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May. 20th, 2010


Found Poetry

In my email inbox, from a Japanese trade union official who is meeting me on Monday.


Thank you for the answer.
I took the time that meeting that you are me, and think that I am very glad. 


The advancement side by that has respect that doesn't change on the other hand either though is seen.
I want to talk about this.


The day when I visit has approached.
I am looking forward to meeting as you.
It does and it worries about the volcanic ash of Iceland the paddle on the other hand.

Mar. 31st, 2010

mind the gap

We'll keep the 'meh' flag flying here

My lack of blogging activity since practically forever might suggest that I had developed some kind of life beyond the internet, but sadly the truth is more like that my life is too boring even to inflict it on cyberspace. 

I (bizarrely) thought it sufficiently thrilling to note, however, that yesterday I spotted Geoff “Buff” Hoon, the former minister, failed coup mastermind and avaricious, dishonourable political simpleton. 

I would like to say that the fact I refrained from inciting the mob that swirled around both of us as people rushed to get tube trains (yes, “Buff” is reduced to public transport now he doesn’t have a ministerial jag - or access to a sufficient number of bungs to buy his own, presumably) demonstrates some kind of British value, such as self restraint, tolerance, or even forgiveness.  The truth was, I was already quite late for work and, inconveniently, lacked both tar and feathers at the time. 

In other political news, I find myself almost entirely uninterested in the forthcoming General Election.  I have never, since I was in my teens, felt this way.  Nor have I ever found myself in a situation where I actively dislike almost every single major player in every single major party.  How did it come to this? It is surely not just me.   

I do sometimes stir myself up to odd argument with people who tell me that it makes ‘no difference’ which party forms the next government, as that is patently untrue.  On the other hand, it’s not exactly Disraeli/Gladstone, Churchill/Atlee, or even Thatcher/Foot levels of choice of political philosophy (or talent), is it? 

Clearly the local ‘activists’ round my way are similarly overwhelmed by apathy – in the first election, supposedly for years, where the outcome is not a foregone conclusion, there is a distinct lack of campaigning by anyone except the Tories.  This may be because the Tory activists believe victory is in their grasp but also theirs to lose, and so are doing all they can.  Or maybe they just got some of Ashcroft’s ill-gotten to spend on some leaflets, who knows?  Incidentally I could have met my local Conservative candidate a few weekends ago, but after he rang our bell he got as far as telling J who he was before she invited him to leave and closed the door on him.  I expect he will have put her down as a ‘maybe’. 

In other Tory news, do, I implore you, seek out the Conservative Party’s Draft Manifesto chapters for health, government transparency or education (‘Draft’? Huh? Why is it released if it is still in draft? “These are our fundamental values, inalienable principles, and our commitments to you, the voter. But if it turns out you don’t like them, we can always do a bit of editing and run you up some other ones”).  They’re available to download from the web. There is a full page photo of D-Cam which, when you get over the initial shock and slight queasiness, I swear you will come to appreciate as being to the retoucher’s art what the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is to the Renaissance.  

Oct. 30th, 2009

mind the gap

Keep on running

Jesus.  March 2008 was my last post apparently.

Many and profound things have occurred in my life and the lives of my (few) virtual and (er... very few) real friends since I last posted.  You might imagine my first post for moons would, therfore, be profound.  You'd be quite, quite wrong. 

This particular LJ has just realised what a terriffic rhythm section Joy Division had.  Decades after everyone else was aware of that fact.  Yes.  Told you it wouldn't be profound.

Mar. 5th, 2008

mind the gap

'R'sing about

Thanks to [info]bagrec for this meme.  He gave me the letter ‘R’ – the deal is that you list 10 things you love starting with the initial letter assigned to you by the person you pinch the meme from, and provide an explanation for your choice.  Clear? 

I haven’t thought about this at all, as I thought a stream-of-consciousness response might be more interesting.  Armchair Freudians get yer notebooks out. 


Feb. 27th, 2008

mind the gap

Route 59

I was on a bus this morning.  Two seats away from me, a woman suddenly exploded "it's just stop, start, stop, start!" 

On a bus.

mind the gap

What the media and the scientists aren't telling you

Gosh, there’s a bit of a fuss about antidepressants isn’t there?  And a fair amount of guff being written as well.  I quite enjoy it when a ‘science’ story makes the front pages.  Trials get conducted every day, literature reviews get conducted every day and scientific papers get published every day.  Normally no-one cares.  A lot of the time, I suspect even the scientists involved don’t really care that much.  But every so often a scientific paper makes the front pages of the newspapers, and a lot of guff gets written, and everyone has hysterics.  


It’s hard to get a real feel for why it is certain scientific papers rather than any other that capture our  collective attention, but as a general rule of thumb the ones that excite both the media and Mr and Mrs Average seem to be the ones that confirm widely held prejudices, and appear to reveal ‘science’ to be conducted by a shady cabal of people who are trying to pull the wool over our eyes.  Excepting, obviously, the authors of said paper, who are among the few scientists who wield the simple sword of Truth and are prepared to speak out about the conspiracy of lies that (it is imagined) otherwise surrounds so-called science.


Nonetheless this antidepressant malarkey is front page news, so you’ve got to find out what the actual facts are, right?  So I did not trust the mainstream media to provide the actual facts – I went straight to my impeccable source.  It’s not hard as we live together.


I can now reveal what I actually learned about fluoxetine, which as any fule kno is the active ingredient in Prozac and all the rest.  Rats dosed with fluoxetine masturbate a lot.  That is it.  That is what I learned.  All of what I learned.


I hope this will make a useful contribution to the ongoing debate.

Feb. 26th, 2008

legalise conkers!

High Society

I went to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain last week, to go to a lecture about cannabis held by the British Society for the History of Pharmacy.


None of the above is, strictly speaking, my natural domain, but life is a rich tapestry, is it not?


The headquarters of the RPSGB is near Lambeth Bridge, and its upper storeys provide what must be one of the best views of the Houses of Parliament I’ve seen.  It also contains a museum of pharmacy, and some of the artefacts are on display in the foyer.  I especially liked the large, dark blue ceramic urn with Leeches written across it in large lettering.  If I ever needed a place to keep leeches, I would certainly want to seek out a similar antique.  There were also a number of examples of packaging of medicines across the ages, my favourite of which was a tin of Eucalyptus Oil & Cocaine Throat Lozenges. 


There were several jars containing things like dried toads, snakes and sea horses.  I didn’t have time to actually read what ailments these might have been intended to treat, but I wouldn’t want to suffer them.


The members of the British Society for the History of Pharmacy were not the most youthful and spry group I have ever seen.  When we walked in we were asked if we were students.  Since all of us in my small group are in our 30s, and J, the youngest, hasn’t been a student for several years even taking her PhD study into account, we all felt a bit flattered.


The lecture was fairly interesting, with not so much tricky science that my feeble brain was overtaxed, and I had J and our friend N on hand to explain hard bits to me anyway.  The main message, at least by my layperson’s understanding, is that the World Health Organisation concluded years ago that cannabis has no therapeutic value.  Since Britain is a signatory, along with many other countries, to the 1961 Convention which says so, very few studies appear to have taken place to test that assertion.  So it may have therapeutic value in the circumstances that some users claim, or it may not, although, perhaps slightly depressingly, (especially if you are a particular type of legalisation campaigner) the claim that it has therapeutic benefit for people with MS appears not to be borne out by the British trial which has been conducted.


I also found out that Queen Victoria is reputed to have taken cannabis for menstrual cramps, and that, according to one gentleman in the audience (who may well have seen it first hand) it was once used as a treatment for corns.  I have no idea how you would administer cannabis as a corn treatment.  Or indeed why.


I sloped off to the pub after with J and N, cheered by the thought that next time some boring old hippy roped me into a legalisation debate, any comment I made would no longer be from my traditional stance of ignorance, presumption and prejudice, but on the basis of my now having a little knowledge, however dangerous a thing that is in my hands.  It’s one step forward at least.

Feb. 18th, 2008

mind the gap

The coastal town that they forgot to close down

Well over a decade ago now I got fed up with Radio 1 and, (ironically as it will turn out) finding Virgin too AOR, started fiddling with the tuner dial trying to find a station that played popular music, but which I thought was actually good.  Miraculously I alighted upon it.  Most of the music was pretty old – a lot of ‘60s stuff, but really, that suits me fine – and I swear I thought it was the coolest radio station I had ever heard.  At least I did until the mood of the cool, atmospheric playlist was shattered by something like Bachelor Boy, alerting me to the fact that for a good quarter of an hour, and way before my time, I had firmly believed that Radio 2 was magnificent. 


Fast forward some years to Sunday night.  There was nothing worth watching on television, even by my low standards*.  And so I ended up watching Antiques Roadshow.  I attempted, initially, to persuade myself that I was watching ‘ironically’.  I was an undergraduate in the early ‘90s after all, a time when you could get away with any childish or uncool behaviour by claiming you were being ‘postmodern’ about it.


The thing is, it was recorded at the beautiful, Modernist De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill on Sea, and I kept delightedly exclaiming things like ‘look at those lovely handrails – soooo elegant!’  As I tuned in an ‘expert’ was coming to the end of a discussion and valuation of a collection of Ladybird books – [info]bagrec  is not, in my view, free of blame for his influence in this matter – including those that were, for example, Welsh language.  There was even, within the collection, Jen Londono!, a Ladybird title in Esperanto (go here if you don’t believe me: http://www.ladybirdflyawayhome.com/pages/foreign_lang.htm).  I found myself regretting deeply that I had only caught the end of the discussion.    


I was consoled only by the fact that the item was followed by a look at some plywood chairs that had been restored alongside the pavilion itself, an Austin Seven and a piece with a slightly pervy man (but slightly pervy in a harmless, eccentric, English way) and his collection of saucy seaside postcards and one of those ‘What the Butler Saw’ machines where you put in a penny, crank the handle (so to speak) and watch a mildly pornographic loop of film (his had a sign which said something like ‘For Use by Gentlemen Only’).  All of which, in my view, are good things.  I loved every minute.  I enjoyed watching Antiques Roadshow.


The conclusion I draw from this is that I am, and possibly always have been, spiritually about 25 years older than my chronological age.


How I dearly wish I was not here.


*How low are my standards?  I bet I am the only person with an IQ of over 10½, and possibly just the only person ever, to have watched Nuts TV’s Fit and Fearless, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, and he only watches this stuff because he is paid to write amusing, incredulous bile about such dreck, whereas my only ‘benefit’ is to feel morally tarnished and despairing of humanity.



Feb. 11th, 2008

mind the gap

Monday night entertainment - a sense of mortality

I didn’t bother writing anything about David Attenborough’s new series, Life in Cold Blood, last week because the world and their dog were already doing that, and they're all better writers than me.
As a consequence of reading what everyone else was writing, I discovered that this is likely to be his final major series. I find this saddening.
I have fantastic memories of being a small boy and being allowed to stay up late to watch his programme – I think it would probably have been Life on Earth at the time – on the basis that it was educational, and also that I made a big fuss to be allowed to watch it, because it fascinated me.
Part of his appeal I suppose is that he’s been around for moons, and so is depending on your age either a kind of favourite uncle or a cool grandfather – or even great grandfather – to a considerable proportion of the population. Another is that natural sciences probably seem more accessible and more compelling to most people than other programming based on scientific content, however ‘popular’ in touch, and so makes us feel better about ourselves for watching something educational instead of some crap about property, or Katie Price, or whatever, as usual.
But that’s just petty really, because the real reason is his infectious enthusiasm and genuine sense of awe about what he is talking about, his charm, and his ability to engage and therefore to educate, whether we like it or not. It’s a well known pedagogical technique, but not many people are actually that good at it. I’d swap about 10,000 Robert Winstons or David Starkeys for one Attenborough, for example. 
Watching his very early broadcasts is fascinating now, because they were so basic. I’m sure I’ve seen programmes he made decades ago where it was just him in a studio, sat with an animal, talking about it – ‘yes, this is it’s tail you see, it’s very interesting, because…’ and you still find yourself getting sucked in, however low-rent it seems now. Incidentally if you watch old comedy sketch programmes like Not the Nine O’clock News now, they often aren’t that funny, because too many of the cultural references have disappeared into the past, but a sketch that references Attenborough and Gorillas still makes sense because it’s one of the things from that era which is still emblazoned on people’s minds, because it so captured our imagination.

Even more extraordinary to me is the size of the budget and production values his programmes attract now. I can’t imagine even the most Reithian head of the BBC granting anything like the time, resources and budget that have become the norm in natural science programming were it not for the specific popularity and all round wondrousness of Attenborough. That makes us all richer. 
I quite like the short ‘making of’ codas that he has included in more recent series as well. There he was, tonight, tracking down a striking bright orange thing called a golden frog, in Panama, with a biologist who was making frog call noises, which Attenborough was trying and failing to imitate himself. Again, the strength of Attenborough is to make you think this is a noble pursuit, rather than a thing that makes you think biologists are a bit mental. If you have ever spent much time with biologists then you’ll know, as I do, what a tremendous achievement even that fact is.  

The thing about these frogs is that they use specific gestures as well as calls when they are attracting a mate or despatching a rival male. Attenborough was in full-on jovial grandfather mode, provoking a male frog into variously waving, calling or fighting with a small plastic model frog to illustrate the point.  It was really a small point in the whole programme, but the significance within this coda was that you’d just watched the best hour long advert for preserving biodiversity and treating our natural environment as a precious asset that I can think of, excepting possibly another programme by Attenborough, and these frogs were seemingly literally on the edge of extinction as a consequence of the environmental impact of human development, such as a local road-building scheme, and the advance of a fungus. 
So In Attenborough’s (possibly) last big series of programmes, we had just been introduced to a species of frog that the tiniest percentage of us would have even heard about before we’d started watching, and we were made to care about its plight, and dwell on the significance of its imminent loss, in a very brief lecture, utterly lacking any hectoring quality, but no less powerful or significant for its brevity or its tone. And a substantial part of the nation, I hope, felt privileged to have seen this waving orange frog, if only on television, before it is lost to us forever, and to muse on what that means not just for a locality in Panama where they had once been numerous, but what the threat to biodiversity means around the world and to us all.
It is easy to be cynical about tv in an age of Big Brother, Nuts TV, and possibly (though I hope not) even worse – and believe me I often am – but I think the kind of tv David Attenborough has been responsible for making may be about the finest justification for the BBC imagineable. 

Jan. 9th, 2008

charlie mouse!

Television! Teacher, mother, secret lover (Simpson, H)

I seem to be wanting to go to sleep somewhere around 2 am lately.  I presume this is because I had a long Christmas holiday and feel well rested and relaxed, and my body clock is desperately seeking to readjust to normal, ie being oppressively sleep-deprived.


The ‘advantage’ of this is being able to watch late night/early morning tv.  There isn’t usually much good on after the witching hour, admittedly, but for some reason I love tv that is so bad it is really bad.  I can’t explain why.  I am just odd.


As a consequence of my late night/early morning viewing habits, I can confirm the top 5 worst films ever are quite possibly as follows.  I was fortunate enough to watch those shown in bold in a single night.


  1. Jaws 3 (special mention for the bit where the attacking shark is seen off by two dolphins.  FFS)
  2. Anacondas: the Hunt for the Blood Orchid (I haven’t actually seen this but it must surely be worse than Anaconda, unless it is like Godfather Pt II in not conforming to the usual sequel/diminishing of returns law)
  3. Anaconda
  4. Freddy vs Jason
  5. Hannibal Rising

I particularly like those adverts which first appeared a few years ago, where you can text a number to chat to girls who’d really like to get to know guys like you.  These ads mystify me.  Where do the girls come from?  I have never seen any corresponding ads that say things like ‘text this number now to be inundated with texts from sad, ugly, insomniac, onanistic, lonely guys who are so stupid that they really believe a hot blonde girl like in the ads, or indeed anyone, may honestly want to flirt with them by text’.  I know that I am not the target audience for such an ad, so maybe they do exist on a special channel that beminiskirted blonde babes like the ones in the ad for us sad blokes watch.  But I doubt it.


This is one of the mysteries of life that have most consumed my time in recent weeks.


The others are:


  1. what is the difference between a spire and a steeple?
  2. what is the difference, if any, between an omelette, a frittata, and a tortilla?

Any answers to the comments box please.  Ta.


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