Monday, November 11, 2002

Pool Fool

People who take unimportant things too seriously are such a bore. I recently played pool with someone who was obviously very good at the game. He knew I was useless, he knew he could have beaten me with a blindfold on and one hand tied to his leg. I even said to him - "I won't play you because I'm crap, it'll be a waste of your time." But he insisted. The balls were duly racked and stacked and cues selected. The cues all looked the same to me so I grabbed the nearest one. My adversary however, spent some time inspecting the grain of several, running his hands up and down the shafts in a kind of wish-filled masturbatory motion, weighing the balance, placing the butt end to his eye as if taking aim from a rifle to check the straightness, picking and scratching at the tip like a fussy monkey grooming its mate, before finally deciding on one.

In what turned out to be the only concession to my lack of skill at this game I was awarded the (dubious) advantage of breaking off. I did my usual - whacked the white ball straight into a pocket making plenty of "Look how bad I am at this game isn't it a hoot" type facial expressions and "told you I was rubbish" references to everyone watching, most of whom (conspiratorially) laughed along with me. The "expert" player however deduced none of this mirth, and, making no allowances for my lack of ability, proceeded to virtually clear up with a series shots I'd only ever seen before on the telly. A sports term's thesaurus of top spins, screw backs, check sides, plants, ball bending and cannons. And all executed with the sternest expression imaginable, eyes narrowed, facial muscles twitching, punctilious chalking whilst strategies and alternatives were weighed up and options chosen. Once getting to the table I did a couple more daft shots and while his back was turned hit one twice ( I was getting fed up by this stage) potting a rare ball. Everyone thought it was funny. Except him. He took his free shots after angrily challenging me about my "cheating" and ended the game in a flurry of pocket rattling, ball fizzing shots. Winning was so important to him. There was no place for humour, even though I was no challenge to him. " Another game?" he asked, "No thanks", I replied, and "life's too short" I thought. And it is.


Wednesday, November 06, 2002

I never really thought of the word obconic as being a useful adjective. Or that it could be used as an ironical descriptive. Perhaps I'm the last to know that as a word it is synonymous with "pearshaped" which could describe how some of my posts turn out - set out with the best intentions, before going "pearshaped."

I don't suppose this piece of information will helpfully enrich anyone's vocabulary or enliven their ability to be elegantly varied. Anymore so than the knowledge that "rostrate" describes something which is boat shaped ( what else is boat shaped other than a boat?) "scaphoid" is bow shaped ( rather than some ghastly disease hybrid involving scabies and typhoid); falcate could describe (perhaps only from the pen of the late Anthony Burgess) something which is sickle shaped - I shouldn't think everyone knows what sickle shaped means these days, hammer and sickle flags no longer having any real relevance. And "ligulate" which could stand in for, if one wishes to be purposefully obscure, tongue shaped. Ligulate and groove, hmmm doesn't seem to have quite the same ring to it - which could bring me to an alternative bell shaped word. But the link will have to do the work for that one.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Conkers. Kids don't play it anymore. To many hi-tech distractions I suppose. I wonder if they know what they're missing.

As schoolboys we knew every Horse Chestnut tree within a radius of ten miles from where we lived. We were never given points at school for arboreal recognition, but then again we didn't want them.. What we wanted was conkers. Loads if them.

Our version of combat, our need to satisfy our insatiable appetite for trials of strength and ingenuity didn't lie with computer generated images endowed with unbelievable fighting skills and out of this world weaponry, ours lay ( at this time of year at least) with the humble conker.

Gaggles of us would stand looking like refugees an untidy gaggle of bodies, bikes and dufflebags, as if in veneration beneath a chosen Horse Chestnut, armed with stones, lumps of mud, and sticks. These would be hurled into the branches in the hope of scoring a fall. If someone hit a spot laden with the desired objects, great tumblings of spiky green ball shaped objects would rattle-thud down to the ground. Heads had to be protected with hands and arms, but eyes would never leave the spots where they fell. There were no proprietorial rights of ownership dependent on the successful thrower, once down, they were anyones. It was an unspoken team effort. Ownership rights were determined once they were squirreled into bags or thrust into pockets or into jumpers.

Once they had been transported home the cases would be broken to reveal the sublime beautifully grained mahogany nuts which would be used for combat. They would be primed with a hole through the centre by means of a skewer (many a hand would be partial skewered at the same time) and a piece of string would be threaded through it and knotted at the conker end to allow it to be suspended where it would hang with its own weight providing the required tautness.

The game was simple. Two combatants, two conkers. Each conker in turn would be swung by its owner in the hope of making damaging contact to the other. This would continue until one or the other was cracked and by degrees shattered. The winning conker the conqueror (conkerer?) and its owner would then be hailed as champions and the conker bestowed a number relevant to the number of successes it had racked up using the prefix Billy as in Billy 1 Billy 2 etc.

Everyone would be involved, no one showed a lack of interest. Rules were drawn up to prevent cheats and to ensure fair play A sneaks charter of ruses was identified, a sort of conkery Queensbury Rules remembered by heart. Conkers would be banned from combat should they fail the olfactory test: a smell of vinegar (a sort of anabolic steroid for conkers - a nightly soak was said to harden the shell), or the aroma of the oven ( a baker was not a fair match against a natural.) Last years models - easily identified by their darkened hue and gnarled complexions; all were quickly banned from competition.

Hold conker between index and middle finger, release and flick downwards. No swinging - but allowable providing you understood the risks, a tangle of strings (tangle six) meant that the recipient had six free hits. Smack/Whack - Smack/Whack. Cracking conkers, cracking knuckles. Cracking fun.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

I first posted this back in June. Now that The Osbournes is about to be given its long awaited terrestrial screening I'm going to be ever so slightly egotistical and republish this piece should anyone have missed it first time round! Well there aren't any rules that state I can't, are there?

I finally got round to watching an episode of "The Osbournes" last night - Episode 3 I think it was. A strange experience but like most distasteful ideas that find their way on to our television screens, strangely watchable. The fly on the wall format still has the sucker power of its namesake's feet, the natural strength of its hair-thin legs, and the all-seeing appraising eye of the edgy voyeur.

Whoever identified the insatiable curiosity we humans have in the everyday/workaday minutiae of each other's lives and the congenital need for this fulfillment once we're exposed to an unfolding sequence of mundane events, must have found the television equivalent of the Holy Grail. They must also have been blessed with the psychological perception of a Freud combined with the kind of entrepreneurial acumen that could turn a cockney barrow-boy into a millionaire.

Each time reality-based TV programmes show signs of losing pre-eminence to a newer obsession it returns stronger than ever. Pretenders to the popularity crown are destined to always be just that. The clever (the host as star) chat shows, the quiz-show with the rude presenter, the "on location celebrity." Even the confrontational confessionals - choreographed itineraries of pulled-punch ups, crocodile tears, and slaughtered grammar, takes a lesser billing in the public preference to the " here we are living our lives, fancy a peek?" television programme.

Years before the "Airports", the "Driving Schools", the "Hotels." Long before the "Survivors" and "Big Brothers." Ages before these programmes spawned all those low grade improbable celebrities such as Airport's camp Jeremy Spake, Driving school's ghastly Maureen, the callous Eileen from Hotel and the uncouth Helen from BB; the ground-breaking: "The Family," which created a celebrity out of no-one except the format, was filmed back in the 1970's.

Over a number of months this working class family's life - which I believe was all but destroyed, such as it could be made worse, in the process - was filmed in intimate and prurient detail. The "life" as depicted, resembled little more than a peek at a group of people living more or less on top of each other, in a Council house in Reading. They were lives of penurious desperation. More no-s than a Japanese theatre group characterized the individuals: no work, no money, no brains, no morals, a kitchen-sink drama of rows, petulance, dirty talk and idleness. The scenery consisted of a complement of cheap beer, smoldering ciggies, tatty sofas, chirping budgies, and outside lavs. Viewers were tacitly invited to condemn the poverty- stricken, morality-free horror of this "typical" working class family unit. It made grim viewing. But it was also compulsive viewing. A factualised hybrid of "Cathy Come Home"'Til Death Do Us Part" and "The Royale Family." And as real as the editors allowed it to be.

"The Osbournes" - particularly when it hits mainstream television will also be compulsive viewing. "The Osbournes" is essentially the Wilkins family but with the liberating resource of money. And a famous though shambolic, constantly befuddled, hard-life-ravaged, foul-mouthed but still somehow charming, male lead.

Old rocker Ozzy Osbourne with the glamour of his youthful excess long behind him - the dark poetry of his Black Sabbath days fighting for the tenancy rights of his mouth with the heads of doves and bats. Provocatively strutting the worlds gig stages part Jagger, part devil - the real deal to Alice Cooper's Prince of Darkness manque. Now reduced to an oddball, bumbling figure of fun, fifty something (he can never remember), raddled, shaky, and nearly deaf. "So would you be if you'd shared a stage for thirty years with millions of decibels," he mumbles brummily to his fun-poking daughter, his enunciation the proof that half a lifetime of drunkenness induces a second half permanent hangover.

Just as with the Wilkin's we marvel at the very awfulness of it all. We hate most of the cast of the star-struck wannabes, camera-mugging their way to tabloid-style fame, real or imagined - the trainee vets, soldiers, cruise ship entertainers, and God help us traffic wardens. And we hate all the shrill Big Brother contestants and crude exhibitionist "Uncovered" wastrels. But our appetite to drop in and out of other people's otherwise private affairs is still strong. A glimpse at the living creation of other people's lives enables us to form opinions as to what our lives are all about. To recognize similarities or dissimilarities helps in the effort to try to understand something more about the meanings of our own lives. This is probably why we have the desire for a casual squinny at something we should not really see, or to eavesdrop on something we should not really hear.

Who of us would not rather penetrate those roped off areas of the stately homes open to the public, and break off from the organised route and into the areas marked "Private." And who amongst us can say that they haven't felt a frisson of excitement when stumbling into a private conversation on a telephone line and felt compelled to continue holding the receiver to your ear long after the error has been realised.

Whatever it is that drives me to watching these TV programmes, whatever it is that makes me so curious, it's a real force to reckon with and I shall be watching (or taping) "The Osbournes" every Sunday night from now on.

Friday, November 01, 2002

At any time in the last few months anyone with any awareness of my uneven working patterns combined with a knowledge of my peripatetic life would have concluded that the likelihood of my being in the house at six thirty on the evening of 31 October would have been remote to say the least.

Six thirty, I should explain seems to be the most active time period around here for youngsters celebrating Hallowe'en, or as it's become, that great annual fun and mischief-fuelled front door extortion racket. Clusters of fresh-faced, theatrically uglified, pocket-sized ghouls ghosties and goblins gathered to celebrate in the only way they know how. Seemingly at six thirty precisely, troupes of whipped up, highly excited children proceeded to hoot and whoop their intrusive way to every front door, entrance and window in the neighborhood: A granny's-chest ransacking of jaggy black gowns, remodeled hats and garish sequins.

This year, forces of randomness, happenstance, coincidence and bad luck conspired and compelled me to be in the house at that precise time. And I was going to have to endure.

Looking like stunted escapees from a cheesy fairground ghost-train or house of horrors, the little tyrants with their luminous skeleton and boggle eyed masks (from out of which peeped angelic though greedy eyes) shrieked, cackled, zombied and annoyed their way into the peaceful lives of everyone else. And then demanded money from anyone foolish enough to open an impatiently knocked door in an effort to show a good-natured, if pained interest. The justification behind the payment for their fun, the fairly recently imported ( 1982 - the film ET has much to answer for) morally dubious convention of "trick or treat." The rules are simple, you either pay or you suffer the consequences. The price of not paying results in a messy hit involving a modern witches brew of eggs, shaving foam and crazy string.

Funny? Well it seems there can be no sympathy for a skinflint. Likely victims either hand out the dosh or run the risk of the tightwad and suffer a rude and unwelcome ' trick.' I paid. With handfuls of pocket wrecking and these days virtually useless coppers placed aside for the purpose. A strategy that seemed to work - the satisfying tinkle-rattle of fistfuls of coinage crashing together in jars, hats and other receptacles was sufficient to keep these mini, demonised entrepreneurs on side. But I still wish I'd been out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Ah well, I get some satisfaction that at least on one occasion I chose This Morning as the subject of a post, despite its being so unfashionable at the time. Recent events are bringing inquisitive John Leslie(ites) in their droves to this site. Small mercies and gratefulness spring quickly to mind.

Can blogging still be found in my bones? Does it still fizz in my blood? Can I pick up the threads and earn back the readers who have (quite understandably) wiped me from their "roles of honour?" I don't know.

I'm dipping my oh so tentative toe back into it. Why? I don't know. At least I can write rubbish, write cold. Only Google searchers will stumble upon this entry, this test, this, attempt to see if I still want to do it. To see If I can still feel the same satisfying surge of fulfillment.

Liberating in a way. The freedom to write without readers. Yet at the same time write with the necessary tighter focus, the required greater care; as if there were. As if there might be. The opportunity to lurch clumsily towards a style before being found or refound.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

I'm always thinking about writer's block. If I spent more time thinking about other things instead I suppose I would never feel blocked. All I ever need to do is stay alert to the many sources of inspiration that exist to keep the condition at bay. I know this. But one has to work sometimes at being receptive to that inspiration. Daily an idea suggests itself as subject, a theme is developed from it and a mood decided. A few thought drafts as to how it might be structured, then, it either makes it as post, or it dosen't. When it dosen't it's because it fails in some way to seem sufficiently worth it. Worth the effort to write it. Worth the effort to read it. Worthy of being born.

If my creative thoughts seem determined to be bound and chained as if in some self-imposed mind dungeon. If they refuse to budge, and are unwilling to shake off the shackles and take flight to allow the words and the emotions to connect. I cannot produce.

But all is not lost. A visit to that incomparable quote finder at Whiskey River who always has something up his sleeve or stored away is sure to help loosen those bindings. Take a look at this on the subject of WB and weep at the power of the words:

Writer's block
by Helen Nicholson

If I dared write
I would carve my words from a rock;
scrape a line with a flint
sparking off malachite,
or smell the sulfur linger from a struck match
as I flare what I feel to the world.
I would give you cadences Cuillin-sharp
or rolling as the ocean;
line breaks dangerous as a
assonance subtle as the dying wind.
I would write of tears and dissolve your page.
I would write of drought
and you would scrape the dust from your hands.
The tinder of my parched heart
would spark forest fires.
I would growl a word
and you would hear the thunder.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Courtesy of Google: how does a wife keep her sanity whilst waiting for husband to talk about the affair once he has been busted . Answers on postcards please and sent to this tortured soul to save her sanity if not her marriage.

fashioned skirts show me your knickers. Another tongue lolling underwear obsessive experiencing disappointment when shown my no frills site.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

You really do know when your luck is seriously down. Following my recent move to a nearby town, my PC greeted me with its customary pops, whistles and hums but with the added unwelcome information that I had acquired a dislodged modem for which I have had to drag the coffers to find the money for repairs. Once back up and running again Windows crashed with the kind of finality that made me believe it could never be resurrected. It couldn't. Hard disk reformatted, all information held lost forever. Another unwelcome bill.

During this technical trauma (I have had enough emotional trauma recently to last, I would say, several average life times) I decided to make use of a little free parking in one of those slightly edge of town retail areas. These are the kind where Homebase, Sainsburys etc etc provide free parking for their shoppers and lament the fact that the town centre is within foot striking distance and, as such, create certain difficulties to act as a deterrent to chancers like me. Sometimes a parking ticket has to be stamped to show proof of custom to one of the stores. Sometimes a time limit is imposed. No one takes any notice of these signs which threaten all kinds of nasty consequences should you park for more than the time stated. I never have. But then again, as I have said, my luck is down at the moment. Having overshot the time limit by over an hour I returned to my car to find a couple of grizzled-haired, goatee wearing, over weight, Marlboro-puffing paid thugs hanging out near it, one of them joyously scribbling down the details of my car number plate and his brute twin snapping photographs from various angles in the manner of a desperate estate agent. They were the Mitchell brothers in bursting white shirts and black ornate shoulder boards. I didn't take issue, there was no point. They'd have enjoyed themselves too much, pointing to the threatening sign they had obviously memorised due to their elementary reading skills, which stated all too clearly the fate of those trying it on. I was trying it on. And my luck is down. And another bill is due.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Some years ago some spoilsport involved in the siting of those awful Gatso cameras decided, cynically, to locate one at the beginning of a short straight stretch of three lane carriageway near where I live. There isn't a building or pathway within a country mile of this camera, no schools, Residential Homes, hospitals, churches. There is virtually no extra risk on this piece of road as far as the eye can see. The reason for its presence can only be through certain knowledge that drivers will anticipate the inviting opening in the road and scandalously creep over 60mph by the time they hit the spot where this insidious blight has been placed. An assemblage of foliage, signposts and carefully factored in slight kinks and cambers ensures that this monster is practically hidden from view. Until it's too late and you happen to be the unhappy recipient of the dread double flash as if a giant paparazzo had emerged unseen from a low cloud and freeze framed an instant of your life, as a driver, driving. Ever so slightly, ever so slightly, illegally.

A few months ago this cold, automatic device of instant unquestioning justice turned the garish yellow of cat vomit and sickening, milk fed babies stools. How the road planning advisors and police authorities must have hated the decision to high profile these cash generators, which after all, operate most successfully catching hapless motorists unaware of their presence: grey, disguised, anonymous.

This particular camera bothered everyone. Its presence seemed to flout every rule behind their idea. There was no real justification based on the notion of added safety for it to be there. It bothered everyone but it bothered someone more than most. Tentatively driving into its field of view today I was quickly struck by its changed shape, colour, complexion. No longer its erstwhile DOT grey, not even its new fashionable sunny-side-up hue; more black now, blackened, charred. A piece of sculpted coal, the trunk and box together now a lifeless parody of its created role. The yellow -- it had been sticky tape all along -- had obviously battled bravely against the flames, now fluttered gamely in little raggy strips of yellow black, black yellow. Even uglier in death than it was in life, its stubborn visage seemed to try to nail the lie that it was now impotent and that it was no more a catcher outer, no longer an over zealous school prefect, slimy jobsworth or paid nark. It's shape still threatened, but now only an empty threat.

Perhaps it had "ping-pinged" one too many of the frustrated locals. Perhaps just a piece of random vandalism. But for the time being one of the more contentious of these monstrosities stands lifeless, blinded and stripped of its arbitrary powers of judgement.

Friday, July 05, 2002

"Alone, I am drunk on my thoughts; in company, I am sober again."
Mason Cooley.

I'm back at work, but I am haunted by the spectre of unfinished business. In idle mode my mind usually unhooks itself from any rational thinking. In the recently unfinished entry which alluded to something I saw on 'This Morning' which I watched whilst in what I nearly called "idle loaf mode" before coming partly to my senses and ridding the sentence of a scandalous tautology, an image on the programme in question is staying with me. Stubbornly rooted into my consciousness like a squatter - the feature involved a succession of nearly, ( day time telly ain't the zenith for models), beautiful women displaying summery outfits, (yeah right, where're you going?). All outfits were different, but all shared a stylistic imperative. As each lady sashayed towards the TV camera on the makeshift catwalk (more of a kittywalk really) with Fern and her new geezer-helper and the proud designer looking on, one by one they hiked up their skirts and showed the world, (and me),their knickers. Knickers which only partially matched the rest of the outfit so not part of an un sexy ensemble (like bikini bottoms or those ghastly stunted cycling shorts now favoured by women tennis players). These were thin lacy affairs, the style which, should a chap be lucky enough to catch a fleeting, illicit glimpse in his daily life; his day, if not his week, if not his year is usually made a happier one.

Fashions move on. Knickers have gone public!

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

"How truly does this journal contain my real and undisguised thoughts—I always write it according to the humour I am in, and if a stranger was to think it worth reading, how capricious—insolent & whimsical I must appear!—one moment flighty and half mad,—the next sad and melancholy." Frances Burney.

I should apologise for my recent reliance on quotations to kick start posts but there are good reasons why it's become the norm. Firstly, I am looking for the "ideal" quote, which could justifiably occupy a place of permanence around the title area - based on relevance to this blogging thing, and particularly to this blogger's style. Secondly, I'm guaranteed to have some quality writing on display, albeit always distinguished from my own writing by: quotation marks, italics, credits and an elegance and insight I cannot hope to emulate. And thirdly, I'm turning into a bit of a loafer seeking refuge and vicarious glory in other people's thoughts. And fourthly (there was never going to be a fourthly so perhaps I am curing myself as I kick and poke at my brain as If trying to rouse a somnolent teenager at around two in the afternoon, getupgetup, I quite enjoy the challenge of finding them and through the process of reading and re-reading them to ensure suitability for inclusion, based on the criteria I've set, they seem to scurry themselves into my brain and infect my thinking. For the good, I hope.

Can something be infected for the good of something? I don't know, and I shall continue not knowing because I've gone into freewheel mode. Purify. That's the antonym of infect. They scurry into my brain and purify my thoughts. There, that's sorted that one out. But I haven't sorted this one out yet. This morning I was in total idle mode - and when infected with the germ of idleness, which usually befalls me when I have a weekday off, I watched This Morning. Note the symmetry of that sentence. But please don't measure the length of that "fourthly" sentence, in the previous paragraph. Picture an image of me (yeah! yeah! I know but try real hard) with a thick copy of Fowlers Grammar. If you look closely you'll see me doing my strong man act: slightly crouched, knees knocking, eyes boggled, tongue protruding, and look! the book, it's in two pieces. And look! the shreds are going out the window. Out the window, or out of the window? Hmm when did we decide that the of in sentences like that one would be surplus to requirement?
Where's my Fowler? Oh shit it's in pieces. And this piece is getting well out of hand.

And where was I? Oh yes, This Morning. I can hardly be bothered now. Right I'll keep it short, I'm still in freewheel. Freewheel. Martin Amis calls it freefloat. I think he's taking this War Against Cliche thing a bit too far. Right, This programme This Morning - I'm beginning to feel like Ronnie Corbett when he used to ruin "The Two Ronnies" TV programme with those dreadful monologues sat in that arm chair and continually digressing from the point of his interminably long "jokes" when all we wanted all along was more from his more talented namesake. Repetition of more, buzz, hey we're into "Just a Minute" territory!

Um. What the hell was I going to write about This Morning? It'll have to wait. And the perceptive Miss Burney would look at this journal entry and nod her head sagely and say: "flighty and half mad mode' I think for this one."

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Oh dear! Becky at mybluehouse, elle n'a décidé pas plus. Where will I turn to now if I need advice on how to create fashionable hat warmers for my boiled eggs or plot the latest fashionista crazes from halter-necks are back in, to the bum crack is the new cleavage?

OK I would snooze through some of her posts when the focus of her attention was on her latest knitting projects and wacky food and sewing creations. But her astute social observations, good natured rudeness about the French and her ability to be straight talking, clever, sassy and mumsy (momsy), all at once - (how did she pull that one off?) made her required reading. As a blog it looked to me like it had been the product of a giant blender with meg, Martha Stewart and House and Home chucked in as ingredients, whiz-whipped then seasoned with the diced pages of a couple of French and Spanish language food dictionaries.

And a great link finder - a real candidate for the: "where do you find these things?" school of respect. It's no wonder her hoards of admirers got into a right old tizzy when, following a little semantic confusion after her hasta luego valedictory, almost beat the doors of her comments down with a despairer's repertoire of "boo hoos", "why why whys" and Frenchy expressions of cri de cours, quel dommages and je suis tristes . The howling crowd had balm smeared on their wounds only after an early Becky encore of Schwarzenegger-ian I'll be back promises. To ease their pain. It eased mine as well.

Saturday, June 29, 2002

I'm thinking about Blogging again. A posting subject bete noire for some, but what the hell!

Often I have no idea what I'm going to write about, until I start. Not normally an auspicious method if one aims to produce a piece of writing worth reading I admit, but it seems to be an effective writing style for blogs and appears to be used on most good sites: (eyes left). The Blogger as cyber-conversationalist rather than as studious researcher seeking to prove a theory or test a hypothesis.

As with talking, the same with blogging - topics crop up as if clutched from the humming brew of any social congregation. Ideas are disinterred from remote parts of the memory in the process, prompted by recent experiences or observations. Items of news, culture, events and personal experiences are expressed with the full repertoire of emotions: sighs, groans, growls, laughs, which punctuate: likes, dislikes, annoyances, obsessions. The currency of a community, united by the need to share - in written form, words in all their glory.

Through blogs - thoughts. Some serious, some trivial, but all worth sharing and very often, illuminating. Items of interest, gossip, wisdom; exchanged at the village pump or sailor's scuttlebutt of the cyber-interconnectedness of weblogs, which in turn invite multiple opinions spawning yet further ideas. The opinions held and communicated aren't necessarily forged in the furnace of scholarly rigour - God forbid that they were - but are more the outpourings of ideas hatched and despatched in the moment. They aren't meant to stand up to scrutiny, though many could (switch those eyes left one more time), they are more the spontaneous outflow of creative people. Precise and exact only in their dedication to reveal parts of themselves which makes them, them.

It's no coincidence that words such as outpourings, ramblings, musings, ponderings, sluicings, overflowings are so often used by bloggers. All help to describe the kind of spilled stream of consciousness method which is used to such great effect in blogs. What is written is written for the moment to be read for the moment. Tomorrow may be different, but this is the deal today.

I'm with Gordon on this one:

"This journal is a relief. When I am tired ... out comes this, and down goes every thing. But I can’t read it over—and God knows what contradictions it may contain. If I am sincere with myself (but I fear one lies more to one’s self than to any one else) every page should confute, refute, and utterly abjure its predecessor." Lord Byron (1788–1824),

Friday, June 28, 2002

"To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make."
Truman Capote.

And reading Truman, don't forget reading. Sod what it's all about, just luxuriate in the words! Ponder on what it's all about later if you have any spare time.

I had no intention of returning to the subject of handshaking so soon, but having fallen victim of a particularly cruel and unsporting variant: 'The Finger Squeeze', recently, I think there's a little mileage in it yet.

Received wisdom has it that a firm handshake connotes strength of character, and that the limp weak offerings of some, condemn their personalities as weak and ineffectual, like their grip. But there are other variations, styles and nuances between and either side of these examples all of which, apparently, have something to say about us.

My finger squeezer apparently "likes to keep someone at a comfortable distance." He is an "insecure type of person who equates brute strength with personal power." He uses his hands as "weapons to dominate and overpower people." And finger squeezers probably ripped the wings off flies for entertainment value when they were kids it might have added, but didn't; so I just did.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

If ever I'm asked whether I'm tempted to give up blogging, I'd like to think I would be able to come up with an answer like this:

"No doubt I shall go on writing, stumbling across tundras of unmeaning, planting words like bloody flags in my wake. Loose ends, things unrelated, shifts, nightmare journeys, cities arrived at and left, meetings, desertions, betrayals, all manner of unions, adulteries, triumphs, defeats ... these are the facts..."
Alexander Trocchi (1925–1983)

But I would be sure to add: ..."And it feels good to share them."

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

For a while I lived on a Mediterranean Island and like most people have spent time travelling around Europe. One conclusion I've been forced to draw during these peregrinations is that the British are an awkward bunch when it comes to greetings. Take the convention of the handshake for example. Although the most un British of social demonstrations the perfunctory chaste kiss has become increasingly popular and is now on the fringes of commonplace, (though still providing etiquette problems of area: left cheek, right cheek, the worrying and scandal-filled lips or the fresh-air, eyes-closed, pouters; and of quantity: One? Two? Three? Four!? The acceptable conventions of the handshake have yet to be properly resolved.

For the British the handshake is generally accepted practice during initial meetings as in "how do you do" before a launch into so many my name is's and basic first base descriptions of the self; but it is a far less natural performance when encountering those already known. The French, Germans, Italians, Greeks, Spanish are all completely unambiguous about when a hand should be offered to be shaken. It's simple. It's whenever they meet someone, whether known, or not. Always, hands are speared towards torsos, flesh is pressed and comradeship and affection sealed. A contrast to the rather stilted 'introductions-only style' more commonly used by we Brits.

It often seems immaterial to greeters from other nations as to whether they saw each other yesterday, hours or even minutes before, the handshake is invariably offered, and by each other, expected and accepted. The British however, prefer to verbalize their meetings, at a distance; physical contact deemed inappropriate or out of place.

But like with the continental kiss, things are changing; though as with the nouveau cheek peck hellos, problems can be expected. Half a lifetime of non-introductory handshaking is not given up easily. Typically you can bump into someone you know and a strange clumsy ritual begins involving twitching arms and curious glances: Should I? Do I? Ought I? Then - I will... I won't. He, (mainly he), hasn't. Twitch, twitch. Then before long, it's too late, and the time for spontaneous hand clasping is over. The moment lost forever.

It's another part of the old British reserve I suppose. And most of us I would imagine are happy that it's breaking down. Public displays of grief as demonstrated over the last few years, from Gazza's famous blubbing to Seaman's infamous whimpering (blast him). From the runnel filled faces during Diana's funeral to the cheating lachrymose Nasty Nick from BB1. "It's good to cry," said the sinisterly Scottish corporal to the "recruit" in 'Lad's Army' when he harsh whispered into the lad's cheek muscle dancing, lip-vibrating face. "I would take yee t' war do ya hear, I would take ye cos you wouldnee run away." before giving him a hearty, back hugging handshake. Handshakes. Let's get 'em done.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Recently I made the switch from 56k modem to cable. On installation day a batch of polo shirt wearing, denim clad chaps arrived at my house armed with reels of cable, sufficient it seemed to rewire the whole street, and a sex-deviant's workbox of tape, splicers, cutters and clips. The first two workers took care of the wiring side of things, an industrious couple of honest Joe's, happy to slurp their tea and talk about the footy whilst getting on with their drillings and feedings. " I want the cable there and the box there. Umm, tea, cof...?" "Please. But we'll get cracking...running late you see."

I did see, and was thankful. Time-pressed tradesmen are often a bonus, (unless they're tempted to cut corners), it stops them standing around and chatting casually and chuckling agreeably before starting their work, tut-tutting about the state of whatever it is that is broken or the location of whatever needs installing; not caring that all the while the call out tariff is spinning in their favour like an amphetamine-fuelled dervish . "Another cup of tea?" You ask. "Don't mind if I do." They say. And in no time you're cursing your good manners and wishing you said: "That's the pipe, washing machine, boiler, TV; it's not working, fix it. And fix it quick, I don't want to talk about it, I don't even want to know what's wrong with it. Just fix it, and quickly, this is costing me money.

The third chap, younger, slightly more dynamic, a little less deferential, took care of the technical end. As I watched him sitting in front of my computer screen, tapping away on my keys, scrutinising my monitor I had the strangest feeling of being...examined, graded against some computer whizz-kid's taxonomy, the details of which shared later with others - points awarded for the inclusion of this, or deducted for the exclusion of that. How funny was this, how odd, that. It was a strangely intrusive affair as the new set-up seemed to require him to make a kind of "round the world tour" of the machine - laying bare and exposed the contents of my personalised desk-top, my, eclectic favorites cache, my, bizarre short-cut selections and off beat colour choices. I had the distinct feeling that he was prodding and poking around part of my personal lebensraum with the kind of faux-professional detachment expected of a doctor or surgeon - a cyber-gynecologist - "U..huh, this is interesting, ('but I have to be careful as to what I let on what's actually interesting me')", or the disinterested window cleaner: "I only care about what's going on, on the outside, so to speak: I look, and I see things, but I don't look, know what I mean? I mean, you'd be surprised at what you do see!"

It was awful. I swore it was only a short step before he started to open my emails ( he'd get bored with that quick enough, most of my correspondents send messages with business addresses and click here to see if you've won links.) And, as I walked out of the room with the sound of his tappy tapping and 1980s style yuppie-chatting filling my ears (phone clamped between cheek and shoulder in voice several decibels louder than necessary), my mind was filled with irrational thoughts. I started to think that the next time I walked back in, he'd be sat with a sparked up ciggy, in a fug-haze of blue smoke and smirks, a Devilish aura; feet on my desk, dissecting my favourites, ridiculing my layout and in mocking tones...reading my blog out aloud to his mate on the other end of the phone.

Strange - I have nothing to hide, but I felt somehow uncomfortable about this unplanned public-airing - not of the blog, that, after all is public, but the thinking which goes on behind it, the fruits of the private time I spend, is not.

(Completely unrelated aside.) I am very pissed off about "The Match," and if there's anyone, anywhere on the planet with a more punchable face than Ronaldinho, I haven't seen him yet.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Neil Mcormick of the Telegraph has a decent theory on why it is people tend to believe that music is never as good as it once was; best encapsulated in the phrase: "it's all shit these days."

"I think the answer lies in the way we listen to music and in particular the level of intensity and concentration we bring to something that, I would guess, most adults consider a pleasurable diversion rather than the core of their very being. Pop is neophyte by instinct. It occupies such a central place in modern youth culture that it is almost compelled to keep changing, embracing ever more sonic, rhythmic and lyrical extremes so that each successive generation can claim a badge of musical identity that is their own. Given its relative importance in their social and cultural life, young people (like music critics) tend to be willing to put in the time and summon the genuine effort sometimes required to crack musical codes and find the key that unlocks each new genre. And, of course, you have to be prepared to sift through a great deal of dross to get to the gold. It was ever thus, but as people get older and, by choice or necessity, dedicate less energy to the listening process, the inevitable tendency is to stick to what you know and respond to things that sound familiar."

This may seem somewhat redundant given that God is presumably on everyone's side.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Any recent obsessions I might have had for the Channel 4 Big Brother productions have been easily cured. I thought I would get hooked all over again with 3 as I did with the original and 2. I thought I would again feel that inexplicable compulsion to tune in regularly and watch a clutch of shallow half-witted fame-wishers inanely chattering their way to undeserved though mercifully transient fame.

All the requisites are in place: unfunny tomfoolery, sexually frustrated attractions, total ignorance among the chosen players of anything outside the limited scope of their own existence as they mug, bug, and hug their way through their torture. Our, or at least my torture.

I don't want to watch it this time. Is it their fault? I doubt that - they're ideal for the format. Together this "cast," this "troupe,"this carefully chosen dramatis personae are all the previous participants writ large. As loud, daft, and smutty as any who have gone before them. Perhaps I've finally grown up, I don't know. Time - any amount of time spent in the "company" of this lot bores me. I don't even feel that sting of vicarious embarrassment I used to feel when watching.

Those faithfully reproduced examples of conversation posted elsewhere are no better or worse than what's been heard previously. Funny, I suppose, but no longer surprising. All the head shaking incredulity that could be done, has been done. I have incredulity fatigue.

Perhaps there are no more surprises to be had from this kind of experiment. A bit of swearing and mucky talk here, a little cabin-fevered antagonism there. A few monologues of outrageous factual inaccuracy here, a little cod-psychology there. Throw in some half hearted nakedness, crap jokes and a bit of clumsy rumpy pumpy and that's about it.

What I can't deny however is that the contents of my stats have been enlivened by the existence of BB3 and through my weird need to write about it even when I refuse to watch it. Just about everyone who visits this site through a search engine want's to see Kate either naked or in a thong. Jade's recently exposed oral skills - the kind where the utterance of fully formed words isn't a requirement, seems to have someone in a panting tizzy.

And as if to demonstrate the wonders of diversity, somebody out there got all excited about the idea of the now absent giantess Alison in a thong. Which might be stretching a point rather, not to mention what she might have done to the minimalist properties of that style of underwear.

I might stray from this self imposed denial and return to BB3. It depends on how I manage without it.