Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Recently someone I know told me that she couldn't wear her contact lenses anymore as following years of contact lens wearing, her eyes had dried out. She is suffering from a condition known, unsurprisingly, as Dry Eyed Syndrome. This she tells me requires her to put drops into her eyes regularly to prevent damage to the corneas. I was only partly listening by then though as I get a bit queasy over eye matters.

Although the condition was explained to me in a light-hearted way (I have to wear these speccys now) it got me thinking -- how could you register your sadness on being told about this condition if you can't cry? Tears will want to flow as an early response to bad news such as " you've lost the ability to cry". How psychologically affecting is it to your emotional health if your biological state conflicts with your emotional feelings and disallows the releasing of tears from your eyes in a demonstrative visible emotional expression?

It is true that emotions can be controlled better by some than by others. Some people prefer to show restraint, societal expectations being enough of a disincentive for some to hold back, lest they be regarded as vulnerable or weak. But no matter how stoic the person, I believe that with most people, if the tears don't flow immediately, they are deferred, not dismissed. They're sent back into a transit holding area from which they will be released at a later, safer time.

But how do our bodies deal with the emotional impulse without its most visible biological product? We cry when something touches our emotions; any of the following can bring it out in me: sadness, worry, rage, frustration, happiness, wonder, pity, beauty. I could go on. I will. Pain, sympathy, pride, disappointment. All of these have made me cry at some time or other. And if I feel like it, I don’t resist it. I don't wail, or blub uncontrollably, or even make it obvious. In fact I have a sophisticated masking system of nose blowing, spectacles polishing and timely exits. But it seems to me that if an emotional and physiological need is not satisfied, some kind of inner trauma may occur through the non-release of an emotional imperative. A clumpy analogy would be the radiator that ceases to function properly until the pent-up air pressure is allowed to escape which releases the blockage in the mechanism. Perhaps that inner trauma is revealed as stress - a true killer. Perhaps crying helps keep stress at bay.

Typically, something is seen, heard, or otherwise perceived that generates a need for an emotional response. A sequence of events starting with the source of the emotion to the receiving senses, to the brain, to the heart, to the brain, to the eyes - and out. It's as if the body can only take so much emotion before it's compelled to release it through whichever physical outlet seems appropriate. Perhaps the nervous wee, excited perspiration and the galloping "whatsits" are all closer relations to the tears of a weeper than we might think. Maybe the body can't host too many of the hormonal chemicals created by the excess emotion and it has to transform it into bodily fluids and send it out any which way.

I guess that if you can't emit emotional tears and you want to, your body will compensate in some way and make good the inability. And keep you psychologically and emotionally even. The perils of psychological distress maybe for those not who can't let it, out but for those who won't let it out. So I'm hoping my friend will be fine.

Wow what a ramble! Oh well: often random always rambling. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Monday, April 29, 2002

RI:SE is Channel 4's latest early morning offering. I decided to watch the first one this morning though couldn't quite manage to get to the end. Gone was the organised mayhem and contrived anarchy of the Big Breakfast, the programme that proved to be too successful for its own good. It created ship jumping presenter stars all of whom felt compelled to seek greater fame once the incentive of money was no longer relevant. And there were many crappy efforts between Chris Evans and Johnny Vaughn ( and after) so there was a real risk that BB without JV would be crap for quite a while as various presenters were tried out. So the decision to pull the plug was made.

Unfortunately "RI:SE" is worse than the Big Breakfast could ever quite manage to be. The Big Breakfast occupied the so bad it's good school of TV programming. The banter, the errors, the gaudy sets, cheesy quizzes, tacky phone-ins, kooky guests and tabloid obsessed muggings to camera at least had an identifiable audience. There're plenty of people whose idea of a culture hit is to read the Sun without the need for crib notes and giggle uncontrollably at that funny dad making an arse of himself on the Generation Game. Offer these people, (and there're are millions out there) news with a Tiswasian set and a Sunday Sport subtext and success is all but virtually guaranteed. A new JV would have come along eventually, but C4 always happy to go for the new (can't fault that) have served up RI:SE - note the quirky colon, a grammatical arse in the middle of the word.

And there's a smug arse as anchor presenter of this newsy viewsy chum-fest love-in. Two guys, two gals sit at a table, think - Question Time without the brains or HIGNFY without the wit and you'll have the idea of the camera shot. They're all young(ish) and attractive(ish): a feisty Scottish Denise Van Outen type, curvy and common and seemingly always ready for a punch up. A cheeky Irishman, a brunette who will be the but(t) of much future repartee from: the smug presenter lad - who looks like a cross between Nasty Nick (remember him?) and a TV doctor. Any TV doctor.

Perhaps I'm being overly judgmental and unkind, today's show after all was the first one; but I can't really see who this programme's for. There's plenty of news programmes and entertainment programmes out there and this one fails at both. An attempt to generate humour about May Day riots was irresponsible and not funny and the joshing during mid news reading, particularly between anchor boy and the brunette (he's probably afraid of the Scot - I am) - astonished me. "You're rotten," the brunette said to nasty Nick, while she tried to present the weather and he tried to put her off. She's right. He's rotten, and so is RI:SE. No news can be reported whether serious or not without strained efforts at humour and a sort of chummy rivalry and one-upmanship between the presenters - they'd be having a ball if they were all together in a wine bar, trying to out loud and out do each other. But that's fine, we don't have to watch them. And although they're on TV, I still don't have to watch them. And you don't have to watch them. And that at least is good.

NB: Later research reveals the anchor to be the 33 year old son of Wish You Were Here matriarch Judith Chalmers And there are more presenters, these are the just the ones I saw. There are others lurking, eagerly waiting to do their bit.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Obconic are Andreas Karperyd and Mattias Tegner. They're Swedish musicians involved in the ElectroAcoustic/Ambient genre. Electronically oriented and focused towards the dancefloor. Apparently. I know this because the poor Swedes looking for information about their heroes keep getting directed to my site. I wish I could say that I chose the name of this weblog after this rather impressively obscure bunch.

Unfortunately, the truth, as often in life, is far more prosaic. Having never even heard of the word before - here rejected by this - we can give you "opsonic" or "upchucking"(do the good folk at Merriam Webster know more about me than they're letting on?) but not obconic - It came about through the fevered plundering of an old, battered and beloved edition of Chambers. Under pressure to find a word to use as part of a website address - I harboured illusions of uploading a site onto Blogger from Tripod - amongst others, I soon realised all my favourite words had been taken millennia ago. The list almost embarrassingly predictable "Serendipity" was one (groan) and other clever ideas: "Gonzo"and "Mugwump"- from the world of journalism - mugwump blimey! What an ugly bugger of a word now I look at it. All gone. And it simply had to be a single word as the address as offered by this site host was already about, well, as long as this page. Perhaps longer! It incorporated most if not all the punctuation marks ever invented - like a gussied up sentence by a mad grammarian. So it had to be short.

During this time I was under the influence of two OB prefixed weblogs I seldom visit now. But at the time I thought where better to be placed than beside these two worthies on any future register? Obconic was found and duly accepted. Then I abandoned the whole Tripod thing as I couldn't get it to work, discovered Blogger and stuck with it in the heat of the moment and used it to name the site. Short, a bit ugly and a tad obscure. And conical, attached to the point!

Thursday, April 25, 2002

I first heard about weblogs - from a BBC Online news page article located in the non-real news area where topics of general interest are shoved. Somewhere in that article I'm sure there was a sniffy comment about cats being a predominant subject on many weblog sites intimating that many of the sites were trivial representations of very boring, hardly worth hearing about lives. In the short time I've been involved in both reading, writing and contributing to others' weblogs I've yet to pick up on a single cat reference. And I certainly haven't mentioned cats. Until now.

I have always hated cats. Selfish, unemotional, cupboard loving animals. Neither companionable nor loyal. They don't guard you, or even provide a reason for you to exercise. They snuggle up to you only if they want food or warmth. There are no stories of cats lying on their deceased masters graves pining for their return. They don't forgive once scolded. Scold a cat, and it will hate you for life. They crap all over your garden, chase and kill small birds - for fun - ravage your garden fence and spray abhorrent fluid everywhere. No wonder they are chosen as ideal extensions of their evil owners - from Blofeld's white fluffer to Claw's scraggy, chuckling mog and poor, bald, Mr Bigglesworth. What better pet accessory for evil-doers than a fur-jaggled spitter with only quiet spite in its heart.

But today I have decided that I admire them. It came about during a short country ramble I went on today, fitted in between reading the paper and being nice to various members of my family. As I sauntered through the country at peace with myself, lost in my thoughts, I was struck by the contrast between how differently I was received by the country dwellers pets. Each time I passed a cottage or farm, dogs would hurl themselves at fences, hedges and gates in acts of unbelievable hostility, desperate to sink their canine teeth into my body. Barks ranging from de profundis aggressive to falsetto yap interspersed with growls of hatred and strings of slaver. I am confident some of them wanted to kill me. Perhaps eat me.

The cats though reacted much more civilly. With far greater tolerance. Silently watching me go by either lifting one tired eyelid then closing it realising what most people I know have always known, that I'm not that interesting. Or remaining crouched and vigilant, head following the arc of my movement - then realising, you know, the interest thing. No threat, no fuss, no heart jolting moments or embarrassed increasing of pace required - never ever run from a dog, they think you want to play - goes the old saw. Yeah right, they know you're running for your life and they know they'll always, always catch you.

Cats? Yeah--they're OK. Bring your searches to this site, I'm batting for them right now. I like cats from today. From today onwards, cats are my thing. They may not love, but they respect. Respect to cats. All cats

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

When I woke up this morning I was greeted by a compelling urge to break out into a silence shattering succession of sneezes. Sneezes seem to come in a variety of guises and we all seem to have our own particular sneeze style chosen either by us or by nature.

I don't know whether any wag has before me attempted to categorise this bizarre physical convulsion but the following could stand as a beginners guide. For example there's the yelp: the sneeze preceded by a shocking yell; there's the stifled: a strangulated effort more miss than hiss. The choked: a head dipping snort; the grandstand a purposefully loud, unembarrassed and obnoxious affair. And finally the wet-one: a loud, self-invasive and messy travesty, particularly so if you're caught of guard. In addition there're original variations/ blends/influences/intermixtures, of any or all of the above.

My morning sneezes were part grandstand - the consequence of knowing that everyone else was up and gone, and part stifled as I remembered (mid sneeze) that the house walls are not soundproof thick and that my neighbour also works odd hours. There were also elements of the wet one, which I won't go into, except to say they weren't expected to be.

Shaking my head then shaking my leg I forgot all about my morning sneeze-fest and remembered it was time for breakfast, and it wasn't long before I put my morning cup of coffee to my lips. The taste was fine but I hadn't expected the couple of spoonfuls of grated glass that some demon had obviously put into my cup the moment my back was turned. A second slurp, then a third; then I knew. Cold symptoms, don't you just love 'em?

Although I can live with colds they're still a real pain to me. Try as I might I don't seem to suffer a living death like some. At the first sign of feeling poorly these people act out a well-rehearsed dramatic roll. The script they all own must read: demeanour to include: nasally moans, unreasonable demands of those with whom you live (I need this, I need that) and world class idleness. And an expectation of super human patience and sympathy from everyone.

But my problem, my pain if you like, is that although a cold makes me feel ill, It never makes me feel bad enough to confine myself to bed for some of the same selfish treatment. I tend to feel like shit most of the time anyway, it's part of how I feel when normal. Therefore the descent into the depths of illness for me isn't so great -- a few early warning signs like violent sneezing episodes and muddled thinking elicit more comedy than concern by others and by me.

So dilemmas start to kick in. Do I feel bad enough not to go to work. The answer is always yes I feel too bad to go to work, but that's only because I never want to go to work anyway. I know I can always drag myself in, I know that when I get to work I shall feel fine, or at least feel my normal version of shit. So the thought of pulling a sickie makes me feel morally wretched and I imagine myself pacing around the house wondering how on earth everyone is managing without me when I am plainly not that stricken. If I was laid up in bed swaddled in blankets and damp tissues, swilling lemony confections and enduring a nightmare of analgesics and anal thermometers there would simply be no debate. But I rarely make it to that stage. Rarely but not never. Tomorrow's another day - come friendly germs and fall on me, I fancy a week in bed!

Monday, April 22, 2002

It's unlikely that I shall ever be able to give many handy web-site tips as most of my web time is spent looking at well known sites that everybody knows. My efforts could easily resemble something like: Here's a good site well worth checking out, found it by accident last night, it's called BBCOnline; almost as good as another I stumbled over a couple of months ago and could also be worth a look: Guardian something or other.co.uk. Looks and comments of utter disbelief/loathing/pity etc would be the deserved response. A chorus of: "This guy is a serious johnny-come-lately bless him, it's all so new. Look, he's getting excited; just where was he 2/3/4 years ago?" (Probably more, I must be careful not to confirm my own parody).

Of course I would not presume to parachute from the sky into the middle of something bright or emerge blinking into the light from self imposed troglodytic denial and suddenly start saying: "Hey try this,and this,and that". And bore others much farther on in the journey with embarrassingly tardy references just because I've noticed that: "If you make this thing round and add it to that thing it might make that thing move more easily". Or insult the progress made by clumping around pointing inanely at something new just because I've given my head a monumental waggling and used a carpenter's chisel to scrape the crustaceans of sleep from my eyes.

But, and please excuse the pretentious preamble, I did notice THIS and I for one will use it. If only for a while. And if only to get it out of my system. And to turn shite into creative profit!

Saturday, April 20, 2002

One of the things I have decided to do this year is visit as many small towns within easy travelling distance as I can. Like many people, I am so caught up with the idea of foreign travel I often neglect what is almost at my door. It was in this spirit that I decided to visit Shaftesbury in Dorset today. Although the town has the remains of an Abbey and a museum dedicated to it, everyone who goes to Shaftesbury seems to visit Gold Hill. Another example of the potency of television, this place only really became famous after those Hovis TV advertisements were filmed there. For those who can't remember, the advert showed a young boy with a huge flat cap on his head struggling to ride his butcher's bike - front cage fully loaded - up a steep, cobblestoned hill. As he wended his way up the hill a voice over with a strong Yorkshire accent (his older self) accompanied his trials. " We went to the shops me mam an' me, I bought some licorice the best I ever 'ad. Then something about how 'ard it was cycling uphill, and then: Ooo! twas a grand ride down though" as you saw the little scamp freewheeling downwards legs outstretched either side. But despite the accent and the raggy garb, this wasn't filmed in Yorkshire, oop north, it was filmed way, way south, in Shaftesbury, Dorset. I suppose "Oo arrrrr we did go up them there shaapps did me an muther", wouldn't have caught the image of 1930s impoverished childhood quite so well as those cheeky northern tones. Somethings just are I suppose.

For the second day running, Spellchecker on Blogger is not working. Combine this with clumpy Blogspot and no obvious improvement in the posting service I think I might need some reassurance that it was worth upgrading to Blogger Pro.

On the subject of reassurance at the last count I think I have made the grade on five blogrolls. There could be more, though I don't think so. In fact, I have feeling I am about to be removed from one of them. Damn, what's that expression about one step forward two back.

Friday, April 19, 2002

I don't suppose I shall win any blogging awards turning Google request hits into posting topics, but I am again amused and bemused by one recently spotted: "London Marathon Vomit", requested today and directed to my site. As a possible good source for this material, Google cannot really be criticised. Close observers would have noticed an entry of mine so near to our anonymous searcher's request it could almost have been the relevant posting's title ( should I have elected to title, which so far I haven't.)

"London Marathon Vomit". Could our searcher have been aware of the unfortunate Morrocan's yack-ups, or just excited by the gallons which must have flowed from the thousands of competitors on the day. And is he/she right now hoping to acquire some of the vomit, believing it to have been collected by enterprising individuals all with a "nose" for a profit and decanted into bottles with the label (Genuine) London Marathon Vomit. Bottled. Matured in London 2002. Actually bottled on the day! Gotta be worth a few bob in years to come.

Crikey, if this site should ever be reviewed I hope the reviewer dosen't focus on the recurring vomit theme.
"The writer of this veritable curate's egg of a site seems to have an unhealthy fascination with the curdled regurgitations of partially digested food. He has been known to indulge in crudely conceived similes: as, for example, his descriptions of a flailing lizard's tongue; to freewheeling about vomit preservation and historical significance. The man, in short, is sick (so to speak").

Thursday, April 18, 2002

A friend of mine cares enough about me to plan his visits to South East Asia so as to coincide with when I am short of natty looking sunglasses. His latest couple of gifts: stare hard discerning critic you will never know the difference - include a pair of - I don't like to say fake, it cheapens the experience I feel - replica Oakleys. Blue, chic, the last word, le dernier cri in fashionable eye-wear. Tiny lenses, the hint, no, a mere suggestion of a facial contour sweep back and straight holding arms of the: 'Well, we've reached the ears, I guess we'll just keep on going," school of sunglasses design. None of that curling round the ears for the sake of practicality - an insult to the ears I've always thought - "Don't just sit there, make yourselves useful, get a-hold of these!" No, the head shape takes responsibility and permits a satisfying, rubbery grip. And the ears get look natural: i.e. not made to stick out anymore than God's little jokes allow. I knew a boy once at school whose nick-names alternated between "wing-nut" and "monkey boy." A day never went by without the poor lad whimpering somewhere on the margins of the playground trying to push his ears in with his flattened palms.

I don't have an ear appearance problem, but I'm as blind as a blind worm; one of his metaphors and I'm nicking it, I don't want to make reference to the black flying mammal with jaggy wings and a love of flitting: cliche avoidance and all that. Was that mentioned in "How to Write a Better Weblog?" Can't remember, read it once. Load of.... I can't see why you can't, what's wrong with, why should you have to...? I digress. My eyesight is not great. I need prescription spectacles. When opticians such as Specsavers and Vision Express offer "designer style" sunglasses with vision corrective lenses at greatly reduced prices when you buy specs, they're always awful. You invariable end up walking out of the opticians looking like Lenny Peters from the twosome Peters and Lee of 1970s near fame. "Welcome Home, We - e - el come, come on in, and c-l-o-s-e the door." And on arriving: "What the hell do you have on your face?"

Apologies for those too young to remember. I can be a bit of a cheesy git. I could so easily now fall into a cheese-fest of 1970s references. Not a bad singer Lenny, the bird was mere ornamentation and if memory serves, flew off with the couple's earnings which were supposed to be for Lenny's operation to correct his blindness. But back to matters "me" and eyesight - if I decide to wear a pair of my ever growing collection of sunshades as summer beckons, there has to be a decision, a trade-off has to be made. Do I go out looking good without actually being able to look - or looking like Lenny and inducing hysterical laughter wherever I go, but at least knowing what's going on?

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

One of the features of my life since taking my current job is that I am condemned, when feeling idle which is most of the time, to slum about in rags watching some of the most unbelievable crap on daytime television. Yes, DTV is still the preserve of the worst television offerings imaginable. That said, many quiz and soap shows which are either aired or road tested on day time telly are often able to graduate into serious meaningful slots if they are sufficiently bad; bad enough for a large rather than a minority audience. I believe I saw one today. Another from the sub genre of quiz shows with 'attitude' -The Weakest Link has much to answer for - this one called: The Enemy Within.

Every fibre of my body screamed to me: turn it over/off, when it threatened to come on. Refuse to humour the makers of this pap by giving it one cell of your brain room. But, I was seduced by the very awfulness that it seemed to promise,a feeling not unlike stitching yourself up to watch: Fire Maidens from Outer Space, commonly regarded as one of the worst films ever. "So bad, you just gotta see it". Either that or I was too lazy to reach for the remote control. I decided it was worth half an hour of my life.

It consists of a compere and five contestants, one-part ham five parts ham-fisted.
From out of the five contestants one of them has been primed with all the answers to the questions that are going to be asked. By a mixture of guile and strategy he/she needs to keep the rest guessing as to whom the primed person is. He or she is the eponymous enemy. The basic premise is that through the usual process of questions and answers and the awarding of money for correct answers it will all come to nothing for the four non 'cheats' or nothing for the enemy depending on whether he or she is rumbled. A non-rumbled enemy gets all the money won, a rumbled enemy gets nothing. The rest take home what they've accumulated plus a share of the outed enemy's money. I hope I am not making it sound too interesting. It isn't.

A crooked nosed man in a suit who could easily pass as a manager of a local B&Q or estate agents, presents the show. Armed with such a repertoire of hammy stern facial expressions and poorly contrived Robinson -esque put downs you can almost read the script that must have plopped onto his doormat. "The idea is to be cruel, not friendly, forget cheese go for tease". And he does, delivering the kinds of stern looks your mother might make if you giggled in church or broke wind in the company of visitors. Interspersed with mock - angry accusations of "Are you the cheat?" in the hope of confusing everybody.

The contestants today were the usual gallery no ideas. A plump housewife, a mousy little madam who looked as if she wished she were somewhere else, a balding smart arse, a lad not long out of nappies and a geeky twenty something with a piping high pitched voice and gelled, sticky up hair. "Who wrote this first line of a poem," 'Tiger,Tiger, burning bright?' " Buzz!! "Wordsworth," said the geeky hair-gelled twenty something. "No"…Buzz!! This time composed face of the balding smart-arse whose look says he's going to put the young pup in his place: "Kipling". Stern look from the compere showing almost genuine contempt - Christ! he must have thought, I really am cross with these buggers.

And so was I. Don't they make those beautifully illustrated poetry books anymore that I read and read to my children? I'm sure this was one of the first poems I remember learning by heart. Muttering darkly under my breath I went out to mow the lawn wondering whether my life really had come down to this.

If there is anyone left reading this - and I can't be sure that I would be - the plump housewife was the enemy; and she was rumbled. "Plump Housewife: you leave with nothing", as somebody else might say. And I left with nothing, except this dubious blog material.

Monday, April 15, 2002

I shall have to consider changing my style of writing and the words I use. I have just received a hit from some seriously depraved individual looking for testicle torture devices. I mean, this site, the very model of morality and decency being tainted in such a way. And I've made it worse by plastering it all over my history bars/boxes/caches etc as I seek to present my evidence to you all. I suppose by my writing those words again and this time in the correct order, should this sad sack creepo go searching again I'll take top find slot!

Question: What does Morroco's A El Mouaziz and me have in common? Answer we both suffer from a lousy sense of timing. I only watched about ten minutes of yesterday's London Marathon, but managed inside those ten minutes to see some very unappetizing images. Running in fourth: A El Mouaziz could obviously hold it in no longer. In full view of the BBC1 camera set up to capture the glee and relief of the exhausted runners seconds from the finish line, up popped Mouaziz and out flowed the agitated contents of his stomach. Not a sight you see too often thank goodness. The normal pose of the upchucker is a sort of head down roughly parallel to the knees with hands on the knees so as to support the fragile and gently heaving upper body. Here however we were given the spectacle of someone in running at full throttle with a ribbon of vomit emanating from his mouth like a giant lizards flailing tongue.

The colour and consistency was quite a surprise. I would have thought all that water drinking would have resulted in a clearer issue. This guy must have been re-hydrating on his way around the course on a ghastly brew of custard creams and banana milkshakes.

There were some big enthusiatic kisses given to many of the runners as they finished, some of them must have been quite spittle - sticky. No one however seemed keen to give very much physical attention to poor A El Mouaziz.

On a completely different note - do humble opinions consider this to be a good deal. I am so tempted after so many enraged moments - tears could easily flow, things could so easily be broken. I think for the sake of my sanity I shall have to do it. The difference in cost compared with my present deal is pretty negligible. But is this the best one?

Saturday, April 13, 2002

I've recently been infected by the exercise bug. I've no idea where it came from or whether it will last. I have been visiting the company gym, fitness centre I believe they are called these days. Gyms I think died sometime back in the 1970s. Then they were full of working class kids practising their Enter The Dragon Kung Fu kicks and tattooed hard men honing their muscles on rusty barbells and punching heck out of deflated punchbags. They were shitholes, resembling medieval torture chambers - all those chains and straps and danger. Nowadays they are bright white and brighter chromium hi tech contraptions - lined up, an endless succession of safe hydraulics, satisfying hisses and springy seats. Working out for wimps like me whose only brave gesture is to go public three times a week showing the world a feeble pair of arms and a disastrous couple of legs. Fitness centres - ersatz gyms and contrived manual work for softies.

If this posting is ever seen it will represent a triumph of bloody mindedness over an impossibly clunky ISP/Blogger conspiracy. This is version God knows what number and if it appears half - hearted and dashed off, it is, as I believe it'll go the way of all its predecessors.

Friday, April 12, 2002

Been up since 5am, long stressful day at work. Absolutely knackered - up again at 5 tomorrow - working weekend. Hence posting of irresponsible brevity, early effort now safely buried in drafts folder until clearer head can do it justice. Off to bed with Julie Burchill - what a wild life I lead. Quite right Vaughan, hard to tire of her wicked prose. Even though she hatchets many of my other heroes. Too tired to go hunting for more linkzzzzzz.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Early flirtations with blogging has taught me - if nothing else, to be careful about making blogs and blogging into a subject, the: "Why Do We Blog" type posting. Much "blood" seems to have been shed over whether it's a legitimate subject for discussion or whether extraordinary efforts should be made to avoid it completely. Blogging as subject pariah. Not easy when it's a new interest and like most new interests is capable of consuming the thoughts as it elbows its way to the forefront of your mind and vies for supremacy with the last new one.

But it's my latest discovery and I feel compelled to talk about it as a subject as well as using it to fulfil other needs. I suppose if I suddenly took up golf or a study of Victorian railway branch systems, I'd seize every opportunity to talk about them to anyone who showed a modicum of interest. Initially at least. I'd probably continue until I could settle down and stop behaving like an overly indulged and wildly exuberant child overloaded with orange fizz and undeserved praise. But the golf clubs can remain unswung heroes in my terrible loft and the anorak I am happy to report, has never been bought. And blogging is a new interest,so…

Now that I have that out of the way: what does it (all matters weblog) mean to me? Reading them is great. There are so many styles. Some are immediate. "Got up, swept the yard, stepped on a slug (ugh) - the wife did this/the girlfriend that/ my husband is/ the boyfriend does/ the cats, the dogs, the budgies the iguanas, the rows, the splits. A sort of contemporaneous log of the day's activities.

Others seem to open their lives up in theirs and display them in a show of public introspection: this is my music, these are my books, my films, my illnesses, my likes, my dislikes, we rowed, we split we got back together. I love, I hate. I am. This was my holiday. I did this, will never forget that. Here is a fastidiously edited post card: "Wish you were here/there".

Some go for the wry observations of life, inviting whimsical confessions from out of the mundane" When you open a packet of biscuits and the excess crumbs sprinkle all over the kitchen worktop. Do you dust them of with a cloth or wet your and finger jab at them and poke them into your mouth'. Mmmmm!!!!!! Scrumptious!!!!!" (Comments 84) And growing. Or looking for the response - now that is an interesting question. And the answer often is.

This may typify others, a sort of high tech captioned photo album - (interminable tick,tick,tick) "Hi there… I'm Jenny, (tick, tick, tick) and I'm married to my adorable husband Randy; cue: 48 minutes to down load a picture of such domestic bliss you want to reach in through the computer screen and punch Randy on his smug nose. In the background is Jeckles our Springer Spaniel he had such a hard time settling after we moved to Connecticut". (Comments 6). Only those with turbo-charged broadband need apply. (Totally imagined name combination as with all examples).

There's the satiric take - they're good, and then there's "Becky", who today (here if I had a scintilla of skill I would place one of those little yellow moonfaces with its tongue hanging out) "Is like feeling like soooo gross" (Comments 4) (all close friends). Or, (no name) "Here is my well thought out perspective on the meaning of life" (Comments 1)

When read in great chunks they flick and flash and zing in the mind and meld into one great splurging farrago. I've never had such a succession of non-alcohol related migraines. And it's great.

I'm writing far too quickly and carelessly.

And I'm definitely reading too much Julie Burchill.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

There probably should be a weblog newbie health warning placed somewhere convenient - like the Blogger home page, for indicating that reading too many blogs while trying to cope with the: "blogger as a work in progress " development thing, could be dangerous. Based on personal experience I think that too much time spent reading other blogs - particularly before making your current post - brings with it a danger, in that, exposure to a multitude of styles too early in your blogging career could be detrimental. When confronted daily with a riotous assembly of themes, ideas, language, grammatical excellence/inventiveness; all the excellent, mad, flawed, rich mix that's out there, it does give you cause to wonder about your own methods and material. Often I find myself encountering more interesting lives than my own that seem to have far greater resources of material. A wider circles of friends, more interests, better grasp of sentence structure - language, words, web design; whatever it might be, the tendency (and I'm sure I'm not alone) towards unflattering comparisons with one's own efforts emerge. And if I'm not alone in thinking this, I am fine with it.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

At some point I am going to have to construct a blogroll - if only to offer thanks by means of acknowledgement to the creators of the sites which I am finding, for reasons many and diverse, to be part of my daily required reading. Not all good sites of course can be considered as daily fare. Not all sites are updated daily. Whether to include them in any roll of honour therefore becomes dependent on how I decide to define the rules of entry - should they be good or should they provide the goods daily as well as being good. There are some really good sites around that don't seem to be updated from one week to the next. They're good, no question; but they can also be frustrating. Should I include sites that give me frustration? What about those sites that belong to a kind of localised elite. They appear on every roll on every site worth the effort of drawing breath to mention, and post one line - albeit daily, and received 36 comments! Is there any point in including them? They don't need the plug. Again I suppose it comes down to the question, why have a blogroll and what is its true purpose?

"Here are some sites that I enjoy." "Blogs I read." "If you enjoyed this you will love these." And so on. The answers to this dialectic are to be found in the individual interpretations of what a blogroll means. I've thought about this too hard. It doesn't matter. Just stick down the ones you like you silly sod - no-ones going to analyse your inclusions and omissions. You're an insignificant tiddler in an ocean of creativity and your opinion ain't that important.

(Apologia) The above are nothing but technical blog related thoughts which through time constraints have had to serve as a posting.

Monday, April 08, 2002

Some of the Blogs I've been reading lately have reminded me that there are still people out there interested in literature. I think a life time spent with people whose idea of what constitutes literature are the instruction leaflets you get when you buy a new fridge or TV - 'Read the Literature' before assembling, *plugging into the mains,etc, - has shamefully led me to banish most of my books, years ago, into domestic oblivion. Into the Siberia of the Middle England home. The loft.

And mine is a loft. It's not an attic, no one in their sanity would chose to sleep/eat/live there. It's so dark you fear for your health. So teeth rattlingly cold in the winter Sir Ranulph Fiennes could do his acclimatising there before one of his treks to the South Pole. And so hot in the summer it’s a wonder the house isn't ripped up from its foundations on a trajectory straight upwards like a house novelty hot air balloon.

But I need to get up there: Rachel @ www.I'vetotallyforgottendamnmyincompetancesothereisnolinkhere. com. Bollocks. I don’t even think her name was Rachel…dot.net; wants to know more about Coleridge. And I have his magnum opus, his Biographia Literaria. Somewhere - up there. Probably lying neglected in the dark, covered in a cocktail of moth dropping, dead flies and bat spit. I also have Richard Holmes' biography of the legendary druggie….Somewhere - up there. I've been to his house in Nether Stowey! I once lived just a few miles from it! Heck I practically knew Sammy C!

I have decided therefore that I will brave whatever elements there are and hoist my body into the most unfashionable room in the house. Once there I will attempt to retrieve whatever residue of a previous literary (ish) life remains. I will then try and stitch whatever tattered fragments I find onto my tattered and fragmented memory. I may then be able to rekindle some of the things I once knew of the world between: "Aarons Rod" and "Zuleika Dobson"

* Note to self: Plugging into the mains sounds invigorating - try when you feel you haven't much to loose. A shockwave jolt through the head to invest your imaginings with a mad Coleridgean druggy infused dream world, before you pass out. For good. I have a good idea for a poem, unfortunately I'll never write it, as I'm dead! Should I do surreal? Hey! Maybe I'll do surreal.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

Occasionally, through my work, I am asked to give talks to groups of people. I am usually flattered to be asked but I always know the consequence of acceptance. How the serenity of my life,until the event has come and gone, will be disrupted. Once the date has been set, I find it difficult to shake the negative feelings I associate with the experience. And that negativity infects everything else. There might be a weekend break or a trip to the theatre. A film to see or a party to attend. A previously booked holiday. Whatever it might be, the feelings of excitement and joyful anticipation about any of those things happening are always tempered with anxiety: a toad on my back if you will, because I have to do that damn talk out of the way first. And I find I cannot look forward to anything. And I start to bitterly regret agreeing to do it.

What is it about the thought of public speaking that reduces certain people (me for example) into whimpering wimps? Why is it such a dread inducing activity? Is it not logical that if it is simple to address each person in the audience individually, and each person by definition is an individual, surely then, speaking to a hundred people together is no different from having a hundred 'one to ones' in a breath preserving, time saving manner?

My personal experience seems to refute that logic. On the night before, I'll worry and fuss over my script - it looked great, but now it looks…crap. And into the inevitable long night of wakefulness - the sort when you have to strain to close your eyes and it takes a monumental act of will to keep them closed. My head is fizzing as if from a caffeine overdose and my eyes want to disconnect themselves from their sockets and fly out of the window. I make a pact with myself not to look at the alarm clock - I'll only regret it, it can only give me unwelcome information…only give me, bad news.

And it's always going to be 03:15hrs, and I know that by not sleeping I'm guaranteed to make a piggy's bum of everything in the morning. And I imagine the dreaded scene, me standing there without a lucid thought inside my nervous, tired, boiling head. The fearful anticipation conjuring up a conspiracy of mind and body, a sort of self generated failure impulse to ensure that I'll be the worst me from my own personal repertoire. I could almost believe at times like this - and here I risk straying from my territory - that my soul loathes my body and wills it to fail.

I shall describe some other time how I function when I actually have to perform. Confront your fears they say. Writing as Therapy? - hmmm, I'll let you know.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

Frustration with Blogger has compelled me, reluctantly, to abandon the freebie service and upgrade to Blogger Pro. I had hoped to stay with the free Blogger - encouraged, probably foolishly, by an odd misplaced pride. The sort I had met years ago through a friend who was determined to win the school cross country championship dressed in his brother's ragamuffin hand me downs and battered plimsoles, whilst all around him preened in a blur of silky designer Adidas and Nike swooshes. Just winning wasn't enough. To fulfill his dream he had to win whilst dressed in this shabby travesty. Later, another fantazised about winning the pools (these are pre National Lottery days) so he could continue driving his doddery Citroen 2CV in spite of his wealth not because of his poverty.

Look what I can do with the basics, the modest, seems to encapsulate the logic. Imagine what I could do if I had your advantages. In my case: no labour or time saving devices on my old blog: No spellcheckers to winkle out typing errors and genuine howlers. No draft folders or advance posts facility to allow 'seizing - of - the - moment' writing, surely a preventative against the uninspired and the prosaic, consequences of writing when you just don't feel like it. No thesaurus to advance the cause of elegant creativity and variation. Nothing but your own wits and patience - and you need plenty of that when you're anticipating technical breakdown 'anytime now', the threat of which ensures you're as tense as a Mafioso's garrote throughout. It's slowing, it's slowing… its…stopped. For God's (and other even less polite exclamations) sake! Does that mean… what I have just written …has gone?

Yes it usually had. Snail paced and lumbering and only Blogger automatically generated apologies citing 'heavy demand' offering any form of comfort. Another broken narrative. Another shattered 'masterpiece' never to see the light of day. But now I am a fully paid up member of the Blogger Pro sect: " Look on my works ye mighty and despair." Survey the ruins of a less technically sophisticated format and know that error free entries await. Actually it'll probably turn me into a bit of a lazy bastard and turn my writing into total crap.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Partly for altruistic reasons but mainly motivated by self-serving tendencies I signed up as a member of the National Trust this week. Now, I don't part with my money that easily, take a look at this site and the use of the minimalist ready made template on which these words appear and the tell tale Blogspot advert hanging over it like a curtain valance. But, despite that and the risk of being accused as unfashionable, I reasoned that contributing £32 annually to help preserve the nation's heritage to be a worthwhile gesture, especially with the benefits of "free entry" to all NT sites country wide. And, as it happens, a bonus I knew nothing about, a fast track entry on the day into the site you've chosen to visit. I believe current cardholders would regard my latest experience as typical:

" Any members in the queue just walk this way;" hollers the matronly lady in the tones of a real life Hyacinth Bucket. The tweed suit and granite hard shoes forming a perfect unison with the spectacles dangling round her neck locked in an interminable battle of ascendancy with the inevitable twin set and pearls. The self-styled uniform favoured by middle class women voluntary workers. "Don't dawdle (she nearly said), but did say; " It's all right, you're members, they, however,"- here she makes a disapproving squinny at the agitated line - "are not". I make a sideways self conscious 1982 Lady Di style squinny of my own at the resentful faces in the queue, which look back at me and seem to suggest, " Queue jumper, may you rot in the foulest hell - hole in hell!" I return a sickly grin, but inside I am thinking haughtily; "Receive a life, privilege on payment."

Thursday, April 04, 2002

There has been a change. Apparently I am no longer partaking in what could be called the second sign of madness: writing to oneself. I don’t' know if this follows the conventional bloggiquette, but (cue the tones of oleaginous reciprocity and other back scratching references) I would like to thank the following bloggers: Gert: at mad musings of me: (cue disembodied voice couched in the manner of an announcer at a film awards ceremony) " Gert a seasoned blogger takes an active roll with (amongst others) "Blogging Brits". She carries out reviews of Blogs as and when they come to her notice. And she's honest - if you're good she'll say so, if you're shit be prepared to choose a new hobby". Runs a great site and has time in. Respect. Thanks also to Stuart: a little empathy goes a long way, but I still say I am the worst HTMLer on the planet. You both have the honour and distinction of releasing me from moon howling cyber anonymity.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

I am probably the worst exponent of HTML, anywhere. Before hearing about Blogger and blogging generally I would no more of wanted to become involved in web design than pull my nipple hair out with pliers. But I quite like this writing lark and have done so since I was quite young. And since I decided not to become a writer years ago when the opportunity wasn't so much knocking on my door as delivering a succession of haymakers to my head - this "blogging" seems to provide for me a needed creative outlet.

Of course one could repair to a desolate garret and write whimsical poetry for the local rag, which publishes, once a month, excruciating examples of work by local hobby poets. These shockers invariable make you want to run circles round the living room squeezing your ears tightly in the hope of forcing the words back out through your eyes, vicariously feeling the shame their authors will never know. Mine would be no better. And I don't have a garret.

Or I could submit endless letters to local newspapers voicing dissent at local council decisions whilst hiding the origin of the scandalous accusations behind a nom de plume such as "outraged" or "disgusted". (Imaginary conversation with self) "You could write a thesis." "No, too exhaustive." "Try writing a novel." "No too exhausting." " Have you ever thought of writing… a Weblog." "Eh!" "Well a Weblog is…

And here I am writing a weblog. But here I am also, wrecking the bloody template every time I try to add, remove or adjust anything. I'm surfing the net like a demented "Data" from "Star Trek," registering my URL with, well anyone prepared to offer a box that says "add URL," and a button I can press that reads "submit." " Please place this HTML code onto your site within 24 hours otherwise we will send the heavy mob round to your house - yes we know where you live you snivelling little asshole - and beat the living crap out of you."

So with a sweaty palm and a hand cramped with tension - code saved, up with the template…plonk it …hmm..Here! Bollocks! It's in the middle of page. And so on. But I am now armed with my own copy of HTML for beginners. So confidence will soon be my new acquaintance.

Flick, flick, (clears throat) now, HTML, that stands for … hy per ten..s..?

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

I recently registered my details with the Friends Reunited Website. For the one percent of the country, (or any reader hailing from outside of these shores) unacquainted with this phenomenon, this is one of a crop of Websites specially created to allow people to exchange memories from their school years and in some cases reunite, using the site as a go between.

I paid my five pounds annual membership, failing to see the point in signing up for free and then being told I can't contribute my details or memories to the site as a non-subscriber. Others I know are happy to register and then sit back and wait and see what happens. A typical response might be " Oh that's meee!"seeing their name on the site, followed by a rueful aside like " Oh dear who's going to be interested in me?" Then settling into a routine of nervously checking the Website once a week looking for old chums, recognising the odd name, agonising over what to do about it, then doing nothing.

I though, recognised an opportunity when it presented itself, to get a bit lairy with the old teachers, some of whom I remember were not exactly models of virtue. So it was with tears of justice in my eyes that I reeled off teacher profile after teacher profile in an effort to settle old scores, to run through the litany of petty injustices and the roll call of undeserved tellings off and beatings. There! Old grievances aired and made public. And I felt instantly better, especially once the site controllers, following complaints from readers, (doubtless the teachers) removed some of the more unforgiving examples.