Because it pleaseth me to do so (and because I'm avoiding work like mad), I've been tinkering with the aerial map of London that David found via the Evening Standard.
Click here to launch a window with the little toy I've built - requires Flash. (But then so does the rest of the internet these days...gor, it's not like I was a kid, we were 'appy with an animated gif and a blink tag. It's a bleedin' liberty it is, I tell yer).
If anyone has any advice on how to keep my cool here at work, I'm all ears. It's amazing, I wake up in a fairly Friday-ish mood, pretty cheerful - hey hey it's the weekend. Nice ride into work, all the lights are green, the sun is shining, bluebirds landing on my shoulders, and friendly policemen waving to me from the pavement.
It's a lov-er-ly day tra-la-la-la-la-laaah!
Precisely 1 minute and 13 seconds after getting in through the door, my mood has vanished (Hmm - blog-ja-vu). The idiot project manager is in - I've not seen hide nor hair of him for a day and a half.
"How's it going?" he offers, idiotically - the same phrase he uses all the time, because he hasn't the slightest clue what's specifically going on with the project. He grins cluelessly as I manage to convey just how fucked off I am with him in the most economical way possible. He sits down again with a sigh. Gosh aren't I just so horrible and uncommunicative? Poor Project Manager.
I've thought of doing drugs during the week to keep me perky, but well, that's just so unprofessional, and I really don't want a(nother) habit do I?
Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean...
I was going to have a ramble about the state of my health and general upkeep of the mothership 'Steve', but I think I'll save that for this afternoon now.
Instead, here's a few 'amusing' search strings I've had lately...capitalisation, spaces and punctuation are intact of course:
Interesting Factoid about my self
sex reassignment surgery women's happiness after before
tracey emin naked
That last one is a bit terrifying, and even more so as I'm way down on page seventeen of the results. Ew, someone really wanted to see Tracey's fadge...
Nothing much on TV tonight, so I left John to have a surf through our meagre selection of cable channels while I picked through the day's blogging. I'd barely sat down when he shouted me back through to the living room. He'd stopped on the 'Local Life' channel, which was showing a bizarre fifties kodacolour drama in some utterly indecipherable language.
Faded pastel twinsets, beehives and chianti cut from scene to scene on a ViewMaster mediterranean holiday carousel.
"It's not Italian" Better Half offered.
I strained my ears - nope, not flowing enough - the odd words ending in consonants. "It's definitely a romance language though. Spanish? Portugese? Could it be South American?"
"It could be Romanian."
"Is that a romance language?" I asked, Jade-ishly.
A be-beehived woman gets slapped by a man that looks like a cross between Liberace and Nicolae Ceaucescu, then is consoled by a consuela in a jaunty apron. Caramba! The two of us just staring agape at the gogglebox, totally oblivious to how this programme managed to find it's way onto our screen.
The programme jumps to a taverna, five people linked arms round each other's shoulders, sidestepping gracefully while clipart fifties couples gaze on. The name of the taverna spelled out in greek letters. Well, that's that bit of the puzzle solved, but I can't shake the feeling that someone slipped acid into my sausage casserole.
Usually Local Life is so innocuous and channel-fillerish - badly produced 'localogues' that you skim past on your way through to Sky 1. It's never bothered us in the past, and we've never bothered it. Certainly we've never been interested enough to find a schedule for the station, until now.
And of course, I can't find one - but now it seems the internet is in on the surrealism - Google is offering me It's Hyndburn.
You just have to love The Sun's near pathological hatemongering when it comes to saving our good nation's kiddies (even the dearly departed ones).
Apparently the actual story on pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and opinion on page 14 is nowhere near as good the "Sun finds them near horror site" byline suggests, as my mate Peter points out: "it just looks like someone from the Sun chucked a load of ashes on a bush somewhere to stir things up", but it made me chuckle - sick bastard that I am.
I have visions of oxymoronic Sun "readers" rushing up to Saddleworth moor, setting fire to the place then dousing with holy water in an attempt to expell the evil.
While I'm on the subject of amusingly-offensive things that have been keeping me sane today, these Evil Komiks have been great for a deep, throaty guffaw - that's one that sounds a bit like Sid James, nothing to do with Linda Lovelace.
Jump out of bed and I stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition. *Yawn* *Stretch* Try to come to life. Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumping, out on the street the traffic starts jumping, with folks like me on the job from nine to five.
Wait. No, sorry - wrong blog - I'm having a Dolly moment.
It's all Peter's fault of course. Suggesting over in Mike's comments that Whitney Houston is somehow better than Dolly Parton.
Let's compare shall we:
Locust Ridge, Tenessee
Newark, New Joisey
A draw here I think. Points to both girls for coming from nowhere and making it to megastardom.
Aunt: Dione Warwick Husband: Bobby Brown
Round two to Dolly, for making it on her own through sheer grit and determination.
Best Little Whorehouse Steel Magnolias
The Bodyguard Waiting to Exhale
Another win for Dolly, I don't need to explain why - two words: Kevin Costner.
"I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know that I'm not dumb. I also know I'm not blonde."
"Crack is whack"
What was Whitney thinking?
You've got to admire a woman who has her own theme park. And she makes personal appearances.
one: Dolly the Sheep
This is true - apparently Dolly the sheep (may she graze in peace) was named after Parton. So far Houston has yet to receive this honour.
I think this proves my point conclusively.
Just say "NO" to Whitney.
Update Sorry for the construction work on that table - it was really bugging me, and took me about twenty goes to get right.
Continuing the trend from last week's entry, here's another word with Indian origins. There are loads of other words in everyday english with an Indian source. One of these days, I will sit in my little bungalow while wearing my pajamas and tell you them.
jodhpurs - 1899, from Jodhpur, former state in northwestern India.
My brain is being squeezed by the Project From Hell until grey juice pours out of my ears. I've got three days, but I'm pretty sure something will end up stretching and I'll be doing bits of it next week.
I've been doing this for over a year now by myself, and concentration levels are incredibly difficult to maintain. I've promised myself when it's all done I'm getting the hell out of this godawful company, but well, that feels like the idiots I "work for" have won some kind of victory over me.
Anyway, I've got nothing exciting or amusing to blog: I'd mention my dreams, but that's the last resort of a desperate blogger. Actually, I will just mention that I'm back on extremely lucid dreams at the moment. I woke up at 7:15am this morning as John left for work, pottered around for a bit and then went back to bed, and ended up having this rather involving dream where I was Nightcrawler from the X-Men, complete with cool 'BAMF' effect. It's only because the trailer for X2 was out last week, and one of the best looking bits (apart from Wolverine looking as gorgeous as ever, and the film looking rather promising) was Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler. And it looks as though they've got the character's teleportation effect (BAMF) down to a tee.
God, I'm such a geek-boy sometimes.
Anyway, I'll just mention Mike's fantastic pick of the pops poll over on troubled-diva, which I'm sure everyone knows about who comes here. Fantastically diverting survey of which decade was best for pop. So far, after eight days of voting, the seventies are on top, closely followed by the eighties, but both have a rather commanding lead over the rest of the pack. This could just be a result of the demographic spread of Mike's readership, but it's fun nonetheless. Go and take part - there's still time!
Ey up, Steve here. I hope you're all enjoying A Bear Abroad. Just a quickie from me to say I'm really busy here at work trying desperately to get the Project From Hell finished, despite the fact I've got a month's work to do in three days.
However, in classic work deferral mode, I've just had a little reorganise of my archive section. I decided the month long archive was getting a wee bit unwieldly with the amount I've been posting, so I've chopped it up into week long archives instead. I hope this meets with your approval.
Satiated, after much miming to the staff, I set off towards the centre of Bishkek, a ten minute walk found me passing the "sights". As elderly Ladas and Moskvitches wheezed by, I found the Cinema with its hand-painted billboards.
The real ones are flogged on the black market along with anything else of value in Kirgyzstan. Further on was the main square, in effect a mere widening of the road. Here between midnight and 6am no cars are allowed – nobody knows why. Perhaps it is to preserve this stretch of road as pristine. Potholes are everywhere – nothing has been done since the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and the crumbling Soviet infrastructure gives decay a bad name. Even worse manhole covers are often just missing, making a walk at night a somewhat hazardous pastime. Even Lenin is still in town, his massive statue outside the Kirgiz White House dominates the Kirgiz national memorial which consists of a flag and the best guarded footstool in the world. It is as if the USSR is only moments away.
But no, even the USSR was not as corrupt as Kirgizstan. The President has just changed the constitution to allow him to stand for a third term, a close relative runs the central bank whilst his son runs the biggest nightclub in town (heavily advertised in the Airport arrivals lounge). The only building going on is of large mansions in the mountains for ruling politicians. Servicemen at Manas airbase are given immunity from prosecution so they can bribe with impunity: it is the only way to get things done.
So I couldn’t blame the Colonel. Six months seeing these wonderful people and their potentially rich country being strangled by corruption cannot have been easy. Like a post-colonial African country Kirgyzstan teeters on the edge of democracy or dictatorship – with only the presence of western forces at Manas holding back the slide into one-party rule. I was told that I should be thankful, at least Kirgyzstan was better than her neighbours. As I flew out of Manas on Friday morning I wondered how long for.
"I’m sick of this country" Colonel Gulseth said dispairingly. I’d been in Kirgyzstan less than a week but I already knew what he meant. Gulseth was the Norwegian National Representative, the most senior Norwegian officer on Manas airbase. As such I was his guest and it was over lunch on Thursday, just before my last round of interviews, that he suddenly vented his frustrations.
I really shouldn’t have been surprised. I’d arrived in Bishkek in the early hours of Sunday morning and flopped straight into my bed at the sumptious Hyatt Hotel. By lunchtime I was up and around and keen to get out of the place and its contrived atmosphere – I was also hungry and I was damned if I was going to pay the Hyatt USD25 for lunch. I could see a building from my window, looking like a crashed spacecraft, it turned out to be the Circus. I navigated my way across the old Soviet war memorial, with its statues to realism, spooning couples and skateboarding kids, towards the families gathered at the Circus. Not much apart from a stuffed donkey, cheap Chinese toys and a reluctant pony hauling toddlers around for a living. Still it was a start.
The best way to explore a city is on foot. I’d picked up a map from the Hotel shop and armed with that and the principle of Zen navigation I followed someone who looked like they knew where they were going. They led me to an outdoor market, and then to Zum, Bishkeks answer to John Lewis. Bought by an Italian businessman in the early nineties Zum was now filled with dozens of small traders selling everything from Coke to Tumble Dryers. I didn’t linger in Zum for long – I was still hungry and I’d spotted a café outside.
Fairly quiet weekend, except of course for the usual Sunday insanity. Lunch in the west end with John and Neal, bumping into random people, including a really old friend from University days, Oby. He was sitting writing lyrics in Borders on Charing Cross Road. I stopped and chatted to him for a while, we talked about how things were going, and I introduced him (badly I think) to the world of blogging.
It can be such a hard thing to describe to people who've not come across it. For starters, the name itself doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. And then - how to describe what it is I/we do? It seems inaccurate to call blogs 'diaries' - journal is a better word, but I think it's lost it's currency these days a little. I enjoy saying 'I've started doing some writing' because that to me is what it is at it's simplest level. Interestingly, I'm starting to notice people's style of writing a lot more these days, what it reveals through inclusion, ommission or choice of language, and that I see as a direct consequence of writing every day myself. How do you go about translating the landscape of your mind into paragraphs? How is it you can convey a unique sensation by putting this word next to that word?
So I spent Sunday morning browsing Other People's Blogs - trying to get to know a few more people. Too many to remember all of them, but sticking out were: Gina Snowdoll, Green Fairy, Rob, David, and many more, too numerous to remember (especially on a Monday).
The usual shenanigins then of course on Sunday afternoon. Bit of a change in routine, left RVT early to get the tube up to LA3. Five drug-fucked poofters staggering around the northern line, bumped into another bunch of poofters on the northern line (beginning to sound like the Brady Bunch). I think that was the highlight of the night. We joined forces and had an entire third of an (mercifully for anyone else) otherwise empty carriage taken up. I got pretty boisterous at one point - really I don't know what comes over me sometimes - I was feeling all garrulous and centre-stage. LA3 became very messy very quickly of course, and at two-ish Neal packed me on my way, waving me off to the bus with my little satchel and gloves on a string.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says "There! She's gone!"
"Gone from my sight, that's all." She is just as large in mast and spar and hull as ever she was when she left my side; just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at that moment when someone at my side says "There! She's gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout,
In the shower the other day, a thought popped into my head. Growing old is such a great thing to happen - although things happen over and over, patterns repeat themselves and you learn and grow and get better at dealing with things, life still manages to shock, confound, delight and astonish. Situations repeat themselves, and each time your emotional toolkit grows, and you find new ways of enjoying them.
Ever increasing circles.
It's like watching a film you loved as a kid and discovering something new - a dimension to the story that you weren't able to experience as a child. Suddenly, this film you thought you knew so well manages to suprise you and you find you love it even more.
And you suddenly realise that life is so complex, so beautiful, and it's never going to stop being a source of wonder.
How many of you have re-read your posts and thought your life sounds so much more interesting than you remember it?
God, hope you don't think I'm a raving egomaniac or something*, I just look back through some of the stuff I've been writing and think, my life sounds so ace.
Really, honest, I'm usually such a down-to-earth sorta chap. I always think the sum of other people's lives sounds so much more exciting - hobbies and whatnot. But when you actually have it all recorded, it's quite interesting to look through and realise how much you actually do.
Mr Bear is back from Kyrgystan. He has lots of stories, and it would appear he also seems to have acquired a Kyrgyz boyfriend. I can't let him out of the house - seriously, the man is a twink magnet. I will have lots of stuff to come from him next week, and I just asked and invited him to come and say hello to you next week - it seems it's all the rage these days. So he may jump on and write a story for you all!
I always wondered what happened to some of the muppets when they left the show. It seems Janice did really well for herself after she had a huge falling out with Animal and the blue one that played the sax. She left the band and was discovered by Gianni Versace who, recognising her talents, 'adopted' her as his sister. She changed her name to Donatella Versace, and of course - the rest is history.
Animal never recovered from the fight with Janice, and drowned his sorrow in cheap liquor and prescription painkillers. He died alone in 1996.
[Credit to Lawrence Neal Fenton for spotting this one.]
Last post on the Produkin-Gorskii Record for this week. Huge thank you to Mike for linking to the images on troubled-diva, which has got me quite a bit of traffic in the last couple of days.
Rather than post another four images, I thought I'd just try to describe the process involved in turning the 'negatives' into a full colour image. A couple of comments on other sites have been a little misleading, perhaps suggesting that there was some hand colouration, or Photoshop trickery involved. Also, although there are no technical details on the official site, I would imagine they would use something very similar to Photoshop themselves, if processing these images digitally. With the right software, and a bit of time, you can recreate these images yourself.
The first step to recreating the colour image is to get hold of the three-channel 'negative' (for the purposes of this, I'll call the image a negative, although obviously it's not). There are a couple of sizes on the website, a fairly modest size jpg, and a whopping big tiff file - usually about 60M. For the most part, I just used the smaller images, as for previewing it's fine.
You need to have an image compositing package that allows you to manipulate each colour channel of an RGB image separately. Photoshop is obviously a fairly top-end package that most professionals use - I don't know whether other applications allow you to do this, but I would imagine they do.
The three images correspond to one channel of the RGB composite image - the top image to the blue channel, middle to green and bottom to red. You need to create an empty RGB image as big as one of the channel images - I usually go by the size of the green image, as it tends to be larger than the other two. Each of the channel images is pasted directly into the corresponding channel of the empty RGB image.
Once the separate colour channels are in place, you will find that the alignment of each is slightly out. Each channel is nudged into place until they overlap exactly. Viewing the composite RGB channel of the image, you'll see that already you've got what looks like a colour image. It's then usually a good idea to adjust the colour levels of the final image a little to balance the image and adjust for any slight degradation of any of the channels.
And that's pretty much all there is to it. You can crop off any areas that are unneccesary, and you've got your final image.
Despite statements to the contrary to Johnathan, I watched some of the Brits last night. Well, I say watched - I had the volume up in the next room while I surfed for porn. Telly has been keeping me company while Better Half is away. What's that telly? Yes, I had a great day at work, thank you so much for asking. Anyway - I've never sat through an entire Brits show, and this year was no exception. Ms Dynamite doing 'Faith' was pretty weak and I missed Justin and Kylie - mercifully so, it seems. You could tell something was up when Ben Elton got a huge cheer and Tom Jones did the finale. Surely half the people watching wouldn't have a clue who these people are? Oh, unless it was only gay thirtysomethings tuned in... Full(er) review over on Swish Cottage (and probably here and here later).
Update It seems Luca got there first with a spot-on evalutaion of the night. Go read. Him funny.
I finally heard from the frozen wastes of Krygystan - Better Half phoned! The pleasure was somewhat diluted by the fact that he'd only phoned to tell me there'd been a bomb alert at the airbase he's staying at and he'd been evacuated - but of course, not to worry. Well, I wasn't until you told me that you muppet. It's hardly going to be headlining at bbc news is it? I dug around on the central asia section, and couldn't find anything about it there - hardly suprising. So - gist of phone call was: I'm phoning to tell you about a threat to my life that you wouldn't have heard about, but don't worry. Is this how Mr. Kate Adie feels?
Right - what else...? Hmm? What? Oh, that...the scoop.
I suppose I'll put you out of your misery. If you were reading waaaay back here, you might have guessed what it is. Yep, exclusively here folks, I can reveal that Kath and Kim is to get it's UK debut on the 1st of March.
However...those of you that guessed that the bidding war was probably fierce between BBC2 and Channel4 are in for a birrova shock. It's due to be shown on FTN (Full On Entertainment). Um. What? I had to trawl through loads of pages of marketing shite to see whether my cable supplier actually has this channel, and yes, it seems it is on NTL. However, as we've got the cheapest package, I don't get it.
Bit of a segway of a scoop perhaps. And I've still got a bit of egg on my face I think since the whole Daredevil thing. Not seen it, not going to, but Colin Farrell still looks blummin' fit in it. Johnathan assures me Kath and Kim is funny, but I'm pretty disappointed that it's not getting the release it deserves.
Hmm, apologies for the bad atmosphere around here. I'm still feeling really crappy after my rant this morning, and I'm stuck here at work trying to get a few things uploaded onto a server travelling at the speed of teletext.
Anyway, I've got an exclusive scoop to reveal, but I'm going to save it until I feel in a better mood. Stay posted.
So, yeah, I was feeling all happy and sparkly this morning - if a little cold (Better Half usually puts the heating on in the morning, so I get an hour's warmth before I get up). The mood lasted right up to getting into work, then deflated like so much souffle.
Work hasn't had this much of a bad effect on me for years - the last time I was like this was at my first job in Stoke-on-Trent. We had this gorgon-like CEO lady boss, whose hobbies included demoralising her staff, emasculating her husband, eating small children, oh and keeping ponies (ahhh - ponies).
In what was to be one of the last meetings with her, she had decided to bawl out her entire staff, after a meeting with our newest client, a prominent tractor manufacturer (oh, the glamour). Slightly burned by the last few projects where clients had the temerity to demand things, she was fore-armed with a tape-recorder to make sure that she could hold them to anything said at the meeting. Various salespeople, designers, programmers and managers trundled down the M6 to the meeting at the client's offices. At the beginning of the meeting, the CEO produced the tape-recorder, and plonked it prominently in the middle of the table.
I was terrified of saying something that we would end up having to deliver, and in any case, it was one of those meetings where it doesn't matter what you say, the important thing was that noises were coming from you, preferably drowning out anyone else in the room. Amazingly, the meeting went quite smoothly though, with every question I needed to ask being answered without me uttering a peep, and I left with a firm idea of what was needed.
Lady-boss saw things in a very different light. The next day, she pulled me into a private office and proceeded to scream and spit at me for not talking during the meeting. And when I say 'private office' what I actually mean is a room to one side with a filmsy partition wall with windows in it.
Update I decided that my bad mood got the better of me here, and I've edited out all references to this woman by name. Sorry if I'm being a bit nasty today, I think I need a good holiday...
Unsurprisingly, about a month later I left for the start of my career proper, a wiser man for the experience. My elders and betters have counselled me not to mention her name, so I'll just offer this up to the gods of karmic balance - despite your best efforts, you didn't knock my faith in women being able to succeed in the workplace, but you sure opened my eyes to the very worst that they had to offer.
Addendum I think I'll just clarify my position here, before anyone gets the wrong idea, and thinks me a stereotypical mysogynist poofter. I grew up in a majority female household, with two female heads of state, and my favourite tv programme was Cagney and Lacey. I never once questioned the fact that women should have careers, and succeed at them. I think the whole question of "Women In The Workplace" is horrendously outmoded - gender politics should have no place at work, but unfortunately as I started in my career, I discovered that it still does. Like many situations in society, we struggle against historical precedent and legacy. Many women still seem to feel (and perhaps they have just cause) that to succeed in the workplace they either have to prove they have bigger bollocks than the men, or behave like whores.
Am I digging myself deeper here?
My old boss was an example of the former, and later I discovered examples of the latter - women who would quite happily use their physical assets to get exactly what they wanted. The fact that they can do this is due to (amongst other things) the glass ceiling, and the fact that many positions of authority are occupied by sleazy old men who see women as nothing more than a nice bit of skirt. I realise now that my ideals of a gender-politic-free workplace were a utopian dream fostered by the liberal media, and it's hard to find it in the real world. And not once did one of my bosses try it on with me - a bit of sexual harrassment would have been quite welcome from some of them.
Feeling indigestion coming on after wolfing down subsistence meal - totally lost the ability to fend for myself without Better Half. It won't be suprising if he comes home to find me completely reverted to a feral state, living in a nest constructed from duvets, pillows and empty Pizza Hut boxes, smeared in my own excrement.
Great news though - I've heard from him! An email from Krygystan! Seems his time is being spent divided between an airbase, an orphanage and various gay clubs. He's back on Friday, so I don't have long to survive by myself.
Just caught a few minutes of a trendy documentary on the Lomo camera on BBC4. Me and 15 other viewers, I should think. It's just reasserted my desire for one of the little beauties, but this is not a good month, what with a ground rent and housing insurance bill appearing out of the blue. I nearly bought one a couple of years ago, but I couldn't justify it. Now I've got a digital camera, so I still really don't think I should - but, oo they're so lifestyle. I'm assuming everyone knows of Lomography? I really don't have the stamina to tell you about it, so go look at the website instead.
More photographs from turn of 20th century Russia. As I've written in my comments, it's really fantastic developing these pictures - you start with three black and white images, and almost magically a colour picture appears. I wouldn't be suprised if no-one had seen the image in colour in eighty or ninety years, as the technology to print in colour wasn't around when the pictures were taken.
There's no known replica or illustration of the camera used to take the pictures, but judging from the way the image channels have a slight offset to them when they are composited, it was probably actually three cameras in one, stacked vertically, each one with the appropriate colour channel filter over the lens. If you view one of the blown-up images, you can see that the registration of the three channels gets increasingly poor the further back in the depth-of-field you go. It's similar to the red-blue stereoscopic printing effect (called an anaglyph), except using three channels, and having a vertical offset, rather than horizontal.
The enlarged images are taking me quite a while to create, as the source files needed for them are about 60Meg in size - the level of detail is quite stunning, but even on a fairly fast connection, it's taking about ten minutes to download. While we're on the subject of bandwidth - I hope everyone is OK with the filesizes I'm posting. I'm not being too careful with the compression on the images, but I'm trying to only post a few at a time, to save your connections.
Here's another four images:
Man with camel loaded with packs
Iconostasis of the Tikhvin Mother of God Church - Torzhok
Dinner during haying - Russian Empire
Observing a solar eclipse on 1/1/1907 - Golodnaia Steppe
In the case of the third image, Dinner during haying, the section of the image which corresponded to the green channel was badly damaged, which would have left a large magenta mark across the composite image.
To create the corrected composite image, I copied the area corresponding to the damaged section from the red channel - which most closely resembled the green channel, and pasted it into place. I then adjusted the tonal composition of this corrected section until it closely matched the ranges of the green channel. Don't try this at home - I've been using Photoshop for about eight or nine years!
Silence is golden it seems - at least when it comes to comments. In the two or three days without comments, I've had time to get round to doing a few updates (cor, me and bbc news on the same day - copycats). Anyway Haloscan is back up again now, and it's so nice to hear from everyone again - and thanks to everyone who took the time to email me while comments were down.
There's only a couple of changes really: say hello to my soundtrack over on the sidebar.
A dump of the contents of my iPod, from Asha Bhosle to Yma Sumac. The featured artists above the soundtrack pages will be picks from the list - new albums and tracks that have got my recent attention and tickled my ears.
The second changes is over on the linkfest page - I've updated the look to the latest incarnation of my ace life, sorted, sifted and added a few new links. I've still got lots left to add here from my bookmarks, stay tuned.
Time for some conventions - a week ago today I came across the fantastic etymonline.com, so from now on Wednesdays will be Etymology Day. Etymology is a bit of a favourite subject of mine, along with anything language-related - but I'll leave the really clever commentary to Jon. So here's today's word:
shampoo (v.) - 1762, "to massage," from Anglo-Indian shampoo, from Hindi champo, imperative of champna "to press, knead the muscles," perhaps from Skt. capayati "pounds, kneads." Meaning "wash the hair" first recorded 1860. The noun meaning "soap for shampooing" first recorded 1866.
Another post from the Produkin-Gorskii Photographic Record this afternoon.
About a year ago I stumbled onto a site which totally blew me away. It was an archive of photographs from the turn of the last century by a Russian photographer, using a little-known colour process. The site had a searchable archive of all the 'negatives', stored as a sequence of three images, each relating to a red, blue and green channel. Using Photoshop, it was simple to extract the three channels and create the full-colour image. The results were absolutely incredible - bringing Russian people, places and buildings from 1900 to 1915 to life in a way that black and white images can't replicate.
I saved a few of the composite images for future possible use. A few months later, I switched computers at work, and after a while I forgot about the files I'd saved. That is, until a couple of weeks ago when I decided it would be great to share them with you. But of course, they'd long gone, deleted from the spare mac that now just gets used as a scanning and burning station.
Started to write a post last night that turned into a bit of a "poor me" ramble. Got so far, then accidentally hit cntrl-w, losing the post. I think it was for the best - a good sleep and I'm feeling a lot happier.
Missing John like mad - just thought I'd better write that for when he tunes in next (just kidding). He's not phoned yet, which isn't really suprising - he's very bad at calling when he's away with work. It doesn't help that he's usually in places with poor telecomms infrastructure - the Norse Tundra, Central Asia blah blah blah - you know, wherever there's an evil tyrant threatening the world from his secret layer. Wait, that's James Bond - John is usually struggling against despotic ungulates, threatening the world with their antlers or what have you - horns or something.
Wow, the atmos here at work is just fantastic. The project manager from H-E-double hockey sticks has decided to rewrite huge chunks of another project on a whim, managing to piss off the entire team. It would be funny if there weren't only seven of us here, all wondering who's going to snap first. Meanwhile, me and the sys admin chat away behind everyone's backs on Yahoo! Ah, it relieves the stress - there's lots of use of the 'satan face' smiley.
I can't be bothered to cover any of the topical stuff - congestion charge: doesn't affect me that much really; war: what is it good for*?; Blair: blah...it's the same crap with a different toilet freshener.
I didn't go on the march against war on Saturday, not because I want the war, but because as I mentioned over on DG's comments, I just don't believe half of what's in the media these days. I just don't think you can nowadays - everything is media managed, press-released, focus-grouped and presented with so much spin and propaganda that I just don't think it's possible to ever be in possession of the full facts. Call it saturation apathy if you want, I just did.
Oh, and I really hate huge gatherings of people. I've only ever done two marches - two London Gay Pride marches - and on both occassions I was struck by the internal divisions within those marching. Just my perception - I wouldn't knock anyone that does march for a cause they believe in, it's just not for me.
*Scientific progress, advances in medical science, overthrowing fascistic regimes - that's just an opinion - wars are bad.
Haloscan is still down, so this is a bit of a one-sided conversation. I'm thinking of my options at this point, but I'm not going to do the same flap that I did last time. The thing that pee's me off is that I can't seem to get at a complete download of all my comments to port into another system, which would be ideal. It should be perfectly doable - from what I can see, the comments are just held in a little MySQL table (don't worry if that doesn't mean anything to you - it does to me), and getting a dump of them all should be really straightforward.
In the meantime, I'll stick to light fluffy posts - though, hmm - it does always seem that it's the posts you least expect that end up getting a large reaction - and when you think you've written something that is really provoking, you get nothing. Like my Saturday evening post, which I wrote just as a little throwaway collection of thoughts - some that were rattling around my head, and some that just jumped in as I was stringing it together. I guess the feeling of the post was a bit downbeat, but it was purely an excercise in pressing some buttons. And then Blue Witch went and got inspired by it and wrote a huge post in response. As an aside-response to that, I don't think either myself or Blue Witch meant it as knocking blogging - more just self-analysis. Our blogs are the same age, and I think we're quite similar in terms of temperament, so it's quite nice to see that our ideas are sparking off each other. I think we just both think far too much.
Anyway - one Angel Delight-ish post coming up.
Beard Envy. Actually quite a taboo subject for blokes. Something we very rarely talk about. I wonder if not having a dad around to teach me how to shave meant I missed out on a few vital bits of bloke-bonding there. I get a sneaking suspicion that it's all part of the ritual. Dad teaches son how to go about the manly task of removing unwanted facial hair with a blade or bizarre buzzing contraption, and in a moment of gravitas turns to his young ward and says "Son, if you ever think another guy has better facial hair than you, you must never, ever say anything, or your penis will fall off."
So we never ever talk about it - it's OK for us to go to compete in just about any other field: work, sports, cars, spouses, gadgets, clothes - but a guy will never admit to feeling envious of another bloke's beard. Even gay guys don't do it.
And the funny thing is, no-one ever really tells you that all guy's beards are different. The majority of men don't suddenly hit puberty and - whammo - instant beard growth. Most young men take a few years to start getting some decent growth. Of course, there'll always be the odd one or two who start precociously sprouting on their fifteenth birthday, and they will be envied by all the other males in their class, though none of them will say anything, for fear of losing their penis.
My personal experience is that I've only recently started to get a decent amount of growth to begin to arrange my beardyness - and In my case, I'm a less is more kinda guy, so at the moment I'm sporting a cropped down fu 'stache (think goatee with the bottom bit of the beard missing). I can do this style OK as it suits my face, and I've got all the requisite parts - beard/moustache hairs that go all around the mouth - though a lot of guys are missing bits in this area.
My problem area is my philtrum. I just don't have good 'tache growth on it, though it is starting to fill in a little as I head towards 30. My beard hairs are extremely varigated too - something which a lot of guys discover. I range from dark brown hairs, through some quite red hairs (or ginger if you will), to very fine blonde hairs. Luckily as far as I can tell - no grey yet.
I do have more on the subject, but I'll post part II later in the week.
Seems my comments are on the blink again. This time I'm too busy to be that worried though - and it is the weekend...less readers.
I'm trying to get my bike chain sorted before I go off to RVT this afternoon. It's got way too much slack (the bike chain that is), and I have to adjust it. Fairly simple task you might think, but no...I've had to get a torque wrench, which set me back about fifty quid. Out this morning, bike on the centre-stand, wrench, sockets...ah, the socket is too big to fit on the wrench - I need an adaptor. Why is it you can never do jobs like this first time? So another trip into the west end to get the adaptor I need.
Loads of fire engines and police at centre point junction - the tatty kebab shop that always seems to be full of english-language students has been gutted by fire. Looks like it was fairly spectacular too. Of course, this being London, no sign of it anywhere in the news.
Get my socket adaptor, back home, and here I am - hopefully second time lucky. Of course, I could just take it into a bike shop, but I really think I should be able to do basic looking after my own bike.
And I feel so god-damn butch with my wrench.
Update Well, I couldn't do it. I'm feeling disempowered now, and I didn't want to write a whole new entry to say "I feel crap". I had a nap instead ready to go down to RVT. I'll leave you with a final thought - Why is it OK to eat cheese with mould in it (got a lovverly bit of Dolcelatte here), but not ok to put it on bread that's gone a teeny bit mouldy?
Well, *sniffle* Mr.Bear - Better Half - has departed for Krygystan. Not a religious man, but if there are any gods out there looking for a gig at the moment, could you look after him for me please? We can sort out the price later.
I'm really not sold on this Monotheism malarky.
Take two gods into the pulpit? Now you can just Pray-and-Go™
Pantheons are far more entertaining. I mean, look at Zeus. He could turn into a frickin' swan and knock girls up. Loaves - fish - parting the water...yadda yadda yadda.
Found a referrer in my stats for *gasp* an honest-to-goodness pithy american. Seems there's a wit threshold with americans. Below it they read like corn-fed patriotic yahoo darlings, but pass the 'american sarcasm' event horizon, and blam suddenly very funny. Oh, and she sounds like US royalty - Eden Marriott Kennedy. I must refer to Gore Vidal to see whether she's related. Whats the fuss may even make my sidebar, after I brutally culled a couple of americanblogs from there two weeks ago.
If there's one thing I lurve more than anything else (but don't do anymore, because it's - well - naughty) is snooping. I was having a good old pry at my work-nemesis's desk a few weeks ago, and saw these two plastic toy figures. Obviously meant for pre-schoolers, all soft chewable plastic, they were big burly construction workers with action grips, straight outta the Village People.
I'm slightly ashamed to say my inner brat kicked off at that point - WANNA WANNA WANNA. Brought back fond memories of temper tantrums in Toymaster, and hiding all the best toys at Playschool. Anyway, I am an adult now *ahem*, and besides, there's only two of us cock-jockeys in the office*, and it would be pretty damn obvious who took them. So, instead I had a quick frisk through Google, and found out what they were called: Husky Helpers. Now if the name alone isn't enough to turn darling little kiddies into raving sodomites, I don't know what is. Honestly, it sounds like the sort of thing you'd find at gay fatties' club, XXL.
Hey, check out the husky helper over in the corner there - WOOF.
Anyway, within minutes I was bidding for a full set (better than my co-worker's husky helpers) on ebay. Needless to say I lost, but there will be other auctions - and oo, hey look, something else new and shiny.
Didn't want them anyway.
*The sys-admin is a bit curious though, if you know what I mean.
Wow. It's rare these days to see a film that just totally wraps you up in it's world, lifts you up and leaves you wanting it to never end.
The Royal Tenenbaums is maybe one of the best films I've ever seen. I started watching it yesterday, but stopped halfway, and just finished it. It's captivating. The ensemble cast is wonderfully well put together, and they give flawless performances. The camerawork is spellbinding, the pace relentless, the soundtrack divine.
Towards the end, it put me in mind of one of my other favourite films of all time, Harold and Maude - both films manage to portray fairly eccentric characters without any awkwardness, in a way that they become totally realistic. Both films also have fairly dark moments, yet still leave you feeling uplifted at the end, and even during some of the darkest parts.
I'm not going to ramble on with a full review, because I know enough about film criticism* to know I'm no film critic, but if you want my recommendation for a wonderfully quirky film that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, this is it.
*I lived with a lesbian doing a Media Studies degree in my third year of university. Her final year dissertation was MTV and sexuality. Better Half is not impressed by this sort of thing.
Been in a meeting all afternoon at the Strand, hence radio silence. Am now in utterly foul mood, as the project manager decided to 'forget' the meeting was at 2.30, and didn't show. I know some people may have issues with this word, and I'll happily take suggestions for alternate strongest swearword imaginable (it's gotta be something punchy, so you get a warm glow all over vocalising it) - but that man is a monumental C**T.
There, that felt better.
And the day was going so well. Started off in a Breakfast Club groove courtesy of Simple Minds. I'm definitely Ally Sheedy/Allison, and I don't need to take a "which Breakfast Club character are you" test to justify myself. And this ain't gonna be one of those blogs that posts every which test that memes on by*, so you can sleep easy - remember my ace life will never sell out kids**.
Besides which, those tests are getting soooo lazy. OK, so they're meant to be funny (in a wacky 2002 style), but really:
In high school you were...
a jock in the National Honor Society a cheerleader in detention in band hall monitor water boy
For god's sake people, if you can't work out that if you were 'a jock' at high school you're most like Emilio Estevez/Andrew, you really need to get a clue.
Pant...pant...pant... It's OK, I'm taking my medication as I blog.
Woke up today to the most beautiful light. London is awash in hazy brilliance - I'd feel inspired if I wasn't so worn out by this week. It's been a funny one, I feel like I've been sat here at my desk all week and watched the world go by. I've been able to help out some people, and it's a great feeling to know that your words mean something to others.
Tired and a bit groggy first thing, but I have the perfect cure. Biking into work is better than a shot of adrenaline and caffeine and a slap round the face with a wet trout. As soon as my crotch straddles the saddle, I turn from sweet sensitive Steve into biker demon Steve.
I think I'm a fairly proficient novice rider, I try not to rush into spaces that I can't see a way out of, and more often than not I find myself cruising past some moron scooter who zipped past me into a dead-end space. You see all sorts of insane behaviour too - it would be entertaining if it weren't so damn terrifying sometimes. This morning it was lunatic cyclist veering all over the road obviously overtaking sixth-dimension alien buses. Biker demon Steve yelled him down in his best mockney, then sweet sensitive Steve gave him a nod and checked he was OK.
I hope the multiple changes in tone this week haven't been too disorientating. Seriously - let me know if you find the bipolar blogging too much, or whether it's the reason you're reading. I hear Seroxat isn't going too well with the differently-temperamental, and I'd rather not have to resort to prescription remedies - I did that six years ago (modish nineties Elizabeth Wurtzel phase).
Does anyone know where Better Half can get an inflatable globe from? Needs to be somewhere in London, a real live 'bricks-and-mortar' shop...
He's off to Kyrgystan on Saturday (as you will remember), and in his itinerary is visiting a Kyrgyz school. Big jolly bear that he is, he wants to take the nippers something, and what better than an inflatable globe*? If anyone knows anywhere, drop it in my comments please!
I'm in a crap mood with work here, I'll maybe have a whinge about it this weekend, as I've already prattled on about it once to BH.
*Pokemon or Beyblades I should think. We had a ball and a string** when I were I kid, and we were grateful.
Did anyone else see this valentine's day story at news.bbc and presume that the blind date ball they were referring to was for blind people?
Surely the use of a couple wearing sunglasses and the word 'blind' is a little misleading? Just me then?
I must admit, I was starting to get a little disturbed by the tone of the copy, which sounded a bit flippant - 'I didn't believe in love at first sight' - of course not you differently sighted stupid cow - perhaps love at first hearing?
I hactually had to read the bloody article before I realised it wasn't about dating for the vision-deficient.
I'm still pedal to the metal here at work. I've not got home before 8pm this week, and amazingly I've been in work on time (except for Monday, which was a total and utter write-off).
I got a really fantastic comment from Jon in response to my wistful morning post.
I think this cuts both ways -- I wouldn't want to write anything about them that I couldn't (or at least, wouldn't) say to their faces. But also, I wonder if blogging about a lost loved one isn't a kind of cry into the dark. A blog is a freaky way of communicating with the unknown, the infinite, the anonymous. Maybe blogging can be a form of direct communion with your past, or like a prayer.
Gosh, I wish I'd written that. Love and loss* is an important theme of my writing, and although I don't think I would have thought of it, Jon hit the nail on the head with his comments.
The immediate void in my life after I lost mum was just staggeringly painful, and was made all the worse by the fact that I'd been made redundant the year before, and had lost a large part of my group of friends. Without a support network, I had a rough time for the first couple of months. I tried to find a counselling service - which turned out to be a bit of a waste of time. Eventually I found an amazing group of friends and was able to make my way through the first year. I didn't want to think too much about the grief I was feeling last year, but once I was ready, I guess that's when this blog was born.
Thanks very much for the comment Jon, it brought a little tear to my eye (I'm a total softy really), and helped me to clarify what I'm doing here.
*One of my favourite guilty pleasures is an artist called Marc Cohn. You'll only have heard of him for the song Walking in Memphis, but he has four albums packed with songs about Love and Loss. When I want a really good weep, I stick him on - he's helped me through some really tough times.
I'm actually quite disturbed that on the whole world-wide-web, I can find no-one with a Resusci-Annie fetish. You would think that hours spent practicing on the pallid medical aid doll would leave some kids permanently fixated, but no.
I think I've mentioned once or twice before my difficulties in starting this blog. I wanted to start it most of last year, and had encouragement from another blogger, but I was having serious difficulties with the sort of thing I wanted to write.
This has been a really strange time in my life, with losing my mum last year, and I didn't want to start writing a blog without confronting my grief. I've managed to get past the first few difficult entries dealing with how I feel, and to my suprise it's been immensely cathartic and therapeutic (though in retrospect, it actually isn't that suprising really, dumping my emotions somewhere, working them through, processing).
Now I find myself in a position where I have somewhere to air my feelings, and it's turned into an incredibly positive thing. I suppose I'll just thank everyone who's reading at this point, because you've made it so much more rewarding for me.
If there's one thing I have a pretty good grasp on, it's how to deal with losing a parent. Last night I had a dream about Mum. We were going off on holiday together to Malta. (I'm not sure why Malta - but it does seem like a nice place to go on holiday - file for later reference). I was getting away from my life for a while, on the spur of the moment, and at a certain point Mum joined me. Whenever I dream about Mum it's not a particularly distressing thing for me - not like it was with my dad.
I never went to Dad's funeral, and although I can't remember it, the last time I saw him he was alive and well. This led me to have recurring dreams for about eight years, where Dad was still alive. Usually I would find out that he had had to leave us because of some military programme, and we had to think he had died. Unsurprisingly, these dreams caused me a lot of distress - the feelings of grief would take a long time to dispel even after I woke up.
Anyway, Mum has been floating around my head for the last couple of days. Maybe it's because her birthday is coming up, and one of the last times I saw her was two years ago on her birthday on the Isle of Man.
I'll tell you that story on the day, it's my happy memory of Mum.
It's that razzle-dazzle awards time of year again...no, I'm not talking about the Oscars®, or even the Bloggies®* - the nominations for the 23rd annual Razzie® awards are out. Dishonourable mentions this year go primarily to Britney's Crossroads - eight Nominations, including Worst Actress and Most Flatulent Teen-Targeted Movie; Star Wars Episode II - seven nominations, including Worst Screen Couple and Worst Remake or Sequel; and Mr and Mrs Ritchie's Swept Away, also attracting seven nominations.
Now, I'm still fairly loyal to the Star Wars franchise, and I did kind of enjoy Attack of the Clones, but well, it's not a patch on the first three - um, middle three, um... episodes four, five and six. Still, Ian McDiarmid is pretty watchable, even if the rest of the cast isn't.
Oh - apparently (or so I read on Popbitch once), Ian McDiarmid shops at Marks & Spencer's in Whiteley's. Admittedly, that fact can't salvage an entire film, but I just think it'd be really ace to pop into M&S for some chicken kievs and get stared down by the Emperor. Oh, and I'm sure I saw C3P0 in the RVT on Sunday...did anyone else?
*Ah yes, the Bloggies® - don't think I haven't noticed them. On the whole, a sweet idea, pissed up the wall by a load of self-obsessed US-centric luvvies. Mainly it just seems to be another display of egomaniacal imperiousness on the part of our 'American cousins' - in a similar vein to the 'World Series' of Baseball etc etc. The Bloggies go for the interesting world view of having awards for 'Best American Weblog' (this apparently means just the USA of course); 'Best Canadian Weblog' (their northern territories - Moose and Frenchies) - then moving down the scale of importance to 'Best Latin American Weblog' (half a continent lumped together - the funny Spanish & Portuguese speaking neighbours, and some commies); 'Best Asian Weblog' (give 'em a prize for trying - probably censored to buggery); 'Best Australian or New Zealand Weblog' (we're not actually sure where these bits are - near Hawaii?); and finally, 'Best European or African Weblog'. Some fucking genius with this map of the world, I think.
Is it just me, or does anyone else have difficulty eating asian food with anything other than chopsticks? When I was back in the Isle of Man last month, I had to search for a pair when Ed cooked his gorgeous Thai Curry - it just feels wrong shoving metal in your mouth with noodles. Mandy and Ed thought it was a bit amusing I reckon - little brother with snobby affectations.
I remember always feeling a bit scared about using them, but I can't remember when it suddenly became really natural to use them. I find them almost easier to use than cutlery these days - I pride myself on being able to roll a duck pancake using only chopsticks. I guess it's partly to do with my assimilation instinct - when in Rome (or Peking). It's the same as me picking up accents - which comes from me travelling around the UK when I was young. Put me in a place, and I'll have the accent in a couple of months*.
Meanwhile, the project from hell is getting tight, deadline-wise. What's more, I'm currently incorporating a load of sound files of children reading poems into the flash movie, and it's getting like a fucking episode of Sapphire and Steel around here.
*With the exception of Stoke-on-Trent. I lived there for four years, and did everything I could not to pick up the accent. In't eet shug?
Massive sleep last night, feeling fairly recharged today. Just as well, as I've promised a load of work to be finished today, and I've got to get my finger out.
So - my first proper mass meet of bloggers on Sunday. The Great Royal Vauxhall Tavern Gathering. I was a lot less anxious than I could've been in retrospect. Previous meetings with people who I've only 'met' online have been less than satisfying, and I've found that it can be hard to translate a friendship online into a real life one. However, my lack of anxiety on Sunday was entirely warranted.
Armed with only a memorised snapshot of Mike (Hi, I'm Mike from troubled-diva), and a previous meeting of Jonathan, I got myself a vantage point up on the balcony-ette, and glanced over from time to time to the designated spot where Mike said the massed blog throng would be. The show came and went, and I hovered by the DJ box hoping to spot someone.
My stalking was rewarded after a few minutes by Mike emerging from the crowds, looking exactly like his photo. Jonathan soon appeared, and we all acquainted ourselves (civilised huh?). In quick succession, I was introduced to David, Ian, Marcus(?) and Luca - who it turned out I already knew through Guy. There might have been others, but it was all such a giddying whirl.
So - first "real-world" impressions? In the brief time I got to chat to everyone, really really top bunch of guys. My only comments are: You were uncannily exactly how I imagined you to be, except maybe a bit shorter. (I have tall-nesia, I forget that I'm tall sometimes). You were not a bit like I'd expected - I've been reading you the longest, so I've probably had more of a chance to formulate an 'image'. Oh, and you were shorter than I'd imagined - again.
I didn't really hang around long enough to really get more than a brief glimpse of everyone, but I'm looking forward to the next time!
Unsurprising lack of blogging from the RVT crowd. Am I the only one who made it home alive? Feeling pretty damn shitty here, serious comedown woes. Can't string a single coherant thought together. Think I'm going to struggle into the west end for a quick catch up with Neal.
Friday night became Saturday afternoon, Saturday afternoon blended into Saturday night, swiftly becoming Sunday afternoon, Sunday afternoon turned into Sunday evening while I watched D.E. at the RVT, and somewhere in the confusion Monday morning arrived, was ignored in favour in Monday afternoon.
What a weekend.
Really, those have got to stop. Last night was great, but D.E. was still a little off-form. Picking bits of sleep out of my liza-esque eyelashes as I write this. Hardly surprised they're completely crudded over, after I slept in my contact lenses on Saturday night - obviously not on purpose.
The big blog meet yesterday - I may have to comment on all of that later when I get my brain out of reverse, but it was great to finally meet everyone. And yes, you were looking very sexy with that week-old scruff.
Stayed at LA3 far too long last night, finally stepping out fairly reluctantly at 3.30am - only another 6 hours before I had to get back to work...well, maybe 7 hours... make that 8 hours... ok 9 hours, but no more. Waiting for the night bus at the no.55 stop, very very strange. About 3 or 4 police cars were stopped up the road to my left, and as I sat there more drove by. One stopped in the lane to my right, did a 3 point turn, came out, went back again. Voices talking to each other, but couldn't see where they were coming from. Starting to get very paranoid and frightened at this point. Visions of drive-by shootings. In my fragile state, with a rather loose grip on reality, I decided that I was obviously about to get shot and killed here. I walked up to the nearest policeman, and trying my hardest to look not too stoned, timidly asked whether I should be waiting for my bus there. Luckily the bloke didn't take one look at drug-addled me and throw me in the back of his car, but thanked me and said that they were investigating a burglary, and it would probably be best if I moved to the next stop.
The rest of the trip home was uneventful, just feeling a wee bit sorry for myself. That's all for now folks. Perhaps more chapters later once my head starts to feel a little shinier.
I'm sure I had some stunning insightful things to write last night, but strange...they've all gone. XXL was packed with fairly good looking crumpet, but I was in major chat mode, followed by sporadic freakin' on the dancefloor.
I think I need to let my brain recover - so here's a pretty accurate account of what sort of thing was happening in my head last night. Except for the Michael Jackson bit. Luckily he didn't show up. [link via bitful]
Desperately trying to come up with something amusing to blog, but I can't. Instead, here's some fresh pages from the Framely Examiner.
Cool, John just came to the rescue - here's something. Rights For Transsexuals. I doubt there would be many of us same-sex lovin' folk who wouldn't be behind trans people one hundred and one point nine nine percent in their fight for recognition. We all get lumped into the same cereal bowl together - all the froot loops together - and quite pleasant it is too, swimming around in semi-skimmed milk, or possibly that zhizzy new 'pouring breakfast yoghurt'.
But did you stop to consider the refimrafirmic things that could go horribly wrong as a result of their struggle?
It seems that sporting officials are starting to get worried about transsexuals being legally allowed to change their gender on their birth certificate. If a trans man has gender reassignment surgery, should he be allowed to compete against other women in sporting events? Oh, the ethical dilemma.
From the Guardian: One celebrated transsexual is tennis player Richard Raskind, who underwent a sex change in 1975 and became Renee Richards. In 1977 Ms Richards took the Women's Tennis Association to court and won the right to take part in professional women's matches.
Oh god, there are just so many funny things I could say I think my brain is going to throttle itself. How about a caption competition instead? What is Ms Richards saying? Funniest line in the comments wins a my ace life point and a Cadburys Creme Egg. And don't worry - be as nasty as you like, no-one will read this - I promise.
I wasn't really going to comment on this business, as in the media managed world we live in, I think it's impossible to know the real facts. Furthermore, I thought that if we believe that he's telling the truth, then what is wrong with sleeping in the same bed as a young boy if it's not sexual?
If the allegations in this document are true though, it's an indictment of the US legal system, proving that if money can't buy you love, it certainly can buy silence.
The story of how I became a web designer* when I look at it retrospectively, is a pretty simple one. Although the job strictly didn't exist until about seven, eight, nine years ago, it feels as though I began training for it at the age of nine when I got my first computer. Subsequent career and educational shifts from the analytical to the creative have meant I'm pretty well placed to be able to design as well as programme.
I got my first proper career job over five years ago, with a bunch of cowboys called the webfactory (they don't exist anymore, thank god). The first couple of months were spent in a state of confusion as I realised people were prepared to pay me to do stuff which I found to be good fun. After years of boring grunt work paying my way through university, clocking-in, clockwatching and clocking-out, I finally had the holy grail: a job I enjoyed. After a few months, I stopped waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say it was all a bit of a mistake and I should pack up and get out, but I didn't stop enjoying my work.
Eventually though as many people know, the party came to an end. A disastrous 2000 and 2001, which many people knew was inevitable with all the well-meaning con-men trying to sell six-figure deals based on a pitch they'd thought up on the cab there.
Redundancy came just as I was starting to really get into my stride. I took the first job I could, which at the time I had high hopes of. I thought that it was just a minor setback to my career, but here I am, nearly two years later feeling hoplessly off-track.
So what next? My career hiatus of the last year has been a combination of the state of the bizness we call web, and my personal situation - dealing with my grief. As I've said, I feel like I'm coming out of it now, but I'm not sure I still enjoy my work any more. It's lost it's sparkle, it's newness. I don't dislike that - in a lot of ways, I feel the internet is a more mature place now, I've worked through the crash and now have nearly six years experience, in some of the best companies in London.
But during my time out, I've discovered that there's so much more. I'm enjoying my writing, and starting to draw again - though I don't have nearly enough time in the day to do the stuff I enjoy now. Perhaps something will come along, as most of the stuff in my life has - or perhaps this is the time I need to really push myself, work for it, and find the opportunities.
Well, back to the web design - but here's a sampler of what I've been beavering away at while I'm not writing this, or pushing pixels. It started off as an illustration for a post I haven't finished yet.
Let me know what you think yeah?
*I hate the term 'web designer', partly because it's such a Hoxton job title, and partly because it doesn't really explain what I do. Creative Technologist is much better, but it sounds even more twatty. I bet Brain Surgeons don't have this problem.
I'd just like to take time out to apologise to my GCSE economics teacher.
Mr Roberts, I'm really sorry but I wasn't really paying much attention during your lessons, the result being I haven't the foggiest idea how all this interest rate nonsense works. Or why the FTSE going down for nine days in a row isn't a good thing. I can remember the difference between elastic and inelastic demand though. I think...maybe...OK, I wouldn't put money on it.
Well, that's all over and done with anyway, and the important thing is that all I need to know these days is:
Interest rate down = Pay less on mortgage
Obviously somewhere in the back of my head I realise that there may be other ramifications in the economy. But as I wasn't paying attention during class, I'm not sure what they are and I'm too busy planning what to spend the extra £15 a month on to give too much of a crap. I've said it before (well, sort of), and I'll say it again, school is wasted on kids.
Still, you were a bit of a laugh, I'll give you that.
Quick reshuffle of my weblog sidebar...greetings to Dave/spellcnut and bitful, thanks for the comments and dropping by chaps! Hello as well to Chig, who was already on my sidebar, but left a few comments this week. Most of the blogs over there I've been dipping in and out of for a while now, and it's great finally being a little part of the uk gay blogging scene. So far I've only met one of you in real life, but as you may have noticed, I'm regularly at RVT, so chances are you may get to meet me in person if you're there. I'll stick a current picture up tomorrow, once I've bought an economy tub of vaseline, a trowel and a some very flattering lights.
Of course, I don't watch it for the actual news - if I want to find out what's going on in the world, I go to news.bbc.co.uk. No, I watch BBC News for the presenters.
Did you watch the news? The nine o’clock? Yes. Nasty blouse. We stayed up for News at Ten. Three bangles and a polo-neck, thank you. No, her ears are in the wrong place for a polo-neck. You need to be Princess Di, really.
It's like a beauty pageant for smart girls, all dreaming of world war peace, and a chance to anchor the Ten O'Clock News. Joanna Gosling is my current favourite - she's just so lipgloss. Reading through the career highlights on her biography page, it's not hard to read between the lines and see how To Die Fordriven these girls are - I wouldn't be suprised if there were a few corpses littering her glittering path the top.
Natasha Kaplinsky is another favourite, over on BBC Breakfast. Hair highlighted to within an inch of it's life, perfect sofa side-saddle, Natasha exudes glossy tabloid fabulousness. She's like human Hello. Grinning vacantly as Dermot Murnaghan fawned over Art Garfunkel this morning, you could almost hear her writing her shopping list for Waitrose, and wondering if she should try the new shade of Clinique lipstick.
It's just such a wonderful, brutally banal way to start the morning.
As Diamond Geezer has pointed out to me, it's probably not such a bad thing to not be able to blog at work. I've been clicking frantically every half hour (OK, every ten minutes), seeing whether Haloscan has decided to pop back. Still, you've probably had a chuckle at my increasingly despondant postings.
Anyway - time for a quick post before I set off home. Posh Nosh was an enjoyable ten minutes last night, though Stephen Powell didn't get much to do except be the straight guy (and that's the only time you'll ever hear that name and the word 'straight' in the same sentence). Meanwhile, Colin Powell is turning up the heat on the UN. It seems we Powells are getting everywhere at the moment.
It's a bit weird for me, as you'd think that I'm related to lots of Powells, but through one of those bizarre family histories, I'm not. My paternal grandmother divorced and remarried before I was born, and my dad was an only child, so my immediate family were the only people with the surname Powell. Now both my mum and dad are gone, it's just me and my sister.
I never met my 'real' paternal grandfather, Cyril William Powell, and I don't know whether he had any brothers or sisters, or if he remarried. It's a really weird limbo situation, not knowing anything about your surname - and I feel like I can't bring the subject up with the only remaining member of my family (my Gran) that would know anything about it. As far as I know/can work out, she divorced in the sixties as the marriage hadn't been particularly rosy.
I'm not sure whether it's because of this history, but I notice other Powells all the more. There seems to be tons of well-known/celebrity Powells in politics, Colin and Enoch; history, Robert Baden-; Hollywood, Michael; UK television, Jenny and Robert.
And each time one of them pops up I wonder - "am I related to you...?"
I'll leave you with one of my favourite baby pictures...it's me being held in the arms of my late father, Michael Stephen Powell.
OK, for the time being I'm running with backBlog. I'll think of going back to Haloscan if it ever returns, but long-term I'm going to be looking to getting a comment system running here on a work server.
Update Haloscan is popping up and down like a... thing that pops up and down a lot (Bollocks to yer if you think you're getting similes or metaphor at 7pm after a hard day of bugfixing). I'm going back on it for now, it seems to have lost a few comments, but maybe they'll come back if you're all very very quiet? Shh....is that them?
The project from hell is going alright...ish... for now. I'll do some proper posting either later today, or back on track tomorrow.
Eeek - Haloscan still not working! I feel like I've lost a limb, or possibly an organ (spleen or pancreas perhaps). I've got a different setup ready to go, but it's going to mean that I'll lose all my previous comments, and if Haloscan returns, I'll lose the comments I've received in the meantime. For now, I'll go without comments, but if nothing's happened by this evening, I'll stick up the new system.
BackBlog is accepting signups, but I suspect a lot of Haloscan users will be madly signing up to whatever they can find, and it'll only be a matter of time before subscriptions are closed here.
In other blog-related news, my referrers are getting interesting. Lowri Turner searches are way down, and Cristian Solimeno is up, up, up. I'm a bit dubious of the fact that most of them seem to be searching for a certain type of pic - not sure whether they'll hang around when they realise it's just a load of commentary about poofters and playschool. Still - traffic is as traffic does.
It seems anyway that the link provided to me by Diamond Geezer is no longer allowing traffic, so here's what you're looking for. Caution - still mildy unsafe for work.
These little fingers of mine are just itching to create, and I just have no time. I spent all last year in a creative doldrum, having time out from career mode and making things, and now I'm coming out of it - *yawn* *stretch* - I'm bogged down with shitty project from hell.
So, it's going to be panic stations here today, client wants project yesterday (admittedly they should've had it last year, but hey). The useless project manager (think Beaker with a nervous twitch) is going to start squawking around me today, 'helping'. As if I didn't have enough to do with designing the look of project, writing project, bugfixing project, liasing with client - I'm now going to get people 'helping' me to build the thing. So, throwing bodies at me who know nothing about Flash or the workings of the project and expecting everything to be done double-time.
I feel like I'm bailing out the Titanic with an eggcup while the captain runs around trying to work out where the lifeboats have gone.
I may be a little quiet today, and it seems Haloscan is on the blink, so no comments for now either. If you want me, you can always email me.
Crap. It's starting to kick off here again at work. Project manager just took a phone call from the client, and judging by his fawning tone, they're not pleased with the progress of my one-man marathon in flash. I've got a hundred and one bugs to fix, and whole chunks of code to write, and here's me with the attention span of a kid who's been selling his Ritalin at playtime.
What I need is a job that pays me to fuck about, surfing the net and writing my blog - is the Guardian hiring?
You may have noticed the subliminal Playschool references in the recent designs. Blue Witch did, and earns herself a my ace life point. Continuing the theme, I found a couple of superb links - an mp3 of the theme tune from the seventies, and a whole page over at the excellent nostalgia-trip tvcream of trivia, photos and cast listings.
The memories have come flooding back - watching with mum while eating hot cross buns; the clock; the arched, circle and square windows; Hamble, Jemima, Humpty, Big Ted and Little Ted; Dapple, the nightmare inducing rocking horse (we had a rocking horse just like Dapple*, it scared the bejeezus out of me).
Most of the presenters I remember fondly - like friendly uncles and aunties. Floella Benjamin may actually have been the first black person I ever saw.
And then there was Don Spencer, the "ex-pat aussie musical powerhouse". Blimey, I'd forgotten all about him! He wasn't like any other children's television presenters in the seventies - dark, swarthy, exotically australian and seemed just a little bit dangerous, like he might've been a crack commando or an astronaut before deciding to pack it all in and sing funky songs to Britain's 2-5 year olds.
Sudden click in brain...
Shit, I had a prepubescent crush on a Playschool presenter.
*I just checked with my sister, and she's pretty sure that coincidentally enough, our rocking horse was also called Dapple... we weren't the most imaginative of children really.
More ridiculously premature Eurovision predictions. Israel is in for a storming night in Riga. I suspect right-wing pressure groups have had quite a bit of influence on this year's entries, after the glory that was Dana International putting Israel forever on the map as top destination for trans people all over europe. The only way the entries this year are going to shock is by their sheer awfulness.
The selected song, I Love You gathered 75% of the total votes, hardly suprising when you hear the competition. The staggering God Bless the Universe is just jaw-droppingly fantastic, and Choopy-Choopy comes a close second. I can't get the chorus out of my head.
Belgium also seems to be treating the competition with the correct amount of reverence. It's been announced that the well known Walloon group Urban Trad will be singing their entry, Sanomi, not in French or one of the other official languages of Belgium but in "an imaginary language". Klingon? Elvish? I can't wait.
Tonight's pick of tv has to be this ten-minute comedy spot on BBC2. Anything with Richard E Grant is essential viewing in my book, and the addition of Arrabella Weir as writer/actress is reassuring. And of course, how could I resist catching my telly debut? Hmm, OK, so I'm pretty sure it's not me, unless I've been moonlighting in my sleep. In any case, Stephen Powell is a bizarrely common name - for example, there were two of us on the Isle of Man, which only has a population of 75,000. I'll have a ramble about that some other time.
The entries for my 'spot the odd gay fact' have been flooding in, so it's time to reveal the answers. Of the I DO list, the fourth item is the booby - I don't have fabulous hardwood flooring in any of the rooms in my flat - I wish I did though, but every floor in the place is far too uneven, it'd be like walking on see-saws all day. On the I DON'T items, the seventh item is fiction - I have been to a concert where (in all likelihood) more than 50% of the audience was gay - although they were probably *gasp* lesbanian. I went to a KD Lang concert way back in 1995, and jolly good it was too. Still, it was marred by the fighting outside afterwards, when one girl kicked off rioting after she thought KD had been looking at her girlfriend.
It seems I've had a visit from the Cheeky Girls of the arte-worlde, The Little Artists - the guys who do the funny Lego versions of popular artists. All well and good, except for the fact that Mike had left a slightly negative comment about the pieces in question on display at ArtFair 2003, which I think they read.
I'd just like to state that opinions in my comments box do not reflect those of the editorial team (me) at my ace life. I've not seen the pieces in question, but if Cake and Neave want to give me a personal showing, I'll be pleased to give them a glowing review. I'm pretty sure that's how the arte-worlde works - you scratch my back, I'll fuck Charles Saatchi and inflate the price of my artwork.
Not feeling terribly bright here - a funny night, started off really well, everyone was cheerful and in a good mood, but it just didn't click for most of us. Not a particularly spectacular set from Dame Edna, the jokes were a bit routine, and the there was of course the usual highly offensive bits, which well, weren't all that shocking when you knew they were going to come. The music was a crowd pleaser, but it wasn't one of her better shows. Neal got a bit out of it towards the end of the show, and never really got it back together again. Oh well - only six more days till we can have another go at it. Must try harder next time.
I've deliberately put two red herrings in the following list - crafty huh? One of the DONT'S is wrong, and I've never done one of the things on the DO list - can you spot which? Answers tomorrow morning.
I do own one or more albums by Madonna, Kylie, KD Lang and Abba
I've watched Beaches and I do have a soft spot for The Wizard of Oz and Priscilla, Queen of the desert
I call things fabulous from time to time
I have hardwood flooring in at least one room in my home
I've been to San Francisco
I've been to FIST
I've been to many pride events
All of my workmates know I am gay, and I prefer it that way
I have lived with a lesbian
I own a pair of designer sunglasses
I have performed sexual acts in public
I don't own any Pet Shop Boys, Marc Almond, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode or Erasure albums
I've never watched a film with Barbara Streisand or Liza Minnelli all the way through
I've never described anything as divine
I don't own any scented candles
I have never been to Sitges
I've never been to G.A.Y
I've never been to a concert where more than 50% of the audience are gay
I've never worked anywhere where more than 25% of the staff are gay
I've never lived in a shared house with only gay housemates
I'm having a really busy time this weekend - just got back from Ikea, put up a bookshelf (I am man, see me assemble flat-pack furniture), and I'm about to scoot off to the Vauxhall Tavern (and I still owe you a pint). I stayed in last night, and for the first time in ages, did some work. Actually sat down and did some drawing, which went really well - either it's something in the air or I'm slowly coming out of the creative doldrums I've been in for the last year.
On the recommendation of him, I picked up a copy of Gore Vidal's Palimpsest, which is pretty damn great so far - just flows off the page. Should take me about a month or two to read though, as I just don't make time to read much these days.
Celebrity news: Fat Boy Slim on the cover of News of The Screws (or isotope thereof) today with tranny DJ Tasty Tim - Neal suspects Norman may be at the least bi-curious. I shall have scurrilous lies by tomorrow after consulting Loek. Not sure how this fits in with baby Woody being the reincarnation of Mother Theresa though.
And finally - I found this piece about celebrity blokes stripping for Cosmopolitan last year - OK, the main feature is Graham Norton (not nice) - but also featured are, amongst the reality tv nobodies and other z-listers, Cristian Solimeno...grrr - anyone out there have a copy? Cosmo, May, June or July 2002?
OK, so what's all this nonsense I've written as a strap-line to my ace life? (Note the lack of capitalisation there folks) Well, first of all - everyone else has one, why shouldn't I - is the first, and slightly churlish answer. I look so cute when I pout.
The next response is an actual explanation.
Self-sufficiency - this popped into my head as a nice coagulation of two things - firstly harking to the TV programme 'The Good Life' of which myself and Better Half are big fans of (I'm Margo, he's Jerry in case you're wondering), and secondly as it's the single most important thing I ever learned from Mum. Always be prepared to get yourself out of any situation, and don't rely on others too much. You might not get to the top as quick as everyone who's treading on other people's fingers, but at least you'll be able to hold your head high and say "I got here by myself". I hold this value very dear to me.
Serendipity - this is just such a wonderful word - making fortunate discoveries by accident. I've learned this over and over again, that life throws weird coincidences at you all the time, so much so that occasionally you have to wonder if there's someone in charge of this whole shebang. I'm a pretty rational person, and agnostic when it comes to superstitions, but I like the serendipitous discovery, as it's just so unexplainable, that my brain shuts up for five seconds and just enjoys the spectacle.
Sardony - not so sure this is actually a word, but it should be. Sardonic - scornfully or critically mocking. I do this far too often, and it's probably my worst fault. I don't just mock others, but myself too, and I sort of think that in the grand scale of things, this balances out. Usually I don't really mean what I come out with, but well, that's no defense. But if it is my worst fault, I will say that it's a great self-indulgent, cathartic fault - in moderation - occasionally having a right old bitch.
It seems that those in the world of blog who care about things Eurovision are rootin' for Tricity. Flickit writes:
Cry Baby is a potential Eurovision winner. The rest just don't cut in on first hearing (which, as we all know, is essential). Who are Tricity? Has anyone got any pictures?
I'm not sure about it being an overall winner - I'm reserving judgement until I've heard the other entries. It's also partly whether we're popular in Europe in May - that's all down to Tony really, and how many cheering Iraqis fill the streets when if we kick Saddam out. You see...politics and trivia, what more could you ask for.
As for pics of Liverpool based duo Tricity - I found this here of one of them in a very revealing shot. Caution - very unsafe for work.
God, this stuff is taking up far too many brain cells and posts. Just to balance it out, and so you don't think I'm a totally shallow poofter, I'd just thought I'd add my voice to the raves about Lemon Jelly, Lost Horizons. If you've not got this album yet - go and buy it*. Absolute joy - retro experimental ambient brit folk future vibe. Bjork and Beck acid trip fucking to the Drum Club while Air, St.Etienne and Badly Drawn Boy discuss philosophy and the Playschool toys in the kitchen. My ears love me. I may have to go out and buy a kick ass sound system just to play this on - I can't think of the last time I was so spellbound by an album.
*Take a print out of this post and you'll get a 10% discount at Virgin Megastores (offer closes 31/01/03).
So - you're here looking for smut are you? If it's Cristian Solimeno you're after, he's here, in all his lardy glory. If it's girl-on-girl stuff with Lowri Turner, I suggest you seek professional help.