House Style

I've been trying to get to grips with CSS - the formatting language behind this very blog. I'm thinking of using it to periodically change the look of the blog to reflect seasons, months, or whatever looks interesting at the time. I've made a few small changes already, in honour of my favourite medical drama.

Tony Blair is trying to look green. He addressed an international business conference, saying global climate change will become catastrophic and irreversible "in our lifetime". This is his guarded, understated way of saying the catastrophe has probably already started, and is only going to get worse.

He also said "we" have to find ways to reduce carbon emissions - which presumably means investing in wind and wave farms, while finding places to dump smog and sewage in places that aren't the sky or sea. Though he didn't say so. He also didn't say anything about developing technology to cope with the effects of climate change - only trying to reduce future contributions to it.

This is a bit like talking about how you ought to eat less rat poison, instead of calling a doctor.

I knew about the speech a week in advance - not because I've developed precognitive abilities, but because the local newspaper ran a small article about "yesterday's speech" a week before it happened. So either their journalists can see the future, or the press release was sent out early, and the story run in error.

So has Blair decided to save the world to make up for ordering mass murder? Or is he just making sure Labour keep pace with the Conservatives, who've been making vaguely green noises for the last few months? Surely not.

We powerless ordinary citizens are doing what little we can. There's a public meeting/forum on Wednesday, and a demo called on Saturday.

I have a friend. That is to say, I have someone who I was friends with ten years ago, who regards me as their only friend, but who bores and irritates me to distraction.

He's lonely, depressed, and desperate for affection. He spent two hours around here yesterday, having nothing to say but feeling the need to chat - so I made painful conversation. He then phoned me half an hour after leaving because he still wanted to talk. Seemingly because no one else talks with him anymore - everyone he used to know has drifted away.

And he needs constant reassurance that he's not boring me, and that I really do enjoy his company. Well, he is, and I don't. I can say this to the entire world (at least that part of it that surfs blogs), but I can't say it to him.

Most of the time, when a friend becomes a burden, they eventually realise and find other people to be with. But this one is both not very bright, just very...well, needy. He's not a bad person, at all - actually he's sympathetic and kind. Which may (or may not) be why I can't work up the courage to tell him to go away.

I watched episode 3 of Torchwood, in which an alien artifact enables people to see crimes of the past and tragedies of the near future - which, of course, turn out to occur through attempts to avenge the crimes. A story about how you can't afford to be obsessed with making up for past mistakes, and you're better off living in hope because the future is unknown.

It was also what C described as "A vapid pile of crap". I'd say it's a big disappointment, a missed opportunity, a very silly kids show disguised as dark adult sci-fi...and a vapid pile of crap.

Do you remember when Tom and Jerry was revived in the 1980s, showing the cat and mouse as best friends? Or the muppets cartoon spinoff The Muppet Babies? I've a feeling the revived Doctor Who and the spinoff Torchwood will feel like those in years to come - embarrassing footnotes that completely missed the point of the original it fed off.

I'm applying for a job as "Assistant Technician" at a concert hall, run by Fareham Borough Council. They've sent me their mission statement with the application form. Here's how the statement begins:

A Five Year Vision

Corporate Vision, Values, Objectives and Action Plan

Vision Statement

Fareham - the prosperous, safe and attractive place to be

Driven by Vision

I think I can guess what their favourite word is, but what is this five year plan vision? Well, it continues:

This vision is guided by a set of values:

* Preserving people's dignity and focusing on what residents want;
* Enhancing prosperity and conserving all that is good;
* Being efficient and effective and providing value for money;
* Leading our community and achieving beneficial change;

And so on for another four pages. After which I learn a few things about working in Fareham - no smoking except in the smoking rooms, 9 hour working days, no parking unless you can prove you really really need it, there is a "prestigious arts and entertainment hall" I've never heard of and 28 OAP homes, plus there's a Leisure center with "easy access by road, rail and bus". Each employee is provided with their very own uniform, and serves a 26 week "probationary period" during which they have no rights.

But don't worry, because "We oppose all forms of discrimination or unfair treatment on the grounds of gender, race or ethnic origin, marital status, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, HIV status or religion" and "We require our managers to exercise leadership in this field by discouraging prejudice and by role-modelling appropriate behavior".

And the actual job? It involves setting up microphones and amplifiers for such events as:
* An Evening with Barry Norman ("...and why not")
* "The Best Musical Ever!", performed by The Westenders
* A Drifters tribute band
* A Queen tribute band
* A Beatles tribute band
* An Abba tribute band

The form asks me to list my qualifications, but not the awarding bodies that could confirm them. They also want two referees and a list of all my criminal convictions. And my written assurance that I know one end of a microphone from the other.

Pay? They don't specify.

Kapitano is Too Tired to Blog Today

I seem to write most of these entries when I'm either drunk, exhausted or miserable. Well tonight, it's all three - no particular reason, just the thousand natural shocks that constitute life in general.

So as a break from my usual stream of contradictory consciousness, a pictorial deconstruction of the way the mass media assimilates violent crime as entertainment disguised as public service. Either that or a funny photo.

How to Be a Politician

Yesterday we lobbied our MP. "We" were about 10 of the usual lefties, and another 10 made up of immigrants and Muslim women. The lobbying is part of the officially recognised machinery of British democracy, whereby concerned citizens - one or a group - get an hour of the time of their town's Member of Parliament, to ask for support on an issue. Our issue was the government's demonisation of Muslims as a cover/distraction from its many failures, especially the Iraq war.

The MP is Sarah MaCarthy-Fry, one of those politicians who used to be on the left of Labour, but has followed it sheeplike whenever it moved to the right. I estimate 90% of what she told us were lies.

When asked why she supported the initial invasion of Iraq, she flannelled for a full two minutes before inventing the story of how she met a sweet Iraqi couple at a dinner party and heard how Saddam Hussein's regime had killed most of their family. From that moment, she backed Tony Blair on ethical grounds. Interesting how she couldn't come up with military, economic, or even large-scale ethical grounds for her stance - it came down to a single anecdote about a single conversation.

She claimed to have given an interview to the local newspaper on how she backed a withdrawal of troops from Iraq "soon" - but the paper had chosen not to run the story. This is highly unlikely - an MP disagrees publicly with her own party about a war, and a newspaper with nothing else to report except lost pets and "The Graffiti Menace" decides not to run it. Yeah, right.

She also said she was bullied and pressured for mentioning mild private doubts to other MPs - which is plausible. But when asked why she stayed publicly loyal to the Labour Party, said it was because she could influence it gently from the inside. We didn't even bother to pick up on that inconsistency.

She made sympathetic noises about Muslim women being spat at in the street, and claimed to have argued vociferously with racist children while visiting a school. You might think that "MP In Bust-Up With BNP School Kids" would have been a good story in the paper - but they mysteriously didn't report on this either.

She tried to regain her leftist credentials by saying she'd supported the miners' strike in 1985, and gain our trust by revealing the big secret - unknown to the public - that a few other MPs also had doubts. Wow, no one ever knew that before.

And then spoiled it by reciting verbatim Blair's line on General Dannat's recent speech - that Dannat exaggerates the failure of the occupation of Iraq, he doesn't really know what's going on and it's not his place to have opinions on military strategy (being only the head of the British army), and even if he's right he shouldn't have said anything because it undermines morale.

Sometimes I wonder what these people really believe. But I don't think even they know what they believe anymore. 50 years ago a politician was someone who told one side of the truth as they knew it, and if they got caught lying they lost their job. 25 years ago it was someone who tried to slant the facts to support their opinion within the general party line, and if they get caught lying they lost their job. Now it's someone with no real concept of truth or falsehood, who will say anything to support anything. And if they do tell the truth, they lose their job.

I spent an hour on the phone with C, at 3 in the morning. I'd had two weeks to figure out how to say what I thought without bruising his ego. But it turns out his ego isn't that easily bruised, and he's had the same thoughts.

Basically, we both rushed headlong into a relationship, and both overreacted at the first problem. It was probably my fault, but blame isn't important. Now, we can meet as friends, and if it goes beyond that we now know to be cautious. If it doesn't, we're still two of the few people around who actually understand how the other thinks.

So on the one hand I've been dumped and feel good about it. On the other, the basis of the relationship and it's problems are still there. But on the third hand (there's always a third hand), we have everything we had before except the holding of hands and the tearful recriminations. And the guilt and worrying. Which sounds like a pretty good situation.

I've said it before: I'm a much better friend than lover. Though that's mainly because I'm a lousy lover.

There's an extra door in the house. Actually, it's a dog-gate, designed to prevent the dogs going upstairs when they're not supposed to, investigating rooms at random, leaving small puddles and sniffing things till something falls over.

Unfortunately, it took the dogs less than 24 hours to work our how to open the gate. Well, papillions are supposed to be intelligent - it's one of their main selling points.

At a rough calculation, filming the sky at 1 frame every 30 seconds during daylight hours gives me 50 seconds of footage per day. Unless it's a day like today, where the sky is one huge immobile grey cloud.

Remember I was planning to record a triphop version of Gloomy Sunday? The autumn weather seems appropriate as a "video" for the song. There's just a part of me that wants to sing it in Esperanto - possibly on the grounds that I know 3 words of Hungarian. I have a basic Esperanto translation, and if/when I've got it all rhyming and scanning I'll post it here. To go with the translation of Dragostea Din Tei. Ha!

I Hate Lucy

C is back, jetlagged and exhausted from trying to squeeze the whole of Peru into a 2 week holiday. We should be able to meet up sometime next week.

I've had an idea for a short story, but research for it involves watching some of the more excrable American sitcoms and taking notes. This is called "suffering for my art". Unless it's called "need a different idea".

Ric's comment on my last post, about mathematics being an artificial construction, got me thinking about mathematical paradoxes, paraconsistant logics, and the way abstract models fill in the "gaps" of reality with stuff like negative numbers, zero, irrational numbers and countable infinities.

Here's a note I wrote this morning:

Aristotelian logics are granular and watertight. Dialectical logics are smooth and permeable. Are dialectical logics paraconsistant, or is paraconsistancy only possible in weakened aristotelian logics?

In pararentheses, the distinction drawn between aristotelian and dialectical logics is an aristotelian one. Could the distinction be rethought as dialectical? If the latter, then the question itself dissolves.

Someday, I might have the strength to unpack that note, and the others like it, into several pages of explanation each. In the meantime, I'm just swilling the ideas around in my head - when I really ought to be reading my books on basic physics. Oh well.

Perry can now climb both up and down stairs. But has discovered it's easier to look adorable and get someone to carry him. He's also found the most comfortable place to sleep is...the pillow of someone else's bed.

Timelapse photography is not a noticeably fast process. Postitioning my camera on it's mini-tripod to look out of the window at passing clouds, and setting it to take one frame every minute, means after three days I have maybe two minutes of raw footage. And some of it's black because it ran into the night.

Plus the camera is on it's last legs. After six years, everything works perfectly, except the on/off switch, which is susceptible to jolts. Of all the parts which could go wrong, it had to be the one all the others depend on.

There is a problem with explaining to musicians why it's a good idea to record with the drums in one room, and the guitar in another. The problem isn't that they're incapable of understanding how sound travels, or the way microphones work, or about clean signals. And it isn't that they've got used to practicing in the same room.

No, the problem is that musicians never listen. To each other, or technicians, or fans, or anyone else. They expect you to change the laws of physics and the limitations of the technology, just so they can avoid the bother of adapting.

If an architect designing a bridge refused to discuss materials and costs with the engineers, the bridge - if it somehow got built - would be late, overbudget, unsafe, and the architect would never work again. If a theatre director doesn't take on board the suggestions and opinions of the cast and crew, the result is a monochromatic performance, a lot of seriously pissed off people on stage and behind it...and a director who never works again.

But when musicians walk into a studio, all they have is their Vision, and the cast iron expectation that the sound technicians can make it happen by invisible alchemy - without the musicians having to do anything except play, or know anything except the songs.

And that's why, as a sound technician and musician, I prefer the company of other technicians.

Words and Numbers

I've picked up American Psycho again, and this time intend to finish it. The story concerns a man, Patrick Bateman, with a double life of super-rich super-shallow businessman, and sadistic serial sex-killer - or someone who fantasises that he is.

The technique of the novel is to alternate between painfully long scenes of yuppie banality, and revolting (but detatched) scenes of brutal torture and murder, both becoming more intense and surreal as the story progresses and Bateman slides further into insanity and delusion.

The reader has no way of knowing which episodes (if any) are real, except that some are implausible (eg. a TV documentary about a boy who fell in love with a box of soap powder), some are impossible (a park bench following the killer home), and some make better sense as "slips" in a fantasy (the cleaning women never notices the bloodstains on the carpet, and it's unclear how Bateman disposes of the corpses).

I only mention it because I can't remember the last time I finished a novel.

In my 20s I read 10 pages of Finnigans Wake, 30 pages of The Satanic Verses, and three quarters of Dune. In my teens I read everything I could find by James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett and William Burroughs, and in childhood it was the fantasy of Piers Anthony, Alan Dean Foster and David Eddings. At around 30 I read most of John Le Carre's spy stories, so one of those might be the last fiction book I completed.

Aside from short stories by JG Ballard and Philip K Dick, it's mainly been books by British philosophers of the Empiricist school, articles by Stephen Jay Gould, Noam Chomsky, Geroge Orwell and a dozen trotskyist thinkers, plus textbooks on music theory, the sciences and linguistics.

Actually, I do remember the last novel I read - "Winter Frost", a police procedural by RD Wingfield.

So I've no idea whether to call myself well-read or not.

I found a fascinating article (well I think it is) on Wikipedia about why "0.999~" (zero, point, and then an infinite number of nines) equals "1". 0.999~ doesn't just very very nearly equal 1 for practical purposes, it doesn't eventually get to 1 when the final 9 is reached, it actually is exactly equal to 1.

I've been bothered by infinity and infinitessimals for years, but now I think I'm a bit less confused about them. We say the row of nines "terminates at infinity", as though infinity were an unimaginably huge but finite number, and there were some immensely distant final 9 at the infinity-th digit. But what it means is, the row does not terminate - it is in-finite, that is, not finite, or, without a final digit, without end.

But the row of 9s can be summed - though it would take an infinite amount of time to do so manually. And at the end of this endless process, the sum has converged to 1, but only because the process is endless. And this paragraph shows just how misleading it is to talk about mathematics in ordinary language, because if read literally, it's utter gibberish.

However, it doesn't come out as gibberish to put it another way. 0.999~ isn't a process of summation at all - it's an unchanging value, as is 1.000~ and 3.000~. 0.999~ has an infinite number of nines, and 3.000~ has an infinite number of zeros, both of which would take an infinite amount of time to add up if you tried. But you've go no difficulty in accepting that 3.000~ is a value not a process, and it's just a quirk of human cognition that 0.999~ "feels" like you don't get to the complete value until you've read the final digit - even when there isn't one.

So, if 0.999~ equals 1, what does 0.333~ equal? Not 0.333~4, because that's to fall back into the notion that there's a final digit at infinity, in this case with another one after it. Not 0.4, because that would make 0.333~ greater than 0.334.

The answer is that 0.999~ and 1 are two different ways of writing the same value, but there's only one way of writing 0.333~ as a decimal.

Incidentally, 0.333~ multiplied by 3 equals 0.999~, which equals one. In other words, one third, multiplied by three, equals one. Neat, isn't it?

Right. My good intentions to get a good night's sleep at night resulted in a half hour doze at midnight, an hour of insomnia, and five hours wide awake in front of the computer. So it looks like I'll go to sleep in late morning again.

Good morning.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I read in the newspapers that the group Britons are now most scared of isn't terrorists, it isn't the mafia or migratory birds with influenza, and it isn't women who cover their faces at you.

It's teenagers. The single group most often arrested for theft and violent crime is teenagers, therefore all teenagers are violent thieves, therefore teenagers are the enemy within.

There was me thinking it was asylum seekers. Or muslim fanatics as we call them now. Unless it was paedophillies, teachers, socialists, anti-war protesters, or single mothers.

Gangsta rappers, the mentally ill, the obese, eco-warriors, football fans, feminists, paparazzi, smokers, binge drinkers, strikers, insurgents, atheists, abortionists, satanists, girl gangs, Russian spies, horror films and social workers.

Punks, goths, mods, rockers, hippies, jazz fans, vagrants, blacks, hispanics, gays, drug pushers, drug takers, the Germans, the Japanese, the French, the Spanish, Cathars, Templars, lepers, Quakers, Baptists, Lutherians, Arians and Socrates.

Unless it's the Jews. Yes, it's always been the Jews.

For the past few days I've been recording mp3s from internet radio channels - just setting StreamRipper on three simultaneous streams to run overnight. Now I've got 6GB of chillout/ambient/triphop tracks, and 1GB of snippets from comedy routines from WC Fields to Chris Rock, to burn to CDR. It's nice to have quiet instrumental music playing while studying, and the former should do nicely.

I've also been taking timelapse films of the sky. Someone asked me if I'd help out with making a short (20 minute) impressionist film of sights and sounds of nature. Seeing as I'm the one with the camera, the editing software, the skills of using both, and the time to do it, my contribution may be a little more than "helping out", but it's a nice little project nonetheless. If it's any good I'll stick it on YouTube.

Kapitano Jack

Perry had discovered two new games - tug-of-war and chewing-random-stuff-for-fun. In both cases with my clothes.

We've got mice again. Not the kind with twitchy pink noses that live in cages and fit in your top pocket - rather, the kind you see out of the corner of your eye as small brown hemispheres scooting across a patch of floor into a space behind the furniture. The kind that you know about mainly because of the scratchy rustling noises coming out of the walls at five in the morning.

Papillions were first imported into Britain as rat catchers - or so I'm told. But the dogs don't seen to have been told that, so it's time for the ultrasonic pest repellents.

A forum on "the veil" in the evening. As the whole pseudo-issue drags on in the "news"-papers, there's nothing new to be said since the day it started.

Jack Straw, a career politician for 27 years, suddenly finds that after decades of communicating with people through all manner of cultural barriers, he can't manage to talk with a woman who asks for his help while wearing a Muslim veil.

The veils on bridal gowns are fine, as are the headscarves worn by nuns. Hoods on coats, hats, helmets, pipes and cigarettes, goth makeup, the wide hats of Jews and the turbans of Hindus - all are fine and present no barrier in multicultural Britain. But the niqab is an uncrossable rubicon, a proudly worn symbol of internalised eastern misogyny, and therefore an insult to progressive western civilisation, which as we know gives women respect and pay equal to men.

One interesting statistic - around 4% of Britons identify as Muslim, and between 1 and 5% of Muslim women in Britain wear the veil. Which would mean roughly between 11,000 (0.04%) and 57,000 (0.2%) out of 56,000,000 Britons are veil wearers - the vast majority in the big cities. Which might explain why I can't recall having ever seen one in the street.

But of course, unseen threats are scarier.

Tonight was the premiere of "Torchwood", the much awaited first spinoff series from Doctor Who, which has now overtaken the various incarnations of Star Trek as the world's longest running TV serial .

The first episode suffered from two major disadvantages. First, it was the first episode, so had so introduce (almost) all the major characters and something of their backstories, plus the general premise and mood of the series, and have a plot that makes first time viewers want to tune in next week. This is the problem that all pilot episodes face, and it leaves them feeling both hurried and shallow, having just too much to do in an hour.

The other major problem is that it was written and produced by Russell T Davies. He's the man most singly responsible for bringing back Doctor Who 14 years after it's second cancellation, and slowly killing it again with his excrable scripts. He seems to be a very able producer, an okay director, and completely unable to write complex characterisation or humour beyond the level of a 5-year old. Guess which two aspects he most wants to bring to Doctor Who and Torchwood.

The series concerns a small team of experts who hunt down aliens from outer space, and steal their technology to prepare for a mysterious coming apocalypse. They are outside any government, and pretty damn ruthless, though troubled. It's rather like The X-Files, told from the point of view of technicians employed by the Consortium that Mulder and Scully frequently encounter.

There are plenty of tie-ins with Doctor Who - the team leader is Captain Jack, a time traveler who traveled with The Doctor for the second half of Season 27, and now finds himself indestructible (a la Captain Scarlett) after the final episode of that season, but unable to remember why. The location is a "spatial rift" in Cardiff, a place and phenomenon that featured in two Season 27 episodes - plus one of the Torchwood team is a direct descendant (played by the same actress) of the psychic undertaker's assistant who opened the rift in victorian times. Well, it made sense at the time.

The Doctor's severed hand, cut of in the christmas special episode, is the most treasured artifact in the Torchwood archive. Plus of course the Torchwood institute and archive was referred to on the periphery of each episode of Doctor Who Season 28. There's just the small detail that Torchwood is ultra-secret and very mysterious, but pretty much every non-civillian knows about it, including police sergeants and coporals.

Episode 2 was shown straight afterwards, and concerned a gaseous alien life form addicted to the "energy" of human orgasms - an orgonovore, I suppose. Silly, supposedly sexy, and not very promising for the rest of the series.

Still, I'll be watching it, partly because I've agreed to review episode 8 for a magazine. Besides, it's probably unique - the only series about alien invasion to be set in Wales.

Tipple and Biscuits

You've probably noticed that I'm an atheist who's interested in the psychology of religion. I'm also the kind of person who has an idea, writes it down in a short article just to make it clear and to check the logic, and then can't decide whether the idea is new and interesting, or old and painfully obvious. Or obviously wrong because it misses some crucial point.

Well, you tell me, because here's an idea I had today:

If you ask an average Christian believer, "what is the difference between Protestant and Catholic", they probably won't know the answer. They might identify as one or the other, or as one of the numerous other variations, or simply call themselves a generic "Christian", but although they will feel that their variant on Christianity is the true one, they're probably a bit vague on what distinguishes it from any of the others, and indeed exactly what it is they believe.

Even fiery Christians who believe passionately in the levitical laws about sex and adultery, or idolatry and the correct forms of worship, quietly ignore the biblical passages praising child murder, slavery, genocide...and indeed adultery. Fervent creationists are largely unaware that the creation story they learned in childhood is a bodged blend of the two incompatible creation stories in Genesis. They also tend not to accept that the earth is flat and eating prawns is punishable by death.

If you ask a more educated Christian about the Protestant/Catholic devide, they'll tell you it's something about Transsubstantiation - the transformation of communion wine into the blood of Christ, and communion wafers into his flesh. Protestants say it's a metaphor - though of what is a little unclear. Catholics say it really happens, though it doesn't really happen "enough" to make them vampires and cannibals when they drink the wine and eat the wafers. Or if it does, it doesn't count because although the flesh of Christ was human, he was entirely divine, and eating divine flesh isn't cannibalism. Or something.

Of course, the real differences between Protestant and Catholic doctrines are tied up with theological debates over penance, grace, salvation, faith, property etc. And the real differences between Protestant and Catholic people are economic. But the debate over Transsubstantiation is the peripheral issue that everyone can understand.

So, who's right about the wine and wafer - Protestants or Catholics? The answer of course is that they're both wrong.

The question "Does the wine really turn into blood?" is the kind of philosophical question asked by someone who feels that it's necessary to place their religious beliefs within a larger, rational framework. It's a question of someone who wants their faith justified by reason - someone who feels (but doesn't explicitly admit) that faith needs to be supported by rational thought. In effect, someone who acknowledges that faith is irrational, and reality is rational.

Therefore, not an average believer.

What matters about the words of the Communion ritual is not whether they're true or false, meaningful or meaningless - it's that they get said at all, in the right situation. The words could be a recipe for cheesecake, for all their literal content matters. The ritual requires that they are said, and their semantic content is irrelevant. A linguist would say that the words "This is my body, this is my blood", spoken in church by someone wearing the right robes at a certain point in a specific ceremony, have pragmatic value, not semantic value. Or that the priest is performing a perlocutory act.

It doesn't matter whether the wafers really are - or aren't - transformed into human (or divine) flesh which exactly resembles the wafer - what matters is the act of eating them. And a similar remark for the wine.

There is, however, one small detail that needs addressing. If a Catholic priest served real blood in the chalice, the worshippers would riot in disgust. If he gave them baked human flesh in the wafers, he'd be excommunicated. And crucified (so to speak) in the press.

So it does matter that the wine isn't actual blood. The ceremony requires that wine (and not orange juice) be in the cup, and that the worshippers know it's wine, and that the priest tells them it's blood, and that they drink it. And if they're Catholic, that they believe that it is blood, and that it still tastes reassuringly like wine.

So for the Catholic at least, the liquid in the cup simultaneously both is and is not wine, both in the same literal sense. This is not a paradox, or a religious mystery. It is only a problem for the philosopher who needs to think in clear distinct terms. Our Catholic pseudocannibal must be vague, blurred, indistinct and confused on this issue while they drink.

The confusion is an integral part of the ceremony. The ambiguity is not an error, just as the ambiguity in some poems is not a correctable mistake by the poet. The consciousness of one who sincerely practices religious ritual cannot, by definition, go beyond a certain level of sharpness and clarity. And that is why philosophical theology is impossible, because by definition it tries to go beyond that level.

Sing if You're Glad to be Gay

I mentioned Darren in an earlier post about FriendsReunited. We sat together for maths classes at school, and swapped music cassettes. I didn't contact him then - I wasn't even sure it was him - but now he's contacted me.

We're swapping emails and he seems like an okay sort of fellow.

An evening of alcohol and peanuts with Simon M. We sat in the Boulevard, enduring off-key karaoke versions of "Mack the Knife" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", before crossing the road to the Old Vic, hoping for a more pleasant soundtrack. Unfortunately, the Vic has it's own karaoke, and guess which two songs assailed us when we sat down? Go on, I bet you can't guess.

I only mention this because, surely it used to be true - 10 or 20 years ago - that gay men had the best taste in music. Everyone knew that the best disco music was in the gay clubs, the most respected authorities on showsongs were all gay, and if you wanted to know which opera to just had to ask a queen.

Now, in the pubs that used to be safe spaces for people like us to be themselves, you get a steady stream of young, well dressed, affluent, cute and crushingly vacuous men and women, droning songs from before they were born. Often tuneless, always anodyne - whatever the original meaning of the song, all reduced to a homogenised sentimental mush.

Some say gay culture has entered the mainstream, or the mainstream has expanded to include gay culture. I'd say gay culture changed wholesale to become absorbed into the mainstream, and then the mainstream went tacky.

The magazines on pub tables now contain adverts showing pointlessly barechested young men, instead of the pointlessly bikini-ed young women of years ago. Gay men and women can now marry in all but name, and have adopted the straightlaced hypocritical attitudes of middle-class married couples 30 years ago. Stripshows are "fun", sexism is "ironic" and casual racism is "obvious".

We have not gained respect. We have become respectable. Christ we're a boring lot.

Rivers of Papillion

The Kapitano household has a new member. Perry is a 12 week old papillion with white and red-brown colouring. He looks a bit like a miniature lion.

He's called Perry because...well, Spock's Kennel Club name was "Black Knight", and Perry's Kennel Club name is "Red Knight", which together evoke the Knights of the Round Table of Arthurian legend. Dino has been retroactively named after Sir Dinadan, and Perry named after Sir Peredur - aka Sir Percival, but we can't call him Percy because one of the Parrots is already called Percy.

Either that or Dino is retroactively named for Dean Martin and Perry for Perry Como. Or possibly Perry Mason. Accounts vary.

In any case, he's gone to sleep on top of each of us, sniffed everything in the house, and figured out how to climb stairs. The breeder got him nicely papertrained (trained to do some of the less endearing things dogs do, on newspaper) , which is why there's now a conspicuous sheet of damp newspaper on the floor in most rooms.

Why is it, whenever I've got the energy to do something, I find I've got to do six other things first to make it possible, and by the time I've done them, there's no time or energy to do the original thing?

That's how most of the housework gets done - the last time I needed a clear table with pens, notepads and textbooks for a bout of studying, I got a bit carried away and ended up rearranging the tables and hoovering the whole room.

I can't remember which song I was working on that I thought could use the sound of brass instruments, but I searched through the dozen brass VSTi software synthesisers I could find, and found none of them were much good. So, having a basic grasp of the modeling of brass acoustics, I thought maybe I could create my own - using one of the VSTi creation programs.

There's SynthEdit, designed originally for analog synthesiser emulation but extended far beyond that. There's Reaktor, and there's Tassman, the demo versions of which I've heard produce amazingly "physical" noises that could fool a listener into thinking they were listening to a bizarre instrument invented by Heath Robinson. All three, of course, are incredibly complicated programs to use.

So, I sit down with all three, read the instructions, play with the controls, and decide which one is more likely to suit my needs. All of which takes months, and is constantly interrupted by other projects. Maybe one day I will have a realistic trumpet sound, appearing on a completely different song. If I take a break from making instruments to get around to recording it.

It's confirmed, Dino will soon be the father of two puppies. And he's been booked to be the stud (ha!) for another bitch. After which, we're thinking of getting another one.

Homo Lone

My parents are in Wales. They've gone there to buy a new dog, and won't be back till tomorrow lunchtime, so I'm left alone with three parrots and a few bits of housework to take care of.

The plan for today was to record some songs while there's no one around to be distrubed by my dubious singing voice. A few things got in the way, like not feeling so good, and being unable to find a pair of headphones that work properly.

The micromixer arrived in the post, with assorted cables. It mixes four stereo signals (or eight mono ones) into a single stereo signal, and it should be just perfect for the kind of basement recording studio where two microphone aren't nearly enough, but sixteen is too many. Also good for live concert recording where there's no mixing desk to tap from.

One item was missing from the package because Maplin are out of stock - a new pair of studio headphones. Well, the day wouldn't be complete without a little irony.

The radio news is full of inane commentary about Islamic women's clothes, mostly from people who don't know the difference between a hijab and a niqab. I'm reminded a little of the controversy over miniskirts 40 year ago, but in reverse.

There's the same notions of women emancipating/prostituting themselves by showing flesh, women being honoured/opressed by chothing men make them wear, women being modest/repressed, and free/duped.

Holland and France have considered banning the veil in public, presumably on the grounds that if women are controlled enough by white men in government, they'll stop being controlled by brown ones in the home.

What's C doing now? Paddling a paper-thin canoe between crocodiles on a river, learning the Peruvian names for all the alcoholic drinks in the bar, or lying in a hospital bed being intensely annoyed that his body won't do what he tells it? Whatever it is, it's probably more interesting than sitting in a messy bedroom wondering what's going to happen when he gets back.

Emory and Irony

Recently, I linked to WFMU's Beware of the Blog. WFMU itself is a "freeform" radio station in New York, funded entirely by its listeners, broadcasting obscure and forgotten music, melanges of found-sound, and some leftist political analysis. In the latter category are weekly lectures from Dave Emory, described as an anti-fascist researcher.

Emory speaks accessibly, and has a great number of facts at his fingertips. The trouble is, many of his facts...aren't.

He describes the current war on terror as a continuation of World War 2, which with enough poetic license might be justified as a metaphor. But his description of "progressives" as blinded by inverted racism is a silly strawman, and his charcterisation of antisemitism as "the socialism of fools" is just baffling

He describes Islamic Jihad and Al Quaida as "fascist" organisations - which even allowing for the sloppy use a lot of people make of the term, is quite a stretch. Certainly a researcher of his apparent calibre should be above such lazy categorisations. But he also describes the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the same way. This is absolute blithering nonsense.

The Muslim Brotherhood really does want to take over the world and make it "Muslim" - though what that means varies a great deal between branches. They renounce violence, except sometimes in resistance to the violence of occupying armies. Hamas could be viewed as a Palestinian political party with extensive healthcare and education projects, and a military wing that fights the Israeli army in Palestine - or the other way around.

Perhaps Mr Emory thinks wanting to convert Jews, or not be shot by an army of them, is the same as planning to gas every Jew on the planet. He also seems to think the Nazis invented antisemitism, and remain its only source.

Emory is the kind of confused liberal who accepts the rightwing media term "islamofascism", but he goes one step further by taking it literally. He quite literally believes that the German Nazi party and it's ideology went underground after World War 2, and has been secretly manipulating world events ever since, especially recently in the Middle East. He sees so-called Islamic Fundamentalism not as a product of war, colonialism and poverty, but as a linear continuation of Hitler's fascism, something hidden from its own followers.

Here is someone who knows 20th century history in detail, but only as a bundle of unconnected events. So he invents a story that ties them all together. Sad to say, that Emory seems to be just another lunatic conspiracy theorist.

Dan Brown has his Priory of Sion, Norma Cox has her international conspiracy of Jews, David Icke's got his lizards, Jeff Rense his vapour trails, and Dave Emory has his Nazi Party in Arab dress.

The irony is, WFMU does a disservice to its leftwing ideals and its listenership by giving Emory a platform, when it could easily get dozens of better thinkers whose ideas need wider dissemination.

Grapes and Wrath

The "Happy Mondays" club is the kind of place where you pay GBP5 to walk in the door, specially reduced to GBP3 if you have a crumpled ticket to show you know the band, and get a red rubber stamp on your hand to show you've paid.

You can then listen to the live music, dance, smoke, snog, play "fetch" games with the whippet, and most importantly drink until you're horizontal - and then drink some more. The bar has one kind of beer and half a dozen spirits, all endlessly plentiful, and is half the price (or less) of a pub.

At one end of the hall, a small stage with big amplifiers. At the other, 50+ teenagers in baggy fake-faded jeans and a haze of rolled cigarette smoke, eyes glazed with alcohol, talking about what teenagers talk about - mostly which of them has started or stopped going out with which others. Some of them are also the live bands.

I didn't see the first band, who were apparently a thrash metal act called Hung Up. The second were The Dying Days and I honestly can't remember anything about them. Then Bodygurn came on and played their eclectic blend of jazz, funk, rock and reggae, sounds mostly hailing from the 70s.

Tom on rhythm guitar and vocals also went 70s for the evening, with Village People moustache, motorcycle cop shades and moptop hairdo. Matt on drums went for the blond-surfer-with-Hawaiian-shirt look. I'm never sure whether Craig on bass owns 25 identical stripy teeshirts...or just one that never needs cleaning.

I finally met his friend Lizzy, who dressed and danced like a gypsy waif, and has the devil-may-care attitude of the committed but sophisticated hedonist.

Bodygurn were actually very good, and the audience appreciated them - no other band got asked for an encore. If they could be bothered to do proper promotion or get organised enough to record an album, I think they could get a professional deal.

Afterwards, I helped pack up the instruments and carry them to the car. We stopped to pick up beer, whisky, kebabs and pizza, and headed for Matt's home for a traditional working-class Friday night in. Junk food and booze, bitching and innuendo, clustered around a table with a varied selection of mp3s pumping from the computer in the corner.

At some point, Lizzy drank one glass too many, and the whole mood changed. She somehow took offence at something someone said, then took offence at everything everyone said, and stormed out screaming and shouting insults, knocking over or throwing whatever she could find. I'm not sure how someone could make stamping out of the front door last half an hour, but she managed it.

Perhaps there's a fine line between uninhibited fun epicure and unhinged mad alleycat - in any case she bulldozed right across it.

She left with her quiet female friend in tow, Craig left to ferry her home because she was to pissed to walk, Matt's girlfriend and her friend went to bed, and Matt collapsed on the sofa and slept. Leaving Tom and me to top up our blood ethanol levels, and have the kind of heart-to-heart conversation only enjoyed by those who've trusted each other implicitly for years - or, as in this case, those who have emptied a litre of expensive whisky between them.

There is possibly one time in my life I was drunker than that night after the gig - and that other occasion involved two litres of vodka, a carpet pulled up from the floor, and me sucking a social worker's toes while his girlfriend slept on his lap. However, on this occasion, after Tom went to sleep, the world simply didn't stop spinning for the next four hours.

I remember thumping techno music the whole time from the floor above - apparently populated by 24-hour party animals with either no sense of other people's space, or no sense of hearing. I couldn't stand up, and remember crawling slowly towards the door, though I'm not sure why. Apparently I made it to the door, and slept on the threshold.

Next morning - well, next afternoon actually - I had nothing to deal with except a hangover, and a very long phone call from Paul T about how he's depressed because no one wants to be his friend - perhaps it's because it just doesn't click in his mind that moaning for an hour at someone with a sore head is, just slightly, an imposition.

Back home, my parents complained that I'd left them alone for 18 hours - not the kind of thing a dutiful son does. It's an interesting attitude, because they don't want me living here at all. Anyway, at least Dino was pleased to see me.

Sex and Death

Herbal Medicine - ancient secrets of good health, or a pile of old wank? has the answer:

Fatal Consequences of Excessive Masturbation

Frequent masturbation and ejaculation stimulate acetylcholine/parasympathetic nervous functions excessively, resulting in the over production of sex hormones and neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, dopamine and serotonin. Abundant and unusually amount of these hormones and neurotransmitters can cause the brain and adrenal glands to perform excessive dopamine-norepinephrine-epinephrine conversion and turn the brain and body functions to be extremely sympathetic. In other words, there is a big change of body chemistry when one excessively pratices masturbation.

Note: Masturbation is a healthy sexual behavior. Like other behaviors, when over practiced or addicted it can lead to both psychological and physiological imbalances.
The side effects of such changes to the body include:

Fatigue. Feeling tired all the time
Lower back pain
Stress / Anxiety
Thinning hair / Hair Loss
Soft / Weak Erection
Premature Ejaculation
Eye floaters or fuzzy vision
Groin / Testicular Pain
Pain or cramp in the pelvic cavity or/and tail bone

If above symptoms are experienced, you need to restore the balance of brain's acetylcholine / parasympathetic ratio, reduces the level of sex hormones in the body, and sedates sympathetic nervous function, or the symptoms would become worse.

Do you ever feel tired or stressed? You do? Now, do you ever masturbate? Well then, the solution is obvious! Everyone in the world has at least half the symptoms listed at some point, and that's because everyone practices onanism - that's right, the world is full of wankers.

But don't worry, it's only orgasms produced by hand that kill you. Although the hormonal processes produced by nonmanual seedspilling are identical, they're perfectly safe, for scientific reasons we won't explain.

Personally, I think the real problem is breathing. I breath a lot more than I masturbate, and there's almost no hair on my head at all. Actually, I shaved it all off yesterday, but that's completely irrelevant. If I stop breathing, will my hair come back?

I was roped in to help pass a petition around outside the mosque after Friday prayers. Usually I hate asking strangers to sign a piece of political paper, but the muslims are always a friendly bunch, and broadly on the right side politically - that is, the left side.

Yes, there's plenty of issues where I think they're not on the right side - families, sex, alcohol, and indeed the meaningfulness of the entire Koran and the need for religious faith. But the big issues of the moment are the war and it's attendant racism. Deal with theology and genital ethics when there aren't more pressing matters.

This petition is about MP Jack Straw refusing to let a muslim woman speak to him unless she took off her veil. If he'd asked a hasidic jew to take of his hat or a hindu to take off their turban, there wouldn't be so many confused liberals unsure whether it was racist.

I think he should refuse to hear christians unless they take off their crucifix necklaces. And then eat prawns, shave and wear mixed-fibre shirts.

Just as I was planning a lazy evening of reading physics and installing software, the ever-lovely Craig phoned to say his band is playing the Happy Monday's club tonight, and it would be "way cool" if I'd come and watch them.

Well, the club is a model of everything a music venue shouldn't be - grungy and expensive, with horrible acoustics and a whippet running around on stage - but he said he'd get me in for free. So, why not?

To Hear Ourselves as Others Hear Us

Quite a productive day. Even if it did start at 4pm.

The band were rather taken with my rough recordings of their practice session - they'd never heard most of their reportiore before when they weren't actually playing it, so this was a chance to hear what they sound like to an audiance.

They're getting the princely sum of UKP120 for their next gig, UKP40 of which goes to me to pay for the new microphones, and another UKP25 for a new miniature mixing unit - 4 stereo inputs or 8 mono ones.

BTW, I've a feeling it's supposed to be GBP, not UKP. Anway...

Drinks, meal and philosophical chat with John M. Subjects ranging from non-euclidian geometry as a vaccuous metaphor in the writings of the meaningfulness of taking the square root of a negative number and the measurements of subatomic particles.

My grasp on Newton's laws of motion may be a bit shaky, but at least I can sound a bit like I know what I'm talking about when it comes to Angstroms and Riemanian space

C and I did rather rush into a relationship, before finding out whether it was advisable, feasible, desirable etc. We still don't know, but the plan - which we discussed civilly on the phone tonight - is to find out when he gets back in a fortnight.

No pressure, no painful emotional excavation, and no falling into the nearest bed. Even if we can find one. In other words, I buy him a drink, he tells me about Peru, and we see how we function as friends before thinking about other stuff. That's the idea anyway. Cautious, sensible and friendly.

Life is Sweet (Part 2)

So, why is life so shit right now?

Last night, C decided he never wanted to speak to me ever again, because I'm insensitive and portray him as a fucked up loser. It's possible he's right - I'm not known for being diplomatic or gentle, so perhaps my posts came across as criticism.

Tonight, he texted to say he'll call me when he's back from Peru. After which...I don't know. We get two weeks of "emotional detox", and then decide. Enough time to stop feeling gutted/angry and get a clearer perspective on what each of us wants, needs, doesn't want, offers etc etc.

Mark S's depression is getting worse, and he's started getting panic attacks for no apparant reasons. He's on a new prozac-like antidepressant that I've never heard of before, but it isn't helping.

Simon M is flat broke, largely because of a price war between Ebay shops. Plus NTL messed up his account details, then cut off his phone and internet because he didn't pay a bill they never sent. NTL apparantly do this quite a lot.

My eyesight is fading noticably faster than before. There's a row of books 4 feet away - I can read about half the titles on the spines.

Not everything is wrong. The microphones arrived this morning, and the basement recording studio - if I can dignify it with the name - is set up, so with luck we can begin recording tomorrow. And I bumped into Stephen P on the way home - he's just as blond, cherubic and naif as ever, and now lives just around the corner from me. Oh, and my parents are getting a new papillon next week.

Update: I wrote this last night, and asked C if I could post it. He says okay.

C is furious at the picture he says I paint of him in this blog. He said I made him sound like an emotional cripple. Perhaps I did, but it wasn't intentional. He's actually a very together person. And a very special one.

He had told me he had no secrets, and didn't mind me discussing our relationship in public, or cyberspace. But he read what I wrote as a character assassination, portraying him as some kind of wild eyed irresponsible shallow inadequate. He is none of these things, and I certainly never meant to imply that he was. He's an eccentric, like me, and he's driven. I suppose I fastened onto that in writing.

He was envious of my previous relationships - which I could never understand. He believed absolutely in monogamy - which I thought was irrational, but I was prepared to be monogamous with him, because he's worth it.

As I write this, I'm crying, and I still love him. And he's still angry at me. I just want to talk things over with him, and he never wants to talk to me again.

He's going away for a fortnight, after which...I don't know. Maybe he'll forgive me, maybe his rage will harden and become permanent. Hey, we might wind up friends of a kind, but nothing more.

The price of love is heartbreak, but we never expect to pay.

Luverly Spam

Fans of Star Trek will know the Ferrengi Rule of Aquisition "War is good for business". Today, I recieved five copies of a piece of spam, urging me to buy shares in DFSE. Correcting the layout and ASCII coding, this is what it said:



DEFENSE DIRECTIVE (ticker: DFSE), a major producer of weaponized chemicals and anti-terrorism detection devices will be going public Tuesday, October 10th. The products that Defense Directive creates are utilized in each major airport in the U.S., and the company has key long-term gov't contracts to furnish the United States military with DFSE's equipment. Talk about a company with products in high demand! DFSE's military contracts will guarantee this company a instant revenue stream that simply won\'t be ignored.

This IPO is certain to generate heavy interest from the investment community, as well as all important media coverage due to the current upheaval in the Mid East.

Don't pass up your rare opportunity to play a role in this guaranteed winner IPO! Buy DFSE while its still under $3.00)!

After searching the web, I now know that DFSE, when not standing for "Dearborn Federation of School Employees" or "Distributor Field Service Engineer", simply means "DeFenSE" as a category of business. I don't know what an IPO is, and can't remember what NASDAQ stands for. So perhaps I'm not in the target group.

Maybe this is the 21st century equivalent of War Bonds - a way to get the public to pay for the state's war. Or an indication that Defence Directive Inc are in financial trouble.

In any case, I won't be investing because:
* I don't have any money.
* I'm not sure of the rules about non-US nationals investing in NASDAQ companies.
* There are some niggling ethical problems about investing in mass murder and police state technology.
* The bigger the hype, the more desperation and worry is being covered up - and this spam is full of hype.
* Spam is inherantly untrustworthy anyway. Especially what the subject line is "hey".

Simon M's birthday today, though like all respectable ladies, he won't say exactly how old he is. With luck, he'll be writing for his blog soon - and it'll be proper political stuff too, with insight and historical knowledge and things. When he does, I'll put it on the blogroll.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday, comrade.

I read that I should drink one ounce of water for every two pounds of my bodyweight, every day. As I'm not sure how to convert ounces into centilitres, I'll just try drinking lots of water.

There are some websites - particularly blogs - concerned entirely with the wierdness of other websites. It's like recording an album where all the songs are about pyschadelic albums by other bands - which could be a cool idea, actually. It's probably called Metablogging or Webology or something.

Anyway, this is one of them, and it doesn't just say "Hey kids, here's the site of a really crazy/cool/wierd/fringe/schitzophrenic person! Go see it". There's readable musings and well-researched articles to go with the links that illustrate them.

Well, I like it.


Sunday! A day for having breakfast at 3pm, learning about Flash Video, encoding old cassettes to mp3, and drinking more cups of tea than I can remember.

In the new year of 1998, I joined a gym. I spent six months going 2 or 3 times a week, getting slowly slimmer and more muscular. I also threw away my anti-depressant pills, had a lot of sex with men in the park, and was generally a lot happier.

I then decided to go back to university, resigned my job, went back to live with my parents, gained back all the weight I'd lost, stopped having sex and got depressed again. Huh.

However, In the gym, I came up with a general guide to exercise: If it hurts a little, you're probably doing it right. If it hurts a lot, you're doing it wrong.

Over the years, I've thought it probably applied to other things too. Your chosen religion - provided you're not under much pressure to have any religion at all. Your diet, whether it's designed to be ethical (vegitarianism, veganism), or to make you healthier or more beautiful - if your weight loss diet book make you crave food all the time, the problem is with the book, not you. Your politics, career, study and friends.

If you're reasonably free to make a choice about some aspect of your life (i.e. if you're not surrounded by strong threats and enticements to chose one way and not another), then you'll know the choice is good and appropriate for you, if keeping to your chosen path gives you only mild discomfort.

If you hate it for a fortnight, it won't get better after a month. If it gives you nothing but immobile muscles, boredom or heartache for a month, it'll give you exactly the same thing after a year. So stop doing it, or do it differently. Dull jobs don't get interesting, stupid aquaintences don't get smart, and exercises that immobilise your arm for a week won't start being good for your biceps at some point.

It's all terribly obvious now. But it took me years to realise that turbulent relationships wouldn't become smooth if I was patient enough to wait out trouble, and I couldn't turn pointless tasks into fulfilling ones just by getting used to them.

Right, so what about me and C? Does it hurt when I can't take away his illness and misfortune? Yes. Does it make me sit and obsess over it? No. Does he do anything that I wish he wouldn't? Of course. Is there anything about him that irritates me to distraction that I'm hoping will go away in time? No.

Congratulations, Kapitano. You've finally found a relationship that isn't pathological. Which means if it messes up, it wasn't inevitable, and if it's not his fault, it's yours.

A few weeks ago, I found an ultra patriotic American blog. It's full of stirring battlcries, denunciations of the Muslim antichrist, and peans of praise to all the brave American soldiers who fight for truth, justice and freedom by bombing the axis of evil 'til it wants to be American

It's also full of lovingly photographed American military hardware, images of the glorious American president, and lots and lots of American flags.

Yes that right, it's full of shit. American shit. Most Americans I've met seem decent people - this must be where the other Americans go.

One comment caught my eye, left by the poster "Eight Tons of Geese", who, all appearances to the contrary, isn't me. Really. Honest. It just looks that way. They've since censored my the comment, but it originally read:

All this posturing patriotism, all this macho bonding, all this baying hatred disguised as love. Why don't you just jerk off on the flag and be done with it.

As hoped, there were responses, as follows. Spelling and grammar unmodified.

Obviously someone is jealous. Go ahead an say what you will, your demeaning drogatory statement means nothing to me. Your'e a cowardice imbecile.

Yeah, jealous. Obviously.

8 tons did not leave a link to contact him or to view his website/blog.

That makes him a coward as well as what Sue sez. Not to mention crass, uncouth and not a nice person...

I'm reminded of a Cheech and Chong line where the judge says, "Baliff! Whack his pee pee!"

Um...? Oh nevermind

He's a wimp who likes to whine. Don't worry geese boy, we are true patriots here.

And finally, my particular favourite:

Hey, I'm not doing any macho bonding you creep! If you don't like this site then GO AWAY. You're obviously either muslim or french. So either an extremist bastard or worthless piece of shit. So go and whine somewhere else, but don't ever desecrate our flag agian.

Someone once said you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies.


Saturday! What a lovely day for oversleeping, waking to supportive emails, buying 4 dynamic microphones, going for a walk with an overchatty comrade, sharing unusually good pizza, finding the hoodia pills don't work at all, and going back to sleep.

I will happily spend the whole night talking and texting with C if he needs it. But I do tend to imagine that I can be alert and useful the next day after 3 hours sleep. The truth is I need - and generally find a way to get - 6 hours sleep out of every 24. This means I've slept during lectures, in empty classrooms between lectures, and indeed at work.

The last time I slept in my chair at work, the boss didn't wake me up because I "looked so peaceful there". I want another boss like that. If I ever turn into a bougois manager in a cheap suit, I want to be a boss like that.

Maplin Electronics didn't have four microphones in stock - it's somehow just typical for the UKs major street vendor of electonic goods to have one of everything they sell . But they did order four, to be delivered to my house in a few days.

Paul T may be annoyingly prolix, and be rather self absorbed (though not enough to keep a blog), but he did buy me pizza, and gave me some useful advice on relocation: Don't move home or country simply because the one you're in is no good - you need a good solid reason to live in the place you move to.

In other words, don't go there only because you don't want to be here.

You'll never guess what I've just found. Yes, the two missing microphones. Neatly bound up in a sensible place.

I was under the impression that love was supposed to be nice. Not romantic-comedy-with-Hugh-Grant nice, not brief-encounter-at-a-train-station nice, and certainly not cinderella-lives-happily-ever-after-with-the-boring-prince nice. But the companionship of cuddling in front of a movie you've both seen far too many times, spending the evening in seperate rooms but feeling good that we're together, making out on the carpet at five in the morning and sharing breakfast two hours later.

This is like the brakes on my bike failing just as I'm cycling 'round a busy roundabout, and I career wildly in the wrong direction, before winding up in a heap on the pavement. It's that feeling, slowed down to last several weeks.

It's obviously much worse for C - he's the one that's got to deal with illness, fear and impossible situations. All I've got to deal with is caring so much about his well being. And feeling so helpless that I can't make it all right for him.

We'll see each other one more time before he jets off to adventures in Peru. Then we have two weeks to sort our respective feelings out, being unable to contact each other. I'm already looking forward to welcoming him back, and he hasn't even gone yet.

Look, I can't tell whether this thing will last six months before imploding, six years before amicably splitting up, or whether we'll be a sweetly eccentric queeny odd-couple for the rest of our lives. I just know it's important to try hard to make this one work. And it frustrates me that I can't do more.

Life is Sweet

Why is life so shit right now?

Oh I know I have a roof over my head, enough (too much) to eat, and a lot of great technology. But everyone I know is angry and despondant, doggedly persuing political campaigns for basic rights and decency that seem to receed further every day.

Everyone's in debt and there's no jobs. The cretinoid racism of the 1970s is back like it never left. The government has fucked up every single service in the country, and taken us into two appalling imperial wars.


C was mugged tonight. After decades of abuse and dashed hopes, he's not equipped mentally or physically to deal with it. If I'd been there, I like to think I'd have defended him, but all I can do is try to cheer him up on the phone. I can't even be there to hold him when he cries.

We just want to get out of this lumpen armpit of a town - and maybe this dreary failure of a country. Somehow. But we can't. All we've got is each other, no money, unwanted intellect, and between us, four aging parents who very soon will need constant care.

The Answer My Friend...

Summer lasted till October, then in 3 or 4 days the weather switched from oppressive moist heat to howling wind and rainstorms. A decade ago, Britain's boring weather was an international joke, and so was our obsession with it's tiny fluctuations. My grandparents used to muse on whether the sky changing from mid-light grey to mid-dark grey meant there would be a light rain shower soon, and when our sunbathing resorts (like my home town) had actual sunbathing weather for a solid week, news of it pushed wars and famine from the headlines.

Now of course, foreign disasters are pushed from the headlines by footballers dating pop singers who last had a hit five years ago. Meanwhile summer gets hotter and longer, and winter gets colder and shorter. Intellectuals waffle on about how scientists who deny climate change are having their freedom of speech stifled by the liberal media. And newspapers breezily note that long hot summers are good news for the farming industry.

I wonder if the Atlantis Daily News reported on how rising sea levels were good news for fishermen and people who live in the attic.

How's this for a recording studio setup:

I've got a Fostex X28H cassette 4-track, bought 2nd hand 9 years ago. It has 4 mono 1/4'' jack inputs, and each input can be mixed and panned. I'm feeding it's Line output to...

...a Tascam DP01FX 8 digital 8-track, bought new something like a year ago. It has 1 stereo (or 2 mono) 1/4'' jack (or XLR) input. After recording, I will transfer it's WAV files to...

...a 3 year old PC made partly from bits of 5 year old PCs. It's got a pile of free mastering VSTs that I haven't tried yet.

So, I mix 4 mono microphone inputs live through the Fostex, into the 1 stereo input of the Tascam, and polish the result on a PC. This is how Strict Machines can record a live studio album without spending any more money. Apart from UKP40 on some cheap new microphones because we're all managed to lose all our microphones somewhere.

My parents have an idea for what to do with their retirement. They be dog breeders! This involves setting up a "kennel" - a private limited company that "makes" and sells puppies, and has a small stable of studs and bitches, bought or rented from other kennels. All just as soon as they can think of a catchy name.

More blogging about dog-sprog flogging as it happens.

The big political news in America isn't war, torture or presidential incompenence. It's Senator Mark Foley resigning because he sent a sexual email to a 16 year old boy - an act which has damaged the Republican party's credibility in the polls.
In Foxnewspeak, this is called "having a sense of proportion".

An older man comes onto a boy of legal age, but doesn't have sex with him. This is "having sex with an underage child".

Whatever the boy's thoughts and intentions were, whatever his reaction or lack of it to the message, they haven't been reported. This is called "knowing all the relavent facts".

The man says he was sexually abused as a child, and is an alchoholic. This is "being the real vicim"

The man resigns from his post, because his sexuality makes him mentally incompetent to vote on bills. This is "logic".

His collegues knew all about his habits for years, and did nothing. This is "remarkable" and "unprecidented".

Yawn. Wake me up when the real crimes are in rhe news.

UPDATE: I've seen a transcription of an instant messaging conversation between Foley and the boy. The boy writes openly and sometimes unprompted about masturbation, fetishes and the size of his penis. As well as sport, his non-computer literate mother and his homework.

He is confident, in control, and obviously enjoying himself. If this is the extent of Foley's "abuse", it's utterly trivial as a scandal, and harmless to the boy.

Sex obsessed fundamentalist morons won't see it that way, as usual.

Flies on the Windscreen

Well, what can I say?

We thought about 50 people might turn up, but the pews for 150 were almost full. Dunkan had been a navy field medic, chef, artist, puppeteer, circus performer, peace activist and street sweeper in his life - or lives - and friends from all these periods and aspects came to see him off.

Three members of Donna's family were there, sitting in middle class bemusement as a man swigging beer from a can told stories of the Wessex Dust Trust Catering Division - Dust House Forte. Slogan: "Catering with attitude". Motto: "A burger, a bun, and abuse". I don't think any of Dunkan's family were there.

I realised halfway through the service, sitting in the preacher's box with my finger on the CD player, that in that painted box three feet away...he was in there. Not that either of us ever believed in a soul or an afterlife, but the thing that used to be Dunkan was in that box, wearing his always-polished army boots, baggy tartan shorts and jacket held together with safety pins.

In one of those odd coincidences, Thursday was the 9th anniversary of my father's mother dying. Her husband had died several years before, but in the same week, so to speak.

I remember both their funerals vaguely - rows of people discharging an inconvenient duty. There's no comparison. Dunkan's service is the only funeral I've been to that was what funerals are supposed to be - cathartic and providing a real sense of closure.

Life goes on, and in it's way returns to normal. This week was the Fresher's Fair at the university, and 80 students signed up to SWSS (pronounced Swizz - the Socialist Worker Student Society). Four years ago I felt jolly proud to have signed up 22 students at the stall, and pleased that 3 of them came to the second meeting.

In front of me is a plastic bottle containing "concentrated" "pure" hoodia, the latest fashionable appetite suppressant for people who think reducing hunger will reduce comfort eating. There is also a sandwich of blue cheese, ham and mayonaise. Which will make me feel better?

I need a new PS2 mouse, and possibly a new hard disk. Actually I need a computer that isn't cobbled together from bits of other computers 5 - 10 years old.

There's the Strict Machines recording studio to set up. They came second in the second round of "Battle of the Bands", which entitles them to join half a dozen other bands, playing three songs at the Kings Theatre, in front of local dignitaries and Tory bigwigs. They have therefore chosen three of their most anti-establishment songs.

C is worse. Aching muscles, freezing and boiling flushes, plus the usual colitis symptoms.

He is absolutely determined to spend his planned two weeks in Peru, exploring, paragliding and cramming in every experience the country has to offer. It starts next Wednesday, and I think he's utterly mad to go in his condition, but if it's physically possible, he will go, nevermind the risks and suffering.

Two weeks of him out of contact and experiencing things I can only read about, while I sit and fiddle with computers, trying not to worry myself sick that he's coping.

Why can't I be in love with someone who doesn't go to a life threatening country while suffering a life threatening medical condition? Why can't he be like all those vacuous but safe students who're around the town now? Why can't he just be sensible and stay at home, cuddling with me in front of the television? Why? Because safe, sensible people don't like me, and I could never love one of them. Even though I'm very much afraid I am one of them.

Worlds Collide

Right, it's now Thursday, and I have two things to do. One makes perfect sense, and the other doesn't.

In the morning, I have to go to a specific government building, and sign a piece of paper to confirm that I still don't have a job. I also have to show a list of employers that I've applied for over the last two weeks, to prove that I'm looking for a job.

The man on the other side of the desk and I both know there are no jobs available. We also know that he and his collegues do not have time to process all their paperwork (useful and otherwise), nor do they have time to check that I have applied as I claim (this fortnight I've sent my CV to seven employers). And even if they did it would be pointless, because almost no employers keep records of who has applied to them.

Then in the afternoon, there is the funeral service. This is the front cover I threw together for the programme.

And this is the list of events, one of which is fictional:

Order of Stuff:

* Dunkan's bike heads the procession into John Pound's Church (NB: not a real church). then the coffin. Soundtrack: Anti-war noise.
* Introduction, by Chris.
* Music - "Frigging in the Rigging" by the Sex Pistols,
* Jon does the navy tradition of putting Dunkan's hat on the coffin, then speaks.
* Music - "Another Man's Cause" by The Levellers,
* John speaks, then Tim does his poem.
* Music - "Duppy Conqueror" by Bob Marley,
* Speech from Jerry of Wessex Dust Trust.
* The "sawing the coffin in halfs" magic trick.
* Final words, with Chris.
* Music - "My Way" by the Sex Pistols,
* Closedown, with anti-war noise.

I get to spend the entire service behind the coffin, operating the CD player for the music. We then go to the Function Room of a pub, watch a film of a puppet show, and eat the food each other has bought. I get to catch up with some friends I haven't seen in months.

Meanwhile the body goes off to be cremated, and the bike goes off somewhere else to be cremated. I'm not quite sure how you cremate a bike, but apparantly it's all arranged.

Now, one of these events is sensible and worthwhile, and the other is absurd and pointless.

C can't be there - he's too ill. Probably a secondary infection, and most likely just a cold. But I remember when I had gastroenteritis, other minor ailments could become unbearable. Probably a cold, but I do worry. Someone said to me recently about me and C, "You've got it bad".

Gimmie Some Hot Stuff

We have hot water again. Which is nice. I have accumulated a large binbag full of clothes to be washed, and now the washing machine is working overtime to get through them all.

We still have a large discoloured hole in the kitchen wall where the old pipes had been leaking for years and the plaster finally collapsed. I wonder if we can repair it ourselves.

C is still undergoing tests to find of what's wrong with his lower digestive system. He's now on pills to treat possible IBS and colitis, but the doctor suggests (hopes) that it might be just job stress.

The plan for the funeral on Thursday is to make it look shambolic, sarcastic, silly and surreal. Unfortunately most of the people involved actually are shambolic, sarcastic, silly and surreal, wheras what's needed to make it look that way is the opposite temperament.

Two of the speakers may (or may not) turn up, another might be late, and everyone has their own idea of what would be a touching or funny tribute. Dunkan used to run a travelling "dust museum", showing bottled samples of dust from all over the UK. So his daughter wants to give small bottles of "Dunkan dust" to friends, after he's cremated.

He also used to work in a puppet theatre company, so a film of one of their performances will be shown at the wake.

My job is to produce the printed programme to be given to guests. The design has changed three times tonight, and the latest idea is to produce it in colour, with red polkadots to match the coffin. Delays getting photographs to scan means it'll have to be produced on the morning of the funeral itself.

I really don't need to slip into a few months of depression right now. For the first time in years I have reason to be optimistic. I'm (sort of) back in education, I have more good friends than fingers, and a lovely man in my life. All of which I must avoid messing up.

En Attendant Bloggo

People who've never thought about it like to say you can find anything on the internet. Obviously you can't. You won't find a proof of the Goldbach Conjecture because no one's found one yet. You won't find out what I had for breakfast yesterday, because it wasn't recorded anywhere. And you won't find details of Dick Cheney's masterplan to bring about the armageddeon, because although it's probably recorded, it's not available to the public.

However, you do find lots of interesting and unexpected stuff surfing Blogger. It's useless for finding what you wanted, but good for finding what you never knew you'd enjoy reading. Here's a selection of today's trawl:

Goddess Space. I once knew a teenage girl who wanted to be a lesbian - because all the lesbians she knew at school were really cool. I could have been frightfully prim and PC, and pointed out that lesbians vary just as much as everyone else. But this one is pretty cool.

Science Goes to Hollywood - A scientist and movie fan who plans to document and comment on any science she(?) sees in any movies. Nothing there yet, but might be intersting to come back to.

Tracking Holds at Oak Park Public Library - A librarian named Joslyn publishes summaries of how many Holds she and her collegues complete each week. After reading it, I still have no idea what a Hold is.

An Old Broad's Ramblings - Kate describes herself thus: "I'm a Pro Life, Pro Gun, Christian conservative and completely politically incorrect. I have an attitude and I know how to use it!" So, yet another reactionary pretending to be a rebel. It seems the far-right lunatics of America really do feel themselves to be a persecuted minority, even though they're the one's in control, persecuting minorities.

Holt Press - it's well know that men with families are boring, football fans are thugs, Australians hate the English, and anyone with a job that involves religion is to be avoided. However, it is also well known that exceptions prove rules.

What goes through George Bush's mind at bedtime. Honest.

Michigan Architecture - I've sometimes wondered why it takes seven years to train an architect, who then designs houses that look like shoeboxes. Except they're slightly less interesting than shoeboxes, and less fun to live in. Well, if shoeboxes looked like these buildings, we'd buy the shoes just to have the boxes. Though they'd be no good for keeping shoes in.

I thought I was fairly interested in world politics, and not completely ignorant. But here is someone who's really interested.

The Bible is completely mad. But some people who try to live according to it are sane and intelligent. Perhaps it's like Stepford Wives - pleasant on the surface, dark and horrific underneath. Or maybe they're only trying to live according to the sensible bits.

Yesterday, I knew two blogs by nice gay blokes called Brian. Today, I know three.

Actually, even I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. It might have been porridge.

Kapitano Challenge

Ric has challenged several bloggers, including me, to write about themselves. Well, this is me.

I have no patience at all with superstitions about an afterlife, creator gods, engrams, alien abduction, memory of water, clairvoyance or stepping on the cracks. However, I have been fascinated all my life by the strange things people do and believe, and the even stranger ways they justify them.

In other words, I know what people believe, what they really believe, why they believe it, and why they're wrong, but not how to make them stop.

I started training for the catholic pristhood, but didn't finish.

My boyfriend is a christian. He has seen most of the world, while I have never been further abroad than the Latin Quarter of Paris.

I think about sex all the time, but don't enjoy it. I eat chocolate when I'm feeling miserable, but don't enjoy it.

I have two degrees (BA and MA) in art, but I can't draw and don't understand how to look at paintings. There's two related reasons I don't work in the art world - I regard 99% of it's people as frauds and imbiciles, and I never pretened to think otherwise. The art business works on sychophancy and lies, and I'm extraordinarily bad at both.

I spent most of my 10+ years in university reading about linguistics and philosophy. The only non-native languages I can use with fluency are artificial - in particular Esperanto.

I've never read anything by Tolkein. I think Terry Pratchett is pretentious, John Le Carre perceptive, and Samuel Beckett wonderful.

I am 34 and live with my parents because I can't afford to live anywhere else. Other people tell their parents they love them, and feel loved by them. This surprised me when I found out, last year.

I have tendonitis, and have always had trouble walking.

I frequently forget which direction is left, and which is right.

I once spent six months in jail. My parents told everyone I was in a mental institution.

I am a Trotskyist.

My first career was programming computers. I left it in 1994 because I hated the corporate culture that was creeping into it. However, my technical skills are constantly needed by comrades who understand world history in minute detail, but can't install a firewall on their computers.

I want to be a science teacher, because I want to do something useful, and also because I need a steady career.

I love almost all kinds of music, but never had the patience to learn how to read it, or play any instruments properly. I write songs, and electronic music to go with them. This is what I really want to do with my life.

Goodnight Spock

Spock died this morning. I wasn't there.

Last night he had a lot of difficulty breathing - the growth on his neck had been spreading, and was now choking him. He didn't respond to sounds, either because he could no longer hear, or was too exhausted. He'd lost a great deal of weight over the last week - had gone from being quite a chubby little dog to being painfully skinny. He could barely walk.

This morning, my father took him to the vet, to have him put down.

I didn't see any of this. Last night I was at a meeting, then helping with arrangements for Dunkan's funeral, then drinking, philosophising and eating curry with comrades, and finally back home talking on the phone with C. This morning I was just sleeping all that off.

My parents and I are upset, particularly mother. No histrionics, just feeling morose and missing the little ball of white fun that liked cat food but was afraid of cats.

A Slight Update

I'm much too busy to talk about all the things I'm doing right now, and much too exhausted by them to describe them. But:

I don't like to use the word "love" casually - and I refuse to tell someone I love them if I don't mean it, or if I'm not pretty damn sure it's true. So, that said, C and I are "in love". I can't speak for the future, and we're both very bad at making allowances for each other's beliefs and emotional quirks.

We're both bruised romantics, both have difficulty believing the other genuinely wants to be with them, and sometimes it feels like a contest to see who can be the most cynical and hardnosed. We don't depend on each other, and we don't need to be in constant communication.

But I do love him. There are so many ways we 'click' together, it's worth the effort to work out the (relatively small) problems.

I'll write more, possibly at tedious length, when I have the strength.