Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Well, the carpet men didn't come yet. And the floorboards aren't nailed down. And there are guys doing something about the damp in the basement, but there is no guarantee that it will be effective. And (as ever) I am probably glad I do not own property.

Although renting has gone out of fashion, and 'ownership' has come in, it is just a trick of the language. Previously you could rent a place and, if you stayed long enough, acquired some rights to stay. Now you stay, and pay 'rent' to the banks and other money-lenders, and they pretend you already 'own' the house even though they will take it back the minute you stop paying off your 25 year loan. Because I went to the USA at the end of the Sixties (when every one else was going off to live in in India) I saw what happpens. You go from this 'Live Now, Pay Later' form of ownership back into what is effectively renting. Americans seemed to lease cars and houses and whiteware, and so on - as part of their 'mobility' model, if they were going to move they didn't pack it all in a van and take it with them - they dumped it, traded it, passed it on.

For such a materialist culture it was interesting to see how unpossessive they were. It goes with true wealth, I guess. If you are nouveau riche you want the big house and car and clothes, etc. When you are very, very rich you probably don't bother. Personally, I'd travel with just a passport. Why carry clothes when you can buy new ones? Why carry a toothbrush when wherever you stay there will be a fresh one? Why stay in one place when you could afford to keep moving, and hiring what you need when you arrive?

I remember that Bucky Fuller went from owning cars to renting them (in his multiple circumnavigations of the globe) for similar reasons. This hasn't help me convince anybody that this ownership thing is already out of date. You can't tell them it is a gamble and a house of cards. It's like telling people that their ticket will not win the lottery - you're probably right (they even admit it sometimes) but you can't be sure. Well no, I can't be sure things are hopeless, but if I want a glimmer of hope in life it has to be more than a vague promise from a huge corporation that a worthless piece of paper which they have sold me just might turn out to be worth lots!

Still, I guess I am only bitter and impoverished, having not climbed on this particular bandwagon. And like any of my rants against cars and mortgages, and hire purchase - there's an old fashioned term for what we now call ownership (it used to be more obvious that you were renting something up until the day you had paid the capital costs, at which point the owner might not want it back, used, and could afford to 'let it go' to you) - it's all considered to be 'sour grapes' rather than despairing humour.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Had a quiet holiday for a couple of days. Carpet layers arriving tomorrow.

Now listening to Jerry Mander on the PC (while I write) - one of those great thinkers that I love. I highly recommend that you investigate, at least, his book 'Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television', which I read decades ago, and it only becomes more relevant as time passes.

I don't want to be a Luddite (its a pejorative term), but in many ways I am. I don't like cars, or know how to drive, or even aspire to drive. I have now joined the computer world (mostly as a research and writing tool).

We are all compromised - but at least we can make our own choices about our level of involvement.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

I was a bit disappointed, in my tea-break, to put 'atheist christmas' into Google hoping to find a little like-mindedness, and finding instead a bunch of atheists explaining why it's OK for them to be celebrating Christmas anyway (it's secular, it's family, it's pagan, it's historical - it's memories of their childhood, etc).

Doh! I guess it really will have to be a Buddhist Retreat next year. I've already done the research. But then again, how hypocritical is it for me to zoom off and meditate and so on, when I am not a Buddhist either!

At least Jews don't tell me off for not celebrating Channukah......

And then, the final bizarre touch - all the Google pages of Christians who don't celebrate Christmas because of its pagan roots!

It was a real joy, and a relief, to finally come across the Xmas Resistance Movement, and even such a simple letter as Why I Don't Celebrate Christmas.

They call this Christmas Eve. In Europe (notice how the British still don't think they are part of Europe) - well, OK, 'on the mainland' they open their presents tonight.

Don't forget to show how much you love someone by how much debt you are willing to go into, to give them something unnecessary.

Don't forget to consume far more than normal, so that you feel bloated and uncomfortable. Ideally, eat things you don't normally eat, and drink alcohol, even if you don't usually.

I guess all this started when I found that even my household (I grew up as a vegetarian) used to have a dead bird on the table at Christmas (for relatives). How can I offer meat-eaters a glimpse of how that felt? How about a baked dog with an apple in it's mouth? Pretty horrible, anyway (although the cat used to like it).

And then there was the State Religion aspect of it. This is what people believed if they were good citizens. It was irrelevant what a small boy thought about it - what a transparent hoax the whole story is - more improbable than the Tooth Fairy (and I am not talking Santa here). Compulsory Belief. Well, to me, you can't make anybody believe things. You can make them confess, admit or falsely claim to believe, if you are the Spanish Inquisition, but you can't (I believe) make people truly believe anything.

Ho hum. I am just using this for my rant, so I can clam up 'in real life' and not spoil people's parties. Then all I have to get through is that 'Oh you shouldn't have, I didn't get you anything' bit, and the 'no, no not for me thank-you, I've had enough' and the sentimentality and the envy, and the anti-climax...the pause...and then that whole New Year's schtick as well...and I'll be able to relax.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Well, the season is almost upon us now. I guess I may have to join in with the party game I mentioned before. This seems to involve the shops and warehouses piling up every bit of tat they have, and us all going round collecting it all up and redistributing the stuff around the city. Every household does is duty - taking in all the forlorn objects, nick-nacks, bits of furniture, plastic toys, etc. The object is to rehouse ALL the stuff by Christmas. I feel guilty every time I see an unsold item now - I can't look them in the eye. Left on the shelf. I can't even say 'I can't afford you' as I pass by on the other side, because this is the season of over-indulgence, 'treating' yourself, going wild, nothing to pay for a year, zero interest credit, reckless spending, etc. (sorry, delete that last one, it sounds negative).

Of course, you need tokens and tickets to play, but they'll lend them to you, so there's no excuse if you simply can't afford it.

And guess what happens if we successfully find a home for EVERY GI Joe and bottle, every wicker work chair and DIY tool, every game and every piece of jewellery - that's right, they fill the stores back up with CHEAPER stuff for the sales. And the Sales are not in January nowadays, they start on Boxing Day.

In fact, I am told, I will not even be able to wander around the wreckage on Christmas Eve (as I used to) - picking among the flotsam and jetsam - the shop-soiled, customer-ransacked shelves - amid the weary assistants praying (religiously) for the end - unable to find the colour or size I want, of course - until finally BLISS - it's too late, and everything closes.

Nope. No peace - they are pumping up Christmas Eve with 'early Sales'... And they are going to have open hours throughout the holiday. I despair, I really do.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Happy Solstice every pagan!

Anyway, where was I? I don't know what to buy the woman who has everything, but I wander around without a thought in my head. I know the world is full of wonderful gizmos, but do we really need any more things?

"Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste...." Actually, I can't compete in the wealth range of presents because they are all designed to be bought on credit for future earnings. And as for taste, well I have rarely successfully bought anything pretty, or fragrant, or stylish for anyone (especially women). Taste is a tough and personal area. It's why I prefer book tokens to books...

Anyway, Shop Surly for Christmas might be my slogan, except for the fact that I am a reformed man. After a long stressful period of my life I am resolved to cheer up. I have always preferred putting on the attitude, putting on the style. Optimism is a tactic.

I just can't get rid of my wider world view. Last week we were all walking around looking at concentrations of objects in shops, and now most of those objects are scattered throughout the surrounding buildings. Shops empty, Houses full.

And somehow this is all supposed to keep us employed and affluent. It was OK when I was a performer, and could milk the season for which people wanted 'hired jollity'. I had plenty of goodwill for people (once I got over the temptation to do children's parties!)

I never was a very good 'punter'.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Definitely more energised.

If it wasn't for the fact that I am tired of trying to defend Astrology as a useful, mythical, psychological language (a jargon) even, I would say I was enjoying the Sagittarian influence, galloping around and aiming high. Think about a Centaur with a bow and arrow....

Anyway. Over the early Winter slump, and running around like a mad thing. I just went over to a neighbours house, to a computer which wouldn't talk to them, even.

Went into DOS (that feels like speaking Latin) and saved their documents, and then did the *full, automatic re-install and restore* which came with Packard-Bell and it put back Windows ME, and all the Works, with nothing much more than observation from me.
Still, young Arran was sitting beside me, so I was trying to get the family data through DOS and explain what I was doing - when I was never that fluent in DOS anyway, and the keyboard was odd and hid the ~ (tilde) - DOH!

Finally it re-installed everything (including the junk which came with the package).

I left it with a boy willing to kick out the programs he doesn't want, and re-arrange all the stuff. Great! I never really believe I can do this stuff. It takes too long, of course, when you are going cautiously - but it is a great feeling of success when the system all comes up again.

Monday, December 16, 2002

A much better few days, recently. I feel happier and healthier. Last night, Ben and I started to play with Movie Maker and the webcam, and he made a short movie of a sketch he had done at school (in mime, but he later added narration), and I caught various clips of him dancing, etc, which I later compiled into a rave clip... It's the way to learn....

Also spoke to Michael Nielsen yesterday. Nice to hear from him (and be forgiven for missing an appointment!) He did point out (discretely) that people at Jedicon didn't think much of the quality of image I had in my pictures - true (I agree), and I already acknowledged it on the day, but there was little I could do. Keili and I did Photoshop tweaks to the low rez images I had, and the printer was miles away, so I couldn't get a sample. I'll learn. Meanwhile, apologies to anyone who did buy one of these unsatisfactory prints (signed). The only thing I can say is that they will remain rare (early and imperfect) items from my first ever public show. By the time I have got high gloss pictures and posters and cards (like most other people who do conventions) these will turn into rare treasures...(maybe)

And yes, I have lots left, if you want to email me for a cheap souvenir (and we can arrange postage, etc). Of course, they would be unsigned - because it would be unfair to the people who came to Jedicon to devalue what they have bought in good faith. If you want one signed (and the Jabba pointing finger seems OK, even if the Princess Leia pic is not too good), then the standard rate seems to be £10. I will also sign your own stuff for £5 if you send it to me - but you send it at your own risk (and please email me that it is on the way - so if there are any problems we will know. I would hate people to be waiting for something to come back which I haven't even received).

For this Star Wars stuff, it is best to email me on


All the best everybody.....

Friday, December 13, 2002

'It's just bad luck that Friday is so often the 13th'

I hope none of you suffer from triskaidekaphobia (fear of 13s) or tridecaphobia (as some dictionaries give it).

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

It's beginning to freeze here, now. Really bleak weather. I've put my long-johns on today - not glamorous, I know, but they work!

Saw Mr Jules in the library [if that link to his page is a bit slow, try this link to one of his agents] - but I didn't get to juggling or the pub afterwards. I'd lit a fire and opened a bottle of wine, and was watching the current David Attenborough on Mammals...herbivores (my veggie buddies) or 'plant predators' as he called them.

Going to the convention meant I had time off work without any rest - so I am a bit shattered at the moment - and just want to hibernate. Still, it was fun, and a distinct change of routine. [Yes, Wayne, I did get Mike Q to sign your cards, they're on the way].

Bits of me still seem to ache. I have a kind of RSI in my right hand/arm, from mouse use and abuse...so I switched the buttons, and am using mouse left-handed, both in work and at home. Now my left arm hurts too! Doh!

Just gotta find some other activities.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Well, I am back from Jedicon. First of all a big apology to HR, as I really did try to get across town to meet up, but had a slight emergency arise, and then it all went out of control!

It was nice to meet everybody on Sunday - and to be able to give people a bit of time. The official Q&A sesion was a bit sluggish, but the people who came to meet me in person were great - so thanks for making me welcome at my first (but perhaps not last) convention.

And a particular big hello to Mike Quinn and John Coppinger and Michael Nielsen. Nice to see you!

Friday, December 06, 2002

I got an email from Aurélien Lukowski this morning, who has connections with a Star Wars shop in Paris. I am sending him some pictures, and he has invited me to visit next May...

Pretty exciting, as I haven't been travelling for a while. It will be fun to be in Paris again, and with a purpose (I always prefer that, I was never a very good tourist...)

Hi Aurélien!
I figured I should try to borrow back my crew shirt, for a picture, and yeh, has been is a joke....(you can also find it on the Home Page - click to enlarge).

When I said how many people would offer serious money for it, I think Tim (who owns it now) got a bit worried it wouldn't come back to him! Basically, it sat in cupboards and drawers for years, in 'almost new' condition (because I can't wear synthetics), and when Tim heard about it he was so excited I handed it over. Unlike me, he has actually worn it, lived in it and worked in it. It's pretty battered now, but I was never a hoarder, and I prefer things to be used. Apologies to all the collectors out there.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Steve Langfield contacted me for a picture for his fanzine Coruscant Skyline so I dug out a couple of old ones, and took a quick pic in the den. It's getting close to Jedicon now, and I am getting a little bit wired with anticipation and not knowing quite what I am walking into.

I just know I know so little of the Star Wars world.
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