Promises, Promises

Some studies have shown that making a promise reduces the willpower to keep it. Much like talking about your idea for a story makes it more difficult to start writing. That said, here's my New Year's Resolutions List of Things I Want to Do Or Do Better Starting At The Arbitrary Point Of The First Day Of Next Year (Namely Tomorrow As I'm Writing This).

  • Learn Python. In an earlier life, I knew a few programming languages - Pascal, Ada, BASIC, Cobol, and bits and pieces of C++, Z80 and 68000 code. Then around 1995 I realised I was more interested in philsophy and linguistics than SQL (Structured Query Language), JSP (Jackson Structured Programming), ISO (International Standards Organisation) and other TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms).

    More than that, working with computers to solve problems was interesting, but working with computers to make a rich idiot richer was not. So I dropped out of Computer Science (which is not a science and isn't really about computers) and got some degrees in Cultural Theory (which isn't a theory and doesn't say much about culture). And I forgot how to program.

    Now though, knowing a programming language would be rather useful. Something stripped-down but powerful. Something easy to program and debug. And if possible, something named after a British Television comedy troupe.

  • Do an Album. The one I've spent the last year assembling a studio for, but have always found a way to avoid starting - usually by assembling a bit more studio.

    They say preparation is everything...but not when everything is preparation.

  • Do Some Writing. The stuff I've spent the last year having ideas for, but never quite got around to starting etc. etc.

  • Do Some Reading. That stuff...yeah.

  • Eat A Bit Better. I've recently discovered that it's exactly as easy to eat absurdly large amounts of healthy vegetables as it is to eat absurdly large amounts of fried chicken or chocolate biscuits. This is probably a step in the right direction.

  • Other Things. Explore another country, find a job I don't hate, find a way to tolerate how much more of an arsehole my father is becoming in his old age, get on with at least one of those youtube projects I've been putting off, stop pretending to not like Lady Gaga...and possibly develop enough of a life to have something to blog about.

"Things are often exactly what they seem"

- Norman Giddan

"A fundamentalist is no fun, too much damn, and not enough mental."

- Bart Ehrman

“Unable to do away with love, the Church found a way to decontaminate it by creating marriage."

- Charles Baudelaire

"I must go now and milk the swan."

- Jim Blashfield

"Imagination, like certain wild animals, cannot breed in captivity."

- George Orwell

Two Party State

One christmas weekend, two christmas parties, so what kind of christmas state am I in? The "Recovering from Christmas" state.

And it isn't actually christmas yet.

If there's one thing British people are obsessed with - apart from the changable British weather and the nebulous British identity, it's the British class system. When we're not denying it's existence, we're cataloging it's manifestations and stratifications.

And so, a working class christmas party followed by a middle class christmas party - providing much material for comparison.

The Blue Party
Blue is centuries-old slang for "slightly drunk". Some sources claim that "Blue Monday" originally didn't refer to feeling miserable on the first day of the working week, but to the day before Shrove Tuesday before Lent - where we got rid of out sinful alcohol by drinking it.

And much alcohol - beer, cider, and if we were feeling sophisticated, vodka - was disposed of at the workers' party. Whenever anyone passed out, the boys all got out their, erm, "boys", wiped them on the faces of their sleeping friends - photographing each other doing so and putting the result on facebook.

Which I didn't enjoy watching at all. Oh no not one little bit. I should have been straight - that way all the young men would have shown me their junk at every opportunity, daring me to suck it "for a laugh".

The only man who didn't do this was biologically female, though he identified as a man, was undergoing female-to-male reassignment therapy...and was in a long term monogamous relationship with a gay man. Who was therefore more-or-less uncle to his as-yet biologically female boyfriend's son.

Oh yes, did I mention that I'd never met any of these people before? My new FTM friend was a friend of a friend,  who invited me along after meeting in a pub because, well, I managed to not make idiotically judgemental pronouncements about being MTF.

And so, somewhere on facebook, there is a photo of my hand, gently cupping the manscaped scrotum of a surprised straight bloke, over a comatose, slightly drooling face. Which later kissed me. As a joke. Twice.

The Red Party
That's red as in socialist. My old socialist friends, dressed in their best clothes, doing their best to imitate the manners of the ruling class from a century before.

The alcohol here was mulled wine - red wine boiled with spices and fruit juices, served hot. The kind of alcoholic beverage you're expected to sip gently and enjoy - getting gradually slightly drunk is rather expected of one, though actually being drunk is a social gaffe.

In the blue party you drink to get drunk as quickly as possible, and then you drink more slowly to stay drunk for as long as possible. In the red party you drink to lose just a little of that British social awkwardness that we all claim to have and claim we need to lose because it's just so silly.

In the blue party everyone has a job - or two - but I have absolutely no idea what anyone did professionally. In the red party, the way to start a conversation is to ask what someone does for a living.

I'm not sure whether comparing jobs is a safe topic of conversation, or a substitute for conversation. But though I was dressed like a labourer, my profession as teacher was an entry visa to the polite chit-chat.

Mentioning things like, say, male-to-female gender reassignment therapy would have been met with embarassed babbling, covering horror. No, they're not horrified by the concept, just by the concept of talking about it.

The babbling would have been about how much we all support equal rights for everyone...unlike all those half-civilised foreigners who bring their woman-hating, racist ways to our island.

Odd that the blue people who use prejudiced language to jokingly(?) insult their friends(?) at every opportunity...are not the ones who think it's a moderate suggestion to close their country's borders.

In the blue party, music is constant - hours on end of punk powerchords on youtube, played through a sound system which is by far the most expensive thing in the house. In the red party, music is something debated, and something performed by the host on a piano.

In both parties politics and philosophy are discussed. The difference is that in the red party, noncommital opinions are exchanged. In the blue party we talk about heteronormativity, intersectionality, and the ethics of assuming a truth of a rape length and - astonishingly - presenting arguments to change each other's minds.

Oh, one more difference. British soap operas are all about poor people barely coping with improbably complex emotional entanglements. Christmas specials of British soap operas are thus about their catastrophic emotional breakdowns. Until now, I never thought they were realistic.

In the red house, the strongest emotion expressed was from the lady host, firmly asserting against all evidence that there was no more wine in the whole house, and that therefore Kapitano could absolutely not have a tenth glassful.

In the blue house, there was indeed no more alcohol because the lady host drank it all, and felt the need for consecutive conversations about how she somehow couldn't dump her no-good boyfriend, although she really really hated him.

And so, having completed my impromptu project of embedded anthropological observation...and slept off my hangover, I can enjoy a nice quiet christmas, without having to deal with any other people.

Happy Hannukah, Merry Kwanzaa, and a pleasantly uneventful Pastafarian Holiday to you all.

"Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about."

- Harry Frankfurt

"The original is unfaithful to the translation."

- Jorge Luis Borges

"A martyr's disciples suffer more than the martyr."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"As long as you have some book you think important lying in front of you unread, you will never get down to writing."

- Frederich Engels

"Everyone gives themselves permission to behave absurdly when religion is mentioned."

- Christopher Hitchens

"I became a journalist so I wouldn't have to rely on the press for information."

- Christopher Hitchens

"There is a difference between being sexually free, and sexually equal."

- Danielle Crittenden

"Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power."

- Bertrand Russell

"Old age is always 15 years older than I am."

- Bernard Baruch

"They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance."

- Edmund Burke

"In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the bootmaker."

- Mikhail Bakunin

"One of the surest signs of the Philistine is his reverence for the superior tastes of those who put him down."

- Pauline Kael

"The British tradition is to be licentious in public and prudish in private."

- Peter Hitchens

"The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"A writer's notebook is the best way to immortalise bad ideas."

- Stephen King

Letting Go

I have stayed in bad relationships because I hoped they would get better.

Several times they were about to end, but I found myself pleading for us to keep trying - while being dimly aware that it was never going to work, it was only making both of us miserable, and I was pleading to avoid what would make us happy.

I've helped several friends move out of the homes they grew up in. They didn't want to leave, but circumstances were forcing them, and it was quite an emotional wrench. But the moment they shut the door behind them for the final time, they became suddenly happy, as though a weight had been lifted at that moment.

My previous laptop became progressively more unreliable until one day it just wouldn't switch on. It was annoying, but there was no sadness. Then, after taking out the hard drive to later on retrieve the data, there was the moment where I had to throw the dead box away. Yes, I hesitated, and yes, I knew it was stupid. But a few minutes later, no regrets.

When was the last time you listened to a cassette tape? An hour ago I had several big boxes of them - some old favourites that I now have in much better quality as mp3s, some that I never really liked, and quite a few that I never got around to hearing. Some were legacies of those bad relationships - when we split up, we wound up with some of each other's possessions.

I'd been hanging onto them for about 20 years. Not having the heart to throw them out, justifying holding on to them on the grounds that they might be interesting to hear one day. Promising youself a nostalgic experience in the indeterminate future - that's slightly perverse.

Now all but a dozen are in a sack, destined for a landfill. Throwing out your old junk is painful, but only for a moment. You just need to get through that moment.

"There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it."

- George Bernard Shaw

"Behind every illusion there is a conjourer."

- The Fifth Doctor

"A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind."

- Robert Bolton

"A belief is not true because it is useful."

- Henri Amiel

"You learn something every day - even if it's wrong."

- Robert M Price