NaNoWriMo is finished, and my reader Camy has succeeded in writing a 50,000+ word novel in a month.

With the kind of superhuman effort usually only available to 20 year old students with final year dissertation deadlines and buckets of coffee, he's done it. Speaking as one who's taken three days to get halfway through tidying up his bedroom, I'm somewhat in awe of this. Titled "King of the Marsh", I haven't seen any of it yet, but absolutely intend to read it as soon as possible.

My own month long project is about to begin. The idea to record 4 or 5 synthpop versions of Kate Bush songs for a student's graduation project has developed...into an album of cover versions. The track listing, in no particular order, currently looks like this:

Them Heavy People (Kate Bush)
Experiment IV (Kate Bush)
The Dreaming (Kate Bush)
Army Dreamers (Kate Bush)
Girl U Want (Devo) - I thought of Mongoloid or Jocko Homo, but this one I just like.
Gloomy Sunday (Reszo Seress) - In the original Hungarian, naturally.
Science Fiction, Double Feature (Tim Curry) - The only one I've recorded before.

Homosapien (Pete Shelley)
Sharp Dressed Man (ZZ Top)
Language is a Virus (Laurie Anderson) - I started work on O Superman, but it just turned out preposterous.
Space Man (Babylon Zoo) - Because I reckon I can do it better than the original.
Dragostea Din Tei (O-Zone) - Well, I've translated it into Esperanto, and it would be a shame to waste it.

I start recording on December 1st, and aim to finish by January 1st. Taking time out to assist Strict Machines in recording their album. Oh, and christmas might happen too.


The Socialist Worker's Party Annual Pre-Conference District Aggregate Meeting for Portsmouth and Southampton. Which is a little more interesting that it sounds, and happened tonight.

Aside from the usual telling each other what we already know (it's difficult juggling several campaigns simultaneously, the imperialist project in the middle east is ongoing, and recruiting young people is important), there was also discussion of work in trade unions, and the climate change movement.

The party line on the environmentalist movement is that it's too fragmented, too nebulous, and most importantly too small to be worth diverting more resources into working with. It's also too...well, silly - or if you prefer: politically naive, unsophisticated, not well thought out. If that changes, so will our involvement.

Iraq (plus Afghanistan) is still the major issue in the public mind, and in spite of the US plan to slowly withdraw from Iraq, there's no plans to leave Afghanistan and there's still the wish to attack Iran - even while negotiating with Iran and Syria to mend Iraq.

I'm not sure. I suspect the will is draining out of the antiwar movement (and thus the Stop The War Coalition) now that the war feels like it's "over, bar the shooting". Occupation and killing are still happening of course, but large antiwar demos may have gone the way of the blind patriotism they opposed.

On the one hand, the future of the planet is too important an issue for us to sit and wait for a mass movement to appear that we can try to influence. On the other, we can't create such a movement out of thin air just by getting involved, however much energy we put into it.

In fact, pulling out all the stops might actually damage the movement, by driving away the fluffy people and single-issue campaigners - i.e the sympathetic but soft general public.

So, it looks like we've just got to wait and hope. Even though time and hope aren't things the world has much of.

The Captain's Mess

What actually are mung beans? Is there such a thing as a mung bush? Are they related to peas? I only ask because I've got a big bag of them and I'll be eating them soon.

I've spent the last fortnight eating a dozen kinds of dahl (or dal), and I'm sure each of them has specific recommended culinary uses and subtle variations of flavour, but the only difference I can discern is some are yellow, some are orange, and some are green. Don't get me wrong - I like them. I just can't tell the difference.

However, I'm told that I'm visibly losing weight, which is good. The bathroom scales still insist that I'm 16 stone (224 lbs), whatever I'm wearing and whatever I've eaten. So I've either got kind friends or broken scales.

Remember the photos of the mess in my bedroom? Well, it's got like that again, only worse. Quite a lot worse, somehow.

I spent last night - by which I mean, the whole of the night from midnight till eight - sorting out the similar mess of mp3s and jpgs on this computer. Result: 18 CDRs full of ripped tracks from ShoutCast stations, which I can now listen to while making the room habitable. Overnight, of course.

I think the dogs think I'm another dog. Every they see or hear me, they run around, bark excitedly, and frantically sniff me. They don't do this for anyone else, and I only have to be gone for ten minutes before my reappearance makes them do it again.

I wonder if they think I'm a boy dog or a girl dog? Considering the number of times I've caught Perry trying to mount Dino - much to Dino's annoyance - they may be a little confused on the whole sex thing.

At least I know I'm not a bitch.

FAWM - February Album Writing Month. Write and record 14 songs over 28 days. Could be interesting.

Album-a-day. 20 minutes of music, or 30 songs, composed and recorded in 24 hours. It's supposed to encourage creativity, but I imagine an artist working in those kind of constraints would fall back on familiar formulas and cliches, just to write fast enough for the deadline. Or maybe I'm just a very slow writer.


This entry is more personal than most, and more uncomfortable to write. It might indicate something important, or it might mean nothing at all.

I rarely remember my dreams, but when I do they're almost always a certain kind of nightmare. But they're not about fear, they're about frustration. Failure and endless deferment.

The earliest dream I can remember is from when I was about 7 years old. I was in the house of my father's parents, climbing the stairs to get to the top, where there was the room I usually slept in when I stayed over.

In reality there were three flights to climb, with a certain faded green carpet and white painted banisters all the way up. But in the dream, at the end of each flight, there was another, and another, each with the same carpet and banisters. It was as though the house grew another storey with each flight of stairs I climbed, so I never got to the top, just kept on climbing endlessly. I had this dream several times.

There was another from a year ago, where I was in an airport. I was trying to find a shop where I could buy some food, before taking a flight to emigrate somewhere, to escape some impending catastrophe. But all the shops were shutting, and as I searched further and further afield in the airport to find one that was open, I got increasingly lost in corridors. And with each new turning I tried, the walls got higher, and more featureless, and there were fewer people around.

Eventually, all the walls were a towering uniform grey and I was alone. One detail - I'd forgotten my passport, so couldn't catch a plane anyway.

I can't count how many corridors I've walked through, or how many rooms I've been in that expanded at every turn, yet still lacking the one thing or person I was looking for. There's always some errand that I need to carry out, and the more I try, the more obstacles I have to deal with, and the more distant it's completion becomes.

That's the basic theme, with small variations. These dreams often recur, and occasionally even intersect when one frustrated errand from the past runs through on a TV screen or monitor that I can see while trying to complete another one. Oh yes, it's like watching a video recording, and I'm dimly aware that I'm inside one dream watching another.

The symbolism is obvious - endless frustration, repetition, and being trapped. I don't often remember the hallucinations of sleep, but when I do, it seems I've been mostly having the same dream my entire life.

Go On, Go On

A relatively stress-free recording session with Strict Machines. Having last week learned the hard way that soundchecks are a good idea, we got some reasonable sounding recordings. They have yet to learn the hard way that keeping an hour's worth of recordings from each practice session is a great way to end up with 10 hours of stuff to listen through before you pick 4 songs for an EP.

There's another candidate for band bassist - a tall, slim, blond, 23 year old lady, who is apparently "incredibly hot and amazingly ditsy". The previous candidate was a mild-mannered young fellow who couldn't play bass. Before that was a frighteningly versatile multi-instrumentalist with degrees in linguistics and politics. She left because she didn't like people who knew more about linguistics and politics than her. Before that it was a 20 year old guy who was (a) utterly utterly gorgeous, (b) bisexual and into older man and (c) unable to play bass.

There's one man who's a pretty good bassist, and really wants to join the band. He's been thrown out of every single band he's ever been in, and it's complete mystery to him why. He's quite simply the most self-important and inconsiderate person I've ever met.

And that's why Strict Machines have never had a bass player.

I've come up with some new lyrics. Usually it's existing an song which give me ideas, and this time it was Madonna's "Hung Up" and "First Man in Space" by All Seeing I. The philosophical conundrums (conmundra?) and the Beckett quotations were my idea though.

What's Going On?

Moment on moment
Pattering down into a heap
Like the grains of
That old greek

Second by second
Cutting away like a knife
Sit and wait for
That to mount up to a

Verse 1:
If god is a flying spaghetti monster,
Who put fossils in the ground?
If a tree falls in an empty forest
What is the sound? Oh and is that profound?
And, what is so great about star trek movies?
Why do the good die far too young?
What did I do to make you love me?
What's going on? Tell me what's going on

What's going on? Tell me what's going on (x4)


Verse 2:
If god gives me reason to doubt his existence
Why will he send me to hell?
If you go back and kill your grandad
Will you still be here and how can you tell?
And, how do they put those bubbles in chocolate?
What is the square root of minus one?
What did i say to make you hate me?
What's going on? Tell me what's going on

What's going on? Tell me what's going on (x4)


Verse 3:
And, what is the noise of one hand clapping?
What does that mean anyway?
Why is it men have sensitive nipples?
Why can't you say that you're glad to be gay?

I am what I am and I like it that way (x4)

I may even sing it in between my Kate Bush covers in January - though I expect it to go through some changes beforehand.


Christmas in Britain starts on November 1st. Well, it does on TV, with nonstop crappy adverts for crappy products. But in real life it starts around December 20th, when we all suddenly realise we've left it a bit late for presents and turkey and decorations, and cram into the shops to frantically buy stuff. It sort-of ends on December 27th, with everyone too exhausted and full of badly cooked food to be cheerful.

We then spend a week in purgatory, living on cold turkey sandwiches and leftover chocolates, slumped half comatose either in front of the TV or at work, vaguely waiting for New Year, which is a kind of miniature christmas which signals the return to normality.

In America I'm told it's different. On TV it starts cranking up sometime in June, but everyone ignores it until November. In real life they have Thanksgiving, followed sometimes by Hanukkah, followed by Christmas, followed by New Year. And then Chinese New Year if they can take it.

I found christmas exciting when I was young - that is, before I became too old and cynical for it at 7. Then there was two decades of going through the motions, each of us doing it only because the others seemed to want to.

Nowadays, the Kapitano household largely ignores christmas. There's a piece of 35 year old tinsel that we drape from the lights on December 24th, and a big meal with visiting family members on the 25th. I find I enjoy the family get-togethers a lot more now, seeing as most of my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents are either dead, senile in rest homes, or refusing to talk to each other for reasons no one can remember. Or living in Canada.

There's presents which we've opened at least a month in advance - this year it's a coffee percolator from mum and dad to themselves, and I'm thinking of getting myself a second hand camcorder from ebay.

I saw Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" tonight, on the big screen. It was the prelude to a forum between four green-leaning experts from academia and government.

The film itself I highly recommend - it skims through most of the vast amount of the science and politics involved in climate change, in just enough depth to show the nature and extent of the problem, leaving no room for doubt that something must be done, and now.

Unfortunately, in the final minutes it falls apart when trying to say what must be done. After outlining a global catastrophe and it's causes, it recommends traveling by bicycle, writing to politicians, and holding debates. And praying.

The forum wasn't much better, with contributions from the floor ranging from "everyone should modify their cars to run on vegetable oil", through "if people only drove their cars less" to "the government needs to force us to recycle our waste".

Afterwards, a not-strictly-necessary but most welcome curry. There was even entertainment laid on, as one customer kept trying to leave without paying his bill, before trying to fight his way out and ending up with two waiters sitting on him while the owner called the police.

Just as I got home, I got a phone call from a man who said he was "feeling really randy".

Perhaps he should have mentioned that he's developed a new kink since we last met. Watersports. Yes, gentle reader, tonight, as the rain came down on us both in our secluded alleyway, he...rained on me. But he can't bring himself to admit that he likes doing it, or that it's deliberate.

Is everyone in this town a bit mad, or just the people I meet?

Anyway, excuse me while I find a new teeshirt.

Next up, Saturday evening, a fundraiser for the Respect party. This involves taking some food to a community centre, paying to get in, eating each other's food, buying lottery tickets, being entertained by a short film (with Kapitano on hand to set up the DVD player), putting money in a collection bucket, closing the evening with a quiz, and going home having taken three hours to donate GBP20.

She's Not There

Somewhere in his writings, Jaques Lacan talks about the man who owns a flash sports car, driving it on a deserted road. The man puts his foot down on the accelerator, showing just how fast his car can go. But who is he trying to impress? There's no one except himself there.

Why can we identify with films like The Truman Show and The Matrix? Why does mental illness so often take the form of conspiracy theories - or the belief that you're being watched and controlled by unseen forces? Why is it embarrassing to sing at the top of your voice, even when it's your job to do so?

In one of the comic "diary" novels about Adrian Mole, the teenager is left alone in the house one day. He plays his records at top volume and has a bath with the door open, just because he can.

But there are many things he could have done - climb up and down the stairs endlessly for hours, eat a bowl of catfood, watch TV, write poetry, or use a razorblade to cut words into his skin. All these things he's free to do for the day, with no consequences. He could explore his temporary freedom in any number of ways, but the ways he chooses are quite specific.

He's very aware that there's no one to watch him take a bath, so it doesn't matter whether the bathroom door is open or closed. Yet he specifically and deliberately leaves it open, as though not just to explore his freedom, but to demonstrate both the freedom and the exploration. It's as though he were letting someone see what he can do when there's no one there to see.

So who is he showing off his freedom to? Himself? In a sense, yes, but that's not the whole story. He's watching himself break a few minor social rules, but watching himself as though from outside himself. There is an imaginary fragment (or duplicate) of himself, standing just outside the bathroom, looking in, watching Adrian Mole display his nakedness to that fragment.

But the boy in the bath can go much further in rule breaking than he ever would if it were another person standing outside, because the fragment is himself. He is both split in two and unsplit - one person with two viewpoints feeding to the same mind. He needs to be split because without the split there could be no audience to do the watching. And he needs to be unsplit because the only safe, trustworthy audience is himself.

It's trivially true that we perform to other people. As Desmond Morris remarked in The Naked Ape, a pop fan who screams in delight at a band on the stage might have many emotions if confronted with the band in a quiet room, but they won't scream. Stadium screaming is a communal activity, and it requires the presence of many screamers, who are all aware of each other's participation.

Comedy movies - even unfunny ones - tend to provoke laughter in crowded cinemas, but a DVD watched by half a dozen friends produces less effect, and if watched alone, is generally watched in silence, without even a smile.

The addition of canned laughter to comedy is noticeably ineffective in making home viewers - even in large groups - join in. A studio audience, or a recorded laugh track, aren't part of the viewing group - they're part of the spectacle, though one which isn't part of the comedy itself. Which might explain why is feels so superfluous and annoying.

Being amused ("laughing on the inside") is a sensation. Emitting a succession of loud quaking barks is a communal ritual, done in response sometimes even to jokes which the viewers don't understand - they just know they ought to do it. And the one who refuses to laugh thereby signals to the others that he or she is an outsider.

There's more than one way to perform to an audience which is absent, but given a halfway presence in the mind of the performer. There's no shortage of people who's parents are safely dead and buried, who don't believe in any kind of afterlife from which the spirits of their parents are watching and judging, yet who can't bring themselves to disregard what their parents wanted, even though they desperately want to.

This is performing to a projection of specific people you're highly familiar with - a projection which has control over you, even though you create and animate the projection. But here the performance consists in doing what you don't want to do, or not doing what you do want.

Obviously this applies even if you're completely wrong about what your parents wanted, or would think.

It doesn't have to be the parents. The man in the flash motorcar isn't trying to impress his mum and dad. It doesn't have to be a projection of one's self, or a real person, or an imaginary person. It can be something as vague as "society in general", "folks" or "people who matter". This doesn't mean "every individual on the planet" or "humanity".

I think the generic "they" who watch and judge is actually two separate abstractions of real social groups. The first is one's peers, in the broad sense. The second is the largely hidden but powerful people in one's society. Those you want to like you, and those you know (usually in a vague way) have power over you, even though they don't know who you are, or care about you as an individual. Your own class, and the ruling class, respectively.

The latter is god. Some say each of us creates god in our own image. To some extent this is true, but the god of any society, or group within that society, is it's own ruling class, abstracted and amalgamated.

The former is "people" as in the questions "what would people think?" or "what do people say?". Not the whole species, or even the whole population of your country or your town, but the type of people who, even if don't know or like them, you want to respect you.

So when we perform to an audience of ghosts, there are actually four kinds of ghosts, each with their own demands, which can contradict each other.

The first kind is oneself - the performer using themselves as a mirror. The performer has quite a lot of control over this ghost. Adrian Mole is performing to this.

The second is a projection of certain important people in one's own life - past or present. Parents, lovers, friends, comrades, offspring, employers etc. This ghost is harder to control, and less well defined. Our friend living in the shadow of his dead parents is in thrall to these ghosts.

The third is "people like me", homogenised into a single, featureless viewer that surrounds on all sides. This one is harder still to control, and even more abstract. Our man in the motorcar is trying to impress this ghost.

And the fourth is the most abstract, most difficult to conceptualise, most encompassing and surrounding, and most difficult to fight against. It is not composed of individual powerful people, but has their common in interests and demands - whether it is the monarchy, priesthood, elders, or corporate multimillionaires depends on the society.

We all spent most of our lives performing to this ghost - so much that usually, we don't even realise we're doing it.

How Not to Shout

Tonight was to be a practice/recording session with Strict Machines. I was all geared up for a stand-up row which would go something like this:

Kap: Before you start practicing, I need to do a soundcheck - like we talked about last week.

Paul: Okay, you do a check while we play.

Kap: No, that's what you said last time, and the result was a lot of unusable recordings. I need to get the microphone placement and mixing right, and you need to get the guitar sound right for recording. We can't do that while you're all playing.

Paul: We're recording rehearsals, not rehearsing recording - it doesn't have to be perfect.

Kap: That's what you said last time, and the result was a lot of unusable recordings.

Paul (exasperated): Yeah, but we don't have much time, and I just want to play!

Kap: Do you want to produce some usable recordings?

Paul: ...

Kap: If you do, I need to do a soundcheck, and I'll need everyone's help for ten minutes. Because if I don't, we'll just get more unusable recordings, and the bootleg EP won't happen.

Anna: I think you should listen to...

Paul: But we're recording rehearsals, not rehearsing recording! Don't you understand? The rehearsal's more important, and we don't have much time.

Kap: If you're not prepared to take ten minutes out of a three hour rehearsal to get things set up right, there's no point in me being here at all. It doesn't have to be perfect, but we've got to do it properly, because if we don't, the result won't be worth the recording.

Paul puffs and gasps in annoyance.

Kap: We should have done it three weeks ago, but you kept saying it wasn't necessary. Then afterwards you heard the playback and said next time we should do a soundcheck because the recordings were all crap.

Paul walks off muttering in a huff. The rest of us spend 10 minutes getting the the placement and mixing right, then another five waiting for Paul to come back. When he does, it takes another few minutes to get the levels and sound of his guitar right. After which, we start the recording process we should have started three weeks before.

Actually, there's only a small chance I'd get the chance to say half of all that, and there'd still be no soundcheck. So I'd have the choice of standing through another pointless three hour practice session while guessing recording levels, or walking off in a huff myself.

However, it turns out all three band members were too tired or ill to come tonight. Bugger.

I used to go out with this fellow, years ago. I always thought he'd wind up with a good relationship, a dull job and several jobs at a theatre company - and that's exactly what did happen. He's also on FriendsReunited, and if I'm anything more than a smudgy blur in his memory, with luck he'll write back soon.

After a painfully shaky opening three episodes, Torchwood is getting quite good. And I don't think it's a coincidence that the better it gets, the darker it gets. The last one - Episode 106, Countrycide - was a gory slash-and-suspense affair, with something nasty in an isolated village killing and eating strangers. Think "The Hills Have Eyes", with elements of "The Wicker Man" and "League of Gentlemen" without the laugh track.

The "twist" of course was that the culprit wasn't a supernatural ghoul of crashed space alien - it was the villagers themselves, following their quaint local custom of cannibalism. Some "surprises" just go with the genre, and that's one of them.

Having said that, the writers didn't follow the logic through, and in the end made the main killer an evil eye-rolling psychopath. On TV and the movies, being insane isn't a psychological condition - it's the laziest way to give a character a motive when they've got no reason to do what the plot demands. Why do they murder? Because they're mad. What does that mean? It means they kill for no reason.

At any rate, it looks like I'll have a lot to write for my review of the eighth episode - the first thing I've had published in a magazine for 13 years. And the last one was a poem about the structure of DNA.

At least I know what I've going to be doing tonight. I have nine large cardboard boxes, all packed tightly with videotapes. One of them is the special tape I need to clean the VCR read head so I can view all the others. It's in there, somewhere. Sigh.

You know I almost once took a degree in Librarianship Studies? I have this compulsion to categorise and sort things.

UPDATE: It's amazing what you find when you're looking for something else. I found two spare video recorders under a table - one of which does not chew up tapes. So now I've got an episode of The Bill from 1989 running in the background.

Missing Links

The thing about doing things which make you tired, is it makes you too tierd to blog about them. So instead, a survey of some of the ways the internet enriches our lives.

My father lived here during the first world war: http://www.llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch.com. It's quite long, and rather a mouthful.

But this one is even bigger: http://www.iamtheproudownerofthelongestlongestlongestdomainnameinthisworld.com.

Howver, there's always someone who has to tell the world they've got the biggest. It's a bit sad really:

Anyway, what the world needs is love sweet love. Either that or wigs for babies. But not both, I suspect.

I once slept in a graveyard. Just the one time. There's a perfectly good reason - I'd just had sex with a gravedigger. No, really. But it wasn't like this. If it had been, I might still be there.

I'm usually quite good at keeping secrets if people ask me to, but as you may have guessed, I don't have many secrets of my own. But if I did, I could post them here

I was wrong - what the worlds really needs is vibrating soap. And a binary alarm-clock, a computer powered hamster wheel, and a wallet made from duct tape.

Have you ever thought there must be a word for someone who thinks it's impressive to use words no one else understands? There probably is.

Most newspapers and magazines exist to influence readers by pandering to their prejudices with half-truths. One, however, contains no half truths at all. Only complete lies. It's the most honest publication in the world.

Wherefore art Thou, Homeo?

Debates about alternative medicine tend to get bogged down in issues about faith, falsifiability, and fraud. But there's two very simple ways to know whether a system like homoeopathy works.

The first is to ask, "If the theoretical principles behind homoeopathy were true, what would the world look like? And does the world look like that?"

There are two basic principles of homeopathy. One is that a very small dose of a chemical has the opposite effect of a large dose, and the other is that the smaller the dose, if it's prepared in the right way, the larger the effect.

The correct method of preparation is to dilute the chemical in a ratio of 1:10 with pure water, shake the mixture violently, then take one tenth of the result, and dilute that in the same ratio with more water. And do this anywhere between 10 and 1500 times - the more dilutions, the more powerful the effect.

So, the caffeine in a cup of coffee will keep you awake, but the same caffeine diluted 30 times - that's a ratio of one to one thousand billion billion billion - will send you to sleep.

A few notes in parentheses at this point. After 23 dilutions, there is a 50% of the mixture containing a single molecule of caffeine, which means after 25, there's a 1 in 100 chance of the water containing any caffeine at all. One issue with making 1:10^1500 dilutions, is that there's only about 10^80 atoms in the universe, so it may be difficult to find enough pure water.

The idea is that the water retains an imprint - a memory - of anything dissolved in it, and this memory grows stronger with successive dilutions, if accompanied by violent shaking. So, water cascading down a waterfall will dissolve salt and other chemicals from the rocks, while being shaken up. And it gets shaken up many more times, possibly over years, before it reaches your tap. Which means common tap water is an extremely powerful homeopathic preparation of sodium chloride.

Now, salt raises your blood pressure, but in homeopathy reduces it. So a drink of water from the tap will send your blood pressure through the floor, and kill you in seconds.

Of course, the water has also absorbed hundreds of other chemicals, which also have the opposite of their usual effect. Some are poisonous and some necessary for life, so your tap water is both killing you and giving you vibrant health, each hundreds of times.

I'm not sure whether a homeopathic preparation of water would make you die of dehydration.

I said there were two simple ways, and the second is even simpler. It's to ask "What happens if I take the pill", and indeed, "What happens if I overdose?" What would happen if you swallowed fifty or a hundred homeopathic sleeping pills?.

If swallowing fifty has fifty times the effect of one, then you should be able to put yourself into a coma with them. If the principle of dilution applies, then licking one pill will do it. Both have been done, many times, in public by skeptics demonstrating why homeopathy doesn't work, and the effect is always the same - none.

Nanowrimo and Nablopomo - what are they? Uninhabited Polynesian islands? Twin brothers in a Yemenite folk story? Or the active ingredients in the next wave of slimming pills on ebay?

Actually, NaNoWriMo is National November Writing Month - a challenge to write a whole 50,000 word novel over November. The idea is not so much to produce a masterpiece, as to produce a completed work. It's now past the halfway mark, and there's a lot of writers caught between stress at the pace and joy at the results.

NaBloPoMo is the somewhat easier blogging equivalent - National Blog Posting Month. You just have to post something significant every day on your blog for a month. This one has the grand prize of a year's free internet hosting, and smaller prizes of caps and mugs.

Bert Weedon encouraged you to learn a song a day. Some musicians try to write one song a day. Short story workshops sometimes give you an hour to fill a few sheets of paper with plot. SongFight even used to run a challenge to compose and record an album in one day. I've got some books which tell me how to absorb a complete textbook in an hour - and one day I'll get around to reading them.

There's a culture and a mindset where faster is by definition better - and if it produces reasonable novels and songs by not giving the writer time for self doubt or sidetracks, maybe it is sometimes. We need a word for this process of forced accelerated development. Fasttracking? Quickening? RapidWrite? How about zipping?

So far on the old videotapes: All three episodes of Oliver Stone's Wild Palms, a worthy but dull documentary on racism in children under 5, an episode of Father Ted, the films The Wedding Banquet and Mouse on the Moon, and a lot of other stuff I haven't seen yet.

A month ago I threw half a dozen porn videotapes in the bin because I thought I'd never get the chance to watch them. Well, that and they were extremely boring.

Video Sex

I've got a new video recorder. Well, actually I've got someone else's old video recorder. My parents own some small properties around the town, which they rent out through an agency. One of the tenants, after five years of uneventful lodging, has abruptly moved out - leaving behind his rather nice 3-piece suite and an old VCR. I've got the VCR.

I've also got several hundred VHS tapes, sitting in storage boxes, unwatched for years. Some of the recorded programmes are worth making digital copies of, before I finally get around to dumping the tapes. So, what's the best way to digitise VHS?

Warning: Slightly Technical Bit - skip if you don't know about video compression

The best way is to do it is to play the programmes into my computer's capture card, and capture them uncompressed, before applying algorithms to clean up the sound, reduce colour-bleed, interlacing artifacts, tracking wobble, noise and any other imperfections I can think of, while compressing the file to MPEG-4 at full resolution at the highest quality the DivX algorithm can offer. Unfortunately this takes roughly 1GB of disk space per minute to capture, and 24 hours or more to reprocess each programme.

A reasonable alternative looks like this:
* Set the capture card to record at full screen resolution and full framerate. If your tapes use NTSC, that means 640x480 pixels, at 29.97 frames per second. If you're using PAL like me, it's 704x576 at 25fps. Actually, it's 720x576, but the rightmost 16 pixels are usually unused. Which means, sometimes, they will be. But I'm assuming not.

* Although your card is capturing at fullscreen resolution, you're setting the DivX (or XviD, or even WMV) codec to encode at 320x240 for NTSC and 352x288 for PAL, using the bicubic resize method of your choice, and deinterlacing the image. The codec is working in real time, so you can't use bidirectional encoding, and your computer probably can't handle GMC, quarter-pixeling, or the settings for best quality and/or highest compression. I recommend keyframe settings of 125 for maximum interval, and 33% for threshold. If the video is jerky or noisy, increase to 50%.

What you're doing is capturing at TV resolution, then reducing it back down to VHS resolution - halving it both horizontally and vertically. I reckon a kbps setting of 1000 is more than enough, and 750 is okay. As regards noise shaping and psychovisual enhancements, the former might improve the signal somewhat, but I doubt they can be applied consistently in realtime without dropping frames.

* Record in real time, with CD quality audio. If you have the time and inclination, export the audio as WAV from VirtualDub, clean it up in Audition or Soundforge, and import the result back into VirtualDub. Edit out adverts and whatever bits you don't want, then compress the audio to MP3.

End of Slightly Technical Bit

Of course, most of the tapes are unhelpfully (or illegibly) marked, so I don't know what's on them till I play them.

Strict Machines want to make a video to go with one of their songs. Getting the raw footage for this involves using carpet tape to fix my old camera to the handlebars of a bike, and riding around town at day and night, filming. And filming the band play in a dark basement with flashing lights. And generally pointing the camera at anything that looks interesting, especially if it's lit up at night. Camera shake is a good thing for this project.

An alternative method of filming involves taping the camera to the side of one of our heads, and going for a long walk. This is not such a popular alternative.

I had sex tonight. I found it quite pleasant, and my partner seemed to be enjoying it immensely. Halfway through I found myself thinking, "It's okay, but a bit dull - I'd rather be doing something else, like, oh I don't know, finding a nice man and having sex with him. Oh, that's what I'm doing isn't it. Ah."


The term "binge drinking" refers to a particular pattern of self destructive behavior associated with depression. Usually, at erratic intervals when a person's unhappiness becomes too much, they drink strong alcoholic beverage to escape, either until they pass out or until they feel mentally "blurred" enough to cope. It's almost always done alone, at home, in secret, and there's a lot of shame associated with doing it.

However, when the government refers to "binge drinking among young people", they mean something quite different. They're talking about teenagers getting drunk together. The drinkers are not isolated and alone but together in small groups. They don't do it in secret, but in public spaces. They don't do it to escape depression, but socially as a set. They're not ashamed and don't try to hide what they do, rather they openly enjoy it. It doesn't happen uncontrollably when some threshold of stress is reached, but is planned. The point is to have an enjoyable, relaxed time with your friends. It's what's usually called "A night out".

According to the government, "binge drinking in young people" causes something called "anti-social behavior". This term has never been clear - over the years I've heard it used to refer to doing anything with someone else finds annoying, picking a fight, being grumpy and uncommunicative, rape, calling someone a rude name or spraying graffiti.

When the government uses the term, the meaning is similarly elastic and vague, but it generally means "being noisy and uncouth". If you're singing on the street at midnight, using swear words in a public place, or riding a skateboard somewhere that isn't a skatepark, then you're being anti-social. Also if you're sarcastic to a police officer or wear a baseball cap, this is anti-social behavior. So sometimes is having a beard, but only if it's a muslim beard.

So there's a TV advertising campaign about it - featuring a lone teenage drinker who's so drunk he climbs up a building and falls off. Apparently alcohol makes you die while doing annoying things.

There is another campaign running to stop teenagers doing the other thing they allegedly do quite a lot.

Yes, the rate of teenage pregnancies is already the highest in Europe, and it's increasing. Apparently, this has nothing to do with reduced sex education in schools, or the lack of condom machines there - no, it's because British teenagers are stupid and feckless. And seeing as educating them outrages decent christians, and they're too dumb to be taught anyway, they've got to be scared into being sensible.

Now, if you're young but not yet 16, there's no TV ad-campaigns yet to stop you drinking and fornicating - though if you do fornicate with another child you're both legally abusers of children - but you're still anti-social. Riding your bike on the pavement, or in the park, or being out late at night, are all now outrages against society, and the police can impose a curfew for it if they feel like it. This obviously only applies if you're working class.

However, if you're working class enough to be considered "deprived" or "in serious poverty", the BBC is raising money to help you. But only tonight.

Every year at this time, the BBC run a charity event called "Children In Need", where celebrities do amusing things on TV, in return for the public making donations. They now usually raise a few tens of million pounds, and it goes to maintaining special schools for disabled children, setting up playgroups for those that don't have them, and if the the fashion runs that way in a given year, feeding children in the third world.

This year it doesn't. This year the issues are drug use, prostitution, bullying, sexual abuse, terminal illness, homelessness, disability and sticking sharp metal into your flesh because your life is complete shit. Last year they raised GBP33.2 million, which certainly sounds impressive, but split so many ways I wonder how much good it does.

The official website tells us "£100,000 pays for a respite nurse for 3 years at a hospice for terminally ill children and their families", "£17 pays for a therapy session for a sexually-abused child" and "£75 pays a specialist nurse to look after cancer patients". So a little money goes a long way.

But as if to counterbalance that message, It also tells us "There are approximately 60,000 children in care in the UK" and "19,000 children a year attempt suicide".

So on the one hand giving children what they need is relatively cheap, so we have to wonder why it's left to the charity of ordinary people to do what the state easily could and should do. And on the other, an unimaginably large number of lives have been fucked up right from the start.

Though when they get a little older and start drinking, they stop being victims and become the enemy.


I know what I'm going to be spending my money on this christmas - a gold tooth. That is, some repair work on two molars and a gold cap to hold one together, which is one third the price of a natural colour cap, and much cooler.

Two weeks ago I subscribed to an email newsletter called Big Fat Lies. The blurb promised me that it would explode the commonest myths about exercise, fat burning, diet and such. Well, after 7 editions, these are the astounding revelations so far:

* You don't need supplement pills to lose fat
* You don't need to starve yourself to get thin
* Magazine articles are not reliable
* Protein shakes don't burn fat
* "Thermogenic" pills don't work
* There's no shortcut to exercising off fat stores
* "Bad genetics" is a myth


Maybe I should set up a competing newsletter, informing subscribers of similar breakthroughs:
* Water is good
* Food which is digested slowly (fiberous vegetable, pulses) makes you feel full for longer
* Fruits are better than ice cream if you want something sweet
* We all backslide sometimes, and guilt tripping is unhelpful
* Magic doesn't work

I could get rich by writing a waffly book describing the blindingly obvious, misusing scientific jargon to make it seem like a revelation. Or maybe someone's already had that idea.

There was also a "special article" from BFL called "Can You Think Yourself Thin?". It's vague and rambling, but the central thesis is that the brain is exactly like a computer, and therefore you can program your subconscious mind with new habits and goals using affirmations and visualisation. Oh, and this has all been proven scientifically.

No serious thinker has believed that the brain is simply a computer since about 1950, the conclusion that the subconscious can be programmed wouldn't follow logically even if it were true, and the few scientific tests done on positive thinking show it has no effect whatsoever. Pessimism sometimes creates failure, but optimism never creates success.

However, stripped of all the pseudoscience and obscurantism, the article does contain one truth: it takes roughly 21-30 days to break old habits and form new ones, and this is a very difficult process. But I don't need a fitness guru to tell me that.

I finally got around to trying out the Write Ambition software. It basically gives you a series of open-ended questions, and boxes to write your notes in answer.

Unde the heading of "Theme" there are questions like "What moves me about the themes of my writing project?", "What style is my writing?" and "What would happen if...?"

Under "Character" there's "How relavent is [character] to my story?", "What is [character]'s secret?" and "How could [character]'s goals be thwarted?" amongst others.

If I were writing character driven drama, I'd probably find it quite useful. As it is, I find Windows Notepad more helpful for sketching out ideas for a sci-fi murder mystery.

Science Fiction and Murder Mystery - my two choices of fiction reading. I'm sure that says something.

He's Red Jim

A slightly stressful recording session with Strict Machines. Partly because the band expected issues of microphone placement and mix levels to be instantly and magically solved without their needing to be aware of them. Partly because the band don't seem to grasp the notions of "test recording" or "telling the producer what they want to do". I say "the band", but I mean the guitarist. But then, he has difficulty with the notion of "other people" anyway.

I dealt with feeling stressed in my usual way - a plate of fried chips and reconstituted chicken nuggets with mayonnaise.

I admit it, I've been watching Star Trek. Quite a lot of Star Trek. The political assumptions and aspirations of the show, which seemed so quaint in the 1990s, now seem progressive again. That's not to say they're entirely clear or consistent. We wouldn't expect them to be - it is a dumb TV show after all.

In Errand of Mercy, Kirk and Spock become terrorists against a Klingon occupying force. In The Alternative Factor and the famous The City on the Edge of Forever, they unwillingly sacrifice a blameless outsider to save the world.

Mirror, Mirror tells us why totalitarian states always eventually fail, while Space Seed and The Changeling are about defending the weak and "inferior" from the strong and "superior" who've forgotten the human values they're supposed to be protecting. I, Mudd is a warning against being enslaved by apparent luxury, and Day of the Dove is about the impulse to continue fighting when you've forgotten why you started.

When I was doing degrees in Cultural Theory in the late 90s, there were hundreds of articles you could read about "Gender Roles in Star Trek", "Star Trek and Postcolonialism", "The Federation in Star Trek as Humanist Military Utopia" and such like.

Cultural Theory is now completely out of fashion, and thankfully so, given the vacuity of the articles it produced. But I think it would be much more difficult to write those kind of articles now, because the "message" of the show - however garbled and dumbed down it was - is no longer so safely "dealt with" and "in the innocent past".

Tomorrow. I'm having a tooth out, probably. Just thought I'd share that with you.

Microsoft are launching an mp3 player. The "Zune" has wifi capability, enabling people in the same room to send music files to each other without the bother of plugging in a USB cable. They can listen for 3 days before the music "expires".

Typical Microsoft - barge in on an already overcrowded market, with a snazily named and completely unnecessary product. Market it with a meaningless gimmick, and defeat the whole point with time limits or activation codes.

I predict the shops will be full of cut-price Zunes in January, because sales were slow over christmas and they got a bad reputation. Then the Zune will disappear into that enormous pit full of failed Microsoft products - discontinued and airbrushed out of corporate history.

Finding What You've Lost

One one hand, today was a break from having Kate Bush songs cycle around in my head. On the other hand, I had 150 gigabytes of backed-up files to sort through and categorise.

We have a 200GB portable USB disc drive (named "Mort"), which we use for backing up files from any computer that's about to have a new operating system installed, or be canibalised to upgrade other computers. Among other things, Mort contained:

* 8 CDRs-worth of mp3-ed radio programmes - dance and chillout music shows, miscelainious drama and detective serials, and comedy from the last 50 years. So if I want to listen to 20 consecutive episodes of The Goon Show, I can. Probably will in fact, the next time I'm seriously ill.
* Random DivX episodes of The Larry Sanders Show, Dr Who (old and new) and Horizon.
* 25 episodes of Star Trek (the original series). I might watch them instead of The Goon Show.
* 37 songs by Kamakura, and covers of 4 of them by me.
* 8GB of radio and TV work from Chris Morris - my favourite commedian of the kind who never tells actual jokes.
* Some PDF articles on the mathematics of modelling membranophones using the mass-spring paradigm.
* 7000 pictures of naked men. I wonder how they got there?
* 22 mp3s of speeches from the right-wing American religious lunatic, Phyllis Schlafly. I thought they might come in useful one day.
* A lot of entirely mysterious .BAT and .EXE programs.

I've slipped into a mainly vegetable diet. Not vegetarian - there's still small pieces of meat in the soup, and today's breakfast involved a sausage - but a plate of fried chicken now feels rather...excessive. Lentils, leeks, onions and carrots occupy most my plate now, with apples, pears and dates.

And the result, I don't feel heavy and bloated for an hour or two after eating, and I have a bit more energy. I'm also sleeping better, though that may be unrelated. I'm also eating more, which may be why I haven't lost any weight. Well, that and spending most of the day sitting at computers.

Ah well, back to Bush. I've got four tracks - Experiment IV, The Dreaming, They Heavy People, and Army Dreamers - and I could do with a fifth. I can't get a handle on Wuthering Heights or Cloudbusting, so I'm thinking either Babooshka or the little known Kashka from Baghdad.

If you look at any of the lyrics, no two lines seem to scan the same, and the rhymes are, shall we say, elusive. Next time, I'll ask for Joan Jett or Kylie Minogue.

C and me are friends. We rushed into being lovers, then he took offence at the way I portrayed him, and I misunderstood him, and he lashed out at me and I lashed back - unless it was the other way around, I forget. And instead of talking it over we sulked and sniped.

But now we have talked it over, and although we can't erase the past, we can put it into proper perspective. The bottom line is, he's a good man - complicated, passionate and occasionally infuriating to a straightforward, unimpulsive nerd like me. But a good man, and one who is good to have as a friend.

Different, but Somehow the Same

Okay, so I've now switched to the beta version of Blogger. And like Thelma and Louise, I can't go back. So, first impressions...

Well, some of it's nice (the option to add post labels, the new screen for viewing the post list, the option to make multiple link lists), some of it's exactly the same as it was (everything on the settings tab), and some of it's annoying (the even more complicated CSS, and the fact that I can't remember how I replaced my moniker with a graphic, so have to work it out again).

Previously, the colour ("color") definitions allowed the use of words to describe certain common colours - aqua, teal, navy, lime etc. This seems to be gone now, and all colours are specified by 6 digit hex code.

One strange thing: After the first horizontal rule, the line spacing changes. A bug in the CSS blog-template code? Or in the specification of CSS itself?

I'm impressed with the new archive in the sidebar, and it's nice to be able to turn the profile on and off. I can add feeds from elsewhere on the web - maybe have a news tickertape - and I can put AdSense advertising and JavaScript code too. None of which I expect to want, but the option is nice.

Instead of bundling several posts into one, like I've been doing for the past three years, I could make several posts a day identified by label categorisations, now that I can. Something to mull over.

From what I can see, the option to make certain posts private - visible only to me and chosen others - isn't available. It would be a useful option. But I'm really impressed with the speed of adding new posts - it used to take 30 seconds or occasionally several minutes, now it's done in an eyeblink.

Now, let's see if the new colour scheme is visible.

Kapa Soup

How to make Kapitano's Special Healthy Soup:

* Boil a saucepan of water. See what lentils are on your shelf. Dump two handfuls of the yellow lentils into the water, then two handfuls of the orange ones. On impulse add a handful of split peas.

* Boil gently for half an hour, taking care to let it boil over when you're not looking.

* On another impulse, finely chop two rashers of bacon, and add them to the lentils.

* Meanwhile, chop up the three quarters of an onion you found in a cup in the fridge, a leek, a spring onion because you feel like it, and a stick of celery. Together with the frozen chopped peppers that no one else in the house uses, slowly fry the onion in olive oil.

* Decide that it's too much hassle to wash the puree making device, so it's going to be stew instead.

* Dump the onions, peppers, celery, and leek into the lentils, and simmer on low heat for another half hour.

* Meanwhile, make yourself an unhealthy ham and cheese sandwich, and munch it with a cup of tea, while watching Patrick Moore on TV talk about the planet Venus.

* Turn off the hob, and eat a bowl of your stew, while watching Johnathan Ross review the latest movies.

* Have another bowl because it's quite nice.

* Go and lie down because you've eaten too much.

"Army Dreamers" isn't so difficult to turn into a generic synthpop song, provided you start with the printed lyrics and work them into a new key, tempo and intonation, rather than start by trying to immitate the original finished recording. Maybe that's how Devo came up with their version of "Satisfaction".

With four songs mostly completed (bar vocal work), it looks like I'm accidentally making an EP of electroclash Kate Bush covers. Which at least has the virtue of being unexpected.

Oh, and having got this far in three days, the event has been pushed back a month.

Some people spend a lot of time surfing blogs for interesting content. And some of these blog about it.

And if that doesn't excite you, how about a dating service for millionaires only. Is is me, or is the something faintly suspicious about a site for the rich, on a free host? It's like draping a squat with tinsel and inviting the Bilderbergs in.

Blogger tells me I can switch my little blog to beta. It promises more options and greater reliability - not to suggest the current service is unreliable, of course. I'll give it a go.

The Other Bush

I'm going to be Kate Bush.

Part of Roxanne C's graduation project is a big dinner party, with 50+ guests invited from the ranks of famous women she admires. Each guest is "played" by a friend, tutor or political associate, and some of the guests also provide the live music. Godygurn are being Sousie Soux for the night, Strict Machines are excited to be X-Ray Specs, and Kapitano will be covering Kate Bush.

One small catch: We have four weeks to get it all arranged. Well, two catches: I can't figure out some of Kate's chord changes (though they sound quite simple), and there's no way I can sing in her masterfully strange style. Alright, three catches: Strict Machines are having one of their periodic ructions about having lives and priorities outside the band.

Anyway, I've put together some basic backing tracks for "The Dreaming" and "Experiment IV" - much more techno and less subtle than the originals. I'd like to do "Hounds of Love", but "Army Dreamers" is the one others would like to hear. "The Sensual World" would be nice, with lush strings, but there's no way I'm doing "Wuthering Heights".

I reckon I know a fair bit about computers, but I have only the vaguest notion of how OCR works, or the difference between JPG and GIF encoding, or why HTTPS is more secure than HTTP.

Then there are the people I associate with, who know you can download printer drivers, but don't know it'll be a DLL. They know about MP3, but not Ogg and ACC. And they can do their own defragging and formatting.

But then there are these delightful people, who think Office 97 is an operating system, RAM is measured in nanoseconds, and you can upgrade to the latest version of the internet.

Some say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I'd say a little confusion is more dangerous than a lot of ignorance.

One of the online magazines I leaf through is Spiked. It's run by the remnants of the RCP - Revolutionary Communist Party, a spectacularly misnamed group of around 200 at their peak, who specialise in using rhetoric from the left to support conclusions from the right.

This edition, there's an article on last Saturday's Climate Change demo, telling us "it captured the kneejerk moralism driving the demonstration. This was no political march backed up by scientific facts, but an outburst of shrill middle-class disgust with the greedy masses and their bad habits."

Author Brendan O'Neill goes on to say, "this was the first demo I'’ve seen that effectively called on the authorities to punish us; not that they should leave us alone or give us more jobs, rights, welfare, whatever, but that they should actively intervene in our lives and stop us from driving too much, holidaying too much, eating too much and living it up too much."

He's got a point - there are strong threads of self-blame and authoritarianism in the environmental movement - but what alternative does Spiked have to offer? The same as the RCP - let entrepreneurs and corporations solve the problems of climate change.

The idea seems to be that if Shell implement green technology before Chem-Energy, Shell will still be around when the oil runs out, but Chem-Energy will not. There's the small detail that while Shell is cutting it's oil processing and increasing it's wind turbine planting and solar panel production, it's losing the race with Chem-Energy, but they don't mention that.

Or else they hope that small entrepreneurs will develop new green technology, and gradually outgrow the old oil-based companies. This requires that the oil companies do nothing to quash their possible future rivals. Perhaps Spiked thinks companies in cut-throat competition play fair?

Spiked view the world market as a self-correcting, self-sustaining system. I have to say, I view it as a trap. Even if the men who run Halliburton and Gulf Oil want to switch from oil, they can't.

A New House

A few more exhibition photos:

The first recording session in a studio almost never results in a recording. It's taken up with identifying and solving all the problems that need to be dealt with before recording can begin. Last night it was a lack of microphones, wobbly microphone stands, cables that won't reach, and the mixer introducing an amazing amount of hum to the signal.

All that, and guitarist Paul T getting stressed out about his job, love and money (about which we're all sympathetic) and going on about it nonstop for 30 minutes at a time (about which we feel like hitting him with large sticks until he stops). Odd how it's easier to have sympathy for someone else's unhappiness if they bear it stoically, and don't want sympathy.

Afterwards, I intended to go home, but was invited out for a drink by a comrade - well, how could I refuse? I do seem to spend quite a lot of time drunk these days - not because I drink a lot, but because get I drunk on a double-rum-and-coke.

After three double-rum-and-cokes, I was considering getting up on stage and doing a karaoke version of Blondie's "Heart of Glass". Forunately, I was picked up by a blond sailor instead.

This hasn't happened for almost exactly 14 years. The last time it resulted in a rather awkward six month relationship; this time it was a nicely uncomplicated roll around on a double bed. With him and his friend.

While all this was happening, America was having mid-term elections. The Republicans (dominated by neocons) control the presidencey, and the Democrats (dominated by Clintonites) control the House of Representatives, and possibly the Sennate. Each can now veto the proposals of the other, so America might just spend the next two years in deadlock.

On the other hand, it's mainly the right-wing candidates of the Democrats who got elected - i.e those who are slightly less pro-war, slightly more pro-choice, slightly less pro-corporate than the neocons. So we may see some deals being struck between reds and blues.

The neocon project in the middle east is "over, bar the shooting", and the economy is in a total mess, so both sides have to co-operate in doing something about these. Withdrawing the troops and stabilising the economy are imperative, though slow, processes. Other "hot" issues like gay marriage, taxation, gun control and whether Hilary Clinton is the antichrist are, I think, still undecided.

A house warming party. With, erm, quite a lot of red wine.

Tom A and Craig C are now sharing a flat - two handsome young batchelors in their pad. Roxanne invited me "to help lower the tone" of the evening. We watched Team America on DVD - an uninhibitedly sophomoric parody of everything that's vacuous in American pop politics, of the left and right.

Pandora.Com is a music streaming service, based on the startling idea that you like new music if it resembles old music you already like. It doesn't work so well if you have a broad taste, or like music which surprises you, but it's an interesting experiment nontheless.

A Wall of Books

I've got three cameras. One reboots at random intervals and sometimes won't photograph at all, one take pictures perfectly but refuses to upload them to computer, and one needs a new set of batteries literally every ten minutes of use.

I used the third to photograph the exhibition of John M's work, and this is the first installment of the result. Please bear in mind, I'm a lousy photographer.

This evening, Strict Machines begin recording their "bootleg" album. It's rather simple - they play their practice sessions in a basement, and I record each song as it's played. If the band agree that they played a song especially well, I keep the recording. After a month or so, we review the kept recordings, and put the ones we like best on a CD. Copies of the CD are given out at gigs as promotions.

A few more text messages from C. I thought we'd agreed to break off communication, but he still has something to say. Or rather, wants me to say something - I'm just not sure what. That I'm not blameless for our breakup - well, I'm not. That I'm smugly arrogant - I'm sure I can be. But I think he really wants me to admit that being unemotional is some kind of moral failure, and/or some kind of mental problem.

I was once sketched at age 11 by a class of art students, but I've never been painted before. Robbie W is an artist with an elderly computer which refuses to co-operate with the internet, scanner, printer, or the last person who tried to fix it.

Probably on Thursday I'll do whatever I can for his system, and in return...all the tea I can drink and a quick portrait of my noble features.

I have some of the symptoms of diabetes, plus a family history of it on both sides. So this morning a nurse took a blood sample, and I'll get the results in about ten days, after which, possibly more tests.

Picture the scene. You meet someone who tells you he's in contact with the leaders of Al-Qaida in Pakistan. He says he's drawn up a series of elaborate plans for acts of terrorism in Britain and the US, and is applying to these leaders to supply funding, equipment, and personnel. Would you be inclined to believe him?

He tells you he intends to simultaneously detonate bombs at Waterloo, Paddington and Kings Cross train stations, and the Savoy hotel.

And the IMF and the World Bank in Washington. And the headquarters of Citigroup, and the Prudential building in New Jersey. And the New York Stock Exchange.

And simultaneous with all these, he's going to flood the London Underground by putting a bomb under the Thames. There's going to be exploding gas tanks in limousines - not ordinary cheap cars; he specifies limousines, acquired from somewhere. Oh and some of the bombs are going to be nuclear too.

He says he's not actually a member of Al-Qaida, and goes rather vague when you ask him exactly how he communicates with them, how he got involved, or why a gang of international supervillains should listen to him. He admits that he's got none of the equipment needed, and wouldn't actually know how to use it, but he's adamant that somehow it's on it's way.

You'd dismiss him as a slightly pathetic fantasist.

On the other hand, if you're the police and you find this stuff on a laptop, you believe every word of it, and prosecute. And if you're the judge, you say you're going to be lenient, not because of the complete lack of evidence, but because the defendant pleaded guilty. And you sentence Dhiren Barot to a minimum of 40 years in jail.

Apart from a schoolboy filming himself having sex with a teacher, a footballer beating up his wife, and Imelda Marcos launching a range of jewelry, that's what's in the news today.

Meghalt a Szeretet

Something else happened yesterday - a series of slightly bizarre text messages between myself and C. I've left the messages as they were, without correction. This was the first, which I sent to him:
I'm on a climate change demo. Placards: End cheap flights madness, Funny weather we're having, Jail the climate criminals, Less hot air - more wind, Solar not nuclear, Save the polar bears. 30,000ish.

He wrote back:
If you only put so much effort into other areas me your life, cmd who's funding this little day out? the taxpayer? fantastic. stop cheap flights and destroy the only avenue of happiness left to me. how about getting one of those cheap flights to china or usa and protesting where it actually matters?

Okay, so he doesn't realise we hired the coach (and made a loss on it), but I thought he was ribbing me, so I wrote back in similar fashion, making sure he understood it was a joke:
The proverbial taxpayer pays for your medical treatment, you parasitic, pull guzzling doctor whore ;-). So there. Ha! (you're absolutely right on flights tho) Hmm...a protest holiday in China.

Not the world's best thought out response, but that's what I sent. His reply:
Actually - the taxpayer subsidises my medication - I still have to pay. unlike some. and - being a taxpayer, i've already paid. as i'm contributing to your jolly. and how are you travelling today? solar coach?

This was around 1330, and some questions are so silly you can't think of an answer. Besides, I still couldn't be sure he wasn't joking. About 2130, when I was back from the demo, he sent another message:
I hope your day out proved fruitful. now, if only you protest to get the other 98%. sorted, we may be on to something. just how much power is wasted by computer use? amps for guitars? just how much of an effort are you and your palls really making? raditaion from mobiles, signing on books. do you just go on these rallies for the sake of it? and as for the medication - when you get gastro e - being dole scum your pills were free, paid for by my taxes, so don't come the old soldier.

There's a lot of issues there, some quite complex in terms of science and politics, and he shows confusion about them. Not the kind of thing that can be dealt properly with by SMS. I wrote back:
1) public power use is very small compared to industry. Personal austerity is not the issue. 2) I recieved no medication beyond asprin. 3) Are you feeling alright?

His response:
You're an idiot if you believe that, no matter what, industry will barely be affected and we'll have to suffer financialy - flights the best case in point. when you do need prescription drugs, they will be free while i pay for them. and no. i'm not ok. but there's fuck all you can do for it.

I didn't reply, until he sent:
did you get that reply? having phone issues

I was sitting in a pub, relaxing with comrades, trying to discuss George Monbiot's speech at the demo. I thought C was probably drunk, and I wasn't in the mood for a textual fistfight. I responded:
I got it. I don't want to fight with you.

He sent back:
Wasn't aware we were. merely havin a debate. you always have to run away from confrontation. np maybe some of what i say is true and you don't like it. it's just get pissed Off with people who think having a nice day out under the guise me protest makes up for doing fuck all the other 360 Odd days of the yr.

I didn't respond. He sent:
Have I said something i shouldn't? or are you just incredibly busy doing something self promoting?

This annoyed me a little, and I composed this reply, but didn't send it, deciding it was better to be calm and reasonable, rather than join him in sillyness:
I am not interested in confrontation for it's own sake. You're not debating, you're provoking and being spiteful. I am not your personal punchbag. If yot want rational debate, or support, I'll offer both face to face. If you want to insult me to make yourself feel better, I've had years of that from others.

Instead I sent:
I am busy and exhausted. We can't settle all this now by text. Are you free to meet tomorrow?

His reply:
Absolutely not. i'm so sorry to hear your special, busy day has tired you. my 74Yr old mum has just got in from work. she started working at 9a.m. it's now nearly mid night. christ, if only she'd had your important day's work. what could you possibly have to say tomorrow that i'd really want to hear?

I didn't bother replying. Back home, I received:
I hope You're not sat there feeling all soppy for your poor, tired little self. you should be ashamed and getting a bit bloody perspective. you are so self absorbed, petty and arrogant. and no - we aren't going to be friends. goodbye.

By now I was not feeling chritable:
Call me if and when you're feeling both civil and sober. Goodnight.

He rejoined:
I'm perfectly sober - i can't drink on my self bought medication. and as for civil - i'm merely telling it like it is. portray as a weak loser who'll never get anywhere if you will. then maybe see it's you you're talking about and insist on projecting it on me - i'll not be calling You. the very fact that you immidiately assume i'm drunk is just one more insult, but then, i'd fail as a project were i not.

Evidently he then read my blog, because the next message was:
I'm drunk - seems krapitano's too drunk to blog. And your sad little cyber pals lap it up. they probably even think that. picture your pic. god, i'm so angry with you.

I wondered whether he was trying to goad me into a rage. Some people consider anger more honest than discussion, and there are people who try it as a way to win arguments. The usual way to deal with them is to be polite, firm, and not let them sidetrack you. I wrote:
That was yesterday's post. Right now I'm sober, exhausted, about to sleep, untouched by your abuse, and mystified as to why you're angry at me. Now this phone goes off for the night and so do I.

I went to sleep almost instantly, but he had sent this:
Before you go - untouched? you really are like a lump me flint. not so long ago you were in love with me. as i suspected all along - just more grist to your me, me, me mill. i'd pity you if you were worth it. you automation.

Today, I wrote a long text message to him, and kept it for two hours, trying to decide whether to send it. Eventually I did:
2 possibilities. Either you tell me what in hell is going on, explain why you were such an arsehole yesterday, & we talk properly. Or we never communicate again. I will not put up with abuse, & I'm sick of vacillation.I will be either a good friend or a perfect stranger, not your personal spitoon, not your enemy. Consider calmly before deciding - I won't be messed about anymore. By the way, I did love you, but I couldn't aford to, so made myself stop.

I needn't have bothered. The sarcastic reply came:
Now - i've taken some deep breaths and considered calmly, because it really is a big decision considering what's at stake and how much I stand to lose. my heart wrenching and quite probably regrettable decision is, oh! actually I've forgotten the question. couldn't have been that important. by the way - two 'f's in afford.

A little needlessly, I texted back:
I'll take that as goodbye.

I did think he might want the last word. He generally does, but not this time.

So, the man I loved briefly has decided he hates me forever, because I'm self obsessed, stupid and unfeeling. Of course, given that I've just transcribed all our messages and published them, maybe I can be a little insensitive.

This affair has been like the flood of Gilgamesh - a sudden downpour that swept us both away, a feeling that everything had changed, then the gods magic away all the water. And then there we are, me the cold rational one who strives for the impossible, he the doomed wild man Enkidu, left standing in a forest, exactly where we were before the deluge.

On impulse, I also texted H - he's a former environmentalist campaigner with just too much on his plate to be part of the movement. He's house hunting and holding down a rather good job. It would be nice to see him again at some point - I've missed the way we disagreed on so many things without it ever getting personal.

This post's title, "Meghalt a Szeretet" is the first sort-of chorus from Gloomy Sunday, and it translates "Love has Died". The second sort-of chours fits the theme of global climate change: "Vége a Világnak" - "The World has Ended".

The Political Climate

There's a perfectly good reason I was too drunk to blog on Friday - I'd spent the evening at the opening night of an art exhibition, and the night with a dozen socialists.

John M is a writer and activist with two seemingly unconnected passions. One is art, especially painting. The other is marxist politics - both analysis and campaigning out in the world. Of course, the two only seem unconnected if you view art as nothing more than apolitical decoration, and he has a particular skill in showing why this is impossible.

He taught me at university for a decade on various courses, I do a bit of work with him in campaigns, and I periodically delouse his computer. A few months ago, some collegues decided to try to take his purely textual work, and turn it into some art. Books and periodicals, their cover designs, quotes, videos and sound recording, and 3D installation.

I've seen plenty of paintings with words on the canvas, but re-presenting text as image (so to speak) is something new to me. I didn't take any photos at the time, but I'll see if I can take and post some over the next few days.

So, the opening night of an exhibition, in the space of the university's school of art specially designed for such purposes. Wines and beers freely flowing, the rooms filled with arty academics, politicos, and the kind of student that goes to galleries, ie not art students.

Okay, there were a few, including Davina C, who was a fellow student on my MA course. She's now studying law, and has a boyfriend, Matt, who's a singer-songwriter frustrated by lack of recording and production knowledge. We swapped mobile numbers, and when there's time I'll see if he's still interested in a small collaborative side project.

I had somewhere between 6 and 8 glasses of red wine (probably), before bundling off to the pub with some of the politicos, and then to the balti house with them. And that's why I was not only too drunk, but too burstingly full of tandoori mixed grill, to blog on Friday.

Saturday was the climate change demo, and we had an escort. Two police officers, "Phil and Andy", trying to be friendly in that painfully unconvincing way they have, telling us they'd "got some intelligence" (hmmm) and had been assigned to watch over us, "just in case there's any trouble with splinter groups".

They reassured us that chaperoning a bus of protesters was perfectly normal - odd that in my 6 years of doing this and the 30 years of some on the bus, it had never happened before. Environmentalism is a much broader church than anti-war campaigning, or anti-racism, and it's a lot mellower.

There's a lot of groups who want to save the whale, save the polar bears, reduce intranational air travel, decommission nuclear weapons or promote energy efficiency - none of which I would take issue with, but a lot of the environmental movement is a ragbag of these Good Ideas, with no clear overarching theory or project. There's also the notion that if only politicians can be persuaded with reasonable arguments, they'll do the right thing. We have a word on the far left to describe this kind of politics - fluffy.

It just seems strange that this, the fluffiest demo I've been on, should be the only one where the police openly photographed us getting on the bus and followed it in their marked SUV. Though they didn't bother following us after the first 10 miles.

Reliable estimates of turnout varied a surprising amount - from 20 to 40 thousand. I haven't seen the police estimate or the organiser's estimate, but I imagine they're be around 5 thousand and 75 thousand respectively. I'd put it around 35 thousand.

One thing - there were plenty of environmental slogans on banners, many witty and some suitable for chanting, but there was no chanting. None at all from anyone, except a few small efforts from us lefties who usually chant on demos. It wasn't a silent march - there was a drum band, a marching brass band playing blues, a ladies choir, and a souped-up two metre long three-person bicycle, carrying it's own amplifier and singer.

The rally at the start featured a variety of speakers - even a tory - including George Monbiot. He changes his ideas as often as his socks, but has really toned down his line that the way to save the planet is for everyone to live in poverty.

There was another rally at the end, featuring the organisers' only big mistake - it was compared by some third rate commedian who tried to work his routine in between the speakers. It also didn't help that he pushed the old dumb line that what the world needs is fewer people, and the best thing progressive people can do is not have children.

Owners of pubs and cafes in London love demos, because after the march there's thousands of people wanting to be fed and watered. That afternoon the Chandos pub was filled to overflowing with punky students, grungy hippies, green politicos and all kinds of others. Plus one man dressed as Thanatos the Grim Reaper, and another dressed as a stoat. Outside there was one dressed as a rhinoceros, which was interesting.

The coach journey back is in the dark, and always seems longer, full of fitful snoozing and tired people plugged into their mp3 players. Of the 27, only 4 of us had the strength afterwards for...another pub, with beer and food.

Possibly the Campaign Against Climate Change and others have started a worldwide mass movement. It's a few decades late, but there is some small hope for this planet, and its infuriating dominant species.

Stuff and Nonsense

George Carlin once remarked, "A house is just a place to keep your stuff." He also said, "It's the place you put your stuff while you're out, getting more stuff."

I woke up at four this morning, and decided to sort out my stuff, starting with the discs. Here they are, half sorted, on my laptop desk.

You'll notice there's no room for the laptop, which is on another desk.

Which is next to the third desk,

which no longer has room for the computer, because there's too much stuff on it. The computer now sits on a small, forth desk. With some stuff on top.

Incidentally, have you ever worked with a laptop on your actual lap, when there wasn't a desk available? Anyway, here are some of my shelves, which have lots of stuff on them.

And some more.

Oh, and this is the stuff on my bed,

put there while moving stuff off my floor.

Now, this piece of stuff

is the new, low cost, high-ish resolution camera that I first used to photograph the other stuff. But it absolutely refused to upload the pictures, So I used the old, expensive, low resolution affair instead. And the moral of this story is, don't throw away your old stuff, because half the new stuff doesn't work.

This is just one room, and I haven't shown you what's under the bed, in the sink or in the drawers. There's 11 other rooms in this house, so can you guess what's in them? I'll give you a clue: three of them are almost entirely given over to stacks of cardboard boxes.

No Sun, November!

I'm attempting to score Gloomy Sunday for string quartet...and triphop drum machine. And there's the first stumbling block, because the song is written in 4/4 triplets, and there's aren't many triphop beats that work in triplets.

So the choices are to (a) drop the drums, (b) find a drum sequence that fits or (c) use a conventional triphop beat and change the music and vocals to fit. My instinctual inclination is towards (c), because I think there's no point in covering someone else's song if your cover sounds like theirs. If you're going to cover it, do something with it the original artist wouldn't have thought of. But I'm experimenting with all three approaches.

The version by The Associates uses a straightforward rock beat, with chaotic synth lines, and modifies the vocal to fit. Billie Holiday's version is rhymically all over the place - to the extent that the time signature is ambiguous - while Sarah McLachlan's cover is rhymically very strict and avoids triplet phrasing in a way that's almost perverse, but it sounds more fluid simply because there's no drums or distinct bassline - and there's a version by Johnny Hauser that's the exact opposite. I've been unable to find Sinead O'Conner's much-praised cover.

Anyway, at least I'm pretty clear on how to pronounce the Hungarian lyrics, and I should be getting some more help on that tomorrow evening.

Oh yes, the other stumbling block is that it's written in C minor, in the Hungarian mode, which has the usual the usual flattened third and sixth, but a sharpened fourth (a tritone) and an unflattened seventh. Somehow it's typical that Hungary, a country with it's own mad language almost completely unrelated to any other, should have it's very own musical mode. They also sell drinks by the deciletre, and peel their bananas from the wrong end

I managed to miss tonight's meeting, but the simple and honest method of being soundly asleep at the time. This is one of the few meetings I was looking forward to, as the speaker was Johnathan Neal, who I've admired for years.

Minge wants to know my top ten party playlist. Well, if I was putting together a mixtape, it might look something like this...in no particular order:

Philip Glass - Knee Play 1 (from Einstein on the Beach)
New Order - Subculture
William Orbit - Barber's Adagio for Strings
Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers
Matt Bianco - Wap Bam Boogie
Kronos Quartet - Autobahn (Kraftwerk cover)
Queen - Football Fight (from the Flash Gordon soundtrack)
Trans X - Living on Video
Hooters - Satellite
Paul Hardcastle - Just for Money

Part songs that made me sit up and take notice the first time I heard them, part tracks I really shouldn't like if I had any taste, and part tracks included because no one else would think of them.

Runners up:
Laurie Anderson - Language is a Virus
Itchy Fingers - This Morning
Hoodlum Priest - Caucasian
Nu Shooz - I Can't Wait
2 Unlimited - Workaholic

Ah, it seems part two of the challenge is to answer some questions about yourself in song titles:

Are you a man or a woman?

Johnny Cash - A Boy Named Sue
(but not: Chaka Khan - I'm Every Woman)

Describe yourself

Alexander O'Neal - Fake
(but not: U2: Even Better than the Real Thing)

What do people think when they are around you?

The Who - Who are you?
(but not: Madonna - Who's That Girl?)

How are you feeling?

New Order - Confusion
(but not: Glenn Campbell - Like a Rhinestone Cowboy)

How can you describe your last sentimental relationship?

REM - It's the End of the World as We Know It
(or: The Carpenters - I'll Never Fall in Love Again)

Describe your new relationship with your partner or suitor(s)

Lou Ried - I'm Waiting for My Man
(but not: Sinnita - So Macho)

Where would you like to be right now?

Snow Patrol - In Bed
(or: Freddie Mercury and Monseurat Caballe - Barcelona)

How are you with regards to love?

Vangelis - To the Unknown Man
(or: Samantha Fox - You Keep Me Hanging On)

How is your life?

Art of Noise - A Time for Fear
(or: Beegees - Stayin' Alive)

What would you choose if you had only one wish?

Bill Bailey - Kill the Trolls
(but not: The Avengers - Kinky Boots)

Write a quote or a famous sentence

The Buggles - I am a Camera
(but not: Little Richard - Good Golly Miss Molly)

Now letÂ's rap it up...

Public Enemy - How Low Can You Go?
(but not: Culture Beat - Mr Vain)