Friday, January 28, 2005

A good world view

Skype. I like it. Dunno how it works, exactly. But... I do like a piece of software that refers to New Zealand as New Zealand (Aotearoa). Maybe they should have gone with Aotearoa (New Zealand) mind...

Only to be with you two

They've all gone and I've got one! Mwahahahaha!!!

U2 tickets for UK dates went on sale today. And then they went off sale. All of them, gone. Just like that. Thank goodness (or Tim Berners-Lee) for broadband and the F5 button.

There is a small sense of "I'm doing this kinda out of obligation" but I figure best to see them than not to. You never know when they'll be gone. And that nice Mr Bono does do ever so much for charity.


(Please read to the end....)
Next Tuesday is Hammer and Tongue's Four Nations Slam. This will be an incredible night of slam poetry featuring some of the best poets in the word. And in the world. You will laugh, and you will also likely cry as well. It is being held at the Zodiac on Cowley Road at 8pm and will cost you less than a tenner. I am willing to concede that I am somewhat biased when it comes to these sorts of things, but at the last local slam there were 200 people in the audience. And they can't all be wrong.

And who and what will you get for your money?
CR Avery the amazing beat box blues artist
UK Allcomers Slam champion Elvis McGonnagill
Taylor Mali, four times US slam winner and great guy.
plus 14 other poets from the US, the UK, Ireland and Canada.
Plus, you get to say you were there at the biggest poetry event in the UK this year. Ok, that's a little naff.

So if you're reading this, and you can conceivably get to Oxford on Tuesday night, then get your ass there!

And one other thing.... If you are in oxford and have any spare mattresses and bedding, the folk at Hammer and Tongue are putting up all the poets for free, but could use the bedding. if you have stuff you could lend, make a comment on my blog and I shall be in touch.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


I use my car too much. Mostly because it is too convenient. I have a goal, which I both challenge you all to match, as well as hold me accountable to. I want to reduce my driving by one trip a week. For example, I drive to and from work every day. If I didn't do that, and, say, took the bus one day a week, I could reduce my own emissions by 20%. And I would gain some more time in my life, by taking the bus I could spend some more time reading, which I can't do when I drive.

From the we are what we do site, I am challanged by this:

Consider this: A double-decker bus carries the same number of people as 40 cars. And it’s going there anyway.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A list

As I said below, I've been in Prague these past four days. Here are some observations:
  1. Czech food needs more vegetable matter
  2. Czech pubs need to sell more than one variety of beer
  3. Prague public transport is great. Any city with trams is a winner
  4. Prague is a fun city to walk around. Having little random nooks and crannies to get you between streets makes life interesting
  5. Capitalism has too greater hold on Wenceslas Square. I shouldn't be able to have Marks and Sparks at my back and Debenhams at my front if I'm not on a UK high street.
  6. Czech airlines is an underrated airline. Better food than BA. And cheap.
  7. Czech is a very difficult language to read, let alone speak.
  8. Old Czech women in their fur coats and big hair are very funny
  9. Czechs like their dogs
  10. Czechs don't clean up after their dogs
  11. I don't like Grog. Grog is a mix of cheap rum and hot water.
  12. The best brownies can be found in the Globe cafe.
  13. Where have all the communists gone?
Other observations to be added when I remember them.

Bad Community

I wanted to rename this 'Community' but it buggers up some links. So I can't. And also note that there has been some discussion over this entry, and I want to state that these observations were based on a one night only visit. As a result, some of them are probably not fair and I have changed the entry as a result. It has been a valuable lesson in humility for me. And I want to acknowledge both Patrick and Ken for their work at Alchemy. End of note.

I've been in Prague these past four days to see the city and to catch a poetry reading by one of my favourite poets, Taylor Mali at the Alchemy club.

Prague is a beautiful city.

The Alchemy club is an english literature group who meet once a month in the cafe to here performers and to read their own work. Essentially it feels like it's one of those 'expat communities in a foreign language city'.

The reading was held in the Tulip Cafe, and it had two parts. The first part was Taylor's reading, most of which I had heard before, but he did offer to Anita and myself over dinner (yes, we had dinner with the talent) to read a couple we hadn't heard. Gotta like that about the man. Anyway. The second part was an open mic session where anybody could read work, so long as they had registered with the organiser. The vast majority of the work, most of which was poetry, but also included a letter, a couple of songs, an instrumental guitar piece and a synopsis of a novel, seemed totally hopeless. Which is not to deny the talent of the writers, but it seemed there was no hope. The notable exceptions was Jeff who played songs. He was very talented and seemed to sing of something he had lived.

And it made me wonder. How does a bunch of people get together and lose hope? Human experience is about highs and lows, but I believe that one of the most valuable experiences of the low is the hope that arises from and because of it. I don't want to deny the writers pain, but I did want to scream "move on with your life" at one person. The other thing I wondered about was the sense of community. It seemed to me that the only thing these people had in common were the English language and an interest in literature. But it seemed that the literature aspect was secondary. Expat communities seem to me to be a dangerous thing, they don't really encourage the members to move beyond their comfort zone. They always have their uses - in terms of developing contacts and sharing information. Maybe I'm missing something here, but I figure a key thing is to know when to move on from them.

Hammer and Tongue, which isn't an expat community, on the other hand has a sense of joy that is attractive. There are real expressions of pain and sorry and hate, but there is also hope and the joy of life in more than equal measure.

But then I guess you could also make a similar comparison when looking at different churches...

Friday, January 14, 2005

I buy to feel better

I'm not so sold on the lactation comment, but the rest of it rings a little true...

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


A few years ago I attended a church called Cityside Baptist in Auckland, and I guess losely (it's a right bugger of a commute, though) I still do. There is a fairly set order of service, with one of the first things being a 'Call to Worship', which can take pretty much any form, and which can be done by anyone (so long as they are on the ubiquitous church rota). Quite often it can be a chant, a poem, or a piece of music. I had recently bought Groove Armada's Back to Mine album, which contains, in my just opinion, the second most perfect song I've heard; that being the last track, Pharaohs. The only truly perfect song is Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead. Pharaohs is a track that is a combination of a gently rolling drum, some discordant piano, some guitar and some spoken word. It's only after a while that you realise that the spoken word is the UK shipping forecast and the guitar is the riff from 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' by Tears for Fears. It is possibly the most relaxing song I know. So I decided to volunteer for the call to worship with the intention of playing this song. I stood up and introduced it as an extremely relaxing song, pressed play and went to the back and lay down (Cityside doesn't 'do' chairs). Was I relaxed? Was I bollocks. I was streesed throughout as I felt as if I had laid myself wide open, as if to say, this is something really important to me, and um, I hope you like it. I think they did. At least one person in the congregation went out and bought the album. One of the great things about Cityside, those who stand up at the front get to indulge themselves....

Last night Hammer and Tongue (the Oxford poetry people) had 'An evening with Taylor Mali'. Most people who know me in Oxford know that I am a big fan of his, and I kinda spread the word round hOME, selling it as a great night out and that they'd be fools to miss it. Surprisingly, my promotional skills succeeded, and a sizeable bunch of homies turned up. What I experienced was a very similar feeling to that morning in Auckland. I sat there fretting about how the others were liking it, how they would respond to it.... I like this guy, and I like those H&T people and I like what they do and how they do it, and I like the audience... This matters to me it felt like I was leaving myself just a little bit exposed. Granted, there were others who knew, Kate, Justice, Nita, Jim, Naomi etc, but I still stressed. But then, I can't not stress.

This morning I wear a contented, but very tired smile. They all loved it and most of 'em plan to come to the big slam.

Evangelism is a word that both frightens and repulses me. But this morning I feel like an evangelist.


Monday, January 10, 2005

It's just Cricket

Sometimes I just love my world. Today an Asian XI played a Rest of the World XI in cricket at Melbourne to raise money for the victims of the Tsunami. The RotW won handsomely, but $A15 million was rasied. The game was played in great spirit and with competition. Most of the time sport really shouldn't matter, but today it sent shivers down my spine.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Gospel according to Luke

I'm still trying to swear less. I have a bigger vocabulary than one limited to the usual suspects.

Moreover (see) I am trying to swear at less provocation and to swear less when I am trying to be contrary.


There is too much clutter in my world. I try to do too much, I have too many books to read, too many CD's to listen to, to many things I am involved with, and too much information to process. As a result several things happen. Firstly, I neglect the things that I really enjoy. Secondly, I deny myself by drowning myself things. Things that I think I will like, or worse, things that I think other people will like in me. It's like I'm plastering over myself sometimes, and smothering the stuff that I'm scared to find out. Sometimes it's the fear of liking something or someone too much. If I throw myself at something too much, then there is the risk I will get sick of it. So I start taking an interest in something else. It leaves a sense of knowing a little about a lot but not knowing a lot about anything. (A bit like a Geography degree I once did...) Then clutter becomes an addiction.

This year I am aiming to live a simpler life. To live with and enjoy what I already have.

I am reminded of a story and a song. The story is told to me by my friend Justice, which was told to him by a monk at Taize. The story goes that a man has 100 university courses to choose from, but he can only choose one of them. The man is told that until he makes a choice, he has nothing. And when he makes the choice he has not lost 99 others, but instead he gained something. It's about making a choice and not being paralysed by information.

The song I am reminded of is Gone Fishing by Chris Rea. The words end with:

I’m gone fishing
Sounds crazy I know
I know nothing about fishing
But just watch me go

And when the time has come
I will look back and see
Peace on the shoreline
That could have been me

You can waste a whole lifetime
Trying to be
What you think is expected of you
But you’ll never be free

May as well go fishing

I'm no fisherman, but I love the sentiment of going to the river or the sea and doing nothing.

On my wall at work I have a picture of a staircase in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. The picture below doesn't do it justice, but the staircase is a comprised of simple gently rising white stairs, with no artwork anywhere. To add anything would be to detract from it. It beautifully encapsulates simplicity for me.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


This was my grandmothers favourite birthday card


Tottenham played Manchester United. The result was 0-0. Towards the end of the game there was a shot at goal from over halfway that the United goalkeeper dropped, Roy Carroll, over the line and knew it, but because the referee and linesmen were unsighted, no goal was awarded. You can see the photo below:

The referee and linesmen have been rightly bollocked for this. However, there is someone else who should be bollocked for this, Roy Carroll, and not just for being a useless goalkeeper. The man is a cheat. He knew the ball had crossed the goal line, but said nothing. Now there is a school of thought that he was being a good servant to his employer, his club, as he saved them a point. To which I say, bullshit. He was being dishonest. If I don't disclose information to a client, I am cheating them and I am breaking the law. Where is the difference? If, by chance, Tottenham miss out on qualifying for the Champions League by two points, this act will have cost them potentially tens of millions of pounds. In the same vein, diving, deliberate handballs in the penalty area etc are all cheating. When was the last time you saw an 'honest footballer'. They can be immensely talented, but I think also many are morally bankrupt.

Maybe I'm being a bit naive, and that I want people to be honest etc, but I see that as a faded thing of the past. I do accept that there is room for honesr mistakes, I do them all the time, but cheating is cheating.

When I play cricket, I am a big believer in walking when you know you are out, rather than waiting for the umpires decision. And for the most part, this happens, and nor is it restricted to club cricket. The Australian opening batsman and keeper, Adam Gilchrist, walked in the World Cup Final when only on about a half dozen. About twenty years ago, another aussie keeper claimed a catch he knew he hadn't caught. It cost him his place in the team, and he was forever afterwards labelled a cheat.

From my mind, Roy Carroll missed a great opportunity to stand up and be counted. I know I am not the only one who thinks this. Lashias Ncube at ITV obviously thinks the same.

Honest politicians and footballers? A bunch of oxymorons.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


And they also published this:
In one of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads dramas, someone exposes themselves in a branch of Sainsbury's. "Tesco's you could understand," says an elderly woman tartly. It's a remark that neatly sums up both the British obsession with class and our almost tribal attachment to specific supermarket brands. Tesco, the implication goes, is for commoner people who are slightly more likely to drop their trousers in public than Sainsbury's shoppers. By extension, Waitrose is for those more likely to have second homes in Chiantishire than the first two; Asda is for people who aspire to have a second home anywhere but probably never will; Lidl is for people who have never heard of Chiantishire; Marks & Spencer for those who affect to have never heard of Lidl. That kind of thing ...

I've never heard of Lidl...

Too close to the bone

Last week the Guardian published this. It's a little close to my bones...

... On a hot day at County Hall in London, [David] Hepworth [of Development Hell, an independent magazine company] stood up and gave Britain's record-company bosses a lecture about their own customers, concentrating on "the 50-quid guy", a term he had picked up from friends in retail. "This is the guy we've all seen in Borders or HMV on a Friday afternoon, possibly after a drink or two, tie slightly undone, buying two CDs, a DVD and maybe a book - fifty quid's worth - and frantically computing how he's going to convince his partner that this is a really, really worthwhile investment."

The 50-quid bloke is a big user of the web, Hepworth says, but unlike his children, he wants to own things. He shops at Amazon as well as the high street. He loathes Pop Idol, telling the kids it devalues everything rock music stands for (the kids reply that it's only a TV show, dad). But he is defined more by his likes than his dislikes and, crucially, he wants to keep up. He likes the White Stripes, Coldplay and Blur and has persevered with Radiohead through the difficult last three albums. His latest buys are the debut albums from the Stands, who remind him of the Byrds, and Franz Ferdinand, who remind him of the Glasgow art-school bands of 1982. The fact that most of the new bands sound old is a definite help.

He has given up on Radio 1 and listens to Radio 4 more than any music station, though he likes the less cosy bits of Radio 2, such as Jonathan Ross on Saturday morning. If he had a digital radio, he would love BBC6 Music, with its slogan "the great, the new and no fill" and its habit of playing Franz Ferdinand alongside the Clash. He adores DVD: "It's impossible to overestimate what a transformational medium DVD is in all this," Hepworth says. "Videos seemed like a waste of money. DVDs are investments."

The 50-quid bloke probably has an iPod but uses it as a radio rather than a substitute for his CDs. His favourite recent film is Lost in Translation, in which Bill Murray shows his own 50-quid tendencies by crooning a karaoke version of the Roxy Music song More Than This.

He has been in love with music all his life - "He's got the High Fidelity chip embedded in his brain," says Jerry Perkins, publisher of Word magazine - but his interests have broadened along the way. He is university-educated, reads a broadsheet, of whatever size, and raved about Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad. He is not a great telly-watcher but loves The Simpsons and The Office and will miss Friends. And yes, he may be a she. Women bought 41% of albums in 2002, up from 38% the year before. "But frankly," says Hepworth, "blokes get the same giddy rush from buying CDs and DVDs that most women get from shoes. It's a spiritual thing." ...