Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Visible Pink Unicorn

I was going to write a piece entitled, Brim Full Of Asha On My 45th but although the story needs telling and it will be good to tell, I am going to leave that tale of three restaurants to another day. Instead I wish to report on the day after my 45th birthday that a sign has appeared in the place I live, a symbol of unmistakable portent, albeit unlikely in it's soft fluffy naivety: a pink unicorn.



This is a pregnant and strange symbol to appear on my birthday. It's still now in the place I first saw it, halfway up the communal stairwell. It is in pretty good shape for an abandoned toy.

Research shows me that the most common Pink Unicorn is invisible, and has been dubbed the IPU - "The Invisible Pink Unicorn is a fictional female deity in the form of a unicorn. Her Holy-Hoofness is a goddess invented at the usenet discussion group alt.atheism as an alternative to other parody deities like Church of the SubGenius, Eris of the Discordianism, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It has been specifically designed not to directly offend people who have theistic beliefs."

You can wear a pendant to non-offensively stand up for your lack of belief - how considerate.

But here's the rub: this unicorn is clearly visible, having manifested to me as a child's rocking horse. It is clearly meant for me - after all, it appeared on my birthday. What gift does heaven hold for me? What innocently rocking ride? What message from the stars, and beyond?

Since the IPU is a symbol of atheism, then the appearance of this very visible pink unicorn must be theist. I think that I am being told: believe in the logically unbelievable, including God, who has found a way to communicate with me, cutting through my urban cynicism and my mundane preoccupations with sex and death and taxes, by putting a visible, pink, fluffy unicorn directly in my path.

The last thing I expected on my birthday was a message from God, telling me to disbelieve atheists.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Infomania

Infomania worse than marijuna shouts the BBC headline, as research claims that people who show addictive behaviour around email and text messages (and probably we should also add, blogs, forums and news sites) suffer an IQ reduction of TEN WHOLE POINTS.

The entire concept of having a measurable IQ is dubious. I remember being tested when I was an eleven year old, and despite that I was the most intelligent child in the class and possibly the school, based on my ability to read, interpret, and apply knowledge to situations, since I didn't like tests, resistance to answering the kinds of questions I was being asked always masked the results. In fact, I was happy with that since it meant I wasn't going to have adults crowing over me and taking the credit; but I was acutely aware that the tests themselves were going to reward only a certain kind of thinking, one that had little to do with deeper level analysis, or creative imagination, or confidence.

I remember mathematics teaching becoming less and less interesting, but it didn't put me off the subject, just the crap teaching. I achieved way under par results until I was fourteen, when realising that I only had two years to sharpen up and get my O levels, the set of exams that more or less determined your future, whether you had any more academia in you, whether you would continue further up the educational ladder, I voluntarily gave up my Saturday afternoons in order to practise old exam papers. I just kept sitting past examinations in the discomfort of a crowded bedroom until, with the aid of One Good Teacher, and a hundred missed games of football and breast-touching adventures under my belt, I passed the stinking exam with eight others, so that I wouldn't end up on the jobs scrapheap in some kind of blue collar work - amazing how we are all so effectively conditioned by this kind of class snobbery.

Shortly afterwards, having dropped out of sixth form, I was in a dead-end job working for the government in the unemployment office. It was deadly boring and I was becoming progressively dulled by the experience. I would frequently go up onto the roof at lunchtime, having dealt with the public all morning, lines and lines of the dissolute, signing their name on the paper to get their fifty quid per two weeks, and I would get ritually stoned. I rarely if ever made mistakes; this marijuana helped me cope with the pointlessness of the information I was processing by taking me out of it. In time, my self-esteem climbed to the point where I understood that I needed to leave the job, and so I did, and my life began.

These people are confusing intelligence with IQ; they are confusing the information addiction which comes from the anxiety of doing a crap job with the semi-delirium and insight which comes (briefly) from being stoned. And now, before I forget, because I have to check my email and delete a dozen spams offering me viagra and penis enlargement and sexy hot sites, I will quote T. S. Eliot, whose name, as we all know, is an anagram of Toilets:
Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

East Finchley



Moving. Really, very. N2.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

London Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Farringdon



Been recording my journeys again.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Annual Sex

Overpopulation is the reason why we as a species are out of balance with nature. It's really that simple, and I think we all know why, in our secret, greedy little hearts, that situation has arisen: sex.

Too much sex is killing the environment. No matter that we can use contraceptives, we don't, or at least, not enough of the time to prevent the messy collision of cells that generates another prototype saint or sinner, i.e. fellow human being.

Six billion is five billion too many. It cannot last, and it will not last. However, you can bet your bottom that once wars, famine, mass population movement to escape rising sea-levels and rampaging strains of obscure biological weapons, of which we as yet know nothing, escaping from a Hungarian or perhaps Chinese laboratory, enter the biosphere spreading hitherto untreatable diseases and havoc in whatever landmass they infect, leaving only a few scattered pockets of humanity living in the sad and useless remnants of the promised high-tech future that never was, that the remaining homo sapiens will still be obeying the biological imperative, having sex, and making babies.

I have therefore decided to promote a new paradigm which, if widely adopted, will at least start to mend the appalling exhaustion of the planet which is brought about by there being too many of us: ANNUAL SEX.

Annual Sex as a way of life will return sex to the special place it once enjoyed, a place of precious celebration and rare pleasure. Gone will be the daily exhortations to measure life success by this crude yardstick. Sex sells will no longer be the mantra of the mass market. Sexual rarity will increase value, bring peace to nations, and bring about cohesive societies. Nakedness will be no longer be taboo; gender relations will lose iniquity. Sexual stamina will be rewarded since no limit will be put upon the length of the single, annual sexual act. The entire world will once again love, live and breathe, secure in the knowledge that we are in balance with our environment.

All this will be brought about by genetically modified toothpaste.

Remember: you read it here first.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Golden Pig Electric Blues Band

Happy new year - and a particularly auspicious year it will be until February 2008, according to Chinese tradition. The year of the pig comes around every 12 years, but the year of the Golden Pig every 60 years, and economists have been considering the effect of the capitalist boom which the Golden Pig augurs. So, with China already set on a fuel-guzzling, mass consumption, heavy polluting course, will this year finally spell the end of hope for ecological survival?

Tackling this understandably disturbed thought process, I searched for other Golden Pigs in order to keep the chin pointing upwards and found Golden Pig Electric Blues Band - "a perfectly balanced hybrid of Stoner Rock and Doom" - who I predict will have a massive year. Their album of the same name will be undeleted, and their eponymous track Mizz Marvel will remain 47 weeks in the charts across the entire world, catapulting this under-rated band to huge and well-deserved stardom.

Listen up!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Central Heating

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Resonate Together: World Sound Healing Day

As if by the magic of all things soft and wet, innit, after I took my Candy Heart Quiz, the woman I wrote this piece about (an intermittent ex, from whom I haven't heard in months) sent me the following email:
The 5th Annual
WORLD SOUND HEALING DAY
FEB. 14, 2007
"The Sound Heard Around the World"
Sounding an "AH" for planetary peace!

WHAT: World Sound Healing Day? The Sound Heard Around the World.
For five minutes, sound healers, meditators, peace activists and lovers of all humanity and sentient consciousness will send a Sonic Valentine to the Earth with the heartsound "AH" filled with the intention of Peace and Love!
WHEN: February 14, 2007, join thousands of people throughout the planet as they tone an "AH" together for five minutes during that day, projecting the energy of Light & Love throughout the Planet. We have found that creating a Global Sacred Sound any time within a 24 hour period on the planet will create a coherent waveform that will affect the entire Earth. Therefore, any time you feel guided to sound for Planetary Peace on February 14th is a good time! You will actually experience generating a field of transformational energy as this occurs. In addition, local toning groups will be occurring throughout the Earth at various times during that day with the intention of assisting planetary consciousness through sound.

* * * * *
If you are in Adelaide Australia, please join us on Feb 14 at 7:30pm at our regular Shakti Healing Evening at the Abergeldie House in Glen Osmond, where in addition to receiving the wonderful Oneness Blessing and Amma's Pink Material blessing, we will tone Ah together for 5 minutes.
* * * * *

WHY: To project peace throughout the planet. What better way to celebrate this joyous day of Valentine's Day then to project Peace to Mother Earth and generate peaceful energy throughout the planet with sound! Sound coupled with intention has the ability to heal and transform. We will sound an "AH" sending a "Wave" of Sound that will resonate throughout the planet. Now is the time for you to be part of the Celestial Choir and resonate together for World Sound Healing Day.   We can create major positive shifts on our beloved planet. Through sounding together we will make a difference.
HOW: Sound the heart sound "AH" for 5 minutes. We will simply sound an "AH" filled with the intention of Peace and Love for 5 minutes at a time that is convenient for you. The "AH" is a universal, non-denominational heart sound that when projected with focused energy is extremely powerful and effective.
AND: Pass this message on. If it's appropriate, forward this announcement about this event to your mailing list. Tell your friends and loved ones to join our Celestial Choir and help bring peace to the planet. There will be sound healing events throughout the world. Previous World Sound Healing Days were extraordinarily successful. We truly made a difference to the planet with our Sound, our Light and Our Love.
Last year's World Sound Healing Day was a tremendous success, creating powerful positive vibrational shifts for the planet. Please join us again in the co-creation of this event, projecting Light and Love through Sound and help make a difference! 
Full Details ? See www.healingsounds.com


* * * * * * *


Local Toning Groups, eh? One, two, three... Ahhhhh!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Get Real

Soon it will be the day of mush when right thinking people allow themselves to hope the unhopeable whilst drinking champagne and sniffing roses.



Your Candy Heart Says "Get Real"



You're a bit of a cynic when it comes to love.

You don't lose your head, and hardly anyone penetrates your heart.

Your ideal Valentine's Day date: is all about the person you're seeing (with no mentions of v-day!)

Your flirting style: honest and even slightly sarcastic

What turns you off: romantic expectations and "greeting card" holidays

Why you're hot: you don't just play hard to get - you are hard to get



I see no reason to revive the Valentine Resistance Movement, but I may well recall the gangster fluffy duckling. Thanks, Laurie, for the five minute fix.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Innit

Innit - that wonderful expression given us by our Asian compatriots - the equivalent of the French N'est-ce pas? - is added to the end of a yes/no question when the speaker expects an affirmative. It is not to be confused with "is it?" which mostly translates into "that's bollocks!" innit.

I've been having persistent podcast ideas, Doctor, which not being funk music won't neatly fit into Pod of Funk. Also I had some emails that people's browsers couldn't always cope when I embed media in these pages. So I decided to create a place for them where I can publish whatever I want.

From now on I'm going to distill the spirit of blog into a related podcast, and you'll find it in this bottle.

Here's the feed - subscribe, innit?

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Usufruct, DRM, Sharing

People have been sharing things since the dawn of time. In the light of Saint Steve Jobs of Apple yesterday denouncing DRM, following along Uncle Bill Gate's "just rip it" edict in December, I would like to remind you of an ancient concept - Usufruct.

Usufruct is a highly useful meme which society would do well to recall, one which you are entitled to use and profit by, so long as you keep it in good repair at your own expense.

Usufruct stems from a regard for property, not a disregard for it, or for ownership; it is rather an extension of ownership along practical lines. The word comes from Latin (use - fruit) but the concept is more ancient than Rome. Legally it means: you can use it even if you don't own it, the fruit in question not being Apple at all but those of one's labours.

The concept was certainly alive in ancient Britain, in Celtic times, when valuable items like hammers, swords, drinking vessels, saddles, might be in short supply with no hardware department of the local megalithicstore able to supply you with an easy replacement at the drop of a fine gold broach. So, if I wasn't using my hammer and someone needed it, they would without hesitation come and get it to bang in whatever fence post they needed to bang in; if the bandits were coming over the hill, then it didn't particularly matter which sword or shield you grabbed to defend the hearth and prevent your tribe from becoming slaves (not that the Celts did much of this - it was really a Roman thing).

Communal needs were held to be important and valuable, and dogs in the manger were not. If you weren't using something valuable, then someone else could, so long as they didn't break it or render it useless. Sharing was not only the norm, in a time when resources were precious, common ownership kept the community healthy, safe and productive.

Fast forward to 2007. When it comes to issues such as the ownership of music, protected / unprotected MP3s, videos on YouTube, legally we're in a total mess, although culturally, we're doing just fine. The law quite rightly seeks to protect the livelihoods of copyright owners (not just music companies: recording artists, writers, producers, engineers) from being undermined, but, since it pays no attention to humanity's tendencies to share things, and to use them for new purposes, excessive protectionism is terminally bound to fail. This is why the Creative Commons system is such a success, as it allows for less restriction and more variation in usage, so accurately providing for what humans are actually doing.

Useful things have always been shared, and useful culture has been passed on ever since the invention of print, with loans of erudite books between my learned friends and the circulation of penny-dreadfuls in the ale houses. Whether DRM goes or stays, so it will always be.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Funkpod Eighteen

Why do we question alien life? They are dancing among us even as we get down...

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Six Hundred Million Pounds For A Gherkin


Worth the money they just paid for it? Insurance giant Swiss Re has sold the iconic skyscraper in the heart of the City of London, which locals dubbed "the Gherkin". German property firm IVG Immobilien and UK investment firm Evans Randall bought the building for £600m ($1.2bn).

These however are much cheaper and tastier, and available in your local chippie.


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Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Punch Of Bricks

Concentrate; breathe. Feel nothing, just the power building calmly, focussed on your iron hand. Feel the energy rising, like a coiled snake unwinding.

Strike!

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Funch Of Twucking Bats

Available as audio.

It was just getting dark as the two of them set off, in woolly hats, sweaters, kagoules and wellies, down to the end of the Vicarage garden. A long-deserted barn lay just over the ramshackle fence, somewhat neglected as a result of an ongoing dispute with the neighbouring smallholder, which border war the chaplain had traced back to the Reformation. This local skirmish flared up once more after the Great War of 1914-18, after which the large, imposing rural building had been left open to the elements for the best part of eighty years, and had thus fallen into ruin and collapsed, except at one end, where a huge oak was growing into and through the wall. The charming vista was completed by proximity to the river, which ran gurgling and looping past, overhung by willow, and full of trout. It was a favourite visual motif of artists, and bad renditions of it appeared on pottery in local gift shops.

Bathed in the light of the rising moon, it really was a breathtaking scene, observed Hector, as he traipsed along through the tall, damp grass, following behind the Professor, who was muttering to himself incomprehensibly. Hector ignored this verbiage, knowing it was just a result of the whirring of the immense cogs of the Professor's spectacular mind, which was being stimulated by the proximity of his favourite animal - bats.

"Twucking bats," he murmured, then stopped, and turned, fixing him with his one good eye. "Did you know that the bats of Twucking have their own collective noun?" he asked.

Hector remained silent, knowing the question was rhetorical.

"Funch!" chimed the Professor. "The word is Funch."

"Absolutely, Professor," replied Hector,"Do you think we'll see any?"

"Oh, most certainly," said the Professor, turning back towards the barn. "Listen: can you not hear them?"



In the quiet of the dark winter evening, Hector strained to hear above the noise of water and his own breathing, crackling in man-made fibres; he could, actually, he realised - his ears picked up the faint, regular, high-pitched noise which could only be bats, and to his suprise he felt the neck hairs rise.

"A Funch of Twucking Bats. Has a damn good ring to it, don't you think?" exclaimed the Professor, fingering the top of his walking cane, the light of the full moon playing across his soft, distracted expression.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Twucking Fat

February always brought out the best in Ali. It's a Godawful month, usually, too early for spring, way past the new year, and no holiday in sight, unless you're rich, or a clever bastard who plans ahead, splayed out on a Thai or a Goa beach anointed with coconut oil, because "the climate is so perfect here right now."

Exercise is a chore leading to sore muscles, raw skin, red ears, chapped lips; sex seems out of the question when the purpose of bed is to recover. Nobody reveals an inch of flesh as the howling winds turn exposure into a potentially lethal medical condition.

Yes, February was always welcome, and he made amends for it's lack of civility. All you can do is eat, and so all he did was cook. He roasted nuts, he baked pies, he fricasseed, he blanched, he garnished, he toasted all manner of foodstuffs, seemingly determined to put the cold behind a warm, comfortable layer of fat. Fat laid down upon fat, like the rings of a tree, he imagined, if they cut him they would see the Shepherd's Pie, followed by the pasta, followed by the next hearty meal he'd managed to concoct as a remedy against the killing season.

He fed himself, and then his nourishment fanned in a spiral, beginning, as with all charity, at home, then outwards to friends, neighbours, invitees, acquaintances, random meetings and chance encounters; he would meet someone looking thin on a commuter train, drag them smilingly back, feed them as part of his usual row of hungry mouths.

Then, as the blossoms burst out of the trees, and the sun began it's approach, warming skin, and young people removed clothes, he would sigh, weigh himself, and visibly wilt. From March until late September, no more culinary extravaganzas. Back on the fitness treadmill. Once again, a mighty talent in summer hibernation.

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