Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Love, Books and Unbelief

Over at Rixosous, Susan is celebrating books with pictures of her regular reader's bookshelves. I have not joined in as I am currently cameraless. She says:

We don't just read books. We love books.

Well yes. But on the other hand I'm reminded of this Terry Pratchett line from Feet of Clay:

'I thought dwarfs loved gold,' said Angua.

'They just say that to get it into bed,' said Littlebottom.

Do I love books or do I just say that to get them to go to bed with me?[1] Case in point, I was up far too late last night, in bed, reading Stephen Donaldson's Fatal Revenant (volume 2 of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant). Now I greatly desired this book. I've been lusting after it since reading The Runes of The Earth (volume 1). I want to read it, but more still I want to have read it. Maybe as a trophy or an experience, as something to achieve rather than to enjoy in itself. I want to go back to bed and read this book now, even though I don't love it. I'm not even sure I like it that much.

I first tried reading my Dad's copies of earlier Donaldson novels at a very young age - far too young - and put it away again until I was a young teenager. There's some superficial (and less superficial) resemblances to The Lord of the Rings - a magic ring[3], a volcanic mountain of power, an evil lord served by inhuman creatures, wise beings who love trees opposing the evil lord etc. It's written quite opaquely, and the characters spend quite a lot of time hanging around worrying about the moral dilemmas they're in. When this works, it works, and when it doesn't, then you're skimming through the chapter to see if Thomas Covenant will make up his mind whether The Land is real or not, and either way, what is he going to do about it? Also, when it doesn't work it ends up quoted in Thog's Masterclass in Ansible, although that's an ever-present danger in the genre (and out of it, for that matter). And what's with the words like "innominate"? Can't you just say unknown, unnamed or mysterious? Does Linden Avery actually think in that vocabulary?

We're something like 12 and a half spine-inches in 7 volumes into the story by now, and even the glossary is starting to get a bit opaque[5]. But there's still some good stuff. Donaldson is exploring why the symbol of the structure that surrounds and protects The Land is The Arch of Time and what this means to those who wish to destroy it or preserve it. There's still no better not-quite-meaningless name for a fantasy mountain than Melenkurion Skyweir (with half the name italicised). And (spoiler) we finally meet Berek halfhand, legendary founder of the Lords of the Land. But I've still spent most of the first half of the book trying to tell Linden Avery - either trust them or don't, but for God's sake, make your mind up! I can't wait to find out what happens. I'm just not sure I want to commit to reading all the way through it.

[1] Metaphorically. The saying anyway; as this post will make clear I do, literally[2], go to bed with books.
[2] Heh
[3] In this case Thomas Covenant's wedding ring. Which reminds me:

Child "Is it a magic ring?"

Adult "It's a wedding ring. Of course it's magic."[4]

Did I hear this somewhere or did I make it up years ago?
[4] What if The One Ring was given as a wedding ring? Maybe that's Sauron's mistake - he's too in love with his own power to share it with anyone. If he'd only fallen in love and given away the ring...
[5] Examples: Rant Absolain: the gaddhi
Sheol: a Raver, Satansfist, samadhi
Melenkurion: One of the Seven Words

Links Dump For People Being Audited (And Anyone Else Reading)

A friend is being audited. I can't help. I can hinder, by sending him emails with lots of entertaining distractions for him. I'm not doing that; instead I'm going to put them here; if he has a spare moment, or to either celebrate or commiserate when it's over.

But when it's not a spur of the moment forward I get struck with doubt. Is it even worth copying and pasting, let alone coming up with a hopefully amusing and appropriate introduction? Isn't everyone else on the internet link dumping to all the same stuff?

Still, know you audience, and this particular audience can't get enough Reeves and Mortimer. Here's their classic Cottage Cheese Song.

The link between cottage cheese and voodoo revealed at last. For more Reeves and Mortimer here's Bob's Organ.

What else? I guess things approved of by other people must be okay, so from scans_daily here's an old comic of Batman-Babysitter and a more up to date and poignant one from Doctor Who - The Time Of My Life.

I don't think I've mentioned the Terrible Crossover Fanfiction Generator, which is literally minutes of fun. I hesitate to reveal what the fanfiction crossover it challenged me for when I went there this time[1], so I'll give you this one which 30 or so refreshes got me:
Your challenge is to write crossover fanfiction combining the Muppet Show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The story should use a blizzard as a plot device!

Bunsen and Beaker + Giles = ?? I've got nothing.

And lastly, a lol-rocket that comes pretty close to an in-joke.
Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Sarah Palin pictures

(That see Sarah Palin pictures comes as part of the picture code; I neither encourage or discourage you from following that link or looking at other Sarah Palin pictures. But don't look at them like that. What's wrong with you?)

[1] ask in comments if you really want to know.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hijinks Ensue

Christ on a crutch, what's wrong with me? I've had to point two more people at versions of this due to generally being heartless and stupid[1] and looking at the blog it looks like I'm just putting my appointments online. It's clearly time for a change of direction, namely what happened in the pub last Friday.

I was explaining to a friend how I'd identified her use of "I see" as a non-committal response for everything from not wanting to answer straight away to avoiding saying "you're an idiot"[2].

"I wouldn't call you an idiot" she said.

"I know, you'd say 'I see' instead" I said. "If say I put forward a plan to have Jim race his car around the one-way system by being towed by zebras, rather than say 'You're an idiot'..."

Jim interrupted "You say race my car being towed by zebras. Who would I be racing?"

"Um... maybe Dean with his car being pulled by llamas?"

"Hey Dean!" says Jim. "It's a race! My car being towed by zebras, yours by llamas!"

"Like a chariot race? Great!" says Dean.

Anyway the moral of the story is be careful of examples of you being an idiot, as you may end up making an idiot of yourself. Anyway, got to go; I've got to source half a dozen zebras and llamas and the harnesses for them...

[1] Am I thoughtless because I'm an idiot or am I an idiot for being thoughtless? Is the difference worth worrying about?
[2] As a general rule it's best to point out verbal tics only to close friends, the sort who greet you by collapsing partly onto the sofa and partly onto you or whatever measure you use for closeness of friendship.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Today's Plan

This afternoon I'm going to be interviewed by people about a job. To a certain extent it's a formality as this is a trial project and we've all agreed to try it. All we have to do is iron out the details. Ah, the joys of negotiation.

Afterwards I will probably be a wreck and will collapse in front of the TV for a couple of hours (probably after taking off my tie but not my suit).

If you're following this from a location where you've not heard what the job is, it involves working with animals and children, except not actually animals; quadrilaterals may be involved; I may have the opportunity to say "Don't call me sir, I work for a living"; the job does not directly involve hats.

That should do it. Now where the hell have I hidden my CV?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This Morning

I spent this morning wandering around town holding ladders, catching wires and pulling light bulbs out of sockets. It's an unusual hobby but a rewarding one.

Actually when you're in a group dressed along a theme, walking down the middle of the street while people get out of your way, it's kind of like being in a gang, albeit a gang in hi-vis coats who no-one really respects[1].

Sandwich Christmas Lights can be seen again in December.

[1] Think twice before moving cones out of the road and driving down - there may be a reason for it being there, like a barrow of electrical cable and steel wire in the way, and a bloke who doesn't notice your window is open before swearing at you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Dump More Emails Into The Blog

Back in June, I did something for the summer solstice. Did I cook? And then we watched Calamity Jane? I forget. Still, here's a bit of the planning that went into it by email:

Having suggested time, day and location, we still needed to decide the dresscode.

Jim: Can we dress up as hippies?

Me: Well I can.

If all your clothes are too smart*, we can always make movie night into tie-dye night.

*"He'll be the one in a suit"[1]

Jim: A tie-dyed suit? Formidable!!

Claire was more concerned with the entertainment:

Claire: Oh forgot to mention I shall be attending the soirée this Friday. Will we have a replica stonehenge to dance around?

Me: I'm not sure we'd got so far as planning,,, um... anything. But I'll draw a design for stonehenge on a napkin. [2]

Fortunately Paul was just enthusiastic:

Paul: Sounds good Neil.

I’m looking forward to us having a quantum of summer solstice

A full set of email groans went up in response.

[1] The first time Jim went to Glastonbury Festival, one of his co-workers told her daughter to watch out for him on TV. "How will I spot him?" she asked. Jim always dresses to give off an air of professionalism at work, so the co-worker replied "He'll be the on in the suit."
[2] The Stonehenge sequence from This Is Spinal Tap. Jim for some reason thought that some sort of Rick Astley hitwould be more appropriate.


I forgot to put the rubbish out and overslept. This afternoon I have to convince a headmaster over the phone that I can tutor (or "mentor" as they call it) mathematics to kids who have difficulties with it.

It's the headmaster part that gets me; 15 years after leaving school and having met several headmasters (and mistresses) socially the idea of picking up the phone and asking for the head teacher still makes me cringe inside.

Maybe I'll ask for him by name.

(Phone call precreation:
School Secretary: Hello, [schoolname].
Me: Hello, my name is Neil W, can I speak to [Head teacher's name] please.
School Secretary: The Head Teacher?
Me, cringing inside: Yes please.
School Secretary: He's expecting your call. I'll put you through to The Head Teacher.
Me, muttering like a sulky teenager: Thanks)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Does Your Heart Go Boom When He Walks In The Room?

So back when I was at university, there was band called Helen Love, who were a lo-fi bubblegum-punk-Ramones-fan-band from Swansea who recorded (initially) in someone's bedroom. As it happens our flat went to one of their earliest gigs (somewhere in the first 5 because they mostly recorded in bedrooms rather than played live) and in honour of it I decorated my lecture notes folder in the style of their song Punk Boy[1],[3]. All this can probably be blamed on credited to Ben, a man with great taste in and passion for music.

Anyway, the point is although (as the Wikipedia page puts it) "none of their singles have yet troubled the UK Top 40" they're still making records. New records that sound just like the old ones. It's somewhere between brilliant and troubling; brilliant because I can dance around the kitchen just like it's 1994 and troubling for exactly the same reason.

Anyway, they have a new single coming out called Calm Down Dad on the 26th January. On 7" vinyl only. If there's one thing we can depend on it's Helen Love not selling out and becoming commercial[5].

[1] I'd been given a bunch of sticky gold and silver stars and my manly flatmates were generally opposed to that kind of thing being used to decorate The Space Age Bachelor Pad[2], so it was good to find a use for them.
[2] Named after a Stereolab album.
[3] Inexplicably[4] this song isn't on Youtube. If you go to the Helen Love Myspace Page, it's track 3 on their jukebox thing. Ash had an early hit with a cover of Punk Boy injecting slightly more punk to the record; here's a live video from September 2008, and it's just like seeing and hearing them play it in August 1994, except if you were that far from the stage in the Penny Theatre you'd be out the front and across the road, and to get the real experience it should be played in a sauna.
[4] Explication: no fan videos and it appears no one has managed to catch Helen Love playing live.
[5] From the Helen Love website: "And maybe download too. Probably. It would be silly not to... I'll try and let you know where from nearer the time."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jim and Stan's Big Wine Adventure

For a short but hilarious while in the past I would write adventures of Jim and Stan in 3 scenes. For Christmas I briefly resurrected this format as Jim and Stan's Big Wine Adventure[1]

Jim and Stan's Big Wine Adventure, in which Jim and Stan travel around various wine related locations in an open top two seater vintage sports car, in 3 scenes

Scene 1
Outside The Bottleneck [2]
Jim: This should be good!

Scene 2
Inside The Bottleneck
Jim: 13 bottles of reasonably priced wine please. And for you Stan?

Scene 3
Jim's Flat 13 minutes later
Jim: I really love you Shtan. You're my besht mate.

[1] Riffing off James and Oz's Big Wine Adventure, a BBC program in which motoring journalist James May and wine journalist Oz Clarke drive around various wine producing regions arguing and occasionally learning wine facts. This youtube clip from the start of the second series gives a bit of a flavour of it.

[2] The Bottleneck is not only just at the bottom of the hill from Jim's flat, but he worked there for a while and is well known to the owners.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Chocolate Potty

Last night I finally ate the last chocolate pot. I have now eaten seven months recommended allowance of chocolate in 4 days. Please do not offer me chocolate in the near future or I may explode as the amount of blood in my chocolate stream falls below the necessary to prevent runaway metabolic catastrophe.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Yesterday Was Another Day

You know, the Fimbulwinter comes and it's dark for seven years most of the day and I forget. I forget that the world isn't cold and lifeless and dark. I forget that not everyone is cynical, because it's better than brooding, or brooding because it's better than depressed. I forget that there are people who take things seriously, because it's not all a bitter joke. I forget there are people who aren't waiting for the next damn thing to come and bite them, and because they aren't they haven't armoured themselves against it. They are still vulnerable and can still be hurt. I forget this.

So here's what I suggest: if you love someone, tell them so. If someone has done something nice, say thanks. If someone deserves something nice (or even if you just suspect they may one day perhaps deserve it, if you're brooding or cynical at the moment) then do something nice for them. And if you've hurt someone (and what the hell did you think this post was about?) say sorry. Even if you're not in the depths of a Northern Hemisphere Winter.

So pick from this list whatever you like. I'm sorry. I don't know about nice, but here's a Bawdy 1970s Hospital. I may not say it to your face, but I do love you. And thanks!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Most Famous Ship In History

I've seen 2 BBC programs in the last week which called Titanic the most famous ship in history. Well, perhaps. Do you think we can blame the film? (No, not A Night To Remember) I will; I've not seen it. Anyway, some other famous ships that might challenge it for fame:

The Bismarck
The Cutty Sark
The Mary Celeste
The Beagle
The Victory
The Bounty
The Endeavour
The Golden Hind
Queen Anne's Revenge
The Mayflower
The Mary Rose
The Santa Maria
The Argo
Noah's Ark

Also the Vasa, although as Dad and I could only remember it as "that famous Swedish ship that sank" maybe it's not quite famous enough. Have I missed any famous ships? Or is there a non-quite-famous ship you want to promote through my single figure readership?

A Child Of The Incorrect Gender

In their wisdom, my parents had no daughters. Until now they haven't had cause to regret this[1]. However my Dad made Chocolate Pots for a party today and there are several left. More than several. About 20. Being a mere man I've only eaten 4 and can't manage any more.

[1] Actually they have, but let's not get bogged down or i could be here all night.

"Unfortunately we are compelled to ask, who is Stan Roberts and what the hell is he doing in my tree house?"

"Unfortunately we are compelled to ask, who is Stan Roberts and what the hell is he doing in my tree house?" has been a title in search of a post since October 2007. I'm now going to waste it by using it to dump a bunch of links, half-written posts and half-thought out bits all in one go. It'll make me feel better anyway.

From August 2007, some news stories:
Hitler's Champagne

Brian May hands in thesis 30 years late.

Following on from Hitler's champagne there's some swastika labelled beer.

Also from 2007, a text message from Caitlin:

Just finished a night sail, beautiful phosphorescent dolphins riding our bow, happy caitlin

(Didn't have anything to add to that and still don't)

From April 2008 the imdb list of killer bee movies (From memory there were two less when I looked in April, which is probably due to imdb people tagging more movies rather than a new set of killer bee movies being made. Killer locusts seem to be the insect monster of the moment)

From May The World's Largest Military Hovercraft.

Also from May, Flicks of Shame, or why serious actors end up in silly (horror) films. This grew out of Heckler and Kochk and our obsession with appreciation of Hilary Swank.

That's almost everything up to June last year. Other lessons learnt from 6 months of email: Youtube Duels are always inconclusive; People will steal your Valentine's Day date given quarter of a chance; and that (Drink) + (underwear) = generic Gene Hunt insult.

That's close to 50% of outstanding things dealt with, when you include everything deleted or shoved into email storage. It's close enough to finishing off last year that I will probably do some 2009 blogging, although it may be just as rambling and incoherent and may still be multi-topic, link heavy and content light. Start as you mean to go on, that's what I say.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


This email exchange happened in April:

From Jim:
I'm so embarrassed - did I really sleep with Antonio Banderas last night?! how did you let this happen?!

I replied:
Officially I have no position on who you sleep with (or indeed who you don't sleep with).

Unofficially, I spoke to Tony afterwards. He too was feeling confusion and embarrassment until I was able to help him open his mind.

With a hatchet.

Oh God the blood.

Jim has the last word:
That explains the blood stains everywhere

I don't know if it spoils the story or makes it better if I tell you that it wasn't the real Antonio Banderas, but Jim's double-sided laminated portrait of him.
I stole the "Oh God the blood" from What Were They Thinking, a very silly remix comic. Clearly this undermines my reputation for wit, but relieves my guilt for stealing a joke from Kevin Church. Well there's a weight off my mind.

Update: Hello Kevin Church Twitter followers! Er... not sure I have anything else to say to you. Maybe I can steal a joke from somewhere. "I will not love you long time?"

Friday, January 02, 2009

Dream Diary 15

Last night I dreamt I was hugging someone. When I woke up they weren't there. I rolled over to look for them and realised that not only had they never been there, but I didn't know their name or what they looked like.

Only what they felt like.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

It's 2009 And You're Welcome To It

It's another New Year. Is there no end to the bloody things?

Frankly the Christmas season has gone on too long. I've spent so much time talking that I don't have any new conversation, jokes, observations or gossip, and all my emergency small talk has run out. And I can't get out and away and recharge for a few hours as it's dark 16 hours a day and freezing.

None of that would be so bad, except this is supposed to be the time of year to make resolutions. Well, I've run out of ideas. All I want to do next year is sleep, and maybe walk down to the bay and throw stones at the sea. That's ambitious enough. It's the wrong time of year anyway; resolutions should be made in a spirit of hope, when you can actually see the rebirth of the year, not in the dark depths of winter. Why do you think that this list from last year is full of silliness, and the only one I got anywhere near doing is the one that involves sitting watching a TV screen?[1]

Anyway, my resolution is to put off resolutions until the Spring Equinox. I'll make some for the Summer (involving me doing things while sitting in the sunshine will be favorite) and some for the year (and maybe some will be even longer term if my seasonal optimism cycle has swung enough) and then again in the Autumn I'll make some for the Winter (hopefully stuff that I can do sitting in the warm) and so on and look at progress.

So here's how I'm starting 2009; by procrastinating. Feel free to join me! I'd arrange a Spring Equinox Resolution Multual Encouragement League for anyone who makes them, but frankly I don't have the energy at the moment.

[I should probably note that I've written and scheduled this in advance and am probably having a good time in a pub, or at least raising a glass of wine to the TV and enjoying being a misery in my own smug and ironic way. It's earlier (when I'm writing this) and later - the 2nd or 3rd, when it's all over and I still never see the sun - that the down-after-the-holiday sledgehammers me in the head. But until then Yay! New Year! Have one for me!]

[1] There are 5 drafts dating from before 2008 still there. I intend to combine three of them into an unstructured multi-part post when I stop feeling so depressed just looking at damn things.