Friday, December 31, 2004

Impotence

Words just aren't enough. I can't even begin to comprehend the misery enveloping Asia at the moment.

I feel inadequate and impotent. But then, I'm lucky that's all I have to worry myself about.

And it feels hollow to wish the world a happy new year.

So I wish it peace instead.

Garden State

I've not seen so many movies this year. Maybe I've been selective about them. Or just not inclined. However, the movies that I've seen include The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (on DVD, I confess, but it was so DAMN good - I saw it twice in a row), The Incredibles, Festival Express, Shrek 2, The and Bourne Supremacy. Without feeling too smug (a difficult propostion for me), I think I have chosen well. But all of them fade when compared with Garden State. Jim told me it was good, but I had no idea how good. I would love to explain it, but I would struggle. I am just not that good with my first language. Suffice to say that it has elements of Rom Com, Gen X (or Y, or whatever), slapstick, a World War 2 motorbike with sidecart, Natalie Portman, an amazing soundtrack featuring Coldplay, Simon and Garfunkel and Frou Frou, a knight in somewhat tarnished armour, a big hole, a man with 'Balls' written on his forehead, and a dead hamster. It is extremely funny and very moving. How funny? I actually slapped my thighs with laughter several times.

This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. I know it's a comment we make a lot, especially when we have only seen it yesterday, but this time I mean it.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Testing, 1, 2, 3.. Check

It was about a year ago I stood in St Gemain and had this photo taken. I only put it up to see if I could get images up onto me blog. It turns out I can.

A Tosser in Paris Posted by Hello

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Great Man has died

Arthur Lydiard, an athletics coach in New Zealand has died, aged 87. You've probably never heard of him, but in NZ in the sixties, he came up with a new coaching technique that resulted in four gold medals for men in the black singlet.

You can read a lot more about him at the New Zealand Herald's website.

A genuinely great man.

I'd like to meet this man

The Observer Magazine has a regular feature called 'These Things I Know' where someone is 'interviewed' but where the interviewer remains anonymous. This week's interview has been one of the best. You can find it here, but highlights include:

What do I really want for Christmas? Nothing. It's not that I don't want anything. There's always going to be some stupid object I think I can't live without. But, at the core, nothing is what I most need. Do you get me? I need nothing - the sense of nothingness. Wouldn't everyone be happy with a little nothing in their lives?

and:

There's no mystery left in sex. It's shown so much, discussed so much, and every woman's shuffling off for a shave. I say to hell with the Brazilian and bring back the Bolivian. Let's have a bit of mystery

and:

When I was about nine, I really wanted an Action Man for Christmas. One that had a big hair on his chest that, when pulled, provoked him into barking, 'Awaiting further commands!' and similar daredevil nonsense. Instead I got a huge set of encyclopedias. Who wants to swot up on the digestive habits of antelopes when they've got a bedroom full of Nazi stormtroopers that need immediate quelling with extreme prejudice? You'd probably surmise that now - with time and experience, the onset of maturity, my temper tempered - I would appreciate the encyclopedias. But if I had the choice today, I'd still go for the Action Man.

and:

If there is such a thing as a God, he's one hell of a joker.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

An open blog to radio DJs (especially you, Wogan)

Dear Radio DJs
I don't like to moan.
I like to accentuate the good things in life.

But would all of you stop talking over the end of songs? I would much rather hear the song than your bloody voice. I've noticed that you encroach further and further into songs at the beginning (here's a rough guideline, if the singer has started, you should have stopped by then), and as for the end, at least have the decency for the last verse to finish and the chorus to start before talking at us again. After a stressful day, I happened to be listening to Oxford's Fox FM on the way home, and they played the rather beautiful 'Don't Dream it's Over' by Crowded House, and it was making me a little bit more at peace with the world, except one of you started talking before the third verse had even started. What's that about? I mean, really? It wasn't even close to the news, so that couldn't have been it.

If I wanted to listen to people speak I'd listen to Radio 4. At least what I'd be hearing would be intelligent, rather than the verbal diarrhoea you lot spit out.

And Wogan, I like the music you play on your show, but hearing you do bird whistling in the middle of a song tends to make me turn off. That is after all, my choice. That's not all. Playing a song that starts at 7.55, then cutting it out at 7.56.33 so the song you play next fits exactly into the gap before the 8.00 chimes isn't exactly demonstrating a masterery of music programming.

You've all been mourning the passing of John Peel and holding him up as an inspiration as a DJ, and rightly so. But he could hold his tongue, why can't the rest of you?

Regards,
Richard

Music I Love

The Go! Team.

The exclamation mark says it all. Music with a pulse.

www.thegoteam.co.uk

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Buddy's List

Last night at Hammer and Tongue Buddy Wakefield referred to a list of documentaries that he recommends. These are:

Swimming to Cambodia
Life & Debt
The Corporation
Manufacturing Consent
Power and Terror in Our Times
Roger & Me
The Big One
Bowling For Columbine
Fahrenheit 911
Outfoxed
Control Room
Bush Family Fortunes: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Hearts and Minds
Uncovered: The Truth about the Iraq War
Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry

There is more on these films here

The rest of the Fred Dagg Lyrics

Because I live a long way away from home, it's good to be reminded of my roots.
Fred Dagg is defined in New Zealand as a 'kiwi icon'.

We don't know how lucky we are. The New Version.
By Fred Dagg.
(Thanks to these people)

At the dawn of the day, in the great Southern Ocean
Where the world’s greatest fish was being landed
And the boat they were pulling it into was sinking
And the sea was quite lumpy, and the weather was foul
And the bloke with the map was as pissed as an owl
And the boys called out “Maui, ya clown, let it go”
In the noise he reached down for his grandmother’s jawbone
and he winked at his mates and he said
“Boys, we don’t know how lucky we are”
“I have a feeling I have stumbled on something substantial.”

We don’t know how lucky we are
We don’t know how lucky we are
We don’t know how lucky we are
We don’t know how lucky we are

I was speaking to a mate of mine, just the other day
A bloke called Bruce Bayliss who, lives up our way
He’s been round the world on an 8th army do for a year, more or less
I said “Describe the global position, Bruce”
He said “Fred, it’s a mess.
We don’t know how lucky we are in this country.

We don’t know how lucky we are.
We don’t know how lucky we are
We don’t know how lucky we are

There’s a guy I know who lives in town
I see him about once a year I suppose
He’s had a coronary since Easter
He’s got a haemorrhage in his ear
He went bankrupt a couple of weeks back
And now his wife’s left him too
I said “You’re looking hot mate, You’re looking clear, what are ya gonna do?”
He said “We don’t know how lucky we are
To live in this joint mate"

We don’t know how lucky we are
We don’t know how lucky we are

So when things are looking really bad
And you’re thinking of giving it a way
Remember, New Zealand’s a cracker
And I reckon come what may
If things get appallingly bad
And we’re all under constant attack
Remember, we want to see good clean ball
And for god’s sakes, feed your backs

We don’t how fortunate we are to have that place
We don’t know how propitious are the circumstances.

We don’t know how lucky we are, mate
We don’t know how lucky we are
We don’t know how lucky we are, get it right
We just don’t realise how fortunate we are
We have no idea, the luck, we possess, collectively
We just don’t know how lucky we all are.
Full stop.

Sarah and Craig and Alice

You are loved. More than I could hope to put into words. And I wish I could make your life easier, as you have so often made mine.

Hammer and Tongue - They're the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street

We don’t know how lucky we are, mate
We don’t know how lucky we are
We don’t know how lucky we are, get it right
We just don’t realise how fortunate we are
We have no idea, the luck, we possess, collectively
We just don’t know how lucky we all are.
Full stop.
(Fred Dagg)

A week or so ago I wrote about how much I was struggling. And to some extent that is true. I still don't like being single. Last night I was talking to my flatmate Emma and recounting a story that involved my ex-girlfriend, and I thought that I have so few stories that involve a girlfriend. The story has to do with a battleship and a girl. If you want to know more you have to ask me. But my point is that I don't like being single, and most days I am not prepared to live with that. Desperate, desperate man. But, to paraphrase Mel Gibson/William Wallace/whoeverthehellsaiditfirst, not this day.

Tonight I have come from a Hammer and Tongue poetry slam (look to your right - it says links there somewhere and then when you've finished here, click on where it says Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slams. Oh, to hell with it. Stop now and click there. You won't regret it.) and it has made me realise just how blessed I am. In Oxford alone I have communities based around Home, my flat, my cricket team, my street and Hammer and Tongue. And these are communities that are so astounding that just one would be enough, and yet I have five. FIVE!! Or just one bloody great community I call Oxford.

Crickey Dick.

The Hammer and Tongue slam tonight was as good as it has ever been. And not just for the poetry, although that was really good. And Abe, I am so sorry you went over time and I had to deduct a point, but we'll all be bastards together. It was more for the sense of community and the love there. No, not the bullshit love you find under the Argos Christmas Tree (TM) or the equally bullshit love that Elton (TM) spits out, but the warmth and the belonging that sits in a community where no matter where you come from and no matter what you believe, you are accepeted. Having just written that, I do wonder if Mr Bush or Mr Howard would have felt so welcome there tonight. And in the spirit of me ranting and thinking without speaking. Sorry, speaking without thinking, Steve, as much as I love you and your work, and as much as I love what you've done, I didn't like your poem about the human race being a parasite, but then, that's just me and I believe we're bigger and better than that. Fuck it, if we're all gonna be parasites, stop the world, I want to get off.

Where was I? Oh yes, the love. Tonight it was as if the spirit was flowing through the place. We Christians will probably put it down to the Holy Spirit, the rest of you can call it what you like. But whatever you wanna call it, it moved me. Sometimes it picked me up and slammed me against the wall (like, when, like Buddy Wakefield asked, like, if I'd ever dreamt about living for a living - and yes, it did feel like he was asking me, rather than a hundred other people), and other times when I watched an American girl in front of me completely lose it with laughter as Steve Larkin talked about fat sex. Or what provoked me to ask the guy I deducted points from 'cos he went overtime if I could make him dinner (he turned me down, but he did hug me), and let me call myself a cunt (he amended that to Mr Cunt). Or when the last post, Angela, was shaking with nerves as she read out her two poems. Whatever, I have never so badly wanted to embrace a hundred people at once. Hammer and Tongue is just an embodiment of my sense of community, but I know that it's not limited to the firsttuesdayofthemonthattheZodiac, just like church is not limited to evenings at the Phoenix bar
or the secondthursdayofthemonthatStAldates. It's more than that.

I dunno how they've done it, but by jimminy, it is a Good Thing.

Ok, the lyrics are waxed now but I believe that if you believe in something and it's that good, damnit you're obliged to tell the world. And you're especially obliged to tell the people who put it together. You see, Steve, whe're not bloody parasites, we are so much more than that.

I didn't even mention the other communities that I count special, the people in London, Edinburgh, Auckland, Dallas, and my beloved, but never told, family. And my God.

Tonight, this morning, whenever, I am still single, but with what I have, it is more than enough.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Out my window

Today one of these evil bastards flew past my window. Being the liberal lefty I am, I know I shouldn't be excited, but I was and I am.

Last year it was one of these and one of these.

I plead 'I'm a boy, your honour'.

Monday, November 29, 2004

That dinner

On Saturday I had my dinner with Sophia (see 'A Dinner Invite' below). The winner of November's Hammer and Tongue poetry slam.

It went really well. There was enough to talk about, I got to drink half a bottle of wine, I got to meet someone new, and I don't think I gave her food poisoning. Well, my body is doing ok, I'm assuming her body is too. The evening didn't seem forced, and neither of us seemed to have any problem with calling it a night around 9-ish.

Would I do it again? Definitely. Would I recommend it to a friend? Hell, yes.

The levels of intimidation were also low. It was nice...

So, if you're out there, Sophia, thanks. It was good. And you folk from H and T, keep up the good work. I hear that someone there has found me...

Sometime it's just not as good as it might be

One of my favourite movies is The Princess Bride. Full of very witty quotes... One of the more memorable exchanges is as follows:

BUTTERCUP: You're the Dread Pirate Roberts; admit it.
MAN IN BLACK: With pride. What can I do for you?
BUTTERCUP: You can die slowly cut into a thousand pieces.
MAN IN BLACK: Hardly complimentary, Your Highness. Why loose your venom on me?
BUTTERCUP: You killed my love.
MAN IN BLACK: It's possible; I kill a lot of people. Who was this love of yours? Another Prince, like this one, ugly, rich, and scabby?
BUTTERCUP: No. A farm boy. Poor. Poor and perfect, with eyes like the sea after a storm. On the high seas, your ship attacked, and the Dread Pirate Roberts never takes prisoners.
MAN IN BLACK (explaining as a teacher might): I can't afford to make exceptions. Once word leaks out that a pirate has gone soft, people begin to disobey you, and then it's nothing but work, work, work, all the time.
BUTTERCUP: You mock my pain.
MAN IN BLACK: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

And without sounding too pathetic/angsty/whateverthehellathirty
yearoldmanshouldhavegrownoutofbynow
becausehe'sthirtyandamanand it'sallbullshitanyway 'cosbuggritI'mnothappy, life is hard. Well, at the moment it is for me. One of the scary aspects about this is that I am not entirely sure why this is. I am undergoing a bit of 'crisis of confidence' at work now (that's what a two page letter of complaint to your boss will do for you), but I think there is more to it than that. Some of it's also got to do with being thirty and still being single.

And it's a bit shit really. Because I also have around me some of the most important people in the world, people who mean more to me than I can put into words. And there are other things in my world that are unequivocably good, and for which I am grateful and which I treasure. Yet at the moment, somehow it is simply not enough. And without starting all my sentences in this entry with the word 'and', quite frankly I don't know what is enough.

One of the observations I have had about all this is that I know that to many degrees I am doing the right things in trying to deal with - I talk to my friends, I focus on the better things in my world, and try to make good decisions. And I know that for the most part I am a good person. There are characteristics about me that are noble and worthy. But my observation is that I put a plaster over the wounds that stem the immediate crisis, but I don't actually deal with the underlying infection. And this seems to present me with two choices: the first choice is to seek therapy for this now and the second choice is to let it get so bad that I am forced to deal with it. I'll probably go with the first option, 'cos damnit all I tend to make wiser choices.

It probably sounds a bit depressing, but then, fuck it, I have no shame in hiding what I feel. And I believe that you've simply got to talk about the shit that is affecting your life. You also need to talk about the good stuff too.

And I reserve the right to delete this, but...

Thursday, November 25, 2004

I'd like to thank...

...Anita, Justice, Naomi, Kate, (a somewhat disturbed and revealing) Jim, Jules, Sarah, Sophia, Emily, Caroline, Anna and Eddie. Izzard. And these people. And a cat that miaowed at a completely appropriate moment while some of the above were praying.

Yesterday I was still a grumpy numpty, although getting better. All of the above people contributed to me laughing myself silly last night, through various methods. Most of which I should not repeat. It made me feel so much more at ease with myworld and myself.

Sometimes it is the best medicine.

Adversity

Business trips are not what they're cracked up to be. Below is a rant about what happened to me over the weekend. But first, an observation about me.

I have a theory about nice people. Nice people are people who are nice to people they don't like, and people they don't know. They are nice to people because that is what is the right thing to do. People who are not nice to people they don't know or like, are not nice people. I like to think I belong in the earlier group, but I am acutely aware that I very easily fall into the latter. Last week I was not a nice person.

I don't cope very well in adversity. Last week I was very stressed about the work I had to do. Unfortunately I started snapping at people. Including my friends. Anyway, on with the story.

Friday. My colleague Idris started moving things around my desk for gentle amusement. My response was to tell him quite vehemently to 'Fuck off, I'm not in the fucking mood for this, now put the bloody thing back and piss off.' Idris stopped and made some snarky comment and wandered off. Idris is one of the more fun people to work with so my response was totally out of order. Arrived at heathrow at 2.30 for a 5.55 departure. A little early. Don't like being late. Hate being late. Unlike BA. Sent Idris a text message and apologised. Plane left HR at 9.00pm. Managed to forget my pin for my phone. Tried three times and locked it. The less said the better. Wanted to get a phone number off it for my cousin who was meeting. effectively goosed. tried to use the time wisely by finishing the research for my paper. Battery life was 30 minutes. tried to get into BA lounge to work. they said no and gave me a £4 light refreshment voucher. this got me a pint of stellar and a packet of crisps. Got to Amsterdam at 11.30pm their time. had to walk up four flights of narrow steps with a display case the size and weight and ease of carrying of an office cubicle divider. Great start.


Saturday woke up with a health issue, which I won't be going into but thank the good lord (and some people who didn't pray, thanks, I appreciated it and you know who you are. It's an in- joke) it went away. Still had my research to do and no way of getting in contact with my cousin. So went to some amsterdam cafes (no, not those kind) and drank beer and looked at canals. Eventually managed to get my cousions number and then went to a music shop and bought an album by the Frausdots. Who aren't dutch but from LA. And here. Then did what I always do when in a foreign place for work. HAd dinner by myself. Began to feel a lot less depressed about it all and then finished my research. Slept well.


Sunday, had lunch with my cousin and wandered amsterdam with her some more. Went to Delft. Found out my hotel was only booked for one night. was remarkably philosophical about this. Found a new hotel. A better one. Ate with colleagues for a change and flirted with a waitress. fell in love with Holland. Again.

MOnday. Phone now unblocked. Got a text from Idris where I am called a grumpy numpty. Got bored silly at the conference hearing about research from people who have or a doing phds in all sorts of infinitely higher mathes than I will ever comprehend. Decided that I was ok with this as at least I have a life. Went to dinner with the rest of them and talked to some folk from Manchester, Delft and Bristol. wandered the streets and canals of Delft and shared what I could see with Justice, Meredith and Wendy. Had a great time telling them what I was looking at. there are no ugly dutch cities that I've found. Actually, there are no cities with less than stunning city centres. remain in love with Holland.


Tuesday. Start to full my trousers as I wait for my paper. Which is the last one in the conference. flirt some more. give paper and deflect awkward questions to my senior author. down beer and then run for train. then 'run' with above display stand down several platforms to catch connecting trains. Actually, run down one platform and then discover that the train was simply on the other side of the one I got off, so 'run' back up the platform. Sweat. Sweat profusely. Finish sweating and then start again. fly back on time and arrive in Oxford. Still love holland. But feel like I had an affair with it behind oxford's back. Decide to forgive BA.


If i ever see the display stand again I'll run it over.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A Plea

I am going to Holland on Friday for work. I have two days of a conference where I am presenting a paper.

The conference is here. Scroll to the bottom. That R.Body presenting the last paper of the conference is me.

Between now and then I have to research, write and make up some findings. Due to my workload most of this has not happened. Now, to complicate things, the simulations on which the model is based are failing.

The fear is mounting.

If you love me, pray for me.

If you really love me, do my work for me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

More is Less

At the risk of being a scrooge, I've just heard the new Band Aid song, and I don't like it. Band Aid, for the people who lived in a cocoon in the eighties was a collection of pop stars who made a record called 'Do they know it's Christmas' to raise money for starving people in Ethiopia. And it was all very successful. Twenty years later, the musical world has taken it upon themselves to re-record it and raise more money. Which is a good thing. Except that the record itself is now rubbish. Lots of pop stars trying to sound passionate (which, I guess they are), but it all sounds a little trite. It's one of those times where the sum of the parts is a lot less than the whole. The only fun in listening is trying to work out who is who, and wondering how Bono managed to take his original line from the eighties version and make it sound like he's had a few down at his local and decided that 'Hey, I can sing!, here, listen to this'. The Dizzee Rascal part, however, I quite like.

I'm not trying to piss on it too much - I like what they're trying to do, but sometimes the ends and means should be a little closer together. And I'm not just picking on the pop stars of today because I'm a boring old eighties rock man. On of my favourite live albums is The Band's 'The Last Waltz', where the Band got together with a whole bunch of seventies music icons such as Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Van Morrison and Ronnie Wood. The individuals sing great songs by themselves, but when they get together at the end to all sing 'I shall be redeemed', it just sounds altogether too self-indulgent and, frankly, bloody awful.

You can tell I've been here a while when songs become 'records'.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

I hear Edmund Hillary was from Wollongong

I followed a link on Cricinfo.com which was advertising an album of Australian Music Legends. Amongst the legends were Crowded House/Split Enz. Thieving bastards. They are from New Zealand, get your own bloody legends.

However, in a spirit of generosity, I've decided that Australia can keep Russell Crowe.

God Bless Him

Jim, what a guy. He opened his house and cooked dinner for thirty of his friends last night. A very generous man.

God bless him.

Shouldn't this be getting easier as you get older?

Generally speaking, I live a very contented life. I'm listening to me Dire Straits album, I have a great group of friends, I get to live in Oxford and I've had me dinner. All should be well. So why is it that a single bad/awkward interaction with a friend makes me feel very stressed? Consequently when someone asks me how I'm doing my first reaction is say 'I'm quite down'. Clearly this is bull shit, as I am actually doing just fine, thank you very much, and that only a small part of my world is 'in tatters'. This is not to deny the pain, and not to deny that human relations are important, but shouldn't this be getting easier by now? I'm thirty for goodness sake!

Interesting Fact: 1

This weekend I learnt what temperature actually is. It is a measure of the activity of molecules. As they bang together as a consequence of an energy source, they release energy of their own. This is why it gets colder as you rise. There are less molecules (the air is less dense) so they are less likely to bang into each other, so less heat is released, so it is colder.

There's still nothing wrong with me

Two weeks ago I went and saw the Finn Brothers at the New Theatre in Oxford. They are a brace of kiwis and in true antipodean style I went to support them. And have a bloody good sing along. You could spot the true fans in the audience. They were the ones who knew the obscure tracks, ie the ones that didn't come from the Crowded House album, Woodface. I did go expecting some favourites, and was ultimately dissapointed (no 'There goes God', 'I walk away', 'Karekare' or Better be home soon'), but then it occur to me that these guys have been making music for about as long as I have been alive.

It was a lot of fun. They showed a surprising amount of energy given that they are both 50 plus.

The most surprising element of the evening was that they were opened by actress-cum-singer Minnie Driver (which cannot be her real name), and she was actually rather good. Although I was aware that her slot of half an hour was about as much as she could do before she started to deteriorate.

And I dint just like her because she's pretty.

Another Outing From My Closet

Yesterday I bought that greatest live album I know. It's Dire Straits' first live album, Alchemy. No question, it's as good as it gets. The inside cover does not bear to much scrutiny (a worse collection of hairdos and eighties clothing would be hard to find). But it comes down to this, I've bought music by bands and people such as Fat Boy Slim, Massive Attack, the Corrs, Radiohead... and most of those I haven't listened to in over three years. Yet every now and then I get a desire, no a NEED, to listen to Mark Knopfler belt out a five minute outro from an already eight minute long song. I've been listening to them ever since I was aware of music, and twenty years later I still go back to it. I couldn't give a toss about how cool they aren't, I just know what I like. And there's something about knowing EVERY note on the album. That something might be a navy blue anorak.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A Dinner Invite

One of the things that I do with my time in Oxford is go to poetry slams. These are like battle of the bands, but using the medium of poetry rather than music. Well, d'uh.

The poetry slams in Oxford are organised by Hammer and Tongue (I can never spell tongue right the first time - always toung... oh, bollocks...). They cam up with this great idea whereby the winner of the slam on any given night will have dinner made for them by a volunteer from the audience. I have always thought this to be a great idea. It helps get the community flowing. And food is involved. So to out my kitchen where my heart was, last night I offered to be that person.

So now I am cooking dinner for someone I talked to for two minutes after the slam last night. Her name is Sophia and she's rather good at what she does, which makes me just a little intimidated. But I'd much rather do it than not.

There's something about these slams, that I can't quite put my finger on. Not somat I would have signed up for very long ago but now I'm a believer. They suck you in and leave you musing about lots of stuff. Good to go out at night and engage your brain.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

What's a man to do

I work in computer support. I trained someone in Belgium last month. Today they sent me the following support enquiry:

"I wanted to run a storm to look at the flooding but when I try to copy the storm from Excel into MySoftware, MySoftware doesn't get the numbers after the comma. I don't want to input it by hand because that would take a week's work, but how can I copy it correctly?? I made a picture of the situation. By the way, I think I haven't told you yet that I'm pregnant? I already was when you were here, but it was far too early to tell anyone."

I can solve the first problem, but I am not sure what she wants me to do about the second one. I also noted that she didn't send me any pictures of the problem.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Extinction

And while I am slagging off rubbish pop singers, here's my current favourite joke:

First the dodo died. Then Dodi died. Then Di died. And Dando died... Dido must be shitting herself.

Thanks to Colin and Fergus at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

There's nothing wrong with me

The following are lyrics from the new Finn Brothers Album:
Let the sound come in
From the world outside
You just keep on singing
When they tell you filthy lies

All the mud in this town
All the dirt in this world
None of it sticks on you
(You shake it off)
Cause you're better than that
And you don't need it
There's nothing wrong with you

As my friend Rhys points out, there's something quintessentially Kiwi about singing a song that declares there's nothing wrong with you. Alanis Morissette, these boys aren't. Which reminds me of my favourite Alanis Morrisette story by an Irish Comedian by the name of Ed Byrne who enjoyed taking the piss out of her song Ironic. For example, when she sings 'It's like rain on wedding day', he retorts that that is just plain unlucky, it might be ironic if you're marrying a weatherman... After pulling apart several verses of the song, someone in the audience, who was obviously an Alanis fan shouted out "it's a metaphor". Quick as a flash, Byrne responded, "it's 'like' and 'as', it's a fucking simile".

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Itocracy

Itocracy. Government by the IT department.

I don't like to rant about things I don't like. Taylor Mali says I shouldn't.

In my job I teach people how to use the fine software made by the company I work for and I also answer techincal questions about it. Increasingly I have noticed that a lot of British companies are severely restricting how much their staff can access their computers. Many staff cannot see or write to their C drives. Most cannot receive executable files, pictures etc. This is a vital part of the support that I offer as it helps solve the problems they are having. The reason that users cannot see or write to their C drives is about a lack of trust that the management have in their staff to be honest with their time. I also think that a part of it is how IT departments here justify their existence. They've got to be seen doing something.

And because they've got to be seen doing something, they effectively create problems for the user by limiting what they can do. Thus the IT department can look busy by being seen to fix the problem, when really, the user should be able to do everything themselves.

Don't get me wrong, IT people do provide a valuable service, but it's important for them to realise that they provide support to the people who bring in their wages. I would like to point out that in the case of my company, the IT person and management are complete stars, and I have complete freedom. And then there was that IT friend of mine in NZ by the name of Leigh. She was great. And lovely... Yep, feeling the need to acknowledge the good IT people out there. I guess I'm just grumbling about the times that common sense is diverted in the name of being seen to be doing something.

An ideal Itocracy is one where we benefit from the all the efficiencies that increased computing power provides, rather than the one we have here, where what we gain in processing power we lose in impotence.

Shameless Promotion

Due to two clubs dropping out of the Oxfordshire Cherwell Cricket League, the Wallingford Cricket Club second eleven has been promoted to the giddy heights of Division Eight. Which has a prompted some cynical bugger to observe that it's the first time in living memory that the seconds can be demoted. Not the ideal way to get promoted, but I don't give a toss. It's nothing less than we deserved for a fine season.

And for some reason, the author of this blog got given the WCC clubman of the year award. So there is a big trophy sitting on my shelf. Personally, I think the first eleven captain should have got it. I'm sorry, Warren, you should have got it.

I've done the decent thing and filled the trophy with Maltesers. Now when my friends lock themselves out of the house, they can have a lucky dip. And bask in my, um, glory.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Give me back the Bloody Spoon

Be warned, very muddled and somewhat naive/in process thoughts follow.

Growing up I was always a bit of a conservative optimist. I had faith in the police, I had faith that my government was about looking after my interests, although not always at the expense of others, the glass ceiling didn't really exist, and that change was not necessarily a good thing. Maybe this is because I am white, male and middle class. And in theory, there was no limit to what I could achieve. Don't get me wrong, I regard being white, male and middle class as something positive and I am not ashamed of my roots. I am proud of who I am and where I come from, but I am becoming aware of how much my origins have coloured my view of my world. Turning thirty is a bit late to do this, but better late than never...

To some extent, I have to believe that some of this is still true. I believe that human nature is enduring and that most people will, in times of trial, act for the best of all of us. I have to believe this as to believe otherwise it gets a little too scary.

Somewhere in the late nineties I lost much of the conservative streak. I think a lot of it was due to being at Cityside Baptist Church with such friends as Murray Sheard, Simon Manning, Malcolm McKinley, Sarah and Craig O'Brien amongst others. I'm not sure where the rest of it went.

Living in Britain, there is no doubt in my mind which way the majority of us would vote if we could vote in Tuesdays election. We'd be voting for John Kerry and there's no doubt that George Bush is the devil incarnate. I watched a television program tonight that was presented by John Snow, a senior journalist at Channel 4 in the UK. The gist of the program was that it's money that buys the White House, rather than manifesto, personality, integrity... There's an element of 'No shit, Sherlock' in that thesis. Sure, the other things help, but if you can get a lot of money, you can make yourself look better, or, more importantly, make your opponent look bad. Watching the program prompted a few responses from me. There was a certain amount of dismay, and 'I knew it!', but at the minute, the two most enduring responses are as follows:

Firstly, it's a free market, so if I have money, there's no reason that I can't get on in this action. Which in return prompted the response of 'just how free is it'. Sure, I believe that if you have the drive, the creativity, the ingenuity etc, you can make it rich. But I think at the moment there are two fundamental flaws in that idea. The first flaw is that there is the base assumption that we all sunscribe to the doctrine ofprosperity, or the great american dream. The second flaw is that I don't believe that the market is entirely free. I am beginning to think that those with the most money are trying to control the market and limit entry into it. Witness Microsoft and it's approach to Netscape etc. However, I am willing to counter this my using the same industry to demonstrate it's not entirely closed. The amazing growth in dot coms etc made a lot of new rich people (as well as a lot of very rich and then very poor people). So the market can be entered into by 'common people'. I'm not an economist, and I wonder if it hasn't always been like this, from the building of the British rail network and East India Company to the telecommunication industry today. Ian, if you're out there, you got a Masters in Finance, help me out here!

Secondly, I started to wonder how exposed I am to liberal media and reporting in the UK. I am a Gaurdian (the spelling is an in joke) reader, and a BBC watcher. The BBC getting the nickname of Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation during the second Gulf War because they were percieved as being anti-american, and I will avoid the Telegraph and Mail at all costs. And then we start getting into the whole problem of what is truth, and where is the spoon and then I feel the need for a lie down. Post modernism be damned, all I want is to get an objective viewpoint and that seems impossible!

To borrow a song title from eighties christian songwriter and satirist, Steve Taylor, it's harder to be liberal than not to.

And then it turns out that no senator in history has raised as much money for his election campaigns as John Kerry.

Driving home in underwear

There is a white horse in Uffington. Uffington is about 30 miles from Oxford and the horse is about three thousand years old. I went to see it yesterday with some friends. The black skies on the way out should have been something of a portent that perhaps going for a walk in the english countryside was perhaps not the wisest thing. (Incidentially, there was a red sky this morning. Something about a 'shepherd's warning'. Or, something that I've never really got, according to Legolas, 'blood was spilt this night'. There might have been a red sky yesterday morning but I didn't wake up till 10.30, so I would have missed it).

From the carpark to the white horse is about a mile of very exposed hilside path. We reached the horse at which point the worst rainstorm that I have been caught in enveloped me. This was the sort of rain that physically hurt. It was like being bashed with hailstones, except there was none. Normally I would bite the bullet and just accept that I am getting wet and there is nought I can do about it, and then run around in the rain but this went way beyond that.

I got to the car and the thought of sitting in wet trousers for 45 minutes didn't really appeal, so we stripped to underwear and set off home. If we'd had an accident, I think there might have been some explaining to do.

I never saw the white horse.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

I think I'm close to being a Stalker

Taylor Mali is performing in Prague in January. He is playing on a Tuesday night and I am thinking that I am sure (is that sounding like I don't know that I am sure) that I am going to take some time off and see him perform. He's a great guy and he doesn't come to this part of the world very often. Do I have an addiction problem, and am I stalking him?

In case you doubt me I wrote to him once and asked for one of his poems. He didn't have it, so I spent an hour and a half transcribing it and then I sent it back to him.

Maltesers

When you buy a bag of Maltesers it's good to not eat them all at once. You never know when your neighbour will lock herself out of her house and want to come in to yours to stay dry. And it's good to be able to offer them Maltesers to make a bad day better.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Softly Softly

I share an office with five other people, three of whom are men. I also have lots of other colleagues who visit our office most of whom are men. Why must the men in my office talk so loudly? Maybe it's something to do with the need to sound important. The louder we speak, the more important we are. Women are less guilty of this than men. And my colleague Tom is completely innocent of this.

People should be aware that I am more likely to be annoyed by loud mouthed people than softly spoken ones. And consequently am less likely to want to listen to them.

There's just not enough soft-spoken people in my world.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Unethical Dentistry

I've just come back from the dentist. Another filling to come. This pisses me off, and I told him so. I pay £23 every six months to see him, I also pay £30 for a dental hygenists appointment at the same time. Under their advice I am the owner of an electric toothbrush, and I take good care of my gums and my plate. And Yet... Everytime I see him I have to make another appointment to have a filling. Everytime. I've seen him four times and I have four new fillings. As I said, everytime. I don't trust him anymore. I did forget my appointment earlier in the week (it was rearranged without drama ahead of time) but I think he decided to make me pay for my amnesia. Also his suction machine is broken and I think he is looking for patients to fund a new one.

There should be standards. I'm thinking of changing dentists.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Vulnerability

I have no problem with expressing some of my most intimate thoughts in this medium. Well maybe, I had no problem with that. I am happy in wearing my heart on my sleeve. About the only question I have had is what responses the readers of this have. But seeing as I have no idea who reads this, I have decided to go with the risk and publish what I feel. And if anybody is reading this, then they can respond in their own way. But I understand that there are different approaches to this. nna has some thoughts on this. Hence the past tense above. And I have to admit they require processing. Thoughts on the back of an envelope please.

But to demonstrate my openess to the world, this little puppy needs a whizz. That might have something to do with the previous blog...

I might have been drunk when I wrote this

Once upon a time I wrote an essay for an English paper. Part way through printing it my printer failed and I was forced to write the bulk of it in pen. After railing against the printer I wrote out the rest of the essay, which prompted the marker to write at the bottom "You must have been drunk when you wrote this, Mr Body". This remains my favourite piece of feedback about anything, ever.

I was sober at the time

However I might have been just a little bit tipsy when I wrote this. I certainly feel that way. It's the last hot day of the summer, I have spent the best part of the day teaching a (rather lovely, it has to be said) Australian (and that's not an oxymoron) how to use the software that my company panders and then rest of the lovely day driving back from Shrewsbury where the aforementioned Australian works. As a reward for spending the day working I have consumed two large cans of Red Stripe Jamaican lager in quick succession. What problem??

It is good to be back in Oxford, but it was even better to spend time in Edinburgh. Not that I am sad to be home, but on the way to Shrewsbury I went to Edinburgh. Those of you with any knowledge of UK geography are now screaming "what the hell?", but I did also have to go to Glasgow.

I used to live in Edinburgh. I chose to live there because my friends Craig and Sarah lived there. And I wanted to see them again. They have now gone home. Splitters! When I arrived in Edinburgh they had been there about six months and already made friends with a bunch of people, who promptly became my friends. Anyways, Craig and Sarah went home about a year ago and the last time I went to Edinburgh after they had left it felt a bit weird as they had gone, and it felt like Edinburgh held little for me anymore. Last weekend was the first time I had visited Edinburgh since then. What a fool! I should have gone back a lot earlier. I was only there for twenty-four hours, but in that time I had the joy of catching up with three (ohmygod, how high?) quality individuals, by the name of Wendy, Ruth and Rebekah, and meeting another lovely Australian (see my earlier comment about oxymorons). I was reminded about the value of those around me, and the warmth of feeling I felt and dispensed was altogether overwhelming. It's funny, but as much and as desperately as I miss them, it has left me with the rather soothing feeling of knowing just how is out there, and it makes my world a much better place. To have people you love and who love you in New Zealand, Oxford, Edinburgh, London, Dallas... what more could one ask for?

But then, I might have been drunk when I wrote this...

Sunday, September 05, 2004

A Warm Glow

It's over. The Wallingford second eleven will finish 5th in division nine. Last year we finished 16th. Today we put Princes Risborough to the sword, as we whacked 239, and then bowled them out 105. They were rubbish, we were very good.

To round off the evening I had the pleasure of watching the bulk of the club get themselves completely trolleyed, smashed, mashed, mothered, and just plain pissed. It's an interesting occupation being the sole sober person in the room. Next time round, someone else can drive home.

Still, I don't mind. I have the warm glow of smug satisfaction for a job well done.

Friday, September 03, 2004

A song about poo by some kittens

I know I should have grown up by now, but I do like cats and I do like poo jokes. Turn the sound up when you click here


Friends

I have just had the priviledge of having dinner with Mark Pierson. Mark is my friend from Auckland/Melbourne and used to be my pastor at Cityside Baptist Church in Auckland. He is in Oxford to give a course on Alternative Worship. Mark is a Great Guy. He also came along to a hOME meeting with me. It was under the guise of checking out my friends for my parents and to make sure I hadn't joined a cult. So we didn't do any chicken slaying rituals that night.

It is good to have ones friends about. It's a tricky thing living on the Other Side of the World from where one comes from. I worry that I don't have enough contact with my friends and family back home. But I am in that catch 22 situation in that if I go home, I will miss my friends here, so it's nice when they come to you.

(I will go home for a visit if someone's got money for my airfare!!)

The End of A Season

What do you people do on Saturdays?

From next weekend I get my Saturdays Back. Tomorrow is the last day of the Cricket Season. I remember thinking back in April that every Saturday between then and September is now spoken for. Eighteen Saturdays later I am now to be released. Funny that I should think that I am getting my Saturdays back, when really playing cricket is one of those things that makes life good. My observation has been that things become a lot more enjoyable when you can opt out of them. Does that make me lazy? There was a period in the middle of the season when I resented the fact that I had to turn out each and every Saturday, although I think that had something to do with the fact that I was not scoring runs and Wallingford was losing. However, I believe my enthusiasm has since returned. I wonder what this says about my personality. A lot of this has to do with the guys I play cricket with. I love the way they play cricket and I love the fact that they do it for the love of the game. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Great guys, one and all.

The season looks like as follows: Played 17, won 8, lost 7, drew 1 and 1 was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Last year we finished 16th of 18 teams. This year we will finish no lower than 8th. The most satisfying element of those results is that we have only drawn one game. This means that we play cricket to get results . Some teams in the league have drawn as many as nine games.

I think I might spend next Saturday cleaning my room.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Not in My Name

I read about my alter-ego today. He has a book out called England for the English, and he is a member of the UK Independence Party. Some times I don't always agree with the things that are done in my name. Maybe this is how God feels...

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I'm easily influenced

I've just read 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time'. It is the trendy book of the year. Other trendy books of the year that I have read include 'The Life of Pi', 'Angela's Ashes', and 'The Shipping News'. 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' is a stunning book. It is written through the eyes of a fifteen year boy with Asperger's Syndrome. It is remarkably funny as well as moving. I am easily moved. It is the sort of book that once you have read it, it effects your thought patterns, and the way you write. I read the book over a period of two days, and now I am thinking, reading and writing like a fifteen year old boy with Asperger's Syndrome. Either this means that the book is that good or I am easily influenced. I hope it's the former.

Little Countries

Belgium is a little country with great beer and very pretty towns. I go to Belgium semi-regularly to teach people how to model rivers. They are far from ideal catwalk wearables. Damn, that was a weak line. When I am in Belgium I pretty much do the same thing each time. I wander round the city, I eat a waffle and then I find a square to sit in and then I drink beer while watching Belgium go by.

Belgium has a reputation for being boring. This is not true, although Brussels leaves a bit to be desired. It does have the appropriately named Grande Plaza (not very big, but stunning to sit in and drink beer in), and the rather descriptive 'mannikin pis'. It's a statue of a little boy and the little boy is going for a piss. Brussels is effectively the capital of Europe, as this is where all the civil servants come to play. I think that Belgium got all the civil servants because Germany, France and the UK didn't want them to go to Germany, France or the UK. And Belgium has a history of neutrality, which hasn't stopped the Germans, French or British in the past.

Little People

I am about to go on holiday with a little person called Grace. She is less than six months old and her owners (sorry, parents) are also going.

Today I bought nappies. I don't have any children (mandatory disclaimer from virile man follows), at least as far as I know. Trust me, I would. Buying nappies felt a little weird, if also grown up.

It is one of those things that happen as you get older that you start to encounter small children on an everyday basis. I enjoy hanging out with children, they tend to want to do quite basic things, and are amused by things like me hiding behind the sofa. It is also fun to manipulate other people in your image, and it's much harder to do that with adults.

Apparently being good with children is attractive to women. I am not convinced this is true as I am good with children.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Holding things tightly

Naomi writes briefly of treasure. I think it is a good thing to hold the intangibles tightly. Maybe that's why it's a good idea to back up your hard drive. Best to hold tight to something that you can't replace than to something that you can. Friends, memories, tastes, moments. Personally I like to live off the past. It helps me appreciate what I have now. I hope that's not a contridiction!

Pieces of Eight

Another very important part of my community was in action today. Wallingford Cricket Club has just completed it's eighth win this season. Last year we managed just five from eighteen. We have three games left. We aren't going to win the division, but we may get as high as fourth. Last year we were third to last, of eighteen.

It was a feel good game. Unless you were from Oxford, in which case you were righteously smote. Beating Oxford feels a bit like beating your bigger brother. As much as I love the city, when it comes to cricket, my loyalty is a very fickle beast. Especially as they weren't the nicest bunch of people. I didn't bowl myself this week (I recognise that last week may have been a fluke) but did contribute 25 with my bat. Someone else used my bat to whack 38. I need three more runs to make 250 for the season.

At the risk of sounding too positive, I really like the guys I play cricket with. I get to tell them what to do, and they do it. A good way to be liked by me... But that aside they play their cricket with a sense of enjoyment. And that is something to be treasured.

It's a funny thing, but I feel so damn happy with the world at the minute. At the minute. It's a British expression I have picked up. British expressions aside, there must be something in the water, the air, or the beer, because I don't do this normally. Some of the time I just feel like groovin'. I am sure that a certain amount is due to making at least some of my peace with God, but I can't explain the rest.

Creative Writing

I'm trying to swear less.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Community and Poetry

I love my Oxford community. And I do place an ownership on that. Damnit, it's my community; it's my place, they're my people, and it's my time. I can not think of any other place that I would rather be. I'm not saying it's a perfect place, but what it is, is a place that moves me. It makes me passionate, and it fires me. One of my new found heroes is a man called Taylor Mali. He is a poet from the US, who is famous amongst my friends in Oxford for a poem called 'The Impotence of Proofreading', with possibly the best last line in poetry ('and three: When it comes to proofreading, the red penis your friend.'). One of his poems is called Silver Lined Heart. It begins 'I’m for reckless abandonment and the spontaneous celebration of nothing at all' and ends with 'tell me what inspires you, what fulfils you and fires you, put your goddamn pen to paper and tell me what you're for', and in the middle lambasts the reader for moaning about shit that doesn't do, well, shit. Well, I'll tell you what I'm for. I'm for Oxford, and I'm for revelling in all she has to offer. Someone once asked me to extol the virtues of Oxford to her. My list was long, but what it comes down most is the people. Again, please, if you don't live in Oxford, there is no disrespect to anyone here, but there is something about these people. They move me. Maybe it's just a here and now thing, maybe not. I'm still trying to work it out. My friend Anita is doing a talk about community at hOME on Wednesday. I would like to be there, but work has sent me to Belgium on Monday.

My friend Naomi has linked me on her blog page. When I work out how to do it properly myself I will return the favour. Until then, you can read her thoughts here. You could spend your time in much less worthy pursuits.

And my community is expanding by one tonight. Friends of mine are giving birth as I write this.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Random Flirting

Sometimes when you go out to a friends place there are interesting strangers. And sometimes it is fun to flirt with them. I have just come back from my friend Justice's house and done just that.

New Wine Old Wine Wickets and Runs

Grommelage. Means mutterings in French. A favourite word of mine.

Just got back from something called new wine. There was a certain 'what the hell am I going to this for? I haven't been to a church conference for years and I'm going to be stuck in a field with a bunch of christians'. And the only reason I thought I was going was because some of my friends were going. Sometimes it is good to be wrong. My friends and I belong to and run something called hOME. hOME is a bunch of folk who are very interested in the emerging church and doing something that is a little more relevant to the club and pub scene in Oxford. As it turns out, the conference was excellent. Managed to mostly stay away from the things that frustrate me in the church. Things like feeling guilty for not leading a life that one is expected to. Instead I found lots of brain and spirit food. The sort of brain food that leaves you cream crackered. Stuff that I wish I had been told a long time ago. It got to the stage that I needed to stop listening to stuff because my brain was full and I needed to process the stuff that was already in there. One of the most useful things I heard was that it's more effective to soak in a little bit of the Bible rather than try to read it religously and end up with the inevitable guilt when you fail. Maybe it's me trying to justify myself for the fact that last week I opened mine for the first time in two years but I figure that anything that inspires me to open it again can't be bad.

Next week I am doing old wine. I am off to Chianti with my friends Rhys and Monica and Katie and Grace.

Yesterday I had my best all round cricket performance of my life. Nine overs, one maiden, three wickets for 23 runs, a run out and 60 runs with the bat. Sadly, it wasn't enough as Brackley Cricket Club bowled Wallingford Cricket Cub out for 116 and beat us by 29 runs. Still, I feel that if it were not for the Grace of God I would not have managed to get a team out, and I have had worse days in the field. Now I must go and help coach youngsters in the sport of kings.