"When the United States was actually ‘the greatest’ on this planet, no one needed to say it over and over again."
- Tom EngelHardt

"When you once believed something that now strikes you as absurd, even unhinged, it can be almost impossible to summon that feeling of credulity again."
- Margarat Talbot

Simple Pleasures

I'm not what you would call any of these things:

  • Healthy - A big bag of deep friend chips, with a jumbo bar of chocolate to follow. That's my idea of eating out.

  • Athletic - Run for a bus? How?

  • Thin - I'm something like 230 pounds, with a discernible cleavage. I've met exactly one man who found male cleavages attractive - and he had an impressive one himself.

  • Sensual - Other people like to look at mountains and flowers. I'm more interested in geology and botany.

  • A drug user - In my life I've tried ecstasy once - a gift from someone who'd decided to give it up and had one tab left. I spent three hours wondering at how red the roses were, and how musical ringtones had suddenly become.

    I've been given speed twice - and both times tried to have sex while on it. The first was brilliant and amazing, the second a dismal failure.

    This apparently is normal with amphetamines. Though Ted Haggard managed.

  • A dancer - I actually quite enjoy dancing, I'm just absolutely hopeless at it. Imagine a walrus having a seizure, and you're probably close.

  • Especially cheerful - I quite enjoy TV and radio comedy. I just very rarely laugh our loud about anything.

So, with my general level of health making me depressed, I decide to try to dance and be athletic so as to get thinner and healthier. The problem being I've got all the stamina and willpower of a sloth on a Jersey Shore marathon.

The obvious solution? Drugs! The kind which let you use up all of tomorrow's energy in a frantic two hour burn today - provided you have no plans for tomorrow.

But no one's dealing drugs anymore, on account of idiotic laws pandering to the passionately ignorant voters. So...legal drugs!

I tried drinking six cups of insanely strong coffee...and fell asleep. I tried a bottle of guarana pills...and fell asleep.

So I got some Floradrene, in the form of 'Hummer' pills, available at GBP10 (EUR11.5, USD15.5) for 4, at all good shops with yin/yang symbols in the window and middle-aged women with hair in multicoloured braids at the counter. You know the type.

The first two items in the ingredients list are caffeine and guarana, so I'm not expecting to be impressed. I swallow a hummer and go out for a brisk stroll. Forty minutes later I'm exhausted from my stroll, and sitting on a bench like a big fat lump, getting my big fat breath back.

Then quite suddenly after twenty minutes I'm...jogging! And jumping! And (back home behind a firmly closed door) dancing! It's still like the spasming walrus, but I can do it for ten minutes at a time!

An hour of this, and I'm covered in sweat, breathing hard, and coming down. There's no trippy sensations, no enhanced senses, no feeling of oneness with the universe, no craving for twice your own body weight in biscuits, and no compulsion to talk vast streams of utter horseshit at anyone and everyone.

At least I don't think there is, because I'm leaning against a wall with my shirt off, cooling down and...

...the last time I was pressed against a wall for any length of time was fifteen or so years ago, and I was drunk and being buggered by a man who looked suspiciously like a certain TV celebrity. He was loving it and I was patiently waiting for him to finish, so I could get off the cold, damp, comfortless concrete.

I think he was drunk too, as he was informing the empty air that "This guy's got a great arse! Really tight!". Which was nice to hear.

This time I must have spent 15-20 minutes resting alone against the wall. Enjoying its coolness, breathing in the faint musky smell which I'd never notice before. On impulse I...licked the wall, kissed it, and continued to taste it for several minutes.

The way the light played on the irregularities of the surface, the gradations of colour, the sound of an aircraft overhead, mixing with someone's stereo far away blasting dance music. The feel of my own skin and the sound of my own breath.

Need I emphasise: This is not like me. I don't do touchy-feely, least of all with inanimate objects. I don't even like to kiss people.

It was, well, sexy. But not genital - more like a whole body sensation. When people talk about enjoying what their senses give them - taking in a sunset, sipping a wine - is that what they mean?

None of the reviews I'd read of 'Hummers' mentioned this. But the endorphin rush which some athletes report - but most dispute - sounds a lot like it.

It's now exactly midnight, three hours since I took the pill. I'm wide awake, thirsty, and I've a feeling my muscles are all going to ache tomorrow.

So there you have it. In order to not die of a heart attack in middle age, I have become a drug taking pervert with a fondness for walls.

Life is full of surprises.

"There can't be a practical reason for believing what isn't true."
- Bertrand Russell

"A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell."
- George Bernard Shaw

"I am the shepherd, and the wolf."
- Covenant

"Sade, tell me. What is it that you seek? The rightness of wrong? The virtue of vice?"
- Enigma

"Religion is easy."
- Muhammed

"Dignity isn’t something that can be bestowed on another, it can only be taken away."
- PZ Myers

"After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."
- Mr Spock

"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird."
- Richard Feynmann

Banking Off

Here are the three ways I can find out how much money I have in my bank account:

1) Open my latest bank statement, and check the figure at the bottom. This is accurate to the last fortnight.

2) Walk to the ATM, insert my debit card, type my PIN, and read the numbers. This is accurate to the last four days.

3) Switch on a computer, load up a browser, go to my bank's website, type in my 10 digit identification code, then three digits from my security number, then the answer to my security question.

Now, I had a choice of 6 security questions, including such universally applicable queries as "What is your first child's name?" and "What is your favourite restaurant?". Considering that I'm inexplicably childless and not pretentious or rich enough to eat out more than once a year, I'm left wondering what kind of question setter thinks everyone has a favourite restaurant.

Presumably it's the one you go to with your life partner when you've hired a nanny to look after your first child, in your gated community.

Anyway, having entered all this, I get out the credit-card sized 'digipass' device which the bank have sent me, tell it my PIN (but not the one I use at the ATM), and type the 6 figure code (different each time) it generates into the webpage.

Ah, but what if I've forgotten which was my favourite restaurant at the time I set up the security question? Fear not, because then I click the 'Forgotten your memorable answer?' link, do the rigmarole with the digipass widgit, and answer another two security questions.

These are things like 'Who was your best friend at school?' and 'What is the name of your pet?'. Considering most people had several best friends throughout their schooldays, and most pet-owners have owned more than one pet, this is just as well thought out as the rest of the process.

There is then a third security question, but this one's called the 'Memorable Q&A'. And then there's a mysterious 'confirmation' process which I haven't yet explored. But then I can see my bank details.

Ah, but what if I've somehow forgotten the 10 digit code the bank assigned to me? Then I click the 'Forgotten Internet Banking ID?' link, and type my 6 digit sort code and my 8 digit account number, or my 16 digit debit card number...and then do the business with the digipass doobry and the security questions.

So, for internet banking all I need to have is:
* 1 ID code of 10 digits
* 1 security number of 6 digits
* Answers to 4 security questions that don't apply to me
* 1 PIN of 4 digits, in addition to the one I use at the ATM
* 1 sort code of 6 digits
* 1 account code of 8 digits
* 1 debit card code of 16 digits
* 1 breakable little handheld device

With all that, I can read the digital version of my latest bank statement.

Which is accurate to the last fortnight.

"Secrets are only as secure as the least trusted person who knows them."
- Bruce Schneier

"Reality is a dangerous concept."
- Paul Darrow

"Once again, everything you know is wrong. But you knew that."
- Greg Laden

"Everybody wants you as a figurehead for their party"
- Brett Anderson

"Only the small secrets need to be protected. The big ones are kept secret by public incredulity".
- Marshall McCluhan

Expect the Unexpected

This evening I went out for a brisk half-hour walk, as part of my vague effort to stop being so fat.

After ten minutes I passed a church with some people outside...who invited me in for a cup of tea. Ah, I thought, a christian outreach project - a badly thought out way of luring passers by into the dismal world of sycophantic hymns and simpering middle-class prejudice.

But they were offering me a cup of tea, and if anyone tried to talk to me about the jesus-shaped hole that's supposedly in my life, I could do my faux naif routine and reduce them to a quivering mass of confusion with a few 'innocent' theological questions.

Two hours later I was exchanging theories of the Hegelian influence on Maoists with a sociologist and part-time lay-preacher.

And they fed me two bacon sandwiches and a slice of cake, which will require several brisk evening walks to exercise off.

The take-home message is clear: Human kindness is bad for your health.

"I consider the universe to be a clever fake."
- Philip K Dick

"Don’t be a drag, just be a queen"
- Lady Gaga

"Nothing is more likely to make you sick than being constantly told that you are sick."
- Ronald Gold

"I like my whisky like I like my boyfriends. Sixteen years old and mixed up with coke."
- Alex Kelly

"The art of noise must never rest. Just in case they rust."
- Paul Morley

"Dying isn’t so bad. It’s getting sick and dying that’s the hard part."
- Roger Ebert

"Today the main mode of politics is fear. Politically groups today are bands of people who are afraid - people who are mobilised by fear."
- Slavoj Zizek

"I want your everything as long as it’s free."
- Lady Gaga

In the Midcourse of Our Life

I've been thinking too much about being nearly 40. So much that when I actually turn 40 in three months, it'll be an anti-climax.

But it is the traditional half-way-probably-ish point in life, when you take stock of what you've done, ask what you should have done, and try to work out what to do with the remaining half.

So here's Kapitano's incomplete list of things at 40.

Things I want to start doing

* Have a regular income. Not a career, not a place on the corporate ladder, just a job that involves doing something useful and pays enough for a small apartment, and maybe an occasional drug habit.

Things I want to stop doing

* Hang around with a bunch of middle-class radicals.

There's actually quite a lot of lifelong socialists around - it's just that most of them burned out after five or ten years giving all their free time, money and strength organising campaigns on orders from head office. Which rewards them with exhortations to 'Keep up the good work', ie. demands to give even more.

Not all burn out - some leave after asking inconvenient questions about policy flipflops, and getting called a lot of rude names instead of an answer. I've been called most of them: Positivist, Idealist, Empiricist, Menshevik, Accomodationist, Ultraleftist and 'Objectively Right-Wing'.

Theologins exist to invent justifications for current church practices by scouring the holy books, and socialist party hacks do essentially the same job. Unfortunately for both, there's always a few parishoners who decide to read the books for themselves, and after a decade of listening to hacks, that's been me.

* Wank off into webcams. The other thing I've spent a decade doing is trying to get off to the sight of strangers trying to get off to the sight of me getting off. While both of us have porn running in another window - which is what we're actually watching.

Of all the reasons to have any kind of sex, a vague need for approval is among the worst. And the most common. It also tends to ruin the sex.

Things I want to keep doing

* Make music - but lots more of it. And better.

Things I want to resume doing

* Proper blogging!

* Programming. My first few jobs (and qualifications) involved programming computers. I dropped out in 1994 on realising I didn't want to spend my life making updates no one needs to programs no one uses for companies no one likes.

But sometimes it is useful being able to write a little program to do something highly specific but very tedious to do manually, even if you only have to run it every few months.

So out of the hundreds of languages introduced since '94, I'm thinking of the one named after an old british comedy sketch show. One that was never as funny as it used to be.

Things I still don't want to do

* Have a family, mortgage, and a bunch of simpering pseudo-friends who make racist remarks at each other's dinner parties in between talking bullshit about the wine.

"If mistakes were made,memory helps us remember that they were made by someone else."
- Carol Tavris

"I can't pretend to the clairvoyance of children."
- John Berger

"I don’t think that any number of viewings of someone being punched in the face on television will desensitise you to the actual act of a real person in front of you being punched in the face."
- David Cronenberg

"Don’t take it personally when they say 'no' — they may not be smart enough to say 'yes'."
- Keith Olbermann

"Complications make eventually for simplicity."
- Gertrude Stein

"Amnesia and ignorance are the privileges of the powerful."
- Gary Younge

"Middle-class radicalism conceives of freedom as transgression."
- Cyril Smith

"Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work"
- Gustave Flaubert

"Any girl can be glamorous. All she has to do is stand still and look stupid."
- Hedy Lamar

"All advice is autobiographical."
- Austin Kleon

"Any writer who knows how to write knows how to mimic."
- Gore Vidal

"If you want people to do wicked things, you need religion"
- Christopher Hitchens

"Christ died for our synths."
- Charles Haddon

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."
- Stephen Hawking

"If you have to ask what it symbolises, it doesn’t."
- Roger Ebert