Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Update

Dropped into a godawful Internet café to check mail, read blogs and find out if the world had ended in the last few days. Our radio is internet streamed, we don’t have a TV and I’m not in the habit of buying newspapers when I’ve always been able to get my news free and NOW on the ‘net. There could have, quite literally, been a nuclear strike on Sunday and I wouldn’t be any the wiser.

So anyway, here I am with students, backpackers and random others in a den that has an incomprehensible smell for a room filled only with computers and carpet. The possible explanations are as disturbing as they are intriguing, but that’s not the point of this post.

Thought I would recount what’s happened since Thursday…photos will be posted when our connection is back up, so you’ll have to use imagination till then.

Thursday…ahhhh Thursday. I rarely torture Matthew, not being one to hog the bathroom, try on endless outfits before going out or choosing mind-numbingly insipid girlfriends. There is one thing, however, that I do indulge in much to his chagrin – my love of IKEA.

It goes beyond the fact that nary a ye-olde-worlde floral print can be seen in the joint or that there’s so much lovely wood and glass. It’s the ingenious layout of the store, the way that good design is very cheaply mass produced and the happiness (for nomads like us) of furniture that flat packs. I have to touch everything (I’m quite kinaesthetic), sit on every chair, fondle every rug, inspect every doodad, consider every lounge room setup. I have to play with the toys in the kids area. I have to don the big rug with lifesized moosehead and sneak up on M cowering in a corner muttering about a day he’ll never get back.

We spent 11 hours and a silly amount of money at IKEA. We were tired, but it was a good tired. Good for me because I’d had my fix, good for him because he knew the insanity was over for another 6-12 months.

Thursday night yielded barely an hour of sleep and lots of taping up boxes and figuring out what was ours and what was the landlords.

Friday was taken up with umpteen runs between our two flats, hauling heavy boxes, light boxes, awkward boxes, bits and pieces of furniture and other things manufactured (I'm sure) for the sole purpose of being completely unmanoueverable during a move.

The day was capped off with an utterly mad rush to the car rental company to return our Vauxhall ‘Whatever’ before the late return fine kicked in. £20 to hire the damn thing for two days, but bring it back a minute late and you’re hit with a £75 fine. To fully understand the pain, convert that into your US dollars.

So it was 5 minutes to drop off time and we were stuck in the perma-jam London traffic at London Bridge, literally within sniffing distance of the returns area. In a moment of Van-Schwartz-Chan-Damme inspired heroics, I leapt out of the car and ran down the street clutching the papers to plead for amnesty or at least distract the attendants with a top that may have been cut a little on the lowish side. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I was wearing jeans that (due to my newfound love of running) were now a couple of sizes too big. Papers in one hand, jeans yanked up with the other, hair doing what hair does after 48 hours without an encounter with a brush or any liquid-taming-device, I must have made quite a sight running down the street in a chic office area. The traffic broke soon after I leapt out of the car (no roll as I hit the ground, though, they don’t seem to clean the streets here and I didn’t feel like picking up someone’s beer bottle with my left shoulder) and M made it to the rental place the same time I did – bang on deadline. So very action movie, don’t you think? Made me want to find the nearest nice backdrop, exchange a very corny line with M and end the whole thing with a passionate smooch whilst the name of the guy who stirred creamer into the coffee for the crew scrolled up in front of us.

Waking up at Stupid o’Clock the next morning we did what any sane couple would do after a couple of pretty strenuous days – paintball. This was our first game and was held at a fantastic course that had many different scenarios to go through during the day.

What became apparent over the course of the day was that this game really brought out true personalities. I was quite pleased with the way I played and definitely saw the impact of changes I’d made over the last few years. Where I used to be a perfectionist and be petrified of failure, hanging back from action until everything was aligned perfectly – I’m now much more of a ‘Do what you can with what you’ve got.’ person. In other words, just start and don’t stop until you’ve come up against a real barrier rather than hang back because of barriers you imagine will be there.

So as the day wore on, I found myself not just staying in the game to the end (not being shot) but actually being the person at the front of the push forward. It was really shaping up to be a fantastic (if utterly physically demanding) day.

I found my martial arts, strength training and running all actually being very handy. I rolled between haystacks, making myself too fast a target to pick off. I wasn’t afraid to literally slither on my belly for hundreds of metres across some pretty harsh terrain (stinging nettles, holly bushes, thorny little shrubs and stones everywhere), hiding in knee high grass and behind mounds of junk made of sharp rocks, rotting wood and once again covered in stinging nettle.* Training taught me to just ignore pain when necessary and do what needed to be done. I got to see it in a very practical situation and it really did work.

The one thing that put a dampener on the whole day was the team we were playing against. Many of them had played paintball on previous occasions where we only had one seasoned player amongst us. The natural expectation, therefore, was that they would whip our pallid little asses.

Two games in and we had won both. Oopsie. I don’t think we were supposed to do that.

For the rest of the day, they played so dirty that even the marshals became incredulous at their behaviour – openly asking them if they had cheated.

The icing on the cake came in the last few minutes of the last game. It was an urban course and there was a dummy that each team had to try and land into the other team’s base.

I suddenly noticed that everyone around me was yelling and looked up to see that two members of their team had the dummy and were shielding themselves behind a car not two metres from our base.

Throwing pretty much all caution to the wind, I ran out and around the car, double tapped them both (very neatly in the chest, one must add) and took shelter by leaning against a truck right next to them. By the rules of the game, they should have put a hand up and walked away as ‘dead men’. They put a hand up each…then one of them gave me the most menacing look imaginable and shot me at point blank range – once in the neck and once in the chin.

And here’s where another aspect of my personality came out. Rather unexpected, actually.

I opened my mouth and, in one sentence and at the top of my voice, cast doubt on his parentage, insinuated unheard of sexual acts between him, a goat and his mother, assumed his disfavour with a well-known deity and (in no uncertain terms) stated my belief that he may not be the sharpest crayon in the pack. I think the marshal blushed.

The game ended quite soon after that and the marshal (who saw the whole thing, standing on a mound a couple of metres back) tried to mediate by saying that it was ‘only a game’, although making clear that I had hit the guy well before he hit me. You tend to notice when you’re hit in paintball – it hurts like the offspring of an unsavoury female – so he couldn’t exactly say that he didn’t notice the fact that he had been shot. Twice.

Anyhow, reflecting on this Saturday afternoon whilst applying calamine lotion to every exposed and be-nettled bit of skin, I realised why I was so angry about the incident and incensed by the marshal saying ‘It’s just a game’.

It had been the culmination of a day of cheating and dirty tactics by the other team. We had each paid around £70 to participate – no paltry amount. We also committed everything to the activity. The goals were real, the wins and defeats a reflection of the day’s exertions. This wasn’t just a game, it was an activity and an experience made no less real by the fact that we were shooting little globs of paint at each other.

At the end of the day, I walked away having tried something new and being damn proud of my performance. I had pushed myself mentally and physically, conquered fear and pain and been unscrupulously honest the whole time. I know I can’t say the same for the other team and I hope they look back on Saturday with some measure of shame.

If paintball brings out the ‘true’ self, then one day the people on the other team will find that you don’t always win by being a pragmatist. You won’t always get away with it.

* Interesting point – the same group of adults who engaged in a dangerous, physically demanding sport where there was the serious possibility of twisting or breaking limbs or losing an eyeball through lack of care would then have to head off into a world where they were treated as helpless children by the government who believed them to be too stupid to take risks and understand or bear the consequences of their actions.

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Friday, June 25, 2004

Temporary glitch in transmission

Looks like I won’t have internet connection (or phone) until Thursday. This is the way private companies in the UK seem to work – not at all. So here’s some Monica’s Life stuff to keep you occupied.

So you might have figured out from small hints here and there that we’re moving house. Exhausting, dusty, annoying, expensive – you name the bad thing and moving house has probably got a little bit of it mingled in.

…which is why it may be a little hard to understand why M and I have done this every year since we’ve been together. It’s not that we skip on the rent, dear readers – it’s always been to something bigger, better, less mouldy. It’s just that something always just comes up pretty much dead on the anniversary of the move IN that triggers a move OUT.

First we moved in together. ‘Twas the cheapest thing we could find in the worst suburb of Perth. I’ll spare you the details bar saying that the couch was vinyl, the kitchen (in hindsight) frightening and the walls bled dirt whenever you boiled something and the steam built up. We really didn’t give a damn then and I’m not embarrassed of it now. Our pressing concern at the time was to live together on our (VERY) meagre budget – we did it. It was our first home, we were happy, it meant a lot to come back to an environment built and controlled by us. The thing that triggered our move out was me finding used syringes on the car one morning, roughly a year(ish) after the move in. Coincidentally, my parents were moving out of the country and asked us if we would house-sit for them. A rent was nominated, conditions were discussed. We agreed.

So we packed and scrubbed, got a truck and loaded it. Dumped it all under mother’s pergola. Didn't work out. A one week tenancy…woo, shortest one ever.

So we moved to a much better suburb, to a much better place. Five minutes from the city. It was built a little like a tropical resort with thick greenery everywhere, a pool and spa in the middle with windy little paths through the ‘forest’ to the flats. Heaven. We bought a big silver fridge and a home gym. We both worked and I studied. We scrimped and saved and went property hunting EVERY weekend. We would have seen close to 50 properties before we found ours. Fantastic ROI from projected rental, though. Positive gearing, baby. Roughly a year(ish) after moving into the resort, we decided to move into the flat we now owned to live in it and renovate it ourselves.

Packing again – this time hurriedly. Middle of my exams. Hired a truck for 24 hours, ran it back and forth – ran things to other people’s houses to get rid of them (the flat we bought was small). Drove back and forth, ferrying boxes and assorted things best categorised under 'Stuff' until the sun came up. Finished the run and thought we’d drop into McDonald’s for a coffee. I remember sitting at the table, my limbs heavy and grit in every pore, exhausted. I looked at my watch and the world seemed to spin a little too fast – I had an exam in 45 mins at my uni – which was 45 mins away in morning traffic. I babbled something to M about making his own way home and ran out the door. Drove like a maniac (so normally for me, in other words). Ran into an exam room of people hunched over, reading. Three hours of Strategic Management exam later I actually felt more energized than when I had walked in – it was a fantastic case study about a logging and forestry products company. The material was so thick that some people only finished reading it 20 mins before the end. I devoured it and aced the damned thing. Walked out into the bright sunshine and light smattering of rain wanting to solve management problems like that forever. Didn’t realise then that what makes rational sense on paper and as a solution doesn’t often get implemented in the venom-pits of today’s corporate world. Walked to my car. Flat battery – I had left the lights on because it had been raining hard on the way. Sat on warm concrete dreaming about woodchipping machinery until the auto club guy came along to rescue me.

Renovated our flat slowly. I had quit my night job so as to concentrate on my exams and had too much energy for my own good. Painted the flat ourselves in that tricky suede paint. I retiled the bathroom by hand. Oh yeah, every single tile was cut with just a blade, some pressure and a lot of swearing. Bear in mind I did the entire floor, shower cubicle and some walls in a teensy bathroom – there ain’t nothing but corners and crevices in teensy bathrooms. Discovered newfound respect for professional tradesmen.

A year(ish) later we decided to leave Australia to live in the UK and here we are.

After a brief and spectacularly unsuccessful stay with (Yeah, you guessed it) my parents, (Do we learn? Sometimes it takes us a while) we went flat hunting like crazy and found our lovely little place. It’s where I find myself now amongst the rubble of a days frantic move. M and C are ferrying one of the last loads of goodies from this place to the new one and I’ve been left with loads of IKEA furniture, an allen key, a wrench and a snazzy power drill/screwdriver thingy. They are very wise to leave me alone as I tend to get carried away with the drill. I make manical little noises and murmur things about “..taking over the WORLD!” whilst pressing the button and making it go ‘Whzzz! Whzzzzzz!” I suppose it could be considered sad, but I’m sure that there’s enough IKEA furniture out there holding the world together that a couple of people with whirry screwdrivers could send us into a new dark age. Well, perhaps an age where our storage wasn’t optimised or in quite so many colours with names like ‘Gruppy’ and ‘Nooglen’.

In hindsight, it’s nice to live in places for a limited time. A year is perfect – the scenery changes around you and you know you should enjoy it for what it is now, because there’s no guarantee you’ll ever see it again. You don’t get into staid habits. You need to find your local store and pharmacy and transport and exercise route and interesting spots all over again. You simply don’t have the opportunity to be complacent.

This move is a little sad – rather than choosing to leave, our landlord has been recalled from his Home Office service somewhere in the Middle East (no surprise there, frankly) and we’re not having our lease renewed. We really loved this spot and this house, there are a lot of great memories here. I suppose, though, that like everything that counts in life, I need to carry it with me in my memory rather than in physical representations, trinkets or places.

Alright, being shooed off by the compatriots. I suppose I’ll post if and when I can ‘till Thursday.

M

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Knit wit

C and I have had a great day packing and listening to godawful snippets from this site. Amongst gems such as ‘The Bathrooms are Coming’ (the bathroom, where a woman wants to ‘...cream and dream….and cream and dream…..' and, well I think you get the point) and ‘How to Marry Rich’ (‘Keep the accessories in your purse accessible and attractive, don’t carry around a lot of junk.’) comes:

The Kathy Anderson Listen and Learn Knitting Album
"...insert the tip of the right hand needle – going in a left to right direction – through the front of the new stitch on the left needle. with the right needle beneath the left needle and pointing away from you. The two needles will cross each other about one inch from their points. Keep the yarn behind the needles. Hold both needles between fingers of left hand. With your right hand, take the long strand of the yarn, bring it up from behind the needles and over the tip of the right needle, ending with the yarn between the two crossed needles. Hold the right needle and the yarn firmly in your right hand..."
Uh huh, I think I’m getting the hang of this, all you have to do is take the right needle and needle it with the left needle, ensuring that your needle is needled with your left hand which is also holding the yarn and the right needle three inches from the left needle which is held in your right hand. Move the yarn in a counterclockwise direction, creating a loop with your body and the left needle held in your right foot. Twirl the yarn with your index finger and pass it through the loop on the left needle. Take the right needle and pass it through the loop only halfway, taking up the first loop as you go. Lower your right foot to the floor and repeat, using your left foot.

I’m planning on knitting a scarf for the blog. Pink? Grey? Lilac? Perhaps a tribute from the time of this record – brown and orange?

Alright, so maybe not. Back to taping up boxes and rediscovering stuff I forgot I owned.

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A little Moore fried

I came across a whumping good article exposing Michael Moore's two (or three) facedness last night. Had a chuckle, enjoyed the read, neglected to post it up here as I'm still not used to having such a luxuriously easy way to dissemminate the good stuff I see on the 'net. This morning, I see that Samizdata has beat me to it and quite rightly pointed to it as a darned good fisking.

So I'm going to learn to share the really good links with y'all as soon as I find them. I'm still a young grasshopper in the ecology of the blogosphere and need to learn things, might need to do some buffing of Mr Miyagi's car.

wax on....wax off....wax lyrical....

M

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SpaceRaceTwo

I find it interesting to note the parallels between what I call the ‘first’ space race – the governmental push for man into orbit and into space and this week’s ‘second’ race – the race to do on private money what governments did and do on expropriated funds.

Both used man’s conquest and exploration of space as a backdrop for a much wider philosophical and political debate. Both wanted to prove a point using technological advancement and breakthrough.

The Russians sent an astronaut into orbit, the Americans a man to the moon. The journeys, sadly, weren’t the point of the whole expensive exercise. They were conducted for a “My dad is bigger than your dad, so I’m right.” type debate. Which government would do it first? Which government would be ‘right’. Ummm…the one who wasn’t sending people to gulags, one would have thought.

Thankfully, the use of technology to prove a point makes a hell of a lot more sense in the more recent scenario.

For years, I was used to entering into debates about politics with people. Eventually, they would hear my ideas about how much government should be restricted (like a well trained gimp, I say) and naturally start to prattle about the ‘necessity’ of government schools, housing, education, health care, roads…et cetera. These were easily debated and some conceded that government perhaps shouldn’t be in each respective field (well, besides roads, that’s always one that makes people squirm).

Then they would get all clever on me and talk about research, scientific breakthrough, big projects for the good of humanity as a whole. Projects so big that it simply wasn’t possible for private money to fund them. Projects like….well…..NASA.

This is where I ran out of historical examples of private achievement without government help – it simply hadn’t been done. I had to get back to the morality – it’s wrong to tax people and force them to contribute to a space program, period.

My debating opponents would get all misty eyed and start sounding like the compulsory speech at the end of a blockbuster – something about all of us pulling together for the common good. I would fight down the nausea and come back to philosophical argument about the rights of man. I would talk about the fact that it should be possible to do independently. It can be very, VERY tough to convince some that ordinary people pulling together can do bigger and better things than governments. All I had to go on was logic and faith in man and those of excellence I saw around me.

The success of SpaceShipOne feels like a reward for my faith. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised – relief is more the word. If I were anywhere near the Mojave desert instead of freezing through a London summer, I would have travelled myself to witness it.

It’s a shining example of what like-minded people would say is the ultimate freedom – the freedom to create, to produce, to take risk, to try and also to fail. The freedom that can only fully be realized where our money (our very lives) isn’t taxed away for a variety of hare-brained political schemes and our lives aren’t regulated to the point of absurdity.

Most Americans reading this would have paid for NASA through their taxes – where’s your return on investment? I’m willing to bet that the VC’s who stumped up for SpaceShipOne are looking forward to some long term return on their money.

I hope that those who advocate the big-government nanny state for various reasons sit up and take notice this week. This is what we humans are capable of – without the interference, guidance or regulation of beaurocracy.

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Monday, June 21, 2004

Running commentary

Dear Technically Literate (read: Wonderfully Geeky) Readers,

I really need to investigate a different commenting system. It let me down completely today - now I can't see the comments for 'Random Beauty' at all.

Besides which, I don't get emails to tell me I have comments, so I have to trawl through things, trying to remember if this post had 3 comments yesterday and if that one had 11 or 12.

Whining aside - does anyone have a recommendation that can slot into my Blogger account? (I don't like the native Blogger system as you would all have to sign up for a Blogger account to leave your thoughts for me).

Ideally I would also like it to have:

* A preview pane
* HTML capabilities for those of you who really want to make a point
* A screen bigger than a gnat's kneecap for typing into - I realise the present one is a bit small

Might be an idea to send your recommendations to my feedback email rather than leave a comment here....just in case the Comments thingy I have is properly dead.

M

(P.S: Andy - I know that hosting my own domain and using Movable Type would solve not only my problems, but the entire world's. I know. I just want to fix my little shuttle rather than have to learn to pilot a whole ship. Capiche? Wanted to make that one clear as I could almost sense you rubbing your hands with glee and anticipation at another forthcoming MT lecture.)

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Random Beauty

I sought out beauty today*, travelling to the ‘Sequenza and the Artea Quartet’ concert at the Royal Academy of Arts. C was going and it sounded like something that we would enjoy – after all, how can you go wrong with classical music?

....welllllll, it can be modern classical music for one.

4 young things in suitably dark attire took the stage and – in a flutter of seriousness befitting gouty men 3 times their age – began the first piece, ‘String Quartet’ by Philip Venables.

You know you’re in trouble when the tuning was more melodic than the performance.

Remember The Music playing in That Shower Scene from That Hitchcock Movie? Remember the music from ‘Jaws’? I did when I heard this, because it essentially sounded like a rap remix of the two. (No, I’m not exaggerating – I leave exaggeration to the times when I’m talking about the sharks I caught off Perth’s coast one weekend…they’ve steadily grown from 2 foot to larger than a Cadillac.)

The sounds were intentionally random, but they teased you. You thought that perhaps you could catch some pattern or latch onto a sound and follow it through – then it was completely cut off by a violin screech so high and so loud that you could actually see the rippling shudder of discomfort from the audience.

Tortured chords – sometimes beautiful – always murdered by the surrounding cacophony emerged to give the audience brief hope, some melody, some beauty to latch on to. These respites from the overall horror were fleeting – as was my attention.

As if on queue, all three of us hunted pens and began scribbling frantic notes to each-other. I knew I was in for a rough ride until the Stravinsky later in the concert, so settled in to write this blog post (no need to make it a complete waste of time).

Venables himself led the orchestra onto the stage for the second piece. He took the opportunity to explain what it was that we had just heard. (New from the RAA! Music so darned incomprehensible that it needs freakin’ subtitles!).

The rabble that had followed him onto the stage included :
- A girl intent on showing us that she could have been a plumber’s assistant through the subtle and post-modern use of too-low-slung-hipsters.
- Another girl who was too damn cool for this whole classical music gambit and would prove it to us by having a crop-top under her too small suit jacket, a pudgy little belly hanging out, piercings galore and hair gelled at every angle bar ‘down’.
- The flautist in an exquisite black gown…and sequinned red shoes.
- The singer, a barely groomed urchin of a girl whose fuchsia, pink and orange dress could have done with some serious ironing.

Am I being a purist? Perhaps a little. There are certain standards that an orchestra should maintain – some decency of appearance. Respect goes both ways.

He spoke about ‘chopping’ bits and pieces together, he spoke about inspiration, he spoke about ‘layers’. He smiled an awful lot – the kind of smile you see on a kid explaining why the hell his hand is stuck in the cookie jar in the first place. I wasn’t quite sure what the sneering little gimp wanted from me – adoration or for me to laugh along at his little joke on the world.

He finished by stating that the Stravinsky ‘Pastorale’ would be ‘…just…well…nice!’ compared to his music. He gave the imploring look of one fishing for a compliment. What the hell were we supposed to do? Stand up and shout:

“No, no, Mr Venables – I want to hear more of your music, I do. Just let me readjust my skin – it seems to be crawling its way to the exit.”
He also took the opportunity of explaining the next piece to be played, Luciano Berio’s ‘O King’. Mentioned something about the ‘tranquil surface’ of the piece being ‘almost unnoticeably disturbed’ by the piano.

The ‘subtle’ piano sounded like an overweight cat with distemper suspended from the ceiling by a bungee cord was landing on the keyboard at unfortunate moments.

What talent the flautist had was drowned out by the random screechings of the rest of the orchestra.

As for the role of the singer, well, that’s an interesting one indeed. It seems that ‘O King’s lyrics are in fact simply the words “O Martin Luther King” sung very slowly. Once. Vvvvvveeeeeeeerrrryyyyyy ssssslllllllloooooowwwwwwwwllllyyyyyyyyy.

Oh yeah – kwality with a capital ‘k’ there.

The brief break as the stage was reset for the next piece (Venables’ ‘I Fed My Wardrobe to the Night Wind’) was a welcome respite. The silence was blissfully harmonious.

Phil certainly fed his wardrobe to the night wind. The wind let out an almighty belch. Phil took it down verbatim.

There was some random melody to the piece, but by this time I wasn’t sure if I would latch onto ANYTHING after being battered by the beastliness of it all. The piece was relegated the place it deserved in my attention – as background music to my frantic search for a new pen as the venom had run out of the first.

When a piece of good classical music starts, I feel my entire body relax. I exhale as I settle into the luxurious cushion of sound that envelops me.

When this tripe started, I realised that I had been holding my breath in anticipation – and all I wanted to do was take another sharp breath in as a buffer to the sound. My neck was tense, my shoulders were tense, my calves were knotted as if my entire body was poised to sprint the hell out of the hall.

It ended mercifully quickly; all we were left with was one….more….piece…..of …..trash until I could hear something composed by a man of any measurable talent. (Although Venables DOES have talent – it’s quite difficult to make completely random sounds, as we found on the way to the tube when we tried to emulate what we had just heard.)

The last test of my patience was Luciano Berio’s ‘Opus Number Zoo’. Four musicians had been planted in the audience. They donned feathered masquerade half-masks and jumped up on their seats, barefoot. They began to make animal noises. I realised I was grinding my teeth.

There followed a drawn out pantomime with wildlife themes, a little bit of instrument playing, a whole lot of vitriol-filled-poetry spitting and – somehow – an anti-war message weaved in with all the subtlety of a drag queen at the Mardi Gras.

I was particularly offended at the players stalking the audience, using their instruments to emulate rifles. Blatantly giving menacing looks and shoving the instruments in the audience’s face. As I said, subtle.

So I had paid my price, Stravinsky was next.

What a difference!

Although not my favourite composer, it was a surprising pleasure to listen to the singer. (A soprano! Who would have thought, given her shocking ill-use in the last set?)

Suddenly the full, rich, disciplined voice was released. She stood differently, her shoulders back. She looked (and sounded) like a magnificently talented individual instead of the seeming street urchin reedily gasping out nonsense earlier.

She made an absolute dog’s breakfast of the Russian pronunciation in the lyrics but it didn’t detract from the piece terribly. I suspect that no-one else in the audience was really the wiser. In fact it was fascinating to see how she broke up the words. The music was Japanese-influenced and she broke where the music did. The overall effect was a strange ‘Japanisation’ of the Russian words into short vowel-ish sounds. Sometimes, though, she hit it – and when she did it was worth all the rest. Perfect.

So I didn’t find beauty in any quantity at the concert, certainly not enough to give satisfaction.

We headed home (via M’s office as he was on call and the Paris server had decided to save him from the last bit of the concert). We all had dinner at the office’s cafeteria, watched a bit of TV, fraternised with the night shift, had a couple of laughs. Heading home, we agreed that the latter bit of the evening took most of the sting out of the disappointment of the former. I had pretty much stowed the whole thing away as a C- on the report card of the evenings of my life.

Deciding to run down the escalators to get some nervous energy out, I reached the bottom and suddenly, jarringly, stopped – as had many others.

On the concourse separating the two platforms was a man with a violin playing the third movement of ‘Summer’ from Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’.

He played so beautifully, so precisely. The glorious sounds echoing off walls – staving off the insipid announcements about not leaving baggage unattended and the thundering roar of arriving trains. The passion for this music was evident in the way his whole body moved, in the tension of his hands and fingers, echoed on the involuntary expression on his face. This was what those young players were mimicking so badly. Passion for music isn’t something one puts on like a morning suit – it is something that one lets out. It’s a radiance, not a scowl.

Leaning against the coolly tiled wall of the underground, I listened to the kind of music I had been begging for all afternoon just handed to me randomly in the most unexpected place. M and C caught up with me and soundlessly stood next to me, listening as well. We stood though a couple of pieces, exchanged expressions of surprise at his talent, dropped some money into his case and caught our train.

I stood in the crowded, airless carriage and closed my eyes as the train jolted on its way. I replayed the music for myself, extending it from my memory of the piece, enjoying it again and again. I think I grinned a bit much, people were looking at me.

I walked home with a smile on my face.


* Written on Friday, typed out today in between packing everything to move house.

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Sunday, June 20, 2004

Promotion

Today's orkut fortune:
You are next in line for promotion in your firm.

To?

God?

What's higher than Founder/CEO/Grand Poobah?

I'd also like to know who makes this decision. I have visions of scenarios that go something like this:

- Monica wakes up in morning.

- *brushing teeth* "I think I'm going to promote that Monica person. She works hard and looks good in a skirt."

- Gets to office and looks in mirror, asks self to a meeting, tells self to give self 20 mins as there's an urgent phonecall to be made.

- Waits for self.

- Sits down with self for an open and honest discussion about career prospects and future goals.

- Gives self new title involving the words:

* Distribution
* Area
* Europe
* Coordinator
* Regional
* International
* Sales
* Director
* Critical

Something like:

“Director for International Regional Area Coordination of Critical Sales and Distribution - Europe”

- Enters into protracted negotiations about salary. Is offended by own offer. Rebuffs mention of need to develop 'interpersonal skills'.

- Defers discussions to HR (self) for later in the week.


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Friday, June 18, 2004

Terrorism at home

"For every $1.00 major corporations gave to conservative and free-market groups, they gave $4.61 to organizations seeking more government," according to a study by the Capital Research Center, a Washington think tank.

Why? According to the Capital Research Center: "Many advocacy groups win corporate funding by threatening lawsuits and boycotts and by petitioning government regulatory bodies. Regulatory policies, in particular, give corporations a built-in incentive to pay-off left-wing activists."
More...

Charming. All is not well in the greatest nation on earth, especially if you belong to the Uber Heathen class of the businessmen.

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The devil you know

The Taliban is evil and wrong.* We were right in fighting this atrocity. I agree completely so far.

So how about this for a thought - what would happen to America if there were no restrictions on the way that Bush pushed his mysticism on others? Would there really be a difference in a Christian-flavoured religious regime?



The Quran

Fight disbelievers who are near you, and let them see the harshness in you. Link

Believers must fight for Allah. They must kill and be killed , and are bound to do so by the Torah, Gospel, and Quran. But Allah will reward them for it. Link

Have no unbelieving friends. Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them. Link

We shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Link

War is ordained by Allah, and all Muslims must be willing to fight, whether they like it or not. Link

Kill disbelievers wherever you find them. Link



The Bible

Kill those of other faiths. Reject the beliefs and do not learn about them. Link

Stone to death any witches or wizards. Link

Destroy the religious art and altars of all those who worship differently than you. Link

Death to sabbath breakers. Link

Keep away from those with different religious beliefs. Link

Whoever refuses to listen to a priest or judge must be killed. Link

Kill everyone who believes differently than you. Link

If someone in your family believes differently than you, then you must stone them to death. Link

If you know of a city whose inhabitants have religiously incorrect beliefs, then you must kill everyone in that city. Link



The horrid ideas that led to the regime and the evil that is being fought in the Middle East are the same horrid ideas at the centre of your friendly neighbourhood Christian zealot. The Crusades gave ample proof that Christianity is as bloody a sword as the Muslim faith. Don't be cajoled into thinking it's any better - it's just the devil you know.


* (Thanks to Steve Green for pointing me to that fantastic article)

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Why do we need heroes?

Heroism seems such an old fashioned concept. The word ‘hero’ has been abused of late – applied to just about anyone the press wants to laud. We see the ‘working class hero’ who, by the sheer feat of existence and managing to feed his brood is put on the same pedestal as the man who saves a platoon in times of war.

This week, though, we were reminded who the real heroes are. All you really need to do is look at some of the incredible blog posts and eulogies given around the world for Ronald Reagan and you see that people crave the heroic. The tragedy in his passing is that there are so few in politics that can take his place.

So I wondered aloud at what it was that we were all grieving for. Most of us didn’t really know the man – we knew his achievements, we knew elements of his life, we could see his resolve and his ethics through his words and his actions.

I came to the conclusion that he displayed uncommon heroism in his presidency. Heroism in standing up and saying the soviets were wrong, heroism in speaking plainly rather that in indecipherable beaurospeak, heroism in being in the belly of the beast and instructing the beast to cut down on it’s intake of taxes.

What I think was resurrected with Reagan’s death is the memory that leaders – REAL leaders, not just those in fiction – can be damn heroic.

Next Monday we will see another type of hero when SpaceShipOne launches. I have the utmost respect for the men who conceived this project and followed it through and nothing but admiration for the pilot. There have been so many risks and there are so many more to come, yet these people are able to forge ahead and create something phenomenal through the inevitable fear and worry that working on such a breakthrough carries with it.

A quote from Reagan’s speech following the Challenger disaster sums this up so very well:
“And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.”
And we have continued – at least some of us have. Those involved with SpaceShipOne have, those mortgaging their home and life on a new business have, those willing to stand up to beaurocracy, mediocrity and groupthink to say ‘Hold on a second! This is wrong….’ have. The heroic is all about doing something that isn’t the average or the everyday. Heroes are exceptional people and they inspire others in turn to do exceptional things.

So do they need to be real or can they be fictional?

Fictional heroes are awesome and accessible. A good storyteller will give us insight into the workings of the mind of the hero and allow us to get closer to them than we could any person. A recent example for me has been Captain Malcolm Reynolds in the brilliant Joss Whedon series Firefly (That deserves a blog post all of it’s own. I am now an official cheerleader for the Firefly Floozies. I can’t stop singing the lead song. I quote things from the show. I would finance a second series without blinking if I had the funds). I hadn’t realised how starved I was of the heroic and the just-damn-right until I saw my first snippet of the series…I found myself literally slack-jawed at the wonderful feeling of watching someone doing something brave, doing it with the utmost skill and not sugar coating bold moves with apologies.

Much as fiction tries to emulate reality, we all know that the environment and all happenstance in the piece of art is manufactured by the artist. There is an aura of convenience and of premeditation to everything – which is as it should be as good art isn’t random.

Real-life heroes, however, operate on our playing field. They do the amazing things they do in the same reality that we inhabit, with the same rules, the same risk, the same opportunities. (This is NOT an invitation for emails about some people being born with more opportunities than others. Life isn’t an even playing field to start with, but if you quit whining and start working you can even it out for yourself. Deal with it.)

I think that actual, tangible human beings that have achieved their goals are powerful motivators. Like ice-breaking ships in the polar cap regions, they break through seemingly impenetrable barriers and show others that it’s possible to travel in a certain direction. Of course, it was always possible; it just took a certain type of human to plow the way and show it to be the case. Their mere existence gives inspiration to do the same and gives us the proof that it’s possible to follow in their footsteps (the ice is cleared, after all).

One of the men that I greatly admire here in the UK is retail genius Philip Green. In a country of shoddy, dirty, overpriced, dowdy-clothing-filled stores with tetchy serving wenches, Green has implemented a revolution and made himself a billionaire in the process. Kudos and deference to the man, he’s showed me that people here really DO ache for change.

So how does all this affect us in the everyday? I heard two very interesting stories recently, showing two very different choices that people made.

There has been a recent spate of robberies at the end of the Central Line in London – right near my station, actually. It appears that groups of young men would intimidate people on the line (and on night buses) to hand over money, jewellery, credit cards and mobile phones IN FULL VIEW OF A CARRIAGELOAD OR BUSLOAD OF PEOPLE. What chills me is not so much the robberies, they’re everyday occurrences. It’s the fact that they’re not in some dark alleyway or an abandoned park – they are right under the noses of groups of people that have been trained to look the other way. Sickening, saddening, disappointing. The passengers on Flight 93 knew that they had the power to overthrow their attackers, to at least change the attacker’s plans. Here, people can’t be bothered to scare away baseball-cap-wearing children.

The second story is in complete contrast to this. It involves a friend of mine – Michael – and his girlfriend Eva. They were in a shopping centre a little while ago when Eva found a mobile phone. Turning around, she handed the phone to the nearest person, mistaking them for the owner. Eva is absolutely delightful, dazzlingly beautiful and carries with her the naiveté of a child who is unwilling to believe that bad people exist. When she told Michael about what she had done and found that he thought she may have given the phone to the wrong person, she was distraught. They started walking away, but both couldn’t leave the issue, imagining the distress of the rightful owner and made their way back to the guy she had handed the phone to.

The plan was to take the phone off the guy who had it and hand it in to security who could then determine who the owner was. Simple.

Michael went right back and confronted the guy, told him what he planned to do and why. Got an earful of lies, accusations and threats from the by now squirming guy – including some rather intimidating looks from his friends. Followed the weasel to a pub where he was told that the weasel’s father was drinking. Long, protracted BS sessions later, the father actually DID turn up and made the boy cough up the phone which (not surprisingly) wasn’t his. I’m very proud to call Michael a friend.

So what is it that makes people act so differently? I really wonder how much the heroes in our lives as well as our own code of honour serve to influence the way we act.

What this clearly shows me is that we sometimes have a choice between what is easy and what is right, what is average and what is exceptional, what we truly want and what we’re actually heading for. The heroic will consistentely make the right choice.

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Michael (sans cape and superhero costume) with me at M's birthday party a couple of weeks ago.  Posted by Hello

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Choices

I started the morning off in a happy-about-the-world mood. A kind of bouncy benevolence that makes me smile at the parade of loonies* outside my window.

Then I thought I'd have a trawl through Ananova. Oopsies.

"A woman paid £10,000 to have her new Mini Cooper customised - just so it could match her £20 handbag."

She said: "When I'm out on the road lots of people wave and beep at me - they must think there's a movie star inside."

Or a complete idiot. I vote for idiot.

Perhaps this is what happens when you have far too much choice as a consumer.

Choice, like freedom is a dangerous thing apparently.

It looks like people are seriously stressed out in the biscuit aisle when faced with SO MUCH CHOICE. There's simply too much on offer. It's too hard.

Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman, author of the report, said: "Humans now have to make more decisions in a single day than a caveman did in a lifetime."

Yes, they do. Humans also have to drive cars, solve quadratic equations and figure out how to program the VCR.

I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise that certain members of the intelligentsia are using the life of a caveman as a baseline measurement for what we should be doing. Take their ideas on the environment, politics and industry to their natural conclusion and we'll all be huddling in caves sometime soon.

There is a solution out there, of course, and I've seen it first hand. When I travelled to Russia years ago, they still had the old products in stores. One brand. The comrade brand. 'Twas simple. You wanted a 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner (and body soap and detergent and washing up liquid)? You got the boiled horsefat bar, baby. No choice there.

Go back 20 years or so in Russia and you didn't even have a choice as to what you did with your life, almost no choice as to the name of your child (I *narrowly* escaped being named 'Traktorina' at the Palace of Names or Palace of Registrations or some such place.) and certainly didn't have the power to choose not to live in an oppresive regime.

It's also a fascinating point that whilst Americans have 'too much' choice in brands of products, the American government is busy Antitrusting any company over a certain size. Can't have too few companies with too much market share, can't have too many companies with too little market share.





* I'll tell you about those in another post.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

State-ments

They have a mission – should you choose to accept it.

Canberra – Australia’s paltry little answer to Washington DC has decided on a State slogan:

Canberra – feel the power.

Someone in the capitol’s been reading 1984 – and liking it. I know that beaurorats are creepy, pasty, power-hungry, tax-gnawing fiends. I know that they would prefer to have the lot of us in chains or Matrix-style battery tanks. What disturbs me is that now it seems the Canberrus Rattus knows it too. And knows I know it. And doesn’t seem to care. In fact, I’d not be surprised if they started wearing unisex uniforms with a hammer and sickle on the sleeve – the thought behind it being “They’re screwed anyway – what’s the use in hiding it anymore?”

__________

There is a long standing joke amongst Australians that Tasmanians are inbred. Tasmania also has a new State slogan:

Tasmania - Intelligent Island.

Because - as we all know - two heads *are* better than one.

To combat this obviously fallacious thinking, an official website for the state has a Q&A section seriously addressing the ‘Do Tasmanians have two heads?’ issue. Have lost the link somewhere, but it does give a definitive 'no'.

Good. Glad it’s official because I never was all that sure.

It’s a shame other governments don’t take the lead on that one, clear up common misconceptions, you know…

…President Putin’s website stating: “Vee do not all talkink laik zis, yes?”

…some southern American governor making international press statements to assure the world that everyone isn’t named ‘Jed’ and doesn’t sleep with their sister.

…or perhaps the Japanese government releasing statistics to prove once and for all that Japanese men are NOT small where it counts. Dammit.

I really see room for expansion of the government towards quashing common rumour. There could be a Department of Anecdote Correction implemented. What the hell, there's a Department for almost everything else.
__________

When the developed world’s economies are going to hell in a socialistic handbasket, I have to admit that I’m somewhat curious of the fact that beaurorats have the time to think up slogans for their states. I think I finally understand why it takes them so long to get anything done - they're in meetings to determine what colour the new logo should be.

Easier than cutting taxes and easing back on government spending, I guess.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Appetizers

A few interesting things I observed today:

__________

I was looking at my stats and decided to have a looky at where my traffic comes from. Click on 'referrals', uh huh - a few surprises amongst which is the fact that I'm the top site for Googling the words:

funny baby bib slogans car

Hrmm.

I dislike babies. I dislike funny signs on cars. I dislike baby bibs with funny little slogans. This phenomenon has to be dumped into the 'Unknowable things life throws at me' basket.
__________

I love going to thrift stores and buying books. Today's haul included To Kill a Mockingbird and James Dyson's autobiography.

The curious thing about this particular thrift store is that they seem to sell things by weight. Not intentionally, mind you, but the bigger the book, the more expensive it is. The thicker the tome, the bigger the pile of change it's worth.

Trashy romances canoodle with tracts on coding. Cookbooks from the days of using lard slouch next to Tom Clancy novels. Yet all of this stuff is valued by how much it is pulled toward the earth by gravity.

I really shouldn't complain about the old biddies that run the store, they're very cute in a nutty and mothball-smelly way. I picked up a box of Dreamweaver 2 software and they tittered amongst themselves. I think I must have been the first person to express any interest in it. When I pulled out my phone to ask M some technical questions, I could hear the gasps and "Ooooh!"'s in the background. Perhaps I used the words 'site map'. I kinda felt like a wizard in a village that had only just become accustomed to fire. It was like I suddenly whipped out a novice-level spell and left the inhabitants in awe. At that point in time, I could have told them I did the coding on Deep Blue and they would have believed me (once I had fully explained what deep blue (and possibly chess) is).

I also came across the book 'Swan' by Naomi Campbell. Who gave that girl a working pen in the first place? So bad I'm still reeling.

__________

I realised I wasn't looking forward to writing anymore. How very curious, I usually love it.

Suddenly, writing something for the blog seemed like a chore on par with washing the dishes.

Shone a torch into the deepest recesses of my soul and realised that I had begun censoring myself now that I had an audience. Looking at what garnered attention and subconsciously doing the businesschick thing of "Oh, we'll need some more stock of that - it's just flying off the shelf. Stop with that soppy self-reflection though, I don't think anyone's buying."

Not that I don't appreciate you all coming here, but I suspect you come here to read what I want to write, not what I write thinking it's what you want to read.

So more soppy self reflection. It might get a little random. What the hell, I might end up just writing for myself as all of you meander over to greener, more politicized pastures.

Shall see how this thing unfolds. I feel like a small, squeaky thing in my own petri dish now. Stimulus - response. Change expectations - lets see what the output is going to be like.

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Good things

For the first half of last night at training I sucked. When I didn't suck, I blew. Please don't take these references beyond the scope of martial arts. Russell Whittaker knows exactly what I mean, albeit he puts it a little more prosaically.

Every dojo is slightly different as to whether or not you rotate training partners throughout the night. This one is like Commitment Chairs rather than Musical Chairs - when the music (rolling, warmup) stops, you end up with whomever makes eye contact with you - for the next two hours.

I generally have a rule that I don't like training with other women. I'm 6' and built like a good Russian peasant girl that can plow the fields and down half a litre of vodka as consolation. I find most women too small, too fragile and just too damn confronted with the whole 'potential hurtiness and rather serious deadliness' of the art to be effective training partners. I once trained with a woman that had serious concerns about breaking nails - funny in anecdote, not funny when faced with the creature itself.

Last night, I therefore had one goal in mind "Anyone, anyone, anyone....bar that small blonde. No, really, ANYONE. I'll even take the guy who can't stop grinning. Even that one. Just not the girl."

Of course, I somehow ended up with the girl, proving once and for all that Anthony Robbins type positive thinking is complete BS.

So I resigned myself to a night of half-assed training and being overly concerned with barely touching the creature in front of me. I find this really, really hard. Although I (and anyone else conscientious) will train so as not to seriously hurt a training partner, slight taps, light punches, grabs, slaps, whacks to nerve points and just whumping the other person into the ground is all a part of going through the motions of a move. Training so as not to cause the other person any discomfort or pain is nigh on impossible when you're twisting their wrist and arm into a lock which you then use as a lever to throw them ass-over-tit into a mat. So you do what I do, regress to doing things really softly, slowly....and....basically....badly.

Then it was her turn. She gave me a solid whack to the side of the neck, pinpointing the nerve points exactly. This should have tipped me off - it takes a fair amount of training to know exactly where to hit to produce the exquisite pain she was putting me through. Again. And again.

I like to think I learn quickly. Not last night. It took me about an hour to figure out that this chick knew what she was doing, REALLY knew what she was doing - she was just rusty. This situation is compounded because roughly half of us don't wear our belts, so you don't always know what level of skill you're training against. An hour of wobbling around like a drunken gumby because I had a preconceived notion about the way that women train. Pillock.

Things got far better when the Fog of Stupidity lifted and I began to train properly. She relaxed, realising that I knew what I was doing. I deadened her arm. We became friends.

I learned early on that training with short, wiry guys was a real challenge - they're fast little sprites - capable of running rings around you before you have time to realise that something's happening. Looks like I'm going to have to change my view on women too :)

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Monday, June 14, 2004

Guilty Pleasures

My feet hurt, I walk along the cobblestone paving toward my home wondering why people would lay this stuff where women would walk along in heels. I see a gold-coloured light on in the upper window and immediately feel relief – I’m home and there’s someone else there to jabber to whilst I pry my shoes off my feet.

I ascend the stairs and start a sentence of greeting…

…suddenly, I’m accosted by M, wild eyed and proffering a rather pungent cracker.

“Quick, eat this!”
I look down and spy several sections of raw garlic hovering on an odour cushion all of their own over a slice of cheese and a cracker.

Alright, let’s pause for a second. What would this mean in any other household? The one thing that comes to mind is vampires, a whole gaggle of the befanged ones, making themselves comfy in the lounge room.

One might expect M to follow up by handing me a stake, some holy water and somehow convincing me to wear a cross around my neck (This hasn’t happened since I was a little girl and didn’t know any better than to wear a stylised torture implement around my neck at the bidding of the local shaman).

So what the hell is actually going on?

In reality, it’s a small ritual we have if anyone else in the house decides to go a little crazy on the garlic – everyone else must have a dose so that they don’t wind up gagging on the ensuing aroma.

This little recollection got me thinking about food.

The foods we eat as humans really do amaze me. M and I have a rule travelling – we find the weirdest things on the menu in any culture and order a helping. Over time, I have eaten things that almost defy description and acquired tastes for other things that are nigh on impossible to get at home. (OK, ‘home’ now means England – so double the impossibility of anything tasty.)

People are often so emotional about what they will eat. They will hack gleefully into the seared ass of a cow but think that eating dog is barbaric. Why is eating a cat so very bad? Much as I adore the animals, (if you want to see me go completely ga-ga, stick a cat in front of me, not a child) they’re still as much animals as goats, sheep, cows and pigs. In fact, I’ve heard that pigs are quite intelligent – so why no societal problems with chewing on bacon?

I’m not a vegetarian, folks, not trying to get anyone to eat LESS meat. I just wonder why we put up these arbitrary lines at what’s edible and what’s a no-go zone. Why not eat MORE of a variety of different animals?

Plants have strange reputations too. Why are brussels sprouts such a loathed food when they’re so much tastier than potato? Why don’t people realise that apple-flavoured anything pales in comparison to a crisp, cool apple?

Whilst I’m waffling on about food, why is it that with cheese, the more the specimen smells like the glands of a week-old skunk corpse, the mellower and more satisfying the flavour of the thing?

I always thought that taste and smell were inextricably linked yet this week, my housemates have shrunk away from the kitchen every time I opened the container of Pié, standing back and sputtering:

“You’re not going to eat that are you?”
Why yes, I was planning to, you uncouth sods.

So is there anything that turns the stomach of someone who will eat almost anything?

Ohhhhhhh, yes.

Porridge.

You can chase me around the kitchen most effectively with a bowlful of the stuff – as M has proven time and time again.

*shudder*

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Sunday, June 13, 2004

I’m incited

(I started off just linking to this article with a short, huffy: “Bloody French!” comment, then thought about it a little. Then some more. Then talked it over with M. So it’s turned into an essay. Looks like this blog is going to be one of those ‘big posts every few days’ and ‘just interesting observations on life once in a while’ ones. Better that than telling you the flavour of marmalade I had for breakfast every day, eh?)

Brigitte Bardot has this week been fined by the EU for ‘inciting racial hatred’.

I really do take issue with is the idea that one person can ‘incite’ another into an action and that they are as responsible as the person who acted for the consequences of that action. I see it as treating the intervening person - the human that actually took the action - as a mindless conduit between the ‘inciter’ and the victim of the action.

The idea of incitement fails to take into account that the person who was ‘incited’ into an action is a fully cognizant human being. We’re not talking about winding up a toy car and pointing it in the desired direction, we’re talking about instilling an idea or ideas into someone’s mind and then them deciding to go and do something with those ideas. Whether or not the ‘inciter’ also suggests a course of action, as long as the ‘incited’ has the power to act freely, they are solely responsible for their actions.

We are all continually bombarded with opinions. Some better formed than others, some better communicated, some that make sense, some that are completely laughable. The power we all have is to filter them, consider them, accept and reject them as we see fit.

Matthew and I sat down to talk about this last night, as I found it to be a pretty interesting exercise. We came up with the following scenarios that may be pertinent to the discussion, as each would currently be considered ‘incitement’. We agreed, though, that only in the last can the person generating the idea be held jointly accountable with the person actually carrying out the action.

__________

1 – The ‘inciter’ publishes works (physical books, pamphlets or web pages, blogs etc.) and simply distributes their ideas to an audience. Someone in the audience is triggered to action by a concept in the writings.

Clearly, here the ‘inciter’ has no contact with the ‘incited’, they merely happen to produce the work of fiction or non-fiction that triggers the ‘incited’ into an action. If someone is already inclined to a point of view or already leaning toward taking action, sometimes all it takes is something correctly worded to reinforce their point of view and set the chain of events in motion.

In this situation, the ‘incited’ acts of their own volition. They make the choice to agree with the ‘inciter’s notions and then make another choice to perpetrate some action that they believe to be in line with the idea/s.

(If we really wanted to ban anything that would trigger thoughts that could possibly lead to undesirable action, we would have to make the distribution of any ‘subversive’ ideas illegal. Many works of fiction would have to be banned as they describe situations and thoughts that are not essentially ideal. Anything that is not completely in line with the current government’s policies would be off limits. Philosophical works would also be banned lest the populace somehow think its way into some unforeseen course of action.)

2 – The ‘inciter’ actually interrelates with the ‘incited’, describing his ideas and their reasoning. This would be best illustrated in the relationship between a mentor and his pupil or a master and his acolyte. The student specifically spends time with the teacher to learn what he considers to be valuable knowledge.

This kind of situation happens quite often outside the strict teacher/pupil scenario. Most of us are keen to learn and enjoy talking with those who hold firm views and are able to explain them. I can list quite a few people in my life who have taught me things over time and long, long, long conversations.

This kind of knowledge/opinion transfer can also happen with leaders of movements, political parties, groups and cults.

Clearly in this scenario, as long as the student is free to act of his own volition, he is completely responsible for his actions – even if their root cause is the ideas that the teacher has instilled in the student’s mind.

(If this were policed, we would not longer be allowed to voice non-state-vetoed opinions aloud to others.)

3 – The ‘inciter’ interrelates with the ‘incited’, describing his ideas and suggesting courses of action.

This scenario is just like the one above, however the ‘inciter’ also describes his ideas for solutions to whatever problems he sees around him. This could be as mild as peaceful protests or as violent as state-instituted gas chambers.

Irrespective of the stupidity or evil of those ‘solutions’ to problems, the student still has the power to accept or reject them as solutions. He further has the choice to personally act on them.

(If this were policed, we would no longer be able to debate with friends our ideas as to fixing the state of the world.)

And here we come to the last – the only example that is true incitement:-

4 – The ‘inciter’ forces the ‘incited’ into action or instructs the incited, with or without exchange of money/items of value.

Here, the scenario changes quite considerably in one of two ways.

4a - Where earlier the ‘incited’ had the choice to act, now the ‘incited’ is threatened with some harm if he does not commit the action the ‘inciter’ wishes performed.

In this case, the ‘incited’ is not left with a valid choice. Ignore all the silly Hollywood movies showing a moral struggle of a victim instructed to do something at the point of a gun. The moral responsibility is no longer the victim’s, as the choices are not theirs – merely the false choices of a false scenario invented by the perpetrator of violence against them.

So here we see that the fault, hence the responsibility, is solely that of the ‘inciter’.

4b – The ‘incited’ is instructed as to a course of action and agrees to fulfil it either of his own volition or is paid to fulfil it (he becomes a proxy of the ‘inciter’).

Here, both are party to the action and jointly responsible for its repercussions. The ‘incited’ because he is still free to make the decision to take the action, the ‘inciter’ because he is fully aware of and supportive of the action before it takes place.

__________

I glance at my bookshelf and shudder to think at how many books I have that may ‘incite’ me into some course of action. The Creature from Jekyll Island might make me want to find the nearest Rothschild and take vengeance for years of murky dealings with America’s money supply, The Skeptical Environmentalist might provoke me to lob things at the nearest dreadlocked hippie freak or his besuited representative at environmental conferences, The Prince might induce me to start a bloody war to take over the world …

We know that the literary world is scattered with more opinions than there are stars in the night sky. If we turn to websites and weblogs, that number considerably increases – the latter often being completely uncensored stream-of-consciousness musings from people of considerably far ranging political and personal points of view.

So why is it that Bardot has been singularly attacked for deigning to publicly state her opinion?

It’s very clear that she is not actually ‘inciting’ anyone to do anything. She is merely stating her (let’s face it, slightly scatterbrained) opinion on a contentious topic.

It’s also a patently silly accusation. ‘Inciting racial hatred’. Racial hatred is not an action, it’s an idea, a thought, an opinion. She is essentially being charged with potentially changing someone’s mind.

The reason I think that this court ruling is so very dangerous is that it sets the precedent for anyone who is particularly upset or disturbed by an author’s opinions to take legal action against that author for the crime of…of?...here’s an interesting one. There is no crime – simply the possibility that someone in the future may pick up the tome or read the website and perhaps decide on a course of action because of the arguments presented in the writing.

I think Bardot’s crime was to be a celebrity author stating rather silly opinions at a time when it’s not simply immoral but illegal to hold sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise intolerant world views.

I would go into the last statement in more detail, but that would take another three pages to fully explain. Another time, then.


(Edited for grammatical errors 14/06/04 @ 16:18)

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Friday, June 11, 2004

On a lighter note

Alright, I'm working on an 'essay' (as my posts have been dubbed - when they're not being called 'fiskings') that you can all get your teeth into. These things take time, reflection, inspiration and ... well ... time, really.

How about you enjoy some palette cleansers before the next dish?

__________

1.
Something slithered into my mailbox yesterday. When I finished my second (incredulous) reading, I realised that the leftist world was missing out on one hell of a politician. This man was one plain-talking miracle worker. Just like the left, he promises absolutely everything that one's heart desires. Just like the left, he doesn't mention where these things will be coming from or how, exactly, he plans to attain them for you.

To wit:

***MR KARANG***

International Healer and Spiritualist

"Born from a strong family of religion with over a hundred years of helping and guiding people for all kinds of problems, its solutions and how to help you solve it."
Problem: Overabundance of liquid funds.
Solution: Mr Karang and his hoovering personality, no doubt.

"For example, suffering evil influences, unknown diseases, illness, bad luck, black magic, job employment or interviews, success in exams or business."
Yep, yep, that 'job employment' problem can be a right bummer, especially in a socialist paradise where folks sun themselves whilst food and goods rain down from the sky.

"Also he can help you to bring back your loved ones who left or create new ones which didn't happen before..."
Whoa. Now THAT's a skill. Creating new loved ones which didn't happen before. Would come in rather handy at the ballot box, wouldn't it? Just conjuring up whole villages of people with one goal in life - tick the little box next to Kerang's name.

"...breaking of impotency and infertility, solving immigration problems, court cases and so on."
Now here we get to the usual policy promises - health care, keeping all the strange looking people out an prosecuting the hell out of companies, citizens who question tax legislation and anyone who looks at the government sideways.

"No matter what your problem is just contact Mr Karang in order to receive immediate results. The result is 100% guaranteed."
Just replace 'contact' with 'vote for' and you have yourself a seasoned campaigner.

__________

2.
Next time you find yourself on the express from Delhi to Mumbai, you'll be able to drink your contaminated water from a hand-made cup guaranteed to smash into a thousand bits when necessary.

I have more than a few problems with this article. Obviously the first is that any politician could force a railway to change what they served water in. In this case, though, I suspect that the railway might be publicly owned, so it's just one beaurorat holding the knife to another beaurorat's throat.

My second grievance lies with the fact that someone's encouraging people to throw CERAMIC CUPS out of fast-moving trains. Sure they biodegrade, meld with nature, become one with gaia and all that - but is that before or after they carve out a passerby's left eyeball?

My third grievance is more of an observation on the value of human life in this country. It is actually cheaper to have a man hand mould a ceramic cup than to have a machine press out a plastic one. What's completely disheartening is the fact that the politician ordering this horror actually wants to keep it this way, let's encourage people to do the kind of work a Plac-o-matic 2000 does elsewhere in the world.

At this rate of stagnation, the third world will become a 'back to nature' theme park for guilt-laden rich kids who paid a villager's annual salary to have their hair dreadlocked.

My last issue is the kind of thing that just leaves me making gasping, gagging noises. The kind you make when something's so obvious that you don't actually have the language to explain it, you just have to point and ... ah ... gasp and gag, really.

It centres around the fact that this move is supposed to be environmentally friendly. We're getting rid of the plastic. Bad, bad plastic. We're putting in ceramic. Good, smashy, melt-into-earth ceramic.

We're getting rid of the plastic because PEOPLE WERE PICKING THE CUPS UP, WASHING THEM AND RECYCLING THEM. I think the issue was not so much in the cups, but in votes. The 'organised gangs' who did this impromptu recycling of cups they would pick up from the carriages probably made a tidy little profit from the rewash and resale. I doubt whether there are that many (if any) votes amongst these people.

The men who produce the little ceramic cups are an entire industry. A visible, upstanding, completely-frigging-useless-in-this-day-and-age-of-plastic industry. An industry with votes.

I don't want to become cynical, I really don't, but reading the news really does make me wonder about the intelligence of a lot of the populace.
__________

3.
Nick has also posted something interesting about the difference between the term 'reporter' and the term 'journalist'. I like his piece but would say that I come to slightly different conclusions, namely that there's room in a newspaper for both reporters and journalists. Both fact-deliverers and opinion-deliverers. It's when we have fact-deliverers trying to taint the facts with a hidden slant or opinion-deliverers being told they must be 'balanced' that we run into problems. Stop me now before this becomes a big post all of it's own, although I have a feeling it will one of these days.

__________

I see that this 'time saver' of a post is about as long as an essay post. Brilliant strategy Monica, brilliant.

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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Classy warrior

The Reagan era for me had far more to do with having my pigtails pulled by horrible little boys than with politics, so my recollections aren't as clear as some who write about him this week. I certainly don't have any 'I met him and was impressed' stories to share.

I do have memories though. Memories of two shining figures that were my image of politics at the time - Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
Although I didn't fully grasp the nuances of politics, I could still observe the world as a child does. A child can see an adult that stands tall and unafraid, she can see their pride and she can see the bitterness of opponents spitting their venom at a camera.

I wasn't sure why I liked them so much (Thatcher a little more, very much a role model to a girl who didn't look up to film or pop stars to find idols), but my views were solidified over time by the fact that every yob who loudly declared ugly ideas about redistribution or socialism, every teacher that I loathed, every person who hated me also disliked the two of them.

When I think of them now, they seem larger than life. They were like two heroes from Norse mythology and they had one hell of a monster to slay.

I have seen the monster they fought first hand. It's not quite as simple as finding something hulking and slavering in a cave and killing it. You don't send a SCUD missile in and destroy an idea (only its evil perpetrators).

The thing they fought was built of shifty-eyed incompetence and murky backroom dealing, half-winks and half-nods and half-understandings that something is owed to someone but that we won't ask where that something comes from. What they came up against is the awful, amorphous idea that is socialism and the fact that it’s tenets were inextricably welded into the fabric of the societies they had pledged to keep safe. The monster was as much without (the USSR) as within (radical left-wing politicians, union leaders, Keynesian economists, university professors).

They had to stand up against some very loud voices in their own societies to accomplish what they believed was the right thing to do. They had to put up billboards stating that the Emperor had no clothes.

Unfortunately, the price one pays for pointing the Emperor out to be a nekkid fool is often one of public humiliation at the hands of those who see facts and statistics as little more than play-doh to be shaped to whatever mould they wish.

So when I see this kind of newspaper article about Reagan - ostensibly a list of all his failings and faults - I read it with the knowledge I have gained over the intervening years between pigtails and power suits. What I see instead of a scathing article is an accidental testament to a life well lived, a naming of achievements that any man should be proud to call his own:

"Slashing taxes on the rich, refusing to raise the minimum wage and declaring war on unions by firing air traffic controllers during their 1981 strike, Reagan took aim at the New Deal's proudest creation: a secure and decently paid working class."

"Corporate profits have been rising handsomely for the past couple of years, at roughly a 30 percent annual rate. But over two years into the recovery, wages are limping along at roughly the rate of inflation, gaining 1 to 2 percent annually. With the percentage of American workers who belong to unions -- 12 percent overall and just 8 percent in the private sector -- having sunk to its lowest level since before FDR, is it any wonder that wages are stuck?"

"...the power of workers weakened as the old industrial economies ceased to expand and global investment began to outrun the constraints of the state. But nowhere was the force of investment stronger and the force of labor weaker than in the United States."

"...letting business be business in its pre-New Deal mould -- free to speculate and shed long-time employees..."

Amen. Thank you, Mr Reagan. Thank you for your legacy and your courage in standing up to mealy-mouthed left wing hacks like Harold Meyerson.

One day in the future - probably when I am the age of most of the authors writing about Reagan this week - I will hear of the death of President George W Bush. I will watch the hypocritical news media tumble over themselves to give him the respect in death that they were not willing to give him in life.

They will mention the current war and it's victory in the same way that they mentioned the Cold War's association with Reagan. They will forget that they didn't uphold Bush's ideals when it counted - at the moment when we were all supposed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the enemy.

It's far easier, of course, to lend support to historical figures. The victor is clear in retrospect and there is little to risk in stating that one always agreed with him.

At a time when the media has been given a vote of no confidence by the general public, they should be re-examining what it means to have principles and integrity. As much as it hinges on choosing the right philosophy, it also hinges on consistency. Whatever it is you believe in, stick to it.

I don’t mind Harold Meyerson so much because I’m sure none of his regular readers would be swayed away from Reagan admiration by his article – I’ll wager they’re already drool-bib-requiring Democrats in their own right.

It is those that try to pander to everything – lauding Reagan and bashing Bush on the same page – that end up looking like muppets.

Luckily for humanity, there are those who can see reality for what it is, who can read between the lines and who know that a great statesman has left us this week.

Thanks to Steve Green for the links.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Stretched to a point

I woke up Tuesday morning and my first thought was that my body felt as if half a dozen men had beaten it with sticks. Then I remembered that half a dozen men HAD beaten it with sticks the other night at my martial arts training and I felt somewhat better about the whole thing. At least the pain wasn’t an indicator of old age or infirmity – it was just a memo from my limbs that went along the lines of:

__________

To: Monica White
From: The Body Corporate
Re: General Achiness

Dear Monica,

It has no doubt come to your attention that this morning brings with it a chorus of pain from several major muscles, one shoulder and your left ankle.

We felt it appropriate to indicate our general displeasure at your continued misuse of the facilities. Emergency repair work has been carried out overnight and crews will be completing the job over the next 24 hours.

We respectfully ask that you do not undertake such activities again. You weren’t designed to be repeatedly flung onto a mat by a brawny yet skilled young man. May we suggest some more appropriate activities for a young woman such as yourself? Namely:
 Organising morning tea (with crustless cucumber sandwiches).
 Basket weaving.
 Looking pretty in something floral and flouncy.

You know you don’t want to disagree with us.

Sincerely,

The Body Corporate

__________
__________

To: The Body Corporate
From: Monica White
Re: General Achiness

Dear Body Corporate,

With all respect due in this situation, may I cordially invite you to bite my (aching) gluteus maximus?

You are there to serve my needs, if you feel that you cannot perform to standards, I may have to consider an organisational restructure and far less Green & Black’s chocolate consumption.

I will be taking The Body for a run this afternoon and would appreciate your cooperation.

Yours in ‘ouchie’ sounds
Monica

__________
__________

To: Monica White
From: The Body Corporate
Re: General Achiness

Dear Monica,

It’ll all end in tears.

Regretfully,

The Body Corporate

__________
__________

To: The Body Corporate
From: Monica White
Re: General Achiness

Dear Body Corporate,

So be it. Lace up the runners.

M

__________

We were actually given far too much time to stretch at training, which gave me the luxury of going through everything twice and really pushing my flexibility.

I noticed a curious thing. Stretching to increase flexibility hurts (no revelation there), but it’s not the same kind of pain as that from an injury. It’s a curious pain, not at all pleasant but somehow tolerable because it’s an indicator that you are pushing yourself just past your current tolerance limits.

Twisting myself into yoga-inspired pretzels, I further ruminated that this analogy could be extended to other facets of one’s life.

If you extend the idea of ‘stretching’ to the activities in life undertaken to extend a skillset or a desired attribute – be it learning a new computer program, going to a dance class, taking a course, changing career, reading a non-fiction book or having a challenging discussion with someone more knowledgeable than you on a topic – then you can extend the analogy of the pain type along with it.

Stretching oneself isn’t always a particularly pleasant activity. The rose-tinted spectacles of hindsight tend to skim over the hours of frustration and make us think it wasn’t all that bad. If you want the reality of the learning process, recall a time when you couldn’t get a certain step right learning the salsa or a concept in a textbook maddeningly refused to gel with the rest of the knowledge in your brain. Recall a time when you were surrounded by a snowdrift of scrunched up paper because you couldn’t quite get the letter/essay/drawing right. That’s the essence of learning – getting one’s mind or body to a new level where it can overcome what is presently an obstacle. It’s damn hard.

The analogy hit me again today as I was wrestling with Adobe’s InDesign CS. I need to complete a layout on this (completely amazing, very powerful) piece of software and I’ve never touched the darned thing before. I barely knew what kerning was and suddenly I was plunged into a big bad world of terms and ideas that whizzed past my head like so many poorly fired bullets. I actually whimpered after a solid hour of trying to figure out what a help topic was trying to tell me.

Taking refuge in decaffeinated tea (if I had added caffeine to the mix, I think I would have destroyed the office), I drank so much that I felt as if my pores were leaking milk and sugar by late afternoon.

I stopped and realised that what I was experiencing was merely a very, very hard stretch. It was pain, but it was a good pain – the type that means I’m getting better at something. The bad pain would come if I didn’t endure and overcome this, if I couldn’t get this layout done, if I delayed the project any more.

A couple of deep breaths later, I was back to swearing at the help index, albeit in a slightly less panicky way.*

This, in short, is why I really admire anyone who achieves something of note. I can imagine the kind of pain and difficulty they have had to endure to get there. I am also in awe of their mental discipline at not just getting past the pain, but being in control of their mind & body whilst everything is screaming for them to give up and stop.

This is why I agree that 'All men are created equal' but not that all men remain equal throughout their lives. Some stretch themselves in many capacities, others just coast along at whatever level they happen to slot into. It's all a matter of daily, hourly, constant choice.



* Panicked swearing is in Russian. Annoyed swearing is in Polish. Casual, fun swearing is in English. I have a palette of the stuff – if this career falls through, I could always make it as a sailor.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Paddling

I have searched far and wide, physical store and virtual warehouse. There are officially no pedestal fans in all of London, England. This is not unlike the situaion LAST summer. Do the stores here learn? No. It's a hell of a lot more fun to have merchandise on shelves that doesn't move and angry customers asking why the hell an electrical appliance store still doesn't have any fans (even though we asked last week and the week before and the week before...)

So M and I have been emailing back and forth over the sane-ness of buying a severely overpriced, tatty-boxed fan displayed in a store window nearby. The store itself is one of those that seems to be plagued by Trek-like time bubbles. The window display features said fan, various (sound, video) cards for computers and a TV so old that it has wood-effect laminate on it's sides.

The email I received from M a few moments ago:

Creek.*
You.
Me.
No Paddle.
Argument.
Fight.
Pokes, prods and scratches.
You saying you're right.
Me talking you down.
You saying I'm right without believing it.
Resignation at situation.
Me fixing the (now) broken equipment in the canoe.
You coming up with an inventive solution involving paperclips.
Me admitting it's nutty but could work.
Claire no longer laughing at us from the creek bank, throws rope.
We reject rope to see if paperclip idea works.
We start playing with more paperclips.
We drift downstream after an enjoyable day...

* Australian expression for being in trouble: "Up shit creek without a paddle." This the poetry of a nation that doesn't dance around issues. God, do I miss it.

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It’s the age of a-Claire-ius

Having an actual flatmate around serves many purposes – some more immediately apparent than others. We thought we were just giving Claire a place to live in London and sharing the hideous burden of the rent – but there’s quite a bit more to it than that:

I’ve found that the little habits I thought were perfectly normal are – in fact – exceptionally freakish.

__________

1.
Singing.

C came home the other day and gave me a small, fierce look, saying:

“Oh god, I’ve started singing.”

Which I thought wasn’t really such a bad thing, I certainly didn’t see what all the fuss was about and told her so.

“But you don’t understand, I’ve picked up your habit of singing about everything during the day – taking a song and playing around with the lyrics.” Her tone picked up a bit on the hysteric-o-meter. “And I’m doing it AT WORK!”

Ahh.

Trying to avoid the glare, I recommenced the carrot-chopping but it’s difficult to do when someone is quite insistently drilling psychic holes in the side of your skull. I didn’t even realise I had begun singing about C’s singing (to the tune of something from The Lion King) until I looked up and saw her as close to causing me bodily harm as I could have ever imagined. I think I’ve got to start curbing that one.

__________

2.
Apparently, making words up isn’t ‘normal’.

Much as I adore the English language, sometimes its tapestry doesn’t afford me the particular shade and texture I require to describe something. M has long ago observed this and reconfigured his brain to deal with it. C, on the other hand, stops me mid-flow to ask me what on earth I just said.

My reasoning is that language was made up by people in the first place. It’s not like a dictionary morphed into being one day and we all began speaking English in the same way. We STILL don’t speak English the same way – I’ll wager that if you heard me speak you would find that my Australian accent is ‘strange’ and that you don’t know some of the terms I use.*

I’ll wager that the first guy who looked at his herd of sheep and thought of the word ‘fluffy’ was laughed at too. I’m willing to risk being ridiculed so that future generations can benefit from words like:

• Thinkling – small thought. Not a particularly deep rumination deserving the moniker ‘Thought’, just something small yet significant at the present moment.

• Wifelet – professional wife. A creature whose days are split between beauty salons, designer rag outlets and cafes. She does buy books – but only because their spines match the rug. Can be found hanging barnacle-like off her husband at premieres and parties.

I’m not the only one to do this, by the way, Rory indulges once in a while too.

* No Wuckers, for example. Third generation slang:
No fucking worries > No wucking forries > No wuckers
Don’t look at me like that.
__________

3.
Being hermit geeks.

We’ve stopped being such hermit geeks. There are two eras, Before Claire (BC) and After Claire (AC). Claire did influence us from afar, but it was far more like the moon’s gentle tug on the tides rather than the screaming asteroid plummeting into our social life that marks the AC era.

BC – Weekend entailed replenishing food supplies, cleaning and settling in for long (“Sheesh, sunlight already?”) bouts of gaming. Over the years, I became somewhat of a party trick at LANs. The girl who could frag your ass nicely in Quake or passionately discuss the differences between being a Sorcerer or Wizard in an RPG.

AC – Weekend entails stumbling to the kitchen to have C inform me that someone (insert random friend) is coming over in an hour. Eyes snap open to assess cleanliness of abode, mind starts going through contents of fridge, mouth starts gabbling things about lunch, hands reach for serviettes and start folding them into origami-esque shapes. C switches on a computer screen and gently guides me to a chair – she knows it’ll keep me in thrall for a couple of hours so that she can complete her dastardly socialisation plan.

BC - Diary had the standard stuff in it. Business appointments, dental checkups,

AC - Diary is now a random assortment of chocolate-box social nibbles. Plenty of things 'to maybe do'. I knew things had changed in my life when last weekend's entry looked something like:

* Buy a fan at Argos
* Call Andy re: lease
* Cheese Rolling festival in Glouchestershire? (Check health insurance if we participate)

C realised early on that we’re not shy; we just enjoy being at home and with each other. She also figured that we’re good mixers at parties, so we occasionally get dropped into a fray to stir things up a little. Cleverly, she ensures that we navigate the flotsam on our own as the effect of us both interrogating a person isn’t pretty.
__________

4.
Debating teams.

C now changes the friendly-argument-typology in the house. It’s no longer a détente when some obscure topic is discussed and the ‘net can’t help – there’s a knowledgeable little critter around that doesn’t always take my side.

I have plans to fix this little hiccup in my life, but so far none of the ‘Find Omnipotence Now!’ products have kicked in. Bother.
__________

5.
An overabundance of me-ness.

I have found that friends need to be warned about me before I’m allowed to meet them. I hear about someone from C for a couple of weeks and tell her to bring them on over…and am informed that they’re not ‘ready’ to meet me yet.

This brings to mind some sort of Getting Ready To Face Monica Boot Camp held in an Equatorial forest in Guinea. Attendants are battered senseless with questions, have all their premises challenged and are openly told that some of their ideas aren’t just a little wacky but outright stoopid. They are then introduced to the finer points of Pun-Pong* and assaulted with rounds of I’m Going To Sing About You To The Tune Of A Disney Song. If they survive with (most of) their limbs intact, they progress to The Meeting.

I really don’t know what it is that C tries to instil in these people, but most that I’ve met so far have been rather normal, decent humans. Some have a limp though….

* Pun-Pong. Someone drops an appalling pun into a conversation. Participants (anyone who hasn’t withered away from the sheer badness of the original pun) must then come up with their own pun to counter the last. The pun must be on the same general theme. Footrubs and shoulder massages have been bestowed on the last punner standing in particularly savage rounds. This is a very, very difficult game.
__________



For someone who grew up as an only child, having someone like C around is discovering what it’s like to have a sister (albeit a well behaved, intelligent, lively sister that doesn’t kick me under the table or acquaint toads with my bedsheets). It’s a view on me from a friendly and close source that isn’t a parent or a lover and it’s decidedly interesting.

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