Saturday, September 30, 2006

Everybody Needs Succour (But Only Some Of Us Can Spell It)



I've been working on a speech that I have to make next week, and of course, anything I can do which distracts me from my task is infinitely appealing. So, I am cruising through MySpace, remarking upon the way it has brought me back into expressive internet contact with a whole tranche of my younger friends, for whom blogging is a scary place full of verbalists who love a lit-spat... and laughing at the way every musician band and artist in the entire world now believes that MySpace will be the cure of all their financial ills - and thinking that the Arctic Monkeys have a lot to answer for.

MySpace shows that the "overnight success" myth has never been more alive - which is sad, since behind all such stories there are untold tales of struggle, rejection and disappointment. And anyway, that isn't the point about these "social networking" sites - the commercial successes which stem from MySpace are the exceptions, and it's only journalists and money men who get excited by them. I however am a much more typical internet user, still a punter despite my inside knowledge (for what that's worth) and I regularly get excited (especially when I am meant to be doing something else) by things like slide.com (see above) Spainful Films, and Pig Boy Movie.

Since Google bought Blogger, Murdoch bought MySpace, and YouTube did a deal with Warner Music, the slender chance of the lone creative genius (or small band of creative geniuses) making commercial headway by using these simple, cheap promotion and distribution tools has diminished even further. Fashion dictates that things which are now trendy will soon be a signifier of the boring and out-dated ("you mean, you still use an iPod?") - and the next new big thing will be elsewhere, just because it has to be in order to satisfy the endless ravenous appetite for new stuff, new opportunities, news.

What we need, I have come to realise, is a twice-daily bulletin called the Olds which tells us that things which used to be there are still there. As more and more of what we now take for granted disappears - a million species wiped out on land, at sea, the vanishing of clean water, food, living space - the Olds will become just as compelling a program to watch as the News, and every bit as disturbing.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Three Year Old Buys Parish Priest On Ebay

Parents of three year old Thomas Dolby had a shock when they realised that their unattended three year old son had successfully bid for a 100 year old parish priest from Wells, Somerset.

"Funny man! Wears pretty dress!" said Thomas.

His father Dan Dolby said, "We knew he was into online gambling, and we let him have a little flutter just for pennies - but this is the first time we've let him near the computer since the Panda episode. Of course, the church saw the funny side of it and refunded the £9,000 with only a small deduction for our moral failures."

His mother Margaret said, "He's a cheeky little scumbag, really, and we shan't be teaching him anything else until he's eighteen."

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Indian Numbers

A while ago - 9th August 2002 to be precise - it was announced that Professor Manindra Agarwal of the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, and two of his students, Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena came up with a formula for determining prime numbers.

BBC article - Plastic.com

My numeracy has always been middling to poor, although I'm a good estimator and I understand how money works, and I can do simple mental maths. My maths education was weak and interrupted - I studied hard to get my maths o-level - and the only reason I did that was because I knew I needed it to get onto a degree course.

Having said that, the calculator rescued me, I was able to pass the exam mostly because mine was the first year in which English children were permitted take electronic calculators into the exam room. It was assumed that by then we would all have the calculus skills but mine were pretty weak, I was slow, and I hated being slow so I found it difficult emotionally. I scraped through the exam, to my relief, and my life chances were changed by this combination of perseverance and technology.

28 years later, having used both simple and complex computers since I was at college - when the PC as we know it had yet to be invented - and being these days one of those relatively technologically literate types that uses many different kinds of software and has a working knowledge of multiple platforms - at least, in my area, the creative industries - my interest in numbers is finally re-awakening.

I am becoming more fascinated by number games. I'm in the process of remembering the beautiful game of cribbage and playing that with GGF whose gorgeousness extends to teaching me an obscure Palestinian version of backgammon while we were away. I like strategy games in which both chance and skill play part - they are microcosms of life, relying not just on calculating odds, but also on spotting events, number patters, which also requires intuition, and so playing them, I feel I have a chance and able to win - in fact I do win! Huzzah! It's good for my everyday number usage, and improves my overall mental confidence.

Intuition has made me pick up these games so that my maths mind is improved. I am so enjoying them... I can't see me donning the carpet slippers quite yet, playing Sudoku, or hanging out in casinos giving money to criminals, but it does open me up some new leisure options.

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Darfur: Stop The Genocide

This long piece about taking action to prevent genocide was posted as a comment to yesterday's post on Buganga! by Jay McGinley. I'm strict about comment space - I very rarely use it myself to have dialogue with readers, preferring always to reply via email or in comments in other blogs - and I always delete spam or advertising, so I deleted the comment. But, it is a deserving piece, and so, despite Mr McGinley's bad manners, I am publishing it here.
DARFUR, URGENT: WHAT WOULD RACHEL CORRIE START THIS WEEK?

Darfur Vigil DAY 118 (now in NYC); 56 Days Hunger Strike since July 4, 2006 www.standwithdarfurwhitehouseii.blogspot.com

Young Rachel Corrie saw a bulldozer intentionally bearing down on the house of a family, a family she probably never knew. She got in front of that bulldozer, between the bulldozer and the house, between the threat, and the innocents.

We need to get between what is killing Darfur (Bashir's performance and lack thereof by we-the-people) - and our children, sisters and brothers in Darfur. Now. And as of now we are not (http://standwithdarfurwhitehouseii.blogspot.com/2006/09/sept-17th-activism-awesome-but-not.html) How do we do that? How do we make it happen? What would a sufficient "wake up" look like? IF SOMEONE HAS THIS ALREADY STARTED, LET ME KNOW. I'll join you, or even back out if that is best.

I am deciding what I will do next, what I expect to be my final attempt to spark the Rescue of Darfur by waking up sufficient numbers of we humans in time, converting us from spectators, critics and activists-of-convenience into antiviolent warriors (think Civil Rights struggle) of profound courage, wisdom, tenacity and effectiveness; utilizing to the max the few weeks, days and seconds that our Darfur family has left.

What would Rachel Corrie start THIS WEEK? This question strikes me as the way to approach the task of deciding. The way to focus the mind to come up with the appropriate, proportional response of greatest chance - THE BEST AIMED "HAIL MARY" PASS.

Rachel Corrie stood in front of a bulldozer about to destroy a house in Palestine http://www.criticalconcern.com/rachelcorrie.html. Would a different role model help you more? How about Steve Beko (South Africa, movie, Denzel), a young Gandhi, a young Nelson Mandella, an antivioloent Rambo, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, John Q (from the Denzel Washington movie)...? You get the idea. Think of your own role model APPROPRIATE to this situation.

LET’S JOIN TOGETHER IN THIS QUANDARY, before it is too late, please: Send me, or post, your ideas http://standwithdarfurwhitehouseii.blogspot.com. Now. I expect to embark on whatever best plan by early next week at the latest, with anyone that wants to join together.

A CONSTRAINT: Suggestions must centrally embrace this notion of the problem from Samantha Power's inspired, Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Problem from Hell" (and I paraphrase AND take license): THE BATTLE TO STOP GENOCIDE HAS ALWAYS BEEN LOST ON THE FIELD OF PUBLIC OPINION. THE PEOPLE [WE THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD]... HAVE NEVER STOOD UP SUFFICIENTLY TO STOP IT.

HUNCH: The plan should involve leveraging STAND's Oct 5th Fast to make it into the END OF THE GONOICIDE, the START of a WORLDWIDE FAST UNTIL DARFUR GENOCIDE IS ENDING. One-day only by all participants is too-little-too-late. A one day fast is NOT what the world's response to the Holocaust, the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews lacked. Not by many orders of magnitude. Death rates are climbing toward 25,000 per week in Darfur, NOW. We must be REALISTIC. Code Pink's "Troops Home Fast" could be a model (www.troopshomefast.org). Make STAND's October 5th the START? THAT COULD DO IT.

But, WE NEED EVEN BETTER, MUCH BETTER SUGGESTIONS and specific ideas for approach and execution than I am hinting at.

RESPOND. PLEASE. Deadline: FRIDAY, 9/22/06, because THERE IS NO MORE T-I-M-E. (For those of you that just want to watch, and have a good laugh at my frantic gyrations, enjoy.)

What would Rachel Corrie start THIS WEEK?

Jay McGinley (jymcginley@cs.com) 484-356-6243


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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Buganga!

Some days I wake up with a word in my head, or a phrase. Often this is unconnected with my dreams - it's merely the product of the first collision of the day with my rested mind. This morning, the word is Buganga!

My first internet search of the day therefore led me to Uganda. Latitude (DMS): 0° 1' 60 N, Longitude (DMS): 31° 58' 48 E (Degrees, minutes and seconds) in an attempt to determine the meaning of Buganga!

I've added the exclamation mark because that was how the word arrived. In fact, you should pronounce it not just with some emphasis but also with a positivity bordering on the belligerent to reproduce the desired effect - and extraordinarily, today's spontaneous word is also accompanied by a double hand gesture - palms facing forward, digits splayed, at chest height.

Try saying Buganga! now and making the gesture - you'll find it feels good.

There is also a Buganga in Burundi, Latitude : -4 04' 47'' Longitude : 29 30' 13'' about which I can find even less information. It seems to be on the shore of an enormous lake and on Google Maps it looks very green. But, I have often observed that everywhere on Google Maps (except for bona fide deserts) looks ridiculously green. This is a trick that The Evil One plays, representing the Earth as if it is lush and healthy on our computer screens and televisions, even as every last scrap of life is degraded or removed. Still - back to Buganga! Let's not distract ourselves from this place of mystery. Why is it calling me this morning? Then I thought: what does the gesture mean?

In Italian sign language, the gesture means Free. I also found that the "palms facing forward" gesture is part of the Repulse the Monkey Movement in Tai Chi - a good way to calm the entire nervous system:
1. Place your left foot in front of your body, resting your foot on the toes.

2. Keep your right foot about a foot-and-a-half behind.

3. Bend both knees and turn your torso slightly to the right.

4. Push your left and right hands in front of your body, palms out. Your left hand will be extended further than the right.

5. Circle your right hand down and back past your torso. Bring it up and press it palm forward past your right ear.

6. Step back with your left foot, placing toes first and then the heel. Turn your left hand palm up.

7. Shift your weight back on your left leg and press forward with your right palm. Withdraw your left hand with the palm up. Circle it down and back.

8. Step back with your right foot and circle your left hand up and press it palm forward past your left ear.

9. Withdraw your right hand palm up as your left palm comes forward. Circle your right hand downward and back and shift your weight to your right leg.

10. Step back with your left foot and circle your right hand up and press it palm forward past your right ear.

11. Withdraw your left hand palm up as your right palm comes forward. Circle your left hand downward and back and shift your weight to your left leg.

12. Step back with your right foot as you circle your left hand up and press it palm forward past your left ear.

13. Withdraw your right hand palm up as your left palm comes forward. Circle your right hand down and back and shift your weight to your right leg.

So, I have come to the inevitable conclusion that I must have been called to set up a Tai Chi centre in Uganda and/or Burundi in order to promote calm on the African continent, and from there, we will export to countries in need - Thailand, Hungary and Darfur, to name three contemporary places of unrest. The great cry of Buganga! will echo from wooded hills and mountains, down the long, fertile river valleys, repeated by converts, devotees and enthusiasts everywhere, until it enters the urban centres and gathers unstoppable social momentum.

I'm off there now - I'll let you know how it goes.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Number 10



British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced yesterday that he intends to get around to listening to the new Pod of Funk, "just as soon as I have saved the world from genocide and some really nasty men."

Beat Mr Blair to it! Be the first to strike a blow for decency and a good lunch!

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Fountain Room



On an annual London day of much cultural activity, the Thames Festival, we found this beautiful water fountain on the South Bank, outside the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was a lot of fun - inside the water walls, everyone had their mobiles and cameras out.. happy strangers all, we were laughing and giggling and capturing the overlapping moments... I thought it was worth uploading the video, despite my loud cackling most of the way through it.

It was a gloriously innocent experience and felt strangely purifying.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Nothing Much To Complain About

I really do feel like complaining. I remember once when asked how I was by R my dear old friend and pal, I said, well, I'm ok, but I just feel like moaning all the time, he said, "Well, fucking well moan then! You probably need to..."

Thing is, you start a blog precisely because of the freedom it affords you in terms of expression and two and bit years down the line, you're worrying about your readership and of stooping to the lowest common blog denominator and moaning and ranting - hang on, that's like saying, here's my car, I'll go shopping with it, I'll pick the kids up with it (not that I have any - shit! that sounds a bit pervy now) I'll even fucking go on holiday with it - but simply drive the thing for the pleasure of it? Never! Not me! Not that I have a car anyway - they are loathsome machines and part of Satan's plan to destroy the world. So what is wrong with simply reverting to blog-writer type, ingoring all one's best intentions, and writing unskillfully, unedited, ungrammatically, and using words like Whatever.

You know the Bible - that book that bangs on about God and Jesus? At the end, the scary bit, it mentions Hollywood Juice such as prophecies and shit. I think that the NUMBER OF THE BEAST is YOUR MOBILE PHONE number. Or maybe it's BAR CODES. I have no rationale for this assertion - but this is a blog, right? And I can just WRITE that and who gives a flying fuck?

You know podcasts, right? They are taking over from TV, aren't they? Now you've maybe worked that out what with YouTube and everything. But did you know that TV companies are trying to take over the internet? Now, I wish this was as much bullshit moaning as the previous three paragraphs... but it isn't! It's true! Read this if you don't believe me. Write to your representative. I wish I was joking, but instead, I am moaning. Also I am committing a classic blog folly - combining a mixture of personal nonsense with quite serious issues and without bothering to separate. Neither am I bothered to lift, so you'll just have to click the link to find out.

Aside from archly referencing an ancient British brassiere advert, that last paragraph even managed to TALK ABOUT a LINK. Why do people do commit that internet crime? They should just fucking well link!!!!

Now my blog blood is really boiling... by now, I'm actually ranting, having worked myself up to it - something it takes courage not to do and which can only serve to alienate my cherished readers. Do you feel personally alienated now? Well do you? If you do - not as much as me!! I'm veering into defensive posturing, aggressive audience interrogation with lashings of hot self-pity. If I was a stand up comedian by now I'd be being heckled. If I was a band everybody would be at the bar. But because this is blog, and you know the post will only run to a few more words, you've come this far. Could it get any worse than this? WELL COULD IT??

.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

From Tiny Acorns...



...mighty oak trees grow.

Allegedly.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

The UK: Hectic, Dangerous and Filthy



"Kick Out Worms Three Times A Year" says this red metal shitbox provided by Islington Council for park users who are exercising their dogs' bowels on the picnic/barbie/football/snogging/toddlers'-play-area that is Highbury Fields. At the end of a hot busy weekend, even the most obedient athletic dogs will have a hard time jumping high enough to let one go with any precision into this particularly full shitbox.

GGF is telling me that for every criticism I make, I must also find praise, in order to avoid falling victim to obsessively negative thinking. She doesn't realise what she is taking on here, and the possibility that she is undermining my livelihood has not yet occurred to her, but the game amuses us both, and so I play it.

Thus, in tandem with today's observation that the British people are generally Hectic, Dangerous and Filthy, I find further that they put more energy into partying, freaking out and generally getting off their trolleys than any other nation on Earth, with the exception of the Caribbean nations and Latin America.

Have Britain, Trinidad or Brazil ever been seen at the same London park at the same time? I cannot help but wonder.

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Back To Blighty

It felt like I was entering a huge advertisement as I walked into the Great UK Machine at Heathrow, still high on being away from this dirty, fierce and degraded home of mine. HSBC's red letter logo is plastered everywhere - they bought the space leading into the passport control and baggage reclaim in order to make Blade Runner a sooner reality. On the train which runs from Terminal 4, which is a couple of miles from the rest of the airport, or at least it feels like that, there are screens showing time-lapse film of various urban centres around the world. Reassuring. They are all still there then. We got on, to be told to get off again to allow a security check. Wearily we picked up bags and waited. I felt a lot more secure now. As I got off, the screens began to play me news, about a bomb going off. But I don't want to hear the news right now, I found myself saying alound, I only just started to feel secure after the CHECK..., and I watched a young asian girl to my left smirk with either embarassment or mild scorn or both at my naivety. Clearly I am now a bumpkin in my own city.

One of the joys of spending time in a world which doesn't run in your own language is to have all conversations removed - public, private, eavesdropped, broadcast, subtle, or rammed down your throat, all speech and most text has been for two weeks in Norwegian, which, with a few exceptions, I couldn't follow. Thus I have remained in a bubble of non-comprehending appreciation, except that the kind and educated people that surrounded me all spoke perfect English. I was reduced to saying the odd "Tak" mostly as a token gesture of internationalist goodwill and to acknowledge that they do have their own perfectly serviceable tongue.

Personally, I like Norwegian and would like to learn enough to have a decent conversation, make a joke, or at least, purchase my mandolin plus hard case with nae bother. Some of the words are like or exactly the same as English - send, for example - or Scottish - barn / bairn = child. Norwegian of course has its own particular rhythmic inflection, which M once described as Oompa Loompa, and which the infamous Chalkie White termed Hurdy Gurdy Wordies to describe and illustrate the predominant rhythms of Nordic speech - or at least, the cadences which are not shared with English and which to our ears stand out.

What did I like this time around? Everything is a lot more laid back; people seem to have a lot more time for each other. There's a great deal of humour and warmth. Technically, everything actually works; the public transport system works on a presumed honesty system. I never once saw anyone check for tickets but everyone seemed to have one. Yes alcohol is expensive, but the food is fresh - even supermarket food is far better than in the UK. Norwegian music is dynamic, inventive, and often exquisitely performed, and fine art flourishes, due to a large amount of native talent and good funding.

What did I find myself missing, found in a shop in Grønland, siezed upon and carried with us for the remainder of our time? Tea - Orange Pekoe of course! There's only so many glasses of luke-warm Lipton's Earl Grey you can bear.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Sunbathing In The Norwegian Riviera

Well blow me if we haven't arrived to find that after a few heavy showers and some thunder, the city of Oslo, cradled securely in green forested slopes, is baking like a northern potato in an Indian summer.

Mr Roy Everson, whose nice Bed and Breakfast we graced this week, told us that normally the temperature would be around 12 C this time of year, but according to the dial here, it's still 18 C as the evening sets in. Everyone is happy at this late summer sunburst and making the most of it in the many bars and cafes which seem to line every sunny street, radiating out from the city centre on this bustling Friday night.

Last night we saw the most fabulous performance at Black Box Theatre by Sons of Liberty called God Hates Scandinavia, which I will review when I next get a chance.

Earlier on we visited the Munch Museum which was celebrating the return of The Scream and Madonna, two of Edvard's best works. I had a chat with the security guys - presumably the very same crew who watched two years ago as armed and shooting men ran out of the gallery with the paintings, firing shots. The atmosphere was charged, and the media arrived. I shot some images of them hanging around outside the main entrance like guilty schoolboys and girls.

Later we visited the Horticultural Gardens and went for a stroll down to funky Grønland, which has been pedestrianised for the weekend and has cheap entertainment, tacky fair rides manned by evil looking men, and nice stalls out selling exotic food, though I'm not sure my stomach can handle much more of it right now.. I am self-propelled, if you get my gaseous drift, and I sincerely hope you don't.

Now I'm drinking a constitutional cup of Orange Pekoe, about to shower and change for the evening. We've a dance performance and a music gig lined up for tonight, and an art event to see tomorrow in Moss which is being opened by the Queen. Huzzah!

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