Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Chance To Dance

Greetings, oh brethren of funk. I am typing this prior to a big old New Year's shindig in Amman, Jordan, and then getting on a plane at some ungodly hour very early tomorrow morning to travel back to old London Taan, innit, where hordes of hip happening houris will happily huzzah upon the return of self and GGF.

2006 has been a year of great growth, a year which has given me great opportunities, expanded both my social and business horizons, and at the same time brought me close once again to the roots of art. It has also been a year of many hospital visits and I am sincerely hoping that 2007 ticks nicely along without any more of those cute medical dramas.

Now such is the fickle finger of Web 2.0, that my main Moblog is about to close it's doors and delete my entire photo archive. So for those of you who want a last look at the 400 or so photos which I've taken in the last couple of years, please make this your final experience of 2006 - making sure you download any you want before they are all consigned to data heaven.

Zut alors, arrivederci, salaam, thanks for being real, and see you on the other side.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Let's Make It Funky

Even from the middle east, I felt the disturbance in the funk force. This morning we were rudely awaken by an errant alarm which would not be switched off after many frustrated attempts by our host. The noise kept returning, a wake-the-neighbourhood electronic warble which prevented us from sleeping any more this Christmas morning in Jerusalem.

I decided that resistance was futile, going with the flow was a better option, and so to entertain my Gorgeous Girlfriend, I jumped out of bed, made tea for two, and danced to the alarm sound, gyrating around the bed, moving my hips and shaking my money-maker.

I can think of no better tribute to this deranged genius of funk.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hairy Shitmas Everyone!


OK nearly ready to pack for my trip to Jordan and the Wholly Land. I never understood that - what do they mean, there are no rivers or lakes? Of course there are - it's in the Beeble, isn't it? What did Jesus walk on - the water, or an earthy crust which magically formed on the surface? Was it really the Field of Galilee, until consequent mistranslators of the Beeble decided that if they put "Sea" it would sound so much better, wetter?

Anyway I am at the very end of my legendary staminamina (no I have not misspelled that - that is what I have. Exactly the same as other people, it just lasts longer) so much so, that I fell asleep watching the news, and when I woke up, I stared unthinkingly at the screen watching a parrot have a cataract operation. And they say TV has been dumbed down!! I ask you, show me the mince pie logic in that. It was always dumb, and it will remain so while upper-middle class men with upper-level salaries in back rooms are making the decisions about what is good for us ALL. Everyone knows that this self-made stuff we get these days is so much better - and even if it isn't, at least it's not another teatime homogenised buy-a-house decorate-a-house calm-down-the-kids get-fit cuddle-an-animanimal programme. And yes, that's animanimal. I like a bit of balance, even mid-anti-kulture-rant.

During my winter break, I shall (with the aid of some trusty friends) be podding and blogging from time to time elsewhere.

Enjoy the annual indigestion-fest - think of me as you belch your third helping of turkey into the over-arching alcoholic fug, and if you feel the fear, but have to do it anyway, you might employ this excellent admoninition:

"Get Thee Behind Me, Santa!"

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Beta Funk

Blog of Funk is too big for Blogger.

So I found a way to link to what I'm doing when I am away.

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Pig, Bulldozer, Water Fountain







Start blues riff:

"Woke up this mornin'.. (da Da da da DA!) with one image in my mind..."

Well, three, actually, all in a scene. A pig singing to a bulldozer across a water fountain, all set in a rather nice stately home garden. And in the moments when I realised I was now awake, the words - pig - bulldozer - water fountain.

Quite the most bizarre collision of images I can remember hauling out of my subconscious mind for a long time. What does it all mean? Is God telling me something? Or was it just last night's pizza?

I'd better dedicate this one to Twit. Three days to go before I'm off to jolly old Jordan!

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Happily Into The Abyss

"Prozac 'found in drinking water'" reports the Environment Agency - in minute doses, they re-assure us. Fluoxetine gets into the rivers and water system via treated sewage water. Still, the "safe" dose level of practically every drug is frequently revised and almost always downwards.

Whatever the effect on adults, writing as someone who was medicated as a child on an improvised dose of adult tranquilisers over a period of years, and having lived with the consequences, I can say with some authority that no levels of pychoactive drugs are safe for children.

In 2004, the Department of Health called for more research into drugs that are given to children. Around 40% of medicines prescribed to children have never actually been tested on children. For newborn babies, the figure is 65%.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Big Can Be A Problem

It turns out that size is important. In India, they have realised that condoms, constructed to western proportions, tend to fall off or tear during sex, adding to that noble country's woes with the spread of AIDS. A similar thing happened in Thailand years ago, during the 1990s as AIDS started to spread in that country. It was uniquely solved with a dynamic, progressive promotion of condom use, led by the great Mechai Viravaidya, who became so associated with the campaign that popular parlance still gives his name to the humble prophylactic - a Thai condom is called a "Mechai".

Early on, Mechai established that Thai men - who are no less proud, virile, and sensitive to suggestions otherwise than men anywhere - were resisting the condom for the perfectly good reason that they were too big, and so he initiated national research to establish the mean length of the Thai penis. He recruited women to do the measuring, who entered into the project in a spirit of great seriousness, and it was quickly found that, as in the case in India, condoms designed for bigger-framed Westerners had the embarassing effect of appearing to diminish the size of the erect phallus.

So, new condoms were manufactured to the size of the Golden Mean, resistance was overcome, and thus Thailand became the only country in the South Asia to slow infection rates where they fell steadily during the nineties, with 100% use among prostitutes and free distribution by the government. Mechai himself gave condoms out in his Cabbages and Condoms restaurants instead of after-dinner mints; which goes to demonstrate that Western remedies are often not instantly translatable to other cultures, and that when pride is booted out and people really focus on a problem and understand the underlying mechanisms, they can often fix it.

I wish the same was true of Blogger. Apparently, Blog of Funk is just too big to be inserted into the new Blogger right now. Oh, the perils of being manly!

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Blogger Bollocks

Faithful reader,

I've been trying to post for three days, and the mighty Blogger is obviously having huge problems because I have not been able to. How very frustrating this is. Work has provided me with the expertise necessary to use WordPress - I may just move Blog of Funk anytime now... They say the new version is "ready" - do I trust this will be a painless process?

Keep your eyes out of the dishwater.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Radioactive

Joy of joys! We can still sleep safely in our British beds. Tony and Gordon, our ex-Socialist, soon to be ex-leaders, want to renew UK's nuclear missile program - while ganging up on Iran, and anybody else who dares look beyond fossil fuels.

Now, not a lot of people know this, but my middle name is Radioactive, added when my misguided parents thought that church was good for me. I had been in the church choir for years, happy enough in my permanently disconsolate way, even though I was forced to wear archaic costumes and sing bizarre songs to a God I didn't subscribe to; but even at age eleven, I knew that the world was fucked, whether or not my mortal soul existed.

I had read that since the first nuclear attacks on Japan at the end of WW2, and the subsequent destruction of the South Pacific and various parts of the USSR in the name of self-protection, background levels of radiation had risen 500% compared to pre-nuclear levels. That was in the 1970s - God knows what it is now. I was already a committed unilateralist - why spend a huge proportion of your national income on weapons that could never be used - and as for M.A.D. - mutually assured destruction - there never was a better acronym. I knew that there were no less than nineteen nuclear missiles aimed at Croydon from the other side of the Iron Curtain, day and night, and the fact woke me up with nightmares on fairly regular basis. You could say I was a sensitive child. Or, you could say, I was a surprisingly sane and well-informed human being, living in a society which spent the entire time in massive collective denial.

So, like any conscientious person, I campaigned. I was (still am) a pacifist, and I made sure that I had all the arguments to present to the mad people who surrounded me. This safety is an illusion, I patiently explained, set up by the scientific-military establishment, which will rob us of our birthright, a healthy, functioning environment. War itself can never produce a lasting victory, and this war will lay waste to the planet, destroying not just human habitat but all of life with it.

I didn't lecture, I was calm, I persisted, but of course, people had not the ears to listen, nor the minds to cope with thinking the unthinkable. My voice had not yet broken, yet I was in command of the facts, knew the arguments, and adults would attempt to escape the inexorable logic by belittling me with ridicule. I rarely rose to the bait.

At St Margaret's Church, Upper Norwood, the time came when we should, in the manner of true believers, be confirmed. This Anglican version of confirmation was entirely without the fuss and ritual of the Catholic version. They somehow had kept the pomp of a true and valuable rite of passage, like the Bar Mitzvah. We had a watered-down, apologetic, academic affair, dry, stripped of anything scary or spiritual. We were supposed to attend a few "classes" in the Vicarage in preparation for ther great day.

Two years younger than I, my sister attended with me, in a small group of six or seven children. Children who actually wanted this accolade were such rarities in our district at that time, that we were being processed in an untidy group spanning quite a few years. It hadn't actually happened in our small church for some years. Towards the end of the interminably boring evening sessions, it was revealed that tradition was that we could add a new name, should we desire. Sister of course desired, her eyes big with expectation, young enough for her to consider it meaningful. She decided, lovingly, to add a fourth monicker to her existing three names: she would add "Angela", after our mother. It was Christian enough, and she was thrilled to bits with this chance for self-determination.

I was cynical. I thought it was a nonsense, all of it, and had I then had the rebelliousness which puberty was about to equip me, I would not have been there in the first place. I thought about it, though - sis was right, this was a nice opportunity.

The following week was the final grooming session before the big day. The weekend after that, John, Bishop of Croydon, was coming to the church to press-gang us all into God's Holy Army. So, we trotted out our learning to show that we all knew the desperate import of our predicament, the meaning of sin, and that Jesus was our saviour. Yeah yeah yeah, I was intoning internally, Buddhist-style - it helped me stay calm as they all fell to their knees in supplication.

At the end of the session, we were all asked whether we wanted to add a new name. Some children didn't, some of them trotted out their considered choices: "Andrew" "Timothy" "Peter" - good Biblical names, met with a warm smile from the Vicar. "Wayne" made the Vicar's usually stolid complexion flicker just for a moment - why on earth, you could see him thinking, you've escaped the name once! Still, no objection on the basis of no Saint Wayne - good. Next - sister - she beamed up at him, sure of herself. "Angela!" she pronounced, ready to cite chapter and verse if needs be to support her choice. The Vicar's warmth reestabished itself. "That is your mother's name, isn't it," he said approvingly. I looked coolly at her - she looked like she was going to burst.

I was last in line, oldest, and although I was the best singer in the choir, I was also known to be less than instinctively compliant, so the Vicar paused, and instead of asking me directly, just looked at me and raised his eyebrown in an inclusive, adult way. Nice, I thought, bit of us and them...

"Radioactive," I said, looking directly back at him. He searched my face, hardening almost imperceptably. After a short few seconds, in which the group of children gazed incomprehendingly in my direction, he replied, "I see," and turned away.

Mildly disappointed that he hadn't questioned it there and then, and given me the soapbox I wanted, I comforted myself with the thought that at least he hadn't said no, and five minutes later, we exited into the dark night air.

The Vicar was wise enough to avoid a confrontation with a stroppy youngster at the end of a busy day, but of course, he wasn't a Vicar without having a command of the fine art of exerting moral pressure. Within a few days, I was summoned by the parents to answer for my crime, and so I explained to them the reasons for my choice. An hour and half later, I was still referring to CND literature and explaining the terrible ecological consequences of the arms race, and so they abandoned their mission, deciding that I probably didn't have the guts to go through with it, and that, come Saturday, I would comply with tradition.

Families are sometimes wrecked upon the rocks of parents' underestimation of their children's determination. My autonomy was more sacred than any watered-down, empty ritual; my choice more truly spiritual, in the manner of the non-conformist traditions of my grandparents, than the route that I was expected to take. So, dressed up in ill-fitting Sunday best, in a line of good, clean, smart kids, I was duly processed by the Bishop - a nice, grey-haired man, whose tolerance of human quirks extended beyond that of his flock - and confirmed in the Church of England, with prayer, with due solemnity, as my parents bravely tried to pretend that they hadn't just heard the word "Radioactive" officially added as their third son's new name.

They expected me to drop Radioactive, even after that precious moment, but I added it to my signature, wrote it inside my school text books, and within weeks of my turning eighteen, it was officially added by deed poll for the princely sum of fifty pence. It's on my passport. It is my name.

And so, I am Radioactive; all of us however are radioactive, and none of us have a choice in that - we do however have a choice as to what degree our delicate bodies simmer and fry via random genetic mutation. NO amount of radioactivity from the nuclear process is safe - that goes for missiles, power, the lot. Even small doses which can cure some ills are very, very dangerous. There is no safe place for it on the planet, no hole deep enough, no container strong enough. The huge amount of nuclear pollution we have already produced will outlast all current civilisations - it will be our lasting legacy, like the Egyptian pyramids, like the Mayan temples.

The choice we have is whether, after all the advances which the unsung hero Gorbachev almost single-handedly brought about by effectively ending the Cold War arms race, through our complacency and endless failure to make permanent peace among nations and tribes, through the arrogance of developed nations attempting to maintain their exclusivity, we allow the spiral of nuclear destruction to be danced all over again, to it's inevitable, catastrophic end.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre

Been back into hospital recently, checking out that my throat is fixed. They say I'm ok, in fact; I have to return in six months so that they can tell me again that I'm still ok. Takes ages to get into the system, but once you are in it, they look after you very well.

While I was there, I had a hearing test. My hearing is quite good, apart from mild tinnitus, which makes me believe I have twin TVs on every room, that high pitched warm-up whine, as a constant background. Not so bad, they said, and no evidence of hearing damage - just being middle aged. I have a slight dip at 6k and 8k - the place in the audio spectrum where consonants "s" and "t" and "p" live, the upper vocal range. Female voices in particular, the consultant advised me, I may struggle to hear against background noise.

Now I know why men cease to hear the voices of women when they reach a certain age.

At one point, I had a forty minute wait, so I left the hospital in Grays Inn Road and went for a walk around Kings Cross. I found this huge, cracked mirror, just standing in a street. I wondered how it had come to be broken, and whether the seven years bad luck was extra bad when the mirror was this big. I stayed snapping for ten minutes - out of the 30 or so images, these are my favourites.




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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Unio And Petitio: Blog Of Funk Recommended

Here is a real find. Two geniuses masquerading as comedians. Or is it the other way round?

Lurking in MySpace under the tag, Melodramatic Popular Song / Alternative / Other and bandying the phrase "whelk om" Unio And Petitio sound something like a cross between The Residents, Ivor Cutler, and Julian Cope in his LSD dementia years - which is description that barely does them justice. It's like the best songs you never heard as a child; it's a horror film which you kind of wish you hadn't stayed up to watch, but cannot tear yourself away from; and as your eyes get tired and sore, and you begin to write off the following day, you watch ever more engrossed in plot twists which darken, special effects which confuse, and advertising breaks which remind you that the real world is even odder.

Tenderly executed and yet teetering on utter unreliability, the music appeals to both the aesthete and the chortler, simultaneously bizarre, playful, authentic, so left field it comes back in at you from underneath, and yet, by some divine provenance, beautifully, touchingly musical.

The influences cited are: beer, insects, heat, gasses, electricity, doorbells and magnets. For the unitiated, I recommend in particular the track, "a balm on yer".

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