Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Cooked Tarantulas
And a perfectly serious toxicological study thereof.
Violate Me (In the Violet Time)
Folk tune titles.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

What was meant to happen was that today, sometime before I woke up, dad would get into the car, drive onto a ferry, travel from Northern Ireland to England and damn well stay there for nearly 2 weeks, giving me the chance to kick back, glory in having the place to myself, and be responsible for as close to fuck-all as possible.

What actually happened was that earlier tonight, when dad was packing to leave, we noticed this patch of damp on the wall in one of the bedrooms. Then Mark came over, and since he knows about stuff like that, we looked in the roofspace, and in other rooms, and found that a water tank is spilling water through the ceilings of 2 rooms. The water has even (just) made it down through to the kitchen on the ground floor. So we rigged up a system to stop the tank from filling up beyond the hole in it.

So what will actually happen is that tomorrow, when I get up, dad will have left, and I'll have to make desperate phonecalls to a plumber (who probably has a full diary), and then I'll find that it'll be new year at least before I can get it sorted. In the meantime, either: 1. ceilings will fall in - or: 2. The water tank will dry out and there'll be no water in the radiators and therefore no heating - or: 3. Some sort of combination of 1 & 2.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Self-reflexive joke
I just went through the RSS feeds I subscribe to, and was really pleased to find that the people whose writing I love most haven't updated their websites at all today because they have rich and varied lives outside the internet. :o)

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Wintry links...
(courtesy of Wikipedia) - Christmas Eve, snow, Silent Night, mince pies, port, frost, ice, winter, food, presents.
0871 271 3100 - The Queen's phone number!
If you're Welsh, are in Iraq, hold a gun, and have a mobile phone, you needn't be denied Her Majesty's Christmas Message at 1500GMT tomorrow. Royal Regiment of Wales and TA troops were originally intended to be the receipients of this service, but anyone can dial in and have the pleasure of hearing HM sounding a bit tinnier than usual.

For the first time in ages, possibly ever, the address hasn't been filmed in Buckingham Palace, but at a barracks. Teamwork and all that. I wonder if she's recovered yet from having Tony Blair's hand up her arse for the umpteenth time this year...
Bared teeth, torn flesh...
...and a Christmas disaster for Her Royal Highness! (Not to mention the corgi.) Rumour has it that Princess Anne is in chains in the Tower of London, with her dog at her feet, awaiting execution.

(Or, if you want to be pernickety about punctuation, we could change it to "Princess Anne is in chains in the Tower of London, with her dog at her feet awaiting execution". :o) *evil grin*
Lemon, ham and herbs
I'm making stuffing. The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is on the radio. Bliss. :o)

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

My nights
I'm sitting here at 1 in the morning, knowing I don't have to go to bed at half one to get up for work tomorrow. This is actually really good. But I feel cheapened. Jobless again. Jonny came round tonight and we pissed ourselves laughing at a cat video, grinned at a Lemon Jelly cheesefest song, and I made rum and brandy butter and didn't spray all the sugar and butter all over the kitchen like last year. Then I came home after dropping Jonny off and right now, it just really really doesn't feel like the raw sparkling cold season it is. I need to find my accelerator and hoof it to the floor.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

A *wonderful* book
The Tyger Voyage. Seeing it on this guy's blog just made me want to find it again. It's the one thing I'm going to do this evening even if I have to rummage through the entire attic.
80s TV commercials
From America, but good nevertheless.
Walking together what remains
I love this found poem. It caught my eye when I was in London and took me out of the rush to a cleaner, purer time when I was a boy interested in almost nothing apart from castles and medieval music and words. A time when I was so interested in words I'd peer at them over my glasses, so close I could see the grain in the paper and the way no letter was perfect.
I really like this colour poem too. It's more modern and at first you feel it postures too much but it's so gentle, notwithstanding a few jarring photos. And a perfect, imperious winter poem. A shy boy.
Nice Christmas present for them...
Santa Hussein drops by - and what do they do? Hold him in an undisclosed location. Anyone'd think they weren't pleased to see him!

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

What kind of kiss?
entrancingYou have an entrancing kiss~ the kind that leaves your partner bedazzled and maybe even feeling he/she is dreaming. Quite effective; the kiss that never lessens and always blows your partner away like the first time. Take the test here.

So yeah. Here's a funny picture, and here's a very good example of why Oscar Wilde said the British Public are philistine. Goat Fucker. Holy fucking bloodstained shit. The joys of North London.

That's it for now, folks.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Inspired by meeting Andy, I thought I'd look up 'friendship' in Wikipedia, to see whether I agreed with their expected incisiveness and wisdom. I'd expected 'friendships are... they start like... they're managed by the...." etc.

But it just redirects you to 'personal relationship'. 'Personal relationship', interestingly, fits under their umbrella of 'human love'. But a personal relationship with someone doesn't mean you love them. You can have a very real relationship with someone which is based entirely on hate... can't you?

Monday, December 01, 2003

Thursday, November 27, 2003

I go to the airport with Dad. We stand in the check-in queue as I worry about whether or not I'm going to be sent straight back to Belfast. I have my winter coat on, that coat which I wore for the last few days I lived in London. My bags aren't full but they carry music which I hope will be playing in Jonathan's living-room later today.
At the head of the queue, I lean forward, explaining that there may be a problem with ID. I worried about this all last night, pacing up and down in the garden, wandering nervously from room to room as I packed, wondering whether the effort was going to be in vain. The only thing in the world which matters now is the expression on the girl's face; her eyes; the cast of her mouth. Whether I can judge anything from it. Searching for my permission to leave, to spread my wings - to return home.
She runs up the little flight of stairs. We wait. Dad stands off to one side, watching. She comes back with a walkie-talkie which squawks as she says something. Her phone rings; she has a brief conversation and looks up sternly. Christ - after all this I'm going to be told: no, you can't fly, you are not who you say you are, Greenwich will be denied you! - but... no.... she's printing something out... I'm free to fly! Feeling like kissing the air, I turn and walk away, my little bag over my shoulder, following dad. We stand on the moving walkway, my heart beating slower each second. Almost in a daze, I see my fingers punch the buttons on the cash machine, see the cash poke out and be slid into my wallet by hands which are barely mine.
I snap out of it as dad gets his money. I lift my phone out, and call Jonathan. He says 'Hel-lo' and I say 'Well... I had to beat up a couple of check-in staff, storm the security office' and he laughs - 'but I'm on the flight'. I say I'll see him later, and ring off. For a second my head is full of his kitchen, him putting down a cup of coffee before sighing and starting the task ahead. I feel myself smile.
Dad and I sit down with coffee for him and a burger and coke for me. The man in front of me in the burger queue was rude to the harrassed, blushing teenager behind the counter, hateful in his old-man slacks and stern face. Dad steals most of my newspaper for a while. When I bought it I thought I was in the mood for papers but I'm not - I can't concentrate - already my mind slips through the air, quick like a dart, following the curve of the atmosphere to plummet down, down, smooth and swift to land me there.
Dad leaves. Work goes on all around me. Why do those people look so bored? Why is that suited man so glum? Do they not know what is happening? Can't they tell?! I think I must be too excited to pee but wander off happily to the toilet and find that nevertheless I can. I return, smoke a few cigarettes, read the paper cursorily, and then go through to Departures. This is where I saw Jonathan walk away from me at the end of his first visit to Belfast but this is not then, this is new and so familiar and exciting that my feet aren't touching the ground. I have spent too long away, but with even the first step towards an airport or a car we put an end to that - we travel - we arrest the process of arrest. And the actual process of travel, that movement between-times, when you are noplace and everywhere all at once - that is the knot fraying, disentangling, lying pathetic and weak at your feet. Only then do you start to walk.
And I walk.
I do a lot of walking around this time, actually. The lady at the desk tells me I need to go to Gate 24 in the International Departures lounge. Never having been there before, I go off on a trial run which is more an amble, traversing corridor after long corridor by the runways, finding the gate, and ambling back. I settle at a table which earlier this year hosted my sister and niece, get out a book and the packet of cigarettes, and read for perhaps 5 minutes before the urge to wander hauls me like a marionette through the air, moving, looking at faces and listening to voices. Getting restless and eager, I walk back to the gate to find it's full of people. the young people look at each other, and me, quite a lot. The older ones don't, or they stand looking at the runway. The plane perches tantalisingly below us. Two bright- scarfed ladies give orders, look at photos, and we board.
These planes always seem smaller than I remember them to be, and when I stand and look at the seat I've chosen it seems impossibly tiny, but when I settle into it - ah, that's it, stretch, hassle over, Jonathan and Greenwich here I come - it fits. It's comfortable. A young woman sits down one seat away from me. A breathy young asian man plunges between us and levers himself into the intervening seat. I rearrange my bag at my feet and look out of the window at the engine and the wing sweeping backwards, tip out of sight.
We taxi. The captain (why captain? Why not pilot?) tells us it's cold in London but that there was fog in Amsterdam earlier. The stewardess tells us officiously that the captain is 'in full command'. I feel like I'm in Russia but simply smile and return to the view.
The rush and G-force of the final acceleration - the cabin tilts back alarmingly - the judder from the wheels suddenly ceases to exist and we are free!, climbing steeply. The young woman beside me is sitting bolt upright, the young asian scrabbling in the seat pocket for a magazine. I survey the sweep of Strangford Lough from above. It is beautiful. From this distance and with a little squinting to blur things, I see it as the untainted Strang Fjord when Belfast was just a stream through sand with rushes whistling in the wind. A loud crunching beside me announces the arrival of a crisp- packet in the young woman's hands.
I decline the snacks and start to think of the wider issues of London. I'm going there - this is a holiday - why do I feel that I'm going home? Because I am, in a way which is elating me and depressing me and making my stomach turn alarming cartwheels of anticipation. I realise that I'm having to think of how best to get to Greenwich - that alone tells me it's no longer the familiar place it was. I start feeling disappointed until I remember why I have to plan my route. This is not forgetfulness but the flaying of the skin which grew over my eyes and mapped the city for me. It is no longer pre-ordained: it is again a slightly seething chaos. So yes! I will have to plan.
Jerked back by the ding of the seatbelt signal and the jingling of metal clasps, I realise we are landing. It's twilight, almost. There are fields, little farms, cottages with red roofs. The tyres bump onto the runway. And that's it?! One hour, give or take - that's all, to get me here? My heart starts beating faster. Reminded of how criminally easy it really is to travel, I jump up, hitting my head on the oxygen-mask cupboards and hoping nobody is inconvenienced during any possible disaster in future.
In the baggage hall, I haul one case, and another, off the conveyor. Perhaps I should buy train-tickets here. Yes - at the station all I will want to do is make straight for the platforms, so I talk to a pleasant girl at a desk and she hands me a little slip of card printed with London Bridge. I gaze at the name. The shuttle bus is painfully slow.
On the platform at the airport's satellite station, I don't wait for a train, but I think of a train. I think of all the trains I've ever been on in London. Trains which squeak, trains which jerk wildly, trains which glide and whine. Trains whose doors slide and rumble, whose doors hiss and click, whose doors close heavily with a 50s clang.
The doors in fron of me are dark-blue, and open invitingly. I step in. London Bridge? This goes to London Bridge? one voice asks. Yes, it does, I think.
Yes. It does.


More memories arrive with each station. I do not arrive at stations. They arrive at where I sit. They arrive at the terminus of my mind and wander around with their baggage, banging into things, causing scatterings and spillages. St Albans, warm, redbricked, with its squat cathedral, boyfriend's house, platforms tortured with worry over no money, frosted fields, firelit rooms. Radlett, with its taxicab office handy when you have fallen asleep on your train, Elstree and Borehamwood, magisterial with the presence of the invisible studios. Mill Hill Broadway. Too much. It's a flash at the window but too much, Hendon, Cricklewood. West Hampstead Thameslink and I strain to see the alley, the trees, the little slanted street by the name of Broomsleigh, first home to Jonathan, birthplace of so much, guardian of so little. I guard it here, I think, touching my head in my imagination. We speed on.


I clamber out of my seat just after Cannon Street slides away. The train is full and yellow-lit, darkened with suits, businessed with commuters away from the daily grind. And here... we slow... the platforms... suddenly I'm back in September 2000, graduated, trying to be a journalist, knowing nothing and nobody in this whole wide city and - the doors burst open, my bags are at my feet and my eyes grip the exit sign, take me through to the ticket office. Greenwich, it says. I'm smiling again. My phone is in my hand. I call Jonathan's new number with a pang: he's out of work and right now, with a rush of concentration and love, I hope he's alright. 'I'm in the middle of everything here... can you get here by yourself?' I know I can. Smiling again.


I'm hot in my long coat and my bags are heavy, my arms corded with the effort, but the stuttering rumble of suitcase wheels on Greenwich pavements sounds inexpressibly encouraging and on Royal Hill almost clamours to me to go faster, faster - and on Maidenstone Hill it pushes me in front of it until I twist and topple the cases at the door and rattle the letterbox. There is a sound like a plate from somewhere which sounds like the kitchen. Footsteps. And Jonathan's there at the door. Did I use the steps or have I just materialised inside the living-room? We hug. Thanksgiving.


'I'd love to say "Sit down, have a glass of wine, relax",' he says, 'but I need you to do some washing-up' and, looking at the kitchen, we both laugh. Giggling, I stride over to my coat and take out a cigarette. I stand outside the window, looking through the steamy panes: ladies and gentlemen!, I want to shout - this is Jonathan's Kitchen! - but I don't. I grin, clang the bin lid on my cigarette-end, and find myself inside at the sink. The pile of dishes gets cleaner, the cloth damper, as we talk. It's wonderful to be back. It's dark outside. The house is filled with wonderful smells. I feel excited and desolate for him. His job is over. But that means a new one is on the way and I refuse to countenance for even one moment the possibility that he'll have to move out of the house.
And besides, tonight the house is so completely ours that the very idea is exposed as folly. We move in and out of the kitchen. A pumpkin pie, beautiful thing, browns sweetly in the oven, indecently delicious as a tanned rentboy but homely and warm.
Cutie pie.


Davide et al arrive, late because of the trains, but that's alright because we're not yet ready anyway. Davide is different, almost adult in stubble, accompanied by a guy I've met before and an American I haven't. He's 'so American' but not, ageless, could be thirty, could be nineteen. We sit down while Jonathan does things in the kitchen. I feel the panic starting to subside. The bottle of wine I opened with the lady's skirt earlier has been poured, and with only the first few sips I feel expanded, tethered in the moment, anchored to the kitchen and the man who frets over dishes just inside the doorway, warm in the living-room glow. I tell them of how I am a journalist, of how I had to leave here because of money, of how I work in a carpark. But Greenwich and Jonathan's kitchen and the whole miraculous present weave such magic that nothing jumps within me as I say the c-word. It's just another thing - and the things here-and-now are perfect.
Candles in thick squat glasses glimmer warmly on the table. I smile, wondering where Willie has got to, and the guys talk of a fire on a train at New Cross, and Willie arrives, and -
Smells from the kitchen. A flotilla of pungences as fod emerges from the oven. Jonathan emerges from round the corner, barely less hot than the steaming dishes behind him, and reaches to the table for a plate, looking at us, sighing and smiling, saying 'We can just... everything's in the kitchen.....' and we troop in and back to the table, plates laden, mood on high.


A fraction of a second. We're all looking up. 'Well.....' someone says, and my hand moves to my glass and I raise it and in a rush of gratitude speak of Jonathan, of Greenwich, of this utter bliss, and there are Italian drawls, English murmurs, American yeahs, South African grins. Before I know it, three mouthfuls have disappeared, conversation is washing in tides over the table. The wheels are turning, pistons stretching, but this train isn't going anywhere. The steam rises. The cranberry-jar twinkles crimson like an altar-lamp. The wine glugs from the bottles. Sod the church - we're already home free.
Pumpkin pie and friends: can there be greater perfection? Not tonight. I commune earnestly with my plate. It communes earnestly with me. I grin, piefaced, down at the table. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater. Feel like giggling. Sigh and giggle. Happiness.


After leaning back in our chairs, and doing a great deal more sighing and smiling, we all walk in the cold and dark to the station. Waiting by the DLR track, I give Davide + boyfriend a group hug. Jonathan and Willie and I walk back. My glass of wine on the table is still half-full so we wander around, talking, until soporificity reaches a cosy peak. Jonathan brings pillows and a duvet. I unfold the sofa, feeling here, simply... here, the world is as it is, can be, should be, and I read drunkenly a little before gathering myself into a sumptuous Jonathan-housed, Greenwiched sleep.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Looking through the referer logs today, I found someone happened in on peripathetic by doing this search. Well, blow me!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Oh, sod it.
I want to live in another place than Canada, but at the same time, too. I can't be arsed to steal the links from Metafilter, so here's a post about Norway's terrifyingly beautiful Lofoten Islands. Where I want to live, as well as in Canada, but at the same time.

Monday, November 24, 2003

What a wonderful name!
Snow near BrainerdThe Brainerd Dispatch (of Brainerd) has the story of the winter's first big snowstorm over there on the other side of the pond. Other places which got buried beneath about 11 inches of snow include Pequot Lakes, Pillager, Hackensack, Emily and Onamia.

See, apart from the seasonal snow, these names, these wonderful wonderful names!, are partly why I want to go here, or here, and do this.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

A superb paper - laid out online
We all know that you can go to a newspaper's website to read the stories. But what about look at the pictures - or see the layout of the printed page onscreen? You can't usually do that - unless you're content with Newseum's Today's Front Pages. But the UK's Guardian now has, in addition to GuardianUnlimited (the web version), The Guardian Digital Edition.

It's fantastic. You get the layout, story text, and press clippings, of each and every page (well, nearly) of each and every section of the paper, and its sister sunday, The Observer. No software is needed - unless of course you want to download Adobe PDFs of the pages to keep and enjoy. *smiles warmly* Register here (free for the beta).

Friday, November 14, 2003

Buggerantoes! What was the world coming to?!
Bloody Salemite puritans... swings and roundabouts, really
"The Puritans saw and heard wondrous signs of God's purpose and the devil's menace: ominous lights in the sky... ...the magistrates abdicated some of their power, and most of their discretion... ... the silences in the documentary record indicate a purge of embarrassing documents by the authors or their descendants..."

Any of this sound familiar?
Music to their ears
In a way, adults know less about music than babies. But we still use it every time we talk.
Random thought
If god deposited all of us onto the planet fully formed and marked "made in Heaven" then how come he made it so damn difficult to get back in when our batteries ran out?

Monday, November 10, 2003

I'm not talking about Schott's Food and Drink Miscellany here, although it's part of this one. (The Schott book is the second by Ben Schott, a graduate who got bored and struck by idea genius one day, bringing forth this little bundle of delight in time for Christmas last year.)

But to complete this entry: Duncan Fallowell, a friend of mine who wrote the libretto for the opera Gormenghast, has recently published his latest novel. Mediaeval illuminated manuscripts are given a superb treatment in this book by Taschen. Northern Ireland humour can't get much better than the Portadown News. When you've seen the film and want to read it instead, go and get your movie scripts. Possibly the best cookbook ever, by Nigel Slater. And last but by no means least - the Titanic Inquiry Project.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Awwww! Bunnies!
These two little cuties have been quite shamelessly lifted from this site. I don't know what it's about, but Patrick sent the link to me in an email today, and my god, it was worth it for this little bit of soft wussy I'm-so-soppy-it-hurts gif bunny goodness.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Godfearing gay student expelled from gayfearing god school
So, this time, a student who, when 14, told his mum that he wanted to go to this private catholic school, has been expelled for being gay. Actually, he's been expelled for being gay and coming out. He still loves god, apparently, but he's launched a lawsuit, and you can check on the church's defence here. And a lot of people have a lot to say about this.
If Google merges with Microsoft, I'll never search with it again. Which would be a real shame. Get with it, Google. Don't merge. DO NOT MERGE. NO. BAD GOOGLE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

And deliver us from homosexuality, for thine is the kingdom...
The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican communion, has just announced the commission which will look at all the thorniest issues facing the church worldwide. It won't have the power to rescind the expected canonisation of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

It'll have the 'powers' to go "Hmm. Erm. Yeeeees. Well, those homosexuals. Well! Well!! They're like chocolates. Have one, you want even more, but it's not so good for the old tum, what? Need some evangeligestion tablets afterwards, ha-ha."

It'll be chaired, encouragingly, by the Primate of All Ireland, Dr Robin Eames. Dr Eames, when I last heard him speak, seemed to have his head firmly screwed on. Let's hope someone doesn't unscrew it on the sly.
You never fully realise you miss someone until they're utterly unreachable. Grrr! Why is he the only one of my friends who doesn't have a goddamn mobile phone?!

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

All these people
Last night the clocks were turned back. Not a massive amount of time - just an hour. British Summer Time became the usual Greenwich Mean Time. But it's not mean time. It's rich time, chestnut time, woodsmoke time, silverbreath time - and it meant more. Last night I sat there, got up, paced back and forth. It was a Saturday. I wanted my friends. And they didn't call. So I called them, and they didn't answer, so then I went online, and saw them there, and they came over, and we talked about houses and computers and work. I think about completely different things, but I talk about things like work. I worry about things like work. Particularly when there isn't any.

So, last night I told my friends I'm depressed because... I don't know why, but I'm apathetic too, and I'm having to switch career, and I don't want to switch career. I want to escape career. I want to write. That's really all I want to do. Not out of wanting comfort or an easy life. Writing, creatively, isn't an easy life. It's not comfort. It's not even an escape. It's a fight, with the world, against the world, with others, with yourself. It's a redress. It's a lens. It's work. But it's not a career. And it doesn't make money. And I don't want to have to worry about loads of things anymore. I don't want to have to worry about money. But to be paid money, I'll need to find something that I'd be willing to turn myself off and do for 9 hours a day. And I'm far too much of a misfit to actually be happy with that. So, the world's off-kilter. So, --what? It's always been.

But I told them last night. And I was shaking. And I didn't even know why I was shaking, but I told them and I was, and I don't know whether or not they respect me or are uncomfy with me or are puzzled by me. But there are all these people out there who someday I'm going to meet or work for or work against or love or hate or argue with or snog, and they don't know it. And in a way, neither do I. I just don't know.

This was originally meant to be posted on Sunday but blogger was fucking around.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Interesting stuff...
...about one aspect of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Quuuu---iiiiiiiiiick. MARCH!
If anyone, by now, wants to see a version of what happened during Operation Iraqi Freedom... well, I just thought I'd mention it... :o/
Yes, I know it's only October. No, we haven't had snow here today. But the really cold air which greeted me at the door this morning, coupled with some slight flurries forecast for the Western Isles of Scotland, made me do a little searching and I've found a couple of really great snow galleries. If you see any more, let me know.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

'Gay, gay, gay - the papers are full of it these days'. ;o)
On wandering downstairs to the kitchen this morning, I reached for the pile of newsprint on the table, thinking hmm, coffee and papers, heaven. Dad had taken the main section of the paper into the living room so the Review was top of the pile. Two teenage boys lying on a bed together, looking happy, quizzical... well, just normal, really. And the headline: Have you told your mum yet? Well, I haven't told my mum because she's dead, but this lengthy article by a lady whose son came out to her last year is so touching and sane that it'd almost make you tempted to write to the woman and come out to her, even if you weren't gay.

Of course, dad probably hasn't read it. I'm not going to say anything to him about it. He's already, I'm sure, got gay overload from the content of the rest of today's paper. First, the news that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been warned that riot and death are the offspring of gay ordination (riot and death which wouldn't happen, presumably, if a single communion already in schism just split into two happier, more united churches), and then an article by David Aaronovitch urging them to just leave it all on the back burner, on top of a surprisingly conservative editorial warning against a split. (Better for liberals to be patient? Nah. What bollocks. Two happy churches would be better. It's not going to solve itself in a single communion. No way.) And the icing on the cake is the news that pastor / reverend / shitface Fred Phelps plans a monument furthering homophobia for Matthew Shephard's tome town.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Sex is much, much healthier than any of us realised! Thanks to a study by Queen's University here in Belfast, it's postulated that:

More sex = improved sense of smell
More sex = reduced depression
More sex = pain relief
More sex = less colds
More sex = better teeth (hehe)
More sex = more time to get to the toilet when you've got to piss a gallon

Man turns up in casualty - "NURSE! I need more sex." I can just see it now. :oD

More sex, anyone...?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Balls of Brass. Wet, warm Balls of Brass.
If you're ever in the fair city, and feel like having a dip, here's a guide to trespassing in infiltrating Toronto's luxury hotel swimming pools. Heheheh. :o)
Marriage Protection... erm, what?
So. in another great coup for the religious right in America, conservative Christian lobby-groups have George W Bush's signature on a Presidential Proclamation. Not that they had to twist his arm much to get it, either. It's about Marriage Protection Week, and he supports it wholeheartedly.

Marriage, apparently, is a union between a man and a woman. Hmmm. Not entirely so in many other countries, however. So maybe it should be "USA Marriage Protection Week". Or, better, USA Reinforcement of Creaking Social Edifices Week. I thought the US had really high divorce rates, though, so how's this Week going to help them? Oh, sorry - I lost the plot. It's not about protecting marriage at all, but pressing for denial of state financial and legal status to other partnerships. Ah, right. Makes sense now.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Growls and snapping sounds in New York City
This guy had a tiger and an alligator in his apartment. Police found out after he was admitted to hospital with rather bigger lacerations to the leg than a chihuahua or budgie could inflict. The Mayor of the city said "Clearly these animals shouldn't have been anywhere in this city other than a zoo". No shit, Sherlock Bloomberg, you idiot.

Monday, September 29, 2003

George Dubya Bushisms
"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." - LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000
"If I'm the president, we're going to have emergency-room care, we're going to have gag orders."
"Drug therapies are replacing a lot of medicines as we used to know it."
"It's one thing about insurance, that's a Washington term."
"I think we ought to raise the age at which juveniles can have a gun."
"If affirmative action means what I just described, what I'm for, then I'm for it." - St. Louis, Mo., October 18, 2000
"Our priorities is our faith." - Greensboro, N.C., Oct. 10, 2000
"I mean, there needs to be a wholesale effort against racial profiling, which is illiterate children." - Second presidential debate, Oct. 11, 2000
"It's going to require numerous IRA agents."?On Gore's tax plan, Greensboro, N.C., Oct. 10, 2000

GOV. BUSH: Because the picture on the newspaper. It just seems so un-American to me, the picture of the guy storming the house with a scared little boy there. I talked to my little brother, Jeb? - I haven't told this to many people. But he's the governor of - I shouldn't call him my little brother--my brother, Jeb, the great governor of Texas.

JIM LEHRER: Florida.

GOV. BUSH: Florida. The state of the Florida. - The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, April 27, 2000

rotflmfao. :oD (from Slate)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Sigur Rós
( ) Album Covers Having downloaded Njósnavélin by Sigur Rós after hearing it on the Vanilla Sky soundtrack, I went online and downloaded a couple more. The band is made up of four Icelandic guys, and their music is wonderful. Lyrics are in Hopelandic, a cross between Icelandic and something else, and people have tried to translate them. The lead guitarist often uses a cello bow to play his instrument. It is windswept, arctic circle music.

The latest album to be released here, ( ), has eight tracks, all unnamed. (They did once have names: more info on that if you dig around here.) The album itself is unnamed. The booklet tells you nothing. The music, on the other hand...

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Hi-Res Magazine
Oh, my god.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

More miscellaneous stuff
Surfing around today, the most notable blog has been London Journal by an American called Colin who's just started uni in London. It's notable because he started it comparatively recently, and I lived in London for damn near two years, knew it well enough before that, and what he's going through is more or less what I went through. Apart from his (encouraging) pronouncement: I hate being a tourist. I feel like I'm wearing a shirt that says "I'm here to look at YOU." I never hated being a tourist. When living in London properly, however, christ did I hate them.

Then, Matooblog, which I'm sure would be lovely if I could read the damn thing fluently. From what I can see, it's cultural and offbeat enough. Google doesn't translate all of it though, so beware.

Circadian Shift (which I nearly typed without the f - hmmm, baad) has a wonderful entry about sort-of nonsense words. Like 'Inoculatte': To take coffee intravenously when you are running late. Pure genius.

The above introduced me to the next one: Gaping Void. Cartoons drawn on the back of business cards. The front of the cards aren't shown. It's not about taking the piss, you know.

Cigars and Alcohol Ramblings: not quite as restricted as the title implies, but my god, with a title like that, why would you not go clickety-clickety-click?

There's a typically American lit crit bit linked from the excellent assorted grotesqueries.

And finally, I just have to go back to Colin for a moment, because this London Underground blog entry is excellent.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Simon Waldman has courted controversy by hosting scans of a 1930s Homes and Gardens article on Hitler's 'Berghof' (mountain retreat near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria). Although the scans aren't there any longer, due to a takedown request from H&G which caused all the trouble, David Irving (as Waldman says, ugh) has hosted them on his site. They're also here and here (at least, they were on the date this was posted).

Whether this catfight is really about neo-Nazism, copyright, shame, architecture, design or anything else, it has to be said right here and now that while some Nazi architecture was grotesque, some of it was just plain good in itself. For example, HBO's epic miniseries Band of Brothers featured Hitler's 'Eagle's Nest' with some wonderment. Today the building is, jarringly, used as a cafe. That's worse than putting an article up on the internet, IMO.

And now we turn to some wonderful naval fiction, and very quickly slip on the drool which reading it has brought on, to encounter a site with a list of challenged and banned books of the decade. I'm surprised to see Dahl's The Witches sharing the list with Madonna's Sex, and not at all surprised to see Little Black Sambo (children's book from when nigger was still an acceptable word) on the list - I read it a few times as a kid and it was boring shite. :oD

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Midland Grand Hotel, St Pancras
London's former Midland Grand Hotel (known by everyone as St Pancras station) is an amazing building. (Thanks to urban75.)
Capital Punishment - right or wrong?
I'm asking here about the use of language in that question. Capital Punishment as a phrase is a paradox, because it is a method of killing. Punishment means making people realise their wrongs through privation of some kind, so that in their future lives they will feel genuinely disinclined to do whatever it was they were punished for. Therefore death can't be punishment.

A death sentence, with a wait of years before death, isn't even punishment because those condemned to death are imprisoned and don't have freedom in its widest sense. The experience might make them feel afraid, knowing they're going to die unnaturally, but that's infliction of suffering with no aim. It's an eye for an eye rather than rehabilitative punishment.

And to those people who say "If you imprisoned people for the rest of their natural lives, they'd rightly have no freedom anyway, and they'd have to be paid for, so why not just kill them?" I say: state-sponsored killing is still killing, and we all think no human being has the right to violently kill another. Ergo, capital punishment is a big mistake.

Turning to more pleasant things, Matchstick Men (trailers here) is something I'm looking forward to. Also looking forward to seeing The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (trailer here).

Friday, September 19, 2003

David Blaine v Sausages
A website I'm part of (link at the bottom of the page) decided that it'd be fun to buy sausages. Loads of sausages. And why?, I hear you ask. Well, world-famous, abegnatory, American magician David Blaine, who's spending a lot of time in a plastic box hanging above the River Thames in London, might be hungry.

But he can't eat anything. So the many lovely gay people who were bringing loads of sausages were going to throw them around in the air, and hopefully make David fancy a bit of... well, sausage. For the comedy / torment factor.

But now they've cancelled this great idea. No sausages will now be thrown at David Blaine. Shame.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I had to laugh...
...at the bit in bold here. I don't know why. I just giggled. From an AP report on the approach of Hurricane Isabel to the US's eastern seaboard:

Navy ships manned by 13,000 sailors headed out to sea from Norfolk, Va., and Earle, N.J., to ride out the storm and keep from being battered against their piers. Military aircraft were flown to airfields inland.

In Simpson, N.C., a man preparing for Isabel accidentally burned his home down Monday when a generator he was testing caught fire.

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson prayed on his Christian Broadcasting Network, based in Virginia Beach, that Isabel would turn from the coast. He asked God to put a "wall of protection" around Virginia Beach and the East Coast.

"In the name of Jesus, we reach out our hand in faith and we command that storm to cease its forward motion to the north and to turn and to go out into the sea," Robertson prayed on "The 700 Club."

Monday, September 15, 2003

Dear, dear
This morning at prayers the pretty housemaid Elizabeth with the beautiful large soft eyes was reading aloud in Luke i how Zacharias saw a vision in the Temple, but for the word 'vision' she substituted 'venison'. -- Rev. Francis Kilvert, 10th Jan. 1872
Just the usual
My breath smells tonight of cognac, cigarettes and coffee. You'd think I'd had a party or something, but in fact I enjoyed all three alone.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

The Amazing Truth
About girls who masturbate.
I've lived here all my life...
(with some breaks, of course) ...and yet until just now I never knew a damn thing about my favourite place in my neighbourhood: Belvoir Forest. As well as the huge forest area through which snakes the River Lagan, it's home to a mysterious little graveyard, an old stable block, and a carpark which was once the site of the country house which acted as the nucleus of the estate. In fact, that vanished house and its grounds gave birth to the village in which I now live - and it all started in the 1700s.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Gay people - the good, the bad, the ugly
I wrote all this today in my crappy little carpark job, when nobody was coming in and nobody was going out, and I had free time. Sometimes I write stuff in the carpark, but most of the time I just read things that other people have written, and draw puzzled glances from the drivers, who all think I'm uneducated just because I work there. :oD Anyway:

I've been forced to think a lot lately about how disappointing and inadequate and insulting many gay people are. Well - I say I've bene forced to think a lot about it, but I have been thinking about it quite willingly, and not just recently, but for years.

This isn't meant to be some sort of personal soapbox either. I think most people agree that certain ways of treating people are good; certain other ways bad. Meeting up with someome and being chatty and pleasant, and then not meeting them again is bad. Lying about things to avoid meeting is bad. Postponing for no better reason than that you just can't be arsed is understandable, but still bad.

Talking to people casually for 30 seconds in a bar once every couple of weeks and pretending that's a friendship is stupid. Scoping someone out in advance and not meeting them as arranged because you're not sexually attracted to them is dysfunctional, stupid and insulting - and just doesn't make any kind of sense if you're not meeting for sex.

I'm not posturing here, or exaggerating when I say that everything I've just described is what I've seen of gay people's behaviour - particularly gay people who socialise almost exclusively within the gay scene. (And particularly in Belfast.) Needless to say, it's not normal behaviour at all. Outside the scene, it's looked on as immature, dysfunctional behaviour.

And yet gay people in provincial scenes believe their small injustices are perfectly normal, not actually bad at all. What I would consider awful might only pass for mildly bad to a guy on a local scene who's never had the wakeup call of living in larger cities with internationally diverse people, or even the wakeup call of mixing regularly with straight friends.

Sceney gay people are, for the most part, predictable to know, shit to interactwith, and worse to depend on. Which is, for me, what makes knowing my well-adjusted, sane, friendly and dependable gay friends such a great thing. And I shouldn't take that for granted. Of course, thanks to the majority of gay people, I never can.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

These are in no particular order, but they've been floating around my head for weeks and weeks, so I thought I'd shove them down here, for future reference! :o)

--Friendship isn't a seriously, frowningly serious thing, but it's one of the most important things you can ever have, as well as the most enduring.
--So it deserves to be taken seriously. Ditto friends.
--You can't make new friends unless you get to know people.
--And you can't get to know people unless you spend time with them.
--New friendships deserve time and attention, so that there is no difficulty with relaxing with each other.
--People who cancel social arrangements often don't realise that this gives a bad impression of their regard for the other person.
--Even if they do realise it, they rarely say anything which puts the other person's mind at rest.
--An important part of friendship is to care, and to show that you care, not just to say it.
--In a way which is strange but true, your actions are more important than your words when you're making new friends.
--And sometimes, a lack of words can be the same as a slap in the face.
--To pay a little compliment which you mean is always better than saying nothing because you don't want to pay a bigger compliment.
--Most gay people in Belfast, but not all of them!!, usually make very little effort to show they care about new friendships.
--Mostly, it's not their fault.

But it still upsets me and pisses me off. :'o(
Crazy, sexy, cool, fucked-up movie
And here, for theose who've seen it and wondered "What the fuck?!" is an explanation of Donnie Darko. And another explanation of Donnie Darko. And a Donnie Darko explanation, yet again.
It must be autumn now. The sunlight is as bright as ever when it shines, but seems thinned-out somehow, less heavy. The birds hop faster and tweet louder around the feeder in the back garden, getting ready for their journey south. This morning, when I got out of bed and opened the bathroom window, I felt a breeze on the colder side of cool snake into the room. The combination of hot water and autumn air on my skin instantly released autumn memories.

Getting up earlyish on Sundays in London to join Jonathan on a trip to the V&A, with a chilly, happy walk to Patesserie Valerie afterwards. Sitting near the door of Dome on Old Compton Street, savouring the contrast between warm colours inside and the occasional blast of cold when the door opened. Streets in Highgate Village blazing red with leaves, and an old brick wall in St Albans, silvered and prickly with frost.

I'll miss being in London in the autumn, but not just for being in London. Trains from London take you quickly and directly to towns like St Albans in Hertfordshire. A charming little countryside town, old, rich, well-heeled, with some of the bustle of London. Mist muffles the streets in the morning, and the air is clean and still enough to let each season through. Winter is bitter and crisp there, but with none of the lashing winds of Kent. Autumn is scattered with leaves and bright with warm shop-fronts in the old square.

And Belfast? Autumn here is occasionally bright and cold, which is why this morning has brought on this reminiscence. Usually, though, it's greyer and wetter than it should be, than I imagine autumn in Connecticut or Vermont or Boston to be. Which is why I'm going out now, to enjoy the day... and here's something which caught my eye earlier.

This was meant to be posted yesterday, but blogger wasn't having any of it.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Wilfred Thesiger
Homosexual?! Never! ;o)
Being a writer...
...is just the way some people are made, says AL Kennedy.

I preferred stories to healthful and nourishing exercise outdoors, I made things up as often as possible, collected words like amphibian and carried them around with me like pets. I liked to examine reality, in order to think things different, to make them what they were not. Language, I met as if I were returning to a friend, to a part of myself - it seemed to be a place where I could be.

Damn right, missus.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

I am dying, Egypt, dying...
"Precious, precious, precious! My Precious! O my Precious!" -- Gollum

"Tell Inspector Patterson that the papers which he needs to convict the gang are in pigeonhole M., done up in a blue envelope and inscribed "Moriarty." I made every disposition of my property before leaving England and handed it to my brother Mycroft. Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow
Very sincerely yours,
SHERLOCK HOLMES." -- Sherlock Holmes

"Ah! I have kissed your mouth, Iokanaan, I have kissed your mouth. Your lips had a bitter taste. Was it the taste of blood? . . . Perhaps it was the taste of love. They say that love has a bitter taste. . . . But what does it matter? What does it matter? I have kissed your mouth." -- Salome

All the above, and more, in Last Words of fictional characters. Really diverting.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Bye bye, Bayyybee....
...time to hit the road to dreamland... *big grin* This is all about the news that Tony Blair's Director of Communications and Strategy, Alastair Campbell, has announced his resignation. Damn right. It makes today feel very much more like Friday than it really is, actually... :o)

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

So he's always been Governor of California.
Spot the inadvertent mistake - from Google News, 1543GMTAnd we've never known. Tsk. I call it a deception. A slip of the tongue by a news source gives away the secret. But then, that's no surprise - after all, it's American poltiics. Or just politics. :o)

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Crash, boom, kerrrr---ack
I love thunderstorms. But we never ever get proper loud crashes and ground heaves and lightning - until tonight that is, when I even thought about turning my computer off. There was a big hit about a quarter of a mile away I'd guess - can't see where it went but I can hear fire sirens all over the city, now that the booming has calmed a little. And it's all thanks to this little critter here, right above Northern Ireland.

Anyone who doesn't know where Northern Ireland is on that satellite pic - please leave a comment. I'd like to mock you. ;o)

Sunday, August 03, 2003

New purchases
Yesterday, I went into Waterstone's and had a look at their "3 for 2" shelves and tables. Bought The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin, which seems to be a very atmospheric thriller, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, which is a superb biography of the London diarist; and The Eagle's Shadow by Mark Hertsgaard, which promises to be an interesting critique of monolithic 21st-century America.

Ahhh. Now all I need is a big chair and a couple of cushions, and a ready supply of gin.
No planes, some trains, no automobiles, and a few ships
I'm not a transport nut, but with Ghost Ship now released on Region 2 DVD, it send my mind whirling back to the wonderful site about sunken ocean liners. And that sent my mind whirling back to site after site about other ghostly old transport stuff: a gargantuan old railway station in London, and the quirks and oddities of the same city's mouldering abandoned underground stations.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Old friends. New times.
Last week was magical. Ending yesterday, I had a visit from Patrick, a great friend of mine, who I met at university in Aberdeen. We were sitting in a seminar one day and started to talk. I can't remember what about; it wasn't anything special. Then, slowly, we started talking more often, and more deeply, and within weeks each had discovered that the other was a writer. That really kick-started things. Then, as we got to know each other more, I relaxed into my usual quirky self, Patrick relaxed into his slightly less quirky and more grounded self, and we had ourselves a friendship.

Summer came and went, and everyone was back at Aberdeen once more. Walking through the students' union in Fresher's Week, I bumped into Patrick again. He was sitting behind the desk of the Creative Writing Society. Not joining up again wasn't an option - in fact I can't even remember if there was a Creative Writing Society or whether I was a member of it during my 3rd year. Anyway.

So began a year of magic. Short stories, poetry, the intimate cosy and often frustrating sharing and development thereof. Nights of toil, pleasantly lubricated with Guinness, upstairs in the Red Lion. Nights of warmth, protected from the cold outside by the roaring fire of the Illicit Still. Nights of dinner, and films. Nights of conversation. Nights getting to know newer people: Anita, Steph, Lara, Iain... I write these names not because you'll have the faintest who I'm on about. (Although you may, someday.) I write these names, - and leave out many more! - because these people were the stars, asteroids, and black holes I orbited around that year.

Those nights, and days, with them. Nights of debauchery in Club 2000. Nights when everything was too beautiful, or too involved, to meet anyone else, and you kept in touch by phone. (One of those, a bitter, ice-slicked, snow-filled night in the park, I went back home and wrote. It was too much to talk about.) And days and nights spent travelling. Travelling to Edinburgh, to the countryside, to other towns. Travelling with writers through Scotland in the middle of winter, ending up in a cosy hostel on the Isle of Skye. All freezing white and silver in the day. All warm dark and star-flecked at night, sliding by slowly with glasses of amber fire. Travelling, also, to Edinburgh, a magical, cathartic, escapist's city - where Patrick and others were to settle later.

And then, slowly, things wound down and stopped. It was the end of university, of course. The end, certainly, of an era. We all knew, those of us who thought and wrote and spent time together, that the luxury of living so closely entwined and surrounded by academia and mental rigour, would change things. Might damage things. Not between us, but creatively. It didn't. But it could have.

And if there's one thing I take away from Patrick's visit, aside from the renewed covenant of friendship, it's this. It's never too late to remember what you loved. It's never too late to reclaim what keeps you alive. Essentially: I swear to fuck I'm gonna write more! :oD

Sunday, July 13, 2003

What the....?!?!
Holy. Fucking. Shit!!! I've seen some internal memos in my time. This one disgusts me more than I can say. Fucking tossers. Fucking tossers!
Germaine Greer wants him...
You like him, Germaine. You really, really like him. :o)

She's serious, too. In an interview with a TV presenter, to publicise a forthcoming book full of glossy photos of nubile young boymen, she said: "Well, I'd like to reclaim for women the right to appreciate the short-lived beauty of boys, real boys, not simpering 30-year-olds with shaved chests." This article is scathing:

Once you get over the hypocrisy of the godmother of 1970s feminism salivating over boys as sex objects, you are left with the fact that Greer is using the language of pedophiles.

However, another article is more down-to-earth:

Greer, 63, says 'The Boy', which looks at male children in Western art, is about reclaiming the right of women to enjoy the beauty of boys. "Everyone thinks the only people who like looking at pictures of boys - and I mean boys, not men - are gay men but that's not true. I, for one, love looking at them," Greer told British newspaper the Daily Express.

She's not the only one. I thought. But I'm a bit confused. I like boys, boyz, y'know? By which I mean: men. But she actually means *boys*. Or does she?

I hope she makes clear in her book what boys are and what men are, and when they stop being boys and start being men. If she's talking about photography and art, an age-limit won't cut the mustard. Let's say androgynous, with a patina of 'the child' over them, then. Good enough definition? Maybe. Oh, no, I'm wrong: asked on Canadian television what attracted her to "boys" rather than men, she said: "Sperm that runs like tap water will do." But I'd always thought that a boy stopped being a boy when he was sexually mature.


I'm not knocking the woman. But there is something slightly hilarious about the most loudly militant feminist of her era saying, "I like boys. No, sorry, I *like* *boys*." Why, Germaine? Because they're not men yet? Hehe. :o)
Tired of getting stuck into Tony Blair?
Want to display your considered (if largely fake and posturing) indifference to the shady mechanics of how the war in Iraq was won? Want to stop getting stuck into people for the sake of it, and start concentrating on the big issue that Saddam is gone? Here's how: just get stuck into someone else! Someone nobody would ever have thought you'd attack. After all, there must be a reason you'd do that, right?

How many Iraqis has Robin Cook killed? Not by the favoured Baath Party means of feeding them into plastic shredders or gassing them in their villages, but indirectly through the policies he endorsed? It's hard to be precise - the body counters in Saddam's Iraq always needed more time - but the death toll must run into five figures and hits six if you believe the more gruesome claims about the effects of the sanctions he enforced.

And so Nick Cohen takes a running jump at Robin Cook. And then, inexplicably, moves away for the rest of his article to tell the story of sanctions against Iraq. The sanctions were Bad Things, he tells us. True. They killed people. True. Saddam was still able to torture people and carry on his disgusting tenure even though sanctions were in place. True.

Cohen's comment comes down to this: Robin Cook was Foreign Secretary at the time the sanctions were put in place by the agreement of the UN; the sanctions were wrong; a dictator can carry on with sanctions in place. But he never comes up with an alternative. Content with naming a political celebrity, he launches into a mix of imcomplete narrative and a hash of an argument, and never reaches a conclusion.

The standfirst? "Quick to damn others, Robin Cook is lamentably slow to accept his part in the deaths of many Iraqis". Hehe. Might I suggest a revision? "Quick to damn others, Nick Cohen is lamentably slow to accept his part in an incoherent, posturing op-ed piece".
So you decide...
...to climb this mountain. You know that previous activity has been fairly non-existent, and you're safe. Suddenly it starts exploding around you. These volcano eruption videos really are amazing, and the site includes photos, videos and other info about what else you find around an erupting volcano: ice, coloured clouds, and, most bizarrely, smoke rings. (Similar to one observed in America last week, when a bolt of lightning left a smoke ring in the sky.)

And here is an article about republished adult novel The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, who also wrote the Moomins stories for children (*and* adults).

Thank god for weekly James Fenton, courtesy of Guardian Review. This week, the art of lighting a painting.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Plates and trinkets more important. . .
...than charities which are trying to mediate against atrocious situations around the world? Apparently so. The Princess Diana Memorial Fund, which distributes millions of pounds of aid to charities she favoured, the money having been donated by people all over the world, has been sued by a collectables company.

It sued the Fund because the Fund originally sued it over its decision to use the Princess's image on plates, dishes, etc. etc. without permission, and considers that nobody can get away with such a frivolous and wrongful use of law. *cough cough*

And apparently it's absolutely *not* in it for the money.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Weapons? Pah.
Topical picture of the day. Share it with people you want to confuse. :o)
Well, here we are
Again. Nothing much changing. Except this post is made with Mozilla and I just wanna see if it works. So there.
The post was actually crappily formatted, so I'm back to using w.bloggar.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Lemon Jelly
I was just reminded of this by Patrick's blog, but Lemon Jelly's new album (here, if you wanna buy it) is wonderful, and wonderful as all the tracks are, my favourite is Ramblin' Man. Don't you dare Kazaa this either, you bastards. BUY it. :o)
Eminem's Power...
...increases, as Seamus Heaney applauds the rapper's verbal energy. In fact, I remember thinking when I saw 8 Mile that whether or not his rapping in the film was scripted, it should have been nominated for some linguistic award. So I'm in agreement with Heaney - a bit shocked at the picture of a Nobel Laureate praising a rapper though!, but not surprised in the least that Heaney would admire his work. What do you think?

Monday, June 30, 2003

Here's a relationship for you, sirs
Watching the ITV news just now (the UK's third TV channel, for those of you elsewhere), and a piece on the Government's new plan to give same-sex couples many of the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexuals. From the Government's consultation paper:

- The Government proposes to create a scheme under which same-sex couples in England and Wales would be able to register their partnership.
- The scheme would be for adult same-sex couples who are not in an existing registered partnership or marriage and are not closely related.
- Couples who register would have a new legal status as "registered civil partners", and would acquire a package of rights and responsibilities.

As you can imagine, in the UK it's a contentious issue and always has been, with many groups arguing that it's only giving gay and lesbian people the same rights as anyone else - and with many others saying that it destroys the 'sanctity' of marriage, or is 'gay marriage' in all but name.

One of the people interviewed on the programme was from the Christian Action Group or something like it - I can't be bothered to check because a paraphrase of the name tells you enough - and said "This is gay marriage dressed up as something else, and what the government is doing is making a relationship available to these people which...". There, I tuned out and started laughing.

I mean, 'scuse me?! These people already have relationships, don't they? Aren't relationships emotional states bounced back and forth between 2 people? OK, granted, legal trappings can be made available to people. But it's not as if the government can say to 2 men: "Here, my friends, have a relationship." (You can just imagine the reply: "Oooooh, lovely, thankyou!".) Or did this god-bothering, ethically-confused twat actually personally believe that he and his wife weren't having a relationship until they put their rings on?

If anyone reading this would like to tell me whether there's a mainstream religious basis - which can be easily applied to a relaxed real world - to that statement, please comment. Anyone else - comment too. I want your views.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Homos! Handshakes! Oh, GOD!!
Hehehe. :o)

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Like a line from a novel
You know the way, in really intense or really shitty novels, one lover says to the other: "You're like a work of art" or something like that? Well. Here's an extract from a message I got today on OUT:

Gosh, I couldn't help but notice when I saw your picture how pre-Raphaelite your features are. I promise, that's not a cheesey chat-up line or anything (one step removed from "come up and see my etchings" or something like that). It's one of my favourite styles of painting, and I can see you in a Rossetti or a Burne-Jones painting.

What do you think?!
Showers, but some brightness later
Richard Dawkins, in an article printed by today's Guardian Review, advocates a naturalistic worldview, along with some illuminating, even bright, asides along the way:

I once read a science-fiction story in which astronauts voyaging to a distant star were waxing homesick: "Just to think that it's springtime back on Earth!" You may not immediately see what's wrong with that, so ingrained is our unconscious northern hemisphere chauvinism. "Unconscious" is exactly right. That is where consciousness-raising comes in.

So, as with the word 'gay' which was hijacked decades ago by homosexuals, Dawkins reports on a couple of people who set up a website to enable you to self-identify as a bright. Not as bright, but as a bright. Do you have a naturalistic worldview? Go there, if you're not too embarrassed with the gimmickry of it all...

The ills of contemporary poetry are also given some attention, and in the Independent's magazine, there's an interesting, if scary, article about The Big One - the catastrophic earthquake which wil strike San Francisco sometime in the next 40 years. Sadly, The Independent is shit at putting such articles online. So it's not there.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Acceptance or Interest?
When I was still at university, I was sitting in the union one night when, for no particular reason, the talk turned to things gay. As these conversations among straight people will, it led to the only gay person at the table (ie. me) lifting my pint and remarking that I too was that way inclined - eliciting a spectacular lack of surprise from most of them. They already knew. But for a couple of people, who didn't know, what my linguistic disrobing created was... hmm, not acceptance exactly, but interest. "Oh, so you go to that weird place by the docks then?" Mmm, yeah, no argument there - after all, it was weird. "Cool." Whooooaa - wait a minute. Cool? Cool?! No, no, trust me, you're just meant to say something like "Faggot".

And then: "Actually..." (oh god no, please jesus, don't let him say it) "...I was thinking of..." (look, I said don't) "...going there myself sometime." Followed by a sort of uncertain smile which said "Will you take me?" Now, regardless of whether or not I wanted to, there was no way I'd've led him into that place, trailing an uncertain but wanting-to-be-stylish posse of lads. So I smiled back and said "Another pint?" and the evening ended with me having a raging erection and him having a snog with a girl in the corner. But anyway.

For a start, lads don't fit well into a place like that. A rundown, dirty, we-haven't-seen-a-straight-person-in-years, place like that. And second, to be stylish in Club 2000, you could have turned up in a clean outfit of jeans and white t-shirt and upstaged nearly everyone. For the rugby player in the union who thought I was brilliant, Club 2000 wouldn't have worked. If it didn't ring my bell, I thought, chances were it wouldn't have rung his. Anyway, it didn't matter because a few weeks later, a really stylish and sexually relaxed bar with nightclub attached opened on Union Street. All the straight guys went to it, and all the gay guys did too, wanting to be stylish themselves by going to a straight place en masse.

Julian Linley in today's Observer Magazine writes an interesting little article about how such straight interest and gay relaxation and willingness to please (or be pleased) can flourish in larger more varied cities.

The question I was asking, though, isn't answered too well... does it really lead to increased acceptance, or just more interest? Are gay people becoming the props for straight style? And why - if straight men just need to have a longterm relationship to relax their grip on their masculinity and go gay a few nights a week - why can't the camper variety of the gay man just, well, get hitched and similarly jettison his campness?

Reason: for straights, gay clubs are, well, an untroubling funfest. For gays, gay clubs are... a lot more serious. The straight man who goes to gay clubs has said "I'll have my freedom of choice, thanks" and is usually admired for it. The gay man who goes to straight places by similar choice has said "I'll have my freedom of choice, thanks" and is usually thought downright weird by his gay peers. Rant over. :o)

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: 1841-1902 is online!
Draft Riots erupt - 13th July 1863Thousands of copies of the paper have been fully scanned and can be easily fulltext-searched and loaded in a variety of formats from this fascinating site. The Brooklyn Draft Riots, lynching of Negroes, 'wanted' columns showing what people were looking for in the 1840s: "Wanted: a SITUATION, by a neat industrious girl, to do cooking, washing, and ironing...".

One thing worth knowing is that Brooklyn was an independent city when The Brooklyn Daily Eagle was published, not yet having been swallowed by New York. The building of the Brooklyn Bridge - covered by the paper - changed all that.

Oh, it's all wonderful. Go there at once!

Friday, June 06, 2003

God Save Dame Edna - Australia's new representative for HM The Queen!
Honest. She volunteered and everything!
Please, please, let it be so.
New York Times: scandal or so what?
I found the BBC's dry reporting of Jayson Blair's error- and deception-ridden reporting for the New York Times came in for some criticism on Haddock. I agree. When a journalist in a respected national paper goes so badly off the rails and isn't noticed doing so, people should make a fuss. Read the following passage, from the start of the paper's sado-masochistic 12,000-word article:

A staff reporter for The New York Times committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud while covering significant news events in recent months, an investigation by Times journalists has found. The widespread fabrication and plagiarism represent a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.

The reporter, Jayson Blair, 27, misled readers and Times colleagues with dispatches that purported to be from Maryland, Texas and other states, when often he was far away, in New York. He fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He lifted material from other newspapers and wire services. He selected details from photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere or seen someone, when he had not.

And he used these techniques to write falsely about emotionally charged moments in recent history, from the deadly sniper attacks in suburban Washington to the anguish of families grieving for loved ones killed in Iraq.

In an inquiry focused on correcting the record and explaining how such fraud could have been sustained within the ranks of The Times, the Times journalists have so far uncovered new problems in at least 36 of the 73 articles Mr. Blair wrote since he started getting national reporting assignments late last October. In the final months the audacity of the deceptions grew by the week, suggesting the work of a troubled young man veering toward professional self-destruction.

Mr. Blair, who has resigned from the paper, was a reporter at The Times for nearly four years, and he was prolific. Spot checks of the more than 600 articles he wrote before October have found other apparent fabrications, and that inquiry continues. The Times is asking readers to report any additional falsehoods in Mr. Blair's work; the e-mail address is retrace@nytimes.com.

Every newspaper, like every bank and every police department, trusts its employees to uphold central principles, and the inquiry found that Mr. Blair repeatedly violated the cardinal tenet of journalism, which is simply truth. His tools of deceit were a cellphone and a laptop computer ? which allowed him to blur his true whereabouts ? as well as round-the-clock access to databases of news articles from which he stole.

The Times inquiry also establishes that various editors and reporters expressed misgivings about Mr. Blair's reporting skills, maturity and behavior during his five-year journey from raw intern to reporter on national news events. Their warnings centered mostly on the errors in his articles.

His mistakes became so routine, his behavior so unprofessional, that by April 2002, Jonathan Landman, the metropolitan editor, dashed off a two-sentence e-mail message to newsroom administrators that read: "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now."

After taking a leave for personal problems and being sternly warned, both orally and in writing, that his job was in peril, Mr. Blair improved his performance. By last October, the newspaper's top two editors ? who said they believed that Mr. Blair had turned his life and work around ? had guided him to the understaffed national desk, where he was assigned to help cover the Washington sniper case.

By the end of that month, public officials and colleagues were beginning to challenge his reporting. By November, the investigation has found, he was fabricating quotations and scenes, undetected. By March, he was lying in his articles and to his editors about being at a court hearing in Virginia, in a police chief's home in Maryland and in front of a soldier's home in West Virginia. By the end of April another newspaper was raising questions about plagiarism. And by the first of May, his career at The Times was over.

What people in said newspaper shouldn't do, in my opinion, is treat every single journalist in the place as guilty until proven innocent, nor should it suspect Pultizer prize-winning writers for making only a very few mistakes - mistakes which are matched or exceeded by some journalists in the same stable. The editors have resigned - what is now needed is not an internal pogrom but changes of rules and procedures to make sure what Blair did - to such an exceptional extent - cannot happen again. The integrity of journalism and the public interest demand it.

The New York Times has been stabbed and seemingly can't stop jerking and thrashing in pain. Come *on*! Nasty things happen in papers all the time. The knife's been pulled out of your flesh anyway. Get over it, stop thrashing, focus - and get back to work, you resource-drenched, wellpaid, adulated sons of bitches. ;o)

Thursday, June 05, 2003

I just got a message from someone on a website which has a profile and picture of my good self on it. The picture's the same as the one linked from this site's front page. He said "You are one ugly bloke!" and then blocked me from replying. What I was going to reply was "You have no picture on your profile, but your attitude makes you uglier than you think I am".


Saturday, May 31, 2003

Doucaines, symphonies, crumhorns, bombardes...
...they all combined together to make a new medieval music. Except this new medieval music took place not in the 1470s but the 1970s. But towards the end of that decade people got sick of the bells-and-whistles treatment, in which craftsmen had suddenly started to make 'medieval' instruments by the truckload. Why? Because so much of it was guesswork. Nobody *knew* for sure what the things really had sounded like - or how the music was meant to be sung. Or even if it *was* meant to be sung, and not played - or played and not sung.

So that clever chap James Fenton, writing in the Guardian's Review, comes up with another good article, and the book he mentions at the start of it can be bought here.

Friday, May 16, 2003

This is not a sneeze.
It's a slightly distorted and textured version of a print of.... what? Can you guess? Comments please. :o)
Get the picture?

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Greedy bugger?
Some of you might've noticed the paypal button which has recently appeared. This is because I'm poor! I'm not asking anyone in particular to give me any amount of money, for any reason - but if anyone ever feels like bunging a virtual tenner into my bank account, it'd make a massive percentage difference to my balance, and I'd therefore be very grateful. Support the arts, support struggling poets... or just support me. :oD If you do - thanks! If you don't - well, I'll never know you saw the thing in the first place, will I? ;o)

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Music matters - and Radio 3 delivers
Before we get going - does anyone here listen to BBC Radio 3? How long have you been a listener? And if you're not - why not? What do you imagine it to be like?

It is in radio talks that we can hear musical examples, without having to be able to read music. And if we can hear musical examples, a reviewer can make real, telling comparisons in matters of performance.

On radio we can listen to musical analysis of a complex orchestral work, and the BBC, using its orchestras, is able to offer, not extracts from existing recordings but specially recorded examples, telling us what the violins are doing at a given moment, and how that relates to what is going on in the woodwind section.

Nothing a newspaper or a weekly magazine can do can come anywhere near this. And yet one always yearns to find a good piece of music criticism - something more than the conventional deployment of boo/hoorah-words. If, as MacMillan wants, we ought to be able to talk intelligently about classical music, then composers and musicians would seem to be the people to teach us.

--From James Fenton's excellent Guardian article in today's Review.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Alan Maxwell
A friend of mine, who I met during my final year of university in Aberdeen, died in the last couple of days.

I first met Alan on a sunny afternoon in 1999. He was a guy who had approached the befriending service we'd set up in the LGB society in Aberdeen only at the start of that year, and I'd arranged to be the person from the society who was to meet him. I was therefore the first person he came out to. He stepped half-warily into my flat, wearing the same friendly smile he always wore, giving me a firm handshake and sitting down with someone he didn't know, about to say a lot of things which had been mulling around his head - for the first time.

During the next few months, Alan became more self-confident, and his easy conversation with total strangers deepened into frendship with many of them. He shared a bond with my flatmate Ross, grew close to my friend Andy for a time, and became lasting friends with Patrick and Anita, friends the goodness of which nobody could ever expect. The closeness deepened, and Alan's acceptance grew strong and, characteristically for him, quiet and assured.

When we graduated in 2000, I lost contact with Alan. He had his first relationship during the last year, something which I'm sure would have brought the world to his door in a kaleidoscope of colour and variety which he'd know he'd never seen before. Maybe it was to much for him. I don't know. But a few days ago, Alan quietly left his house in Edinburgh, drove his jeep out into the countryside, and died, faithful to the end to a nature which urged him not to rock the boat with anyone.

I wish he'd stood up and wavered. I will miss him.

'Where am I?' Consulting the Modern School Atlas
You underline Dalkey in Ireland, in Scotland Barrhead.
'What day is it?' Outside the home, house-sparrows
With precision tweetle and wheep under the eaves.

Although you forget their names, you hear the birds
In your own accent, the dawn chitter, evening chirl,
The woodpigeon's rooketty-coo and curdoo. 'Who
Am I? Where am I?' is what a bird might sing.


Sometimes the quilts were white for weddings, the design
Made up of stitches and the shadows cast by stitches.
And the quilts for funerals? How do you sew the night?

- Michael Longley

Monday, May 05, 2003

Who wrote / filmed / acted this? Does it matter?
Well, even if it does, this person obviously doesn't agree with Roland Barthes who says that in any creative work whatever, the author is dead.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Interesting snippets for Friday
...but largely feeding on other people's embarrassment or misfortune as usual. ;o) First of all, the climber who amputated his own arm. Next, an 18-year-old American student newly entered into a Fraternity dies after being fed water through a funnel. Seventy Chinese navy submariners die in an accident. And if you don't turn your mobile phone off on that next flight, you could die too.