Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You Are So Good Looking

"You look good. Raised eyebrows and spontaneous smiles greet you all round, you're a picture of sunny self-confidence and determined optimism, in harmony with the world and everything in it."

He looked at bottle of pills he was holding, wondering whether the pharmacist's recommendations could be trusted and if they were all he claimed them to be.

He turned the small plastic bottle over in his hand and read the other side: it said,

"Haiku Industries -

No Sell By Date

Small Is Strength"


"You really do look wonderful, teeth, eyes and hair as attractive as newborn, yet in your prime," said the label. There was a picture of a winter tree, a lake, a young woman in beautiful clothing.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Funkpod Seventeen (Almost Wasn't)



Finally managed to make another podcast... although frankly, I very nearly gave up on the entire business. I'm glad I didn't; not everything given is easy.

I've been thinking about this for a while.

Getting into unsocial media seemed perfectly natural extension of what I was already doing, and what I had always done. I started performing 40 years ago, recording audio 35 years ago, recording video 24 years ago, started putting audio and video online 12 years ago, started blogging two and a half years ago June 2004, podcasting in 2005. It just seemed perfectly logical.

I can honestly say that the last two years have been the best in terms of being in direct contact with an audience, or readership. In fact, my concept of who they/you/we are has completely changed, and all because of blogging and podcasting.

I've always done stuff that appealed to me - the same applies to writing, to art, to making music, to business. I'm sure that is one of the reasons that I've done well, in general. However, being the grandson of Fred, a first generation socialist, I got involved n community-based work, and worthwhile and rewarding though this has been, it has indirectly led me to question what I am doing. I'd be inhuman not to, after the last few months.

Having kept pretty much out of forums ever since they were invented, I popped up last March, pointing out that we were about to be legislated and suggesting self-organisation. I was immediately accused of making things up to scare people and dividing the community. Months later, I'm still attracting slaggings on a regular basis - ironically, by the many of the same people, who are now either supporting or working for a business which denies the existence of a UK podcast community, whilst profiting from it.

But the weirdest thing was that the biggest self-publicist in podcasting, with an audience of many thousands and the backing of millions of dollars of venture capital, singled me out for personal abuse whilst I was rather conveniently out of the country. I was truly astonished that tiny me (in the grand scheme of things) could possibly wind this huge ego up quite that much that he'd resort to playground-style name-calling.

It's bizarre. I've experienced something of this kind of behaviour before, during the early days of the internet, when I was far less savvy and had less understanding of human nature. What I didn't expect though was to get such a rough ride this time round, or perhaps, not so soon in the process.

I didn't really know that much or care about Pope Curry before this blew up, except that he had a podcasting business that was employing people I knew. I was vaguely aware that he goes down in history as the first ever domain squatter (MTV.COM). I listened once to his podcast and was turned off by the sound of his voice and his degenerate old media style. I met him only once. So why me? There's an element of the emperor's new clothes about podcasting at the moment, someone had to blow the dust off the truth, and I did it. That and the fact I've formed a non-business group which might just empower podcasters.

A sympathetic podcaster explained it to me very well: it could have been anyone, it just happened to be me, and I think that is correct, and the reason why I was supported to the extent that I was. In the middle of it, I looked around and realised that the people who were supporting me were all reasonable, decent, hard-working, honest and orginal minded, so I knew I was on the right side, if I was on any side.

The next thing that happened was in a way worse. I did the right thing and didn't respond until the fuss had died down, but because I held back and didn't indulge in a slanging match, people - podcasters, grown adults - seemed to think it was now open season. While I was in Palestine, people were using fake IDs to post inflammatory material on forums, writing (I was assured) "just like me". To continue the process of debasement, someone even 'stole' one of my alter-egos - they actually pretended to be one of my fictional creations! I've even found this blog quoted in forums by people who think they understand my psychology from the odd article they have read here.

Yet, my problem has not been these twists and turns of podcasting, or the various barbs and occasional calumny, it's been in the fact that I now represent the interests of many good people. I don't think it's too self-aggrandising to say that the podcasting community, whether I like it or not, now looks for some kind of responsibility from me, and frankly, I am not entirely easy with that. It's not the best job description for a situationist.

It's not what I am doing this for, to become embroiled in such nonsense, and it's really not good for me having to shut up too much either. I've been struggling to write this blog in as honest and forthright a way as I have been doing so since I started writing it. My fluency just to be myself in this space and say whatever mattered to me, straight forwardly and from the heart, started to suffer; and this cannot be.

The podcasting community bundles along at a brisk, creative pace despite this recent fracas... but it really pissed me off that petty, small-town politics got between me and the freedom of expression that I am busy standing up for on behalf of everyone else. It's enough that I pay the mortgage and amuse a few people. Between community service and my own creative expression, there is no contest. The community coalesces as it chooses, whether those choices are conscious or unconscious, but I need self-expression to survive, to thrive, and this is why I am on the funky path I tread.

I re-read Candide over the holiday. I must cultivate my garden. Hence, Pod of Funk #17. Enjoy it - I did.

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Six Hundred and One Reasons To Celebrate

Finally moved my immense pudenda, sorry, blog, over to the new blogger, and it all seems whizzy. This is my 601st post since I began blogging, June 2004. I can't find any reason but one to miss the Olde Blogger - and that is my profile number.

Olden times, my blogger profile could be found here: www.blogger.com/profile/3594342 - kind of a low number all in all, one I had got used to and learned to cherish, if not recite by heart. Now, updated, transferred and re-versioned, I'm www.blogger.com/profile/13492090203145178551

Not sure I like that ONE BIT. But, I'm not going to complain too much. Wordpress cannot (yet) import from New Blogger so the Googleborg have prevented my de-assimilation for a brief time. Resistance was futile. I'm going to keep using Technorati tags though.

I noticed after moving my blogger blogs that my Google Page Rank had slipped one to 5. I know exactly why - Pompeii. This valuable domain pointed at Blog of Funk (as several others still do) and now, spun off as it's own site for the purpose of podcast, it is slightly lessening the search engine value.

Regarding profiles - this is a cool site http://whooiz.com/ which attempts to provide a meta-profile service - could be useful. I'm in there. Maybe we can be friendz.

Finally, because it's Sunday, and I am in the process of organising my exit from this patch of London, I've decided to record and share some of the more delightful things about living here. Cue: my local woodpecker.



...or click here...

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Yellow Plastic Eggcup

Yesterday I had a moment of clarity which came from unearthing an old yellow plastic eggcup which I realised came from my childhood. Some momentary trauma connected the eggcup with a buried memory. Why do I keep all this crap? I often ask myself. I suddenly knew, without a shadow of a doubt, the answer.

To remember the things that were suppressed.

Sometimes it can be shocking remembering, though. You never know what will emerge.



Yesterday I shook a little, at the childhood violence I remembered that I had experienced.

I don't panic much, thankfully. After a while I was laughing, and I was so glad of the love I have in my life. On the surface, I'd been privately brooding a bit since getting back from Palestine, weighing up the salient elements of my life, and I've come to some conclusions this week based on practical as well as emotional considerations.

A little while back, I said I wanted to get into something real. I now know that process will be enabled by moving out of this trendy district of London months before I have been planning to do so. Today I went and bought storage boxes and GGF and I started looking at the map.

I awoke with another cold. London is for a change fucking freezing, and so is this place, as the boiler is busted, but I don't care now. We're going north.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

London Snow

White stuff has descended causing spontaneous outbreaks of mirth among the inhabitants of London. This once common phenomenon known as "snow" is, due to climate change, now so rare as to cause the entire breakdown of normality and even cases of temporary insanity.



More photos here...

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Walter Ego

Recently I met a woman called SJ at the hyper-trendy AKA Bar, London. I asked what SJ stood for; she reluctantly told me, Sarah-Jane, but immediately insisted that I called her by the initials.

"It's from boarding school," she explained,"I'm very much SJ and NOT Sarah-Jane."

I smiled and concurred. "The power of naming is our right," I said, "We can be whoever we choose to be."

SJ smiled back; Sarah-Jane was long gone. The club echoed our warm collusion in the rights of the individual with funky house basslines and all-night, MDMA-fueled over-gregarious conversation. Not me, you understand, those days are long gone for me. For me it was just the basslines and the conversation, which were more than enough.

In 1999 / 2000 I did some work for Amnesty International about children's rights, during which I learned much. Do you know you have the right to a name? was one of the leading questions we asked of the 11 year olds in our interactive CD ROM game. It surprised me at the time that people would be prepared to so brutalise children as to deny them a name.

The power of self-naming is an important right, granting both self-definition and also the power to be someone different. Artists, musicians, performers know this as much as do confidence tricksters. People sometimes confuse the actor's ability to assume a persona [from the Greek: mask] with insincerity; in fact, they are enabled by this affectation to visit the realm of muses and return with insight of great human survival value. If they didn't, Shakespeare would have died long ago, as would Hercules and Prometheus.

One of my lesser-known pseudonyms was Dwayne Honcho. I invented Dwayne out of frustration with a certain organisation who had very bad corporate communications , as a result of which I was inundated with hundreds of mis-directed emails daily. I wouldn't have minded but these often included large attachments, legal documents, planning applications, frequently many times larger than my mail server would comfortably deliver, which meant a tedious remote log in and delete process was my ongoing task.

I contacted them many times and asked them to tell their customers, clients and employees to please not send me email; they were rather inefficient about dealing with me, and as my patience wore thin, revenge plans emerged from my tortured mind, and Dwayne was born. Since I couldn't escape the torrent of emails and large attachments, and they wouldn't deal with it to my satisfaction, I decided to engage with them on a guerilla level.

I didn't want to cause them damage; I wanted them to wake up and get them to listen to my sincere requests. I began to scan emails which had arrived for comedy nuisance potential. This email arrived:

Subject: More dates for Project Management

Hi Ian,

This email is just to follow up a voicemail message I left for Colin earlier today.

I would like to look at setting some dates for Project Management training for 2006.  I would be looking at another session at Group Support Preston, another one n London at Grays Inn Road and one in Newcastle.

They would need to be spread out throughout Jan - July.

Can you suggest some dates when you would be free to deliver these and we can get dates set.
This training has received good feedback and we have has a positive response in the number of people wanting to attend.  I am planning on preparing a feedback report following the sessions in October, which I will forward you a copy as well.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards,
Carolyn


I replied to Ian (in the guise of Dwayne):

NONE of these dates are suitable as they are all in the future and we require past dates to be certain of attending.


Ian then emailed Joanne:

Hi Joanne,

Please see below a response to an e-mail I sent to Carolyn,

Unsure what this means?

Please let me know if you need me to respond to this.

Do not hesitate to give me a call in the office on 01XXX XXXXXX.

Kind Regards

Ian


I then replied to Ian:

It means these dates are not suitable as they are all dates in the future and dates in the past are required so that we can be certain of attending. If you can look back and find previous times when we have attended, you can be totally certain that we will have been there.

D.


And on it went, with me calmly insisting on the impossible, in the guise of corporate planning.

Exasperated, but now committed, I played this disruptive role in such eminent subjects as Dry Riser Boxes, Development at Cringleford, Norwich, the West Hull 'Decanting' Bid, 186-206 & 229-231 De Montfort Park, T5/5 - Proposed Maintenance Works - Toronto Primary School... asked for my response on this one, I emailed:

I love this so much I want to marry it

When asked to clarify:

now i am going to divorce it and marry you

To a job applicant:

nope

you'll never get a job that way.

also see spelling of opportunities


The amount of documentation I received was immense and it went on for months. I received legal documents, bank account information, confidential details about staff misdemeanours and sackings, personal addresses and home phone numbers. I could have been so very much naughtier than I was, but I always had a sense that any reaction on my part had to be proportionate. In truth, I wasn't always quite so creative. I was responsible for an advertising campaign being cancelled because I told them it was "very silly" (!). Towards the end, I really was fed up, and the creative spark fired no more. I upset one person by telling her to throw her computer away and get a job at Morrissons on the check out. Some of the emails I replied with just said, NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO and NO! or BOG OFF!! and the very last one I sent, January 2006, simply said the word, cock.

Now don't get the impression that this kind of nonsensical disruption was the norm; I haven't repeated it in any other guise since then, neither has Dwayne, and neither of us are likely to. Some people seem to thrive on this kind of thing - I didn't. I'd much rather adopt a nom-de-plume with which I can happily be associated. Dwayne passed into internet oblivion when the organisation concerned employed an intelligent IT person, who rapidly sorted out the problem. Amens were said all round.

Now the reason for this recall is a sad one. My good friend Dan's mum Jill Churchill died on Friday morning. The last email I sent her was a brief example of this hilarity. I can't remember why I thought she'd find it funny, but anyway, she understood it was a "wind up" and got the surreal nature of the communication. If at the time I'd have written the narrative above by way of explanation and sent it to her, she probably would have appreciated it.

Jill, who used to be a top magazine editor and was involved in publishing all her life, was one of the people who most encouraged me to write Blog of Funk. When she read it, she kindly compared me to Bryson "but more sexy" and told me to get it into print. So, this is dedicated to Jill, whose emails remain in my inbox, and whose encouragement gave me heart when I didn't even know I needed it.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Shilpa Shetty

Inundated by a torrent of the usual spam emails about penis enlargement "I don't care why your one-eyed monster is so small, but 77% of women do. They are pretty sure that bigger ramrod will make their desire stronger. You have the chance to change your life" this week, and watching the Big Brother antics, I thought a lot about eastern v western values, differences in behavioural expectation, bullying, culture clash, and how happy Shilpa's accountant would ultimately be.

What if he adopted western values and became depressed as result?

This song was born.

Enjoy.

At the very end of a picturesque jetty
I met the accountant of Shilpa Shetty
Beautiful boats bobbed up and down on the briny
As he said, "I'm minted but my knob is tiny
What use are all of my Bollywood dollars?
When I drop my pants, my girlfriend she hollers
'Call yourself a man?' - well, I may be loaded
But my wee John Thomas is defunct and outmoded..."

Now the sky was blue and the sun shone down
But Shilpa's bean-counter had a frown on his brown
Face - he turned to me and said "What does all this matter?
if I can't make my schlong bigger and fatter
It doesn't help that I have cash in the bank
Have I got my parents to thank? Is this God's idea of a prank?
If I could see a way out, you know I'd take it, no doubt!"
And with that he sat down and stuck his bottom lip out.

The gentlest breeze made the smallest of waves
And the boats on their ropes were so well-behaved
But in that fabulous place I caught the look on his face:
It was the look of a loser in this human race.

"The Kama Sutra," said I, "is the book you must read
For it teaches that we all can find the love we need
And far from being a slave to proportion
Treading the line between extortion and caution
First find a woman who cares for your soul
A woman who will rock when you care to roll
A woman with the match for your totem pole
Her body blessed by nature with the perfect hole
And remember: only spirit makes us truly rich
And your money ain't worth nothing if you spend it on that bit
So find the right girl who is tender and true
Who loves you, and who's exactly the right size for you."

At the very end of the picturesque jetty
I smiled at the accountant of Shilpa Shetty
Beautiful boats bobbed up and down on the waves
As the accountant thought of all the money he'd save
On drugs and pills and surgeons' bills
On psychiatrics and sexual gymnastics
On making his manhood bigger just to feel good
Guess he misunderstood...

You gotta look for a woman who cares for your soul, cares for your soul
Look for a woman who cares for your soul - with the right size hole...
(repeat to end)

© 2007


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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reality News Event Shocks Anglia

Emma Baker, caught with her professional pants down, being quite normal for four minutes in front of a live camera. People at home could see her asking perfectly normal questions of colleagues, brushing her hair. For some reason this is news.

Earlier that morning, Emma sat on a toilet, unobserved, enjoying the quiet relief of nature and thinking about Sainsburys.

That wasn't news.

Later, Emma crossed the road at a steady pace, looking carefully around her even though the traffic was calm and she had a clear sight for several hundred yards. Her perfectly good eyes scanned automatically, as she had been trained to do, until she was safely on the other side of the road.

That wasn't news.

Emma developed an unaccountable, sudden itch during her lunch which caused her to momentarily abandon her risotto, tasty though it was, to hastily scratch her left shin through the fine mesh of her nylons. The hasp of her well-manicured nail sounded surprisingly loud in the cafeteria, and she raised her eyebrows in a mixed expression of amusement and desperation. She often plays the clown to dig herself out of potentially embarassing situations.

That wasn't news.

34,400 Iraqi civilians died in 2006. In the Shia holy city of Najaf, yesterday residents beat drums and marched in the streets at news of the executions of Saddam's henchmen, Barzan and al-Bandar. At least 70 people were killed today and 170 people wounded in a double bombing at a university in Baghdad.

News about news is a dead phenomenon.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Water Kills Woman In Wii Competition

I was strangely moved by this article about Jennifer Strange, the woman who died trying to win a Wii in a bizarre radio station competition, "Hold Your Wee for a Wii". Like Lea Betts the ecstasy-taking British teenager, she died of hyperhydration - excess water in too short a time created the disturbance in brain function that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside of safe limits.(Wikipedia)

What struck me as particularly sad was that the woman was poor, taking part in what she thought was a harmless activity and trying to win the gaming console for her family. One of the other contestants Mr Ybarra is quoted as saying, "She was telling me about her family and her three kids and how she was doing it for her kids."

The ramifications are endless. I would hate to be the bright spark who thought up this particularly stupid stunt - he or she will have this death to contend with from now on, attaching itself to whatever they do. I foresee someone exiting the radio industry soon, perhaps finding a job in social welfare work.

What will happen to the woman's children? Will the radio station have to run ads advising caution for anyone taking part in their competitions? Will Nintendo now be forced into slapping labels on their consoles advising that too much water all at once can kill you?

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Unsocial Media

I've been thinking a lot about social media, and how it really isn't social, especially after being sent this video by Paul Knight:

http://www.dailymotion.com/pjkproductions/video/xydc9_me-vs-podshow

Paul is an ex-pizza delivery man turned video blogger, who manages to produce a large amount of material - fantasy, fiction, commentary - on a tiny budget, from his base in sunny Nottingham, England. He made this video after he'd had a few drinks to soothe his nerves; in it he explains his reasons for wanting out of the burgeoning Podshow empire. Now this article is not the place to debate the merits and demerits of this particular organisation, although clearly the immense ego of Adam Curry does render them subject to easy ridicule. But what really struck me about Paul's heartfelt piece to camera was his explanation of how social media is (and isn't) working in his life.

I think he is right - we are at saturation point. Too many social networks spread you too thin, sap your time, they take you away from more productive activities, and can ultimately remove you from genuine, physical social interaction.

Curious about the internet and engaged with it though I am, observing my own resistance to some of the most popular sites, I am aware that I carefully cultivate an attitude of neglect. I never rush into the Next Big Thing, and I am frequently the last to check things out, simply for reasons of self-preservation. Blogger, Del.icio.us, Flickr, I could see the point - after all, I write, I collect bookmarks, I take lots of photos, but even these famed sites I was pretty slow to include in my life.

Recently, I joined Digg, in order to respond to somebody's perfectly valid request for promotion. Now, I get the concept of Digg, but I just don't like it. I understand how it works, I can see the point of it for other people. But, like Paul, I found myself asking, what is the relevance to me? Do I need another social media phenomenon right now? Do I really dig Digg?

Digg seems, just like YouTube, to have an innate tendency to drag us downwards, towards an unhealthy and growing attitude in society which deserves resisting. It's connected to the same MTV-corrupted, short circuited, intelligence-reducing part of our culture which celebrates a collective attention span doting upon one mildy diverting, totally unessential thing after another, in an endless, vicarious search for the new, the purpose of which (almost always) is to avoid confronting the baseless and banal constructs of our own vacant lives.

Plus, the name "Digg". It reminds me of my older brothers before they married - too late to be hippies, too early for punk, trapped in outmoded forms of expression using vernacular which seemed dated even as it was coined. Dig(g) is up there with groovy and chicks and right on, and should be used infrequently if at all and then only with heavy irony.

"Man, I really dig your leather."

"Hey, chicks, check out my new Elton John 8 track - produced by Gus Dudgeon!"

Just as in music circa 1975, a punk revolution is needed, this time in social media. So, I have created the world's first Unsocial Media network.

Unsocial Media will reward you by making your life more difficult. You will join an Unsocial Media network in order to be rejected, ostracised, pilloried, for reasons of self-improvement, so that you waste less time worrying about what other people are thinking and doing. Unsocial Media will remind you that you are spending too much time chasing your tail and disappearing up your own arse. You will benefit from Unsocial Media because we have far too much media already, and because your arse is too big, since you spend far too much time sitting on it in front of a computer.

If you create a link to someone, after that the Unsocial Media Immoderators won't leave you alone, even to the point of calling you on the phone, coming to your house, following you to the pub and harassing you at the bar, petulantly demanding alcohol and cigarettes. You are then obliged to hear them out as they bathe you in appallingly bad breath, tediously boring you with their grandiose plans, pet projects, and unimaginative tales of personal failure that you've heard a million times before. You'll find yourself drifting off and thinking about how sexy your brother's girlfriend once was when you were just able to masturbate. You'll wonder how far you will be able to get if you give the disgusting-smelling Immoderator the slip the next time you visit the lavatory.

Or am I being harsh?

Digg this.

Recommended:


Labels: ,

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Midnight Muse

This weekend, I've reminded myself that my tenuous connection with normality has nothing to do with following the same patterns that order other people's lives. My relationship with sleep has always been ambiguous. When I was very young, four or five years old, disturbed by parental disfunction, I couldn't sleep without immense distress, and suffered such nightmares that my parents drugged me rather than cope with the effects of the trauma they had generated. When I was older, I'd stay asleep to be absent, in that teenage way, preferring oblivion to being in a house I didn't want to be in, in a family I couldn't relate to, at a school I felt had long since lost relevance.



When I was at college, my nocturnalism found it's metier; staying up all night, fueled by a minimal amount of drugs and a maximum of excitement at the cosmos, my mind could wander in patterns with my compadres, around philosophy, art, culture, and I would fill notebook after notebook with ideas in what John Wright called, The Books of Forgetting. Except that, I also possessed the knack of knowing which ideas to keep on the page, and which to pursue. Years later, in the music and club scene, different matters and stronger substances kept me more awake than was healthy, wealthy or wise; and still I kept somehow to the path of knowledge, accepting the experiences but rejecting the lifestyle, finding my feet once again, and returning to the peace and tranquililty of Chalice Well, Glastonbury, Somerset.

It was on the gentle breast-rounded top of Chalice Hill, one summer afternoon, where I lay in the new-mown, drying grass, yet to be harvested, that I just slipped off the leash of my ever-active mind; I had been walking, swimming, dancing, conversing with gentle, funny, wacky, kind people; I had peeled off to go my own way, and jumped a couple of fences to be on my own at the top of the sky above the town. This was the place where I dropped the pain, hostility, suspicion, let go of the ambiguities surrounding sleep, and let myself fall into a trusting cradle of earth, waking, to my surprise, some thirty or so minutes later, as the sun streamed down the road leading to Wearyall Hill half a mile opposite, creating a golden path which rose in a perfect vertical before my still sleepy, receptive eyes.

Now, this weekend, I was tired. I went to sleep suddenly, early on Saturday night and slept for twelve hours. I didn't feel 100% but that wasn't the reason why I slept. I finally let go of the holiday, of 2006, of GGF - I needed to dream, and dream I did. I dreamt of two bands assembling in my apartment block carpark, and that my friend Lena had lent me her car. I dreamt of changes being made to the place where I lived and in all of this, my attitude was detached, sanguine, exploratory.

I didn't force myself into Sunday - I scarcely made an impact. I didn't go out, I didn't get dressed. I spoke to somebody in America about work. I finished a podcast. I uploaded some more photos to Flickr. I stared incomprehendingly at Ken Russell interacting with Jade Goody. This was just marking time. I went to bed early once again. It occurred to me that I might be in some kind of second teenagehood. In which case, I figured, that would indicate that this is a period of unprecedented growth.

As last year ended, it was an unknown position in which I found myself - in Palestine with my girlfriend's family, searching for ways to interact with the people and culture there, knowing that it would not be enough for me simply to visit this troubled land. I worked hard despite being unwell, and with obligations to meet and greet. While I was there, I had an email from Chris at the BBC, who was following my vrai nom podcast. He used some of my recording, interviewed me on Christmas Day, and even asked me for a 30 second obituary for the late, great James Brown.

The recognition was welcome, but I returned to Britain in a subliminally perturbed mood which has not left me, and which thus bears closer examination. The careful Chinese walls erected for convenience between work and life have become permeable, the nom-de-plume and the vrai nom seem now to be no more than rather nonsensical internet branding, maintained over-loyally for an out-moded concept of artistic consistency.

The real life work which has stemmed from Blog of Funk, a determinedly non-commercial project, has brought me great social and commercial opportunities, but it has also exposed me to aggression, even to defamation, as my effectiveness in the real world starts to bring me into contact with people who have opposing strategies and philosophies. I have had to avoid being pushed further into conflicts which would suit others. It is amazing how supposedly sane people, smug in their cosy safe little lives, can think that small matters are life or death, that a storm in a tea cup is the end of the world. I sometimes feel like explaining to them: the end of the world is children, being raped in Darfur, dying of AIDS in Swaziland, being kidnapped and forced into slavery in Uganda, shot at and thrown into captivity in Israel; but they would assume I was saying these things merely for shock value.

A lot of the work I've done since starting this blog in June 2004 stems from this blog, and so, I've been working out what it is that Blog of Funk has given me. Blog of Funk is my uncensored space away from any restrictions except those which I self-impose. It gives me a place to come when I can't sleep. It's been a place where my frustrations and joys can be readily expressed. It's given me the license to explore my head, my heart, my past. It's given me a bunch of cool friends whose opinions and contributions I value. It's given me a Google Page Rank of 6. Now, I am looking to the future, and I am thinking about things other than my own pre-occupations, my own ego, my own alter ego.

I want to bring about change for the better, things which employ the peculiar set of skills which I have self-taught in some productively social way. I don't want to skim fleetingly across the surface, ever the flaneur, remarking wittily as I go upon the decadence and self-destructive tendencies of my society. I don't want just to make any kind of living - I want to make my living by making a difference. I don't want to remain in London, enjoying the accumulation of detritus and waiting for a dirty bomb. Podcasting and blogging and citizen media and social networks are all great; but they might also just be a massive distraction from making anything meaningful happen in my life, and in the lives of people who are connected to mine - and that means your life, since you are reading this.

In just over a month, I will be 45. I think it's about time I got into something real.




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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ramallah: I Was There

Four people dead, twenty people hurt.

Aside from the deaths and the injuries, look at the way the Israeli bulldozers clear away the cars. Those belong to innocent people who have nothing to do with any militants. And this a day before "peace talks".

I feel a sense of creeping dread about this - I was walking in this square only 8 days ago. It was lively, peaceful, and relaxed.

"Israel described the incursion as "routine".

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Good Evening, Amman, Good Morning, Islington



Well, here it is, 2007, a little bit late, but nonetheless served up freshly cooked with lashings of hot tea and only the mildest hangover from 2006. I began the year by attending the most hilarious party hosted by far out gays and lesbians in Amman. We jigged and bopped and frisked and stuck our hands in the air, and everyone necked a huge amount of whatever it was they were necking. A small-ish domestic hi-fi on full volume was plenty enough to keep thirty people dancing until 3 or 4am, at which point we headed to the airport, passed out on a plane, and woke up back in Blighty. We decamped from chaotic Heathrow, staggered back to base, waded through two weeks of unopened mail, unpacked, slept, ate, slept.

Blighty is cold, and the sun is blue. My first desire in 2007 is to move to Italy.

I worked quite hard over the holiday period, even managing an interview for the BBC on Christmas day. I'm going to work on the connections I made in Palestine and Jordan, and I'll see what grows from the small seeds I was able to plant there, in the snow. And snow it did - although the middle-eastern sun was warm, we still experienced the first rain for over a month, followed by proper snowfall. So, the romance of the trip was all the way up to eleven; and by the time I had recovered from my fever, I was even able to enjoy Jerusalem, although it was rather like visiting a prison, in which the prisoners elect to remain locked inside.

Meanwhile, back to blogging business. I've lost my 390+ photo moblog - curses to TextAmerica, with their appalling customer service! and so moved over to Flickr, like everyone else, where I've started all over again. I'm about to transfer my Blogger account (finally!) over to the Brand New Googlified Blogger. Presuming that Blog of Funk survives the transfer, I'll most probably spend some time over the next couple of weeks tweaking the livery, combing through my two and a half year's work, and maybe I'll even publish a Best Of.

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