up anti-EU sentiment, what will this do to the rights of EU-citizens living here? If we left the EU what would happen then? I have no idea, but imagine I hear the tolling bells of ominous portent (whatever they are, Mr. Pretentious). What about you, yes you; the man (or woman) who wants to retire to Spain, buy a holiday home in France or open a business in Czech Republic? Fancy having to apply for a visa every time you want to pop through the Channel Tunnel, or across the border from Norn Iron to the southern Republic? That might not happen, but it could you know; so be afraid of this thing that I've just made up. Point is, it's not much fun. Imagine how lonely and stupid we would feel, sitting here just North West of this great Union; once part of it, but now separate, silent, petty, reactionary, and ignored.

Ignore UKIP, and that EU flag-burning old hag tunelessly atoning Rule Britannia on the news reel, and look to the UFP for guidance. Unity not isolation! (I am getting married after all.)

Let's not even dwell on the unsettling thought that a referendum might find the British public voting us out of the EU. I sincerely hope people aren't that reactionary, but I have no evidence either way. Anyway, looks like there won't be a referendum just yet... fingers crossed for a United future.  I am an unashamed Europhile, out and proud.  While I'm at it, I hope I claim to allophila also.  Here it is on a scale, from prejudice to tolerance to allophilia; nice isn't it?  Bloody, bleeding-heart, PC liberal.

436: 7 Billion

Coming soon: Human 7 Billion. (American seven billion = 7,000,000,000 ; as opposed to British seven billion = 7,000,000,000,000.) I was Human 4 Billion, 580 Million, 517 Thousand, 2 Hundred and 82 on the day I was born, which makes me Human 79 Billion, 247 Million, 101 Thousand, 8 Hundred and 82 alive since history began (aparantly that was 50,000 years ago, not 6,000 like you thought). Find out your own place at 7 Billion & Me or at the BBC website, then fall in fear at the graphs of exponential growth which show our terrifying tumble towards extension by overpopulation.

There are too many of you people. I think you all need to get together and, between the lot of you, work out a way of reducing your numbers to make more room for me to wander the earth. I'm not interested in the methodology, just work something out, otherwise I'm going to get gradually more uncomfortable. Any solutions which involve currently impossible modes of travel through space and/or time, including practical means of working them, are highly preferrential. Failing that, I guess you'll have to come up with your own ideas. I want comfort.

In case you think I have forgotten about the billions of people living in poverty, for whom comfort is the least of their concerns, you are wrong. I haven't forgotten about them, I have intentionally pushed their plight to the bottom of the pile. Things I have to think about: wedding invittions, the fictional world I am creating, what's for tea tomorrow, where the next drink is coming from, whether the toilet paper is better from Aldi or Quality Save...

Outside one of the bedroom windows there are two spider nests, full of unhatched spider babies, yeah-yeah-yeah. They have been there for at least three weeks, and mean that that one window must remain tightly shut. They appeared during that late heatwave a few weeks back, but their development seems to have been halted by the cold that now consumes us. In case they do hatch, spreading in their tens and hundreds, I want them to remain outsie of my double-glazed bubble. I just spent a minute or so peering closely at them through the glass, as though trying to spot the frogs in a vivarium at Manchester Museum, when a man walking down the street glanced up and saw me squiting down at him. I was wearing a dressing gown, my hair is unkempt; I just wish I had a dirty beard, and some blinds I could have dropped shut dramatically, to complete the picture of a curtain twitching weirdo.

These are the thoughts and concerns of one of the world's seven billion humans. The spider outside my window just thinks, if indeed it does think, about surviving long enough to see the birth of its disgusting cannibalistic spawn. The other 6 Billion, 999 Million, 999 Thousand, 9 Hundred and 99 people on earth think, if indeed they do think, about other things; god doesn't knows what, and neither do you or I. Conclusion: there's no conclusion; my thoughts arn't arranged well enough for that sort of thing.

435: Trout Mask Replica songs eight to fifteen

Clink clang clankg clink surf swing, saw see squark, veteran's day poppy, mock-up analogue modem talk from a toaster pop. Twee distort resort apple core hide behind the bins and shoot craps with rats. Time lapse fade out to changing hatscan, pocket cymbal tat-a-tat bish, tinny guitar melodies that might bug other people, hollow wooden tent pegs that might make shrug hare drought send back the catalogue, stuck in rut a lot of daft September sounds. Force the course of a sort of hiding horse, stop, second silence, quiet quietly the light played down on her smiling twisted hideous backward beautiful natural magic, oregano colours all on screaming madam dreaming done doing. Goldfish children planes bleached variously in sentences of structure opaque shamefully. It's not the way I like it, that's not the kind of thoughts I'd like to keep.

Raining, winding to the trees that fall forwards, bilateral structure plantlike sweetness dance to the dirge, my lady. Smile to the harmony crow, poke a kiss and see a Fenian baby in a bottle. Pat upon your curling negative knee, skirt of crinoline and feet with brown hard-soled nature backing. A queen on crown in air garden swinging, pat a tatter, pat a rattle, rat a chattering chunderer to the interesting hours. Test the tentacles in octapetals flesh feast of tainted pointed pontoons. Inspect the speckled spectacles of an artificial tented meting out meated meating mucou. Hang an hanged and hanging sounded-out dream serum, truth top out with towering terrible tendrils spread to a splailing hangdog expression.

Sound filter down to lower the definition of similar sounds. I don't wanna kill my china pig, he doesn't have shoes or Essen, so don't even do that. A human baby or piglet picked packed and replaced. A human onion sweat sends signals starting appearance of sorrow glaze. A sweet human flower bowl pick-me-up kill. A slung-low sentinel whistles nicely nightly, attracting gaze of grazing gruffalo. Tug coat tails and three hours later on the floor. A human finger complete set can poke and press and play button, cassette stretch switch and stop. Bang clang sound, mid-Atlantic under a dude's undress under-duress dress; in his human blues life slack with old curly frog hair pyjamas, a toad in pigjamas. Human get hat window furry silver ring.

Afraid of red white all right, alright in his harem doll brigade boy. God ask me my preference, ask him his size and his dog's name. His husband has life blues and hat slander. Up a hard wired razor scale and down against the will of writerly pretence to instrumental tonality and informality, formally arranged, a cut and paste pie. Hurry along with jugged hare and hair pie, bake two, bake you two, you too, you too can yoodle tootle, two minute twenty serious hazard step one step two. Drink drank drink drink drank jank jank jank jank jang, hurt heads against sudden collapse of strained finger line, switch up to sucking silence.

----------------

Writing like this is fairly tedious to read, but is a great way of loosening up. Warming up in exactly all the right regions.

434: George Formby (or 'I'm fed up coming up with blog titles again')

George Formby and Frank Skinner, what a wonderful combination; makes me want to learn to play the ukulele. I'm too lazy to actually learn, and if I want to vigorously exercise my wrist and fingers there's something I'm already well practiced at. I'm talking of course of writing. I (claim/aim to) do it every day, apparently. Anyway. I always enjoy Frank Skinner, and can even forgive him his mad anti-atheist statements and creepy adherence to a clandestine global evil. I don't even need to forgive his obsession with football, as he is so obviously genuinely in love with it, and uses it as a means of expressing laughter and humour (as opposed to anger and bigotry), that it makes me wish I could love football too. The most football fun I have ever had was back in the good ol' days of Fantasy Football League. I used to watch Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned with my cat (sad revelation of the week).

Music is good. So is Blackpool rock. So is the cheeky bawdiness of your classic old timer Lancashire comedians, and Lancashire, Where Women Die of Love. Where Women Die of Love, that's a book I've got, and have yet to read, but had entirely forgotten about until now. I wonder where I've left it. A while back I had a bit of a moan about the redecorated Blackpool Tower top (the Eye as it's now calling itself), but when I went there the Comedy Carpet art installation was still unfinished. It is a huge installation flat on the ground of Blackpool promenade at the foot of the Tower. Letters of varying size and colour spell out catchphrases and one-liners made famous by great comedians, with a weight leaning towards Morecambe & Wise, Frankie Howerd, Les Dawson, Ken Dodd and Tommy Cooper, all classic geniuses of British comedy. They are not the only ones on there, but it sounds like they must have been the artists favourites; there are 850 comedians and writers represented. I wonder if it's turned out nice again is on there; I suspect it might be, but somehow I doubt Frank Skinner's cunnilingus and toilet paper routine has made the final cut.

To me currently, all George Formby's songs (except With Me Little Stick of Blackpool Rock, When I'm Cleaning Windows, and Leaning on a Lamp Post) sound almost exactly the same, played with that frantically flailing right hand picking and strumming simultaneously, a cheeky smile, a surprised eye in reaction to his own double entendre, and a voice that barely classifies as singing. He really doesn't have a nice voice, in any sense that makes sense to me (Frank Sinatra or Captain Beefheart, Dani Filth or Malvina Reynolds), the appeal is just his I'm your granddad in a good mood demeanour. Plus there is of course the fact that he is sometimes hilarious, fantastically good at the ukulele and took a strong stand against the racism he saw when touring South Africa. A local lad to be proud of.

On another note, but in keeping with the old fashioned theme, I can hear distant voice of a rag-and-bone man. He calls out through a megaphone and is after washing machine, dish washers and televisions, not old clothes and food scraps, and when he finally moves past the flat it will be in a Transit, not a cart pulled by a horse called Hercules.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

433: Watching a film

Blues Brothers is on TV, and I'm watching it, with adverts despite having it on DVD and having seen it so many times I couldn't count. It is unquestionably one of the best films ever made (I put it at the top along with Wall-E and Evil Dead 2; in my language that's as high a praise as is possible). Of course there is the wonderful music, of which Aretha Franklin singing Think is the best musical moment from any film ever; but there is also the hilarious script and acting, the relentless unreal,surreal,nonsensism, the fact it is just so damn cool. It is a musical for men who cry when they hear Johnny Cash Hurt and dance when they hear James Brown, who love Die Hard and Ghostbusters. But this is all old news. It's thirty years old and has spawned infinite crappy tribute acts and shitty stag-do costumes.

Jesus tap-dancing Christ, I love this film: the end car chase where the BlueMobile somehow does a flying backward somersault over the NaziMobile, which then drives off the end of an unfinished fly-over sending those Hitler-fanciers flying thousands of metres into the sky. Their car falls from the clear sky, crashing through the street, and the BluesMobile leaps over the hole. Anyway, what struck me, and the reason I started writing this is that I've seen it so many times I have now started paying more attention to the low-key scenes. Yes the musical numbers and car chases are great. But it is the unusual, seemingly insignificant scenes that hold it together, and raise it above so many forgettable films.

My favourite is the short, quiet and sedate scene after the first Princess Leia attack, and the famous line you get my Cheez Whiz, boy, when Elwood takes his brother Jake home. Jake has just left prison and been picked up by Elwood, only to find that his car has been traded for a microphone, their band has disbanded and Elwood has been lying about it. We see Elwoods tiny little flat; a room no bigger than a corridor, with a single bed, fridge, tiny stove, and a chair; probably smaller than a prison cell. Trains go passed the window so often you won't even notice it shaking everything in the room. The room is in a hotel with a sign outside saying Men Only, Transients Welcome. This tragic existence has been poor Elwood's lonely existence while Jake has been in prison, and most of the disasters and pratfalls that follow can be traced to Elwood's desire to get away from this and have a bit of fun with his brother. Seeing Elwood's room is the most tragic and humanising part of the film.

Thoughts over. I've got to go. No time to edit or read back to myself.

Monday, October 24, 2011

432: maCorrie and maFigWasps

Uh oh, almost forgot to do today's second post, what with all the reading about Scientology I have got caught up in; fascinating subject, one that can really enslave your attention. Plus there is the distraction of the missus' maCorrie (that's Coronation Street to you and I), which she has been watching solidly on ITV Player, doing catch-up in preparation for tonight's serious storyline payload. I now have overtime all this week in the day job, and it's good to be back. But I still have a humongous amount of writing to be getting through this week... and then there is the really important stuff: catching up on House and An Idiot Abroad. And my feet are really itchy... not figuratively. I mean that entirely literally. I have very itch feet. I wonder if I can continue writing, and thinking about how itchy they are, without scratching them or taking off my socks. Like eating a sugary doughnut without licking one's lips. My fingers are starting to go weird, what with all the (that's the second time I've said what with all the in this paragraph; I wonder where I've picked that up from) unscratched itches. Sorry to bore you with that, but what do you expect. This isn't exactly the New York Times or whatever.

I have lots of disparate and odd plot points and character traits, and solid plans on how they will pan out and fit together, and the only problems I have are nothing that three or four solid, uninterrupted two or three hour writing sessions couldn't fix.

I used to enjoy coming up with song titles, band names, that sort of thing, when I was a teenager, yet hardly wrote any songs. I was in one or two bands, but have no ear for music or confidence with rhythm or performing, so I nipped that bud (only took four years). Now I come up with names for short stories, create a Word doc with the title, and often just leave them empty. Waiting for the story to fit the title. Sometimes I have a plot in mind to accompany the title, and when I do the story just seems to write itself. Last night I came up with the title Fig. 1, Fig. 2. I think I saw it in an animated graphic in the background of a physics documentary. Yes, now I remember: it was on episode three of Jim al-Khalili's Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity. Immediately it made me think about the fascinating and bizarre life-cycle of a particular kind of wasp that is of interest to evolutionary biologists. The fig and the fig wasp have co-evolved into an amazing symbiotic relationship: the male fig wasp lives out its entire life inside the fig (well, he digs out a tunnel to allow the female to escape, but he dies immediately after), whereas the female leaves only to find another fig. As she enters the second fig her wings are ripped off, she then lays her eggs and dies. In some species she is impregnated by the male before she has been born. The fig could not exist without the wasp, and vice versa. Both have evolved to accommodate the other. I think that is amazing, and it is one of the many mind-blowing, consciousness-raising and beautiful things I have learned from Richard Dawkins' books. Also the fig is not a fruit; it is a flower that has turned itself inside out over the course of millions of years. Amazing. So, a story about figs and fig wasps.

Goodnight, kids.

A page from the Mexican Huexotzinco Codex, painted onāmatl

431: Magnolia

The Landlord Jr. is in my bathroom slapping paint on the walls to cover up the mould spots caused by the lack of a window, or fan on a separate circuit to the light. I can hear him: BUUUUURRRP, pardon me, YAWWWNNN, fuckin' 'ell to himself, banging his brush against the wall instead of using smooth up/down strokes. Because the bathroom is out of bounds I am now convinced that I will at any moment explode with urine and/or faeces despite not feeling the calling of either; the paranoia has kicked in, like when you are on the plane and the seatbelt light is on and the toilet is out of bounds. Now he has just sighed staccato followed by a Ric Flair yelp of wooooo; what's going on in there? It now sounds like an overweight Northern martial artist is tussling with a baker vigorously kneading a beanbag-sized lump of dough. I dread to think what I'll see when I inevitably have to clear him out to use the toilet.

I can't remember how (they've already got to me, wiping my short-term memory via smells emanating from my own spectacles) but I've stumbled across a really good series of articles called the Top 25 People Crippling Scientology. (Uhh, said the Landlord Jr. Hei-yahh.) Each entry is a long, extremely well researched (for a blog) blog post focusing on one person/group/fictional entity on the list. I'm reading it in the order of a countdown, so I've yet to get to the stunningly bizarre individuals like Tom Cruise, L.Ron Hubbard, and the rest of those clowns. (Heeehaaah, hic, hic, hic.)

But enough about that particular subject; those fine adherents to that honourable and valid religion (unless in Germany, France, Russia, etc) are free to believe and practise whatever they like (as long as they are not hurting, harming or abusing anyone, or restricting anyone's freedom to speak, associate with whomever they choose, or leave the faith if they wish to...).

Somehow I've managed to get paint on my foot. Still, worse things could happen. I'd be lucky if paint on my foot was the biggest worry; why, that would be heaven on earth. Instead of wiping it off, I have put on a sock and tried to forget about it... typical. Today's news: MPs, Turkey, troops, Tintin, whisky, St. Paul's, Eurozone, donuts, and now the sport and weather. See you all later. After the goldrush, or whenever is convenient. 

430: My evil 'Hard Work' super-plan

The new regime starts tomorrow. It's going to be all early mornings, to-do lists posted in prominent places, noteboards, cold showers and hot coffee, two hours of writing before it's time to head to the day job, deadlines met and goals achieved, keeping the flat tidy, moving onwards and upwards and meeting positive cliches head on and rising above this that and the other. Two blogs a day until I am entirely up-to-date, two hours on the novel a day (getting the first three chapters drafted in the next week, and a further 50,000 written over the course of November as part of NaNoWriMo), and writing a short story every weekend for submission to competitions/prizes/etc. Now I'm off to shoot myself gently in the face.

Left, ..., left, ...., left, right, left. Left, ..., left, ...., left, right, left. Left, ..., left, ...., left, right, left. Left, ..., left, ...., left, right, left. Just keep writing; no talking, no listening, no moving, shouting or rocking. No hibernating, mating, gyrating or palpitating. Just writing. From now until the novel is finished in draft. Then the first three chapters must be re-, re, and re-drafted to the point of perfection, precision and publishability. The I will write a damn good synopsis and a writer's biography/CV which makes me out to be interesting and talented (everyone lies on a CV, don't they?), find the agents/publishers I think might be interested (after finding out exactly what I'm supposed to do with my manuscript... agent or publisher...? what do I do...?), write them personal and polite cover letters, and send the whole thing off. Then start work on polishing the remaining chapters of the story.

Some publisher or whatever will come along with a pile of money which they will throw at me and ask me to finish the novel. When it's done they'll throw more money at me, publish it, more money with each regular royalty cheque, repeatedly, each cheque for more and more, then the book will win a major prize (not the Booker; a decent one... only teasing, I'd be happy with a Booker) or will be in Richard & Judy's book club, then the movie offers will come flooding in and my evil master plan will be complete. My evil master plan to develop my writing to the point where I am doing it well and being paid for my work, mwha-ha-ha-ha, I am so evilous. Then I will be so awesome, and I will be smiling all the way up the street and back again.

So the regime starts tomorrow. I'm not saying it will be a perfectly smooth transition from inconsistency and apathy into militant mechanical production, creativity and innovation; but if I don't start now, and don't get fucking cracking, the evil masterplan will never produce those big fat fruity plan-fruits to feed my family. Synchronise watches.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

429:

Limited or no internet connectivity, disabling wireless connectivity, resetting wireless, renewing IP address, limited or no internet connectivity, contact administrator. No thanks; instead I'll take this brief opportunity in the fresh air of offline to write a few words about something, as yet to be determined. Even though I am fuming that the drop in connection has interrupted my streaming of series four episode three of The Museum of Curiousity on BBC iPlayer just as the editor from New Scientist magazine has finished wondering about the future developments in invisibility technology based on the sudden and massive advances in the field that have occured in the last ten years. I want to know what Robin Ince will be introducing into the museum.

Speaking of museums, I'm leaving Belfast today to return to Manchester, and yet again have failed to visit any cultural institutions of Belfast – art galleries, museums, and the like. Last time I visited the old university, but there's nothing to see except a cloister and a gift shop selling pencil cases and postcards. What makes my missing cultural excursions event more pathetic is that we are currently smackbang in the middle of the Belfast Festival, the cities major international arts festival. I'm raging; I didn't even know it was on until I looked in Flybe's inflight magazine on the return journey. Looking at the website I realise I have missed a whole pile of interesting looking art exhibitions focusing on Ulster, Irish and international art/artists. In two nights Tinariwen are playing, who are on my must-see list. Ahh well, such is life.

Our return to Manchester coincides with the potential of civil war as the taxi driver informs me that City have beat United 6-1, United's worst home defeat since February 1955 (when they lost 5-0 also against City). I'd like to think that United fans will be sanguine about it and not resort to name calling and destruction; after all it's only a game. And a fucking boring one at that, stat nerds. For some reason it's considered normal and acceptable to know vast swathes of pointless facts about football (names of managers and footballers, scores, titles, records), but sad and geeky to know the same stuff about prog rock, contemporary art, science fiction literature, computing, musical theatre, trains, or astronomy. I postulate that the majority of people aren't really in to football; they just want this common language to use as small talk with other blokes. That would be useful.

Great week in Belfast with the in-laws; now I'm tired phew and back to work tomorrow – the holiday is over and the drinking must stop, sad face. Played Sonic 2 on the Wii; that was a blast from the past. Return home to tidying, cooking, and the temperamental FreeSat box that hates us and wont let me watch Fry's English thing on BBC 2. Guten tag.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

428: Just about being just about ready.

Am I ready for jazz? Ten years ago I became obsessed by Frank Zappa, and marginally dipped into Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica (a sort of mix between blues and free jazz influences). The first Zappa I ever heard was the three CD set Laether which features a widely varied sample of his music from his doofus comedy stuff to lengthy jazz experiments with instrument parts in clashing time signatures. I loved it all, but over the years have drifted more towards his more conventional song stuff like the album We're Only In It For The Money, therefore missing my chance to get into jazz at an early age. Around the same time as getting into Zappa I also got obsessed by Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage and Edgar Varese. Although I bought CDs and records by them, and still own them, more time was spent reading, talking and thinking about them than actually listening to their music. The only exceptions really are Poeme Electronique by Varese and Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano by Cage, which continue to be among my favourite pieces of music. The point is that despite getting dangerously close over the years I have never got properly into 'difficult' (i.e. challenging) instrumental music. I'm sure at times I've even expressed mild annoyance at the overall tone of jazz music; and my tastes vary cyclically so when I got into hip hop, funk, disco, that sort of stuff, I lost interest in the tough stuff.

Reading my way through the intelligent descriptions of Captain Beefheart's music in the biography by Mike Barnes I have felt the stirrings of excitement about difficult music that I haven't felt for a long time. It is a rediscovery, or a reawakening, or a rebirth, or a repaint of my once crazy musical tastes. Maybe I had become embarrassed by what I had decided was my own pretensions. I was not a musician so perhaps shouldn't be listening to such difficult stuff; pretentious like someone who doesn't speak Polish publicly reading literature in Polish and claiming they just like the way it sounds even if they don't understand it. Conspicuously consuming the un-comprehended language as though it is Kurt Schwitters sound poetry.

The Beefheart book has got me excited about colliding poly-rhythms and atonal clusters in a way I haven't felt for some time. It speaks of an album I have never heard of, but will be listening to soon when the download completes, Free Jazz by Ornette Coleman. Instrumental music is much more conducive to writing that music featuring voice. In fact the only thing worse that lyrical/vocal music is the fucking television. At the moment I have finished listening to Miles Davis' In a Silent Way, and am now enjoying Zappa's Hot Rats, which besides the Beefheart featuring Willie the Pimp I have never given much of a chance. With Hot Rats I'm reacquainting myself with the fairly familiar in order to ease myself into this vast and complicated world currently unknown to me. Jazz now seems to be grown up music for serious people, which is odd considering how crazy, innovative and even dangerous it used to be. In HMV in Manchester the Jazz section is tucked away at the back in a separate room, behind heavy doors, with the classical music. Speaking of classical music, I have been listening to a lot of Beethoven over the last few months, but if truth be told it is often the catchiest tunes that have captured my attention, particularly the famous Ode to Joy theme from the Choral. Baby steps into the worlds of grown-up music; and about fucking time.

Saint John Coltrane icon at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church

427: A Self-Induced Mode of Consciousness to Realise Benefit.

Writing is my meditation. When I am distracted or annoyed or stressed or overstimulated or understimulated or uninspired or inspired or bored or tired or dead, writing will calm me up or down the appropriate amount. Sometimes I absolutely don't want to do it, and occasionally I have bouts of apathy and flat emotion that stop the writing for days at a time, but always I return with eagerness and excitement. When I started blogging 427 ago it was something I knew I needed to do, but never did; now it is, along with my soon-to-be wife, a major part of me that was missing and which I couldn't live without. There are other missing bits that life has yet to provide (children, writerly success, a kidney, a soul, a hook for a hand), but more about that in the hundreds and thousands of posts to follow.

Writing is the quiet I need and the adventure I crave but am afraid of; writing is the power of confidence that doesn't come naturally to me; writing is the one thing I feel I can do well; the only activity I enjoy and do well that doesn't poison my liver, fatten my arteries or make me sweaty (although it is giving me a worse posture and probably giving me DVT or varicose veins, and turning me into a weirdo); writing is the only thing that when I'm doing I don't feel I should be doing something else. When I dance or walk down the street I doubt myself so much I can barely move, I cannot sing due to a crippling fear of having people hear it, yet when I write these myriad self-doubts are slightly less of a problem, and that is a feeling so liberating I was a fool not to start twenty-five years ago.

Writing is the challenge that I need, and the hard work I have to do to get anywhere I want to be. It's a good feeling; I like it. It doesn't even matter if it's shit. When I'm blogging quality is not the point; habit and experiment is. When I'm writing fiction I just need to get it written down; and I can make it good later. Get the words on the page, and the prose can come later. It's also a really good way to remember things; for instance, if I mention here the saint I have just heard mention of on today's QI I will remember to look her up later. She was gifted Jesus' foreskin as a wedding ring, and actively sought out degrading experiences. It's the idea of actively seeking degradation: there might be a character or a story in that. And now I've written it here I'll remember it, and it'll stop going round and round in my head. Cleared head as meditation would do. Captain Beefheart biography and bed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

426:

I need to stretch my brain and other bits before I can continue doing anything; this week has seen birthday and wedding parties and just general drinking here and there, and as much fun as that is, it isn't conducive to clear thoughts in the morning. When I wake up stressed out with self-doubt and stress and stuff it's more than a bacon sandwich can handle. Pray for a silent immobile day staring at the TV with one eye and the twitter feed with the other, before waking up at about 7pm and deciding I'm bored and had better do some writing or something. Maybe I'll get around to writing more novel, blogging about Ricky Gervais' stubborn addiction to an ugly word and Richard Herrings twitter stand against disablist language, a blog about a grand ol' Belfast pub and the mystery of its missing apostrophe, and a bunch of other stuff as yet to be pulled from my notebook and the dank oubliette of my memory; and maybe I'll get caught up with whatever other paperwork and form-filling that needs to be done (of which there is surely plenty, and I'm putting off writing that to-do list out of genuine dread and horror at what I might see before me). Rather than doing any of those things I'd much prefer to go back to bed and read the Captain Beefheart biography that has been reminding me about great music, and convincing me to listen to the most difficult stuff again. What with the recent hoohah about the Booker prize deciding that readability is the most important factor for judging literature (it isn't and shouldn't even factor in at all; literature should be a challenge to make you stronger as a reader, not a television programme in words), its great to be reminded that conventional 'listenability' is not a factor in genuinely valuable music. Great music as with great literature should make you work and think and wrestle with new ideas and difficult forms. Good comedy should too; but that doesn't mean you can just claim to have changed the meaning of an offensive disablist word, then repeat it over and over in a style that suggests you haven't changed it at all, eh Ricky Gervais? But less of that for now; it's a difficult issue and one that I am totally unqualified to discuss, but that doesn't mean I won't, I'm self destructive like that sometimes. Having said that I don't want to write about it at all, yet still have to, but don't need to but do want to, but can't or won't but probably will, ya get me? One long paragraph that will never be read by anyone is much more satisfying for me than writing a to-do list, and almost half as useless and ten-times as pointless.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

424: Thoughts on Modern Medicine (part 1)

Modern Medicine can fine tune a banjo player's brain mid-pluck, fire anti-matter through your body to produce a detailed three dimensional map of your sweetbreads and viscera, and empty the blue WKD from your stomach and send you home with a sore head and an embarrassing tale to tell. Modern Medicine can also make thoughtful, expertly produced, exceedingly good hip hop of a variety so modern that I am much too old fashioned to know the terminology for. Is it grime, or dronk, or qwoq, or bell hop or fangle? Yes, probably. It's also largely top secret: I have in my hand a seven-track CD gifted to me by Bobby Esmond (as that silly boy is now calling himself) with the express instructions not to allow anyone a copy. I can play it to people, and presumably I can bang on about it here. So I will.

I might have to make up names for these tracks, as I have no notes, therefore: Opener 'Imagination' starts with Pete Cannon singing I want Imagination... in a 90's uplifting-cheesy hardcore style in a nod to his beginnings as a DJ, the tight beat kicks in as Bobby starts rip-rapping about the daily grind, and using one's hard work and creativity to rise above wage slavery. Chorus repeats, then a short trancy piano middle introduces Deadline's verse about missed opportunity and ferocious desire to succeed. Suddenly 'To Much Thinking' drops with a clattering bang of drums, distorted synth bass, percussive clicks and an on-the-beat staccato chant of a chorus. The verses come across like an angry lecture in exposition and crafted extemporisation. All along the synths saw and wheedle like a Bond villain torture chamber.

Song after song until all seven are spoken of; I could go that way, but to be honest what am I doing? They are not available yet, and are surely forming part of a larger work, an album – for yes, albums are still and always will be the best and brightest way to consume and contain music. I shouldn't and wouldn't give too much away; and any way, a description of music is no substitute for hearing it. Chomp and champ at your bit in furious anticipation of this music hitting the marketplace. Modern Medicine are on the way. Two members of Modern Medicine previously struggled and fought for years to produce their album (the unreleased masterpiece The Tri-Spectrum Argument Phenomenon), yet the seven songs I have been listening to were crafted relatively off-the-cuff in a matter of weeks. They are highly musical, yet have an explosive immediacy. Some are party bangers and some do what is so rarely done in hip-hop: successfully express positive, healthy and constructive emotion. Modern Medicine is different and special; it's danceable, but deserves contemplation. It is literature ... if that's what you're in to; and if not, just dance.

425: First seven songs on Trout Mask Replica

My smile is stuck- I cannot go back to your frownland a drawer of knives falls and a guitar in the corner of the kitchen struggles embarrassed as it attempts impressions of horns and mousetraps, the devil burns and little girls fix taps and plumbing pulls on bass tumbles – struggles – poetry doubles over, old grey old gray old grain – the dust blows forwards and the dust blows back pop, pop music hangs itself from the inside, pop corn pork head, mr pig dons his hat and doffs his cap, monsier tet yodels at the moon, black birds eat insects mice scramble and scatter at the call of the trap, can of coffee, sue, spam, dissonant guitar argument in time signature I can't figure, it stops and starts and one song is not the other, ears tight to the horrors of the camp, the blues, woody reed honk, chalk thunk, daft trout hat fight, don't think too much just dance, why don't you dance asked drunk, crying height hat hate pate, band jumble sails missed the boat, dialogue don't know.

Don't walk, riff off stop, lift the lid, high yella, hi ella guru lets go fly a kite she blew, she is blue, it is blues, tin can batter drumbo jungle circus top hot dog shop, stop fast furious and oh so tight it hurts. Hi hat shuffle tap tap tap the pipes the pipes the Beefheart hunkers down and squarks his squeal instrument and heady heart of lungs and heroics fart. Crow sits on roof opens its mouth and sounds it's never heard before surprise it like it's never felt before; window opens a jot and door slams a car. Sorry for so much sorrow. I found my drum kit where I left it, don't hurt my bass man damn, big boss, guitar fights. Rehearse re: hearse, or extemporise in bull fight. Story told is not known to those who go too far. Stop.

Vinyl scratch what do you think sounds good it's a bush recording neon meat dream of a octafish, no it's hair pie – bake 1. stop. Riff better and harder in the moon, on the moon footprints pistols dawn dawdle – the moon can do – who are you? Sing sing queen of England footballer baller ball ba bee man ant do. See the elephant in the room, over there hiding behind the cactus wall-to-wall chaser. It can't hurt us. It did it for me and it did it for you moonlight at the back snare crash bang sweat head on hand, foreskin on sofa, better off dead twisted shifted swinging from tree-to-tree hush your pants ol' timer. How does it, good enough for all and Sunday, Friday weekend fade to frisson, sully yourself in a paper packet fishmonger head, reckon?

March with a limp, fake the limp, stumbling post, hammer drop, sugar rock. Scrunch nose to a height of fifteen inches, safety equipment protects prison from waving seaside wheel ball. I'm old, dawn breaks as sailor stains strain steam in the rafters, hat jump on head and 'brella keep the wet out. Cracked heaven greenhouse reflects the sun to teeth and beehive from the flower to the nectar honey fire. Scar skin with horn thorn. Quite quiet at the back the jazz man is pumping freedom machine.

423: Dean Gaffney

Stood outside a bar in Manchester, in the straddling group of smokers taking a break from the wedding reception dancing, Dean Gaffney, the weird-looking lad with the dog from Eastenders, walked through our crowd and tried to go into the bar. The sign on the door informed him, and the wee bird on his arm, that it was closed to him -the public- for a private function. He trailed away with a disgruntled look, and my friend shouted down the street after him Robbie, Robbie, we've got the same name, Robbie. Also in the group was the comedian Tim Key and world famous members of the legendary hip hop supergroups Surreal Knowledge, Tactical Thinking and now Modern Medicine. It was like being in Hollywood or something, what with all these glittering stars, gathered together to celebrate the happy occasion: Congratulations to Ian and Nicola.

It's the wedding season in this world. One on Sunday, followed by my first experience of an Irish wedding on Thursday, as I visit Belfast to make preparations for my own Irish wedding. Hollywood can take a walk, and I'll calm myself with music and reading Captain Beefheart, The Biography by Mike Barnes (you know Mike, Mike Barnes. He's the guy who wrote Captain Beefheart, The Biography. It's a book, a biography, about a man called Don Vliet, calling himself Don Van Vliet, calling himself Captain Beefheart. I guess he's a singer.. of sorts. Yes that Mike Barnes.) and getting all excited about the descriptions of the guitar tangles that make up Trout Mask Replica (which isn't on spotify, damn you). Also being in Ireland it'd be a shame not to drink Guinness and whiskey, and yesterday I ate Irish lamb liver and champ, and enjoy some old time Irish good times, fiddling and crack n that. And a bit of traditional blog catch-up in this quite moment of hanging over.

So Dean Gaffney wandered off disappointed and when the mild surprise and mirth abated we took to the dance floor with cheese and crackers and Room's wildly inflated drinks prices, and gave praise to Eros and Cupid and Bacchus and the muses with our shifting and thrown shapes and shambolic sidling. Sorry you missed it Dean, but it was a good laugh, and a very happy occasion. They're good, aren't they, these happy occasions? I think more would be a good thing, what a revolutionary thought. You thought they should be rationed or even stripped from our timetable, but -no- I have a better idea. Let's get married. Drink and be drunk. Eat and be comfortable.

So, a wise, and newly-married man, gave good advice along the lines of: To anyone getting married soon, don't be nervous; it will be the best day of your life. Here here! Hear hear! (Hare here hare.) And I'll try my best to remember that as I'm picking suits, and preparing speeches and doing things that I don't even know need doing (waxing my elbows, braiding my shoes, and saddling my third cousin's dog). A grand day out that beats a trip to the moon into a cocked hat. Now I just have to work out how I can convince everyone that this should be our first dance (it is the catchiest most melodious song on the album, at least):

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

422: Bonne Action de grâce


This weekend passed brought us Canadian Thanksgiving, and my first ever opportunity to celebrate a Thanksgiving tradition from any nation. This year I am thankful, as apparently it is traditional to be thankful during Thanksgiving, for having the opportunity to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, thanks to my new friends and neighbours. Thanks guys for the turkey and the roast sweet potato, and the cranberry sauce and the pumpkin muffins.

I keep wanting to call it Canadian New Year, like Chinese New Year or something, but I have reason to suspect that the strange race of people inhabiting the arcane land of Canada observe the passing of the year on the same date that we do. In England. So it can't be all that bad, what? I can't think of anything in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that could be considered equivalent to Thanksgiving. It certainly wouldn't be our regions' respective Saints' Days, although perhaps it should be.

Hands up who knows when St Patrick's Day is; me, me, me, I know, it's 17th March (I think, I'll just double check; yes I was right). OK well done, thanks to Americans who insist they are Irish despite myriad evidence to the contrary, and Guinness adverts, and the myth of the craic (craic is not a Gaelic word, it is a modern i.e. 1970s gimmicky rendering of the much much older English word crack; but that's an issue for another day), everyone knows when St Paddy's Day is.

St Andrew looking absolutely peanut brittle.
Next question: When is St. George's Day, or St Andrew's Day, or St the-other-one's Day? I have absolutely no idea. But then I didn't know when Canadian Thanksgiving was until last week, and I still don't know when American Thanksgiving is (November, maybe?).

To set the record straight (and hopefully teach myself something), St George's Day is 23rd April, St Andrew's Day (who looks fearfully rough on his wikipedia page) is 30th November, and of course the other one I so stupidly forgot is St David whose feast day is 1st March. (St David looks to be doing much better that Andrew; smiley, clean-shaven and serene.) American Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday (random) in November. Then apparently there are things called Labor Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and President's Day; too much. We just have random bank holidays that appear out of nowhere to surprise us with a day off.

Conclusion: I like roast dinner and days off work, and festivals from other countries are jolly lark.

421: I Like Looking at Pictures

Fun with Google Images – I was searching for an old-fashioned illustration of a spine before and ended up just getting lost amongst all kinds of fantastic images. As an adult it seems to be a little bit embarrassing to admit I like looking at pictures. I'm not particularly talking about art, although I do enjoy art galleries and books; it could equally be kids books, postcards, drawings, sketch books, maps, tickets, playing cards, prints, stamps, paper money. I like looking at pictures.

A dream of mine would be to be curator at a museum of paper ephemera; a vast unending collection of long forgotten images, texts, textures and patterns just waiting to be discovered, arranged, dated, catalogued, displayed and preserved. That would be utter bliss. Perhaps the British Museum has a paper ephemera department and they have a job going.

Here we go, this is what I'm talking about: The British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings. "It is one of the top three collections of its kind in the world," according to the website. "There are approximately 50,000 drawings and over two million prints dating from the beginning of the fifteenth century up to the present day." That really does sound like heaven to me.

As well as having drawings and prints by such important artists as Michelangelo and Goya there is an "important collections of printed ephemera, such as trade and visiting cards, fans and playing cards". Please can I have a job, please. And in my lunch breaks I can just pop over to the Department of Asia to rifle delicately through the collection of Oriental prints and drawings.

Truly if that was my life I would never have to work another day; each day at the office would be a waking fantasy of study, research and appreciation. And with all those drawings by famous artists I could have the world's most expensive paper aeroplane fight in history... ever. That's my CV and cover letter sorted, now all that remains is the interview. A mere formality.

It's things like The British Museum that make London sound like not such a bad place after all. If ever I have a decent amount of money under my (missus') belt, I may consider thinking about possibly considering suggesting that maybe we think about possibly going to London to think about the prospects and possibilities of us one day moving tentatively to London. So I can be curator at the Department of Prints and Drawings.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

420: A Pain

My back hurt so much on the bus home today that I was one more stop away from lying on the sticky floor crying into a carrier bag. The more it hurt the more I slouched, and the more I slouched the more it hurt, until my top half was almost formed into a tight fist of aches and pains. When I got home I managed to do a small amount of my chores before stretching face down on the bed and attempting to force a few splinters and shards out of my spinal column, by twisting in all sorts of unnatural positions. 

Eventually I was subjected with a much needed sort-of brutal assault / improvised shiatsu massage. It hurt but I was ordered to relax, and my spine cracked loudly, and the weakling child lower back muscles put up a very poor fight before giving up gloriously. Eventually I seemed to be out of pain, and relaxed. A valuable experience, but now I absolutely must be manipulated in such a fashion on a daily basis. In payment for this blog you are reading you are required to come to my home and massage me. Just once, is all I ask; is that too much? You would be doing a public service, but forget about that; I'm not bothered about public services and such crap as that, I just want an ache-free skeletal-muscular system.

Now that's sorted, is there any other business? Nothing today, I'm just half-reading my way through some recent Comment is Free pieces. It's like this blog except its usually (but not always) better written, contributed to by a wide variety of people who are paid for their services, commissioned to give their thoughts on a subject they have some sort of special interest or knowledge about. If I can't think of anything to write, I still have to give it a go, but most of the real-deal stuff in CiF is by people who have given at least a few moments of prior thought before committing words to page. I'm pretty sure they will read through it a few times, and draft and redraft before sending to the editor, and then maybe the editor checks over it a bit too, I don't know. Point is it's a bit more polished. Also since it is The Guardian and not The Telegraph or The Mail it rarely has opinions by anyone desperately stupid, hateful, willfully ignorant, or just plain unpleasant. It does have some crap, but then it wouldn't be worth commenting if it didn't. Psh, I'm even boring myself.

I'm making beef, beer and seasonal root vegetable stew for tea tomorrow. Prepping it before work and sticking it in the slow cooker, on the lowest setting, which will take about 10-12 hours. When we get in from work the flat will smell delicious and there will be a big pot of similarly wonderful tasting stew. I will then eat the stew. I will then lie down and wait for the first of you to turn up and massage me. Happy days