Friday, December 31, 2004

A HAPPY NEW YEAR WAVE

support tsunami relief effort

SEND CASH NOW (a once only special offer)

I've had a lovely couple of days. It's been sunny, I've got a lot done, felt relaxed and eaten really well, slept really well, excercised, made sweet music, been some great loving. The back beat is wicked. Don't feel too bad at all.

After walking my now rather downcast girlfriend (not looking forward to) and her chirpy Mum (going home today) to the station, I went to get a refund from one of my local newsagents. The guy in there had bad english and he had just sold me me Lotto Hotpix, instead of the 3 random Lotto lines I had wanted and asked for.

Truth is, I had walked in 15 minutes earlier with two respectable middle-eastern women, and casually asked him to explain the lottery to them, and inadvertently, I'd really put him on the spot. He floundered, said a few badly pronunced words, and gave me 3 lines of Lotto Hotpix. This wasn't what I had asked for, but I realised I had to take the lovely ladies to the station and I couldn't stand there arguing.

He thought he'd got away with that. So he was pissed off when I came back after 10 minutes and politely but firmly demanded my money back, and said, I asked you for 3 lottery lines. He denied he had not sold me what I asked for. I pressed him, and he indicated the lottery slips at the other end of the shop. He had not pointed that out previously. I raised my stunning eyebrows, revealing naked determination. He gave me 3 quid right there and then.

Instantly chucked a quid for the tsunami relief into a dodgy white cardboard box on the counter and said to the guy, "Thanks, no hard feelings."

I realised a while later, this guy is a Tamil, possibly mourning relatives, or worried about the fate of loved ones. He probably does have hard feelings right now. He did look kind of bombed out and frankly he wasn't really with it. There are 120,000 Sri Lankans in London. That really was the 5th largest recorded ever. Shit.

Old friends of mine, a London family I have known for years were on a Sri Lankan beach when the wave struck. I've been slowly digesting how close I was to losing them. I was really worried about them when I heard the news. Then I thought, no, they flew out a day later. But they didn't - they were on the beach, they saw it coming. They escaped both the waves and the awful aftermath, and they are now back home OK.

After coming back from the shop, I found this disturbing image (be careful of giving small children nightmares) which spurred me to add Blog of Funk to the possible routes for donation, construct a little pop ditty, and give something more than a quid myself before 2005 begins.

A huge wave of human grief is now spreading out from this collossal loss of life and health and family and places and ways to exist and even geography. Send them cash, girls and boys, for a prosperous New Year.

They Need All Help They Can Get®œ#¢∞§¶•ªº“π‘¡€#¢œ∑´†¨^øπ“‘åß∂ƒ©˙∆˚¬…æ«Ω≈ç√∫~µ≤≥÷≠

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Podcasting Blues: The Last Rant of 2004

I have heard the future and I am scared. I am scared for all of us. I am scared because I now know that a lot of the future is going to be very, very boring.

I have always been a proponent of peer-to-peer file sharing. I made friends from using Napster. I support the principle of open source. I eat open source cornflakes. I think collage is a bona-fide art form, and that file sharing is good for artists because it increases their fanbase. I support the European anti-trust fight against Microstiff. I hate Windoze Meeja Player. Give me Liberty or give me Bad Breath. But I'm not sure I like the insidious democratic spread of technology when it leads to Podcasting.

I just listened to this: http://www.mikemontalvo.com/podcasts/MLC_2004_12_29.mp3 - before you click the link, it's a 6.7MB mp3 file.

This is Mike Montalvo's latest Podcast, and it's fabulously representative of the Podcast genre. In it, Mike rambles on about a news item about a man who wrecked airplanes so he didn't have to go to work, and the software he writes, and his christmas holiday, and Mike may well indeed be a nice man and probably is a good software coder but he has a rather boring voice and doesn't say much with it. There's no music at all, except the obvious lift "Radio Is Dead" as an in and outro. Mike should have been doing this at age 13 with two cassette decks.

None of these wannabe internet jocks actually prepares their work. Hardly anyone edits it. And in some respects, I like the spontaneity of that. But, it's so bland most of this stuff. Nobody has the heart to say, the attempt is not enough. So, let me say here and now, THE ATTEMPT IS NOT ENOUGH. Just because you have an iPod, a nice microphone, some ipodder software, a blog, and mild self-obsession doesn't make it or you cool or interesting.

To seek, said Picasso, is nothing - to FIND is the thing. He was right. If you have to share something, why not be a little bit more attentive not to it's potential, but to it's actual ? Why not ditch the whole thing because it's shit ? delete the odd line here and there ? And in audio format, why not get some basic production values under your belt before drowning us all in a blizzard of "drone drone drone drone....um.. ah.. wait a minute.. i'm not too good at this...thump.. fzzz.... drone drone drone drone...." Ever heard of scripts ?

If you're not too good at something, go away and practise, and come back when you are !
File under: Life: General Advice

I am scared because, thanks to Apple, whose hardware and software I have used for the last 10 years, soon everyone will be clogging up the Interweb with utterly banal drivel about their lives - except THIS TIME IN AUDIO FORMAT - and in their minds' eyes they will all be just like Adam Curry, and consider themselves cutting-edge cultural acolytes that bands and record companies will seek out and send butch motorcycle couriers winking and crackling with quasi-military radio devices to deliver sexy packages several times a week with unreleased material that's an exclusive for your Podcast for, oh, maybe 10 minutes - until someone downloads your Podcast and chops out the bit they like from it and puts it into their own Podcast and fails to attribute the source (just like Blogging) and somehow this cultural flotsam floating like bits of a blasted and sunken ship on the high seas of the demise of ORIGINAL THOUGHT and ACTUAL FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE and PLANNING is supposed to be all in the spirit of the Jolly effing Roger.

I am scared because I am the only one I know without an iPod.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Middle-Eastern Man

A working week for me, so far. I've spent 3 days in the studio writing and recording and it's been a lot of fun. I still have my tax return to complete and submit, and I have some guests staying with me, my gorgeous Palestinian girlfriend, and her Mum.

This situation was enabled by a fabulous transaction, which went as follows:

No, your Mum is definitely not staying because I am working all week, and I need to get the spare room together, and I have my tax return to submit. So, much as I would like to, I cannot put her up.

Then, mindful of how stressful parent/child relationships can be, I said, I'll be as flexible as I can be. But she can't stay, for reasons aforesaid.

Then it was, maybe I can get my room together for a night, if that would be helpful. After all, I like my girlfriend's Mum, I really don't have any worries about being around her, or her staying in my place; and my girlfriend stays here 70% of the time. So I guess I consider that it felt quite natural. It was just a question of time and my lack of it.

Then it was, OK your Mum can stay, since it helps you that much. I will get the room ready in two days.

The following day, she has arrived. She's staying for 2 nights. I got the room ready really quickly. Tonight we've been watching a TV program about nudism. We are all relaxed.

I realised yesterday, I have turned into a middle-eastern man, saying, No, No, Definitely No, Sorry, Maybe, OK, One Night Only, Two Nights No Problem.

What a bargain !

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Big Cock Randy Mountain

This is an in fact an "E-Waste" mountain composed of old PCs, mobile phones, and redundant electrical goods. Only 15% of mobile phones are recycled in the UK out of 15 million handsets replaced each year. Aside from the danger from dumping cadmium and mercury in landfills, the gold and plastic that can be recycled is often thrown away.

The post-Oil Age landfill miners, burrowing in to find and extract precious materials no longer available, will be glad of this iBook. Or maybe I will maintain it as a treasured relic, like a steam-driven phonograph, saying to my incredulous great-great-grandchildren, "Yes, we used to have to TYPE words letter by letter ! Hard to believe now..."

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Sexy Boroughs

Britain's smallest local authority area, the City of London, recorded the UK's fastest growth rate according to the BBC, and London Boroughs represent 3 out of the 4 largest population increases.

HIGHEST POPULATION GROWTH BY LOCAL AUTHORITY

City of London 51%
East Cambridgeshire 27%
Westminster 26%
Kensington & Chelsea 23%
Tower Hamlets 22%
What people don't understand is that the increase is not due to immigration, or straightforward population movement of any kind. It's caused by movement of a another kind. It's the huge amount of

SEX

people are having, leading firstly to babies, and ultimately, more people having sex.


Despite collossal governmental and indeed social denial, it's actually being caused by the uninhibited and unbridled enjoyment of their adult physicality that these lucky citizens enjoy.

Test your credulity. Visit these places and smile gently at the people there. You'll soon see what I mean.

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Audio Blagger

this is an audio post - click to play

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Boxing Day


Boxing gloves. Red, aren't they ?
It's Boxing Day. I awoke, got out of my bed, put on my boxer shorts, my boxing gloves, and took my Boxer Dog for a nice long walk.

I tried to do up my Reebox with the gloves on but that didn't work, so my long laces were left trailing. The dog ran away and I couldn't run fast enough to get it back. Now it's somewhere making some street filthy.

I've seen Donnie Darko, I know what it's all about. I was in the time between times and wondering about my Ensurement Trap.

Remember: these are Christian boxing gloves, which means you can batter the hell out of anyone you like and still be saved. I certainly intend to do just that, once I have figured how to get out of this box. Fido !

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Saturday, December 25, 2004

43 Things

I am playing with 43 things.. having been invited (one of 43 people today) to beta test the system. This is my first attempt to write a Blog entry from the 43 Things system, so lets hope that it doesn't delete the blog when I hit publish.

Superstitiously and completely irrationally, I think that because I will be 43 next birthday, this has been designed just for me and that therefore as a believer in synchronicity and synergy, my life will certainly be transformed almost immediately.

It's a fascinating exercise in aspiration.

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Friday, December 24, 2004

I Live In A Small Town Full Of Poets

I was IM chatting with my renegade Taiwanese friend Liougueyling, and I showed her some images of London. She said:


Here's where I fell asleep ~~ says:
   it doee not look like a big city
....you seems to live in a small town full of poets

Somedays, it is truly a glorious thing to be living in this small town full of poets.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Up, Down or Sideways ?

As we enter the KWITHMUTH season of good cheer and excess beer, the time has come to remind us all of the Golden Rule of Partying. When we party, we begin a voyage across the wide ocean of our consciousness. We travel to places biologically, socially, and chemically, and we require navigation for a pleasant journey and a safe return.

Therefore - as it is written somewhere else, in a nicer font than this one - KNOW THYSELF. Enter without fear onto your voyage of discovery, but remember that in order to discover yourself, you may have to get a little lost, since discoveries are often made by the lost.

As the cognac sinks uneasily down over the three mince pies which sit like inedible stones in your stomach thrown down in a vain attempt to pacify the Beer God - YOU CAN HELP YOURSELF (and those around you) by ALWAYS REMEMBERING THAT YOU ARE ON THAT JOURNEY - you are the navigator and you are the pilot. As you opt for the stilton after the brandy snaps with a double shot of bisongrass vodka cranberry, YOU CAN HELP YOURSELF (and those around you) by recalling that you got yourself here and that it is within you the means to get yourself back to a place where the deck of the ship is not slippery and pitching.. and YOU CAN DO THIS (and by doing so help those around you) by remembering to ask yourself this question whenever you need to make a decision as to which way to go now:

UP, DOWN or SIDEWAYS ?


Let me give an example. The evening begins (traditionally) with an UP. Bring on the shots, the champagne, knock back a beer or two. Wheeee ! Straight UP. Now, how are you feeling ? Want to stay there a little longer ? YOU CAN - but probably not with alchohol for that long. After about an hour, alchohol will start to bring you DOWN. So, if you want to stay UP, maybe it's better to go SIDEWAYS. Have a cup of tea. Eat something. Not too much - or you'll go down. No ? Want to keep going up ? OK well, your decision - remember YOU CAN HELP YOURSELF (and those around you) to anything you like - LIFE IS SHORT and so is our attention span, especially when intoxicated.

Now, you haven't smoked marijuana in a while (maybe never) but here's a friendly looking guy/girl and the shots and champagne have mellowed you and it's KWITHMUTH so you mosey on over and sure enough, despite the fact you don't even smoke and even worked voluntary on a rehab program once, you're toking like a hippy. UP UP UP UP ! Being KWITHMUTH the girl/guy has the Top Seasonal Stash on them and it's WAY STRONGER THAN YOU RECKONED and suddenly you don't feel all that clever although you can't stop laughing and you are very very hungry.

At this point, you need to go DOWN. Not down to the kitchen to binge on sweets and pick up another beer to steeeeady yoooour nerves, you need half a litre of fresh water, a cup of herbal tea (camomile for example) a cool face wash, and ten minutes or so in the fresh air not too far from the entrance, preferably with a less stoned friend to help you make sense of your gabbling brain.

So, having come down a little bit, with the sugar level restored by the cake and the alchohol beginning to metabolise, gripping your tea like a lifebuoy, you can make your next decision as the second wave of party-goers arrive with more champagne and assorted pleasures - UP, DOWN or SIDEWAYS ? YOU CAN HELP YOURSELF (and those around you) by making the right decision. So, having got drunk in 40 minutes and been the most stoned freak at the party, you gracefully accept a modest jug of shampoo and head for the dance floor, where you vigorously apply the Rule by getting down and moving sideways towards the MOST attractive guy/girl who has just arrived, and he/she seems to be OK with that, and you realise that the time has come to go back UP.

So you head up to the bedroom with your new friend and earnestly discuss the weather, and what the global economic prospects really are, and how you know someone who knows someone who lives just near there isn't it a small world, and why you have those cute little glittery bits just there, and after a while it's time to come back DOWN. But you are rather worried in case the people you kind of came with see you both coming down together and embarasses you (and those around you) by making a silly scene. Plus you need to adjust your clothing and sort out your face. So you go SIDEWAYS into the bathroom and say, see you down there.

Five minutes later, you are feeling really up and ready to go up further. UP is the way you are going, UP is the way you will be, and this is a TOP party full of fabulous people. Only you can't for the life of you see ANYONE you know, and you wonder if they are avoiding you, and where's your NEW FRIEND gone, and five minutes later, you are feeling really paranoid, and thinking of going home. You came down, then you went DOWN. But you don't necessarily need to stay down. Then again, the only way is not up.

Then you hear the fireworks and realise everyone is outside which is why you can't find anyone and you GO RIGHT BACK UP as you grab a beer head outside grinning like a loon to watch beautiful bursting flowers of flame and colour light up the hearts of all who stand in awe, rooted like the innocent children they really are, gawping at mini miracles of fire and light...
Then the nice guy/girl with the spliff walks up and offers you another toke, and you need to make the most important decision of your night - UP, DOWN or SIDEWAYS ? If you stay on the beer, you are going sideways. Can you risk going up again, given all that has happened so far, given that you won't speak to anyone anymore, given that you could end up passed out and comatose and miss your lift home, given that your New Friend is still here.. oh.. actually standing right there in someone's arms, kissing them passionately and clearly with intent... damn it.

You decide: UP, DOWN and SIDEWAYS. Yes. All of them. At once, please. Now. So, you pour the beer into the tea, pour them both into the shampoo, add a dash of vodka, accept the throat-rasping roach, wonder if there are any real drugs available at this shit party, and decide that you (and those around you) will come down in the New Year, and not before. Then you kiss the guy/girl who gave you the spliff to his/her surprise, and ask the one simple question that will change your life (and those around you) forever:

"UP, DOWN or SIDEWAYS ?"


And then he/she smiles and says, "I thought you'd never ask"- and you suddenly realise that your voyage of discovery has taken you to a new place, a land of warm breezes carrying unknown perfume, a land of distant horizons, melodies like seasnakes, white sheets drawn across tan thighs, caresses and soft touches and hidden sinews, smooth domes and golden arches, and you are kissing at 4am outside McDonalds in the holiday trash and seasonal vomit, wondering how you got there, how you are managing to stand, how you are going to explain this later, to whom you are supposed to explain it, why you have pockets full of ham, and what Good King Wenceslas and the Feast of Stephen and Louie Armstrong have to do with any of it.

"See, Louie," he/she murmurs huskily in your ear, "you understood and operated by the Golden Rule of Partying. You weren't successful by chance. You were a survivor. You knew. You kept it together. For all of us. You brought us here. You really did swing. Low. Very low. Sweet chariot. Amen."

Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace...

Aromatherapy Associates Party Survival Kit

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

For Blogs' Sake

Interesting stats about the Blogging phenomenon I found chez teddY-risatioN™.

Basically the long and the short of it is that out of the millions blogging worldwide, only about 50,000 are updated daily.

Personally I don't look for daily updates. I'd much rather wait for something of quality. I get a real high when one of my favourite writers publishes something new and interesting.

There are excellent blogs out there, nestling like pearls in the mire, and when I find one, I sigh. I despair in the same way that I did as a book-loving child, when I realised with horror that I would never live long enough to read all the books I would like to. Even if I lived forever, I would never read them all, because while I was reading, more would be written. At 13 years old I experienced existential panic, and tried for a while to read at least as much as I could, completing 3 books a week on top of whatever school dished up, even stealing when the library and my meagre child-slave wages wouldn't afford me the books I wanted.

Books are one thing - they at least have the filter of commerce and editorial bias and manufacture to slow them down as they come into being as objects. But blogs are spreading like bathroom mould.

Some of my intelligent associates wonder what I see in this tacky low-brow glut culture, and I have endeavoured to explain. I've even converted a few. I say to those that will listen that some blogs are very well written, informative, moving, thought-provoking, amusing, visually stunning, compulsive reading; and some of them take the weblog form (which is still in relative infancy) and do remarkable and unexpected things with it.

Like this blog, a tissue of lies, which I just found. Is this for real ? It kind of does matter (even though in a literary sense it doesn't) - because if it's true, we are reading the diary of Mabel, a captive prostitute. Therefore I am gripped. The journal form is perfect, it's convincing, and the suspense is killing.

Because of finds like this, I have gone back 9 years to when I first got a computer and a modem and started to surf the net. This time I am not gawping at NASA images that take 10 minutes to download and reading obscure texts about deviancy. I am not looking at any other part of the internet. I am just blogsurfing.

Since I began blogsurfing early in 2004, my taste has developed. My initial delight was in recognising like-minds on similar paths. I loved being able to respond and post comments. The interactivity and the dialog was (is) a tremendous and immediate thrill. I made contact with some great people. I missed them when they dropped out and stopped writing. Just like a real relationship - they were real (albeit virtual) relationships. This is not new to me - I have made friends via the net since it began, and met up with and connected to many genuine people.

Something wonderful found via a blog linked to from this one
Then as I started to write my own blog, and just kept going, I began to look at the varieties of purpose - personal diaries, business communications, reviews, commentary, creative outlets, takes on life, political soapboxes, religious pulpits, and many unmitigated eccentricities and egocentricities.

And of course the blogs about blogs, blogging, blogskins, the blogosphere, blogexplosion, blogistas, bloggerinas, and bloggers.

Then I became interested in the weirdness, the differences, the really sick puppies, the stuck people, the sad, the ranters, the stay-at-home Moms, the badspelin teens, the mentalists, the mavericks, the crazies.

Then I wondered why I neeeded to know. That didn't last long. I just felt I needed to know. Then I knew. Then I went to bed.

Now I still surf regularly, and I leave comments, but I am very slow to add a new link. I have already gained so much from this, I'm not sure I'm ready for any more.

Recently, looking at my list of links down the side of my own blog, I decided to do a little winter-clean. Using Bloglines, an excellent web-based Newsreader, I can catch up with recent posts easily and I find it enables me to actually find time to read everything on my list - but not every day, maybe 2 or 3 times a week I get to have a really good long read. I made a Top Ten (see right hand column). I started to think about why I like what I like, and the librarian in me (6th form - the reference section being excellent for early morning heavy petting with my girlfriend, due to the long shelves of large heavy books which saw zero borrowing action between 8 - 9.45am) kicked in.

My favourite blogs are written by people I automatically have an affection for. It's clear from the way their character comes off the page, they have something totally delightful about them; so I follow with total interest. If I met them in real life, I would almost certainly like them, because just by living their life and recounting it, they make me smile and feel and think and rethink and understand stuff. Their passion for life animates me. I feel a common sense of humanity.

Then there's a bunch of people who also have something remarkable or insightful or unique about their offering but I'm quite happy just to admire their stuff from a distance, and I go to their gigs.

Then there's people who are really different from me, and who are just sheer total entertainment value.

Then there are people who know stuff about stuff that we really need to know, and who are kindly passing it on. Thank Fuck for them.

Then there are the mad freaks, who I always have time for...

Blogging is an amazing cultural phenomenon. It's rapidly become part of mature internet culture. It's an exchange, not a one-way communication. It's democratic, simple and cheap. It's truly global. Millions of people are at it, generating billions of words, pictures, links..

The social phenomenon of blogging is very interesting. The collective creative process. Is this really the first flowering of a truly global culture ? Sometimes it does blow my tiny mind.

But enough blog already. Art about art is ultimately transitory and appeals to very few. This is too much. Midwinter has got to me. I clearly need to relax and get out more. Maybe I will just write about how mobile phones are changing our DNA. Or maybe I will just use my mobile phone to update my blog from the beach, when I get there. Or maybe, I will just make another evil clown.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Winter Solstice Cheer

The Guardian today reports that Britons lead the world for getting off our heads over the Christmas period - and also for getting off the island. We are more likely to be drunk, and abroad, than any other nation studied. UK Alchohol consumption goes up 41% beating Canada and Germany at 36% each. The French are ahead in drink driving, and Germans top the poll for increase unlawful killing. The US is still way ahead on murder in general, however, at 0.74 per 1000 (UK is 0.17 and Japan 0.1) and even the German annual Xmas murder boom cannot top that.

Interestingly, suicide rates universally drop at the same time, with Italy and Japan seeing the greatest falls.

It would seem that so long as you don't bottle up your stress, and you hit the bottle, leave the country, and avoid French roads and armed Germans and Americans - you are much safer during this period than normal. That's a lovely thought innit ?

Happy Pagan New Year everyone !

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Scientists Find "Blogging Brain "

Research at the University of Iowa has found that people with damage to the front right lobes of the cortex have a tendency to develop hoarding.

"Hoarding was defined as abnormal if it was extensive, the squirreled items were not useful or aesthetic and the individual was unwilling to discard any of their collection. Some of the patients had filled their homes with vast quantities of junk mail or broken appliances, for example."

I've always thought that blogging was the perfect displacement activity for the obsessive - a brief surf can show you how people are filling their blogs with vast quantities of useless observations and half-working thoughts. The web journal format allows mountains of words to build up, and as there is little or no cost involved, there is no need to edit or throw out the broken badly-formed entries. So blogs build up and gain mass like huge houses full of endless rooms of discarded mental junk, to be returned to again and again by the person doing the writing...

Meanwhile there have been serious and welcome developments for human rights in the UK over the last week. Foreign nationals have been held in Britain's Guantanamo, Belmarsh without charge or trial, and denied information as to the evidence against them for the last 3 years. The Law Lords, whose job it is to effectively decide our unwritten constitution and it's labrynthine legal workings, have found that the same human rights must apply to these individuals as to British citizens. Now tthey will have to charge them or let them go. The awful truth is that like the inmates of Guantanamo, many of the "terrorists" in Belmarsh show signs of severe mental illness having been so brutally confined.

As far as I know the UK is the only place in the so-called "free world" (it's expensive ! what are they on about?) where you don't need to carry I.D. and this is a fabulous freedom that we are all loathe to give up. It means I can be naked and law-abiding, after all.

Undaunted by a revolt rumbling in their ranks, the government are pressing ahead with the introduction of I.D. cards using the same excuse as ever - terrorism. The arguments which demolish this rationale are many and well-articulated, but the main one as far as I am concerned is that any terrorist worth his salt is going to be able to get forged documents, and all this does is initiate a new market for the forgers. Inspection of I.D. cards will replace genuine inspection of the person; and this excercise in population control will actually make it easier for the organised criminal to cross borders unimpeded.

So the new Home Secretary Charles "I Ate All The Pies" Clarke (who last week replaced David "Little Lad" Blunkett amidst tears, recriminations and emails) now makes it his first task in office to push through legislation that 18 years of Conservativism and 30 years of the IRA failed to achieve, and he has a mammoth task on his hands with large parts of our 3 party system up in arms against it. Once people realise that they will be forced to pay £85 for something they don't need, doubtless more concerted popular resistance will begin. We Brits just don't like being forced to part with cash for no clear benefit. It was the Poll Tax that did for Thatcher.

I suspect that collectively the government has sustained damage to it's right frontal cortex and that they are starting to hoard useless attitudes which they have collected from discredited amoral right-wing administrations. After all, they have been banging their heads blindly against one another and against the General Public wot voted for 'em (twice) for 7 years now.

It's the folly of the left turning right.

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Parliamentary Plonk

I am privileged to be able to review a bottle of House of Commons Chardonnay, Vin de Pays D'Oc Domaine Pieriere, a crisp white wine with an abundance of fruit and elegant aromas of white flowers. It's from La Chapelle Guinchay, France.

This is how it affected Lisa.

We think it's surprisingly good, not too sweet, not too acidic, not too fruity, and the finish, which can be an issue in white wine, was lovely and clean.

We are particularly impressed by the label.

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247 out of 20 Million

I see that Blogrank has made the Blog of Funk number 247 in it's rankings. TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY SEVENTH !!?? Out of an estimated TWENTY MILLION BLOGS WORLDWIDE ??!! That puts me in the top 0.0123% !!

For moment, I abandoned my recovery cup of tea and danced a jig of joy. Then I double checked. There are only 590 sites in there so far.

Damn brief, that moment of triumph.

Victory, says the Tao Te Ching, should be observed like a funeral. I'm wearing red and yellow today, in celebration of my failure.

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Sex Slaves



Former Chinese sex slaves forced to work in Japanese military brothels react angrily to a Tokyo court ruling denying them compensation, says this BBC caption

"Most of the victims were very young and most were in a perpetual state of exhaustion, pain, malnutrition, depression and deteriorating health"


Back in 2001, Emperor Hirohito and his wartime governent were found guilty of "forcing women into sexual slavery during World War II." by a mock war crimes tribunal in the Hague. "The tribunal described the wartime system, whereby an estimated 200,000 women from across Asia were forced to work in Japanese military brothels, as "state-sanctioned rape and enslavement."

I am not anti-Japanese. However were these wartime victims European, or Jewish, the compensation would have been paid years ago. It is to Japan's shame that they remain in such parsimonious denial - especially considering the contemporary wealth and health that nation enjoys.

The sexual relationship between these two countries remains turbulent and complex. In 2003, 400 Japanese tourists and 500 prostitutes enjoyed a 3 day mass orgy, and this was made public much to the embarassment of both the Chinese and the Japanese.

What we are dealing with here is more than a simple equation of supply and demand. As with all relationships, we are dealing with power, including economic, and these two neighbours are destined to be the future central power axis of the world. It's in all our interests that they deal well with their historic grievances as well as the continuation of snobbery and arrogance, inferiority and superiority complexes that plague them. Or I fear, Japan will ultimately pay a far higher price, as China's 1 billion population ultimately engulfs Japan puny 120 million.

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Friday, December 17, 2004

Push Coming to Shove

We are 5 days away from New Year. I mean,the festival the Christians stole, Yule. The Winter Solstice, the longest night. At this time, the Sun King is Born. Once born, he is very weak, and like a baby he must be kept warm and nourished, but from solstice on, Sun starts the slow climb back, first to parity, and then to a long Summer ascendancy.

Right now, Dark Rules, and this is her finest hour. It's miserable weather as well, which doesn't help the feeling of gloom and horrible finality that the lights and festive frolics try to keep at bay. Push is coming to shove, the year is ending, the light is absent, and everyone is gearing themselves up for KWITHMUTH with it's annual round of social obligation and head ache, inebriation, indigestion, missed romantic opportunity and bitter family disappointment.

It's different nearer the equator, where the wheel is less wobbly - dark and light measure up equally against one another year round, night falls at 6pm and day begins at 6am. Being so far North, we pay for our long Summer evenings where we sit outside casting warm twilight shadows until 10.30pm or later. We pay it back in days where we awaken in darkness and come home in darkness, for weeks and weeks. If the sun doesn't shine, the world can feel like it's about to end.

Christians jolly us along through December as Christ Is Born, and for a while, churches are shiny and full. But where are they in January when you are knackered and broke, staring at 3 months or more of work until the next holiday break? Still after your money, you can be sure of that.

Our Northern Pagan myths and legends made sense of the gloom and deepened appreciation of our place, literally our physical, geographic place in the world. These days, in secular denial, stripped of our spiritual, mythic roots, we try to quench the deep fear of night with fairy lights, tungsten, neon and strobe, we drench the tired sadness with alchohol, numb it with Valium, lift ourselves up out of it with Prosac, ecstasy, cannabis and dance music, and call the annual slump in spirits S.A.D. - seasonal affective disorder.

I will take my annual Winter Holy Day on December 22nd, one of two days each year I never work, and I will spare a thought for the millions who have to suffer in ignorance, having had the understanding of their ancestors tortured out of them by two thousand years of Christian repression.

The Eye of the Needle is this part of the year, and we must all pass through it as best we can.

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

ISP Deletes Blog Shock

I have been miffed, annoyed, and generally frustrated by the way in which Skymarket, the ISP who (thanks to FUNK) host Blog of Funk, dealt with (rather FAILED to deal with) the death of one of their servers.

NOT ONLY did the thing fall over several times over the last 3 months already resulting in many hours of downtime, but when, having given many notices of it's intentions to quit, the old tin can finally ran out of coal, there was no recent backup, and so for the last 18 hours, this blog has been dated 22nd November 2004. The fact that some fool thought it was OK to restore out-of-date files rather than alert the client to the situation beggars belief. Bad customer relations, bad PR.

I am PARTICULARLY pissed off that nobody saw fit to even email me, and it was only the fact that I called them at 6pm last night that meant I had an idea of what was going on.

Since all the images are hosted on the same box, there will be (once this is republished) many images missing which I will have to find and upload once more.

I'm going to press "PUBLISH" now, let's hope this works. Apologies in advance for the missing pics, check back later and they will probably be there.

Fucking bollocks would be an appropriate phrase at this juncture.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Lemon, lilac and leather


A bluethroat Robin recently seen in Scotland that has nothing to do with this article at all.
It's been known for some time that there are various clues to the declining mind and the onset of dementia in old age, and the BBC ("Ten odours 'help spot dementia' ") have picked up on research by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology which reveals a "hit list" of scents. Lemon, lilac and leather are all in this smelly Top Ten.

The well known folk wisdom down our way would concur. Old people also smell of piss and it's not just incontinence - they can no longer smell themselves, and so are oblivious to the rancid shop-clearing miasma that precedes them like a marine platoon.

It's an awful truth that some people are born with anosmia (smell blindness) for one or more odors. In this situation, the individual apparently has a normal sense of smell, but is unable to detect one particular odour regardless of its intensity. This affects a small percentage, perhaps 1% of the population.

Anosmiacs, aside from suffering problems of nutrition, generally cannot smell cheesy feet, body odour, bad breath - so no wonder they are also deaf to the howls of protest which their (few) friends regale them with, never have girl or boyfriends, or physical contact with anyone, develop social pathologies, develop tendencies to explode or implode psychologically, and end up on the streets or in the news for the wrong reasons or dead on the pavement, or just simply rotting in some smelly backwater, which they find perfectly acceptable.

Thankfully, the stimulated disease-free mind frequently escapes this final geriatric chapter. I've known several people who lived happily and healthily into their 80s and 90s who had all their senses intact, and even with fading physical energy had appetite for life undiminished. They were all uniquely sensitive to one particular smell - the smell of bullshit.

The BBC article quotes Professor Tim Jacob, an expert in smell at Cardiff University. He is appalled by a device on sale in the US "...a self-testing Alzheimer's kit based on smell, which I think is unethical and horrifying."

I can picture the advertising now: "A Timely Seasonal Present for the Elderly ! You too can have more room in your home, with the Granny Annex restored to the Games Room, the way it always should have been... "

"Grandma, how do you like your new scent ? I had it specially made for you ! " "Hmmm, it's very nice dear. A little less leather, perhaps..."

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Addendum to the Revocation of US Independence

Attention Subjects of Her Majesty's American Protectorate: Here follows the First Addendum to the Revocation of US Independence.


  • Fast Food

  • Fast Food will henceforth be outlawed. Standing queues in Burger King, McDonalds etc will be replaced by work-out lines and maintained for a period of 45 minutes in order to use up excess calories, and to allow the fat to congeal outside the body prior to consumption. Pizza Deliveries will be made on foot, by the person ordering. Drive-in and Drive-through* "restaurants" will become Jog-in and Jog-through*, and "In" and "Through" will be replaced by "Around". Obesity will soon become a thing of the past and athletes will cease to self-administer performance-enhancing drugs as they won't need them. This tough but necessary measure to begin immediately.

  • Profanity

  • It has come to our notice that our American subjects are labouring* under some misapprehensions regarding the language we have given them and it's correct usage, including the deeming of perfectly functional, basic words to be unworthy of usage in morally upstanding society.

    Profanity has nothing to do with moral behaviour. Abuse and profanity are not the same. Swearing is the natural birthright of all creatures capable of language, and especially ours. These are simple, colourful* and descriptive words and are more than suitable for usage in everyday conversation and such literature as deserves them.

    It is not acceptable to use euphemisms to replace ancient and time-honoured anglo-saxon terms. As in: Freaking Bastard Little Kids! "Freaking" is as ludicrous a replacement for "fucking" as the word "blizzard" or "buzzard" or "bedstead" for "bastard".

    A minimum custodial sentence of 3 months will be therefore imposed upon anyone replacing the word "FUCK" with the word "FREAK".

  • Gay Marriage

  • All Gay people must marry. They can marry anybody they like, any time. But if they don't marry, they will be forced to live a completely straight life, with all the grief and pain that entails.

  • Pro-Life / Pro-Choice

  • Gay men who become pregnant must be permitted to abort, otherwise the sacred heterosexual population balance pre-ordained in Ancient History by Lord Father Jesus God will be subsumed beneath a rampant pink tide of insidious poofterism. Gay women however can continue to do whatever they like, with whom ever they like, for as long as they like, since lesbianism is not recognised or legislated for under British Law.

  • Red / Blue

  • From today, The Former USA will adopt the universally recognised colour* scheme of the political LEFT and the political RIGHT. Remember: REDS are communists, socialists and "lefties" - BLUES are fascists, conservatives and "righties". Subjects of Her Majesty's American Protectorate will not be allowed to take part in any more politics until this basic error is amended.

    *NB: correct spellings of colour, labour, through

    By Order of Sir Humbold Pinstripe, Minister for American Affairs, 14th December, 2004. God Save the Queen.

    Please read the full text of the Revocation here:

    http://international-bicycle-thief.blogspot.com/2004/11/revocation-of-us-independence.html

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    Monday, December 13, 2004

    London Bloggers

    Here's a web directory designed around the Tube Map. Contains some nice stuff:
    "East Putney: Ideally located between Mum, Dad and the kebab shop. Kent: Current site of residence/study. A pain in the arse."

    "A narrative of the life of a supervisor trapped forever in the murky bottom of retail hell."

    and Four Foot Eight by Mike Knell (Stations: Goodge Street, St. Helier) which is really excellent:
    "One very-short story for each station on the London Underground, updated at the rate of one station per day."

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    Saturday, December 11, 2004

    The Snow in Spain Falls Mainly in the Brain

    This bright yellow box has appeared adorning the park. It's full of "GRIT" - this means Winter is really here. And we are Ready for it. People Shall Not Slip on Icy Pavements. By Order of the London Borough of Islington.

    I haven't opened the Grit Box to check the contents, but whatever it is, by the time the cold weather hits, it either won't be enough, or it won't be deployed at the right time or in the correct way, or not in appropriate response to the conditions, or it will be enthusiastically deployed by schoolchildren for other purposes and be everywhere else when needed but in it's nice yellow box.

    In fact this country is notoriously unready for any and all extreme weather, and the merest flurry of snow causes gridlock, commuter hell, hospitals to overflow, and social breakdown. The Grit Box and the thought of Winter is making me pine for Spain.

    Spain contains the biggest British ex-pat community and I can see why. I could live there very happily. It came number 10 in the world's best places to live. I wouldn't mind learning Spanish. It's only 2 hours away from here and I could come back if needs be to say "ola" to my blighty-entrenched pals. The South coast is full of Brits enjoying a pleasant retirement. Which reminds me...

    My now sadly deceased ex GF, whose ring I always wear, had a most amazing and colourful stepfather George. He grew up in London's East End surrounded by the hard core criminals that became glamorised in the 60s - the Krays, etc. - all of whom have been re-glamorised since by films like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He was a talented man, a natural actor, who fended for his entire family from 10 years old, an entrepreneurial spirit who could sell fridges to eskimos. For him, life was a contant drama. He was often on the edge of the criminal scene, occasionally over the edge, but somehow avoided being sucked into it. He told me things late night which (he quietly reminded me in the morning) could get us both killed were I to divulge them. Thankfully, the conversations were always so alchohol-fuelled, I could remember only the graphic details and the humour, never the names. I have tried, but I can't. Thank God for selective memory.

    Now this gentleman had a compulsive and occasionally turbulent nature, although by the time I met him he was somewhat mellowed. During one of the many separations and split-ups with his wife, my ex's Mother, he went to live in Southern Spain. He was hanging out with his old crim mates, and he was partying like there was no tomorrow, living with (his own words) a "gorgeous blonde dolly bird model", spending his time with pop stars (Rod Stewart et al), drinking champagne and cognac, and clubbing every night.

    At one of these clubs, an old buddy from one of the London gangs came up to him and gave him a wrap of powder. "George" he said "You've been drinking for 3 days. You look like you're about to keel over. Take this to the bogs and sort yourself out." He'd never dabbled in drugs, he was a champion boozer, so he didn't really know what to do. But buddy wasn't going to take no. He took himself into a marble-tiled cubicle, and with some energetic hooting snorted the best part of 3 grams of Cocaine in one go.

    He came back feeling much more lively and thanked his mate for the buzz. "Where's the wrap?" his mate grinned. "You what?" said G, "I thought that was all for me!"

    As George told me this story, he cracked up, rolling his eyes, weeping tears of hilarity, rocking with laughter, grinning with the memory of the one time he took drugs. "I was flying ! All over the place, dancing, dragging everyone from club to club, ordering champagne everywhere... fantastic!" His friend, presented with the most confident gregarious talkative man in the world recovered from the annoyance rapidly, forgave him and joined in. It was 2 more days before he slept...

    Names have been changed to protect me...

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    Friday, December 10, 2004

    Daily Spod

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    Bluejacked!

    I went out with Richard to the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) in the Mall to catch the highly spiritual "Seeing God" exhibition. We thought we'd go to the bar first and chill for a while. Then my friend Ellen arrived with her nice husband and friend from Japan, so we talked with them a while and saw so much God in our social life that by the time we were done talking, the exhibition was closed.

    That was OK - we went to Masato in Soho and ate some nice Teryaki chicken in breadcrumbs, then we walked and talked up through Soho taking in the night life. But the evening was made thrilling because I had my first experience of successful BLUEJACKING. I sat in the ICA and sent this image of Ellen to a complete stranger. I felt like a cross between a pirate and a spy. It was naughty like al fresco sex. It was great!

    BLUEJACKING can happen when you have your mobile phone bluetooth wireless connectivity switched on, and your device is "discoverable". People will find you and try to send you unsolicited files. Earlier that day I was on the tube and felt my phone buzzing in my pocket. I ignored it, thinking, it's a calendar reminder. But it wasn't. A group of kids up the end of the carriage were searching for bluejack victims, and one of them had me in his sights. Wow. It felt hilarious. Cheeky bugger! By the time I got off, he was receiving this file: alientone_big_crop.3gp and I was kind of walking slow to make sure he didn't get out of range.

    I stood and searched for devices in the crowds and kept on finding people broadcasting their identities - KASH - R.E.S.P.E.C.T. - mama - K700i- Nokia 6250 - and Unknown. Most transfers require permission but some... ah !!!

    Joel.x - I confess. Richard and I followed you and your friend for 10 minutes along Wardour Street and I sent you 3 images, an audio file and a mad note. You were oblivious. Your phone was my receptacle.

    My guilt is made bearable by the thrill of the secret transfer. Avast there, me hearties, prepared to be boarded !!!

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    Thursday, December 09, 2004

    London Glows




    We like to make a little effort for the fethtive season...

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    Wednesday, December 08, 2004

    An Evening's Displacement Activity

    When you sit down to write that proposal you've spent a month researching for the important meeting the next morning.. it's amazing how the guitar song you've been doodling for a couple of days comes together.. the lyrics and the melody just sync up right, and suddenly you sound like you again instead of David Gray meeting Neil Young and discussing Lemonjelly in Beyonce's kitchen.. then you find that email address for the lovely man who bought you that book two years ago and you start the heart-felt letter you should have written - even finish it - then the mud on the shoes in the hallway is dry, so you go outside to knock them clean.. then you're just a little bit too hungry to continue immediately, so you make toast while you tidy up the desktop and do some of that digital filing you could have done anytime in the last 4 months.. then you have a REALLY good idea (it's the toast) about how to finish the song at the same as realising that if you put in an extra 15 mins on the filing, you won't lose those research files ever again.. oh shit, yes the research.

    Ah-hum. Deep breath. Word up. OK. Title. It's nearly midnight. I've been here since 8pm. Everything is very tidy. I haven't washed my tea cup though.. no, that's just A DISTRACTION. Oh I just got a text.. how interesting ! "How is it going ? I love you xxx" I am overwhelmed by the kindness, suddenly too sentimental to continue. My tired eyes are swimming. My back is aching. I blow my nose. Here we go. Maybe I'll just go to bed and write this in the morning. Hold on: I could take it to bed, I have a laptop and a wireless network. No, that way lies madness ! Nothing good can come from this. At least get your first page completed.

    First page: is shit. Reads like an obituary. I wish I had all the drugs I took when I didn't need them. Come on.

    OK. That's better. 3 good lines. 15 more required. I wonder how my cactus flower is developing.. No. Concentrate.

    Damn, I'm on the web ! GET OFF THE DAMN WEB ! Quit the browser. Boom. There. Good. Gone. Research. Fuck, shit, I didn't save that web page with all the stats in it. Bugger, hope it's in the history... it is. Great. Save it. Maybe print it. No juuuuuust save it. If I print it, I can look at it and have something else on the screen. THIS IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA ! It's 1:30am and I am looking at half a page of introduction, some printed stats, too many inter-related notes, and nine and a half pages to go.

    WHO STOLE MY TIME ? Procrastination didn't, he always gets blamed, but HE WAS NOWHERE ! It was Displacement - he stole me from myself to make sure I didn't suffer too much by doing the work I needed to do before 2am.

    3:07 am. Done most of it, 10 pages full of typos, repetition, unprovable assertion, spontaneous invention, and hope. It's possibly the best business plan ever written. 4 and a half hours desperate avoidance cannot dull my gladness. We will all be fabulously rich and simultaneously save the planet. The blessed, beautiful, wonderful, precious huge planet of glorious sleep.

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    Tuesday, December 07, 2004

    The Inevitable Blog Explosion Post

    I have tried to avoid it but I can't. Using Blog Explosion has done my brain in. I keep reading other people's comments about using Blog Explosion. I keep commenting on Blogs. Now, I find myself doing the washing up and thinking about the phenomenon, so I may as well chip in with my tuppenyworth.

    1.THE MYTH OF MORE READERS

    Blog Explosion is fuelled by blogging people who want readers. This is how they market themselves. The system relies on you staying a minumum 30 seconds before clicking through to next one. You get (they claim) 2:1 traffic.

    Your activity earns you "credits" which buy you more visits, or banner impressions, whichever you decide. However, THE CHANCES ARE THAT YOUR BLOG IS NOT BEING READ. It's just part of the churn. The churn is illusory, and just gives the impression (no pun) that you have lots of activity on your blog. Only about 2% or 3% of this translates into readers, if you are lucky. It's QUALITY you really want, not QUANTITY. The visitors that you want are the ones who actually read your writing, and respond.

    2.WRITING SUFFERS AS A RESULT

    Pre-occupation with readership is destroying content. I can't remember where I read it, but someone pointed out that she (I think it was a she) had been clicking away for endless hours, and kept coming back to the same blogs - and they HAD NOT BEEN UPDATED. She was urging bloggers to spend less time surfing member blogs and not to desert their own. I would make the additional point that the system rewards those who surf a lot using the BE system, so their blogs have a greater chance of appearing in the members window. Which means, they cannot be writing as much, and / or, they have not got a life. Maybe they never did have, but that's another story. (NB to self: get a life.)

    But, although I agreed with her post, ARE WE SURE THAT WRITING ABOUT BLOGGING IS WORTHWHILE ? I suspect blogs about blogging are very boring to very many people now, and very shortly, will be pretty meaningless to even the most dedicated blogger. There are SO MANY GOOD SUBJECTS out there, why on earth does BE occupy us for more than a moment ? (NB: This is my very own BE moment... )

    3."FREE" BLOG EXPLOSION = YOU SPEND CASH

    Someone else pointed out that the amount of banners your credits bought went down from 40 to 25. Last night it was 28, so I guess it varies, probably depending on usage. But their point was: ULTIMATELY THIS IS ABOUT MONEY. He said, in the end, I saved my index finger and bought credits. Of course he did. That's what will happen to all of us, eventually.

    4.BLOGGING CLOGGING

    I have a good ADSL network connection from a major ISP with excellent technical support. I frequently get this (click pic to enlarge):



    When I first joined, I couldn't see the top bar properly. That seems to have cleared. Now I am earning credits, but I CANNOT SEE ANY SITES AT ALL ! Which undermines the whole system. BE tell me it's my browser (it's not), my network (it's not) my Mac (it's not). Read my support ticket. They say they have nobody else with my experiences.. ? Comments please.

    5.RATING SYSTEM SUSPENDED

    This is surely a good thing about BE - you can rate blogs. Except - it's switched off !! It's the system's achilles heel because it was revealing who you are to other people by making your voting record public. Votes should equal more traffic - except that it's an easy thing to abuse and it will bring out the zealots.. OK, maybe I don't want people to realise I always give 1 to Nazis and 10 to anything I think is going to save the world (or at least my sleep-deprived, caffeine-addled part of it) - but I think this feature is scaring the actual builders of BE, since they are taking a long time to change the way this works.

    6.COMPULSIVE / OBSESSIVE

    It is. I surf, you surf, we surf, we check our stats. We see them rise. We surf more. We stay home more to surf. We check our stats. They are up. We surf more. We skip meals. We skip work. That can wait, I'm surfing. I'll go to bed in 10 minutes. No, I found a good blog I actually want to read. Shit, I could have clicked AND read it. Fuck, I missed a number. Now I wasted 30 secs. This blog is shit. Shall I rate it zero ? This blog is cool. There are too many cool blogs, i can't read them all unless I stay up forever and eat nothing but amphetamines. My fingers are sore and my eyes ache. I must sleep. Must assign credits. Must get more traffic. Must use credit card. See the way it works ?!!!

    7.BLOG EXPLOSION = BIG HAPPY "COMMUNITY"

    No it doesn't. It's more like a class of 8 year olds all waving their single-page essay in the air, yelling "me! me! me!" in the effort to get Teacher to read it out. I suffer badly at least 25% of the time I am surfing. I just don't NEED any more exposure to Christianity, Pro-Lifers, Right Wingers, Goths, Stay-at-home Moms, Angsty Teens hu Karnt Spell, Blogs about Blogs, Happily Married Americans, Gadgety Geeks, Belligerent Bigots, or Trite Moralists. I get plenty enough of that at home.

    8.BLOG EXPLOSION = WANNABE GRAVEYARD

    Yes, I know, that is harsh. But I put myself in that category, so I am at least not hypocritical. Who do you write for ? Do you care about your readers ? Does it matter who they are ? Do you enter into dialogue ? Do you express yourself ? Does it help you ? Does it help ANYBODY ELSE ? Does anybody actually care ? If you are miraculously successful and / or extraordinarily gifted, then you will be immune to this charge. But what is your measure of success ? (I feel a web poll coming on...)

    BE is predicated on the basis that people who want to promote themselves and their blogs will use it. Who is likely to succeed within this system ? It will end up being either the self-obsessed, the idle, or the wealthy. Hard working, less-than-rich good writers with day jobs need not apply.

    My advice to you Blog Explosioners is: for some real readership, surf the net. Use Google / Yahoo to find content on topics you are actually interested in. Turn on the Blogger nav bar, click "next blog". Leave comments with your URL. Swap links manually. Make friends. Submit to search engines. If you must, buy banner advertising OUTSIDE of Blog Explosion - your readers may then actually want to read your writing.

    I am not alone in my thinking: read this site.

    I am now off to write a piece of music called "The Inevitable Blog Explosion Post". Bring on the cornet. May the Lord have mercy on my blog.

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    Monday, December 06, 2004

    Comedy Research

    I've got myself a great task: to research comedy for a business. I've been working too hard doing my day job the last two years to be completely up-to-date with contemporary comedy and this gives me great excuse to catch up. So I've bought DVDs of the most recent best comedy that's been on British TV, as well as reviewing the stuff I already like, and I am laughing at them at all. I am happy to be living in a comedy golden age.

    Currently watching "The Smoking Room" - having watched "Dead Ringers" and "The Kumars at No. 42" on BBC this evening. Earlier today I watched "Marion and Geoff" DVDs (series 1 & 2) by Rob Brydon and Hugo Blick - peerless, pathetic, side splitting and wonderfully observant.

    Next it's "Little Britain" and "Monkey Dust" on DVD. I've seen snatches of both - both very good - both highly rated. I've actually become quite a patient person I realise, because I would previously have rushed out and made sure to have caught both as soon as they hit. Now I am looking forward to KWITHMUTH, bolstered by chuckles and the tickling of ribs, made thus immune to the annual mawkish spend-fest that people fool themselves is somehow a good thing. He he he...

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    Great Balls of Fire

    I was going to write a pithy piece about the government of Thailand (Title: Political Litter) who are dropping origami paper birds on the Muslim south in an effort to pacify the population, which drew parallels with propaganda efforts elsewhere and debated Buddhist / Muslim cultural differences. Then, I was going to write about the new efforts to push climate change to the top of the global agenda in the face of US denial (Title: Hot Water). Then I was going to write about the culture of over-prescription of anti-depressant medication in Britain (Title: No Pills, No Gills) drawing on my own childhood experiences. Then, I was going to write about my lovely weekend. (Title: I Was There).

    No, no, no, all far too serious for a Monday morning. THIS is what I want to share:



    Goodness Gracious !

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    Sunday, December 05, 2004

    Highgate

    Highgate Hill occupies the same position in the North as Crystal Palace Hill does in the South. From there, on a fine day, you can see the place I grew up, about 10 miles south. These two hills rise up as the twin lips of the Thames bowl. The air is noticeably cleaner out of the fumes which lie on bad days like a brown stain across the city, and the climate is about 2 degrees cooler.

    At the top of Highgate Hill are Highgate Woods, hemmed in by roads and houses, but still somehow viable and operating, full of life, a vital public green space where traffic noise decreases and children and adults and dogs can run steaming and puffing, get covered in mud and lichen stains, and convince themselves briefly that the huge industrial metropolis is an illusion caused by lack of trees.



    Where I grew up, I did most of my playing in parks and woods. Highgate reminds me very much of Spa Woods, the same mix of beech and birch, oak, ash and holly, nettle, elder and bramble, and a wide grassy place in the middle for games. It's about the same size, too, but somehow more organised than Spa Woods, which always managed to hide odd back entrances to dark Victorian gardens, deep hollows which were excellent for letting off bangers and removing eyebrows, and it even had badgers living there, 380 feet above sea level.



    I've always loved silver birch, and I'm fascinated by it's peeling bark. You can write on it; it's great as a firelighter. It looks amazing, and in the autumn and winter, once the green leaves are down and brown, it's shine and colour contrasts vividly with the mosses and fungi.

    From the top of Crystal Palace Hill, as a child I used to look across at the miles and miles of roofs and roads, thinking of the Great North Wood that gave it's name to Upper, South and West Norwood, wishing the people would disappear and that one miraculous morning, I would wake up to find the city had been totally replaced by woodland.

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    Saturday, December 04, 2004

    The Violinist

    I try not to go on and on about the middle-east, but it keeps on grabbing my attention. I previously discussed it online here, and here.

    Israel shocked by image of soldiers forcing violinist to play at roadblock

    Chris McGreal in Jerusalem Monday November 29, 2004 The Guardian

    Here's a short video of it that you have to see.

    For some reason, this incident where a Palestinian man was forced to play the violin at an Israeli checkpoint has horrified the Israeli nation. I don't agree with the whole of this analysis but it's thought provoking from inside the Israeli psyche, and I quote from it here:

    ...after the incident was videotaped by Jewish women peace activists, it prompted revulsion among Israelis not normally perturbed about the treatment of Arabs.

    The rightwing Army Radio commentator Uri Orbach found the incident disturbingly reminiscent of Jewish musicians forced to provide background music to mass murder. "What about Majdanek?" he asked, referring to the Nazi extermination camp.

    The critics were not drawing a parallel between an Israeli roadblock and a Nazi camp. Their concern was that Jewish suffering had been diminished by the humiliation of Mr Tayem.

    Yoram Kaniuk, author of a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander, wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the soldiers responsible should be put on trial "not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust".

    "Of all the terrible things done at the roadblocks, this story is one which negates the very possibility of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. If [the military] does not put these soldiers on trial we will have no moral right to speak of ourselves as a state that rose from the Holocaust," he wrote.

    "If we allow Jewish soldiers to put an Arab violinist at a roadblock and laugh at him, we have succeeded in arriving at the lowest moral point possible. Our entire existence in this Arab region was justified, and is still justified, by our suffering; by Jewish violinists in the camps."


    Personally, I find the pumping of a 13 year old girl full of bullets as she lay on the ground, and the desecration of Palestinian corpses by putting their heads on poles and lit cigarettes in their mouths to be much worse. But is is eerily similar to the Nazi humiliations perpetrated on the Jews, and this is not the first time Jewish / Israeli commentators have said this.

    The Justice Minister Yosef Lapid recently said that a TV picture of an elderly Palestinian woman in the rubble reminded him of his grandmother (in Eastern Europe under Nazi occupation) and was censured for saying so: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3740649.stm

    The constant humiliation and suffering endured by Palestinians every day is one reason why Marwan Barghouti has a real chance of being elected, even stuck in his prison cell.

    Recommended reading:

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    Friday, December 03, 2004

    1,000 Years Young

    Scientists at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence project at the University of Cambridge are predicting we will be able to "live to 1,000".

    What implications does that have for music, especially blues music, which relies on tragedy and death for it's best songs ? Without the dead and dying, how are we going to be reminded of the awful pain of existence which produces the spark of genius from the profound awareness of mortality ?

    Conversely, will we be able to boogie at a middle-aged 500 years old bash without embarassing our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren and their friends ?

    And, by all that is holy and remotely stylish, if you did live to be 1,000 years old, would you want to look like Aubrey ?



    With this in mind, I have composed the following blues:

    "I woke up this morning, I was one thousand years old,
    I woke up this morning, was one thousand years old
    If I lived one thousand years longer, I'd still look like a real asshole"


    From the top now...

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    Thursday, December 02, 2004

    End of an Era

    File under: Ex-hippy

    He tried to shag my ex-gf in Finsbury Park.

    Jon Cainer: No Brainer. The only real hippy astrologer in Britain.

    Hello Jonathan,
    According to Indian tradition we are all now living through the "Kaliyuga"; the darkest era in history, symbolised by Kali, goddess of destruction and transformation. The Kaliyuga (or age of Kali) is supposed to last several thousand years after which a Satyuga (or wise, enlightened era) will begin. Experts disagree though, about when we should expect this. I was amazed to hear about those three recent pentagrams in the sky. The pentagram is the traditional symbol of Kali! Might this be a sign that her age is about to end?
    Regards, Adrian

    Dear Adrian...
    That's what I suspect.


    Such pearls of wishdom drop from his lips that I think the man may be an oyster. But still, I like the bald Saggitarian Cainer, and I cannot but admire his eternal indefatigable optimism, and I approve of his persistant popularising of the more esoteric strands of Global Kulture.

    Does that make me an unpatriotic socialist wanker hippy ?

    Or commie cosmic five-knuckle shuffler ? Or what ??

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    Wednesday, December 01, 2004

    Nudes

    Blogs about blogs about blogs about blogs about blogs about blogs...

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    Socialist Wanker

    I think I have found the ideal place for me to express my political opinions and gather strength to fight the forces of darkness. The only way to beat anything is to join with others. And/Or, the only way to beat them is to join them.

    Edmund Burke:

    All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.


    Therefore, and on that basis alone, I am proud to link to and participate in the best-named radical site on the internet, Socialist Wanker.

    Long may it's left-leaning onanism lean lustfully left.

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