Friday, January 27, 2006

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

On Sunday we can celebrate Chinese New Year (Fire Dog), and W.C.Fields' birthday (Old Dog).

This floating festival (Moon Calendar) happened in February, last year.

I will have gone to visit Britain's oldest recorded town - Colchester - so you may not hear from me, even if it counts as a great day!

Still, adventures, even within the UK, should energise a person. Always assuming I don't stumble through the whole thing groaning about the chance of 'going for a little nap'.

I must have got old, without noticing...I felt OK in the sunshine in Barcelona, only a few months ago!
I know one new year greeting, but the Chinese for 'luck' = 'Fu', but apparently you display the word upside down. It seems rash wishing luck to everyone - it doesn't seem like luck if everyone gets it, and wishing all the people in a race (even the human race) 'good luck' just seems silly - as they can't all win. So Good Luck to all my family and friends, fans and like-minded people!

Help one another, for we are all in the same boat.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Brighter Later, Maybe

Still staggering through the wintery days, feeling like hibernating and huddling under a duvet, not just because of the cold/flu thing I had a few weeks back that will not quite go away, but just generally because of my warm-blooded mammalian ancestors.

I hope to perk up soon, and feel bright-eyed and bushy-tailed again – it can’t happen quick enough!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A turn up for the book

From The Times, January 12th
If you thought you worked under pressure, you should spare a thought for those poor librarians

I NEED to move to a far less stressful job, doctor, like fighting fires, driving trains or teaching a class of rowdies in a sink school. I just can’t take the pressure any more.
Ah, you must be a librarian. How did you guess, doctor? It’s the boredom, you see; same old books, same old date-stamping, same old fines for late returners, same old shushing of noisy readers. I need to get out more, maybe save a life or two or pass a signal at red.

Delegates at a conference of the British Psychological Society in Glasgow today will hear the results of a research project which suggests that being a librarian induces more stress than working for the emergency services, driving a 125mph express, or teaching a class of ill-behaved children.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Class of '73

Jim Sweeney in the stocks, Toby fire-eating
Having a website has many perks. Old friends can find you, for one thing. I was delighted to get an email from one of my more successful friends from the Olde Days, Jim Sweeney (that's him in the stocks), and visiting his site reminded me of where we learned our trade, at the Oval House - a Community Arts Centre which functioned as a Fringe Theatre and training space for so many of the 70s generation - especially those who didn't want to go to a drama school...

A poster for The Roundhouse version of the show

One show we put on at the Oval House, called Feast of Fools, graduated to a one month run at The Roundhouse, and we all thought we had joined proper show-biz, with reviews in the newspapers and everything. In that original cast you would have found John Ratzenburger (Cliff from Cheers) and Richard Le Parmentier (Admiral Motti from Star Wars), Jim and me (of course) and Steve Steen (when he was still called McDonald), The cheap programme for the end of term show at The Oval Housethe amazing Emil Wolk and (as Jim pointed out on his site) some guy called Pierce Brosnan (although he didn't join us in the Roundhouse production, perhaps he wasn't good enough for the big stage - heh).

I have managed to lose most of my scrapbooks over the years, but one survived in a friend's loft, so here you can see what we did in 1973/4. I had just started working as a juggler and fire-eater, so had a shoo-in to a medaeval show, whatever my acting may have been like. I don't know how the others got the job...

Friday, January 13, 2006

I Who Have Nothing

As I remarked on December 20th, if I eked things out, put up with the Scrooge tag, and denied myself any indulgences (how many presents do people buy for themselves at Christmas?) then I could get out of debt. Not that that means much to most people of the younger generations for whom debt=credit, but for my generation that seems like cause for celebration. I hope my mum would have been proud of me, anyway.

My friend Mick and I found a badge in a local shop with 'Back to Zero' enigmatically written on it (presumably an ad for The Stones' album, as the band of that name probably didn't exist back then). In one of our late-night discussions we played with that phrase (as neither of us had any credit rating = no debt, but lived like the poorest in the land - me out of a suitcase, him in a caravan in someone's orchard).

We came to the conclusion that if you had won the lottery, or saved up a fortune, and then went on a spree - "Back to Zero" would be the wake-up call, the reality check (Mick used to say "reality checks don't bounce"), the day to 'get real', the day you realise you have nothing, nada, zilch. (gulp).

If (we realised) you had found yourself in debt (like most people these days in the UK and the US), then the "Back to Zero" day would feel like a real achievement, even if you actually had NOTHING.

That's the day I find myself in. Even the money that I will owe the taxman has got put aside in a savings account. I managed to get here just in time for my birthday.

Who knows if it will last, as contingencies arise (I need some new shoes), and the pressure to spend continues all around me...But even one day like this cheers me up.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not My Favourite Season

I don't feel at my best at this time of year.

"Winter downpour --
even the monkey
needs a raincoat."


Picture from and yeh, I know a Gorilla gets classified as an ape not a monkey, I just empathise with the picture.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Happy Birthday Uncle Albert!

Albert Hofmann reached the age of 100 today.

What a great advert for his product!

I understand that if you have never had a mystical experience, or if you believed all the propaganda about chromosome damage and jumping off of buildings, you might wonder why I would celebrate his work. Eventually, when research becomes possible again, the value of the discovery might appear in its true light. If you can resist the temptation to jump to conclusions, or muddle him up with Kesey's Merry Pranksters (West Coast) or Leary's Harvard experiments (East Coast), and put him in the company of people like Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts, you might find the subject worthy of discussion. Try his book LSD - My Problem Child

Why not read this recent interview.

The Wikipedia entry should give you enough leads. And if you think I appear a little out-on-a-limb here, I can assure you that a lot of intelligent people still consider this subject worthy of further study. Check out the agenda for the Symposium this weekend.

I found several interesting pieces last year, at Albert's 99th. or check the main MAPS site.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Believe That, and You'll Believe Anything...

In spite of having to take a day or two off work with a horrible cold, I truly enjoyed Richard Dawkins' first of two programmes on last night's television - "Root of All Evil? 1. The God Delusion” channel 4 tv

In a promo he said something like:

"In a world without God you would still have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. It takes religion to get good people to do evil things..."

Dawkins talked to some seriously scary people last night. A U.S. Fundamentalist pastor (and friend of GWB)who eventually threw him off his land, shouting “you're calling my children animals!” because he talked of evolution - so I guess that male pastor doesn't have defunct mammalian nipples. (That God, He’s such a kidder!)

A NY Jew converted to Islam living in Jerusalem who wanted Dawkins to stop his women walking around dressed as whores.

He also showed American freethinkers meeting in secret...I have to say, much though I enjoyed my visits to America, I really have begun to get scared by them as a culture...if about half of them really do think the world is no older than 10,000 years and everything in one of the English translations of the Bible has literal truth. The parallels in mindless group behaviour to Germany in the 30s, or the religious superstition and hysteria of the Middle Ages seem to have grown. Scary.

I reckon Dawkins best soundbite of the night went something like
"None of us believe in the Greek gods, or the pagan gods, or the old Chinese or Indian gods. Atheists like me have just gone one god further."
Don't miss Part 2! “Root of All Evil? 2. The Virus of Faith” Monday, 16th January at 8:00 pm on Channel 4.

Did You Know?
The word "God" does not actually appear in the original Hebrew or Greek manuscripts of the Bible, accepted as Holy by both Christians and Muslims. "God" is an old English word which developed from an Indo-European word, meaning "that which is invoked," which is also the ancestor of the German word Gott (meaning: God).
Some Christians unthinkingly say 'Allah is not God.' This is the ultimate blasphemy to Muslims, and furthermore, it is difficult to understand. Allah is the primary Arabic word for God. It means 'The God.' There are some minor exceptions. For example, the Bible in some Muslim lands uses a word for God other than Allah (Farsi and Urdu are examples). But for more than five hundred years before Muhammad, the vast majority of Jews and Christians in Arabia called God by the name Allah. How, then, can we say that Allah is an invalid name for God? If it is, to whom have these Jews and Christians been praying?

And what about the 10 to 12 million Arab Christians today? They have been calling God 'Allah' in their Bibles, hymns, poems, writings, and worship for over nineteen centuries. What an insult to them when we tell them not to use this word 'Allah'! Instead of bridging the distance between Muslims and Christians, we widen the gulf of separation between them and us when we promote such a doctrine. Those who still insist that it is blasphemy to refer to God as Allah should also consider that Muhammad's father was named Abd Allah, 'God's servant,' many years before his son was born or Islam was founded!"

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Web Presence

As part of my job I have to check our internet connection, so I have to think of a new search each time (otherwise I may have just drawn on the cache) – so today I decided to look up old puppeteer co-workers Geoff Felix, Christopher Leith and Ian Tregonning. This led me almost immediately to a Muppet Wiki site where I found a pretty accurate and detailed biog for myself – which I can only think I owe to Habidabad (?) I corrected the couple of easily-made mistakes (the joys of Wiki, compared to some of the misleading info I find on the web, and can’t edit – like the New York film site that says I played the 1st Fairy in Labyrinth!) The other puppeteer entries seem nowhere near as complete, but I may try to contact the guys and steer them that way, as you can write the thing yourself.

Funnily enough, although going to Star Wars cons involves more fun than money for me (don’t give up the day job) – with the exception of Celebration 3 (where I did make some money, but not the fortunes some people hinted at) – getting into the local paper for this recent convention in Cardiff has amused my fellow workers in the library. Not only did I get into the Echo (text here, but not the pix), but a small para appeared in Weird Wales in ‘Wales on Sunday’ (a celeb gossip rag).

Still, I used to work in showbiz so mentioning this stuff doesn't come direct from the ego - you take any publicity, name checks and such that you can. I still have more fun talking to the fans, and being a 'good sport' - like meeting up with Dave Barclay and helping to fold the life-size Origami Jabba at C3. Possibly one of my favourite memories of 2005.

A thought for my 60th year on the planet

"The older I get, the less seriously I take anything," says Wilson. "The Chinese say the wise become Confucian in good times, Buddhist in bad times and Taoist in old age. I'm old enough to be a Taoist. I don't see anything very seriously." Not even, as it turns out, mortality.

"I know I'm going to die sometime soon: five weeks, five months, five years," says Wilson. "I don't know, maybe 50 years if stem cell research moves along. But I don't know and I don't care. And I can't take it seriously anymore. If George Bush is president of the free world, who can take anything seriously?

Premature Illumination
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