Saturday, May 27, 2006

Crossed Wires

I'm getting fed up with crossed wires. They seem to be everywhere, tripping us up, untidy useless bits of thin stuff which catch our semantic ankles and cause accidents.

There are no potatoes, which are given in the wrong anger or in sadness on this beautiful day of the peace and the sock commodity. See what I mean? Crossed wires, even in a blog post.

I seem these days to spend too much time either uncrossing wires, pointing out that this wire crosses that wire, or looking ahead down the wire to see future points of scrambled confusion in an often vain and frequently thankless attempt to prevent the crossing. I sometimes feel like King Canute of Crossed Wires, standing firm as the onrushing waves of wire mock my idiocy, other times like John the Baptist preaching the Messiah in full knowledge of my own wired disposability.

Once my friend was in trouble. I knew he needed help, but he was too worried by everything that beset him to ask for it. Perhaps he was also too proud and did not want to show that he needed help, perhaps too weakened by circumstances to see the terrible danger he was in. Either way, I knew that if he didn't get help, he problems would only get much worse. I started to worry about helping him, but I knew that his problems were so great, and his isolation so immense, that the chances of crossed wires were high.

I was in therapy at the time, and I brought it up at my weekly session. My therapist smiled as explained my concerns, how powerless I felt to intervene, how nonetheless I felt obliged to help. What should I do? I asked him; If nobody tried to help, he would succumb to dark, evil forces. If I did nothing, I would be consumed with guilt. If I intervened, he would likely misread my intention and become angry.

"It could be worse," he said. "You could be Catholic, or worse, Jewish."

I was startled by this. My therapist was eminent, intelligent, tolerant. Was he joking? Was he serious? I scrtunised his implacable face across the room and I started to suspect crossed wires.

Then he calmly told me this joke: How do you make a Jewish princess angry? Fuck her up the arse and then wipe your cock on the curtains!

My jaw dropped. He smiled and said, "Time's up."

I left the session with no solution but a filthy joke, which was the therapy I needed.

I wasted no further energy. I went straight round to my friend, demanded an audience, ignored his protests, helped him, brooking no resistance, and wiped my feet on the way out.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Apple and Nike have teamed up to produce an audio running shoe, as the Nano meets the Trano. Now isn't that an inspired pairing of two behemoth brands?

Picking up on this excellent commercial initiative, I have approached potato-selling chain Spudulike with a killer concept that can only be a certain high-street winner: Podulike ®©, the pairing of potatoes and podcasts.

Here's why potatoes and podcasts are destined to be joined in eternal savoury bliss:
  • a spudulike potato provides about one third of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C
  • there are only 25 calories per ounce in a spudulike potato
  • spudulike potatoes provide B1, niacin and iron (93% of iron in potatoes is usable by the body)
  • spudulike potatoes are low in sodium (that's salt to you and me) and virtually fat free!
  • the spudulike potato is high on fibre which is doubled when you eat the skin
  • spudulike potatoes have value as a supplementary source of good quality protein
On the other hand:
  • a podcast provides about one third of the recommended daily dose of culture
  • there are zero calories per ounce in a podcast
  • podcasts provide music, review and commentary (93% of speech in podcasts is usable by the brain)
  • podcasts are low in advertising (that's time-shift time-wasting to you and me) and virtually commerce free!
  • the podcast is high in fashionable technology which is doubled when you transfer it onto an iPod
  • podcasts have value as a alternative source of uncensored information

Obviously some technical R&D is necessary, including developing digestible Wi-Fi, edible earbuds, and heat-resistant RSS, but it should be only a matter of time before we are able to taste many more audio flavours in our baked potato podcasts than just Curry.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Scouse Tortoise Steals Massive Raspberry

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Islington May

Looking west towards the Caledonian Road, the first warm sun hasn't yet produced leaves on these heavily pollarded urban plane trees.

Dandelions are always the first to go from flower to seed.

This door inspired the colour of my own front entrance.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sick Puppy

I've had to stop the Mrs Sunderbury story just at the point when the drama is about to start happening. There's nothing I can do about it. I have introduced all but one of the main characters and some fun shit is about to hit the blurred and whirring blades of a rapidly rotating fan, but I have started to write a book here, not a short story, and I need to take weeks off from everything else I am doing if I am going to do this fiction justice. Plus, I am sick. I have a head cold. The late spring is making me sneeze so much that I didn't notice the difference between the virus and the allergy, and now I am in bed with chest aching and wheezing. Fuck it.

Still the fiction will be returned to, and anyway, it did its job, by returning my imagination to me, which was in danger of being subsumed by the concerns of Mammon. Mammon is the name of my puppy. Do you like him? He's cute isn't he. Anyway, if you've been following the story, apologies, it gets better, there's a great couple of twists in it, and I'm sure I'll finish it eventually, just not now. Right now, I have to blow my nose and lie down.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Kylie's Magic Bum

Everyone loves Kylie. We were gutted when we heard about her battle with the big "C". Personally I've always had a decent regard for her after she threw off her years of Neighbours, came to the Land of Poms and delighted us with her squeaky throw-away pop nonsense.

But mythic Kylie isn't appreciated by academics, bards, or heavyweight literati. She doesn't appear in "quality" papers too much. I've never seen Will Self read a self-penned ode to her, nor heard a serious critique of her broad appeal, except by hyperbole-driven gay men on ecstasy.

I met Kylie once, at a muso bash. She has a lovely, diminutive frame, she was polite, warm, and clean, and she smelt of soap. Kylie seemed to me a modern Doris Day - fresh and innocent, yet naturally sexy. Her behind is everything you think it is - pert and perfect, and a suitable finish to very nice legs.

What people don't realise, not academics, not bards, not besotted gay men, not loyal female fans, is that she has been touched by the magic frond of the otherworld, the Dreamtime. It happened one day on the set of Neighbours - one of the crew who was half-aboriginal saw her briefly undressed, and the posterior perfection implanted itself in his limbic consciousness and grew like a root. He was the grandson of a magic man; his fascination led him to spontaneous spell-weaving, which he did almost without knowing he was doing it, moving the camera in a certain dance, using the lights, the makeup, the script, even the theme music, as his deep magic took on a subtle inevitability. Since then, Kylie's Magic Bum has appeared to many people, saving them from grievous harm, on numerous occasions.

Once upon a time, when I was riding my bicycle very fast down a steep hill I didn't know too well, I came to a sudden turn, miscalculated, and hit a rut. In a split second I was hurtling through the air, over a rickety fence, and falling headlong down a steep slope.. as I flew, time seemed to slow, and I realised that I was in mortal danger.

Below me I could see rocks and spiky gorse, and a sheer drop onto serious looking pine trees. I began to see my life flash before me in a totally cliched way. "This is a fucking cliche!" I thought. "What a way to go!" Just as I started to give up, I heard a sound in the whoosh of wind... the sound of a distant hit.. the sound of "Na Na Na, Na Na Na Naa Naa, Na Na Na, Na Na Na Naa Naa..." and as the hard rocky ground hurtled towards me, twin shapes, soft, yet firm, giving, yet strong appeared, as if by magic, so that instead of snapping my neck and caving in my unprotected skull, the impact of face on rock was cushioned, and the immense kinetic energy of the free-fall was absorbed.

I rolled over and lay still, breathing hard, my heart thumping in my chest, only the most minor of scratches upon my bare arms, and a bruised knee to show for my surely fatal accident. I could not believe I was still alive after falling over 100 metres having left my bicycle at 40 kph.

I rose and looked about me. I could no longer see the twin shapes that had broken my fall; but in my mouth was the distinct coppery taste of Coopers lager; and in the rustle of the pine around me, I heard a diminishing refrain: "Na Na Na, Na Na Na Naa Naa, Na Na Na, Na Na Na Naa Naa..."

There are many more stories of how Kylie's Magic Bum has appeared to people in moments of need - this is but one of them.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Necklace And Two Sets Of Tears

Episode eight of Mrs Sunderbury And The Gold Earring. The story starts here

Ilona and her cousin Mrs Abigail Sunderbury sat in the sunny corner of her otherwise dark garden on two of four heavy garden chairs. On the wrought-iron black-painted table sat a teapot sporting a cheery rasta-style cosy, broad red, gold and green knitted stripes brightening the scene with garish abandon. Abigail was explaining at length to Ilona the loss of her earring. Ilona sipped her tea and looked through the rising steam at her short, round cousin, saying "mmm" and "ahh" and "really?" at appropriate moments, but otherwise letting her guest vent her spleen uninterrupted.

"I honestly don't know how it could have happened. One moment I was just standing up ready to disembark, then the train jerked, I grabbed hold of the nice boy in front of me..."

Ilona's right eyebrow raised fractionally, but Abigail was oblivious to the suggestion that she might have made a passionate move in public.

"... and next thing I know, the earring has completely disappeared, can't see it anywhere, have to get off the train..." Her voice trailed off into uncharacteristic wistfulness, and she reached into her purse, and pulled out the remaining gold hoop, which glinted deeply in the warm sunshine. "I've had these over thirty-five years..."

Ilona was surprised at the sudden sadness that filled Abigail, as her round, smooth face blinked in the sunlight, her dark eyes visibly brimming with tears. She was not used to Abigail showing anything other than implacable determination mixed with varying degrees of self-satisfaction, and strangely, Ilona who was used to being the more relaxed of the two cousins found herself coughing and fidgeting and reaching for inanities.

"My dear, it happens. Shit happens."

Just at that moment, there was the loud sound of a car from the other side of the house, a great revving roar with a dangerous-sounding whine that reminded Ilona of bombs and bullets. Abigail dabbed at her eyes, and Ilona, distracted and thankful for it, said, "Let me get you something, dear, I won't be a minute."

"I'm fine, I'm fine," said Abigail, "Whatever is that awful noise?"

"I'll see," answered Ilona, and she touched Abigail's dabbing arm, rose and walked across the daisy and dandelion-covered lawn towards the house. She had in mind to give Abigail a necklace from home, a gorgeous piece of Austro-Hungarian Empire, a relic somehow saved from the ravages of the twentieth century. She had intended to give it to Abigail for her sixtieth birthday since she never wore it and although it was valuable and an heirloom had no special love of it; but she was moved to see her dumpy cousin so affected by her loss, and spontaneously decided that this was the time.

Entering the kitchen she walked through to the front of the house, as the noise increased. The neighbour's car was obviously having some kind of probem, and worse, she could see that husband and wife were in the middle of an argument, he red-faced, contorted, her white-faced, doll-faced, passive, leaking tears. Smoke, or steam - she couldn't determine - came from under the bonnet of their standard people carrier. As she watched, he reached into the car and switched off the engine, which whined down to a stop, backfiring once, loudly. They both jumped, and so did Ilona. She didn't like sudden bangs; they reminded her of borders.

She started to rummage around in the kitchen, looking in her stash places for the necklace. She was far too savvy to keep valuables in a drawer or jewellery box, and several of her multitude of caddies, pots, baskets and airtight preserve jars contained precious items. The noises outside died down, she heard a car door slam.

Good, good she thought, leave her alone... let her be miserable if she wants. Pulling her small kitchen steps over the tiled floor, she trod upward and her hand reached to a battered blue and white biscuit tin decorated in willow pattern. She lifted and shook it - something rattled inside. "There we are," she half-breathed, half-murmured, and stepped down.

She took out the necklace, unwrapped it from a wind of thin cotton lint, and held it up to the light. Its intricate ancient cuts and fastenings really were from another era, when horses drew carts, people knew their places, and two world wars had yet to make a mockery of morals. It really is beautiful, she thought, but she knew that giving it to Abigail was the right thing to do, and the anticipation of the gift gave her a feeling of satisfaction. Abigail would get far more out of owning it than she ever had.

Ilona turned smiling towards the back door, and the front doorbell rang.

End episode 8.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Virtual Junkie

Episode seven of Mrs Sunderbury And The Gold Earring. The story starts here

Mary Shervington stood shivering in a toilet and tried to clean herself up. Being a junkie was like living in a virtual world, she thought, except that the world plugged itself into your DNA and took over. She looked into a soap-spattered mirror and pushed the soap dispenser. A reluctant gob of bright shiny pink dripped into her small hand. She had no nails, her knuckles were ripped from where she had vainly attempted to defend herself the previous night. Or was it night? She had no idea of how long she had been in that subterranean hell.

Her body felt like it had something else in it, not precious Afghan opiates, but something foul and manufactured in a Dutch lab by weirdos. She shuddered and stifled another retch as the acrid sweetness of the soap seared her nose. She washed her face and neck, cleaning away blood and snot, staring straight ahead at herself, junkie piece of shit she could hear in her head, you junkie piece of shit.

She had begged twenty pence to get into these toilets, and she knew they were due for an inspection in five, and so she began to hurry. No plug, so grabbing some paper towels she blocked up the sink and half-filled it with water. Then she took a breath and plunged her head into the water, pulling her hair with her fingers to wash out the dank smells of basement and smoke and men. She could just about fit her head into the tiny sink.

Five minutes later, wet but clean, still shivering, she stood upright and admired herself coldly. Not bad for a piece of junkie shit. Her blonde hair was tied back behind her skull, revealing fashionably gaunt cheekbones. Junkie chic thought Mary bitterly, which idiot ever invented that? She couldn't hide the bruising without makeup, and her leg was still bad. She needed to score fairly quickly or the cramps would start in earnest. Pushing thoughts about what she was about to do out of her consciousness, she pulled herself up to her full five foot five, and pushed her way through the heavy swing doors, blowing a kiss to the CCTV as she left.

End episode 7

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Ilona Considers Black

Episode six of Mrs Sunderbury And The Gold Earring. The story starts here

Ilona stood naked looking at herself in the tall wardrobe mirror. She looked pretty good for her age, she considered. She was fifty eight, not that she cared or worried. Her tall frame stood without much evidence of the obscene drag of gravity, except the obvious - buttocks, breasts, the lug-lug under the chin. Stroking her smooth unwrinkled stomach, she wondered whether the exhausting process of motherhood which seemed to turn girls into middle-aged women overnight at the age of thirteen in this country had anything to do with it. Not that she hadn't tried...

Ilona crossed over to the wardrobe and took a calf-length green dress from a hanger, slipping it over her neck past the dyed-red frizz of unmanageable hair, and it fell easily onto her shoulders. She stepped back and regarded herself once more. The clothed version looked back at her, quizzical and confident. If only she knew, thought Ilona, how very attractive she had been, Abigail would not be the spinsterish frump she was now... you would never imagine she had once been married, cohabiting, sexual.

Ilona had until recently ensured her own sexual fulfilment by maintaining several discrete contacts at a distance of some miles; but although she found the sex pleasant enough, in the past few years she had begun to question whether it was really worth the hassle - so much creeping about, so many hotel rooms and bar bills and the odd fraught phone call when wives, other lovers caught wind, always ending in sudden recrimination - self, or otherwise - after which a perfectly amicable arrangement would either get thrown like a bag of garden peas into the freezer, or else be abandoned altogether. She wished people could be rational about their physical needs, and so decided to be rational about her own. Life was calmer now, if a little boring, and she appreciated that.

She looked at herself in the green dress, sighed, and decided to change it for black. Less comfortable, but she did not want to spend time mmm-ing and ahhh-ing to Abigail's endless, bottled-up neurosis dressed as if she was going out, how did the local kids say it? On the pull. She looked too gorgeous, she had to admit. It was either black, she decided, or a white doctor's coat.

She started rifling through her underwear drawer, half-looking, half-thinking about past lovers, and she looked vacantly out of the bay window, across to her neighbours, a couple in their 40s, in the driveway now, debating something rather stiffly over the car. They were stuck, she could tell. She knew that he was either looking elsewhere, or wanted to. It was an instinct honed over many years. Oh, he was loyal alright, they even loved each other, she didn't doubt; but the loins knew, the heart knew, the sinews and the straining muscles, they all knew that he had more to give than she could receive, and the strain was showing, like cracks in rootftiles letting the water in, leaking slowly into the attic room above the bed. She smiled at this analogy, and wondered absent-mindedly whether she might persuade him to visit the attic for a little inspection. Amused at her ruse, she whisked a pair of vivid pink cotton underwear from the drawer, sat on the bed and pulled them on. Oh, she wasn't dead yet! she chuckled.

The doorbell rang, and Ilona started, looked up at the clock. "Bugger!" she said, then called down, "Abigail?"

"Hi... hi... It's me... " called her cousin from the porch. Ilona heard the noise of a car driving away. She must have got a cab from the station. Time was she would not have spent her money on such senseless luxuries, thought Ilona, she must be about ready to retire.

"Coming!!" she cried, pulling on dark red socks, "with you in a second!"

Despite her resignation, she found herself warm and happy to see her cousin, short round Abigail, standing proudly in the brick arch. They embraced, Ilona dropping down several inches to put her fine, diagonal cheeks against the round face, once, twice, three times. Holding her, Ilona felt her cousin's physical tension, she quivered like a wooden ruler. Ilona drew back and looked into Abigail's face, saw a note of tragedy underneath the usual determination.

"Abigail.. are you OK?" she asked.

"Yes, yes, just had a bit of an accident on the tube. Nothing, nothing, I'm fine, just lost my earring." Abigail stomped past Ilona and into the hall, her shoes clacking on the dark parquet, clutching her enormous black bag.

"Lovely to see you! Let's have tea in the garden," suggested Ilona gently.

End episode 6

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Saturday, May 06, 2006


Dear Reader,

The story of Mrs Sunderbury and the Gold Earring has been paused for a week.

My friend Loosely sent me Hanuman. She says that he is very bright as has 5 brains. I have asked him to assist me and I hope to be able to come back to you soon with more fiction.

Thank you for your forebearance.



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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We Media Fringe Meeting 2006

This evening I attended the We Media fringe meeting to which the very nice Robin Hamman invited me. Neil "Britcaster" Dixon was also there, acting in his capacity as itinerant BBC reporter and I was armed with a minidisk to catch the first hour or so of the guest speakers, who were:

*Dr Chris Yapp, Head of Public Sector Innovation, Microsoft
*Suw Charman, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
*Ben Metcalfe ( /
*Michael Tippett, founder of
Tim Ireland, online marketing expert and activist who blogs at
Paul Evans who blogs at
Neil Dixon, creator of
A political blogger who goes by the name of "Guido Fawkes" (

The speakers marked * are on this MP3 recording (67 minutes, unedited but strongly compressed - 27MB).

What most struck me about the meeting was how BBC-oriented the entire thing was - this post was nearly called "an evening with the WE BBC". One of the more interesting parts of the recording is Ben Metcalfe talking about the BBC's plans to place advertising on its foreign-served news site - activists please note.

Chris Yapp from Microsoft gave a pretty upbeat "pep talk" about convergence and illustrated that both children "digital natives" and older people - "digital immigrants" had roles to play in developing usage of the new media. I disagree with his view of older people. I am 44. I have been making audio recordings since I was ten years old and got hold of my brother's cheap, lightweight Japanese cassette recorder and a condenser microphone. I've been producing multi-media since before the term was coined. This articulation is not a new thing - it's just that finally businessmen, bureaucrats, technocrats have begun to pick up on what we've all been doing perfectly naturally for years.

Michael Tippet explained his citizen photo journalism, but had the misfortune to begin as hunger took its toll on the weary audience which dwindled from around 40 to a hard core of 20 or so, and some of the more subtle and fascinating things about the way people make news and take it away from news organisations failed to be addressed.

Tim Ireland explained entertainingly and intelligently how blogging rules the search engines, but still, he came across like a bit of a wanker - he showed us his JPEG Baby masturbation animation, which served mostly to lose the few remaining women in the audience.

Suw Charman has the role of online moderator for the We Media conference. Apparently - and Suw was not the only one to say this - the conference was, on day one at least, pretty awful. She was articulate in her despair regarding the them-and-us attitude, dismissive of the greats assembled on stage, and their lack of interaction with conference floor and the outside world. Her views on the differences between the traditional media and the truly interactive, fundamentally reciprocal nature of blogs, podcasts etc were put with clear emphasis on the need for the big corporations to understand what it is that they are attempting to deal with.

After she had finished speaking, I felt real hope - Suw is somebody just like me, I saw, telling everyone that it was bollocks, and then explaining why it was bollocks, unafraid, loud, clear and truthful. Good on you Suw.

Check out the conference tomorrow May 4th 2006 - add your input, or communicate with Suw direct by logging onto IRC Freenode channel WEMEDIA.

For those regular readers who are wondering where the fiction has gone - it's still here! More is coming! But real life is insisting I cover these events.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Pod of Funk Number Five

Pod of Funk Five, for your listening pleasure.

Talk of cheques and lavish gifts is bravado. My pennies back from all this endeavour = precisely zero so far.

Still, I loves ya, me old ducks, and its all worth it. This one contains a spontaneous muse on Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

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Up The Workers!

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