Friday, August 31, 2007
Do you ever wonder what you'll be doing in 10 years time?
Do you ever think "I wonder what I was doing 10 years ago"?
Strange day really since I know exactly what I was doing 10 years ago.
I had moved to Paris the week before. Just finished my degree and got myself a job out there for a year. Possibly two even. Wasn't sure at the time. I wanted to learn a language. The only problem was I knew moving to Paris was likely to bugger up my relationship with my girlfriend who was going to stay behind in England.
"If you loved her, you wouldn't go." a friend, who had given up a place at University because his girlfriend didn't want he to move away,warned me. I didn't listen. Mostly because his girlfriend had cheated on him 8 months after he had decided not to go. Only by then he had got a job and moved in with her so he thought it was too late to go by so he stayed back in my home where I used to live.
His ex-girlfriend doesn't live there anymore. She went off to Uni with the bloke she'd cheated on him with.
I'm digressing. Despite his warnings and in the certain knowledge this was probably going to completely stuff up my current relationship, I moved to Paris.
For the first week I just had a holiday and my girlfriend came too. We stayed at the flat of a bloke I had met out there when I came for the interview, who became one of my closest friends out there. Every day he made me a cup of tea and having listened to Radio four and watched the TV he told me he greeted me with the news of home and then the news from where I lived.
"In London the news is.... and in Paris the news is...." he would say every morning.
Then one night. More or less 10 years ago, it was time for my holiday to end. My girlfriend was catching the eurostar in the morning and I was going to go to work and then move into my new flat (more like a bed sit really, but with a bathroom and kitchen). we went out for the last time to say our tearful goodbyes. We walked down to the Eiffel Tower. We told ourselves it was all going to be alright, knowing it wouldn't. We promised to write and call and then we hugged on the Right Bank as the Bateaux Mouches glided by.
Then we walked home across the Pont D'Alma about midnight and went to bed.
The next morning my friend woke me up as usual.
"The news in Paris and London is the same. Princess Diana is dead."
"What?!?" Still half asleep.
"She died in Paris. Last night." he said.
"Where?" I asked.
"Under the Pont D'Alma. About midnight."
Which I think you'll agree was a bit weird. Especially given the human propensity to see patterns where there aren't any.
So began my life as an Englishman in Paris. Dominated because of those two facts by one dead woman. For the whole year. People I knew appeared on the tele, friends I knew were part of things behind the scenes.
And as for the French for a whole year you could hardly walk into a bar with an English accent without provoking a conversation on one subject. I learned to say "MI6 conspiracy." in French before I learned how to order a bagget in the bakery.
Here I was. A staunch republican, living in a Republic and there was only one subject of conversation people wanted to have with me: The Royal Family.
"Ah!" I learned to say "Diana was the Queen of my Heart." utter bollocks, but it shut them up.
Oh what a weird year. And it all started on the last day of August.
What were you doing?
Diana Paris Princess Diana Royal Death
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Yellow: It's a nice laptop. I've give you that.
Bloke: Look I'll go on to the Mac Store and show you how to get one cheaper than a Dell.
Yellow: It is a nice laptop.
Bloke: There is so many things you can do better on a Mac.
Yellow: It is a nice lap top.
Bloke: Word processing, spreadsheets...
Yellow: It only comes in black and white.
Bloke: ....you can use office but the Mac software is better.
Yellow: It is a nice laptop.
Bloke: Have you ever heard of Second Life?
Yellow: Yeah I have. I had correspondence once from this bloke who in there big time.
Bloke: What was his name?
Yellow: Simon Stevens.
Bloke: Isn't that your...
Yellow: Don't go there.
Bloke: So what did this bloke do there, then?
Yellow: He runs some sort of nightclub or something. Dunno quite how that works. I've never 'been' there. I'm not quite sure how you run a nightclub that doesn't really exist. Have you ever had a go at second life?
Bloke: I have.
Yellow: Right. How does it work?
Bloke: Well you just sort of have this thing called an Avatar and well that walks around and talks to people.
Yellow: On it's own?
Bloke: No! You have to tell it what to do and say.
Yellow: I see. It's a pretty chat room then. Did you chat to people?
Bloke: No, I tried to talk to them about Jesus.
Yellow: They all ran away? How did they know you were going to talk to them about Jesus?
Bloke: I called myself “Bible Man”.
Yellow: That'll do it every time.
Bloke: (takes a swig of beer) You can buy stuff you know.
Yellow: (confused pause) In the shops?
Bloke: No in Second Life.
Yellow: Buy stuff? In a chat room? What sort of 'stuff'?
Bloke: Clothes for your Avatar to wear.
Yellow: Why would you do that?
Bloke: To make your Avatar more original. You use Linden Dollars.
Yellow: Linnnnnnn-deeeeeeen Dollllll-ars?
Bloke: Yeah you exchange your 'real' money and then you can buy clothes and things in Second Life,
Yellow: Or just buy stuff in the shops and actually wear them. On your actual body.
(Pause. Swig of beer)
Yellow: Did you use your lap top to go there?
(Pause. Swig of beer).
(Pause. Eating of Pringles. Swig of beer)
Bloke: I wonder if you could be a terrorist.
Bloke: You must be able to be a terrorist.
Bloke: In Second Life.
Yellow: Oh! I don't think you can kill people using...
Bloke: How would you do that?
Yellow: Wait a minute you could delete their accounts.
Bloke: There must be a gun you can buy.
Yellow: With your thingy dollars?
Yellow: I don't think they'd allow that. I mean there'd be muggings in the street, armed gangs, anarchy. People would be too scared to go in there.
Bloke: They must sell a gun.
Yellow: They are Americans.
Yellow: You'd have to hack the programme.
Bloke: That would be hard.
Yellow: We could get jobs working for the people who run Second Life. That's how we'll do it.
Bloke: That would work.
Yellow: You'd have to work your way up. You'd need to be a trusted employee really.
Yellow: It'll take us years really. You couldn't cause widespread carnage. Just like a group of people.
Bloke: Like an explosion. In a public gathering.
Yellow: A nightclub! Yeah just take out anyone standing close. Delete their accounts. And then...um...you'd have to delete your own account or they'd find out who it was.
Bloke: you could just go up in the blast.
Yellow: We'll need to do a lot of planning. I'll need to learn how to programme computers.
Bloke: You'll need to buy a mac.
Yellow: I don't know how to apply for a job working for Second Life.
(Long Pause. Swig of beer)
Yellow: Hang on, we're missing something pretty fundamental here. This is just stupied.
Bloke: Is it?
Yellow: Of course. We can't do this.
Bloke: Why not?
Yellow: We don't have any political aims. You can't be a terrorist without aims and objectives. That would just be silly.
Bloke: I suppose so.
(Pause swig of beer)
Yellow: Why is your Mac Grey?
Bloke: Power Book.
Bloke: Pass the Pringles.
Upstairs the children slept soundly, while Mrs Bloke quietly fed her Facebook addiction.
Off in the distance a dog barked.
Second Life Yellow Terrorism
Saturday, August 25, 2007
6.693 x 10–11
The Gravitational constant of the Universe. Known as 'G'.
It is a negligible force except on a planetary scale, but significantly it has to be just right in order for the Universe to work. If it were too big then stars would burn too fast and die in only a couple of billion years. Far too quick for life to evolve. If it were too small then stars would not burn at all.
At least that's my understanding. I'm not a physicist so please correct me.
The point is this incredibly small number makes the universe work and it works very precisely indeed. Now of course this has lead many theists to conjecture that the Universe which works so perfectly had to be designed. Not me. I know the flaws associated with the argument from design, it is quite possibly the worst argument on earth.
Atheists have another solution. The argue that this universe is just one of an infinite amount of Universes, each one slightly different. In many of them the gravitational constant is different and thus there is no life. We of course live just happen to live in one of the Universes that can support life. We're not lucky, since it would impossible for us to live in one of the other Universes so by definition we must live here.
This got me thinking though. In order to posit a Universe without God, atheists must argue that there are many, many universes, none of which there is any evidence of. Not just not much evidence, but no evidence. Lots of people say they are there. They are quite clever. Clever people saying stuff is there does not constitute evidence. Evidence constitutes evidence.
So why does this positing of universes not fall fowl of Ockham's razor? Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity? Why accept a complex solution (there are an infinite amount of universes all slightly different) for which there is no evidence, and dismiss the simple solution (there is one universe run by God?)
Is it because it fits with your faith based presuppositions? viz “There is no God”?
It brings me back to Richard Dawkins. What I dislike about Richard Dawkins is that he uses scince to answer metaphysical questions. He uses science to give his life meaning.
Which is wrong. In a godless universe there is no meaning. Many atheists such as Jean-Paul Satre understood this and accepted it. Dawkins does not. He believes that in a meaningless universe science can explain things and give us meaning.
He is in my opinion accepting answers which aren't really answers.
Once again I'm not arguing FOR theism, I'm arguing AGAINST Atheism.
Richard Dawkins is far too sure of himself. In that alone he is completely wrong.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I often do. It's a good place to think, probably, because it's one of the few times during the day when I'm on my own for an extended period of time. If there is someone else there I tend to find that far too distracting. But mostly it's a good place to think. (it is also a good place to perform short comedy routines which is not something I should probably admit out loud).
I started to think about language. You see I love language. I always have. I love communication but most of all I love language. Which is why right from an early age foreign languages have fascinated me. I'm no good really at languages, my best is probably French but that's only because I used to live in Paris, but I have learned bits of about 6 languages. I love to know how languages are formed I love that moment when the penny drops and you recognize the meaning of a construction and the context makes sense.
I love the way that some people use language. I love structuralism, post structuralism I am profoundly influenced by Kierkegaard's theories of communication (Which is why Danish is one of the six – and I'm really crap at it) I love comedy almost as much for it's use of language as it's amusing qualities.
I love slang and most of all I love fuck-arse-bollocks swearing.
I like to abuse language. I love to twist and turn it. I love metaphor and simile. I love the fact that you place a four legged feline among a group of annoying birds when you disturb people. I like the fact that no one has ever seen an apple cart, but everyone upsets them at some point or other. (I mean who owns enough apples to need to carry them in a cart? Surely a bag? Ah but the gloriousness of this is the picture of round fruit rolling away, impossibly difficult to get back again)
I love the fact that the French refer to a gentleman's John Thomas as “The Bald Bloke in the polo neck”.
What I thought about in the shower was that actually the nature of swearing has changed. You know 50 years ago the word prat was really offensive. Nowadays you can say “Oh that blokes a bit of a prat!” to your grandmother. Do you know once upon a time that the word Bollocks was so inoffensive it could be used in the Wycliff's Bible. I realised that actually if you read either of those in a book you would have to translate it. If you read “Prat” in a book of more than 20 years old you would need to pick a stronger word. Whereas if you were reading Wycliff's Bible you would need to pick a weaker word.
Language changes, of course, according to context. If I see someone shouting “Fuck off!” at someone else in the street. I tend to get a little angry and think they should have more respect for their fellow human beings. Whereas when I hear the “F” word produced by a comedian it doesn't bother me in the slightest. Indeed it may actually make me laugh. Comedians often use swear words as an effective way of communicating emotion to their audience (that last idea is not mine I stole it from a comedian). I think it's probably impossible to do stand up comedy without swearing.
Last of all though I thought about Internet and particular blog related communication. Here it seems that people use a much more abrasive form of language. I know someone who blogged and received an e-mail accusing him of sexually abusing Children. Which has to be the worst kind of allegation to make of someone as an opener in the first e-mail you've ever sent them. No one would walk up to someone in the real world and just blurt that one out but if you don't have to look someone in the eye you can say almost anything.
Obviously the solution is to translate just as with the word 'prat' in a book from the 1950s.
So next time you blog something and get a comment that says:
“You're an absolute fucking Nazi pedophile, and you deserve to be anally raped with a broken bottle!”
Pause and translate it. It should probably read:
“While I respect what you have written, I find you and I hold vastly different views on this subject.”
See? Much better. It's not the words that matter it's whether they are written on blog or not.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Look at this picture...
Imagine you are in rural France. Miles from the nearest town. Miles and miles from the nearest city. No phone. No Internet connection. Just quiet tranquility.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Are you taken in by the beauty of it? The fields. The sky. The kissing couple in the clouds? Do you see it? Do you smell the clean air and feel the gentle breeze?
Do you feel the stress and strain drain from your body to be replaced by a the soothing balm of relaxed contentment? Do your shoulders unknot as your arms lay heavy at your side?
Well you'll just have to go there then, wont you?
Obviously the Internet is not that good, or we'd all be in bloody Second Life, wouldn't we?
Or my name's not
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Moral Maze time.
Someone is posting on the Ship of Fools website, as something of an authority on Islam.
From the information he has provided I have worked out it is someone I know. Who is...I have to say (forgive me Lord) a teeny weeny bit of a twat.
a) ignore this.
b) draw this to other people's attention?
OK Internet I know you're good at this sort of thing. So it's over to you.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
Tree hugers! Bless them.
I saw Candy. Queen of the tree huggers. She ran for the student's union as Enviroment and Ethics Sec. Her campaign was just a picture of her; hugging a tree.
“What's Southampton University Conservation Volunteers up to?” I ask her. I like to use the full names of societies. It makes it more intelligible when I write about them on a blog.
“Tomorrow we are meeting to sort out Broadlands Valley” she tells me
“Tomorrow?!?!” I gasp. Realizing the enormity of the situation. “I'm going to have to come and tick you off.”
“Tick us off. What have we done?”
“No, No!” I said and began the tale of how I started doing this whole student-society-a-thon. I forget how many times I've told that story over the last year but it's quite a few.
So having explained it Candy is quite happy for me to come along. An extra pair of hands will be good.
“Come in old clothes.”She explains.
Broadlands Valley known round here as 'Rape Alley' because of it's lack of street lighting convenience of nearby bushes and the road being slightly more than a scream away. It contains what they call here a 'green way'; a stretch of greenery between two roads. As you leave the road the path sweeps swiftly down to the stream, with just enough water to drown someone in, and which lies in the middle and then up the other side. It's probably the smallest valley on earth. It takes about 2 minutes to walk through or 28.5 seconds on a dark night. It's probably the only incidence I can think of of the word 'valley' being used ironically.
It could be a picturesque place but its secluded nature has made it something of a fly tipping mecca. Which is where SUCV came in. They were to kick arse and clean house. Then they were going to hug some trees. At least that's what I thought.
We arrived early in the morning. And everyone unloaded the bags. They contained an unimaginable amount of chopping and slicing things. Candy gave us a talk on the safety measures required of working with this lot.
“Be extra careful with this thing.” she said holding up something which looked and felt exactly like a murder weapon. It was big heavy metal sharp at one end. Depending on how you held it it looked like it would have no trouble making huge gashes in you or quite good at just bashing your brains in.
I turned to the guy next to me.
“Do you not think it's a bad idea bringing this lot to rape alley?” I asked. He nodded with a worried look.
“OK everyone wears gloves and I want that tree cut down before Simon arrives.” said Candy.
Wait a minute cut down trees? Surely not.
“Oh yeah we cut down loads of trees!” says Candy with far too much zeal for a tree hugger. “All part of conservation.”
It turns out that often you need to chop down a tree to allow other wide life the thrive especially if the tree is dying anyway like the one we were going to deal with. They all set to it with abandon. It was like watching a bunch of vegetarians gorge themselves on quorn while yelling “I love the taste of meat”. I'm serious here, give them an environmentally good reason to destroy a tree and it all comes out. They attacked it with saws and cutting things and sharp things, 10 minutes latter it was gone.
It was then that the promised Simon turned up. Simon Buston city greenway ranger. Who disappointingly was not wearing a mask or riding a horse. Instead he turned up rather predictively in a van. Which astonished me. Not that he was in a van. But that he was Simon Buston, who goes to the church I used to be curate of.
“Simon Buston!” I said.
“Simon Stevens!” he said. I decided not to tell him I'm called Yellow now.
“What are you doing here?” he asked I decided not to tell him the whole Big Tick story so I just said “I'm helping out.”
I couldn't believe it. Simon Buston. I know you're shocked too aren't you? The world it seems is a small place. At least it feels like it when you're standing in a valley you can run across in less than 30 seconds.
We began clearing the rubbish out. Into the green we went. Myself and the guy I was working with found a tyre. We heaved and heaved and, eventually, out it came. We continued to press on. Finding a radiator and then a fuel tank.
“I hope we find the rest of the car” I said hoping we could sell it and make a profit on the day. There was it has to be said enough crap there to open a small car boot fair. We even found a bed. No, not a mattress a whole ****ing bed. An upside down push chair.
“I hope it's empty” said my companion.
We sliced and cut our way through trees and plants and foliage. I explored further and found a “For Sale sign” and several accompanying road signs. I returned to the others to tell of the treasure I had found. Together we took them back to Simon's truck. The delicious irony of getting a bunch of students to deliver road signs to the council was greatly enjoyed by all present. And now you can enjoy it too.
As we finished work one of the locals stopped to watch.
“Are they clearing that out?” she asked.
“Yes.” I said.
“Who are they?”
“Local students.” I told her.
“There's a lot of rubbish there” she said.
“Fly tipping.” I told her.
“Yeah, shame isn't it.” she said.
“It is.” I said.
“Still, it's the only way to get rid of your rubbish isn't it? I mean the council wont take it, so you just have to shove it down there.” she said pointing to the valley. With that she shrugged and was off. Leaving me with the impression we were going to have to come back at some point.
So local residents. You know those students. The one's you hate. The one's who threw up in your front garden and wake you up at 2am.
Well...they took that lot out of your Greenway. Took them all day No charge. Next time you see them don't forget to say thank you.
We headed home. I can't remember if we bought back the slicy choppy thing. I hope we did....really I do!
SUCV: slice, chop, clear, tick.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
I knew an old bloke. Sadly he has departed this life. Hang on I'm supposed to be a Christian! Happily he has departed this life. Doesn't sound quite so good does it? Anyway there was this bloke and he retired at the end of a long successful career. While at work he never seemed to get the time to sort the garden out. It was alright but it wasn't quite to his exacting standards.
So when he retired he put aside the first week to get down there and sort it out. Once that was done he was going to put his feet up. So he put on his old clothes on the first day, slipped his pipe and tobacco in his pocket and disappeared off into the greenery... and....as it happens, he never really came back. It became his full time job.
He carried on for another 20 years or so. Every day, in all weathers, sorting it out and only stopping for a tea break and to lean on the fence and light his pipe. Which on a blustery day took almost as long as the gardening.
Towards the end he had a number of strokes and couldn't keep it up the garden any more. He didn't stay with us much longer after that.
The point I'm trying to make here is that actually we all dream of not having anything to do but when we do we fill that with 'stuff'. The garden we would relax in never quite gets finished.
I have no work. I'm on holiday. Yet I have a to-do-list a mile long. I'm rushing about trying to get this and that done while revising French. I have to tidy this and sort that and isn't venir irregular in the future? I'm flitting here and there and wobbling about in two languages. It's a bit like being a bilingual toddler.
(Take your time....there it is! Now the title makes sense!)
In the midst of this my friend Bethnal Green Dave has written something he wants me to take a look at. What do I know about writing? Hmmmmm writing and dead people in one post. That reminds me I promised myself I was going to pay Zinnia Cyclamen's blog more attention over the summer. Add it to the list.
I'm not complaining. I'm just saying "The devil makes work...". Which is a change for me because I usually work for Jesus. (and if that isn't a great first line of a book then I don't know what is)
So I have a lot to do.
Hmmmmmmmm....grass needs a mow.