Friday, March 30, 2007

Twitter: Favourite Waste of Time?

I followed this radio piece (available online for a few more days) with interest, having had zero interest in using twitter for myself, but having observed a raft of personal friends and contacts using this "web 2.0 gimmick" over the past months with all the new-found enthusiasm of converts to a cult music group or urban self-improvement craze.

Rooting around to see who is on it, I am staggered at the amount of sane, intelligent, adult people in there, apparently using it like a teenage hangout. I should have known it would be big - that Evan guy invented Blogger, right, and Blogger did change my life.

So yesterday, I dived into twitter. I'm not sure whether it's the most zeitgeist communication web thing ever, present tense blogging, mindless inanity, or just everyone's new favourite trendy waste of time. A lot of people seem to be frenzied twitterers... is this is for real? or is it more a matter of "keeping up with the websters"? Is this the natural outlet for the monkey-brain chatterbox which meditation teaches us to still, so that we might achieve peace and personal enlightenment? What's the netiqette? If I "follow" someone (weird concept, just a little too much like stalking) is it flattery, friendship, or sycophancy? Or does it reveal an unhealthy interest in the minutiae of other people's breakfasts?

I've cancelled the SMS messages - my phone filled up... something just ain't right about this deluge of trivia. Not sure I can bear to read stuff like, "had a bite of toast" "had another bite of toast" "no more toast" for too long.

Which reminds me: time to make toast.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thick and Fast

When I was at art school, I was once taken by surprise by a very unexpected question.

"How do you like your women?"

The question was put in the relaxed environment of somebody's art space in a big shared studio, which catered for 150 students, though at any one time, the college would be only half-full. A bunch of us were sitting and sharing tea and conversation, someone was discreetly rolling a spliff. These were the early getting-to-know you days, we were a bunch of relatively new arrivals, all bursting with talent, ignorance and insecurity.

The question was directed at me, so I immediately took stock. There were five of us; two I knew and two I didn't. I didn't know one of the young women, who was highly attractive but also rather quiet and paranoid in a beautiful dark punk way. Concept/performance art. Then there was big smiling Sarah, slightly older with an incredible Cheshire cat dissappearing smile; she was cool, but highly politicised. Great big colourful painter. There was Mike the incredible junky, looking dazed but appreciating the warmth; and there was this odd, upper-class guy Aidan, who had asked the question, a propos of not very much.

I had a girlfriend, I found myself imagining her shock at this gauche anachronism, and her laughter at his line. How DID I like my women anyway? I had only known two, at least in the biblical sense, and they were chalk and cheese, so how was I to know? Mother, sister, school girlfriends... no, I was taking too long, by now these young artists were all waiting for me to say something.

Say something.

"Thick and fast," I said, then watched their faces.

Punky twisted her head violently to the side and grimaced, Sarah continued grinning, letting the words sink in, Mike instantly snorted with derisory laughter and blew all the contents of the Rizla he was filling all over Punky.

Aidan still gazed across with a patrician curiosity that said he was not long for this world.

"Like early morning yoghurt," I added, finding my tea thankfully finished and heading for the exit.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Medicine Crow Death Bitch YouTube Awards

I could start blogging about the Kathy Sierra misogynist death-threat controversy, which I came across after being directed to CC Chapman's ironically (in the circumstances) named blog "Reality Bitchslap" (will he rename it now?) but Blog of Funk is wary of such blog-navel gazing, even when it gets as far as the BBC... instead I am experiencing a moment of crow.

Step forward, Crow, and go "Aaaark!"

"The word 'chief' is a white man's word; they call these men 'Good Men' - meaning he's brave enough to get a war deed."

Chief Joe Medicine Crow was thrilled when I told him that I'd already seen four out of the seven YouTube Award winners - Most Creative, Best Series, Best Music Video, and Most Adorable - Kiwi! by Madyeti47. How crap is the Comedy winner - I suspect this shows either corruption of the judges, or the corruption of the mind of teenage America. Or both.

How thrilled I am to be so easily diverted from the age-old socio-political gender struggle by a bunch of video shorts! Hold the main meal- I want these sweets!

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Ex-Sex Slaves Get More Japanese Apology

Back in December 2004 I wrote about the last victims of the second world war to be recognised and compensated, the "comfort women" of east Asia, China, Korea, Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan:
Back in 2001, Emperor Hirohito and his wartime governent were found guilty of "forcing women into sexual slavery during World War II." by a mock war crimes tribunal in the Hague. "The tribunal described the wartime system, whereby an estimated 200,000 women from across Asia were forced to work in Japanese military brothels, as "state-sanctioned rape and enslavement."

I am not anti-Japanese. However were these wartime victims European, or Jewish, the compensation would have been paid years ago. It is to Japan's shame that they remain in such parsimonious denial - especially considering the contemporary wealth and health that nation enjoys.

Mr Abe had previously been accused of the sex-slave equivalent of holocaust denial, after questioning whether there was any proof that the women had been forced. However, overwhelming testimony and first-hand post-war accounts recount the appalling conditions that the women were forced into: "Most of the victims were very young and most were in a perpetual state of exhaustion, pain, malnutrition, depression and deteriorating health."

Even now the apology comes with caveats, but this latest comments about the use of coercion come as US congress considers a non-biding resolution which calls for Tokyo to make an uneqivocal apology.

Not any chance of Japanese responding to US arm-twisting, then?

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Funkpod Nineteen

Yep. Here it is, number 19, the 8th smallest prime, and the smallest Higgs prime (a prime number with a totient (one less than the prime) that evenly divides the square of the product of the smaller Higgs primes). Nineteen is also a Heegner number. 42 minutes of funk.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

That Rising, Sinking Spring Feeling

When Stravinsky wrote the Rite of Spring, he wasn't referring to some gentle warming, nascent buds prying apart moist soil to peek colours charmingly into the mundane; he was referring to the violent crack of change from ice-locked and barren to fertile and frantic, the fierce struggle for survival, the battle for nesting grounds, the savagery of the fight to feed. When this ground-breaking symphony premiered in Paris, at the moment the trombones made that tearing, descending minor noise, riots broke out.

Women have it easier in spring. Men veer like the seasons from immobility to movement. Here comes the sap; there goes my flatlining winter testosterone. It takes courage and a degree of resignation to take the flow with the ebb. Men ride a rollercoaster of awakening, and it takes the entire gamut of civilised procedures to hold us in reasonable check. I could shag three times a day, and I want to shout at the spring-singing birds to shut the fuck up, so that I can hear myself sink. Think.

Stability left unbroken becomes stratification, and while I know that the old structures stultify our natural desire for change and must be replaced by the new, progress can seem like chaos, and spring often is exactly that.

We never do think of the trombone as being a revolutionary instrument, but in Igor's hands and ears, it was. Who would have thought that the rite of spring would sound like this?

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Blank Canvas

I've not been able to write much recently... how many blog posts start like that? Not Blog of Funk, which has managed a consistent 3.26 posts per week since June 2004, and that average doesn't take into account the other blogs I've written along the way. Not that I am blowing my own prolific trumpet. I have on several occasions wondered why the hell I am still blogging... what pleasure do I still get from this activity, which once provided me with such reward?

I used to feel connected through blogging; to myself, as I checked into my journal, reviewing and remarking upon things present and past; to others, as reactions came in to something I had written. But as podcasting and blogging have become more central to work, the freedoms of expression and to simply be able to speak my mind and be myself have diminished, and these have been replaced by a growing sense of responsibility which runs counter to art, and to maintain verbal output comes to seem a necessity rather than a natural product of my interests and enquiries into the substance of life. Leaving it alone for a while is always an option.

With so much verbalism channeled elsewhere, and being on the go for many more hours of the day than usual because of what the purple people call exciting projects, time to blog like this is rare over the last couple of weeks. I fell asleep last night before 9pm, I was so physically tired from moving boxes and furniture. The move has been delayed, the new house is gone. I had to face facts: I am stuck here for at least three more months.

Disappointing as that may seem, it's less stressful than being homeless or jobless. I had to get a load of stuff back out of storage and reassemble my living space. Things I thought would never return to the flat had to come back up the four flights of stairs. On the other hand, the hospital gave me good news: Come off the meds. They don't think I need them anymore. So that's good since the drug I was on can affect both liver and bone marrow, as well as put your white blood cell count down. Now, I'm to be off the meds for the next three months prior to a total re-assessment, it remains to be seen whether I'll drift back up into hyper-thyroidism. If you see too many posts written at this time in the morning, then that's probably a sign that I need re-adjusting again, like an old clock.

GGF has taken all this hectic activity in her stride, in fact, considering she's a middle class girl with a tendency to avoid strenuous work, she actually seemed quite impressed that I was able to shift so much clutter and move beds, tables, chests of drawers etc. unaided. I didn't want to seem churlish, reminding her that despite my medium build, advanced age, sensitive hands and artistic tendencies, I have been physically active and fit for the last two decades. I kind of wished that events hadn't made me demonstrate my physical stamina not just once but twice within the same month.

I'll never never make decent builder, because, like my dear sweetheart, I also love to watch other people work; and I was a lazy sculptor, preferring temporary solutions always, video screens and lighting effects to mighty iron or stone monoliths with their great lumpen illusion of permanence. But, give me brushes and put me in front of some decent paper, a canvas, a fresco wall, the roof of the sistine chapel, and I'm your man.

Which brings me to my next project - I am going to paint the second half of a painting. This is the result of having recently retrieved a large, empty canvas as a result of all this pre-moving boxing up of things, and in a spontaneous gesture of inspired community spirit, passed it to my artist friend Loose Mutton and urged her to paint the first half. How this "half" will be distributed across the canvas, I have no idea, but I am pledged to finish the painting as she has started it.

It's about this big.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Marilyn: Unio and Petitio

"Marilyn... sounds like Caroline..."

I was on the tube yesterday returning from Chiswick, and got stuck at Victoria. “There is a problem at Green Park,” announced the public address system. Certainly there was, I could smell the smoke! So I exited and walked past Buckingham Palace, and into Green Park where the shadows were long and the commuters bundled past royal banks of daffodils. It felt surreal.

When I got back home, I found that Unio and Petitio, my favourite fictional band had uploaded two new tracks, so I made myself a frothy cocoa, and made the lovely magic musicians a nice cheap pop video from my touristic camera observations, before bed.

from, innit

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Rise, Spring Flower

rise, spring flower
and paint my exquisite embrace
consume intoxicated harmony
as summer slumber buds
ignite empty fountains
tender sunbursts cloak brute night

emotional beyond spirit
you make my emotion insanity
vanish necessity, nurture scent
tune tempest, heat chill
remove anger, melt waterfalls
dissolve frost, decorate everything

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

45 Thousand Mile Service

I've been feeling under the weather, as we like to say in these fair islands. It's one of the many euphemisms we have for disease, decay and physical failure. I was in proximity to a colleague whose entire family came down with a dreadful affliction - here's the evidence, if you have a strong stomach - and I have been touched by the merest corner of this plague garment, the gentlest whiff of this miasma. Still it was enough to make me croak like a frog and I felt delirious for a couple of days.

I am on medication for my sensitive thyroid gland, Carbimazole, and one of the side-effects (there's a misnomer for you if ever there was one - SIDE effects? there are only EFFECTS, wanted and unwanted) of the drug is to reduce one's white blood cell count. I wonder if this has anything to do with the increased frequency with which I seem to be contracting these brief but annoying bouts of sickness. I am also noticing that every morning, my left index finger knuckle is painful for a while, until I bend it a few times. I've never suffered from arthritis - mildly aching knees in the extreme cold is the worst I get at this tender age. Is this a product of the meds, a sign that I need to adjust my diet, the onset of something elderly?

It occurred to me as I jogged at moderate speed around the park recently, observing the side-stitch in my left chest that sometimes comes from not warming up properly, and hoping optimistically that it isn't really incipient cardio-vascular failure, that I have been exercising regularly for 20 years. Aside from the fact that it keeps me in a good mood and generally makes me enjoy life more, will it have done anything by now to give the physical body more chances of less failure?

I have a great dislike of one of the doctors in my local GP's practise, who treated me once with utter disregard when I was trying to explain my symptoms; but then, given my history, seeking help from any doctor is problematic, and so I tell myself that I owe it to myself to have regular check ups, and not to allow a combination of blind optimism, endemic resistance and deep-seated fears to rule my action in health. This rubbish medic wrote me a referral to go and get a chest scan some time ago, and instead of ignoring the personal stuff and doing the right thing, I made an official complaint about his attitude and still haven't visited the hospital. What foolishness. As my loving partner tells me every so often, as gently as she can, I am 45, and really I should get myself checked out just in case there is any lack of systemic balance which needs attention. It's like the 50,000 mile service for a car, she pragmatically tells me. Why wait for it to breakdown, when an investigation now might save me pain, and treatable problems develop into less treatable?

This fearless love I get from GGF is quite marvellous, stimulating me to giving myself the love I need to look under the bonnet.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Getting Out, Staying In

You know how it is. You feel couped up, so you go out and get drenched...

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

New Series: Blog of Funk Recommended #1

The first in a spontaneous series of recommendations: Sonia Brock.


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