Monday, 31 January 2011

Questioning Uniformity.

I’ve long been uneasy about kids wearing school uniforms. To me, there’s a hint of the hive mentality about them. They smack of excessive conformism, and that’s something I have reservations about. Considered conformity is all right; it’s conforming for the sake of conforming I so dislike.

The other side of the argument is that they encourage a sense of belonging and allegiance, and, to a certain extent, that needn’t be a bad thing. The problem is that the need for allegiance and a sense of belonging are often taken to a level beyond what I find acceptable, especially by the commercial world and by politicians who will seek to justify anything under the guise of patriotism. Breeding an exaggerated sense of belonging and allegiance into people from an early age is what enables them to get away with it.

And so I was interested to read today that a Catholic school in Coventry, England has sent a hundred pupils home for wearing the wrong coloured shoes. Only black is permitted as part of the correct school uniform, apparently. Isn’t this taking things a bit too far? Isn’t this vindicating the disquiet I feel about school uniforms?

But maybe there’s another issue at stake here. This is a faith school, and it seems to me that most, if not all, organised religion is based on the unthinking acceptance of dogma. Wouldn’t it, therefore, be in the interests of such a school to lay down excessive rules and enforce them with excessive zeal? Isn’t this one of the primary tools with which to indoctrinate their faithful into thinking strictly inside the box?

L'Entente Cordiale.

Was the last post nudging towards Francophobia? Certainly not! Monsieur Hulot, Jean-Paul Satre, Erik Satie, Audrey Tautou... Love ’em all. And they do the best black humour of anybody. I’m so over Napoleon. Bonjour mes amis. Salut.

And then there was Helene. I mentioned her in a very early post. She was an English teacher from Le Puis – don’t know which Le Puis (there are at least three, I gather.) She was the one who asked me whether there was a woman in my life. When I explained that I was living with somebody, but we’d agreed to separate so I didn’t really know what to call her, Helene replied:

‘So why don’t you call ’er you future ex-girlfriend?’

Not bad, eh?

See how garrulous I suddenly become when life gives me a lift?

A Dangerous Admission.

How to lose friends and alienate people:

I once read about a Frenchman who decided to commit suicide. He put his head into the gas oven and turned the taps on, but then decided that he wanted one last cigarette. So he lit one.

Guess what. The gas ignited and set his hair on fire. He ran into the garden and dived head-first into a water butt to put out the flames - and drowned.

Now, what sort of person finds that funny..?

Current State11

One word:

Uninspired.

One thought:

For the last twenty four hours I’ve been aware that the next post would be my 1,000th. I’ve been trying to think of something with sufficient humour, gravity, information, silliness, or something to do justice to the landmark.

Can I? Nope. This will have to do.

(I suppose it’s mildly interesting that Google stats [and Google alone] claims that somebody came to my blog by ‘searching’ I very much like Mr JJ Beazley, even though I call him Je. That’s nice. If only they’d left out the very much, I might have got to discover what they call me.)

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Getting Better.

I just discovered something interesting. I was draining the last drop from a bottle of beer when I found that if I sucked and sucked until I created a really good vacuum, and then let my top lip move slowly across the rim of the bottle, it made a particularly pleasing squeak. You know how kids blow balloons up and let the air out slowly, and then fall about laughing at the sound? I’m still at that level. And to think, a few years ago this could have been really good practice for something altogether more grown up.

Want something to eat now.

Current State10

One word:

Introspective.

One thought:

Why do I have these strange old songs going through my head? Yesterday it was ‘Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.’ Today it’s been ‘I Love Jennifer Eccles.’ I have a theory. And I wish I could just be mad again. Life seems to smile at me more when I’m mad.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Being a Bacterial Growth.

My nemesis from Kingston upon Thames is taking the comment-by-google-search-term to new heights. The latest is:

JJ Beazley understands women like mould understands cheese.

Love it, love it. Thank you, whoever you are. My suspicion as to who it might be is foundering, because the person I had in mind doesn’t get up that early. Oh, well...

On Faith in Education.

I’m all for fostering in children a healthy sense of ethical values. I also believe in teaching kids comparative religion, because religion is a major part of human life and most of them probably contain some elements of truth. Teaching them comparative religion gives them a grounding for making their own choices when they feel ready to do so. The problem is this.

Sectarian dogma and general religious intolerance have been the cause of countless premature deaths throughout history. They’ve also been responsible for, or at least used to justify, many other pretty little evils like wholesale abuse, unconsionable cruelty, imperialism and slavery. Taken together, therefore, sectarian dogma and religious intolerance must amount to one of the most pernicious diseases known to mankind. So why do we still permit children to be openly infected with it in faith schools?

And while I’m on a rant about education, it can’t have escaped many people’s notice that even in general educational establishments, the purpose seems to be as much about cultural brainwashing as it is about teaching established fact. I even heard the didactic Stephen Fry, that great champion of street level certainties, say on a TV show last night ‘This always used to be taught in schools, but of course it’s rubbish.’ How many times have I come across that in my life? I wonder, for example, whether schools still teach that Columbus ‘discovered’ America.

And so I would suggest to any young person with aspirations to become an ‘educator’ that they should first attempt to very sure as to just what the purpose of an ‘educator’ is. I’m further tempted to suggest that every school in the land should have a very big banner placed at the entrance which says:

Beware!

Anything we tell you in here might not be true.

Current State9

One word:

Relegated.

One thought:

I think I understand women better than most men do, which isn’t saying much.

This is becoming a blog leitmotif. And I just had to listen to ‘Do You Come from the Land Down Under,’ didn’t I?

Small. Far Away.

There was a glorious ‘Father Ted Night’ on British Channel 4 recently (hence the post title, taken from that surreal little incident when Ted was vainly trying to explain to Dougal the difference between real cows and toy ones.)

They showed one of the acts accompanying a recent Rose of Tralee contest, which involved a woman doing Irish dancing to ‘Do You Come from the Land Down Under?’

It was real jaw-dropping stuff. Literally.

Helping Yourself.

I went through a phase once in which I examined my history, my nature, my difficulties, my place in the scheme of things etc, etc quite intensely for about five years. During that process I drifted into an affinity with what is generally described as ‘New Age Consciousness,’ and one exposition of that movement was an annual event called the Body, Mind and Spirit Festival.

I made enquiries and obtained some promotional literature. It had lots of glossy photos in it - marketing pictures obviously taken by experienced advertising photographers. And the pictures concentrated predominantly on two things: merchandise and men in suits. It didn’t feel right, and so I never attended one.

Another exposition of the New Age movement has been the proliferation of ‘self-help’ books. I’ve read quite a few of them, and none of them did any good whatsoever. They were mostly full of overly-simplistic and often spurious advice, dragged out with lots of repetition in order to be big enough to command a commercial price. And recently I had some dealings with a publisher which specialises in self-help books. I came to the conclusion that the genre really is full of the self-help principle – publishers and authors helping themselves to nice incomes on the backs of the gullible. So now I’ve decided that real self-help is about:

a) Being totally honest with yourself about what your problems are.

b) Working to change the things you dislike if you have the strength and means to do so.

c) Accepting the things you can’t change and learning to live with them.

Maybe it isn’t always quite that simple, but it’s what works best for me; and it’s a lot more efficacious than relying on the fatuous advice of some get-rich-quick author who has managed to contrive a new ‘theory.’ It’s cheaper, too.

Friday, 28 January 2011

What Are You, Friend?

What is a friend? Is there any such thing? Is a friend just somebody who’s a little more interested in you than somebody who isn’t a friend, in which case where do you draw the line? Does anything define a friend?

This is a minor league version of the question ‘What is love?’ I’ve used both often enough, but try as I might, I can’t get to what either of them actually means.

Answers on a postcard. You may tell me I’m an alien. You wouldn’t be the first.

Being a Romantic.

Somebody asked me a question today:

‘Where does your Romantic soul come from?’

This was my answer:

I was born with it, of course. Being a Romantic has little to do with being romantic. It isn’t about padded velvet hearts and bunches of red roses, even though the hearts and flowers thing can be a minor expression of a Romantic’s approach to life.

As I see it, being a Romantic is all about having an inner sense that all aspects of the physical world and the life we live within it are, at best, echoes or reflections of something more profound, more real, even of something perfect. And that, I think, is the nub of the Romantic’s problem.

Deep down we’re searching for perfection; we’re on a driven quest to find the Holy Grail, even though we don’t usually understand or express it in those terms. The difficulty that causes us is that we know, deep down, that perfection doesn’t exist on this level. That’s why we become frustrated, why we take things greedily and then tire of them quickly, why we go through life constantly questioning whether anything has any real meaning. The problem is that the brains we’re born with as humans are hard wired to seek answers and goals externally, not internally as we need them to be. And so we ride off into the world of relationships, landscapes, literature, music and fantasy. We take and take everything we can find, but it’s never enough. And eventually we realise that it never can be enough because everything at this level, however beautiful, thrilling and engaging it might be, is essentially flawed. And then we feel bad about the whole thing because we leave in our wake a string of broken dreams among the non-Romantics whose hopes we’ve consumed along the way. That’s the point at which I think I am now.

Oddly enough, this doesn’t depress me as you might imagine. It has the opposite effect. It frees me to see things for what they are, so that I can put each experience into a bag and carry on collecting without being conscious of the growing weight. It’s why memories mean little to me these days. If all physical life is a reflection, memories are no more than a reflection of a reflection. Which doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy and talk about memories. Of course I can, it’s just that they seem of little import now.

But I think the big point about being a Romantic is this. I’m coming to think that being a Romantic is preparation for becoming a mystic, and that being a mystic is one form of preparation for becoming enlightened.

As you know, I’m not a one-lifer; and when we talk about the oldness of souls, I wonder where this places me. I don’t know and I don’t think it matters. If being a Romantic is one of the steps along the way, then that’s where I am.

Current State8

One word:

Tired.

One thought:

When in doubt, don’t look in the mirror.

Pretentious?

I just listened to Eva Cassidy’s version of Fields of Gold again. I love this song. It reminds me of somebody special. But I wasn’t sure whether it had been written by the comparable Sting or the incomparable Eva Cassidy, so I Googled it. This is what I found:


What a load of dingo’s kidneys. I swear some people would see the Mayan calendar, Jesus’ Second Coming, and the Buddha’s willy in a dog turd!

Current State7

One word:

Unsettled.

One thought:

Knowing when to speak and when to keep quiet can be bloody difficult at times. It’s an area in which my instinct has a habit of failing me.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

That Elusive Something.

One of the things I’ve found most frustrating throughout my life has been the fact that my mind will only stretch so far. There have always been certain things I haven’t been able to grasp, and I’m not talking quantum theory here. I’m talking about the things I touched on in the post about the sea: things like the power of the ocean and the size of the universe.

The one that’s been most persistent, though, hasn’t been merely a matter of perception or understanding. Those things are relatively easy to let go; all humans have limits in such matters. It’s been the sense that there’s something hidden within or just beyond the physical world.

It’s always been landscape that has brought it on. It’s happened most often when I’ve been standing on a mountain looking down on the valleys and plains, or sauntering along a country lane on a still, silent, September afternoon, or walking in woodland in a summer mist, when the light has a seductive, ethereal quality. At such times I feel something that is quite indescribable. Something takes hold of my mind – a sound almost heard, a sweetness almost tasted, a sight almost seen, a presence almost touched, and a fragrance almost smelt. Always ‘almost.’ I’m sure it’s there, but it remains tantalisingly just out of reach. I’ve decided to stop trying. If it’s going to come, I expect it’ll do so in its own time.

Maybe it’s just an overly fertile imagination. Or maybe I really am mad.

All About Thighs.

The latest search term from my veiled visitor of Kingston-upon-Thames is JJ Beazley flexes his thighs.

Well now, how did he or she know that? I do actually, but such exercise as I indulge in is conducted at night behind closed curtains. This sort of thing could easily make a chap paranoid.

As for my thighs (at which point, do feel free to stop reading,) they’re one bit of me that I’ve mostly been happy with. Having firm thighs that are larger than average for body size is a typical Sagittarian trait; it’s all that equine influence, I expect. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Tina Turner performing in her knickers. I used to do the test shots for my wife’s model agency at one time. We had one Sagittarian girl, and she had Tina Turner thighs. Proof enough? Right.

What is a little hard to understand is why I bother to keep them in trim now that the days of sport and canoodling are over. The only people likely to see them are the odd doctor and the undertaker, and they’re not likely to care, are they? Still, you never know.

I promise to make the next post sensible. No, I take that back. Thoughtful.

Current State6

One word:

Tense.

One thought:

If that’s the case, and bearing in mind that it’s 1.40 in the morning, why have I got that silly song ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On’ running through my head?

Going Into the Mists of Avalon.

I’ve been a big fan of the Arthurian story – both the Romantic tradition and the quest for an historical basis – most of my life. It seems odd that I should have got this far without even having been aware of The Mists of Avalon, let alone having read it. But now, on the recommendation of somebody I greatly respect, I’m putting that omission to rights.

I’m only a little way into it at the moment, but so far it’s proving quite a revelation. Setting the story in Dark Age Britain is nothing new, of course. It’s always been known that Mallory set his 15th century collection in contemporary times, and that any attempt to marry the Romantic canon with historical speculation would mean taking the story back a thousand years. Several films and TV adaptations have done that. What I find so interesting about this book are two things.

Firstly, it’s told from the women’s point of view. The classic Arthurian tradition is strictly male-dominated, in which the female characters are either minor, fatally flawed, evil, or isolated. The women in this book are central; they command respect; they are in control. I suppose a point to note here is that the spiritual context of the classic version is axiomatically Christian, and so it would seem natural to echo the treatment of women that predominates in the Bible. And that brings me to what I find most interesting of all.

This version of the story has as one of its central themes, so far at least, the clash between the pagan Old Ways and the ‘new’ Christianity. Although not spitefully anti-Christian, it certainly nods in the direction of a wider view of spirituality. For this reason, I’m glad in a way that I didn’t find the book earlier in my life. A lot of the conflicts between the two traditions are central to my own thinking now, and I wonder whether I would have understood them so readily when I was younger.

And I have to make mention of one deviation from the norm that impressed me most of all. In the classic version, Uther is an essentially unsavoury character who beds the unwitting Lady Igraine through trickery, and thus impregnates her with the future Arthur. In this version it transpires that the two of them have been constant lovers through many lifetimes, soul mates almost, and so their union has an ethical validity that transcends moralistic judgement. This is surely a much better genesis for the ‘once and future king.’ Little short of genius, I would say.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Incomprehensible Power.

Talking about Royal Naval ships had me thinking about the time I crossed the Atlantic in a small frigate during the progress of a force 11 storm. That was the only time in my life when I came close to sensing the power of the sea, except that ‘sense’ doesn’t seem like quite the right word. I don’t know what the right word is.

Most of us only ever experience the sea from a point of relative safety – from the cliffs, the beach or the breakwater. The sea is something ‘out there,’ something we can get away from if we want to. It’s like seeing a dangerous animal behind the bars of a cage. Even those who go on cruises are in well-stabilised ships that are many times bigger than a frigate, and the smaller ferries stay in port when the wind gets up to storm force.

It’s different when the sea is all around you with no land in sight, when the walls of water tower above the puny vessel, when you know that one caprice of nature could swamp the ship and send you to the bottom in less time than it takes to launch the lifeboats. That’s when you begin to get a glimpse of its power.

But it’s almost like trying to imagine the size of the universe. The human brain simply doesn’t know anything that big, and so it can’t go that far. On those couple of days in the middle of the North Atlantic, I stood and watched the sea many times. I stretched my mind as far as I could to try and comprehend the enormity of its power. I only got as far as feeling bewildered.

Interesting Fact 1

A bit of etymology:

In British Royal Naval ships, the loos are called ‘heads.’ The reason is, I gather, that in the days of the old sailing ships the Captain’s quarters were always in the stern, so they put the loos at the other end to isolate him from the smell.

What this bit of intelligence doesn’t say is whether the Captain had to walk the length of the vessel to contribute to the undesirable pong, or whether he had his own facilities and only himself to blame.

During my short stint before the mast, I spent the whole of the entrance into New York harbour in the heads, just to avoid having to line up on the foc’sle wearing best togs and looking like a poncy penguin. I was hoping to see the Statue of Liberty on the way back out again, but it was too foggy. I’ve never got over that missed opportunity.

Being a Jeff.

Would you believe that one of those pesky ads on Hotmail is one I can relate to? It says:

Jeff’s status update:

“Fell asleep on the train. Woke up in Peterborough.”

What I don’t understand is the fact that it’s an ad for a modern, rocket-technology, mobile phone. Such things are aimed at the smart young set, aren’t they? So why ‘Jeff?’

And I remember there being a series of slightly surreal cartoon greetings cards back in the 80s/90s, about a bizarre character called Jeff. I recall there being one in which he was admiring his corn flake collection.

Seems I might have been appropriately named after all.

Current State5

One word:

Impatient.

One thought:

The disposition to make pre-emptive strikes can be self-destructive.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

In the Tradition of Saturday Morning Cinema.

How stupid of me. I should have listened to my nagging doubts about the doing of Harry. Why, I wondered, did they kill off a major character in the middle of a two-part series? They usually do that sort of thing at the end, for obvious reasons.

But, of course, they hadn’t. Harry wasn’t dead. They’d done a Lone Ranger on us. It was a classic cliff-hanger. Flashback showed that the tough and resourceful pathologist had turned the tables on his evil Ukrainian assailant, switched identities, and then set fire to the body so as to have time to continue his investigations. This throws up a major flaw in the plot, as these things usually do, but I won’t bore you with the details. Just be glad that Harry is alive and well, the prostitute got to see her stolen baby, the bad cop turned out to be a good cop after all, and the world goes on in perfect harmony.

An Irrational Objection.

An English town council has proposed capturing the wasted heat that comes off the town’s cremator, and using it to heat a nearby public swimming pool. Voices have been raised in protest; they say it’s disrespectful to the dead and the bereaved. Why is it? How does it affect the dead and the bereaved? It’s only the heat they’re proposing to use, for heaven’s sake. It isn’t as though they’re planning to throw the corpses into some giant compost maker, is it?

If I knew that my body was going to be disposed of in that cremator, I’d be more than happy to know that the process was going to have some beneficial side effect. In fact, I don’t think I’d have any personal objection to my body being thrown into a giant compost maker. The old shell is only going to get burned or rot away in the soil anyway, so why not put it to good use? I could understand my relatives objecting, though.

My favoured method is the North American Indian one. Put me on a raised platform somewhere in a quiet place and let the birds and animals have a good feed. I’d be happy with that.

A Posh Aussie.

Monday night is TV night in this house. As well as Silent Witness, there’s also University Challenge to be savoured. University Challenge, for those who don’t know, is a quiz show for university students. Students can be quite interesting sometimes, and unintentionally funny now and then, and some of them know the most obscure things while being ignorant on such questions as ‘What’s the capital of Britain?’ The best bit, though, is watching the legendary Paxman’s expression when somebody answers ‘Pablo Picasso’ to the question ‘Which Flemish artist painted the portraits of Henry VIII’s wives?’

So anyway, one of the students in one of tonight’s teams looked every bit the British upper class chinless wonder. A real Hooray Henry type, in appearance at least. Turns out he was from Australia.

‘This cannot be,’ I thought to myself. ‘Surely, Aussie men are all at least 6ft 2, with tans-that-didn’t-come-out-of-a-bottle, Sir Lancelot hairstyles, and sporting three six-packs – one between the rib cage and groin, and another under each arm.’ Aren’t they? He was from Melbourne, apparently. Do they breed ’em posh there?

Current State4

One word:

Sober.

One thought:

Life is being a bit spiffing today.

Two intentions:

I’ll get you damn Yankees saying ‘spiffing’ or die in the attempt.

Not being entirely sober for very much longer. The moon is over the yard arm.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Doing for Harry in Hungary.

I don’t know whether any of you good people get BBC dramas among the two million channels you have at your fingertips, and, if you do, whether you watch Silent Witness. Sorry if you don’t, because this post is for aficionados.

Tonight’s was a shocker. Who would have thought that Harry would ever get done in? And in Budapest, too! He should have known better than to go there, shouldn’t he?

I knew there was something afoot when they broke with tradition. It’s a time-honoured rule with Silent Witness that you always get to see at least one pair of women’s breasts (which isn’t why I watch it, by the way, even though they’ve cropped up a couple of times in recent posts.) The thing is, though, they always belong to dead women who are lying on a slab and about to be disembowelled to further the cause of forensic investigation. Tonight’s pair belonged to a living, breathing Hungarian lady who had the Hots for Harry. ‘This is just not on,’ I thought to myself (actually I said it out loud, because I talk to myself a lot when there aren’t any birds, rats, rabbits, squirrels, cows, cars, trees or fairies to talk to.) And I still wasn’t convinced that everything was hunky-dory when the said Magyar lady ended up dead and lying on a slab about to be...etc, etc.

No; Harry had to cop it. Still, at least the evil Ukrainian who did the dastardly deed had the decency to shoot him in the head before he set fire to the body. Would an evil Ukrainian be so considerate, I asked myself. Aloud.

We haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Harry’s naked chest yet. Maybe they’re saving that for the second episode. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Current State3

One word:

Sidelined.

One thought:

People in glass houses shouldn’t...

More Stories

Anybody interested in the other blog might like to know that two more stories are scheduled for publication in anthologies this month, one by HBE and one by Misanthrope Press. This frees them up for posting at A Handful of Stories, so I’ll be putting one up at the beginning of February and one a couple of weeks later.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Celebrities and the Wider World.

I decided to watch a new TV show tonight, supposedly a selection of hilarious moments from live TV broadcasts. I don’t usually watch that kind of programme, but this one – unusually – was on BBC2. Although not an absolute guarantee of quality, the channel is supposed to cater for the more discerning taste, so I thought I’d give it a go.

I managed ten minutes before I turned it off. By then I’d seen a lot of people fall over, but nothing remotely funny. It seems that discerning taste is much more easily amused than I am. I found the interviews with celebrities a little more enlightening, though. One after another of them left us in no doubt that taking part in live TV is the pinnacle of human risk-taking.

‘There’s absolutely no adrenalin rush on earth,’ said one, ‘bigger than hearing that final countdown and knowing you’ll be going live in just a few seconds.’

‘No adrenalin rush on earth is bigger.’ That was what she said, and the others agreed. Not even being a student in Tiananmen Square when the tanks were moving in? Or being on the wrong side of the line between Catholic and Protestant communities in 1970s Belfast? Or being shipwrecked in a shark-infested sea?

No bigger adrenalin rush, eh? Mmm...

And then there’s the fact that thousands of actors and other performers take the stage in theatres every night, and perform live in front of an audience.

‘Ah, but their audience isn’t as big as ours,’ the celebrity might argue.

‘True, but then you can’t see that audience. All you can see are cameras, production staff and maybe a tiny studio audience which has been let in free. The theatre actor goes on stage to be faced with two or three thousand people staring at them, all of whom have paid a lot of money for their seats and feel entitled to expect the performers to be flawless in every regard.’

At one time people didn’t become celebrities until they’d picked themselves up from the hard knocks and earned their place. So many of the present crowd look plastic and manufactured. I wonder whether there are clever machines they’re not telling us about, churning celebrities out to order on a production line. Maybe that’s why they know so little about real life that they think live TV is the greatest adrenalin rush on earth. Maybe.

Old Soul or Not...

I’m one of those unfortunates who feel both attachment and loss keenly, and that isn’t good. Or at least, it isn’t pleasant sometimes. The fact is, nothing lasts forever. So, if you can’t stand losing something, you shouldn’t get attached to it, should you? Or, to put it another way, if you’re going to get attached to something, make sure you have the emotional means to stand losing it. The people I’ve known seem to be split between the two approaches, with the majority taking the latter. I vacillate.

The solution, I’ve no doubt, is to come to a point of personal evolution where you can accord with the Buddha’s teaching:

Love everything. Be attached to nothing.

Several people have told me that I’m an ‘old soul.’ I don’t know whether I am or not, but if it’s true, I’m clearly not old enough yet. How many lifetimes does it take?

Be thankful. This could have been a long post.

Current State2.

One word:

Edgy.

One thought:

‘Why did you get married?’

‘So I could find out what getting divorced was like.’

‘And what was it like?’

‘Trivial.’

Current State.

One word:

Tedious.

One thought:

Praising mediocrity is a damaging deception. Criticising mediocrity is expressing a hurtful truth. Which is better?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser.

So, here’s the big question. Do I have a dedicated fan out there somewhere?

Following hot on the heels of the last post, Feedjit now reports that somebody from the UK came to my blog by searching JJ Beazley is a bloviating ninny. Two facts are immediately apparent:

Whoever this person is, some character called JJ Beazley is significant to them – or else why bother?

Whoever this person is, he or she obviously has an impressive vocabulary. The verb ‘to bloviate’ appears neither in my Oxford English Dictionary (the short, two-volume edition,) Roget’s Thesaurus, nor the thesaurus in my version of Word.

I’d be interested to know what it means, assuming it actually exists as a recognised word. So please enlighten me if you know.

A Better Search Term.

This one doesn’t bother me. This one’s fun.

According to Google stats this time, somebody came to my blog by searching:

JJ Beazley is a sad old prat.

My first inclination was to be flattered, but then I realised I’m not the only JJ Beazley in the world. Pity.

A Matter of Concern.

I just had a look at my Feedjit tracker for the story blog. It appears that somebody came to the story Room 26 from Google by searching ‘why I shouldn’t commit suicide.’

It surprised me a bit since the word ‘suicide’ is used only once in the whole story, and isn’t in any way germane to the plot. I suppose that’s how search engines work, but there must have been a hell of a lot of returns for that one. Odd that he or she should have picked up my story.

What concerns me more, however, is that an unknown person might have been influenced in a decision of such magnitude by some inconsequential rambling of mine. I have no right to hold such influence, but what can I do?

Words

Words are dangerous because they’re deceptive.

They can be intentionally deceitful, and unintentionally honest.

Reading words is as much about reading the energy and true intentions behind them as it is about processing the ink blots, and that is neither easy nor reliable.

We read words at our peril.

This little post was inspired by an e-mail. Maybe tomorrow all will become clear.

Going to MJ Heaven.

This is a nod to My Mate Mad Melanie, and in memory of EJB. I should think that very few people will have a clue what I’m talking about. Oh well, who says a blog always has to make sense?

I think I’ll go to Yorkshire
And walk on Ilkley Moor,
And when I’m dead from lack of ’at
And frozen to the core,
I’ll chase the squealing girlies
’Cross the fields and round the tor.

You must admit, the image at least is an engaging one.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Hating Hotmail.

I hate Hotmail these days. Shall I say it again, only louder?

I HATE HOTMAIL.

There’s so much going on all the time – ‘downloading’ this, ‘connecting to’ that, ‘transferring’ such and such, scratching its arse in an agitated manner while it thinks of something else to slow down my computer. That’s what it does: slows everything down. I use Firefox and like the way the tabs operate, but I’ll never leave Hotmail open in one of them unless it’s necessary. Pain in the bloody proverbial, it is.

And ever since they started separating ‘Reply’ e-mails into packages, it doesn’t work properly. Once you get to the third or fourth reply, Hotmail bounces it back to you as an incoming e-mail and the recipient doesn’t get it.

But, the worst thing: the big advertising panel they have at the side, often obscuring things you want to see. It jumps, moves, shakes, distracts you horribly. There’s a ‘close ad’ button, which I use all the time without even looking at the advert because it’s so annoying, Problem is, every time you do anything, like opening, moving or deleting an e-mail, back comes the ad. So you have to keep closing it. And then, every fourth or fifth time you do that, another message box pops up inviting you to upgrade to the pro version where there are fewer ads.

So let’s get this right. They want me to pay them money to stop showing me adverts. Makes a kind of sense, I suppose, times being what they are.

I’ve had Hotmail as my main account for twelve years, and have seen a gradual trend grind inexorably on. Every time they make their ‘improvements,’ it just gets worse and worse.

Yes, I know I could just use another e-mail account, but that isn’t the point. The point is, why does MSN have to be such a pain? What do they gain from it?

I'm Home.

Been invited to Niagara
By a girl from Santa Fe
Better take some strong Viagra
So she doesn’t think I’m gay.

Joke!

Fantasy!

Don’t know anybody from Santa Fe!

Don’t yell!

Mr B just did.

‘Where the hell have you been, ya dirty stop-out,’ he cried, his ears steaming like the outlet vent from that Chinese laundry we used to have in my town when I was a kid (it used to open suddenly and frighten the bloody life out of me!)

‘Bin waiting for you to open the scotch bottle, ya miserable old sod,’ I retorted wittily.

I think he’s relieved to see me back. He’s OK as long as you don’t take him too seriously.

Life and the Sagittarian.

I think a major part of the problem we have with life is that we seem to be faced with two options: give in to it, or give up on it. I can’t do either.

How do you give in to an iceberg? By that I mean that life only shows a small part of itself. To see any other part requires diving deep in a potentially dangerous sea. So should we keep a safe distance and take it on trust? Life is, after all, scrupulously honest; it’s the layers of cultural overlay that would have us deceived. Or should we seek to enjoy the adventure and dive, even if it carries risk, since how else can we really know life?

On the other hand, how do you give up on something that holds you with its mesmeric gaze, that punctuates your existence with pulses of energy, that promises to maintain its presence even beyond the illusion of samsara? Is it wise or just excessively cautious to give up on something you don’t fully understand?

I’m a Sagittarian, and one of the problems of being a centaur is that we seem to be programmed to a simple creed: when in doubt, take the risky option. It’s got me into a lot of trouble down the line. But Sagittarius is also a lucky sign, and I’ve got away with a lot, too. Serious potential consequences, some of them.

Tell you what; I’ll just carry on being me, shall I? But then, I really haven’t a clue who ‘me’ is.

Oh, bloody hell! I don’t want to be serious any more today. Where the hell has MJ got to?

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Thinking Aloud.

I watched the film version of Jonathon Livingstone Seagull tonight. Beautiful images; shame about the dubbed voices. It was uplifting and disappointing in equal measure, but it did lead me to consider the twin principles of free thinking and truth.

It seemed to me that free thinking is not about choosing which pronouncement of the teacher, the priest, the debater, the scientist, the historian, or any other spokesperson for the establishment, to believe. It’s about going inside to seek higher consciousness and taking what we find there as our own truth. And this truth is, I think, the one we should rely on.

This is speculative and I invite no debate on the matter, not because I fear debate, but because I believe debate stifles free thinking. Debate is about clever words, competition and consensus, and can have no place here. This post is an exposition of one small, speculative element of my personal truth. I alone own it.

I haven’t seen MJ today. I’m missing him.

Glorious Suburbia.

I just had the TV repair man in (another of yesterday’s little woes; forgot that one.) He’d got one of those so-mind-bogglingly-trivial-they’re-almost-interesting lifestyle shows playing.

There was a woman sitting on a typically suburban sofa in a typically suburban house. All the furniture, fittings and pictures were typically suburban. She was wearing typically suburban clothes and had a permed suburban hairstyle. Her husband matched her in every respect, and I felt inclined to wonder whether they’d had their name changed by deed poll to Mr and Mrs Suburbia.

Mrs Suburbia was singing Rule Britannia. With pride.

Get me to a nunnery.

Out of the Mouths of Babes and Cartoonists.

I read a good quotation from Charles Schultz recently.

‘I think I’ve discovered the secret of life. You hang around until you get used to it.’

I’m hanging around.

What Do I Call This One?

There seems to be a consensus that one of life’s greatest frustrations is waiting for something to arrive in the mail, only now it’s more likely to be waiting for a message to appear in your inbox. Damn that empty inbox.

So have a little ditty while I seethe.

I’ve had my chats with Melanie
And now I’m going to bed.
These maggots dancing on my knee
Are messing with my head.

Maybe I’m just a different sort of mad tonight. I got my guitar out earlier and sang Mr Tambourine Man to myself. It passed the time.

Ying tong yiddle I po. Yiddle I po.

It’s a Brit thing.

Passing Ships.

I don’t intend to make a habit of quoting Bob Dylan lyrics, but I just have to post my all-time favourite line:

Upon the beach, where hound dogs bay
At ships with tattooed sails.

- Gates of Eden.

I was always fascinated by passing ships when I was a kid. I would sit and patiently watch them cross the skyline. I didn’t know where they’d come from, or where they were going. They were just there, silent, and then gone. It’s one of my earliest recollections of a sense of mystery. The ‘tattooed sails’ of Dylan’s ships places them in times long-past, and so adds an element of fantasy. They might be ghosts of ships, and I imagine the scene at night with a dozen full moons reflecting off the waves. I once drove a hundred miles to the coast on a whim, just to watch the moon rise over the sea. My love of dogs and beaches needs no explaining.

Miserably Sane.

I’m not even slightly mad tonight. I’m in a bad mood. It started with a letter from my landlord’s agent, who is retiring in April, which opened up yet another reason for me possibly not continuing to live at this house. That’s a shame; I like it here, and I’m very fussy about where I live. It continued with the car throwing a wobbler. I hate it when cars play up in some way that isn’t easily diagnosed by a bear of little auto-brain. And tonight my internet is being slow and stuttery. I’m also tired – too many six-hour nights these past couple of weeks.

I did have an interesting anonymous phone call, though. It was 8.45 this evening, which more or less rules out a sales and marketing call. There was silence for a few seconds, and then some muffled music that sounded as though the caller was holding the phone close to a speaker, and then silence again. How exciting! The last time something like that happened was when I was being stalked, in a low level sort of way, by a woman from the theatre where I worked. Better tell the local bunnies to give the house a wide berth.

Actually, it was probably just a wrong number. Oh, well...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Lone is Good.

I realised today what I think is so valuable about living alone. It provides the best environment for personal evolution, unencumbered by the need to conform to a common condition.

Postscript

The last post was made for someone with whom I talked about Mr Tambourine Man once. There’s more.

MJ signing off. I always wanted to be a DJ doing a late-night jazz show. Somebody from a local radio station said I had the voice. Ha! Fantasy! I don’t even like jazz.

‘Play Misty for me.’

Bloody Clint Eastwood again. Mr B intends to be in control tomorrow.

Lyrics Worth Listening To.

Then take me disappearing
Through the smoke rings of my mind.
Down the foggy ruins of time,
Far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees,
Out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach
Of crazy sorrow.

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea,
Circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves.
Let me forget about today
Until tomorrow.

- Bob Dylan
Mr Tambourine Man.

Bed. Alone. Best way. Only way. Night.

A Reflection, Not a Complaint.

Do you know what’s a bit of a bugger sometimes? Just when it seems I’m coming close to getting what I most want, something beyond my control just happens along and snatches it away. It’s always been like that, not with everything but with most things.

What doesn’t help, probably, is the fact that I’ve always been the sort to most want what people in my situation aren’t ‘supposed’ to have. And I’ve usually got them, too, but only so far. Just as I’m nearing the top of the hill, a bloody great gust of wind comes along and blows me off. It’s like playing snakes and ladders on a board with five times as many snakes as ladders.

Mostly, I shrug these days. And I’m still an eternal optimist. And I like being me more than I used to, even on those rare occasions when I feel like something the cat brought in (which I don’t at the moment, by the way.)

So that’s all good. The future starts now.

Must go and check the empty house next door. Suspicious noises.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Oh, Well...

Off and on throughout my life, I’ve wanted to find and learn the lyrics to Donovan’s Catch the Wind. I finally got around to looking them up on Google tonight. They’re crap.

My Garden Smells Like an Open Sewer.

Wouldn’t you think that the damn farmer who farms the fields to the west of my house would have the decency not to do his muck spreading when there’s a bloody west wind blowing?! I don’t know what variety of muck he was using, but it didn’t smell like good old British cow dung. Llama shit, maybe. Damn foreigners!

A Burgeoning Bond.

Do you know what’s interesting? (To me, that is; I doubt it’ll be of any interest to anybody else. This is going to be self-indulgent.)

The last post I made before I went to bed last night. That’s what’s interesting.

I’ve said before that there seems to be two sides to me. Sometimes Mad Jeffrey comes out to play and takes centre stage. That nearly always happens in the early hours. Sometimes he’s happy mad, sometimes he’s sad mad, and sometimes he’s wise mad. Sometimes he’s just manic mad, and smooches around the room at three o’clock in the morning to the mad, mad rhythm of Susan McKeown’s Slan agus Beannacht.

The problem is that when Mad Jeffrey comes out to play, Mr Boring’nSerious doesn’t go to sleep. He stands there, sniffy but impotent, thinking ‘When I get control back tomorrow morning, this post is coming down because it will be bloody embarrassing.

And yet it rarely happens that way these days. When Mr Boring’nSerious read the post this morning, he wasn’t embarrassed at all. In fact, he decided it was a rather good post and there was no way he wanted to see it sent into oblivion.

So does this mean that a fraternal bond is growing between the two of them? It certainly seems to be a fact that MJ is coming to respect Mr B, even when the madness is most advanced. And Mr B, for his part, is coming to like MJ a lot. Seeing the growth of such a harmonious relationship is a new and excellent thing.

Lucky old me.