Tuesday, August 30, 2005
New game in London town - trying to spot plainclothes officers. Personally, I tend to go for any largish man or chubby woman either walking in circles or standing still. Symbols of a burgeoning police state - how do you spot yours?
Meanwhile, the game called Planescape Torment has filled my life. I hunger for it, for the outlandish discoveries in it; the street that gives birth, the angel trapped in a seven-circled pit, the insane and immortals wandering through marketplaces. I keep seeing stuff in the big city that reminds me totally of it - hawkers on street corners screaming apocalyptic shite, weirdly attired groups of small people (Chinese, admittedly), and just a whole collection of seemingly innocuous outsiders - you want to grab the nearest plainclothes and shout "look, them, they're aliens, demons!" but they'd probably turn out to be a clinical health worker or something.
Despite Ealing's reputation as a nice place, I had cause to ring the police. Fighting in the street. Two middle-aged men, one fat, shaven-headed, black-clad like a snooker-player, trying to do kung-fu on a fleeing drunken offender. Like all of London, the streets here switch from posh to rundown at a metronome beat.
Met old childlike uni friend Priya et pals at Regent's park festival sponsored by expensive fruit mush. Was "token white guy". Lovely buncha people, terribly expensive overmarketed drink for kids.
Sometime's everythings new for me. I regard the world as a staring child, fascinated by all things, slow to grow, quick to communicate. Every book I read has emotional annotations - was reading Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story collection "Seance", and there's a character in there, a slovenly man (all Singer's characters are jewish, before you take note) whose only love is his pet parrot and who murders his wife when she lets it go; the blank-eyed equanimity with which he relays that reminds me of certain clinical psychopaths I know. I ring them, but they're out...
Went to Jeff Minter's place in Wales (Pengawr, near Camrthen I think). He keeps llamas, pygmy goats, mountain sheep and Jacob's sheep. There is no record of Jacob loaning him said sheep. He lives on vindaloo and said farm with Giles, his Italian partner (in work and love, I think) both of whom sport manly hair, beards. We played Neon, went for curry, played Robotron, I went home. I never mentioned my extreme allergy to hairy animals (not sure if Jeff and Giles included) so almost died of coughing, sneezing and wheezing on way back.
More to come...
Friday, August 26, 2005
Last book purchased: The Séance by Isaac Bashevis Singer from the Oxfam book shop in my new home town of Ealing Broadway. Exceptionally good Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) literature, full of dybbuks and moyels, but also extending as far Ashkenazi in New York. Half my fiction comes from charity shops, the rest at full price from Amazon or Waterstones.
Book reading right now: Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. As described earlier in the blog.
Books that mean a lot to me:
A Cauldron of Spells by McEachren. Given me by my dad, this is a book of quotations great for reading out. Some of them are astounding pieces of classical poetry, some are just doggerel. I always remember “Come to our well-run desert, Where anguish arrives by cable, And the deadly sins, May be bought in tins, With instructions on the label”. Apparently, I’ve just found out it was by Auden; my respect for him increases daily. The first verse, which I’d never read before tonight is “Come to our bracing desert, Where eternity is eventful, For the weather-glass Is set at Alas, The thermometer at Resentful” from ‘For the Time Being, WH Auden’
Germinal by Emile Zola. A very slow, very clever book that looks at the horrors of capitalism through the prism of a mining community, its owners and the market, whilst interesting you in the characters as well. Nobody is outright evil, just constrained by their expectations of what the system should bring and the utter desolation and poverty for all concerned that any attempts to change the system result in. The film with Gerard Depardieu isn’t half bad either.
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Fantastic, well-written piece of high-modern theatre that showed a generation how a person with a charisma and brain can get away with just about anything, and make some money on the side too. Or at least that’s one lesson you could learn from it. Mmm, I appear to love sociopaths and social hounds. Curiouser and Curiouser.
Difficult Loves by Italo Calvino. I could have picked any of Calvino’s books, I love nearly all of them. Mr Palomar is perfectly introverted, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler is perfectly intimate, Invisible Cities is a great flourish of his imagination… but Difficult Loves is dear to my heart because of the absolute empathy Calvino generates with spare, unflourished language for his protagonists, ranging from the short-sighted lover to the lady who loses her bikini bottoms while swimming. Touching mouthfuls of romanticism.
Five people to whom I'm passing the baton:
No Longer Mad Iain.
Oh, and on a non-literary note: whoever’s got my copies of the following, could they please, pretty-please, return them?
A Confederacy of Dunces
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S.
A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M Miller Jr.
All of my Calvino.
All of those Sci-Fi masterworks – there’s big holes on my shelf.
The last CD I bought: I can’t remember buying a CD for years… Possibly bought one from Fopp in Bath – oh, yes, we won a cover prize in HMV vouchers and I bought The Best of Ralph McTell – I listen to it over and over.
Song playing right now: California uber Alles by the Dead Kennedys. At work, on my speakers, loud. Sometimes I forget how good this job is.
Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:
The War of the Worlds / Jeff Wayne (Yes, the whole damn album – and if whoever’s ‘borrowed’ it could give it me back, I’d appreciate it…
Dirty Old Town / Euan McColl
Always look on the bright side of life – Monty Python’s Life of Brian Soundtrack. (Sad, but true.)
The Big Light - Elvis Costello. (It was my "wake-up-from-hangover" song at university.)
The Intro & The Outro - Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. (Fantastic tune, which I perversely remember kissing my first proper girlfriend in time to.)
Five people to whom I'm passing the baton:
No Longer Mad Iain.
(Cos they all need the hits.)
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Some of those dolls that didn’t quite make it:
The Fag dolls
The Raggie Dolls
The tail that Wags the Dolls
The Living Dolls
I actually met all the U.K. frag dolls (a promotional gaming clan formed by Ubisoft) at a Ubisoft preview event out in the sticks a couple of weeks ago, and they all seemed genuinely interested in games (the first surprise) as well as being mostly friendly, open people (the second surprise) and cute as hell (not at all surprising.) I think the tall one called Eleanor was the sweetest, though I was impressed intellectually by the bottle-redhead Kate's knowledge of obscure Sci-Fi authors...
(EDIT) This is my 600th post! How cool/lonely am I?!
Hulk Hogan's Hulkomaniac is exactly the same length as William Shatner's stonking Common People (4:40)
Monday, August 22, 2005
Friday, August 19, 2005
"KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held 'theory of gravity' is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.
'Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down,' said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University."
No reason to put this up, other than I love pictures of the universe. I've just finished reading Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker, a truly unique piece of fiction (I'm not going to class it as Sci-Fi, because he didn't.) It was written in 1937 and, much like his other masterpiece First and Last Men, it has a conception that's truly mind-boggling, mainly in terms of time frame. Stapledon explores the history of the universe, flicking from himself standing on a hill in England to inconceivable ("You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.") journeys through space and time, right up to heat-death of the cosmos and, curiously, beyond. Every paragraph contains the necessary components for a full novel, reduced down with Stapldeon's spare language to haiku-like formulations.
It's all driven by a pantheist belief, much like Spinoza's, that everything is, in some sense, capable of consciousness and it's this belief that provides the dynamic and the twists of what can loosely be termed the book's plot. (It's the only book to have inculcated in me a feeling of empathy for a nebula as it's torn apart by the tumescences that would become stars.) Indeed Stapledon's other writings are philosophical tracts - he was a philosophy student and teacher tutor at Oxford and Liverpool for most of his life. This tract expresses a philosophy about how the universe could work using the most up-to-date scientific knowledge of the time so sparingly and logically that it still holds up today, and could easily have been an inspirational religion-founding tome in itself, were it not for its unapproachableness and slow pedantry. (Kicks the crap out of the loathesome Johnathon Livingstone Seagull anyway...) Pick it up, sure, but be prepared to be very slowly astounded.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
'Our great country is in a terrible downward spiral. We're outsourcing jobs, bankrupting social security, and losing lives at war. We need to focus on what's important-- paying attention to our children, our citizens, our future. We need to think about improving our failing educational system, making better use of our resources, and helping to promote a stable, safe, and tolerant global society. It's time to be smart about our politics. It's time to get America back on track.'
Christopher Walken announces his intention to run for President in 2008. Arnie's got serious competition then...
Monday, August 08, 2005
In a bid to boost declining sales of fish-meat sausages, Nippon Suisan Kaisha has come up with a flavor designed specifically to attract children -- strawberry milk."
That said, flashback tells me that I used to make a recipe called "Fried Toast" when I was a kid, which was bread soaked in egg, honey, lemon curd, and molasses and then rolled in brown sugar, before being fried. Very messy, but gorgeous.
Friday, August 05, 2005
He must have been saving that one up since 1989 and the Berlin wall...
Thursday, August 04, 2005
In other news, I went and did karaoke last night and kinda enjoyed it. It’s the mutual back-slapping adulation I think rather than the singing itself, which I’m sure I’m awful at (though was mildly enjoyable). I’ve got no stage presence whatsoever. (Eugh. I just shut my eyes and the inside of my eyelids are like kaleidoscopes, all shifting tessellating patterns moving in time, with zooming rough rings of light. Makes me feel quite queasy, but absolutely hypnotic.) I sang The Penis Song
The place was weird though; an unsigned basement with a bar and a maze-like series of closed chambers, waited on by black-clad girls. The rooms themselves are intimate and small; there were twelve of us in one of the larger rooms, and we were squeezed into the padded seats. Terrifying to see Will Porter doing a version of Linkin Park’s big sweary song and was surprised to hear Ben Talbot singing with a fine voice (but then he comes from Wales, that land of close harmony singing and Tom Jones).
Also, chiarina knitted me a bunny! When I get my review PC back into the office, I’ll put some pictures up here. Meanwhile I’ll have to revert to the classic Cheston.
"What I'm most proud of is that I've managed to combine being a rabbi with being a father. I've seen all my three sons survive being a rabbi's son."
Weird, I think this is my old school friend (I think friend; he was a very lonely guy) Yossi's dad.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
"THE SPIDERS TOLD THE DEEP-SEA CREEPS ABOUT THE SPAGHETTI DINNERS!! THE CREEPS ARE ON THE SPAGHETTIS!!!
THE CREEPS ALSO FOUND ULTRA-BEAN'S BREAKFAST!!!!
LISTEN TO ME, DEEP-SEA CREEPS!! GET OFF THE PLATES!!!!
THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!"
Monday, August 01, 2005
So. My flatmate got me some keys cut, so I didn't have to hide in the bushes until he got home anymore. Whichh was nice. Until I got steaming drunk friday night and got home to find they weren't our keys. After trying a few local locks in the spirit of Lord Lytton, I ended up sleeping on the landing, where one of new neighbours found me at 3a.m. and offered me a bed (inflatable).The messages on my flatmate's ansaphone must have been enjoyable though ranging from the initial "the keys don't work" to the drunken "I'm sleeping rough, do give me a call." to the desperate "I've been picked up for vagrancy, I'm getting hung in the morning." and the final "ten minutes left until they stretch my neck, and you're my only phone call. Tell mother my last breakfast was kosher."
Then, then, I got up at eight, wandered off to Bath, gave away sofas and bookshelves (got locked out again, at which point a monkey-man with a t-shirt on saying "world's best dad" appeared and scrambled over the precipitious gap to the open window, letting us), packed my dad's car so full we had to tie a chair and a welsh dresser to the roof (she wasn't happy), and at about 9 got back to my new address in West Ealing. At which point we unpacked and went out for a prohibitively expensive Nepalese meal (they must have brought it down the mountain especially) and then I went to sleep in a junk-filled room.
Y'see, I'm sure that there are millionaire financiers running the world, and I'm sure they socialise. At these gatherings they reaffirm their shared beliefs like the Lords' shared belief in the supremacy of aristocracy back in the C19. They have the power to enforce their world view, if they remember and can be arsed. So what? Their world view is confused, incoherent and unplanned, which is fine; they're just big kids dressing up in the woods and worshipping a stone owl. More interesting is their accessibility, that Ronson got that close to them and they were complacent and unbothered; the idle rich are hard to enthuse, so there will be no great plan to save the world, neither positive from my viewpoint (e.g. an liberal green utopia) or negative (facist world state). Seeing the latter as worse than the former, I'm glad they're complacent.