Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nuts Inside, Olives Outside

So there were these two kids sitting on a bench, and one of them was explaining olives to the other, while the other was proving difficult to convince.

"Olives," said the bigger kid, "they are Just Like Nuts. You Don't Eat All The Nut. You Only Eat the Soft Bit IN THE MIDDLE."

"OK," said the smaller kid, dubiously.

"See, the bit in the middle is tasty, yeah?"

"Sort of."

"It IS! It's nice. But, it's like nuts."

"It's easy when they're in bags." The small kid's plaintive voice stood for a wide world of advertised convenience. The big kid was using a sledgehammer to crack the nut of the smaller kid's ignorance.

"Yes, but, they are nicer when you get them fresh, innit? Like Christmas," said the big kid with inexorable logic, and he stretched out his legs, and gazed about them, satisfied that the argument was well and truly won.

There was a pause. Then the small kid said,

"But, you said this before, yeah, and I still can't swallow it."

Flabbergasted and exasperated, the bigger kid said,

"Well, why not? Just chew it up."

"I've tried," said the smaller kid, "but it's too hard. Look."

He pulled a small, dark, oval object from the recesses of his jeans and held it up between thumb and grubby forefinger.

"See? How am I supposed to eat that?"

Dawning was a moment of gentleness, as the bigger boy realised his mistake. Beaming and generous, he lowered his voice, and taking the olive stone, said proudly and confidentially, with a gastronomic flourish,

"Ah, you see, that's where you've got it wrong, mate. Nuts, you chuck the outside, eat the inside. Olives, you eat the outside, chuck the inside."

A deft flick of his strong wrist sent the inedible olive stone flying across the grass, where it was immediately siezed upon by a couple of flapping, pecking pigeons, who took some time to discover that fact. A silent air of deep calm descended on the boys, as the far distant Mediterranean sea lapped at their feet, and sunlight broke through, warming their brows.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Funkpod Thirty Three

Just the weather for some funk - it's warming up again. It's been well over a month since the last podcast, but though they may be irregular they sure be funky. Coincidentally, it's my significant other's birthday very soon, and she will be 33 years old.

Grab it here!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Drug Dreams

It's been a long time since I loosened my tenacious ego's hold on my consciousness by indulging in drugs of any kind, with the noble exception of caffeine as delivered in a tasty brown beverage, which in any case serves only to temporarily sharpen the mind whilst eventually exhausting the body. Ninety nine per cent of the time I am certain this self-control is a good state of affairs, but every so often I wonder whether total abstinence is such a good thing.

I can easily point to the benefits of not drinking alcohol, not smoking tobacco, not seeking the comfort of cannabis, nor self-medicating with the great, varied range of pharmaceutical candies which are easily available in Britain. My life is stable and my moods are manageable. My body is fit and my sleep is sound. My friendships are not based on a co-dependent self-annihilation, and that raw, inflamed, eventually insatiable greed for sensory overload is refreshingly absent. Not that I dwelt long in these tangled jungles of desire; but visit them I did, from time to time, somehow managing to avoid becoming prey to the beasts who inhabit those dark spaces.

To fall back now I would have to risk the balance I have worked hard to achieve both mentally and physically. It wasn't so long ago that I was told it would be necessary for me to remain on thyroid-controlling drugs for the rest of my born days. I recall the doctor who discharged me, fit and well, casually letting me know that the drugs I was on for eighteen months would probably have had the "side effect" of damaging my bone marrow... I am content with tea, meditation, exercise and acupuncture. My sex life is good, my work is improving. I feel good with myself for having taken the decision and stuck to it to lead a cleaner life.

Still, I dream. We discussed, my artist friend and I, last night in the pub, she with a small beer, me with a back coffee, the necessity and the pain of restraint. We debated the balance to be found between letting go and holding on. She told us a tale of Easter indulgence which left her reeling and which made us all laugh. The following weekend, she said, on the same tip, someone had ended up in hospital. We needed a blast, a boogie, we decided, a night out, music would do it, companionship and moving our bodies. We parted, and later I slept peacefully under the full moon and I dreamed of getting high.

In the dream I questioned my actions, even as I found myself repeating long discarded behaviour, going through the embedded ritual, savouring the anticipation, the method and the hit. I was gloriously and thoroughly stoned, my heart sang and my eyes burned, my pirate nature was extravagant, jubilant and victorious. Retracing the old steps, I felt the guilty rush and experienced the mental meltdown, and though fast asleep, I knew I would regret it later.

Except, later, I woke up, with a clear head, next to the woman I love, had a cup of tea, and wrote this.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Listen: Shut The Fuck Up!

"I really hate it when..."

How many times have you said that recently? "I really hate it when... " I've been noticing that it's a thought-pattern that increases with stress. I really hate it when I get that stressed that I start sentences with those five words. I really hate it when I start to feel that it really isn't worth bothering to be positive, and I really hate it when people listen to me loudly, vigorously hating things - anyone would think I was an aggressive, neurotic, abusive, resentful person all the time, instead of just on the odd occasion when it really is necessary.

It's not just me, it's other people. I really hate it when I think I know what people are thinking and it isn't very nice stuff about me. I hate it even more when I am proved right, but know that they are still very, very wrong. Because, I'm a nice person! A really nice person! I'm the kind of person anyone would want to hang out with, generous, kind, affable, witty, inclusive... the long list of attributes precious beads on a string I hang around my neck like a noose of social kindness.

I really, really hate it when people can't see past their own aggressive, neurotic, abusive, resentful traits and look bang smack at mine. I want to say to them: Listen: Shut the fuck up with your accusations that you haven't made but I know that you are thinking! Shut THE FUCK UP with your snide insinuations of superiority! Sometimes I walk away from these situations. Other times I sigh, and reply condescendingly, but even then the amount that escapes is miniscule, tiny. I really hate it when that happens.

I really hate it when I hear myself being nice, warm, and smooth to some eager capitalist, when what I'm really thinking is, what a wanker. I bet they pick their nose, I bet they cheat their expenses. I bet they cheat on their partner and lie to their friends and think that's big. I bet they masturbate and then (like 25% of the population) don't wash their hands and then they fucking shake mine and smile a big, cheesy smile. And I'm supposed to smile back at them and their teeth, and not think of the microscopic traces of their genital DNA which now attach to my palms. I really hate that I'm supposed not to shudder when I think of this. I really hate suppressing a shudder when a shudder will at least rescue me from the urge to vomit my breakfast all over their suit.

But most of all, I really hate it when all I can think about is my own petty responses when there are so many more serious things to think about like the end of life as we know it.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Baishakhi Mela, Brick Lane

This was a fun event, and a great way to spend a few hours on a warm spring day in east London.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Two Cups of Tea

I sometimes find myself going calmly along a path of apparent insanity, as if it is the most conventional, well-ordered and sensible route to fine achievement that I could possibly have chosen. This morning, I awoke in a good mood, still rested from my lengthy April break, engendered by several warm days of London summer sun, buoyed up with the unassailable feeling that everything is going extremely well.

I slept deeply after being beautifully pampered as a result of going early to bed, having avoided evening television, which these days I find disturbing. My simple rule of thumb: any programme with either politicians or Bruce Willis, switch off. I do not want lies, explosions or Hollywood blood clogging my mental arteries.

I'm feeling quite fit and well, despite occasional bouts of sneezing brought on by early season hay fever (why is this not called "pollen fever"? - I see no fields of hay in inner London...) I have some sorting out to do with various business affairs, and I have some inroads to make, all of which are fairly unproblematic and of course now I am thankful for the great efforts I have made previously, since getting up frightfully early, travelling the world, explaining my particular creative take on internet media, and giving people good advice on podcasting seems to be paying off. I am enjoying my interactions with my friends and colleagues, who all seem to be talented, friendly and capable.

My underlying concerns are not too disturbing either, self-appointed tasks consisting of communicating the inner changes that I experienced in the mountains to the people in this and other cities who actually need to know. It's the age-old clash between urban and rural, as expressed via a boy from Croydon. And all this as a preamble to explain, no, to demonstrate my apparent sanity and level-headedness and to go some way towards proving to you, dear reader, that I don't generally do apparently insane things, like make two cups of tea at once, even though there is only me here.

Now it's totally clear to me how this came about. First, the initial cup of tea, made by GGF in a morning rush, was lukewarm and rather weak - unsatisfactory. Please note: this situation is often reversed, and we wait upon one other in a fair and balanced way, frequently attaining high standards both culinary and domestic. Since I love her, and she loves me, thus I have great compassion - particularly today, as she is I know still dazed from the excellent play we enjoyed before crashing out, stunned and exhausted by the sublime physical expression of the love we share. So, a model of tact, I said nothing, and merely waited until she was well into the clothes-donning part of her leaving sequence.

Then I went into the kitchen, and prepared my own cup of tea. Except that I calmly made TWO CUPS, as if compensating for the bad first cup. Making one cup immediately after the other, I can understand, but two at once? Then I get a hot cup and a going-on-lukewarm-again second cup. Actually, I rescued this outcome by using one of the ceramic lids which turn our cups and mugs into mini-teapots, and so, I'm drinking it now, and it's not too bad. But why did I make two cups at once? What was I thinking? I just found myself doing it, and went along with it, as if it were the most natural, normal thing in the world! For whom exactly am I making the second cup? Me! Me, and then me. Right. Right.

Now this may not seem all that insane to you, but I am convinced that this is how it begins - small actions, apparently insane, cropping up in the day-to-day melange of decisions and actions and consequences we call life, bizarre, counter-productive, non-sequiturs going unquestioned and unchecked. The brain, the regulating organ which is expected to keep us on track goes into a kind of "what the heck" mode, and the next thing you know, you're driving on the wrong side of the road with an oil-powered high-velocity wall of steel and glass moving towards you at a combined speed of 200 miles per hour, you're stepping off the very high balcony and whistling a jaunty tune as you cash in your kinetic energy and plummet fifteen floors into concrete, you're balancing the mains-powered music machine on the edge of your bubble bath...

Right now, I can live with the second cup of tea, enjoy it, feel good about myself. But what if this happens after some inconsolable badness has happened to me, when I am haggard and sleep-deprived after a mind-numbing credit-crunch of an argument with some deadbeat bigot, after the best bet I ever placed comes stumbling in last on broken legs and is shot dead at the finish, and I'm reeling like a tanked-up homeless piss-smelling drunkard looking for smack to take the edge off the brew? What then?

This is the fabric of the world - we are trapped beneath the warm duvet of stultifying convention and scared to be without it. Like Reggie Perrin, who faked his own death to escape, after ordering ravioli followed by ravioli followed by ravioli until he was sick, what we need is not more of what we like, but the freedom not to care about what we know to be valueless.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

I Feel Fine

No really, I do. Fascists are taking over the world and we're all doomed to starve, trapped inside a polluted, depleted ecosphere, but I do feel absolutely fine. Nothing can shake my fabulously good mood, because I know how to handle the situation:

Go with the flow


The flow is towards the sea, and so upon my small boat, I am carried down towards that great inevitable ocean, containing all things. The flow is to the peaks, and so upon my miraculous hang-glider, warm air currents float me upwards until I rest upon the smooth, breast-like surface of the welcoming mountain top, from where I may view the entire visible universe. Oh yes, the forces are no stranger to me, and I shall not resist them.

But I can do better than that. Witnessing the oncoming rise of the right in Britain, in this newly conservative world I now inhabit I've decided to anticipate this more punitive, curmudgeonly, old-fashioned, archaic, and fundamentally anti-celebratory culture by initiating a new regime of financial penalties for activities that are deemed to be herewith unacceptable.

As from today, there shall be non-appealable, mandatory, on-the-spot fines for:
  • Public Nose-Picking - this habit is revolting, and people simply seem to have developed a complete lack of respect for public decency;

  • The Playing of Loud Popular Music on Mobile Phones - opera will of course be exempt;

  • The Wearing of Informal Clothing - outside of working class areas, and in all shopping centres and places of public assembly;

  • The Making, Watching or Participating in So-Called "Reality" Television Shows - these set an entirely bad example to our young people and so will be replaced by coverage of Ascot, Badminton and other pre-eminent equestrian events;

  • Frog Hunting - this torrid stain on our nation France must be stamped out!

  • Sirens - police, ambulance, fire - all banned, to be replaced with the music of string quartets

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Friday, May 02, 2008

The Hammer Falls

As newshounds trumpet the worst Labour election results in 40 years, and Londoners contemplate the ghastly spectre of a TV personality with a history of public idiocy and insults taking control of the capital, the left in Britain is reeling.

The journalists' tendency is to believe completely in the success of the dumbing down of the past twenty years, but the UK population is more far savvy than the media and politicians give us credit for being. We remember, we assess, we are sensible and cynical, and we are not fooled by newspapers or television to the extent that their acolytes believe we are. We come to our own conclusions, and so we have.

No longer can these results be blamed on anti-Blair feeling, I read somewhere. Oh yes they can - do they really think we are such idiots? The current administration "stood shoulder to shoulder" with that particular conscientious Christian soldier while 200,000 innocents were cut down and slaughtered for the Democratic West's oil greed, the carnage continues daily, and we have not forgotten. Politicians decry the lack of respect our armed forces personnel are given, but fail to mention the dishonourable war they sent them to fight. Among decent people the guilt lingers, and since decent working people vote Labour, Labour will suffer for that until they sincerely revisit their morality.

We know that the change of face does not mean a change of heart. We know that these proto-socialists have done too little to bring about the changes we voted them in to effect - the system of government itself partially, badly reformed, insufficient attention given to ecology, a decade of glib assurances about the economy now turning sour, food prices rising, and now the very poorest suffering with the removal of the 10p tax bracket. Neither did people like the shoe-in of Brown for Blair - even though that is the way things are done in this country, we feel that we want a say in who runs our country. Dour Brown does not cut it - he's just not likeable enough on a human level, and people cannot relate to him, even as they did to Butcher Blair.

Politicians ultimately think only of themselves and retaining power. We all know that by now, Labour are thoroughly corrupted and will have to go.

The terrible truth is that the right, gathered hungrily in the corner, and now edged by real fascists - the ultra-right in their shiny new PR suits, glossing up their policies like the French Front National - are preparing to take the country, and they know that barring accidents, the slide back to them is gathering pace and will probably be achieved within two years.

Having betrayed their core vote, the British left is now in disarray, and like Italy, France and Germany, will soon cease to be electable. A new generation, oblivious to the penury and destruction of Conservatism (witness the USA's last eight years) will vote Cameron, that rich, pretty boy, pretending to give a fuck, into office; and the rich and privileged, the bigots and the bullies, the oppressors of the weak, marginalised and voiceless, will be back in power.

Which gives me 24 months to get the hell out of here!

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