Hell is Being Trapped with Your Friends

Last night, Mark S texted me, asking to meet for a drink and talk. The drink was a plastic bottle of coke, and the talk was on a cold beach at 2200. He'd had a stressful day, but wouldn't say exactly what was stressful about it - he just wanted someone to unwind with to get over it.

Seeing as his friends are stoned/drunk/both most of the time, his girlfriend is more girl than friend, and his parents are the strong silent types (but without the strength), it seems I'm the resident nice guy who isn't a threat.
Tonight was a troublesome recording session. Paul played four good guitar tracks, which I recorded and then somehow lost. We rerecorded, but it wasn't anything like as good.

Anna, being more talented and more of a trooper than us, got four good vocal takes in spite of sore throat and tierdness. More recording on Monday.

Final mixing and mastering will be contentious. Paul wants his guitar so loud it swamps the drums and vocals. As producer, it's my job to make the end product sound good in spite of the musician's opinions.
On impulse, I wrote most of a song for SongFight ("Hooker Pumps"). It won't be finished in time, but it can be labeled as one of those doomed little projects that make 'good practice'.

Where was the City of Armageddeon?

It's not complex.

The US can't control the middle east until it occupies more than just Afganistan and Iraq. It can't feasibly move on to Iran until Iraq is secure. Iraq is not going to become secure.

The longer Iraq remains occupied but unsubdued, the more desperate and foolish groups think they can get the troops out by blowing things up. The more that happens, the more draconian the action from the army there and police here to prevent it.

Of course, the US might try to invade Iran anyway. They would face massive resistance, and terrorism would increase exponentially. Result: Unwinnable war in the east, martial law in the west. In the cause of 'peace' and 'freedom'.

The solution is easy. Leave Iraq and search for other ways to get the oil. Or move to economy to other power sources. No, doesn't seem likely, does it?

Right now, the 'factual' media is a nonstop stream of hate against muslims, the left is defensive and uncirtain, and I can only see it getting worse.
What do you do when you feel like that? Personally, I've spent £50 on a lateral stepping fitness device. And started reading about the physics of musical acoustics.

I've been trying to find decent information on poker playing, and the stock market. All books on the former have been stolen from the local library, and those on the latter assume basic information I don't have. Just what is a Unit Trust anyway?
Recording the Strict Machines has hit a small snag. Every time Paul tunes his guitar, or changes the strings, the pitch is slightly different. This makes dubbing guitar tracks rather difficult.

I've put together a CD of pure concert tones for him to tune to, and we start recording again this evening (Saturday).

Obvious problem, obvious solution, really.
John M says I'm "emotionally dissociated". If he means I don't easily get overexcited, he's right. If he means I'm impassive, he's unfortunately wrong.

It All Makes Perfect Sense!

Last night's meeting was of the 'successful, but...' variety. Dave F presenting well about economics and multinational power over governments - all comprehensible and detailed. We have a new member who turned up - he seems sound but quiet.

As for the 'but', Dear sweet Jeffrey S thinks every issue is really about ideology and rational argument, and Paul T's contributions were even more egotistical, longwinded and pedantic than usual. As the humble chair, I should have been stricter.
Tonight (Monday) was spent with Simon M, his brother Jeremy, and Simon's perpetually ill computer. And then recording with the Strict Machines.

Simon is gay, camp, smart, cultured and celibate. Jeremy is gayer, camper, smarter, more cultured, and not quite so celibate. The kind of duo who continuously bicker but never actually argue.

The computer can't connect to the internet. After checking everything I could think of, I tried to connect my laptop through his NTL box, and got the same 'no signal' result. So, one the one hand, I know the problem is not his computer. On the other, I have to spend an hour putting my computer back the way it was, so it can connect to the internet through my gateway.

As I'm typing this (0020 Thr Jul 26), I don't know when I'll be able to post it.
Recording. We got two good vocal takes from Anna. So now there's just a few more vocal takes, some more guitar takes, some backing vocals, some guitar effects, and some brief 'linking' tracks to record. Amazingly, this means the end is in sight.
I've been trying to learn the rudiments of poker. Most introductory articles assume the reader already knows the meanings of 'flop', 'stud', 'check', 'kicker' and 'suited connector'.

It's cirtainly true that the more fundamental the information, the harder it is to explain briefly. But it can't be that difficult.
Watched half a BBC documentary on 'the history of Al Quaida', nievely expecting it to be what the writeup suggested.

Instead, it claimed the war in Iraq is really a propaganda war fought over the internet, with 'muslim sites' on the offensive. Apparantly young British muslims are so impressed by MPEGs of people who look like their nonmuslim friends being grusomely killed, they want to contribute. Everyone else though is immune when they see it on TV.

The solution: Let the government control the internet. That way, fanatics won't be created, and presumably the death cult of Islam with it's ideology of evil will die.

Theater of the Absurd

I've tried several times over the past few days to write what's happening in the outside world, but it always came out wrong. For what it's worth, here's the short version.

Four detonators (not bombs) exploded in London. All mainstream newspapers now look like the Daily Mail. All muslims are held somehow collectively responsible for the actions of a few, the MAB accused of 'harbouring terrorists', and the STWC of giving them 'succour'. The police can now shoot a man dead in public for running in a suspicious way and no one protests.

In other news, the US plan to control the middle east is unworkable - they can't press ahead, retreat, or stay still.

I can just about cope with the insanities of my own small life. The rest is Kafka on acid.
Mother turned 60 on Thursday. On Friday the family met to mark it with an italian meal out. My parents and brother, his girlfriend, my mother's two brothers, and their wives.

During the main course, my father told me, "Don't eat too much - we don't want any accidents in the car on the way home." I am 33, he is 70. I wonder which of us is more likely to have a food related 'accident'.

Paul M is my uncle. He is a judge, charged with reviewing asylum and immigration applications. Not a malicious man at all, cirtainly not a stupid man, just someone who genuinely believes Britain is overcrowded and needs to be kept culturally pure.

His three children are my cousins. I haven't seen them since they were troublesome toddlers, 15 or so years ago. They've grown into intelligent and beautiful young adults, open minded and friendly. They provided the only worthwhile and honest conversations of the day.

Mervyn M is my other uncle. He is a middle manager for a construction company - reputedly respected for competence. He attributed his failure to rise further to "not being a woman, not being black, not being disabled or not being of a cirtain sexual orientation." Perhaps MacAlpine's is run by black lesbians in wheelchairs.
Saturday evening was spent recording guitar parts for Strict Machines. It looks as though the end of recording may finally be in sight - the takes were good, and vocal recording scheduled for Monday.

Once it's finally done, send one copy to Nick and one to Stefan - my cousin who gave me a demo CD of his blues-rock band 'Flux'.

There's a forum Sunday night - entitled "Do Corporations Run The World?". I suspect I may have an inkling of the answer that will be given.

H is leaving for new home and new job on August 15th. Time to meet two or three times before then, and afterwards he's an hour away on the train instead of ten minutes on the bicycle.

His new home is 'nice but expensive'. I do seem to get involved with bon viveurs with expensive tastes - Russell and Stuart both lived beyond their means. Or rather, beyond mine.

I'm thinking of buying the 'String Studio' PM synth from Applied Acoustics. It looks like a great VSTi for all stringed instruments, including keyboards, but I can't find any objective reviews to judge properly.

Haze of Moloch

The rally on Sunday was small but useful. The plan had been to hold it in the park in Russell Square, but of course the park had been closed by pure coincidence. And by equally pure coincidence was reopened an hour after we dispersed. There were about a thousand people there - a wide mix of muslims, socialists, CND members, and those who in other times would never have considered consorting with such dangerous radicals.

It was a hurridly called joint presentation between the Stop The War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain. With the media treating the former as an incomprehensible curiosity and the latter as a convenient repository of 'collective responsibility' for all terrorism committed by Arabs, they can't afford to have a wedge driven between them.

The speeches were all quite mild. Sending commiseraions to the victims of the bombings and gratitude to the emergency services. Noting the absurdity of politicians calling Islam a 'death cult'. Extolling the need to use 'the tattered remanants of democracy'. Pointing out the irony of Ken Livingstone's 'Free London' speech when compared with him closing fire stations three weeks before they were needed. Reinforcing the need to hold on a hang together against media vilification and public abuse. All quite obvious stuff really, but it needed saying.

One interesting point for me was on the military concept of 'blowback' - taken from when poison gas blows back onto the army which releases it. Rumsfeld, Powell et al were fully apraised of how domestic terrorism would result from invasion if pacification was not immidiate, but seemed to think it was a risk worth taking.
On Monday, Paul T and I managed to record three guitar tracks for the album, so slow progress is being made. The trouble is none of the band have any grasp of what recording involves. They treat microphone placement and multitracking as arcane magic, and expect the technology to read their minds and do exactly what they want.

Odd that people who understand so well the physical limitations and perculiarities of their instruments should regard software and soundcards as somehow 'beyond all that'.
Max and John M think I should play the stock market. This is a rather surprising suggestion, but intriguing. I'm reading up on the basics of shares and bonds, and a few week's research should get me to a position where I can form a few strategies about trading with imaginary money.
The problems with PayPal and WorldPay are sorted out. H will have found himself a new place to live. Mark S and CW haven't been in contact. Nick is barely coping with the stresses of his own life. I haven't written any new music in over a month.

It's now Wednesday morning - 0150. From around 1000 I have one computer of my own to fix up for DAB, and if there's time a laptop set up for accountancy to deliver to Bob. Oh, and there's some job application forms to fill out. In the afternoon I'll have to read some more stock market stuff, at 1800 there's more guitar recording, and at 2000 there's another RESPECT meeting.

The Man With Two Phones

Remember when I said, if my old mobile turns up I won't have the strength to be annoyed. Well, I was right. After a week in a washing machine, the old mobile now functions as a charger for the spare battery, with unreadably blurred LCD display and locked simcard.
Oh hooray. The Strict Machines have decided they're going to "What the hell, go for a take" on Monday. A small victory for time constraints over perfectionism.
The joys of internet finance. PayPal claims to have sent me a verification code but haven't. And WorldPay says it no longer recognises my debit card, even though the company I pay through them (QC1 Hosting) has the money.

It's a familliar feeling. More than a year ago, while working for the university, I requisitioned UKP30 for a video codec. The company managed to lose the order, eventually finding it three months later after I'd sent them some emails. They then sent an activation code for the wrong product.
An afternoon backing up old data from Bob's computer. A devout catholic, he had great difficulty believing that many of the priests running the local catholic school were 'posted abroad' after getting caught with their hands in the till.

But no trouble at all with those who got caught with their hands in other places.
A somewhat larger peace rally in London tomorrow. If I don't wake up with another intractable headache and burning skin tomorrow, I'll be at it.

War, Money, Music, Friendship

More than a thousand people in the town square, congregating to spend two minutes in silence. In the middle, 30 members of The Stop The War Coalition, joining in the official national silence, then adding half an hour of restrained speeches to support it.

Paul T was teaching in the language school at the time, and all classes had been instructed by management to join in the silence. Some of the students asked: If 54 people merit two minutes, how many hours would it take for 100,000 Iraqis?

In the square, most of the public dispersed, but about 10 wandered over to hear what was being said. All very restrained, respectful, and barely political. We were all nervous about the public response, but there weren't even any hecklers. Surprised relief all round.

I chatted afterwards to one of the people who'd join us. He was an ex-labour party member from Surrey, on a day trip and in the square by chance. He left Labour when the US and UK invaded Kuwait after Iraq had done the same thing, reasoning that Iraq had a better claim to Kuwait than the US. I suggested that Kuwait ought to belong to the people of Kuwait, and he became vague.
I signed on afterwards. The jobcentre had a sign up saying anyone not wearing a shirt would not be seen. I asked Pauline (my 'jobsearch adviser') about it - she and her collegues thought it was idiotic too. She's trying to persuade me I should become an accountant - which seems a rather leftfield suggestion.
Recording session with Paul T. Not much achieved - this second EP has already taken twice as long as the first. He's got other things on his mind - a suicidally depressed grandmother, no money, and the prospect of losing his home.

Thinking about our respective problems: My parents want me out, he needs someone to help take care of his grandmother so he can still work, I could use a nice place to live the allows me to record music, he could use a lodger renting cheap.

The only questions are: Could he live in proximity to me without going stark staring bonkers, and could I live in his home without going the same way?

It's not something to be rushed into.
Next day, I met H for lunch, and spent the afternoon arguing with him. About having respect for petty rules (he does, I don't), the role of religion in creating beliefs (he says it has one, I say religion is always post hoc justification), and the biological basis of cultural customs (he follows Dawkins, I follow Gould).

He said he likes talking to me, because it means for once he's not the most cynical person in the room. Humph!

If I let myself love him, and anyone asked me why, the answer would be easy. He can justify his opinions, isn't threatened by someone questioning them, and he actually listens.

Nevermind sex, if you can spend 5 hours disagreeing on ethical philosophy and hug with no ill feelings, you've found someone special.
I've been out in the hot sun for most of the last two days. Normally, if anyone said I was redder than an overripe tomato, I'd assume it was a political comment. Now, it would be dermatological.


I'm afraid. Actually I'm bloody terrified.

The police tell us that they've found the group who planted the bombs in London. They say it was four boys from Yorkshire, who inexplicably left identification at the bomb sites, which miraculously survived. It's not impossible that the police have the culprits - with all the pressure to quickly find a scapegoat, they may still have the real criminals.

Tomorrow, the Stop The War Coalition are holding a nationwide series of simultainious rallies. Two minutes silence, sandwiched by speeches about how violence and terror create only more violence and terror. I've been asked to read some short poems at the local one.

I'm afraid it's going to be fifteen frightened people in a town square amongst a hostile public. I know it will be attacked as opportunism, and I'm afraid it will appear weak and tokenistic. I know it will be willfully misunderstood by some, and I'm afraid of people who not only read The Sun and The Mail but actually believe it.

Muslims aren't being hospitalised, but they are being harassed.
At tonight's meeting, there were reports back from the Edinburough protests. The night before, the police went around arresting coach drivers, detaining them for a few hours, and letting them go without charge. There is a law that coach and train drivers are forbidden to drive for 24 hours after release.

The BBC were persuaded to announce that the marches had been cancelled. Completely untrue, of course. The police set up road blocks, forcing coaches and cars to take a sixty mile detour. The gridlocking was blamed on 'anarchist sitdown protests'. They stopped cars and individuals at random, searching 'for drugs' or for nothing.

Typical police, combining nasty tricks and bursts of brutality with a surprising ineptness. Hoards of them with horses and dogs in otherwise empty fields, leaving holes in their net a mile wide.
I'm not worried about being hit with a bomb. I'm nervous about making a token gesture in front of an unthinkingly hostile public. I'm afraid of what might happen next.

I don't want to be involved.

A Psychological Experiment

I took the junk psychology test here, answering all questions as untruthfully as possible. Not easy, as the truthful answer to most questions is 'it depends'.

The 'diagnosis' of my antiself is
Paranoid: Low
Schizoid: Low
Schizotypal: Low
Antisocial: High
Borderline: Low
Histrionic: High
Narcissistic: Moderate
Avoidant: Low
Dependent: High
Obsessive-Compulsive: Low

So the real me is highly sociable but hates other people, self-sufficient and amazingly calm but worried and suspicious all the time, and overdramatic but quiet. Good, I'm glad that's all sorted out.
The media have decided that a 'homegrown cell' in Yorkshire planted the bombs in London. Translation: There is an 'enemy within', easily identifiable with antiwar thinkers but switchable to any other group, who could be anywhere and must be stamped out. Paranoid: High

Among people I've spoken to, opinion varies as to the public reaction. Blair and ID Cards are as unpopular as ever, mosques have been attacked but seemingly individual muslims are't targeted, far right groups haven't made headway and the left is still considering it's tactics. Histrionic: Low.
Interesting discussion with Paul T about the limits of progressive bourgois thought. It all seems to share two common features. First, it's concentration on what is socially desirable coupled with it's vagueness on how to achive it. And second, it's tendency to fold when it comes to the crunch.

The first feature consists in a general approval of such notions as personal freedom and autonomy, education as a good thing in itself, and the avoidance of violence. But with either a vague hope that these 'good things' will come about through 'wise guidance', 'strong but compassionate leadership' or 'moderated market forces' (the Michael Foot view), or with no real idea how they could be achieved (the Tony Benn problem).

There are a few hopeful individuals who delude themselves into believing that enough compromises with the right will produce an eventual left result. That the reason privatisation of the health service has degraded service is that there's not enough privatisation.

The second is demonstrated in, for instance, opposing all war, except the war the country happens to be fighting at the moment. Or opposing erosion of human rights, except in the current 'exceptional' circumstances which merit some 'temporary and regretable abridgement' of rights for the proverbial greater good, and the long term maintenence of these rights.

The principles are for these people eternal, but the current circumstances always exceptional, the current threat always extra-special and extra-evil. We're talking about people who talk a good fight, then sell out under pressure.

We spent four hours applying the idea to allegedly progressive writers - mainly Anthony Burgess, Vladimir Nabokov, and Thomas Mann. Doing some extra research on Nabokov, I'm intrigued by the proto-postmodernism of his 'Pale Fire' novel.

Postmodernism of course was the ultimate pseudoprogressive irrationalism. It took the shortest route to all-embracing political defeatism - epistemological solipsism - while claiming to subvert authority and create the preconditions for a genuine ethical individualism.

And to think I spent over a decade studying that junk.

This Isn't Kansas

Bob runs a guest house over the road. He does accounts on a machine bought around 1999, running MS Works 4 under Windows 95. Since his computer started crashing (again) he's decided he wants a stable duplicate of his current system, running on a laptop. My job is to recreate his existing system using Works2002, under Windows XP.

His wife became deaf in adulthood, and both have become quite proficient in sign language. Odd that he can take a change like that in his stride, but regards it as a personal afront he might have to click a different icon, or use a new modem.

One of those people who expects technology to be forever simple and unchanging. A perpetual client or pain in the bloody neck, depending on how you look at it.
The air is unpleasantly hot and humid. It's difficult to get any work done when my clothes feel like they're coated in grease.
I can't understand people who cry at the television. When some character in a soap opera gets a long deathbed scene with their family, or the male and female lead in a light comedy show get to kiss after 12 episodes of circling, or the military commander of a doomed group of soldiers makes a soul stirring speech about glory in death.

Maybe this button pushing stuff doesn't work because I've got different buttons. More likely I've got roughly the same buttons as everyone else, but don't trust anyone who tries to push them.

But honestly, when Bambi died, when some old women insulted her dysfunctional family before going upstairs to die in Eastenders, when Delboy and Rodney finally got rich, when a plane was diverted from Lockerbie to Emmerdale Farm, when the ninth Doctor kissed Rose (after 12 weeks of circling).

These emotions feel prepackaged, predigested, automatically felt and soon gone. There is a lack of texture to them, I imagine them as smooth and glossy like plastic.
There is a national two minute's silence planned for Thursday - I'm not sure of the time, or the organisers. There's a kind of 'peace rally' in London on Sunday, though I'm not sure I can attend that one.

Viddy This, My Brothers

Quite an interesting week really. First there was the G8 summit, with 8 powerful men promising that this time they really would do something about African poverty. They did indeed decide on something - namely almost nothing.

Then we had some rock has-beens organising a large concert, seemingly in the belief that the G8 genuinely wanted to help, and would get more impetus to do so if they knew there were thousands of nearby pop fans in Make Poverty History armbands.

Some bombs exploded in London, and Tony Blair went on TV doing his 'distressed' routine, which amazingly seemed to fool a lot of viewers this time. Other politicians did the same thing with less amateur dramatics, and got slammed for opportunism.

The boards of Outpost Gallifrey - that bastion of light entertainment enlightenment values - is now suffused by posters with union jacks in their avatars. The site owner comments 'We're all British now', without a trace of irony.

Fortunately, the 'one nation pulling together against terrorism' mood is already fading, the ID card lobby hasn't gained support, and the racist backlash hasn't materialised. Everything about those bombs is puzzling - from who planted them, through why, to the mawkish but unhysterical public reaction.
The N-Pod is working, the DAB capture machine is sort-of working, Simon M's computer started working for no reason after I spent an hour fiddling with it, and the cashpoint still isn't working.

I finally got around to seeing 'A Clockwork Orange'. A story about an insoluble problem - how to control violence in a society that functions by uncontrolled violence. On the same DVDR is Bad Lieutenant, Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Going a bit Pete Tong

The N-Pod has locked up. There seems no way of resetting it, so I'm just letting the battery run down, in the hope that losing all power will induce a reboot.

This morning, I tried to check my bank balance, but the hole in the wall was closed for repairs.

Looks like I'm going to be stuck around here for another year looking for jobs that don't exist until I can get on another course. I could always try living somewhere else doing exactly the same thing, but there doesn't seem a lot of point.

I've lost almost everyone's telephone number. Or rather, I have dozens of telephone numbers, but I don't know which one belongs to who. If I knew which ones belonged to the people who knew everyone else's number, I could call it to ask them.

H hasn't got back to me. He's probably exhausted from teaching a class of italian teenagers and/or busy writing his book and/or still unwell. I should call him later.

[EDIT: He's relaxed about teaching, easygoing about the book, and still feeling a bit lousy. We disagreed about JG Ballard, Stephen Spielberg, and whether or not it's a good idea for EFL teachers to be fluent in the language of their pupils.

He always cheers me up. Said he'd give me a call midweek when he's coughing and sneezing less, and we can decide on a film to see. Maybe War of the Worlds.

So, everything's going a bit wrong, but I'm feeling better about it.]

Inspired by Spam

I've just got an email telling me I'm entitled to "Thirty Million Seven Hundred Thousand United States Dollars". And all I have to do to collect it is provide the sender with some personal details. Well, I thought...why not?

> Kindly re-confirm to me if this is inline with what you have in
> yourRecord and also re-confirm the information below to enable this office
> Proceed andfinalize your fund remittance without further delays.
> 1) Your full name.
Mr Theophrastus Q Fatcock III

> 2) Phone, fax and mobile #.
Phone: 066-66666-666666
Fax: 000-000000-000000-0-0-1

> 3) Company name, position and address.
Head of Really Interesting Research
The Electronic Raw Sewage Company
99.9% Oliver Stone House
North-west-south England

> 4) Profession, age and marital status.
Profession: Mafia Hitman (specialising in golden showers)
Age: 104 and one third
Marital Status: Unmarried to triplets

> 5) Copy of Drivers License I .D. if any
Picture of 'The Driving Licence' attached.
[A jpeg I found of the words "The Driving Licence"]

Self Indulgent? Me?

The gallifreyan response to the bombings has split into two noncommunicating strands. First is the mawkish - "Oh what a horrible world we live in", "My thoughts go out to you", "Hugs to anyone in London". Second is the foaming - "George Galloway/Ken Livingstone/Anyone at all is a scumbag for making a statement after the bombings. They're just making political capital out of the tregedy." and "Bomb all muslims now".
My paypal account never worked properly, so I closed it down and started up another one. I'd forgotten what a rigmarole it was. How many other net accounts take a week to validate, and have three seperate measures to check that I'm the owner of my account? Still, a touch of paranoia is useful in a world that justifies it.
Marxism2005 is on after all - only the first day was cancelled. But I don't think I can go anyway.
I spent a very pleasant afternoon reading websites about David Irving, before sampling the great man's own online fiction. I have a soft spot for lunatics and incompetent forgers, and he's both.

Holocaust denial is obviously not a joking matter, but I hope it doesn't trivialise the issue to take pleasure in the sheer ineptness of it's 'intelectuals'.

In any case, it's reintroduced me the The Nizkor Project, a site that I first encountered in my researches into logical errors, years ago. I abandoned the thesis and instead graduated with...one about mad cults and one about fraud!
Two things happen around September 30th. My parents get a dog, and I find out what I'm doing for the next year.

We have one dog - a black and white papillion called Mr Spock. He's 10, fluffy, not very bright and likes to sleep in company. A local papillion breeder is expecting a litter in two weeks, followed by six weeks care. My parents have 'claimed' one of the litter, when it's born and ready. We're arguing about vulcan names.

I'm on the 'clearing' list for teacher training courses - in particular looking for two year science converstion courses. The clearing process finishes around September 30th, offers are made of spare places to prospective students, and within a week they journey to start the course.

So I'll either be starting a two year course in some other part of the country, or spending another year down here, applying for next year's course. The latter seems rather more likely. But we have to at least go through the motions.

The trouble is, I can't make any long term plans until I know I definitely won't be offered a place.
Don't know when I can post this. My wireless connection was never reliable, but now seems dead.

Newsflash 2

The death toll is now around 33, with 45 seriously injured. There were four explosions, not six.
I've been scrolling through the thread on Outpost Gallifrey about the bombings.

One poster pointed out that Tony Blair must be delighted at being handed such an opportunity to pass through legislation on ID cards, immigration and whatever else he wants. He was shouted down for being cynical, tasteless, and point scoring.

Well, the blindingly obvious has always been tasteless. Some even said Blair looked genuinely upset when he made his 'never surrender' speech. Staggeringly nieve.

Most seem to think politics should somehow be kept out of a 'human tragedy' - as though bombs are planted for some apolitical reason. "We are a great nation for uniting in times of crisis....", said one. Why do nice people have to be so wet?
Who was responsible? This is my post to the forum:

The usual suspects:

IRA: Not their style, and they wouldn't gain anything by it. And they generally claim responsibility hours after the event.

Some splinter of the IRA: Same remark.

Anti-G8 extremists: There aren't any. Anti-G8 protesters divide into liberals who want to shame the G8 into genuinely doing something about African poverty, and anti-war campaigners who know perfectly well why terrorism doesn't work.

Some loony religious group: Religion provides rhetoric, not motive.

[I mean it gives a framework in which to express political views. It doesn't created these views.]

Hamas, Palastinians etc: Why? There's no way it would serve their interests.

Our own government: A few loud bangs to prop up the 'war on terror'? It just seems an extremely cackhanded and oddly timed way of doing that. Can't disprove it but it feels wrong.
[Some idiot thought this meant I was accusing the government, saying if it was them "the Labour party would never be elected again" and "they were deadly high explosives and so it is quite preposterous to even think representatives of the government might have planted them"]

Al Quaida 1: You mean the truely massive but perfectly camoflaged international network of fanatics, that has never been infiltrated, and doesn't seem to have a precise agenda?

Al Quaida 2: You mean one of the hundreds of tiny far eastern terrorist groups who've started using the name? Or those who pretend to be 'linked to Al Qaida' in some mysterious way. These do exist, but as a way of getting 'the west' out of their countries, it's counterproductive to say the least.

Three tube stations and one bus were bombed. Why?

Possibly the busiest stations bombed were Edware Road and Russell Square. But if the culprits wanted to kill a lot of people, why didn't they chose Oxford Circus, or Victoria?

It looks like the point wasn't to kill people, or do much structural damage, but to create fear without large loss of life. Like a warning shot.
In politics and media, nothing ever seems sincere. "Filthy act"..."deepest condolances"..."we share their pain intensely"..."deeply saddened"..."barbaric"..."shocking and despicable"..."horror and disgust at this cowardly attack" - which are real and which are reflex?

There is only one emotion that works anymore in text. Derision.
A group has claimed responsibility. The snazzily named 'The Secret Organisation of Al Quaida of Jihad Organisation in Europe'. There's always a few organisations that no one's heard of before claiming responsibility, so I remain to be convinced of it's veracity.

Besides, what kind of group calls itself "The Secret Organisation"?!
My parents were bound for a hospital near Russell Square (one of the explosion sites) when the bombs went off. If they'd left an hour earlier, they might have been in it.

They are now back and extremely unimpressed with Tony Blair's attempt to impersonate Winston Churchill. I had invited Mark S around for some 'fun' while they were on their daytrip to London. I had to text an apology - usually it's him who cancels on me.

Another cancellation - I was looking for an excuse not to go to the Marxism conference this year. This wasn't quite what I had in mind. It's been cancelled or postponed, by exactly the sort of event that makes political discussion important.


Six small bombs have exploded in London. Reports are confused, but they seem to be in or around underground stations. there are two confirmed fatalities, plus unknown 'dozens' of injuries.

TV 'experts' are saying it 'bears all the hallmarks of Al Qaida' (automatic and untrue), while speculating on 'Anti-G8 extremists' (ludicrous). No organisation has claimed responsibility.

So what are we dealing with? Some splinter of the IRA? One of the numerous tiny terrorist groups from the far east, inexplicably branching out to attack european capitals? An attempt by our own government to bolster the 'war on terror'? A warning shot from Iran? A misguided shot from the resistance of Iraq? Some loony homegrown sect obsessed with some marginal issue?

None of these make sense. No doubt they'll all be suggested over the next few days, but they're all pretty dumb. All wars and all tactics make sense, once you know what they're really about. But this one doesn't, yet.

Foan Moan

Isn't technology wonderful. You get a pocket sized phone, that also functions as alarm clock, reminder system, contact number list and sort-of emailer. If you pay more it's also a radio, walkman, stills camera, video camera and dictaphone. All small enough to fit in a pocket.

And then you bloody lose it. Or it get's stolen or left in the washing machine or dropped onto hard tarmac and run over by a steamroller. I only lost mine, so much of today was spent getting a new one (£50), and trying to remember which number on which itemised bill goes with which name.

I got the new one working just in time for Mark S to cancel tonight's meet by text. Some things at least don't change.
John M had some trouble ordering from Amazon - I've ordered the books for him and he'll pay me back. I may also wind up going to the weekend of the Marxism2005 conference after all. Not sure about that.

Max is very happy with his 10 videotapes, earmarked for leftist notables in the world of small theatre. He wants to buy a superdupercomputer to make radio plays and audio books with. At a rough costing that would be:

Decent computer: £500
Small monitor: £150
Semipro soundcard: £150
Microphones and accessories: £75
Software: The back of a lorry

Add £75 for CDs, cases, stamps, envelopes and teabags, and we're still under £1000.
My parents have gone to london for the evening to see a concert. It took a lot of arguing, but they have finally managed to unbutton enough to enjoy their retirement a little - which here entails going to see classical or jazz concerts every month or so. This one is a laid back beethoven recital.

I'm left at a slight loose end. Tonight I was going to suck off a schoolfriend and go for a bike ride. Now he's cancelled and it's raining.

Mmmm, Chocolate

Right. I have ten copies of a two hour play, dumped from DivX to VHS. I'll cycle round to comrade Max tomorrow morning and deliver them. And no doubt spend two or three hours drinking his tea, munching his chocolate biscuits, and listening to his latest mad scheme to make the masses rise up by throwing art at them.

Unless John M is there too, in which case it'll be five hours of tea, chocolate biscuits, and philosophy. Which is always genuinely welcome. I like being a revolutionary socialist - you get to meet such fascinating people.
Some of the multinational sailors from the 'festival of the sea' - retrospectively rechristend 'Sail 8' - are still around town. The burly bearded turks seem to have gone home, but there were some lovely russian ones outside the guildhall. All boyish and blond and, erm, yes.

The local rag is now asking: Sail 8 - What Went Wrong?. Presumably asking why it cost so much, why a profit wasn't made, and why the town went back to being sleepy, poor and tedious immidiately after the final firework display.
Spent yesterday evening with Simon M, giving his computer a checkup, and trying out his eliptical fitness training machine thing. And then some spot research on Tom Cruise making a scientological tit of himself on daytime TV. And the anti-semitic, homophobic, incredibly violent film The Passion Of The Mel Gibson.

It's based on the heretical ramblings of the stigmatic Anne Emmerlich, the beliefs of a tiny sect (about 70 people) called the Holy Family, and a few inventions of Gibson himself. Like Pilate's wife taking pity on Christ, and Herod being a creepy gay perv.

Just two thirtysomething overweight marxist queens who share a fondness for famous people being extremely stupid. All perfectly innocent.
I want an eliptical training thing. It simulates cross country skiing and 'gives you an intense fat burning workout' for 'sleek sexy thighs in just a few weeks', according to the shopping channels.

Unfortunately - there is always an 'unfortunately' - the only space for it is in the room that I cleared out and painted as a gym. And the reason that is unfortunate is, it's a coal hole. A cellar room with damp, muggy, dusty air. Not ideal for exercises that involve breathing.


For a band who want to record their first full album as quickly as possible, the Strict Machines are quite laid back about getting it done. They have a gig on Wednesday ("You will come, won't you"), after which they'll "think about arrangements for recording". So I'm another week without recording equipment because it's all in the guitarist's bedroom, and they don't even have a schedule for using it.

I'm making the first ten copies of The Investigation performance film for Max. After which he wants twenty more. All to promote his political theatre company. Intelligent leftwing theatre is cirtainly worthwhile, and among the social classes that watch stageplays it can provoke debate. But as a way to prevent council house tennants voting for the BNP, it's not terribly effective. Max is an driven, compassionate man. But as Simon M says, he's barking mad and annoying as hell.

As a technician - for music recording and video production - I just have to make sure the equipment works. And then use it. Which is somewhat easier than practicing for three hours a day on a musical instrument, or keeping a team of thirty actors from fighting.
I've decided that roughly one third of my electronic stuff could happily go on Ebay. SK5 sampler keyboard, miniature FM radio, old midi keyboard, USB soundcard, computer speakers, solid state dictaphone, and a few other things. I'm not sure there'd be bids though for a turquoise portable black-and-white TV, a betamax VCR that only plays, or a dozen cheap microphones.

If I sold it all off, I could get one of those nice elliptical exercise machines. Except there'd still be nowhere to put it. Because there's three of us living here, and we have all been accumulating hardware for thirty years. The 'TV room' contains ten guitars, two obsolete synthsisers, two amplifier systems, several boxes of paper documents, one computer, an ever-growing collection of oil lamps, rail memorabilia, three tables, uncounted vinyl records...and a television.

My parents bought this absurdly large house to give two young children plenty of room. Most of the house is now filled with cardboard boxes containing stuff, most of which could be jettisoned. Except whenever we do throw stuff away, we find we need it.


When I was six years old, I had a friend called Peter Williams. Neither of us were sociable with other children - we didn't often play the strange playground games called 'war' or 'firing squad', we hated the weekly games of 'football', and neither said much in lessons. He was four years old, chubby, had a permanant sniffle, and I think he wore spectacles.

The teachers didn't like it one bit that I sat on the ground having minimalist conversations with someone two years my junior. They seemed offended by the notion. They said it was the age gap, but it could easily have been the quiet talking, or the sitting down instead of running around shouting.

Perhaps if we'd hung upside down from the climbing frame like the more adventurous children, that would have been a crime they could deal with. They never tierd of lecturing offenders that it was unsafe. Cirtainly if we'd pulled the girls pigtails and run away they would have known what to do about us.

Maybe teachers just don't trust quiet children.
H has a stinking cold. I had rather hoped to take him out for a good indian meal as a 'goodbye' before he went off on holiday. But now he's got a temporary job so he's not going, and a horrible cold so he's not up to an evening out.

His temporary job involves teaching english to a hoarde of italian teenagers. In my years at the university, I've seen this hoarde of 40 to 60 11-19 year-olds as an annual happening. Some of the same faces turn up each year. This year, H is employed to teach 10-15 of them.

Linguistics is hardly his field - ironically, it's one of mine. But he'll manage. I just won't see him for another week.
Tonight's background television, courtesy of Simon M's videotape, is a documentary on scientology, a Dispatches 'probe' on social workers after the Cleveland scandal, Tariq Ali interviewing Edward Said, and an episode of the Bill.

Tonight's 'work out' movie is The Serpent and the Rainbow, at the end of the same tape. This is where I attempt to keep my heart rate above 100 with some constant but gentle aerobics, performed with light weights in front of the television. Keep a bottle of water handy, and try to lose a pound or two.