Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Still Happy After All These Years!

Dandy loves it in the woodsYsbyty-Ystwyth
Thanks to Julie's efforts to find a way to spend Christmas where I don't rant and grumble - I spent Christmas Day walking the Dandy dog in the wilderness...
Wider View
It was still lovely to hear the tyres on the gravel outside, as she returned from commuting many miles to do Emergency Duty Team work, however, and still be here for us couple of dogs...
View Down The Valley
This coming year we will have been together for ten years...apparently that used to be tin or aluminium (flexibility) but the web suggests diamonds as a 'modern' alternative.

Uh, yeah. Um. Ethical diamonds I can afford? Gulp.

Let's see, pirate tin from Cornwall molded into Celtic designs. hmm. Maybe.

Um, aluminium! Causes Alzheimers' doesn't it, or is that just Food Reform propanganda from my (odd) childhood?

Ah, you can tell I arrived back in the city!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Solstice!

Well, the shortest day in the Northern hemisphere again...

I just took the dog out for a long walk through the hills, with red kites soaring overhead, and robins rustling in the undergrowth...a bright, crisp, cold day.

An interview I did with The Bothan Spy has got published, and it looks pretty good to me...thanks, guys!

I completed a written piece, called "Magical Means" about a meeting between two magicians, for Maybe Quarterly, and that should go up later today (West Coast time).

I'll link to it when it comes online....

Well, from now on, the days get longer! Yippee!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Pretty Good Year

It's a Dog's Life

I have enjoyed this year quite a lot. Dandy the dog (although tiring and demanding at times - like having a new baby) has just reached his first birthday, and turned from a cute little fluffy fellow into a small horse. He is great company for both of us.

We weren't going to let him on the furniture, but he talked us into he thinks he owns the place!

A Place in The Hills

Well, actually, at this moment we have two places to live, though whether we can maintain both by sub-letting, etc, remains to be seen. Right now (to quote the Chinese proverb) we have one foot on the boat and one on the shore. We will spend a few days up in the hills now...sitting by the fire, and walking the dog.

Writing On!

I finished the novel like a marathon challenge, and may just treat it as a warm-up exercise for the autobiography, or perhaps go back and work over it. Right now, I have completed a 7,000 word piece to go in our quarterly magazine - for which Bobby is making graphics. I am quite excited about this piece. You can see it on The Solstice, when we publish the magazine.

Family meetups

My family have started linking up through MySpace, which is nice. I don't really play at social networking, any more than I go social drinking, bowling, dancing or anything else. I am more of an introvert, and doggy also has tended to get me home early rather than hanging out. Still, a virtual zone where widely separated family can cross paths seems nice. And I have plenty of online friends.

Online Friends and Colleagues

The Maybe Logic Academy still keeps me busy, and I guess most of my friends come from there right now. The Circus Arts Forum, however, keeps me loosely in touch with that sub-culture, and NoFit State have gone from strength to strength this year. We really seem to be on a roll...

I have almost stopped getting involved with Star Wars events for the moment. I haven't had any offers of adventure abroad (the most fun) and feel over-exposed in South Wales, and the UK generally - plus I need some time off (I get very little) and can't keep using up relaxation time to go off working. apart from wanting to keep the dog happy (!)
Simon, John, Mike, Dave and me making the best of a bad day
I myself end up dog-tired and bone-weary working without a break. I have just finished an online interview with The Bothan Spy, however, which I am pleased with. It will be published tomorrow, I think.

And Julie is also working lots of extra hours right now, so we both feel a little over-extended. Still, we are approaching a tenth anniversary together, so we must be doing something right!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Don't Ask Me That!

Well, I finished my novel a couple of days early (hate chasing deadlines in a panic) but now the official ending has happened, and we can all celebrate and move on to editing, I guess, in NaNoFiMo (National Novel Finishing Month).

Actually, I want to use my momentum to write a shorter piece for Maybe Quarterly, so I may well put it aside for a while.

Why tell you this?

Well, people I have told basically ask me two questions. Friends ask “When can we read it?” and I tend to reply “Er, um, I dunno, I haven’t even proofread it for the stuff spell-checkers miss, I haven’t read it myself” and so on. Although I did send the draft to a couple of fellow conspirators, who may sample it, cut it up, etc. But as we work on collaborative multimedia productions, we don’t have many secrets from each other…

I wrote it fast, as part of NaNoWriMo, precisely to get past the internal censor and critic who so easily stops us doing anything – but that doesn’t mean I feel proud or confident about it, yet. I don’t feel ready for any criticism or feedback either, and I certainly don’t want any ‘supportive friends’ saying “how wonderful” just out of kindness.

The other question, from friends, colleagues, even strangers, I have no answer to.

“What’s it about?”

A killer question, to which I “er, um” even more. I mean – what’s life about, for goodness sake?

If people asked me what kind of book I tried to write I would say something like ‘a philosophical novel’ – no guns, no car chases, no sex – talking heads and minor adventures – think “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” or a movie like “Dinner With Andre”. (not that I’m comparing it to those, of course.) I couldn’t choose a NaNoWriMo genre, so elected for ‘other’.


Without going into to my Maybe Logic Academy training too much (which might make it sound like a cult, or something heh heh) one of the basic exercises we use to clarify thinking involves expressing ideas in E-Prime. This simply involves using English without the verb ‘to be’.

I really don’t have time to deal with any readers’ internal cries of outrage, right now, because we have discussed it long and hard, many times, at the MLA.

Some people say they can’t see how such a simple change would change the way you think, others say they couldn’t do without the verb (and invent ugly convoluted examples of language to prove the elegance of needing to continue to use the verb, etc), yet others ‘prove’ to their own satisfaction that the whole exercise seems pointless to them, and archly continue to use it, but with ‘quotes’ signalled in the air, to highlight their awareness (see the title of this blog, for instance), without having to make the effort to rephrase anything.

After getting accused of taking it all too seriously (an E-Prime Nazi) many of us MLA students have tended to settle back into E-Choice, i.e. slackly allowing ourselves to employ the verb in casual conversation or writing, and only bringing out this ‘thinking tool’ when the language conjures up ghosts, illusions and spooks - like "Is There A God?", for instance, or "Are the Beatles better than Beethoven?" - where re-phrasing can remove dispute, or at least clarify that we can only describe what we see and believe, not what 'is'. But I refer you to the literature and debate on the subject (s) elsewhere. In my humble opinion, the E-Prime tool works very well to remove pseudo-objectivity, and reminds the user that opinions and observations remain essentially subjective.

Robert Anton Wilson whole articles on this subject which form good intros,(and he wrote two books entirely in E-Prime, but you wouldn’t notice - I like this piece from Quantum Psychology), or check out the General Semantics website.

So anyway:

“What ‘is’ it about?” appears like a meaningless question to me, which makes it difficult to answer.

Re-phrased as “How would you describe it?” or “What subject did you want to tackle?” or “what kind of characters do you use?” or “What time period did you set it in?” or “Do you hope people will find it amusing, enlightening, cheering, depressing, sad?” or “which point of view did you use?” etc. I might come up with some answers.

  • I set it in the 1980s (before mobile phones and internet became widely available) .

  • I set it in Spain (a country I love, which contains colourful stuff for writing - paradoxical contrasts between authoritarianism and anarchy, charm and ruthlessness, etc)

  • I chose rootless and ‘on the road’ characters from several countries and cultural and religious backgrounds – outsiders, nomads, travelling players, artists, ‘gypsies’, immigrants, sailors, drug smugglers, etc. Some resemble me and my friends.

  • I tried to express the possibility that such diverse people can get on with each other, in contrast to ‘settlers’ and ‘land-grabbers’ who seem to spend a lot of time fighting over territory – oh, and hating, or at least distrusting, low-life 'nomads', who don't want the same things that they do.

  • I think of the south of Spain as the only part of Europe which didn’t spend two thousand years under Christian rule – and that, under Muslim rule, a period of time elapsed with relative tolerance. Tolerance among Muslims, Jews, Christians and Gitanos (Romany gypsies).

  • Astrolabe from 11th C.
  • Moorish Arabs brought all sorts of cultural benefits to our European civilization, which now seems air-brushed out of history, at least as it got taught to me. They translated the Greeks and Romans, worked with glass, chemistry, maths, astronomy, they encouraged learning, artists and scientists, etc. Their calligraphy also gave us the elegant and almost universal numerals - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 - that work across language barriers.
  • alhambra tiles
  • I think of The Alhambra as a perfect example of elegance, in contrast to the bombastic and bullying Catholic architecture, with doors so big to make you feel small (I guess, unless they expect visits from angels and Gods) and filled with ugly and terrifying images of tortured humans. Islam does not allow portrayal of real beings, or idols, so their beautiful tilework seems modern to my eye. I find the geometric shapes filled with stars very pleasing, and the Arabesques of calligraphy and vines and leaves satisfy my 'Irish soul'.

  • By 1492 the Christians had not only destroyed the universities and libraries, but they drove the Muslims back to North Africa (or forced them to convert) suppressed Jews (equally in love with learning) and pushed Gitanos down to where they still find themselves even now – the lowest of the low – untouchables – Beneath The Underdog (to quote Charlie Mingus’ autobiog, a mongrel half-caste, himself). Oh, and they also went to grab America from the natives, of course, at the same time!

  • I only hint at that, as a sub-text, of course. And relate at least some of it to the Cathar tradition, too (the first genocide, enacted by ‘Catholic Christians’), in the Provence and Barcelona areas (which links back to troubadours, Sufis, and another period of spacetime in which a cultured and democratic system thrived for a while, with a certain independence for women, a love of learning, a genuine modesty and gentleness among the religious 'leaders', etc).

  • I am also aware that a period of culture like that relates to particular leaders, not to a religion. I have no desire to romanticise the Moorish culture. That modern radical Islamics like Al Quaida want to 'reconquer Spain' (considering it 'occupied Muslim land') just proves my point. Everyone rolls the movie back just far enough to justify their own claims to land...because the Moors arrived in 711 and left in the previous owners also have a prior claim to the land in my eyes. When do we get the Visigoth resurgencel?
  • La Reconquista
  • Anyway - the Moors came in, then the Christians reconquered it, and now the Muslims want to reconquer it, and so it goes on. Hence my 'homeless and landless' characters...
  • An old anarchist atheist like me believes we won't get any real peace until we 'strangle the last lawyer with the entrails of the last priest' (I forget who said that) but those supposedly peace-loving religious people would probably want to stone me to death, or burn me at the stake, for that kind of attitude.
  • And I have nothing against individuals from these cultures - just the belief systems themselves, and the memes connected to them, which make me feel as though I live on the Planet of the Apes at times. That, of course, gets considered intellectual arrogance. So part of what I wanted to write involves the 'hatred of intelligence'...

Of course, by the time I’ve said all that I realise that my humble little book will need a lot more research and editing to tackle so many ambitious themes. And if you read this far, great! Most people wish they had never asked, or have fallen asleep by now, or glazed over at my ‘usual rants’.

I don’t know what it ‘is’ about…or to paraphrase somone (maybe Groucho?) “It is about fifty thousand words”.

For scale: you just read about 1600 words - roughly what I had to write each day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Doggam, I did it!

I finished my 50000 word novel with three days to spare.

I actually hit 50050, as it seemed like a good idea at the time to hit 50/50, maybe.

Their word counter (after I scrambled it for their server) seems to think I did even more. Whatever.

It's called "Foolproof"

I have to thank my late (or parallel universe) friend Mick Swain, who would have loved this project.
Mick Swain - writer and mentor and best friend at the time
He loved writing and always encouraged me to try - no, not to try, but to actually DO it, and regularly, routinely, habitually.

Half way through, when I was losing momentum, he turned up as a character, 13 years and one month after he left this realm - he died on October 30th 1994 - to write his own happy ending at long last.

Thanks Mick! Here to Go!

As I rolled up to the finishing line, and gave him the last word, XM Radio was cranking out Leon Russell and Joe Cocker's "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" - and the track that hit by chance was "Space Captain"

Once I was travelling across the sky
This lovely planet caught my eye
And being curious I flew close by
And now I'm caught here
Until I die
Until we die
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
Till we die
I lost my memory of where I've been
We all forgot that we could fly
Someday we'll all change into peaceful man
And we'll return into the sky
Until we die
Until we die
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
Till we die
Live together, yeah,
Learning to live together
Till we die
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
This involved a few late nights...
Till we die
Ah... hum...
Until we die
Until we die
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
Learning to live together
To live together...
To live together...
To live together...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Harpo Speaks

Many years ago a very wise man named Bernard Baruch took me aside and put his arm around my shoulder. 'Harpo, my boy,' he said, 'I'm going to give you three pieces of advice, three things you should always remember.' My heart jumped and I glowed with expectation. I was going to hear the magic password to a rich, full life from the master himself. 'Yes, sir' I said. And he told me the three things. I regret that I've forgotten what they were.

--Arthur 'Harpo' Marx

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Just a cyberwave to my son, so far away around the planet, that he's almost on the way back.

Here's Pentaphobe on Wikipedia.

It has links to his website, tribal groupings, albums released, etc.

I hope you have a great day, mate!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

You can't make this stuff up

Only recently I mentioned having a Gmail account hacked, and some consequences (not financial, fortunately!) on my eBay and Amazon accounts. Mostly hassle and paranoia.

Today I heard that the main ID thief seems like the government. I quote the shadow chancellor (who, as an opposition politician may exaggerate just a little)

"Let us be clear about the scale of this catastrophic mistake - the names, the addresses and the dates of birth of every child in the country are sitting on two computers discs that are lost in the post. The bank account details and national insurance numbers of 10 million parents, guardians and carers have gone missing,” said Osborne.

Full Story here

It appears that such a cock-up may delay the grand plan for a central database, and the whole ID Card fiasco in the UK. Most European countries have made citizens carry ID cards for years, but it has remained a slightly illusory freedom on this island to not have to carry an ID card.

Of course, as in the USA, many people now carry a driving licence in the UK, which works as the same thing, but people like me, who do not drive, do not have to carry proof of ID or address by law. A tenuous freedom, seeing as how any policeperson who suspects me of something can detain me until my ID is confirmed!

But anyway.

To paraphrase William Burroughs: 'They' can always find something wrong with your papers.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Life's Sentence

Ah me. Well, today I have completed ten years work for/in the local library.

If only round numbers let you off! But the 'lifers' here sneer at a mere ten years...

At least they are heading for a pension, for all the hard labour.

I fell behind on my NaNoWriMo wordage yesterday, but I figured it might have been inevitable, given the halfway point reached...and still no plot! Just a sequence of events.

But then again, that's how I perceive life. It doesn't seem to have a plot, either, nor an author (of course). I'm not so much an atheist, perhaps, as a non-authorist?

Anyway, on we roll.

And don't forget, if you like these sort of things, that next Saturday is Buy Nothing Day. Well, you can at least try...

Friday, November 09, 2007

She does it proud

I love my partner dearly, and we are coming up to ten happy years together, but I have to go off into my den if I want to crank up Dylan and play him (nearly peer group, and he always said what I wanted to say). If I tell her to listen to the lyrics it doesn't work, as she can't stand his voice and delivery (she's a singer). I point to Hendrix singing "All Along the Watchtower"...which she loves, and even Dylan does it that way now...but she didn't know he wrote that.

So when KT Tunstall came on at the end of a mostly drearily retro folky Dylan tribute tv programme - and blew the audience away with the first two tracks of Blood On The Tracks - I wanted to share it. Didn't have video recording access. On YouTube now you can see her doing the first track (did anyone record the follow up of "Simple Twist Of Fate" - please post it!) You can glimpse a clip at the BBC on the link above. Oh, and I liked Robyn Hitchcock doing Visions of Johanna, too. No disrespect to the folkies (I loved you once...)

YouTube has her doing it on Jules Holland's show, but you get the drift. Who else does write lyrics anything like this? Read this, maybe, but listen to KT's delivery at the same time...

Early one mornin' the sun was shinin',
I was layin' in bed
Wond'rin' if she'd changed at all
If her hair was still red.
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama's homemade dress
Papa's bankbook wasn't big enough.
And I was standin' on the side of the road
Rain fallin' on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I've paid some dues gettin' through,
Tangled up in blue.

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam, I guess,
But I used a little too much force.
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best.
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin' away
I heard her say over my shoulder,
"We'll meet again someday on the avenue,"
Tangled up in blue.

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell.
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Workin' for a while on a fishin' boat
Right outside of Delacroix.
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind,
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
Tangled up in blue.

She was workin' in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer,
I just kept lookin' at the side of her face
In the spotlight so clear.
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I's just about to do the same,
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me, "Don't I know your name?"
I muttered somethin' underneath my breath,
She studied the lines on my face.
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe,
Tangled up in blue.

She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
"I thought you'd never say hello," she said
"You look like the silent type."
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you,
Tangled up in blue.

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs,
There was music in the cafes at night
And revolution in the air.
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died.
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside.
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn,
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew,
Tangled up in blue.

So now I'm goin' back again,
I got to get to her somehow.
All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter's wives.
Don't know how it all got started,
I don't know what they're doin' with their lives.
But me, I'm still on the road
Headin' for another joint
We always did feel the same,
We just saw it from a different point of view,
Tangled up in blue.
Copyright © 1974 Ram's Horn Music

Lord knows, I've paid some dues, getting through... (yeah, I was going through the break up of a long term relationship at the time, too) Duh

All the people we used to know, they're an illusion to me now. Some are mathematicians, some are carpenter's wives. I don't know how it all got started, I don't know what they're doin' with their lives. But me, I'm still on the road headin' for another joint. We always did feel the same, We just saw it from a different point of view...

Go score Blood On the Tracks and listen to the stripped down, original version, of Tangled Up In Blue..

My Desert Island Dylan (can I take Blonde on Blonde, with me too, please? And maybe Planet Waves, and uh, oh well, fuck it...)

This lyric alone kept me going all these years:

The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin' on
like a bird that flew

Thursday, November 08, 2007

write on, right on, write now

Pyrenees block the 'neck' of the Iberian Peninsula

So I plough on with my writing project - no idea where I am going, but NaNoWriMo say that's OK!

Curiously, doing a quick bit of research with keywords for 'the story so far' - Barcelona, street performers, reincarnated Cathars, 'coincidence', etc I found that someone had already written the damned book I had vaguely (very vaguely) thought of.

Google is a great humbler, when you think you have an original idea. The library I work in happened to have a copy, too, and I had to decide whether to read it and be influenced, or to not read it until December. I chose to read it.

What puts it into the synchronicity class (for me, at least) is that the author lives in the same city as me, and teaches creative writing at the Uni! He even put a dog in the title.... heh

The colour of a dog running away... Richard Gwyn.

Whether this will alter the course of my own piece I don't know,but I still have no idea what to do. I can't categorize it (they don't have Roman a clef in their choices, so I put Mystery and Suspense (it's a mystery to me what I am doing, and I can hardly stand the suspense of waiting to see if I fail), but I think that would draw me into the wrong group of people, as they seem to find murder interesting...

I could try to bring in a magician, I suppose...and maybe a robbery...

I feel more inclined to relabel it, although 'literary fiction' just sounds far too grand...the other labels seem too specific (Sci Fi, Romance, etc)

And I have opened a can of worms here (or a can of memes).

Can of Memes

  • NaNoWriMo asks you to start from scratch.

  • NaBloPoMo asks you to write a blog post every day for a month (something I often do spontaneously, but not every month).

  • nanofimo is set up to finish incomplete works (which may come from November's NaNoWriMo but could be for any unfinished written piece)

  • NaNoEdMo is apparently for pieces completed, but needing editing, proofing, tidying, etc

  • And there's 24 hour Comics for the graphic artists

  • And, in June (but you can visit the site any time) there's Script Frenzy, for you playwrights and screenwriters

Sunshine Gray
PS: my mate Sunshine Gray emailed me to tell me who the woman in that Gwyn book set in Barcelona might have been based on. (!) You can listen to some of Sunshine's stuff (including a comment about the Barcelona Chair (sic) on MySpace. Hi Sunshine!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Inspiring Creativity

starwarscrafts animated puppet Jabba
As ever, the energy and enthusiasm of Star Wars fans astounds me. These guys have built their own Jabba that WORKS - with room for two people inside.

Go look.


We (the original crew) have met a static Jabba at CEStatic Jabba at CE
and Elvis Trooper tells me he has been working with one in The States
Elvis Trooper with a handful of Leias
One day I must learn how to make this...smaller, of course!
And, of course, there was the amazing life-size origami Jabba at C3, from Chris Alexander at Star Wars Origami.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

So Far, So What?

If you think my den is a mess, you should see the INSIDE of my head...
I have kept my number count up for three days now, but the NaNoWriMo server seems swamped. I can hardly ever get into it...especially when America is awake! Like now - 7:30 pm on the West Coast, 10:30 pm on the East).

That's a shame, as I wanted to browse the forums, having hit my target for the day.

I thought the sluggish response could be caused by my PC, or my ISP, but when I did get in one time I could see they had had an unexpected number of hits on Day One, and admitted the server was struggling.

This evening I haven't even got close...

I did come across something more accessible, i.e. NaBloWriMo - which involves posting to your blog every day for a month. It seems weird to pick the same month, as I need to trim my 'other writing projects and exercises' in order to just hit the original target.

Hey ho.

Still, you can always go listen to CS&N on the old (ahem!) hippies page

Friday, November 02, 2007

Just write the damned book!

Last year a fellow student at MLA told me about writing a novella in a month...a small community project has grown to a gigantic web event, with thousands of participants, so this year I decided to kick in and start, at least...

To write 50,000 words in 30 days means 1,666.666666 words per day...

I have done a set for Day One (so far so good) and you can find me over at NaNoWriMo under my avatar name of BogusMagus.

I suspect my lack of invention, and the fact that I have found my life stranger than fiction means that I probably will end up writing a roman a clef (a thinly disguised set of autobiographical events, and real people) but that may come as no surprise if you realise how much I enjoyed Henry Miller when younger. He, rather than (say) the mournful and forlorn Kerouac, gave me the courage to cheerfully plunge into poverty and insecurity in pursuit of a creative life. Miller didn't have a mum to go home to (like Kerouac) or a small allowance arriving every month (like Burroughs) but had to scrounge, beg, borrow, hustle and steal to get by. Actually, he probably exaggerated his lowlife credentials, in fictionalising his life, but there remains the ring of truth (even if Feminists destroyed interest in his work in the 70s, by putting him down as a male chauvinist). Actually, (apart from mistaking the character for the man), they seem to have missed his role in getting rid of censorship, which began the process of truly debating in real language about people's needs, and made honest writing possible. But hey, I don't want to start all that here.

Don't think of it as too late to start, or plan ahead for next year. Why not register anyway, to get access to the support, advice, forums, etc? I intend to give it a try, at least - and with no judges, no cost, etc - what's to lose?

Who The Hell Am I?

Identity Theft. Over there, until it happens to you. One co-worker used a cash machine and ended up with her account emptied in Italy. Another had an enquiry about a purchase on a credit card, to find someone was cheerfully buying things with his card.

I went offline for these few days, only to find that someone has posted some mixing desks on my eBay profile, presumably by hacking the Gmail address that links to the profile. I think that was the bad security (feeble password) because when I went into that particular Gmail account all the controls displayed as little square boxes.

I thought it was corrupted so it took me a little while to figure out that someone had been reading it in a font that I don't have loaded on my PC.

So whatever alien lifeform hacked my feeble password, and then used the account to post some items on eBay, doesn't appear to have gained anything. But I don't feel certain of that. :-(

If anyone bought the item (s) how would they pay? I'd get it if they did it through PayPal and the eBay account. I don't mind receiving £13,000 in error! :-)

eBay caught it real quick, and cancelled the items, etc - and say they returned any fees deducted (!) - which must have only been in the form of an invoice, because they don't seem to have gone into PayPal to take money from my card without my agreement. (!)

Weird shit, but I think (crossing my fingers) that changing the passwords, and so on, will suffice. I don't particularly want to cancel or delete the accounts, but would happily do so...

Talk about picking pockets... Unsafe wherever you go!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Off the radar

Just a quick update for anyone who wondered where I vanished to - outside the Blackberry signal range, and the BB battery died, so I can't even just walk to the top of the nearest hill, etc.

We did just get internet on in the cottage, and I've been here most of a week. Wonderful place. Birds galore, and I eventually found a place I can walk the dog off the lead (far too many sheep, ducks, goats, etc around to let him run around free like a city hooligan).

I have done a little work, but not much. Julie hammers on with DIY jobs, and we had her sister and two nephews here as well, so (with some huffing and puffing and sighing) some stuff got done. Unfortunately I don't just count as lazy and impractical, but also as on my first holiday of the year, so I have tried to get some chilling time in around all the 'stuff to do'....I have never been much of a car polisher on a Sunday...I have little vanity of possessions (beyond washing my clothes) and so don't have any desperate drive to make the place rentable/habitable. Despicable of me, I guess, but I prefer the idea of spending November trying to write a book.

Each to their own, and mine has always been to let other people do the work, in exchange for 'owning the place'.

Rent a place, and the landlord has to unblock the drain (in theory, although some act rather slowly) - own it, and they're all your problem (s)

I used to trade more energy in these situations, (always volunteered to help people move stuff, etc) but I got a bit old and lame in the last couple of years...and the RSI (or whatever it is) in right shoulder puts me right off jobs like painting and scrubbing. It hurts, and doesn't seem to get any better, and I guess I should find a physio ASAP - then I would have no excuse.

How feeble is that? I am typing here, as Julie scrubs the bedroom floor with something, before adding anti-woodworm something (yup, we got woodworm, apparently), and all that. I have lit the fire. And changed a light bulb, and emptied the vacuum cleaner and fed the dog and stuff. I don't just sit here watching tv and applauding. But I feel I may never live up to expectations, really.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cheering Myself Up, Cheering Myself On

A Home Ower

Well, I just got a call to say that I 'am' (apparently) a 'home owner' (or what I call a 'home ower' - i.e. the bank owns a house, and if I promise to pay three times what it's currently 'worth' over the next 25 years without ever defaulting then I get to live there, or rent it to other people). Otherwise, they'll take it back.

You can see I don't get the concept, really. Wrong generation, perhaps, although even the people from my generation who built a house of cards would understand, and call it 'owning' something.

Money Magic

It's too much like magick for me. One day I have no money, no resources, no credit, no future, and then I sign a piece of paper (an IOU) and suddenly I join the propertied classes. NOT. In the movies, various mobs and mafias buy and sell debts, and then bully luckless and reckless gamblers into doing their dirty work, as the interest ticks higher and higher, and time gets shorter and shorter, and the IOU gets waved under their nose.

Check out Vulture Funds - for such people's approach to Third World Debt (buy the debt cheap, before it gets written off, and then sue for the total amount plus interest).

Somewhere to Write

Anyway, I mustn't rant on. Julie asked me to co-sign, and she's over the moon about owning a cottage in the hills. Shame she's partnered by such a miserable old buffoon. She assures me that Big Eric won't come around to kneecap me if I default, or fall into negative equity. I guess it could give me a place to write (finally) and walk the dog, and dream away. I just haven't even seen it yet!

Not yer typical Guardian Reader

I get a similar sort of sensation when I read The Guardian (which I do). I like intelligence, I like the total lack of language censorship, I like a loosely 'liberal' agenda - but I just guffaw when I read about the price people are willing to spend on clothes (this jacket's a snip at £349), wine (a cheeky little wine, and very reasonable at 14.99 per bottle, or £150 for a crate) or holidays (for only £3500 you and a loved one can spend 2 weeks on a luxury cruise - or, in The Guardian, perhaps exploring the ruins of Ancient China). Anything with more than one zero at the end makes me anxious, anything with more than two zeroes on the end make me panic, so numbers with 3 or 4 zeroes on the end (let alone 6-digit numbers) just throw me into denial.

Still, perhaps, to you, I sound like that paradoxical person - the homeless, scruffy bloke sitting on the floor, with a hat in front of him, outside Starbucks, reading The Guardian, and saying "Spare £2.50 for a cup of coffee, guv?"


Writing Online

I amuse myself when I write, at least - as I have no social life to speak of, and hardly ever sit around with people having a laugh these days. Most of my idea of funny just sounds grumpy and ungrateful to people, I guess. My heroes still include Diogenes the Cynic (you can read my take on that wonderful old anarchic and bohemian 'world citizen' in a piece I wrote for MQ called "Giving Cynicism A Bad Name"). You can find all my Maybe Writing in the Imperfect Index under BogusMagic. Or I have started listing my attempts on the website...under Writing.

Still obsessed with the money rant

Amusing Stats:

Remarkably, statistics from Creditaction suggest that only 51% of the British population know the balance on their credit cards and 46% have no idea what interest rates they pay on debts and accounts or what they receive on savings.

Such a cavalier attitude to fiscal planning may explain why personal debt as a proportion of income has risen from 105% in 1997 to 164% in 2006; this is the highest level ever recorded in the UK and the highest in the developed world. By mid 2007 total UK personal debt was £1,345 billion and total mortgages/secured lending reached £1,131 billion

Things people bad at numbers do not know:

For example, a £1,000 balance at an APR of 14.9% would take 19 years 7 months to clear and cost £1,116 in interest if paid back at a monthly minimum 2% level. Paying back at 3% each month brings the time down to 11 years 7 months and the interest paid to £545.

If you're so clever, why aren't you rich?

The classic snide line said to me, as the 60s kicked in, with the slogan Live Now, Pay Later to describe Hire Purchase (as they called shopping on credit then). In fact, (well, until today), as I didn't owe anybody anything I felt (looked at through my lens) richer than virtually everyone else in the country. They owed a fortune, and I hovered around zero (plus or minus £100). So how come I remain in the poverty group, and they all take holidays in The Bahamas?

A Rigged Game

No, I still don't get it. I may measure 'smart' on IQ quizzes, but I have no street smarts at all. I feel queasy at the mere thought of usury, and have always known that money is a rigged game where the 'bank' or 'casino' always wins by creaming off a chunk of the turnover, and then share out the rest among 'winning' and 'losing' punters. But gamblers don't expect to lose. I expect to lose. I don't have the fantasy that I win the lottery. If I buy a lottery ticket I just think of it as throwing money into someone else's hat.

Good Luck, mate!

I posted some of Tony Allen's material on the forum, which people whooped and yelled about...he delivered it in the 90s, but it seems just as topical now as it did then. I heard his act frequently, and it always made me laugh, and feel like someone sane had finally turned up on this god-forsaken planet (to get to hear the act a few times, without paying, I worked on the door for him a few times).

Monday, October 08, 2007

Running on Empty

I realise that I don't post here as regularly as I used to. I meant to take the last couple of months to start drafting my own book, but still find that the day job, followed by doggie walking, followed by Circus Arts Forum work online, tends to leave me only an hour or two to choose between having a bath, watching a bit of tv, drinking a glass or two of wine, and just flaking out.

I haven't yet taken the famous "two week holiday" that most 9-5 people do. The few days leave I took just freed me up to go on a hectic jaunt to Belgium (that was fun, but tiring), and a disappointing gig in London. Hardly a 'rest'.

You'd think that I'd have learned by now, but even coming up to the tenth year of a 'steady job' I still don't understand how it works, or how best to distribute my time. All those years as a freelance gave me so much time (here and there, between hard-working sections) that I now understand why career people seem to have (by my standards) hardly read any books. I'd get through five a week. This came from a combination of plenty of spare time, not driving but using public transport (and so reading instead of concentrating on not killing anyone), etc. Now I hardly even find time to clean the house...

Or have I just got used to having plenty of energy, and failed to notice that I already turned 60? Born twenty years earlier, I'd be dead by now! I really do feel more like a pipe and slippers by the fire would suit me better - a glasss of port, a good book, a velvet smoking jacket, I can see it now! I wish people would stop re-assuring me (someone said the other day that "50 is the new 40". Easy for them to say, as they just reached their 40th birthday. I did that back in 1986!

Hey ho. Julie has grand plans for country living, and early retirement, and I place myself in her capable hands. I remain as glum (when I get up) as ever, and as cheerful (once I have got into gear) as ever. By temperament I feel like a pessimist, but I have adopted the strategy of optimism from a sense of surreal absurdity. If everything seems crazy and pointless, you might as well have a reckless good time...and Bucky and RAW assure me that optimism does at least offer the possibility of positive outcomes - nothing much gets achieved by pessimists!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Money As Debt

Moving on from the Credit Crunch post I made the other day, I'd like to post in this video called Money As Debt by Paul Grignon. I can never get people interested in Monetary Reform, but perhaps if you spend 47 minutes with this we could start a conversation?

More Resources on the Money As Debt page.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Only Maybe

In continuation from previous post, I suspect that my shrug annoys people a lot, and they mistake my study group for a bunch of people who can't make up their minds!

The Maybe Logic Academy has nothing to do with indecisiveness ("Do you want to go to the party?" "Maybe, I'll see if I feel like it nearer the time" "Grrr, just say Yes or No!") and more to do with realizing that the world does not easily resolve into Good/Bad, Right/Wrong, Left/Right, etc, etc. The concerted attack on false certainty that we mount has more to do with preferring if people showed a little humility in their judgement, and accepted the possibility that other views might prove equally valid or more likely, etc.

"Maybe the evangelical religions start most of the wars"..."maybe human activity causes global warming" (it seems fairly likely that it contributes to it) "maybe smoking causes cancer"...

Stated that way, investigation and the assignment of probabilities becomes possible. "Maybe aliens visit our planet" "maybe the rich and powerful are actually giant lizards" (low probabilities, but not impossibilities, in my view). "Maybe there 'is' a God". Of course, then we have to query the word 'is'. Korzybski, and General Semantics, tackled this very subject.

You could also say 'in my opinion', or 'from my point of view' to acknowledge that looking out from your particular nervous system, with your own set of past experiences, and through the grid of your language and culture...such and such a thing may appear 'true' (well, very probable), to you.

A Chinese farmer had just one horse, and one day it ran away. The villagers all said how unlucky he was.

"Maybe," he said.

A few days later, his horse returned, leading a herd of wild horses into his corral.

The villagers all exclaimed how lucky he was.

"Maybe," he said.

Having so many horses around encouraged his rather reckless son to learn to ride, and he fell off and broke his leg.

The villagers told the man how unlucky he was.

"Maybe," he said.

Shortly after that a war broke out in a distant province, and all the able-bodied young men got sent off to fight. Thanks to the broken leg, the farmer's son was excluded from call-up.

Robert Anton Wilson expressed all this a lot more clearly than I can - both in his writing and in interviews. Here's a sample:

Maybe Logic is a label that got stuck on my ideas by filmmaker Lance Bauscher. I decided it fits. I certainly recognize the central importance in my thinking -- or in my stumbling and fumbling efforts to think -- of non-Aristotelian systems. That includes von Neumann's three-valued logic [true, false, maybe], Rappoport's four-valued logic [true, false, indeterminate, meaningless], Korzybski's multi-valued logic [degrees of probability.] and also Mahayana Buddhist paradoxical logic [it "is" A. it "is" not A, it "is" both A and not A, it "is" neither A nor not A].

But, as an extraordinarily stupid fellow, I can't use such systems until I reduce them to terms a simple mind like mine can handle, so I just preach that we'd all think and act more sanely if we had to use "maybe" a lot more often. Can you imagine a world with Jerry Falwell hollering "Maybe Jesus 'was' the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do" -- or every tower in Islam resounding with "There 'is' no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed is his prophet"?

The Snafu law holds that, the greater your power to punish, the less factual feedback you will receive. If you can fire people for telling you what you don't want to hear, you will only hear what you want. This law seems to apply to all authoritarian contraptions, especially governments and corporations. Concretely, I suspect Bozo knows factually less about the world than any dogcatcher in Biloxi.

The Cosmic Schmuck law holds that [1] the more often you suspect you may be thinking or acting like a Cosmic Schmuck, the less of a Cosmic Schmuck you will become, year by year, and [2] if you never suspect you might think or act like a Cosmic Schmuck, you will remain a Cosmic Schmuck for life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oh Really?

I have always had a rather quietist approach to life, trying to accept both highs and lows without attachment. My heroes remain people like Hakuin. I should rework the story in my own words, but will act lazy for now, and just grab one online version:

There was a great Zen Master Hakuin who lived in a small hut, doing zazen. He was greatly revered in the village and known as a wise and saintly man. One day a village girl became pregnant. The father of the baby left town and she was alone and frightened. As she did not know what else to do, she told the entire village that Master Hakuin was the father.
All the townspeople were shocked. They stopped bringing food and offerings. Instead of praising Haikuin now they blamed him.
"You are the worst of all beings," they said.
"Is that so?" replied Hakuin.
The baby was born then the village girl brought the child to Hakuin to be cared for. "This baby is yours," she said. "Is that so?" Hakuin said and took the baby gladly.
Hakuin cared for the baby lovingly for several years. Then, one day, the father of the baby returned to the village and wanted to marry the mother and take back the baby. They told everybody the truth about what happened.
The people were astonished. They all began to praise Master Hakuin and return to his hut with offerings.
"Is that so?" said Master Hakuin.
Soon after that the couple returned for the baby. "Is that so?" Master Hakuin murmured and gave them their child lovingly.

Such an approach to life does not endear me to the pro-active, ambitious modern type of person at all, at all. I suspect many see it as laziness, or slacking, or wishy-washy hippie shit (going with the flow, man), but I have always found it the best approach for me. My attempts at planning or controlling or choosing have often ended in laughter, chaos, etc - but rarely taken me to an outcome I would have chosen. The shrug seems important - whether abandoned on a beach with no passport or money and thousands of miles from 'home', or treated as a star-for-a-day.

Universe, however, seems to have a sense of fairness (and maybe a sense of humour) and has given me plum jobs (film work) and sometimes left me by the side of the road...I rarely visualise the future, beyond expecting the unexpected. Hey ho. When Universe doesn't need me any more it may toss me aside like a straw dog. I would expect no less. While I can offer some service, I expect just enough to live on...and the 'environment' seems to do that for me.

Magical thinking, perhaps.

And no sooner do I mention universe, and nature's indifference to human plans, than I hear that Christine Hewett has died. Sad to hear that. We did not know each other back in filming days (she was one of the Tonnika Sisters in Star Wars), but met several times at conventions, and she was a charming woman. She did seem fairly frail last time I saw her, but it still comes as a shock. My thoughts go out to her partner, her family and her friends.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Credit Crunch

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

The overspend of the last few years, the enormous debt of the West living way beyond its means, has finally started to come unravelled in the UK.

Of course, as money is entirely a confidence game (in both meanings of the word) 'they' will continue to talk up the situation (to try to avoid further panic) but it sounds less and less convincing all the time.

I don’t write this merely as a hippie anarchist anti-capitalist (whatever that might mean) but as someone who doesn’t even believe in money (or what Robert Anton Wilson calls bio-survival tickets). That doesn’t mean I can survive long without them, of course, but I don’t have to believe in them. Bucky described wealth in terms of the number of future days it would 'buy' you.

"Wealth is our organized capability to cope effectively with the environment in sustaining our healthy regeneration and decreasing both the physical and metaphysical restrictions of the forward days of our lives."

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth - Chapter VI Bucky Fuller

Just before Bob died we invented a currency for him - called 'Patatows, for various obscure reasons to do with Irishness and Joycean puns - RAW patatows, in fact. The most excellent Bobby designed them, and we put some into circulation. They have any value that his fans might give them. [see the RAW Deal blog posting - for other cash whimsy, from Duchamp to Boggs, from Warhol to Emperor Norton]

Ultimately, the bill is not a dollar at all, at most a representation of it. The bill is real, but the dollar itself is an abstraction… just like God. Indeed, it is remarkable how fundamentally modern monetary systems are grafted onto religion. According to Boggs the invention of both money and God date from the same era, and the traces are still visible in our own days. Just think of the double meaning of words like "redeem," or the root of the word "credit"--it is a direct derivative of the Latin word for believing. The side of Dutch coins reads "God Is With Us," while "In God We Trust" is printed on American bills.

BoB (as treasurer) even signed a few rare notes, and auctioned them on eBay (to help pay his rent and medical bills). It doesn’t seem that bizarre to me. I sign photos and trade them for small profit. However, most people seem to believe (even in this day and age when cash hardly comes into most transactions) that money exists in some sense. You might as well try to disillusion them as tell the Judeo-Christian-Muslim lot that not only do they all worship the same book /story, but that God is a concept, by which we measure - pain. My philosophical/religious education (say the word ‘spiritual’ and I reach for my metaphorical revolver) came entirely from teaching tales, folk tales, parables, myths, legends, and all the tools of the storyteller’s trade.

Somewhere in a cave, Ug borrows three rocks…and promises to bring them back later. As Ig has a lot of rocks (and therefore a lot of friends) Ug scratches three slashes in a soft piece of clay, for Ig to keep as a reminder.

Later on, Ig is playing knucklestone with OOg and as he didn’t bring all his rocks with him, trades the little clay tablet for his bet.

And so off it wanders, this little clay promissory note, wandering down the years and across the plains. In the desert it seems high value (no rocks around here, I’ll give you a camel for it!) Eventually, an Eskimo, who needs some rocks to hold down the edge of his tent, tries to cash it in for rocks. No rocks on an iceflow! Ug is long dead, and the rocks have all ground to sand.
We've come to take our rocks back
So this morning, we see the first ‘run on the bank’ at Northern Rock. People queuing around the block, to be handed yet another piece of paper! It would seem laughable if it didn’t seem so serious…not quite hyperinflation yet...(when burning banknotes to keep warm is easier than trying to buy fuel). Bizarrely, you can see pictures of the queues of desperate people on the front of every daily paper in the UK, but their website stays up calmly offering to lend you vast sums of money, that you can pay back over the next 25 years. heh. Magic, or indeed magick. Those 'economists' and market players (a voodoo 'science' at best) continue to try to shore up the levees, or hold the card castle together, but it sounds more and more vacuous to me.

Of course, most people don’t think pension schemes spend all their money on skyscrapers with smoked glass walls, and then go bankrupt. Most people don’t think Insurance firms could just turn around and refuse to pay (Act of God! Oh, you smoke, that invalidates your claim…) or that banks (having lent out over ten times what they actually ‘own’) could go broke.

And then the good news. When we find ourselves up to our knees in flood water (water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink) some guy has invented a portable bottle with an incredibly fine filter, that even stops viruses passing through. I guess you end up with pure water, with no chemicals like chlorine or iodine. They go on sale next week, (Thanks to Keili for that story). LifeSaver Systems.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Will it never end?

I flipped to the letters page of The Guardian today only to (sigh) find people discussing atheism and religion. Myself, having never had a god to get rid of, lose faith in, or deny, etc - I don't even define myself as an a-theist. Why would I describe myself in the negative? I'm not an a-Muslim, a-Christian, a-Zeus, a-Voudoun or anything like that. Just a sane, uncluttered modern human being. I don't even claim 'humanist' because that seems like human chauvinism (I don't think of us as the 'crown of creation' at all).

That doesn't make me a skeptic, a fundamentalist materialist, etc. I accept that universe still contains many mysteries...but I prefer to retain my capacity to accept that fact, rather than dash to some reassuring explanation with little evidence. In that sense, I agree with Dawkins (that the mysteries that science has explored and revealed seem sufficiently glorious for me, especially as they always lead to furthr mysteries) but I can see why his humourless zeal in trying to stop people 'being religious' puts some people off. It's that "I am right, and you are wrong" thing that zealots of both sides have.

Delightfully, one of the Guardian correspondents quoted something I often paraphrase in this situation:

Suppose one were to assert: The gostak distims the doshes. You do not know what this means; nor do I. But if we assume that it is English, we know that 'the doshes are distimmed by the gostak.' We know too that 'one distimmer of doshes is a gostak.' If moreover, the 'doshes are galloons,' we know that 'some galloons are distimmed by the gostak.' And so we may go on, and so we often do go on.
-- from "The Meaning of Meaning" by C.K.Ogden and I.A.Richards

And he concludes: That's Theology.

I found the quote quickly online at this rather wonderful collection of Paul McGuire's, who says:

So now that we have inferred that 'one distimmer of doshes is a gostak,' and that 'some galloons are distimmed by the gostak,' do we really know any more than we did at the start?

And although I don't believe in Gostak, I certainly don't waste my time calling myself an Agostak, and arguing with people who claim to believe in doshes, gostaks, galloons - and even more improbably attribute personality, intent, and the creation of the world to them! And murder people who don't share their belief.

I find all that behaviour quite incredible, but remember that Robert Anton Wilson always said we were living on The Planet of the Apes, and to be careful not to rile them up by challenging them.

Though Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennet seem to have put themselves in the front line, I liked Jonathan Miller's tv series best, of recent attempts to explain the sort of position I hold.

And if you remain unfamiliar with the work of Robert Anton Wilson (who manages to retain his sense of humour while ploughing through these issues, and avoids zealots of every persuasion of certainty) you will find him echoing The frammisgoshes should be distimmed in this piece of his on Wilhelm Reich.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Information Overload

I seem to have gotten busier and busier this year. I have less time to sit a read a book, and realise that some people have virtually no time to really read, or browse, or research, or click-through when on the Web.

I decided I needed a web presence (to grow old disgracefully) back in 2000 - and working in the library, and as content manager on a website, and studying in an online 'university', and teaching remotely (library staff), etc - means that I have become fairly fluent at navigating.

It doesn't mean I have improved my design and layout. The website has become the equivalent of a box of memorabilia in the attic - having started out with just a FrontPage 2000 template, and grown as I learned things. It is more like a coral reef of dead shells, with just a crust of new growth on the surface. To completely rebuild it would need a month off work! Now that I have a 4 Gb memory stick hanging around my neck, I can't even keep that organised (sigh).

Anyway - my assumption that people follow links, and click around may well prove unfounded.

Assume Nothing!

So, some people may remain completely unaware of the blog I use for my magic notes, or the Circus Arts Forum that I work on, or the creative group at the MLA that I have studied and worked with for the last three years (particularly Bobby Campbell - who I have collaborated with on some projects - and whose amazingly prolific output you can see samples of here)
Bobby's illustration of part of Joyce's Ulysses

Of course, like many people on the web, I have cultivated some sub-personalities (avatars) but I haven't tried to hide my trail or anything.

Just as (when I performed) I used my real name (unlike actors, who pretend to be someone else, variety acts pretend to be themselves) - so I tend to let people make the connections, if they choose to. This does lead to bizarre cross-overs, for instance, when Star Wars fans work out from research that I have a connection to NoFit State Circus, so send me mail at the circus PO Box address (I do wish they'd stop doing that, as mail can easily go astray in a long chain). On my front page I offer an email address to I am not hard to contact!

Back in the days I had access to The Stacks in the library (sadly no more)At the same time, please remember that I have a low paid job in a library, and have no desire to pay for pictures, mail costs, etc., just to keep other people happy. I'm not driving an SUV around my ranch, just because I had 6 weeks work on a film in 1982, and I don't work in show-biz any more, and don't have a publicity budget!

If people want a signed picture, I consider it reasonable that they at least cover the costs (and bear in mind I also have to go queue up at the Post Office, etc) even if they don't want to actually pay me for my signature! I agree it's a bizarre thing to do, but at the same time my sig goes on eBay for anything between £10-£60, so sending me (say) four pix to sign for free seems a bit pushy, expecting me to send them back at my own expense...some such communications I just ignore.

Sorry if I sound mean-spirited to some enterprising youth with a get-rich-quick scheme like blagging free pictures from all the Star Wars actors and selling them online! Sorry, kids, it's been done before, and we all got a bit wary. I don't even feel sure about the charity requests I get, either...even when I have sent a bunch of free pictures in the past I haven't had a word of thanks, which does make me suspicious...

I do get into a frivolous or generous mood at times, but sometimes not.

Jabba? Generous? I think not...

At the same time, I do make friends easily, I enjoy chatting and trading with people...and happily swap pictures for information, or old magazines, or DVDs of maiking-of, etc

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You Gotta Move...

I know Julie doesn't appear in my blog much (and the website is shamefully out-of-date) but we still carry on our busy lives out here, together.

As she works nights and I work daytime we don't meet for long these days, and since we threw a doggie into the mix we have even less time to ourselves, or alone together, but hey...

I don't like talking about the future much (I belong to the "If you want to make God laugh, tell Her your plans!" school of thought) but Julie has recently made an offer on a cottage in a remoter part of Wales, North and West from here. I don't understand a word of this mortgage lark, and I only know that when my own limited credibility got thrown into the mix the price went up! Yikes!

It's not like we actually showed we had more cash, I suppose...(like I say, I don't understand) age, attitude, habits and income just increase the risk for a lender - and these days lenders are getting a bit cautious, unlike the days when they were forcing loans on people. With the US recession looming like a black cloud (a large chunk caused by the junk mortgage market, not just the war in Iraq) and the tendency of the UK to follow America's lead a few years later, they have every right to consider me a bad risk, I guess.

But I'll just drop my usual rant - and cross my fingers... Superstition seems like all I can bring to the table. I'd better start buying lottery tickets, I guess.

Devil's Bridge
The name seems to acquire and drop hyphens, and I feel sure I don't say it right yet (!) but it looks something like Pont-rhyd-y-groes. Near Aberystwyth, and close to Devil's Bridge, Ceredigion, it seems like a good investment which will appeal to anglers, bird-watchers, walkers, cyclists, etc. I haven't seen the place yet (well, we don't definitely own it yet) but our current house is filling up with beds, and cutlery, and cupboards, and hat racks and lights and tea cosies and crockery, and tables, etc - ready to fill it!

Of course, I have always lived in rented places, out of a cardboard suitcase, so I find the whole prospect of a second home quite daunting. Perhaps a great holiday option (out of the season for it making money to pay for itself) but still quite a scary thought as a place to go and live. Mostly because I don't drive, and have stranded myself in the country without work before now (back in the 1980s). Hey ho.
Pont-rhyd-y-groes - photo by John Luckhurst
It seems to have formed as a village in the 19th Century - because of the lead mining industry, but the next village, Ysbyty Ystwyth, appears rather older, at least it has agricultural roots pre-dating the mining. Its church is dedicated to St John the Baptist (for you esoteric alternative history types). Some of the surrounding cottages probably belonged to squatters from the 19th Century. So that didn't just start with the hippies and the mushrooms!

Panoramic view of surroundings, from Castell Grogwynion (but you don't have right-of-way to walk all over it...)
Map Reference
Pen Glog-fawr Panorama
Maenarthur (Arthur's Stone) Panorama

Still, this is a long-term plan, and I guess if Voltaire got it right in Candide, after all the journeys and trials,"Il faut cultiver notre jardin" - and if Lao Tse got it right, then retreating to a small place and never going to the next village, even, might prove a great way to round off a life. Personally, I lean to Chuang-Tzu, as Western philosophy and religion seems to contain so little humour, and ease.

A small country may have many machines,
but the people will have no use for them;
they will have boats and carriages
which they do not use;
their armour and weapons
are not displayed,
for they are serious when regarding death.
They do not travel far from home,
and make knots in ropes,
rather than do much writing.
The food they eat is plain and good,
and their clothes are simple;
their homes are secure,
without the need of bolts and bars,
and they are happy in their ways.
Though the cockerels and dogs
of their neighbours
can be heard not far away,
the people of the villages
grow old and die in peace

Lao Tse ch. 80

Web Writing That Works

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hard to Believe

Great to see Richard Dawkins on the tv last night (with support from Derren Brown, explaining cold reading – “I’m getting something about the dog sleeping in the hall – oh, you don’t have a dog? Well perhaps a painting of a dog, or some sort of painting in the hall? You have recently put a picture up in the hall? He (the spirit on the other side) doesn’t think it’s a good idea to hang that painting there…) Notice how the dog vanishes…

No, I haven’t quoted him perfectly, but he does it awfully well.

Dawkins by BrownI have a lot of glee watching Dawkins, and love the fact that Derren (another sceptic) doesn’t claim anything more than cunning and ingenuity, while all these other people claim psychic powers, and contact with the dead, etc.

My only quibble arises from Dawkins’ complete lack of interest in ‘intuition’ or ‘creativity’ or ‘emotional value’, etc – when he dismisses astrology, spiritualism, faith healing, etc. I do agree with him that the rise of irrationality feels depressing, but that resembles the despair of the intelligent confronted by the stupid, at times. Rather like saying “you can’t possibly enjoy soap operas, you should go to the real opera“ (say). I think certain ‘harmless untruths’ may give people support or reassurance, just as the placebo effect can (apparently) heal people.

I found him hilarious destroying Sun Sign astrology (first of all by comparing the stereotypical model by using national characteristics to point out how unacceptable they would seem to most modern people “Germans, you work hard and play hard, and sometimes people think you don’t have much of a sense of humour” “Chinese, you appear enigmatic to people around you…” “British, you need to learn to loosen up…” - and then by handing an identical trivial newspaper description to various ‘signs’ to see if they recognise themselves…and not improving on chance.

Still, it’s a cheap shot if you think of astrology as a complex language evolved over centuries, and attempting to describe the human personality, just as have various schools of psychology, or groups studying consciousness, and not a system of omens and influences…but that perhaps just shows my own lingering attachment to that particular language, having actually put some time into studying it (without coming to ‘believe’ in it).

And of course, watching water diviners (in Spanish the verb divinar means ‘to guess’!) try to guess which bin contains water and which contain sand, and not beating chance, and then rationalising madly, seems hilarious until you stop to consider which of your own beliefs you would hold onto, even confronted by clear evidence (my smoking has nothing to do with this cough, of course!)

Still, over all, I enjoyed the programme, but know it will make no difference at all. I have tested expression of my own cynicism and scepticism with my online study group for the last three years, and they have convinced me that I have no right to claim that magick doesn’t work (for instance) as it works (appears to work) for them. Like the water diviners they feel sure that something useful happens, and (like the placebo) I don’t feel inclined to disagree any more – especially around creatives, as whatever trick works to elicit creativity seems OK to me, even superstitious behaviour, or accidental imprinting (feeling unable to write without a cigarette and a glass of whiskey).

And I get tired of defending the view. I liked Dawkins' description of the universe as wonder-full, and the word 'mundane' as describing the world around us, which could and should fill us with wonder, rather than needing the 'invisible' or 'spiritual' to somehow make it more exciting. I don't believe in that 'unseen' myself, but have always leaned towards a Zen-like view of elimination of abstractions, and direct perception of what surrounds us. When cold, you can burn the wooden statue of the Buddha...

I don't imbue my surroundings with imaginary 'hidden power', but I do imagine a lot of wars get fought over holy buildings, people trampling on or burning crosses, and flags, and other symbols in which they have invested value.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Last of the Dog Days

Well, today's the last of the Dog Days (something to do with Sirius, and Egypt, and the hot summer days, etc - do yer own research) and at least I don't have to go to work.

Yesterday I struggled back into work (still coughing) only to find the library had been broken into, and we had to sit around waiting for a forensic bloke before we could go into our office, or open up the cybercafe. That made it a long morning.

This cough (tickly throat) still keeps me awake at nights (and probably Julie, too) and exhausts me...after two weeks!

Anyway - try to see the Perseids shower of shooting stars, if you get half a chance this weekend. You don't often get the chance to know which way to look (the radiant point in Perseus), and to see several in minutes! (up to a hundred per hour - Do yer own research). NASA website on Perseids for 2007 - with New Moon making the show particularly good...especially if you can get away from light pollution.
From the NASA site

Oh, yeah, and Mars will be right there in the firing line, as a bonus.

Bear in mind this goes on for days, so you get more than one chance...Judith just reminded me that looking below Cassiopia (the giant letter W constellation) and to the left will find the radiant...Click on this Jodrell Bank image, to see it larger...

Friday, August 10, 2007

What a strange day to go back to work!

The library had been broken into overnight, so we couldn't go into our office space until the forensic team had arrived. There's more to that story, but while wandering in the only section I could get to (Music) I saw this album by Nigel Kennedy, which uses the very statue I posed next to just days ago in Amsterdam! (And one version of which I currently use as on my avatar.)
Borsky, the statue and me
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