Thursday, 31 July 2008

I Like Me So Much Better

A message from our sponsor

I had a friend called Keith whose sage words of advice in times of trouble were
  • Get Drunk
  • Get Laid
  • Get Over It

He didn't stand by that rule all the time. For example, when a large truck compressed Keith's brain into a smaller space than the space it was meant to occupy (to whit, Keith's skull) he went into a coma for a few days, then suffered total amnesia, which left him unable to remember that he had dumped his girlfriend three months previously, and started seeing someone else. The dumped ex, who had been wondering how to win him back, got to the hospital before the new girlfriend, and Keith's life got a little bit complicated.

But we're talking about bad sex here.

I don't mean baaaad sex, involving an Isaac Hayes CD, a bottle of supermarket vodka, and some MDMA. I'm not talking about Coyote Ugly sex either, where you find yourself gnawing your own arm off the next morning just you can get out before the other person* wakes up.

*I'm making an assumption here. I hope I haven't offended your lifestyle.

I'm talking about transition sex; the times in your life when bad sex can be just what the doctor ordered - or just what the nurse offered, if that's your preference.

Now, before you think this is about what I got up to last night, it isn't. I got up to the Merry Monk last night, where I had three pints of cider, and discussed Russian hackers attacking the local authority's housing benefits system; that's what I got up to last night.

There were no scenes of a sexual nature, or people of a sexual nature. It's not that sort of pub. This is just a long-winded introduction to the little tune that's going round my head this morning.

Ida Maria has written a brilliant song about meeting a guy, and not knowing what to say, and finding that she's just talking complete bollocks. (You're going to tell me this has never happened to you?) She even finds herself smoking a cigarette, and she's not really sure what for.

But she suggests that the guy take her home, and then she suggests that he might like to take all his clothes off. Which he obligingly does (he must like her, I guess.) And she immediately feels much happier. She likes him much better when he's naked. She likes herself much better, too. Result.. Happy ending!

All the clever
things I should say to you
They got stuck somewhere
Stuck between me and you

Oh I'm nervous
I don't know what to do
Light a cigarette
I only smoke when I'm with you.

What the hell do I do this for?
You're just another guy
OK, you're kind of sexy
But you're not really special

But I won't mind
If you take me home
Come on, take me home

I won't mind
if you take off all your clothes
Come on, take them off

'Cause I like you so much better when you're naked
I like me so much better when you're naked
I like you so much better when you're naked
I like me so much better when you're naked.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A Close Watch On The Trains

My parents' generation remembered The War. They still call it "The War" even though there have been a few more wars since. My Nana, when she was alive, said there was another war, before "The War", that she thought was even worse.

Anyway. I grew up in peacetime. I was very relieved that I wasn't going to have to join the army, unless I wanted to. I was, however, worried, that compared to my father, I was growing up soft. My father worried about this, too. (Let's be honest. I learned to worry from him. But because I was a child, I thought it was all my own idea, and, of course, all my fault. )

When I was a boy, I liked trains. Then later on, I liked girls. In my teens, I liked both together, and - things being the way they were - I especially liked the older, better looking ones that I couldn't catch. (The trains, that is. And the girls.)

Eventually, I went to university, where I fell in love with a woman who was older and madder and interesting and Eastern European and politically active. (And a self-harmer. Pity about that. ) So, I got to see lots of interesting films from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (and plenty of dull ones, too. Pity about that.)

Jiri Menzel's Ostre sledované vlaky was one of my favourites. It was made in Czechoslovakia during the mid-sixties period they called the Prague Spring, when people were confident and artistic, and reflective and critical about society and the possibilities for the world, in a positive way, until the Russian tanks arrived, and they all had to wait another twenty years before Václav Havel became President and met Lou Reed and Frank Zappa.

It's a film about trains and The War - I don't know what my father would have made of it - and a young man trying to lose his virginity.

Milos, the teenage protagonist, is an apprentice at a small railway station in provincial Bohemia, and the trains he is supposed to watch often contain Nazi troops and equipment being sent to the Eastern Front. The Nazis are, of course, the enemy, an occupying army, and in the film we follow young Milos as he learns, in different ways, what he has to do to be a man: how to survive under Nazi occupation, how he can resist it, how to be courageous and heroic, how men behave around women, and how to get the girl he wants.

Milos watches an older colleague as he flirts with and seduces a girl, and thinks he knows what sex is all about. But his dirty weekend with a beautiful train conductor doesn't go to plan, and in despair, Milos tries to kill himself. I can never forget the scene in the hospital, where Milos shows his bandaged slashed wrist to a visitor and says, with a straight face :
"The doctors say it's called premature ejaculation."
A Close Watch On The Trains is a comedy about being a man, being a hero, and being good enough. Milos' sexual awakening goes hand in hand with his political development.

Appropriately enough for a film set in Bohemia, orgasms are an act of freedom and defiance. Orgasms will defeat fascism, if we have enough of them.

We can imagine that Menzel's tale of resistance to the Nazis was also meant to encourage 1960's Czechs and Slovaks not to stand for any crap from Moscow. Certainly, the Russians banned the film after they invaded provided fraternal assistance in 1968.

My father was right about me being soft, compared to him. But his mother died when he was five, and he was raised by an alcoholic father for a few years, before he died, and left his sons to be raised by someone even more brutal. So my dad didn't have a lot of opportunities for softness in his life.

He made the most of the opportunities he had with me when I was little, but the older I grew, the more talkative and curious and energetic I became, the less he knew what to do. I guess my dad's life forced him to toughen up a lot sooner than he would have liked, and we both lost something on account of that.

A Song From Under The Floorboards

The newcomer arrives
Possession and guilt in his face
Apologises to the customs man
For the gaping hole in his suitcase

I'd like to write about my vulnerability.
I'd like to write about my fear of being seen.
I'd like to write about my fear of writing.

I'd like to write about my great big head
Filled with ideas and dreams.
I'd like to be able to write
Instead of just making the paper dirty.

That old big head that protected me
That old big intellectual, exam-passing head
That old big rude-dreaming, song-writing head
That old big head that protected me so well
I used to wish I could live without it.

That old big broadband website head
Where I uploaded everything I was afraid of losing
Afraid of loving
Afraid of using.

feeling messy complicated flesh world

It's time to get the CDs out
It's time to go to the record store
It's time to borrow somebody else's voice

I am angry I am ill and I'm as ugly as sin

My irritability keeps me alive and kicking
I know the meaning of life, it doesn't help me a bit
I know beauty and I know a good thing when I see it.

This is a song from under the floorboards
This is a song from where the wall is cracked
By force of habit, I am an insect
I have to confess I'm proud as hell of that fact

I'd like to write about my vulnerability.
I'd like to write about my fear of being seen.
I'd like to write about my fear of writing.
I'd like to write about my fear of being me.

I just want to be touched again.
not poked or messaged or emailed.

I used to make phantoms I could later chase
images of all that could be desired
then I got tired of counting all of these blessings
and then I just got tired

I just want to be touched again

I've known the eeriest wounds
the soul's long quarantine

and I still turn to love
I want to burn again

I just want to be touched again.
I have to confess I'm proud as hell of that fact.

(with thanks and respect to HD & TH, the original authors)

Monday, 28 July 2008

A Close Watch

(A Close Watch on the Trains)

Never win and never lose
There’s nothing much to choose
Between the right and wrong.

Nothing lost and nothing gained
Still things aren’t quite the same
Between you and me.

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine

I still hear your voice at night
When I turn out the light
And try to settle down.

But there’s nothing much I can do
Because I can’t live without you
Any way at all.

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine

John Cale took the words "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine" from I Walk The Line by Johnny Cash.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

It Ain't Over...

Hey! It ain't over!

Gee, I hope that I'm crazy...
I feel you driving and you're only the wheel
Slow down, let someone love you
I've never touched you since I started to feel
If there's nothing to hide me
Then you've never seen me
Hanging naked and wired

Somebody lied
I say it's hip
To be alive

Now your smile is
Spreading thin...
Seems you're trying
Not to lose...
Saints are not supposed to grin
All you've got to do is win.

That's all ya gotta do...
It ain't over

Me, I'm fresh on your pages
Secret thinker sometimes listening aloud
Life lies dumb on its heroes
Wear your wound with honor,
Make someone proud

Someone like you
Should not be allowed
To start any fires

Now your smile is
Spreading thin...
Seems you're trying
Not to lose...
Saints are not supposed to grin
All you've got to do is

That's all ya gotta do...
It ain't over
Seek and believe in you
It ain't over, no

Sex and the City

"New York, New York, it's a helluva town,
The Bronx is up and the Battery's down "

Been here for four days,and I still don't know where the plain women hang out. Seriously: there's something unusual when the ugliest crowd you see are the people at the Apple store standing in line to buy iPhones.

After work,the bars fill up with groups of well turned out women, and I feel like an extra in Sex and the City. Around my hotel, yellow cabs dispense them in threes and fours, like money from cash machines.

There are gay men around, and gay women - I'm on the edge of Chelsea and Greenwich Village. Where are the groups of straight men? In another part of town, possibly with the plain girls. Here,they're outnumbered five-to-one.

Two blondes talking with a brunette friend about the man the brunette's been seeing. She likes him, but he's married. Still, she can let him buy her dinner, can't she?

I got into a conversation with a lovely girl who recognised my accent, and told me she'd recently had her heart broken by a man from London. No, she said, she doesn't hate men. She doesn't even hate British men. She just hates him. He dumped her a few weeks ago. She has a date tonight. I wish her luck.

At my hotel, one of the receptionists is showing off a book she's had published. It's about her experiences as a self-destructive teenage punk rock fan. Or as the book calls her, a Death Rock Cutter, which sounds like a spaceship in Star Wars. Still,the book looks very arty.

I walk around the corner to Starbucks, and pass a shoe shop called Shoegasm.They don't seem to stock much for men. Another part of town. Another part of town.

"There are eight million stories in the Naked City"

Saturday, 26 July 2008

New York Conversation

I was sleeping, gently napping, when I heard the phone
Who is on the other end talking, am I even home
Did you see what she did to him, did you hear what they said
Just a New York conversation, rattling in my head

Oh, my, and what shall we wear?
Oh, my, and who really cares?

Just a New York conversation, gossip all of the time
Did you hear who did what to whom, happens all the time
Who has touched and who has dabbled here in the city of shows
Openings, closings, bad repartee, everybody knows

Oh, how sad, why do we call
Oh, Im glad to hear from you all

I am calling, yes Im calling just to speak to you
For I know this night will kill me, if I cant be with you
If I cant be with you ...

Friday, 25 July 2008

The Dark Knight

This afternoon, I went and saw The Dark Knight on Broadway.
It is an extremely good movie.
Heath Ledger as the Joker? Brilliant.
Heath Ledger in a nurse's uniform? Not really.

Breakfast in America

Venue: Starbucks Coffee House
Location: Greenwich and Bank, Greenwich Village
Weather: Sunny, 85F, very humid.
Company: A businessman in a linen suit, 2 surgeons from St Vincents in their operating theatre greens, a Dash lookalike in a t-shirt that says “Dinosaur Barbeque”, sundry others.
Music: To Make You Feel My Love, Kelly Clarkson
Drink: Venti 3shot skinny latte

I no longer feel empty, numb, tense, or angry.

I am unsettled in my stomach (which used to feel rock solid and dense). I feel calm in my chest (which used to feel tight and constricted.)
I feel free to speak my mind.
I haven't got a lot to say.

I have nobody to fight. I don't want to fight. This is good.
I have nobody to love. This is not so good.
Sex and sexuality: I know who I am, and what I want. I don't want to do anything about that right now. I don't know why that is. Tick 'other'. Tick 'none of the above'.

I don't like my short-sighted eyes. My semi-blindness bothers me much more than it used to. I barely recognise this world, even though the only thing in it that's changed is me.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

I Waited

I waited for the world that I wanted.
And I wasted the one that I had.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

That Great Big Hill Of Hope

Do you know it doesn't hurt me.
Do you want to feel how it feels?
Do you want to know that it doesn't hurt me?
Do you want to hear about the deal?
You and me...

If I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.
If I only could...

I know you don't want to hurt me,
But I can see how deep the bullet lies.
I'm aware it's tearing you asunder.
There is thunder in our hearts.

Is there so much hate for the ones we love?
Tell me, we both matter, don't we?
You and me.
You and me,
We won't be unhappy.

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building,
Say, if I only could, oh...

C'mon, baby, c'mon darling,
Let me steal this moment from you now.
C'mon, angel, c'mon, c'mon, darling,
Let's exchange the experience.

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems.

If I only could
Be running up that hill
With no problems...

Sunday, 13 July 2008

The House In Sandy Gate Lane Pt. 2

I had a comment on yesterday's post (from the far from unobservant Z), because I described our house as modern, when it was built in the 1930's. This is worth exploring a little further.

The first house I lived in, Summer Hill, was built for my father on a plot of land he owned, in the 1950's. The second house, the curiously named Cobber's Hill probably dated fromthe mid sixties. So here I am, at thirteen, moving into a house that is older than either of the other homes i've lived in, and yet I call it 'modern'. What's that all about?

I used to collect stamps, and for some reason, I was particularly fascinated by a range of stamp called the King Edward VIII Definitives. Perhaps it was because they were rare and collectable - the King was only on the throne for eleven months - but I was also fascinated by the elegance of their design. They were designed by a man called Eric Gill. I also had a set of books called the New Temple Shakespeare, which was a pocket edition, with a separate book for each of the plays, the same size as Beatrix Potter's Peter books. Every book had an engraving by Eric Gill on the dust jacket, and more engravings inside, to illustrate the plays.

At some point, I matched the name of Eric Gill in Stanley Stamp's Gibbon Catalogue to the name on my Shakespeare books, and was interested enough to look him up in an encyclopedia one day in the local reference library. That, gentle reader, is how I became fascinated by the art and design of the 1930's, and also began to get a wee bit pretentious, and use the word 'modern' in a different context, besides just meaning the most up-to-date.

I was too young to be interested Shakespeare at that age. My parents had just decided to leave a set of his plays in my bedroom, like Desert Island Discs, in the hope that somehow I would find them, and start to become cultured and intelligent.

They did this with another book, too. A sex education manual. That one, I did read, and not just study the pictures. Since it was a book for parents, not children, it wasn't entirely informative. But I did learn that parents can be very confused and embarrassed about sex, and I resolved not to trouble mine any further.

I remember soaking stamps off envelopes in the washbasin in the downstairs bathroom in the house in Sandygate Lane. It was an avocado bathroom, which had apparently very fashionable at some point. My parents had gone out for the evening, and I cleaned up the basin and put the stamps somewhere to dry out, and I sat down to watch - heaven only knows how I come to remember this - The Thomas Crown Affair, which was being repeated on television that night.

It was the Steve McQueen original, not the Pierce Brosnan remake. I remember being quite interested in Faye Dunaway, and fascinated by the split screen photography, but mostly, it was the song about the windmills that stayed with me.

(I know I'm still avoiding writing about Wimbledon, and my raging fever, and the pond at the bottom of the garden. Bear with me, I'll get around to it.)

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Half Naked Women and Diesel Trains

I don't know what kind of mad synchronicity is behind this, but no sooner do I start reminiscing about railways and naughty magazines, than MJ tells me it's time to drop my pants in front of a train.

At least it would be if I lived in Laguna Niguel, California, where today they are celebrating Moon Amtrak Day. Just turn up at the Mugs Away Saloon on Camino Capistrano, and press your bare backside against the chain link fence.

The House In Sandy Gate Lane Pt. 1

It was a modern 1930's house, and we lived there for only eleven months. Because we only lived there for such a short time, I remember lots of things that happened in my life while I was there, and know that they must all have been happening at exactly the same time.

A single summer, and then a winter. I had just turned thirteen. This is the house where I acquired my demon.

I lost interest in school work. I began to change into jeans as soon as I got home. I remember my school tie coiled on the table, my homework waiting to be done. I started to listen to the radio, instead of watching television with my parents. I remember the portable radio, and the cassette recorder for recording John Peel shows.

I remember my bedroom in that house. The vinyl on the floor. The shiny magazines with pictures of glamorous women. I remember the girlie magazines I bought on the covered market, and hid in the pillars of the railway bridge. I remember half-naked women and diesel trains, and synthesizers and loud guitars.

(The half-naked women were pretend, but the trains were real.)

I remember the garden, too. But I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Microsoft Bug Fix KB951748

I'm not really managing to blog about the important things.

Quote from a friend: "Why don't you tell me what you're thinking or feeling? Why do you keep quoting song lyrics?" I know. It's a habit I picked up from my good buddy Armitage Shanks, on the Tokyo project. I hope I'm not turning into Nick Hornby.

Hastily scribbled in my note book... "Wedding. Baby. Wimbledon. Soft Spot. Raging Fever. Festival. Dukes of Norfolk (Hazzard?) Scratching. Terminal illness. Ally McBeal (Bygones), teenagers, MP3. Why is Nokia Content Copier bothering me?"

My computer has been behaving badly all week, and I've just discovered why. Microsoft released a security patch for Windows that stops my computer connecting to the Internet. Ooh, that makes me feel so safe! Not.

I restored a backup. And as soon as I connected to the web, it downloaded the patch again. Three times. Gah.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

I Kissed A Girl

This was never the way I planned
Not my intention
I got so brave, drink in hand
Lost my discretion
It's not what I'm used to
Just wanna try you on
I'm curious: for you
Caught my attention

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my friends don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it
I liked it

No, I don't even know your name
It doesn't matter
You're my experimental game
Just human nature
It's not what, good girls do
Not how they should behave
My head gets so confused
Hard to obey

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my friends don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it
I liked it

You girls you are so magical
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
Hard to resist so touchable
Too good to deny it
Ain't no big deal, it's innocent

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my friends don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it
I liked it.

(That's her up there with the knife...).


For Paul and Michelle, who posted a lovely video at Barton Family Values yesterday, damn them.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Brain Damage

For the lovely I'LTV

According to some people with far too much time on their hands and access to a well-stocked pharmacy cabinet, the Floyd wrote Dark Side of the Moon as a soundtrack to Wizard of Oz. To get the effect, you have to cue up the CD, load up the bong, and press [PLAY] when the MGM lion roars for the third time.

Here are Dorothy and the Tin Man singing "If I only had a brain", which synchronises with "Brain Damage".

Stuck inside these four walls,
Sent inside forever,
Never seeing no one nice again
Like you, Mama, like you.

If I ever get out of here,
Going to give it all away
To a registered charity.
All I need is a pint a day
If I ever get out of here.

Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash
As we fell into the sun,
And the first one said to the second one there
I hope you're having fun.
Band on the run, band on the run.
And the jailer man and Sailor Sam
Were searching every one
For the band on the run
Band on the run
Band on the run
Band on the run

"The band The Beatles could have been"

Katharine Hepburn in 'The Philadelphia Story'

When the alarm clock went off this morning, I was dreaming that I was trying to tell one of the women I love the plot of a film called 'The Philadelphia Story'. I think in the dream, I got the whole thing mixed up with 'Now Voyager'.

They're both romantic comedies from the 1940's. 'Now Voyager' is the one where Bette Davis has psychotherapy. ‘The Philadelphia Story’, on the other hand, is (well, what did the posters say?)

"Broadway's howling year-long comedy hit of the snooty society beauty who slipped and fell - IN LOVE."

Katharine Hepburn plays Tracy Lord Haven, a wealthy, stubborn, arrogant railroad heiress - "married on impulse and divorced in a rage" - who's about to get married for the second time, but still has feelings for her first husband, the dashing and colourful C.K. Dexter Haven, played by Cary Grant.

There's also a lot of interest from a tabloid journalist (Mike Connor, played by Jimmy Stewart) who gets exclusive rights to cover the wedding by threatening to reveal a number of rude (but true) stories about various members of the family.

In true Jane Austen style, proto-husband number two is safe but dull, so you know he isn't going to get the girl. (Heck, he doesn't even get to be on the DVD cover.) In one scene, Hepburn's character considers contracting smallpox in order to postpone the wedding. As you do.

When I was growing up, Katharine Hepburn was probably the oldest woman I ever fancied. Intelligent, good-looking, redheaded and a feminist (you see, even as a teenager, I didn't go for the easy option), she still looked incredibly sexy when she was over ninety. Way to go, girl.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Sweets For My Sweet

"Meltis Newberry Fruits, off the market since the collapse of the firm in 1998, are back. The same familiar pack, the small jolly jellies with the liquid centre"

Available now from Caitlin's of Lewes.

Friday, 4 July 2008

The Demon That Departed

Well, that little feller's been gone for over a month now, but I have to say this week I've been feeling strange. There are times I've been confident and full of energy. other times, I've felt like a fish out of water. This morning, I almost thought he'd come back.

I was awake at dawn. I was hungry. I could do anything I want, and I didn't want to do anything I could. Life feels strange because I don't have a head full of stuff to keep at bay. That's not what i'm used to. But three hours later, I still haven't eaten. I made a cup of tea, and drank only a couple of mouthfuls. No, the demon's gone. I'm alone. It's just me now.

I feel strong, and capable, and talented. I wish I didn't.
It's half past five in the morning, and I'm hungry, and I have no bread in the house.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

How to Confuse an Idiot

I think this could actually be the funniest joke
I've ever been told by a German.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Happy Canada Day

A very happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends.
(and to the lovely Dash, if she's in Canada)

I hope your beavers are all buzzing!